The SS considered death a profession like any other one, se in order to practice it one to love it and be trained in it. The first condition raised no difficulties with the SS who had a propensity for killing. Their love of murder had been nurtured since early childhood, in Hitlerjugend1 and then in the SS by voluntarily joined those who loved and wanted to kill.
How to do it they learnt on the run. The concentration camps were high schools where Allgemeine-SS2 and Waffen-SS3-men were invited to learn the trade from their comrades in the Totenkopfeinheiten, the expert killers.
But when the mass exterminations were started it was obvious that something went wrong: the SS-men had to get used to death in mass proportion. It was one thing to shoot or hang one, five or ten men and another to empty whole trains of corpses, to cover ditches in which among the thousands corpses that had been buried there were some people alive, struggling to get out.
According to General SS von dem Bach-Zelewski's narrative, when mass exterminations were started, even the reputed Himmler, the chief and got of all SS, attending in Minsk a model-execution of 100 prisoners that he himself had ordered "was about to faint at the first discharge and began to shout because the firing squad had failed to kill two women at the first firing."
In a report sent to Berlin, SS-Untersturmführer4 Dr. Becker, the chief of the gas vans, informed that "various Kommandoshave their own members unload the vans after gassing" emphasizing "the huge moral and physical effects this work has on those people, who complained of headaches after each unloading." However, tough the SS-men, it gave them headaches to see so much death, their hand began to tremble when pulling the trigger so many times. Therefore in order to keep up the executioner's spirits in all concentration camps there was the custom of giving eine Belohnung, a bonus, to all those who did the killing perfectly with out batting an eyelid, setting, thereby, a "good example."
In the museum of the former concentration camp of Buchenwald one can see a pierced human heart kept in a hermetically closed glass vessel. It is the heart of an inmate that had been shot. The legend lets you know the name of the SS-man who pulled the trigger and who received as Belohnung, bonus, a three days' leave absence for his "sharp-shooting."
The doctor of the SS troops in the Weimar-Buchenwald garrison appealed in written to the commander of the camp to granteiner Belohnung, a bonus to SS-Hauptscharführer5 Wilhelm, SS-Obsersharführer6 Warmstädt and SS-Untersharführer7Stope who on January 26, 1945 led the removing of corpses from the transport from Auschwitz, in his opinion they deserved a special ration in liquors, which was also medically advisable.
In Dachau there was a written order saying that for each hanged detainee, the respective executioner should he three cigarettes. In Buchenwald there was a Kommando-99 exclusively made up of the SS. charged with executions outside the barbed wire fenced perimeter. The detainees were order to get undressed and led six at a time into a room equipped with eight shower outfits. But the showers were started only to wash away the blood after the victims had been shot. When the number of detainees to be executed was greater, they were led to the room in larger groups and raked with machine gunfire. The blood spots on the floor were covered with clean sawdust and then a new group was immediately brought in.
Not only that killers were rewarded with alcoholic drinks in abundance, but also all members of the Kommando-99 were awarded the "Military Cross for Merit."
1 The Hitler Youth Organization 2 The General SS. 3 Fighting SS troops. 4 Second-Lieutenant SS. 5 Major Lieutenant SS officer. 6 Lieutenant SS officer 7 Sub-Lieutenant SS officer