The Aufseherinnen were female guards in Nazi concentration camps during The Holocaust, of which there were about 3,700.

Aufseherinnen recruits were primarily trained and worked at Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp, but as World War II escalated they were often transferred to other camps to help with manpower shortages. SS men were instructed to treat female guards as equals and comrades in their work and the Aufseherinnen received similar training to male guards

Herta Ehlert, an SS woman, described her “physically and emotionally demanding” training as including how to punish prisoners and how to look out for sabotage and work slowdowns. However toward the end of the war little, if any, training was given to fresh recruits, many of which were forcibly transferred from factory work.

The enthusiasm with which Aufseherinnen embraced their work varied greatly. Ilse Koch, the commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp was infamous for her cruelty and her war crimes trial after the war received worldwide media attention. Conversely, a camp guard named Klara Kunig is recorded as being dismissed for being too polite and kind toward the inmates.

As the Allies liberated the camps, SS women were generally still in active service and many were captured. The US imprisoned between 500 and 1000 SS women, although the majority were later released and only the higher ranking Aufseherinnen went to trial.


Suzette, the innkeep, gingerly fills the line of cups on tray with hot black brew from the flask she brought up here to the summit. She hails us from our sweet preoccupancy to help ourselves to a warm cup of native coffee paired with her home-baked oatmeal and raisin cookies. Here comes real breakfast!

When we’ve gotten our parts, we shuffle and settle on our own comfortable spots.

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