After taking national power in 1933, the Nazi Party launched a new programme of mass incarceration of the so-called enemies of the state. Originally there were only wild camps in operation. Springing up in every town across Germany "like mushrooms after the rain" (Himmler's quote), the early camps utilized lockable spaces usually without infrastructure for permanent detention (i.e. engine rooms, brewery floors, storage facilities, cellars). Following the fall from power of the paramilitary Brownshirts of the SA during the NSDAP purge known as the Night of the Long Knives (30 June to 2 July 1934), the SS took control of the fledgling camp system. The SS founded state-run concentration camps at Dachau, Oranienburg, and Esterwegen, which held the total of 107,000 'undesirables' already by 1935.
On 26 June 1933, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler appointed SS-Oberführer Theodor Eicke the Kommandant of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Eicke requested a permanent unit that would be subordinate only to him and the SS-Wachverbände was formed. Eicke began his infamous tenure by issuing new orders about the killing of inmates trying to escape (Postenpflicht). He developed the first Nazi Punishment Catalogue regulating the system of extreme disciplinary sanctions for detainees (Lagerordnung). His rules were adopted by all concentration camps of Nazi Germany as of 1 January 1934. Eicke was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer (equivalent to Major-general in the army) on 30 January 1934. Following the Night of the Long Knives, Eicke – who played a role in the affair by shooting SA chief Ernst Röhm – was again promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenführer and officially appointed Inspector of Concentration Camps and Commander of SS-guard formations. Thereafter, all remaining SA-run camps were taken over by the SS. In his role as the Concentration Camps Inspector, Eicke began a large reorganisation of the camps in 1935. The smaller camps were dismantled. Dachau concentration camp remained, then personnel from Dachau went on to work at Sachsenhausen and Oranienburg, where Eicke established his central office.
In 1935, Dachau became the training center for the concentration camps service. Many of the early recruits came from the ranks of the SA and Allgemeine SS. Senior roles were filled by personnel from the German police service. On 29 March 1936, concentration camp guards and administration units were officially designated as the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV). In the summer of 1937, Buchenwald became operational, followed by Ravensbrück (near Lichtenburg) in May 1939. There were other new camps in Austria, such as Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, which opened in 1938. All SS camps' regulations, both for guards and prisoners, followed the Dachau camp model.