SS General Theodor Eicke's Sword
By Andrew Cole - Museum Volunteer
The Nazi Honour Sword has been identified with Nazi General Theodor Eicke and was found, minus its scabbard, by Dr Hans Hers (Dutch Intelligence Officer) under the bed in the main bedroom of Eicke's home.
The house near the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built by the inmates of the camp. Eicke lived at the house for a period when he was head of the WVHA, an organisation involved in the creation of the Nazi concentration camp system, prior to his redeployment as a front line officer, initially in the invasion of France and then onto the Eastern Front.
The hilt clasp of the sword features oak-leaves indicating the rank of General. Dr. Hers in his provenance documentation describes the pommel as showing a panther with emerald green eyes. This, however, is the head of a male African lion with one of the eyes missing (It is possible that this was stolen by a servant or a retreating German soldier, during the hurried clearance of the house when it was overrun by the Russians late in the war).
The hilt is formed by a downward-facing snake with a prominent head and the grip is made from an artificial ribbed black material set off by twisted silver strings. One of the side sheets features the German Eagle with a swastika and a wreath of laurels. The black and silver colours are symbolic with the SS and the rest of the adornment is typical of the Nazi German style.
The emerald green eyes of the panther/lion and the small snake amongst the leaves were symbols of the Gestapo and the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) of the SS.
Good shooting by Russian AA gunners on 26th February 1943, brought an end to the life of SS-Obergruppenfuehrer (General) Theodor Eicke, commanding officer of the 3rd Division (Totenkopf) Waffen SS. They downed a German Fieseler Fi 156 Storch light aircraft killing all 3 occupants on board including Eicke, the pilot, and another Nazi officer Hauptsturmfuehrer (Captain) Friedrich. The aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission behind Russian lines during the opening stages of the Third Battle of Kharkov in the Ukraine. Had the unstable, ruthless and fanatical Nazi survived the war, he would undoubtedly have been hunted down by the Allies for an appearance in front of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Theodor Eicke came into this world on 17th October 1892 and was the son of a station master in Hampont, Alsace-Lorraine. The family was lower middle class where he was the youngest of 11 children. He was not academically gifted and dropped out of formal schooling before graduation at the age of 17.
In WW1 he served in the German Army in the 23rd Barvarian Infantry Regiment, before transferring to the 3rd Regiment as paymaster, ending the war as paymaster in the 22nd Regiment. He was awarded the Iron Cross, second class and then first-class for bravery in 1914 and resigned from the army in 1919.
He recommenced his studies but continued to demonstrate a lack of resolve and dropped out again in 1920 to take up a position in the police force. He worked initially as an informer and then as a regular police officer. His time as a policeman came to an end due to his extreme hatred of the Government of the day (Weimar Republic). He frequently participated in violent political demonstrations. A brief term of employment at IG Farben also came to an end when the employer learned of Eicke's excessively violent anti-government protest activities.
At this time, Eicke was arrested for planning and preparing bomb materials for attacks on political enemies and in July 1932 received a 2 years prison sentence. However, he was spirited out of Germany to Italy by his Nazi friends.
He returned to Germany in March 1933, just 3 months after Hitler came to power, but was immediately arrested and incarcerated in a mental asylum for a few months, before being released, promoted by SS Chief - Himmler to the rank of SS-Oberfuehrer and in June 1933 to the position of camp commandant at Dachau Concentration Camp, close to Munich. This apparently was not a promotion, but was used by Himmler as a means of getting the unstable and troublesome Eicke out of the way.
In early 1934 Hitler, with Himmler's persuasion, decided that the SturmAbteilung (SA), were too violent and uncontrollable. The 'Night of the Long Knives' saw the arrest of SA leader Ernst Rohm and all of his senior henchmen. Eicke and his adjutant, Michael Lippert, entered Rohm's Stadeheim prison cell in Munich and summarily executed him with their sidearms.
Eicke's role was extended to Concentration Camp Inspector and he embarked on a regime of training the camp guards (SS-Wachverbaende) to be utterly ruthless, sadistic and unsympathetic to the conditions of the inmates. Other pre-war camps followed at Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Ravensbrueck in Germany and also Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria, all being based on the format established by Eicke at Dachau.
When Eicke was re-assigned to combat duty, he assumed command of the SS-3rd Division (Totenkopf) which was mainly manned by former concentration camp guards. Totenkopf earned a dreadful reputation for brutality and infamy in many war crimes, including the murder of 97 British PoWs at Le Paradis in 1940.
One of Eicke's subordinates in the SS-Wirtschaft-Vervaltungshauptamt (WVHA) at Dachau was Rudolf Hoess who later became commandant of Auschwitz and has a connection with the Chicksands Museum in the engraved German Police handcuffs (ASFIC-1416.1) which restrained him when he was captured by the Allies in 1946. Hoess was hanged in Warsaw in 1946.
Source for much of the data in this article: The archived provenance documentation of Dr. Hers and Wikipedia.