Gottlob Christian Berger (16 July 1896 – 5 January 1975) was a senior German Nazi official who held the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS (lieutenant general), and was the chief of the SS Main Office responsible for Schutzstaffel (SS) recruiting during World War II. Following the war, he was convicted as a war criminal, spending a total of six-and-a-half years in prison. Serving in the German Army during World War I, he was wounded four times and awarded the Iron Cross First Class. Immediately after the war, he was a leader of the Einwohnerwehr militia in his native North Württemberg. He joined the Nazi Party in 1922, but lost interest in right-wing politics during the 1920s, training and working as a physical education teacher.
In the late 1920s, he rejoined the Nazi Party and became a member of the paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1931. He clashed with other leaders of the SA, and joined the Allgemeine-SS in 1936. Initially responsible for physical education in an SS region, he was soon transferred to the staff of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler as head of the sports office. In 1938, he was appointed as head of the recruiting office of the SS Main Office (SS-HA), taking over as chief of the SS-HA the following year. To a significant extent, Berger was the "father" of the Waffen-SS, as he not only implemented recruiting structures and policies that assisted the Waffen-SS to circumvent Wehrmacht controls over conscription, but also extended Waffen-SS recruiting first to "Germanic" volunteers from Scandinavia and western Europe, then Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) outside the Reich, and finally to peoples who in no way reflected Himmler's ideas of "racial purity". He consistently advocated greater ideological training for the Waffen-SS, but did not view SS ideology as a replacement for religion. He also sponsored and protected his friend Oskar Dirlewanger, whom he placed in command of a unit of convicted criminals; the SS-Sonderkommando Dirlewanger subsequently committed many war crimes. Berger often clashed with senior officers of the Wehrmacht and even with senior Waffen-SS officers over his recruiting methods, but he took advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves in order to grow the Waffen-SS to a total of 38 divisions by war's end.
Berger undertook several other roles in the latter stages of the war, while continuing as chief of the SS-HA. He had a key role in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories from mid-1942, allowing the SS to direct much of the economic activity in the east. In this role he proposed a plan to kidnap and enslave 50,000 Eastern European children between the ages of 10 and 14, under the codename Heuaktion, a plan that was subsequently carried out. In response to the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, Berger was appointed as Military Commander in Slovakia, and was in charge during the initial failure to suppress the revolt. The following month he was appointed as one of the two chiefs of staff of the Volkssturm militia, and as chief of the prisoner of war camps. In the final months of the war he commanded German forces in the Bavarian Alps, which included remnants of several of the Waffen-SS units he had helped recruit. He surrendered to U.S. troops near Berchtesgaden, and was promptly arrested. He was tried and convicted in the Ministries Trial of the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals for war crimes, and was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. His sentence was soon reduced to 10 years, and he was released after serving six-and-a-half years. After release he advocated for the rehabilitation of the Waffen-SS and worked in several manufacturing businesses. He died in his hometown in 1975.
Described as blustery, cynical, and "one of Himmler's most competent and trusted war-time lieutenants", Berger was also an ardent anti-Semite and a skilled and unscrupulous bureaucratic manipulator. Due to his organisational and recruiting skills, Berger was kept as the chief of the SS-HA throughout the war.