Theodor Dannecker (27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS-captain (Hauptsturmführer), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a specialist on Nazi anti-Jewish policies (Judenberater), he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the World War II genocide of European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust.
After completing trade school, the Tübingen-born Dannecker first worked as a textile dealer until 1932 when he joined the Nazi Party and the SS. In 1934 he became a member of the SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS-VT), an independent unit of political combat troops at the disposal of the Nazi Party. In the same year he was a guard at the Columbia-Haus in Berlin, one of the first German concentration camps, and enlisted into the SS-Wachverband V Brandenburg, a precursor of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV) operating in Oranienburg and Columbia-Haus concentration camps. A year later he was assigned to the SS Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst or SD). In March 1937 Dannecker became a collaborator of Adolf Eichmann in the Department of Jewish Affairs within the SD.
From September 1940 until July 1942, Dannecker was leader of the Judenreferat at the SD office in Paris, where he ordered and oversaw round ups by French Police. More than 13,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where most died in the Final Solution.
Owing to misuse of his position, partially due to his theft of German confiscated property, he was ordered back to Berlin in August 1942. From January 1943 Dannecker was the highest German official in charge of the Final Solution, in the Bulgarian territories. During March 1943, 11,343 Jews were deported from the German-occupied Bulgarian-administered territories in Greece and Yugoslavia to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka. Only 12 survived.
His attempt to deport Jews with Bulgarian citizenship from Bulgaria, a collaborationist ally, failed due to widespread opposition, including by the heads of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Bishops Stephan from Sofia and Kiril from Plovdiv; by prominent politicians such as deputy speaker of the parliament, Dimiter Peshev; and, ultimately, Boris III of Bulgaria.
Dannecker continued to deport Italian Jews between September 1943 and January 1944, when Italy surrendered to the Allies and Germans occupied Italy. Before the German occupation, Benito Mussolini refused to turn over Jews to the Nazis except those in areas annexed or occupied by the Italians in the Balkans. Not seen as efficient enough, he was replaced in this role by Friedrich Boßhammer, who was, like Dannecker, closely associated with Adolf Eichmann.
After Germany occupied Hungary, Dannecker and the Hungarian establishment (not the Arrow Cross, which came to power only in October 1944) deported more than a half a million Hungarian Jews between early 1944 and summer of the same year. Dannecker developed under Eichmann into one of the SS's most ruthless and experienced experts on the "Jewish Question", and his involvement in the genocide of European Jewry was one of primary responsibility.
A passage from a 1942 report by Dannecker illustrates how the "Jewish Question" was handled in France:
Subject: Points for the discussion with the French State Secretary for Police, Bousquet... The recent operation for arresting stateless Jews in Paris has yielded only about 8,000 adults and about 4,000 children. But trains for the deportation of 40,000 Jews, for the moment, have been put in readiness by the Reich Ministry of Transport. Since the deportation of the children is not possible for the time being, the number of Jews ready for removal is quite insufficient. A further Jewish operation must therefore be started immediately. For this purpose Jews of Belgian and Dutch nationality may be taken into consideration, in addition to the former German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Russian Jews who have so far been considered as being stateless. It must be expected, however, that this category will not yield sufficient numbers, and thus the French have no choice but to include those Jews who were naturalized in France after 1927, or even after 1919.