The described shunting practice within the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora complex clearly shows that the working capacity during the final phase of the Nazi regime, that the decisive criterion was whether a prisoner survived or not. This is sometimes labelled as an economization of inmate labour in search for a development that led to a certain permeability of the set of rigid SS boundary lines within the inmate society. They were marked by Nationality of camp inmates and a racial hierarchy according to the criteria of their admission category. For example, a Russian skilled worker, employed in the missile assembly in the central plant, had more hope of survival than a French prisoner classified as labourer (Hilfsarbeiter) who according to national socialistic ideologue was far superior than a Russian fellow prisoner, (he, the Frenchman) may in fact sent to his eventual death, once assigned to the Building Commando at camp Ellrich, after all he was only considered as unskilled labourer.
Forced labour in the armaments industry had the consequence that the concentration camp system with its external camps (Aussenlager) since the second half of the war grew more and more into German (and European) society. But in other respects, there was the proliferation of concentration camps itself: not only in the field of recruitment of the guards which was constantly expanded, but also the circle of those who were threatened by Internment [Listening to the BBC if caught or reported meant four years KZ. HKS]. The admission categories and personal records were continuously expanded in Mittelbau-Dora, there were groups of prisoners who were not known from former concentration camps.
One of these new detention categories was the 'WIFO-prisoner'. These were around 90 mainly Polish and French former civilian workers of the 'Economic Research Association', who had been used since the war began on excavation of the tunnel system in Kohnstein and were admitted in the fall of 1943 into the Dora camp. Other new groups of prisoners were about 600 Italian military internees (IMI's), most of which were admitted in the fall of 1943 and the so-called 'Zwischenhäftinge' (They had no precise definition) . These were around 750 Wehrmacht soldiers, who were transferred to the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora for desertion or other misconducts, sentenced by the military courts in the winter 1944/45, and transferred from Buchenwald.
|Foundation of the block for Italian military internees'.|
Overall, prisoners classified as new admission were only a small minority. The largest foreign share presented in the fall of 1944, were, with almost a third of prisoners from the Soviet Union, among whom were prisoners of war. Also well represented were about one quarter Polish and French, who accounted for almost 15 percent of the camp workforce. The latter came mainly in the first few months and once again increasingly after the Allied invasion of Normandy into the Mittelbau-Dora camp. As the prisons and camps in France were vacated by the retreating German occupation administration and at the same time its occupants were deported into concentration camps in the Reich. It was the same with the Polish prisoners, when transports from Buchenwald arrived at Mittelbau-Dora after the suppression of the Warsaw uprising, it reached a first numerical peak in August 1944. After the arrival of the evacuation transports from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen, in January and February 1945 prisoners transferred from Poland became the largest share of the camp inmates.
German prisoners, most of them classified as criminals, but also several hundred political prisoners, as well as homosexuals, presented in this phase of the history of the camp as to numbers an insignificant group of prisoners. However, because of their language skills and the racial hierarchy of the inmate population as set by the SS, they were the preferred appointed prisoner functionaries. All important posts in the system of prisoner functionaries were occupied in the Mittelbau camps with Germans.
The aforementioned prisoners from the Soviet Union, Poland, France and Germany, these were invariably non-Jewish prisoners. Initially, there were no Jewish prisoners in Mittelbau, but this changed in late May 1944, when 1,000 Hungarian Jews arrived in the camp Dora, including many children and adolescents. Most of them were immediately forwarded to the construction camp Ellrich-Juliushütte where many died an agonizing death as a result of the murderous working conditions. At the end of September 1944 came the next transport of Jewish prisoners into the camp, these were 300 Hungarian Jews, who as a skilled workers had to work in the V-weapons production for the Volkswagen plant in Schönebeck on the Elbe, in France, on the Moselle, at camp Rebstock. In Dora the line of work this meant a closed set as forced labourers for the V-1 production.
