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June 14, 2013

Egon Zill, the worst Commandant of Dachau, wasn’t even a Commandant

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:09 am
Photo of a German soldier who may or may not be Egon Zill

Photo of a German soldier who may or may not be Egon Zill

Egon Zill has gone down in history as the worst Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, although he was never the Commandant of the camp. Perhaps if he HAD been the Commandant, he would have been investigated by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who had two camp commandants executed after doing an investigation on them.

The following camp commandants were investigated by Dr. Konrad Morgen, who was an SS judge:

Karl-Otto Koch – Commandant of Buchenwald and Majdanek – executed for the murder of two hospital orderlies who had treated him for syphilis

Hermann Florstedt – Commandant of Majdanek – executed for murder

Hans Loritz – Commandant of Oranienburg (Sachsenhausen) – proceedings initiated on suspicion of arbitrary killing

Adam Grünewald – Commandant of Herzogenbusch concentration camp – found guilty of maltreatment of prisoners and posted to a penal unit

Karl Kuenstler – Commandant of Flossenbürg concentration camp – dismissed for drunkenness and debauchery

Alex Piorkowski – Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp – accused of murder but not sentenced

Amon Göth – Commandant of Plaszow camp — charged with stealing from the Plaszow warehouses, but never put on trial

Rudolf Höss — Commanant of Auschwitz-Birkenau — investigated  on charges of having “unlawful relations” with a Jewish woman prisoner, Eleanor Hodys.   Höss was removed from his command, but was later brought back to Auschwitz as the Commandant of the Birkenau camp, but not the Auschwitz main camp.

When Egon Zill was at Dachau, he had the title of Lagerführer, not Kommandant. Later, he was assigned to the job of Commandant of the Natzweiler camp; then he became the Commandant of Flossenbürg concentration camp.

Egon Zill was put on trial, as a “war criminal” by a German court in 1950 and sentenced to 15 years in prison; he returned to the town of Dachau to live after he completed his prison term and died there in 1974.

David L. Israel, author of the book The Day the Thunderbird Cried, published by emek press in 2005, wrote that Egon Zill was one of the Commandants of the Dachau camp and that he was exceptionally cruel to the defenseless prisoners.  According to David L. Israel, when Zill was the Commandant of Dachau, he was allowed to commit the most heinous crimes without interference from any higher authority.

The following quote is from The Day the Thunderbird Cried:

Egon Zill, by now a member of the Death’s Head formation, was the Commandant of Dachau Concentration Camp in 1941. Having received his Death’s Head unit training in Dachau, he was familiar with all the terrors the camp had to offer its inmates. Egon Zill became one of the most sadistic commandants in the history of concentration camps. Not only did he devise new and organized methods of torture for the unfortunate prisoners, he took joy in taking part in the punishment personally, or else watching from the sidelines as the prisoners died at the hands of equally sadistic guards. Zill thrived on watching men beaten, drowned, hung, and broken until their bodies were unrecognizable masses of bone and skin. A tag attached to their toes listed an identification number so they could be properly recorded in the record books as having died from a heart attack or some other medical ailment.

The Commandant of Dachau in 1941 was Alex Bernhard Piorkowski, as every law student in America knows.  I previously blogged about the strange case of Pirkowski here.

David L. Israel was a soldier in the U.S. Army in 1945, assigned to an intelligence group which investigated the Dachau camp for war crimes after it was liberated. As part of his duties, Israel interviewed the survivors of Dachau. About half of the survivors of Dachau had only been in the camp for two weeks or less. They had been brought to the main Dachau camp from the sub-camps and before that, they had been in other Nazi concentration camps; many of the prisoners at Dachau when it was liberated had previously been evacuated from Auschwitz when it was abandoned in January 1945. They were eager to tell the American liberators about the years of abuse that they had endured.

The following quote is from the book The Day the Thunderbird Cried:

Egon Zill had his dogs trained to react to the raising of his arm. On special amusement days, Zill would have a table of food placed in front of the starving prisoners who stood at attention. Should a person relax his body, the dogs would react automatically. As time went by and Zill became impatient, he raised his arm signaling the dogs into action. They attacked the genital areas of the prisoners until they were dead. At this point the bored commandant would leave the scene. […]

Having the prisoners sing anti-Semitic songs as they dug pits to be filled with stones, only to have the stones dug up and used to fill other pits, was a common pastime for the guards. At other times, they would bind the prisoners’ hands and feet and have them crawl on the ground grunting like pigs. As the prisoners approached the pigsty, food was put out for their meal to be eaten by the pigs. The SS men stood watching as the bound prisoners fought with the pigs for the food. This type of torture was used with Jews, priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Poles.

