Until the mid-1930s the development and expansion of the concentration camp system was determined by considerations of power consolidation, implementation of the racial model of society, and security policing. In contradiction to the popular belief that the SS pursued an aggressively expansionist economic policy, the main impetus for the establishment of an SS economic organization came from outside. The expansion of the ‘Führer cities’ of Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Hamburg, and Linz, for which Adolf Hitler ordered grandiose new building projects, played a big part in it. Hitler had entrusted the planning and execution to his favourite architect, Albert Speer, who, with the building materials industry in crisis, was then confronted with the problem of finding the necessary stone, bricks, clay and cement. Speer agreed with Himmler on the construction of large building material plants, to be manned by prisoners, and on 29 April 1938 the SS Administration Office set up a private company, the German Earth and Stone Works (DEST), for that purpose. An immediate consequence of the negotiations between Speer and Himmler was an advance payment of RM9.5 million from the inspector general of construction, to be used in the first instance for the construction of DEST plants near Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. The city of Berlin concluded supply contracts by which it secured ten years’ output of the brickworks built alongside the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Fritz Saupert (German Labour Front) on a meeting with Oswald Pohl on 15 June 1938: ‘The founding of the plant originates in a directive from the Führer following a Führer conference with the Reichsführer SS and Architect Speer.’ In Third Reich, 144, Speer claims that Himmler himself proposed using camp inmates. This version of the facts has been called into doubt at least since the publication of Hepp, ‘Fälschung’. On p. 3, Hepp quotes a letter from Hermann Speer to his brother in which he writes: ‘I remember you telling me in 1938 that you proposed to Himmler the establishment of a brickworks in Oranienburg for the rebuilding of Berlin and remarking, quite affably, that “after all, the Yids already made bricks when they were captives in Egypt!” ’ Cooperation between Speer and Himmler on the Führer city of ‘Germania’ continued during the war.
GEORG, ENNO, Die wirtschaftlichen Unternehmungen der SS (Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 7; Stuttgart, 1963).