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Richard Glücks

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Richard Glücks

Richard Glücks
Richard Glücks in his SS-Brigadeführer uniform
Born (1889-04-22)April 22, 1889
Odenkirchen, German Empire
Died May 10, 1945(1945-05-10) (aged 56)
Flensburg, Germany
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Schutzstaffel
Rank Gruppenführer, SS (Major General)
Service number NSDAP #214,805
SS #58,706
Unit SS-Totenkopfverbände
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Other work One of the primary organizers of The Holocaust, he organized slave labor, medical atrocities, and mass murder.

    (April 22, 1889, Odenkirchen, Rhine Province – May 10, 1945) was a high-ranking Nazi official. He attained the rank of a SS-Gruppenführer and a Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS and from 1939 until the end of World War II was the head of Amt D: Konzentrationslagerwesen of the WVHA; the highest-ranking Concentration Camps Inspector in Nazi Germany. Close to Reichsführer-SS Himmler, he was directly responsible for the forced labour of the camp inmates, and was also the supervisor for the medical practices in the camps, ranging from human experimentation to the implementation of the "Final Solution", in particular the mass murder of inmates with Zyklon-B gas. When the Nazi regime fell and Germany capitulated, Glücks committed suicide by swallowing a potassium cyanide capsule.

Early life

Glücks was born 1889 in Odenkirchen (now part of Mönchengladbach) in the Rhineland. Having completed gymnasium in Düsseldorf, he worked in his father's business, a fire insurance agency. In 1909, Glücks joined the army for one year as a volunteer, serving in the artillery. In 1913, he was in England, and later moved to Argentina as a trader. When World War I broke out, Glücks returned to Germany under a false identity as a sailor on a Norwegian ship in January 1915 and promptly joined the army again. During the war, he eventually became the commander of a motorized artillery squad and was awarded the Iron Cross I and II. After the war, he became a liaison officer between the German forces and the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control, the allied body for controlling the restrictions placed upon Germany in the Treaty of Versailles regarding re-armament and strength of their armed forces. Until 1924, he stayed in that position, before joining the staff of the 6th Prussian Division. He also served in the Freikorps.

Rise under the Nazi regime

Glücks joined the NSDAP in 1930 and two years later, the SS. From September 6, 1933 to June 20, 1935, he was a member of the staff of the SS-Group "West" and rose to the rank of an SS-Sturmbannführer. Subsequently, he became the commander of the 77th SS-Standarte of the Allgemeine SS with the rank of an SS-Obersturmbannführer. On April 1, 1936, he became the head of staff of Theodor Eicke, then Concentration Camps Inspector and head of the SS-Wachverbände, first with the rank of a Standartenführer and later rising to Oberführer. When Eicke became field commander of the SS Division Totenkopf, which had been created following his instigation, Glücks was promoted to Concentration Camps Inspector and named by Himmler as Eicke's successor on November 18, 1939. On April 20, 1941, Glücks was promoted to the rank of an SS-Brigadeführer, and on March 29, 1942, he became the head of Amt D: Konzentrationslagerwesen of the newly formed SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA), the Economics and Administrative Department of the SS. On July 23, 1943, Glücks was made SS-Gruppenführer and a Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS.

Concentration Camps Inspector

Glücks was described by Rudolf Höss as a static administrator and bureaucrat, afraid of Himmler and mostly occupied with maintaining the concentration camps as Eicke had set them up. At the same time, Höss described Glücks as a man unable to grasp the consequences of his directives, and claimed Glücks had risen to his high position (and stayed there) only as a protégé of Eicke and Oswald Pohl, the head of the WVHA.

Glücks's responsibilities at first mainly covered the use of concentration camp inmates for forced labour. In this phase, he urged camp commandants to lower the death rate in the camps, as it went counter to the economic objectives his department was to fulfill. Other orders of his were to ask for the inmates to be made to work continuously. At the same time, it was Glücks who recommended on February 21, 1940, Auschwitz, a former Austrian cavalry barracks, as a suitable site for a new concentration camp to Himmler, Pohl, and Heydrich. The camp opened on June 14, 1940, and Glücks was quick to provide slave labour from the camp to the new coal-oil and rubber plant erected nearby by I.G. Farben.

From 1942 on, Glücks was increasingly involved in the implementation of the "Final Solution", along with Oswald Pohl. In July 1942, he participated in a planning meeting with Himmler on the topic of medical experiments on camp inmates. From several visits to the Auschwitz concentration camps, Glücks must have been well aware of the dire conditions , and he certainly was aware of the mass murders and other atrocities committed there. Orders for the extermination went through Glücks' office and hands; and he specifically authorized the purchase of Zyklon B for gassing in Auschwitz.


When the WVHA offices in Berlin were destroyed by Allied bombing on April 16, 1945, the WVHA was moved to Born on Darß in Pomerania on the Baltic sea. Owing to the advances of the Russian forces, Glücks and his wife fled to Flensburg at the end of April. It is known that Glücks met Himmler for the last time there. After the capitulation of Germany, he is believed to have committed suicide on May 10, 1945 by swallowing a capsule of potassium cyanide at the Mürwik naval base in Flensburg, although the lack of official records or photos gave ground to speculations about his ultimate fate.

In popular culture

Richard Glücks is featured as a minor character in the novel The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth. The novel is set in post-war Germany at the year 1963. In the novel, it is revealed that Glücks did not commit suicide but instead, manages to evade capture by the Allied forces and flees to Argentina. He changes his name to Ricardo Suertes (Suerte and Glück having the same meaning, Luck in Spanish and German respectively), obtains Argentine citizenship and joins the ODESSA (the international network of former SS officers).

He is reputed to be the number two man in the ODESSA, direct deputy of Hans-Adolf Prützmann-who committed suicide in 1945}

The novel erroneously puts Glücks to be in his early sixties. However, given his year of birth as 1889, he would have been 74 in 1963 had he actually survived the war. He is portrayed as having become immensely rich as a result of his wartime activities, which includes widespread looting of Jews, communists, and other political prisoners under his supervision as head of the Reich Economic Administration Main Office of the SS.

During a meeting in Madrid with Werewolf, Glücks tells him to hasten the research operation aimed at developing a tele-guidance system for the Egyptian rockets, Al Kahira and Al Zafira. Since the research is being headed by ODESSA man codenamed "Vulkan", Glücks also orders him to protect Vulkan until the end of the operation. After the meeting has taken place, he returns to Buenos Aires and is never again mentioned in the novel.

In the film adaptation of "The Odessa File" the part of Glücks was played by Hannes Messemer who had also played the POW Commandant in The Great Escape.

See also


  • Friedman, T. Pohl und Glücks; Institute of Documentation in Israel, Haifa, Israel, 1996. Documentation on Richard Glücks begins on p. 100 (German)
  • Prenger, K. Glücks, Richard, based on Friedman (Dutch)
  • Der letzte Spuk, Die Zeit (May 4, 2005) Article on the last days of the Nazi regime (German)
  • Axis History Forum: thread where Prenger had asked for help with his article (referenced above); contains biographical information and a photograph of Glücks
  • Hamilton, Charles. Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 2, Bender, San Jose, CA, 1996
  • Snyder, Louis L. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, Paragon House, NY, 1989
  • Wistrich, Robert S. Who's Who in Nazi Germany, Routledge, London, 1995
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