Overall the Jews remained , despite these two transports up to January 1945 into the Mittelbau-camps in the absolute minority. In most camps there were no Jewish inmates. That changed in January 1945, when in the course of the evacuation in the east located forced Labour- and Concentration Camps, several thousand Jews were sent to the concentration camp Mittelbau. Alone from Czestochowa over 1,000 prisoners (most of the prisoners of this transport arrived into the camp Rottleberode and Stempeda, where many were killed by SS personnel and Kapos or died of the effects of forced labour in the tunnels of the project B 4). In camp Harzungen the percentage of Jewish prisoners rose up early in April 1945 to just under ten percent, and that, although the mortality rate reached among the evacuees from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen proportions that exceeded the early phase of the Dora camp itself. Most of the completely exhausted prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen, the SS had to take into the Boelke Barracks. It can therefore be assumed that in this camp, the percentage of Jewish prisoners was still much higher than in Harzungen.
Harzungen and Ellrich-Juliushütte were also the camps with the relatively highest proportion of Roma and Sinti who like their Jewish fellow prisoners inside the Mittelbau complex preferred by the SS, were similarly assigned to the two infamous construction camps. The first large transports with Roma and Sinti (a total of about 800 inmates) arrived in mid-April 1944, and the middle of May 1944 , from Auschwitz via Buchenwald into the two camps . Several hundreds more Roma and Sinti, the SS deported in August 1944 after the dissolution of the family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the murder of most of its occupants into the Harz. In Harzungen the proportion of Roma and Sinti until the fall of 1944 rose at the workforce level to almost eleven percent.
The main product of the Mittelbau-project was death. Among the murderous conditions, particularly on construction sites almost all the detainees suffered equally, whether they are Jews as well as Gypsies, who were under high pressure of annihilation anyway, or the French prisoners, who were ranked higher in the Nazi racial ideology. Thus, the adjusted death rates in the SS perspective of higher-value prisoner groups were those groups that stood at the bottom of the racial ladder. The consequence of this was that the death rate among the French and Belgian prisoners, especially many of whom were deported to the dreaded construction camp at Ellrich-Juliushütte, reached catastrophic proportions. In December 1944, nearly 40 percent of all deaths of concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora were non-Jewish French or Belgian inmates.
|Sub-camp Ellrich-Juliushütte, Part of Mittelbau-Dora|
The conditions at Ellrich-Juliushütte were utterly horrific, even by concentration camp standards. Due to the unusually high death rate, the authorities had a Krematoria built in February/March 1945. This brick structure, complete with dissection table, although only operational for several weeks, burned over 1,000 corpses. The ashes were dumped outside the Krematoria building. Twelve Wachturmen (watchtowers) guarded all sides of the camp, which measured several hundred metres at its widest point. The prisoners were housed in former factory buildings that were in poor condition. West of the Häftlingslager (prisoners' camp), the SS and Luftwaffe personnel who served as guards were accommodated, also in the former plaster factory buildings. Initially, the prisoner blocks had no bathroom or toilet facilities, with an external latrine pit in use until small external structures were used as sanitary blocks later.
The prisoners had to wake at 3:30am, with a small dose of cold ersatz coffee substitute (without sugar) all they had before embarking on a three hour journey to the tunnel complexes where they worked. Following a twelve hour shift, with a brief pause for lunch which was generally a weak soup made from rotten turnips, the prisoners would begin the trek home. After arriving back at the camp some time between 10 and 11pm, they received a small piece of bread and margarine. Due to the severe food shortage, lack of water, poor clothing and chronic sleep deprivation, the death toll was catastrophic. Nevertheless, roll call had to be attended twice a day. Famine broke out in February 1945 after the bakery was destroyed. From then, clear soup was served twice daily. Throughout the duration of the camp, no prisoners took even a single shower, nor were they ever able to change their clothing.
