A Woman at His Side

Wives in the SS Sippengemeinschaft

(completed in October 1997)

To this day, the SS is thought of as a male society. But Heinrich Himmler envisioned and shaped it as a corps of men and women. As early as 1929, shortly after taking up office as Reichsführer-SS, Himmler asserted that the SS corps should be "a racial upper class of the Germanic people", a leading elite of a Europe ruled by the Nazis. According to a "Marriage and Engagement Order" decreed in 1931, SS men were only permitted to marry women who past muster according to racial and political criteria. Between 1931 and 1945, about 240,000 women married SS men and thus became, together with their husbands, part of the SS Sippengemeinschaft.

This study, which was published in 1998 by the Hamburger Edition,
analyzes typical biographies of SS wives. The author describes everyday family life which bore the stamp of Nazi and SS ideology and illuminates the standing of SS wives in the SS corps. SS wives typically lived where their husbands were assigned or visited them there, often for weeks at a time. Every concentration camp had an SS settlement in which SS families resided. In the occupied territories in the East, villas close to the ghettos were often confiscated on their behalf. The SS wives were active accomplices and were present wherever crimes were committed. Their loyalty, their spectatorship, their approval, their knowledge of and acquiescence in the brutalities, robberies, and murders - their participation in the power of their husbands - made them perpetrators as well. As housewives they provided a stable home environment in which their spouses found refuge and regeneration from their "murderous work". As co-workers of the SS men, they contributed to the smooth functioning of the SS administration and the extermination system in the concentration camps and death camps. The SS wives studied here had no sense of wrongdoing, neither during the Nazi period nor thereafter.

The study was published in German by Hamburger Edition in 1997 as "Eine Frau an seiner Seite. Ehefrauen in der 'SS-Sippengemeinschaft'".