The following description of the torture inflicted by Egon Zill, according to Israel’s book, is completely and totally wrong:

There was one bunker at Dachau reserved for the most severe tortures. Prisoners were kept in solitary confinement.  The tortures inflicted on the prisoners were so cruel, they were kept secret from the regular SS guards.

Contrary to what David L. Israel wrote in his book, it was the German SS men who were tortured by Americans at Dachau.  I wrote about the torture in the one and only bunker at Dachau on this blog post.  You can read more about the Commandants at Dachau on this page of my website.


  1. PISTER HERMANN SS-Oberfuhrer 30.1.45 SS-Standartenfuhrer 9.11.43 SS: 29892 Born: 21 February 1885 Untersturmfuhrer 20.4.43; Staff SS Hauptamt 1938, Commandant Buchenwald 1941-1944, sentenced to death in August 1945, died in September 1948. Pister assumed command of Buchenwald on 21 January 1942 and remained in command until the end. It was well known that Pister was by nature a bureaucrat, he would never undertake anything on his own initiative, and that he liked to postpone decisions until he heard from higher authority. Commandant of Buchenwald after Karl Koch. He eventually became commander of all camps in the south. He was ordered by Hitler near the end of the war to blow up Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen and Theresienstadt along with all inmates. Pister was not just commandant of Buchenwald, he was also General Manager of the German Armament Works, with a salary & profit-sharing interest, as well as of the German Earth & Stone Works and of the Gustloff Works. Pister organised terror more correctly than Koch and more bureaucratically, he was of course very brutal but it was always within the framework of his own orders. Toward the end of the Nazi regime at Buchenwald, Pister became baiscally cowardly, as most Nazis were at this stage, and wavered in his measures. He tried to find a way to cover his back in the hope the he could go over to the Americans together with the prisoners. He was captured after the war & put on trial along with other Buchenwald staff members. He was sentenced to be hanged in April 1947. He died of a heart attack in Landsberg prison on 28 September 1948.

    Comment by Wallace Crawford — July 1, 2013 @ 12:44 am

    • Your comment was copied from something written by trbrooks on the Axis History Forum ten years ago.

      Included in your copied comment was this quote: “He was ordered by Hitler near the end of the war to blow up Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen and Theresienstadt along with all inmates.”

      Sorry, but that is an outright lie. If Hitler had ordered anyone to blow up these four camps, it would have been Ernst Kaltenbrunner or Heinrich Himmler.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 1, 2013 @ 6:04 am

  2. When during the summer and autumn of 1944 additional sub-camps were installed near armament factories to increase production there, thousands of Jewish prisoners, mostly from Hungary, but also from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and the Soviet Union were brought to the Dachau camp complex.

    Comment by Alyson Buckner — June 30, 2013 @ 5:22 am

  3. The photo caption on page 323 reads ” After the Romanian prisoners have been shot, a Nazi officer tromps across them, instructing his soldiers to make sure all are dead”. I’ve never seen a “Nazi officer” or German soldiers in uniforms like those. Horace R. Hansen’s posthumously published memoirs appear to have been edited to include a big helping of Holocaust file photo propaganda to go along with his insider’s account of the Dachau Trial. Horace himself slips in a lot of hearsay as real history. The 1984 photo of him with Col. William D. (for “drop door” as in gallows) Denson is nice.

    Comment by who dares wings — June 16, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  4. When Mauthausen was liberated, the Allied propaganda press ‘reported’ 3 killing methods in that camp: gas, injection of petrol in the veins near the heart and a pack of specially-trained dogs ( Dogs are very poorly considered in jewish mythology. Being called a dog is very usual jewish insult. Many jews are very scared by dogs. That’s why most good Holotales have evil antisemitic dogs in them.

    Comment by hermie — June 15, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  5. Arrest picture is one of Friedrich “Fritz” Hartjenstein.

    Comment by Mikael Olafsson — June 15, 2013 @ 5:59 am

    • Thank you very much for telling me this. I have removed the photo. I should have known. The man in the photo looks too friendly and innocent to have done all the crimes attributed to Egon Zill. Fritz Hartjenstein was a Commandant at Natzweiler and Egon Zill was alleged to have been a commandant at Natzweiler, so that is why the photo was mis-labeled.

      Fritz Hartjenstein allegedly had an affair with an SOE woman who was a prisoner. I expected him to have been better looking.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 15, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  6. “My father, a proud Thunderbird, wept when he read this long overdue book.” Winner of the 2006 Horace R. Hansen Dachau Dissembling Prize.

    Comment by who dares wings — June 14, 2013 @ 11:14 am

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