The question in this context is, the proportion of 'Night and Fog' prisoners (NN), in which quite a killing interest on the part of the SS may have to be accepted. Following an direction of the OKW chief Keitel of 7 December 1941, the resistance activity suspects from the occupied territories of Western Europe should not be sentenced in their countries of origin but to deter the population under complete isolation during (Nacht und Nebel) 'Night and Fog' brought cross the border to Germany. Since 1942, but especially in the last year of the war, almost all NN prisoners were transferred from prisons and from the SS special camp Hinzert into concentration camps. In all likelihood, a number of NN prisoners were deported to the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora. This could possibly be the case of 1085 mostly French prisoners which arrived in September 1944 from Cochen, a sub-camp of Natzweiler who came under this category. In contrast to other concentration camps, Mittelbau, however, was not explicitly identified as holding NN prisoners, neither were their clothes marked with the distinctive 'NN' nor do they show up in any strength lists. Thus, it is more likely that, because of their status they did suffer under a worse treatment in the Mittelbau-camps than other groups of prisoners. The many claims of the survivors put forward in reference to the NN status, therefore, seems to be hardly suitable to explain the high number of deaths among the West Europeans sufficiently enough in the Mittelbau-camps. Rather, it shows the attempt to rationalize their own suffering and deaths of the inmates later, at the thought to have suffered senseless, which often collides with the self-image of former prisoners.
OFFENDERS AND BYSTANDERS
The camp SS and the guards in the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora were, as in all other camps organizationally part of the Waffen-SS. The internal structure of the Camp Management with the task of work distribution among different departments did not differ from other internment camps.
Commandant of Mittelbau until end of January 1945, who at the end of August 1943 was displaced from Buchenwald by SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Förschner, then relieved by SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer, who had previously been commander of the now defunct concentration camp Auschwitz. As the protective custody camp and report leader and thus as an entity in charge of the inner camp operation acted in rapid succession several members of the SS who had been displaced from the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, and later mainly from the Auschwitz concentration camp into the Harz Mountains.
The guards of Dora and the surrounding satellite camps were initially part of the SS guard company of Buchenwald. At least in the late summer of 1944, however, the increasing independence of the Mittelbau complex in the organizational consolidation in the southern Harz, all concentration camp guards were affected. With the issue of a special order dated 10 September 1944 the Location Commander Förschner, ordered that the units of the SS-Building Brigades III and IV and Ellrich-Juliushütte including Harzungen would become part of the SS guard detachment of the Dora camp under SS-Hauptsturmführer Straupendahl. With this guard detachment at the end of October 1944 the official independence of this region the SS Totenkopf Sturmbann Unit Mittelbau was established, which was assigned to several Mittelbau complexes.
With the expansion of the camp complex Mittelbau, members of the guards were constantly enlarged. In December 1943, the strength of the guards was 640 men. At the end of April 1944 it nearly stood at 1,000, including 15 SS officers. While the strength of the guards remained relatively constant in the main camp in the following months, and the number of prisoners increased only slightly, it shot up in the satellite camps rather sharply. At the end of 1944 the SS-Totenkopf Sturmbann-Unit had absorbed around 3,300 members of other incoming SS members. With the evacuation of the east-lying concentration camps came by the end of January 1945, many other stragglers of the SS arrived into the South of the Harz. Many of them were taken into the Mittelbau SS Totenkopf-Company for a spell. However, figures are no longer available, it can be assumed at a conservative estimate, that at the end of March 1945, there were at least 3,500 members (a motley assortment) of the SS absorbed into the guard contingent of Mittelbau, including about a dozen female guards,(Aufseherinnen) in addition to a few hundred members of the SS-Building-Brigade from Auschwitz were staying at the concentration camps in the southern Harz.
