The SS was developed by its „Reichsführer“, Heinrich Himmler, into one of the most powerful organizations in the Third Reich. They saw themselves as both political and racial elite in the Nazi party. The implementation of these standards and their radical ideology in Germany and throughout the continent brought millions of people to their death.
From 1933 on the “Reichsführer SS” Heinrich Himmler planned to construct an ideological center for his SS at Wewelsburg. Originally intended to be a training school for SS officers, it was later decided to remodel the castle and turn it into a more exclusive meeting site for the highest SS officers. The plaster was knocked off and the moat deepened so the castle would look more foreboding and fortress-like. Nordic symbols and other ornamentation were soon adopted in the rooms of the Wewelsburg.
stayed quite often – alone or with guests – in the castle. He wanted to hold
annual meetings with the highest SS officers in Wewelsburg, along with
initiation ceremonies. Even towards the end of the war, Himmler was trying to make
Wewelsburg the “empire house of the SS-Gruppenführer”.
„Reichsführer SS“ Heinrich Himmler (r.) with his architect for Wewelsburg, Hermann Bartels
function as the ideological gathering point for the SS is illustrated by the
Gruppenführer-meeting between June 12-15, 1941. Himmler assembled the highest
SS officers a week before the Russian campaign to discuss and plan the SS’s
involvement in the attack of the Soviet Union. Present was Reinhard Heydrich
(the leader of the Reich’s main security office) and Karl Wolff (leader of Himmler’s
personal staff ). Also present were
Friedrich Jeckeln, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski and Adolf Prützmann as well other
important SS officers.
Concrete decisions were not made, nor were details of this attack discussed.
During the assembly
the real attack on the Soviet Union was already underway by officials in
Berlin. The gathering was used instead to perfect the “war of extermination”
and to foster an atmosphere of racist ideology. After the war, Bach-Zalewski
during the Nuremberg war crimes remembered that in Wewelsburg Himmler had stated in a speech to
the Gruppenführer that the main purpose of the Russian campaign was the
“decimation of the Slavic race by thirty million”.
Gruppenführer-Meeting on the eve of war against Soviet Union, june 1941: Reinhard Heydrich (on the very left), „Burghauptmann“ Siegfried Taubert (looking into the camera), „Burgbeschließerin“ Elfriede Wippermann (on the right)
was intended to be used as a central SS meeting and ideological site and
consequentially had large, long-term architectural plans envisioned for it. As
the power of the SS grew in the Third Reich, so too did the monumental building
plans. A large addition to the castle was supposed to be added – the “Reichhaus
der SS-Gruppenführer” – which was drawn up by Münster-based architect Herman
Bartels, working closely with Himmler. In order to complete these plans
prisoners were transferred and a concentration camp was established in
Wewelsburg. It was an independent work camp that was similar to that of
Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen or Dachau.
Concentration camp inmates forced to work in Wewelsburg quarry, 1940
The plans for castle additions included building a radius several hundred meters out around the castle with buildings and ramparts. Directly in the middle of this circle would sit the north tower of Wewelsburg. Over 3,900 prisoners from the camp Niederhagen-Wewelsburg were forced to begin the extensive construction around the castle. At least 1,285 people died as a result of the work and prison conditions as well as from the cruelty of the SS. The concentration camp in Wewelsburg also served as an execution place of the Gestapo. At least 56 people were purposefully shot and murdered by the SS.
Construction plan for Wewelsburg, 1944
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, the building was halted and the concentration camp dissolved leaving only 42 men. Although the architect Hermann Bartels drew up further blueprints, the enormous castle plans could not be completed. American soldiers freed the remainder of the prisoners in 1945 after an unsuccessful attempt by a SS unit to blow up in the air Wewelsburg castle.
rooms in the north tower, the “Gruft” (crypt) and the “Obergruppenführersaal”,
in Wewelsburg have been preserved as remnants of the Nazi architecture, and are
also part of the exhibition. What their purpose was is still unknown today. A floor ornament in the "Obergruppenführersaal" is a popular character recognition for right wings and Neo-Nazis today.
"Obergruppenführersaal" in the North Tower of the Wewelsburg