Dannecker, Theodor

18 November, 2007
Fontaine Thomas

From summer 1940 to summer 1942, SS-Obersturmführer Theo Dannecker directed the Jewish Affairs Department of the small Gestapo team being set up in occupied France, under the control of the Military Command. He was a personal acquaintance of Adolf Eichmann, and in spite of his youth, he was probably one of the most experienced men in the team responsible for the fate of the Jews and the “Final Solution.” Dannecker had no qualifications and was working for a textile merchant when he joined the Nazi party and the SS in 1932. He became a permanent member of the party as early as 1934, before joining the SD headquarters in Berlin three years later. He entered the Jewish Affairs Department and was put in charge of the sub-department for “assimilated Jews.” The conference presentations he gave before party cadres, along with some of his co-workers, demonstrated his knowledge of this field. He then verified it “on the ground” by participating in the creation of a Central Office for Jewish emigration in Vienna, in 1938. After the German invasion of Poland, Dannecker was sent to set up the Nisko “reservation” for Jews, near Lublin. In the spring of 1940, he was sent to Prague to set up a system mirroring that established in Vienna. His familiarity with “assimilated Jews,” who made up the majority of the Jewish population in France, decided Eichmann to select Dannecker as director of the Department in summer 1940. Though he was in direct contact with his mentor Eichmann, he was actually placed under the authority of Helmut Knochen, a man he had met previously in Berlin. From then on, Dannecker’s extremism and activism put him in a situation of constant confrontation with Knochen’s broader, realistic policy, which went beyond the Jewish question and was more focused on the situation in occupied France, as well as on the necessary collaboration with the French authorities. Thus, these tensions over the management of the “Final Solution” and the setting of its pace led to the departure of Dannecker as early as July 1942. He pursued his career in Sofia, deporting the Bulgarian Jews. But as Serge Klarsfeld demonstrated, no other could probably have launched the “Final Solution” as efficiently in occupied France. Dannecker remained “the real architect of anti-Jewish infrastructure in France.” (S. Klarsfeld, 1983-2001: 42)

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Fontaine Thomas, Dannecker, Theodor, Mass Violence & Résistance, [online], published on: 18 November, 2007, accessed 17/05/2021, http://bo-k2s.sciences-po.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/dannecker-theodor, ISSN 1961-9898
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