Veteran members of the SS presented in the guards of the camp Mittelbau only a minority. Following the acquisition of numerous members of the Wehrmacht into the concentration camp guard duty in the spring of 1944, in particular at the satellite camps, were almost solely guarded by Wehrmacht soldiers. Exact figures are not available, it can be assumed, however, that in the autumn of 1944 more than half of the guards of the camp Mittelbau had come from the Wehrmacht, and indeed for the most part they were from the Luftwaffe, as the entire enterprise was a Luftwaffen Defence Project and the assembly and co-ordination of various contractors was their responsibility. First, the soldiers were lodged at Mittelbau in a separate Air Force Guard Battalion. On 1 September 1944, the soldiers, however, were formally transferred to the Waffen-SS and absorbed into the SS Association Base Camp (Standort) Mittelbau. (This usually was accepted often with reluctance on a personal basis to change into SS-Uniform)
The Air Force members did mostly watch-keeping only outside the camp fences, but had, even there often direct contact with prisoners, such as the guarding of work details. But in some cases they were also within the actual camp positions, such as the camp Harzungen that was controlled since the summer of 1944 by William Frohne a Captain in the Air Force. [He was a teacher by profession and died in 1972 in Göttingen. sic] also the posts of the protective custody camp leader and most block leaders were occupied in Harzungen by airmen. Many prisoners felt it as a relief to be guarded by Wehrmacht soldiers, but there are also examples to the contrary. For the catastrophic conditions in the infirmary of the camp Ellrich-Juliushütte , in which thousands perished , the medical officer of the Air Force Dr. Günter Schneemann was was acting with limited responsibility. [The transfer of Wehrmacht Soldiers in this case or other is somewhat simplified, they may have been under the command of the SS, but did not volunteer to become members of the organisation, although procedural methods at the end of the war were hazy or either ignored HKS]
|Foundation of Infirmary at Ellrich-Juliushütte. Post-war picture|
The founding of the “Geilenberg Staff” was followed in the summer of 1944 by further underground relocation projects for the petroleum industry. These projects created an enormous demand for labourers, met to some extent by concentration camp inmates, but also by foreign civilian workers recruited by force, prisoners of war and Germans subjected to compulsory work. In view of the imminent end of the war, hardly any of these projects were carried even close to completion, despite the ruthless exploitation of the labourers, particularly the concentration camp inmates. Most of the Mittelbau camps set up in connection with the underground relocation efforts were situated within a relatively small radius around Nordhausen.
EDMUND GEILENBERG was a German official of World War II who headed an emergency 1944 decentralization program, the Geilenberg Special Staff, to disperse Nazi Germany oil production. The program included the Cuckoo project for an underground oil plant to be "carved out of the Himmelsburg" North of the Mittelwerk, as well as plans for an oil facility at Ebensee. "Geilenberg used as many as 350,000 men for the repair, rebuilding, and dispersal of the bombed plants and for new underground construction which were incomplete when the war ended. Defences included a June 21, 1944, order for a minimum number of flak guns to be placed at Pölitz (200), Auschwitz (200), Hamburg (200), Brüx (170), Gelsenkirchen (140), Scholven (140), Wesseling (150), Heydebreck (130), Leuna (120), Blechhammer (100), Moosbierbaum (100), and Böhlen (70), and the Ruhland Fischer-Tropsch plant and other synthetic oil plants were upgraded to be "hydrogenation fortresses" (e.g., the plants in the Leipzig area were protected by over 1,000 guns.) In addition to increased active defenses, the facilities (German: Hydrierfestungen) incorporated blast walls and concrete "dog houses" around vital machinery. Similar to the technical experts transferred for the V-2 rocket program, 7,000 engineers were released from the German Army to provide technical support for oil facilities. Geilenberg died 19 October 1964.sic. For further study use
With the establishment of the sub-camps the concentration camp system from 1943 came more and more into the German civil society. This affected the whole Reich. In the Südharz the camp network was especially dense, with about 20 camps in the territory of the former county (Grafschaft) Hohenstein, transformed this region during the end of the war into a comprehensive concentration camp, which was interspersed with islands of civilian life. Mittelbau-Dora and the sight of concentration camp prisoners were part of the everyday life to the population.
Points of contact between the camps and its environment resulted from the involvement of local authorities in the management and supply of certain requests by the Camp's Administration and it's resulting rampant black market, especially by the forced labourers of the concentration camp inmates inside the local re-located factories where the German permanent staff worked side by side with the prisoners. In the Mittelwerke plant at the end of 1944, 5,000 concentration camp prisoners worked alongside 3,000 German employees and workers. Most of them were German civilian workers, who oversaw the prisoner detachments at work. Some helped their prisoners, others were as far as brutality is concerned not any different from the SS, . Characteristic is a principal statement of the Board of the GmbH from the summer of 1944, which states: "In reports of the camp doctor at the Labour Camp Dora the finding was repeatedly made that prisoners who are employed in offices or in the operation of the central plant had been beaten by [German] workers which shall on this account considered an offence, or they were even struck with sharp instruments ".
Finally, points of contact were visually: The camps were often in the middle of villages. Who travelled around by train to the small town of Ellrich, saw at first the sub-camp Juliushütte: The camp was situated opposite the railway station, from its platform one could see quite clearly the smoking chimney of the crematorium which was only a few hundred meters away. In the near village of Niedersachsenwrfen everyone could observe the corpse carts that were included and pushed in the evening at the end of the columns of prisoners who were taken by their Guards from the construction sites at the Kohnstein back to the camp Harzungen. Civilian employees in the factories had to close ranks and watch, the same as prisoners, when inmates were hanged in public at their workplaces under accusation of sabotage, yet locals were involved in the hunt for escaped concentration camp prisoners. Although there was a certain amount of apprehension and unease under the civilian population when inmates had escaped.[In particular, the Country Guard (a paramilitary group of older men, commanded by the police) and the Hitler Youth were used. Especially the latter behaved according to reports from witnesses and survivors towards prisoners often extremely brutal sic].(Dabei wurden vor allem die Landwache (eine paramilitärische Truppe aus älteren Männern, die von der Polizei befehligt wurde) und die Hitler Jugend eingesetzt. Vor allem letztere verhielt sich nach Berichten von Zeitzeugen und überlebendenn Häftlingen oftmals außerordentlich brutal).
|A narrow-gauge rail-road connected the camp with the nearby goods-train station'. Post war picture|
This consent was caused by a mélange of various factors. Basically, no doubt, it was from the myth of obeying orders, the pervasive repression and thus at least the subjective feeling of being itself threatened by the Nazi terror. That left the unwillingness to rise and join. Important were also the traditional rejection of everything foreign and ideological indoctrination by the Nazis, which the media presented as concentration camp prisoners being supposedly dangerous felon, from whom the general public had to be protected. The result was that the prisoners were perceived by many locals as a threat and could hardly hope for much help by the population. In 'Südharzer Courier', the official party local newspaper, has been reported since the beginning of 1944 again on violent prisoners from the Mittelbau-camps that have escaped. Here, up to 5,000 RM award were offered for information or seizure of fugitives , according to today's valuation about 25,000 Euros, a sum which is offered at most in the search for top terrorist or serious criminals. The criminalization of concentration camp inmates from the fact that multiple prisoners,, who were alleged on the run from the concentration camp, committed murders of locals, one of the alleged crime scene, records show that in the middle of the village where the offence had taken place were publicly hanged, in autumn 1943 at Stolberg a the small village of Hermann's field, a few miles away from Nordhausen. [Report of the Attorney General Nordhausen, 10.1.1944, in: StA Gotha, page 175.sic].
The executions reached grotesque proportions after an attempted breakout of about 20 Soviet prisoners in the Dora bunker on the night of March 9. Two days later, 57 Soviets were hung, and on March 21 and 22, 30 again each day. The German Communist leaders who had survived torture were shot in the last days of the camp.
|The blocked entrance to Tunnel A, destroyed by the Soviets in 1948. A V2 rocket engine assembly can be seen on the bottom right.'|
MEMORIES AND LEGAL PENALTIES
After the liberation by the American occupation forces started the repatriation in collaboration with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The Dora camp and Herzungen which was converted as accommodation for 'Displaced Persons' (DP's) for the liberated concentration camp prisoners and foreign forced labourers to return to their countries of origin. By Mid-May 1945 there were 14,000 DP's waiting alone in the camp Dora for their repatriation, most of them were former civilian forced labourers from the many sites of the Mittelbau Enterprise. The weakened concentration camp prisoners who were liberated by the Americans from the area of the camp Dora and from the Boelke barracks were taken under American supervision into makeshift hospitals in Ilfeld and also cared for in the nearby Spa Sülzhayn. Almost half of the 500 freed prisoners, however, were already so weakened that they did not survive the first weeks after liberation. Their bodies were buried along with the over 1,200 dead recovered from the sub-camp in the Boelke-barracks in a memorial cemetery in Nordhausen.
|ccupants of the DP camp Dora with the French UNRRA Team Director, June 29, 1945'|
The leading German rocket engineers around Wernher von Braun entered service for the Americans, while the Soviets claimed the next highest echelon. When the American military trial of former SS men and capos from Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp began in the summer of 1947, hardly anything remained of Camp Dora. After the last DPs had left Dora, it was used as a reception camp for German refugees and expellees until the autumn of 1946. The city of Nordhausen subsequently had the barracks taken down and reassembled in its destroyed districts for use as emergency accommodations. The grounds of the camp were reclaimed by nature.
After Thuringia came under Soviet administration in July 1945, the Red Army continued operating Dora, now as a “repatriation camp” for former Polish and Soviet forced labourers. After the last remaining former forced labourers had left the camp, the East-German authorities used it from late 1945 to the autumn of 1946 as a refugee camp for German expellees from Czechoslovakia. The city and district of Nordhausen subsequently had the Camp Dora-barracks dismantled and erected elsewhere to serve as temporary lodgings for persons who had been bombed out of their homes.
Also a part of the tunnel system disappeared. After a short period of continued use as rocket factory under Soviet leadership, the occupation authorities blow up parts of the tunnels, including the entrances in 1947. This followed an Allied Agreement which stipulated that military systems should be rendered unusable in Germany. At the other camp sites of the Mittelbau-complex was barely something to see of the past. In most cases, the barracks were dismantled as in the Dora-camp after the war and used as timber and firewood. Today only the concrete foundations bear witness of the past of these places. Other camps served as accommodation for refugees, such as in Stempeda and Blankenburg-Oesig. In Blankenburg the multiple converted barracks are still inhabited today.
|Blowing up of the Tunnel entrances by the Soviets 1947|
In 1964 the Socialist Unity Party (SED) district committee founded the “Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Dora” (Dora Memorial) and had a sculpture by the artist Jürgen von Woyski erected in front of the former crematorium. Woyski’s work had actually been conceived for the Auschwitz Memorial. Two years later the Dora Memorial went into operation with the opening of a permanent exhibition bearing the programmatic title “Die Blutspur führt nach Bonn" (The Trail of Blood Leads to Bonn) in the former crematorium. The Mittelbau-Dora Memorial never played a key role in the GDR commemoration policies. Unlike Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück, it was never granted the status of a “national memorial”. Mittelbau-Dora remained in the shadow of Buchenwald.
The former Camp Dora,(photomontage), 1945/46'
|Fourteen of the nineteen defendants in the Dora Trial held in Dachau, 19 September 1947'|
The only major procedure which referred exclusively to crimes that had been committed in the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora , was performed after preliminary investigations during the years from 1967 to 1970 before the District Court of Essen. Defendants were Helmut Bischoff (Defence Officer of the A 4 program and in 1945 commander of the Security Police Mittelbau, Ernst Sander (Head of the Gestapo branch Niedersachswerfen) and Erwin Busta (member of the SS in the camp Dora ). The case against the jurist Bischoff the chief of SD and Gestapo can be referred to in the area of concentration camp Mittelbau rightly regarded as one of the main perpetrators, was suspended a few days before pronouncement of judgment for alleged unfitness to stand trial and later set aside and not proceeded. Busta and Sander were indeed sentenced to relatively long terms of imprisonment, but never had to take it up.
Der Ort des Terrors Vol.7
Researcher-Author: Jens-Christian Wagner
C.H.Beck oHG, München 2008.
Institute for Research on Anti-Semitism-Berlin.
Translated from German by:
Herbert Stolpmann, July 2014.
HKS: Own initials, when expression
[sic] transcribed exactly as found