THE CAMP LIFE 1937-1943
Police actions resulted in the following years again for the rapid growth of the prison population. The biggest took place after the pogroms of 1938, when the Gestapo arrested and deported 26.000 Jews into the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Dachau. During the war, were the "Aktion" as well as analog forms of mass arrests in most countries occupied by Germany took place, particularly those of different political persuasion. A few days after the outbreak of war the Gestapo in Germany, led a police operation to arrest potential political opponents. After the sudden "Aktion" in Vienna in 1939, as well as the invasion of Poland and after the occupation of the Netherlands the security police arrested thousands of people that came into the camps.
The camp system in general was still in it's infancy, from Buchenwald a number of work details went to Flossenbürg, Neuengamme, Mauthausen and Lublin-Madanek. The largest transports came from the concentration camp Dachau near Munich, which was temporarily vacated in 1938 and 1939. In September 1938, the SS moved nearly 2.400 Jewish inmates of this camp to Buchenwald, followed by the outbreak of war over 2,000 prisoners of various nationalities arrived. Also, the first large transport of the "laborers " -2 000 prisoners- arrived in July 1941 from there.[The camp barracks in Dachau were needed to enlist and train SS-men due to the outbreak of war and was the main reason of the shift which was later reversed. Some of them sent to Mauthausen never returned.sic]
The prisoners came from all strata of society and in civilian life had a variety of activities which they had pursued. A statistic in September 1940 has over 200 different occupations in the camp. Including laborers and employees represented the biggest share, but many businessmen and 261 farmers were represented. For some reason, until April 1938 the political prisoners and Jehovah's Witnesses were exposed to the worst treatments. Their position was improved after the start and arrest of so-called work-shy, which were considered by the SS as "racially inferior". These were again in mid-June 1938, after arrival of more than a thousand Jews, no longer on the lowest rung of the hierarchy, although they-as well as gypsies and homosexuals- were still non-privileged and could hardly establish themselves in any prison functions.
Political imprisonment was the result of investigations of denunciations and of the reports by NS-officials, which was sometimes directed against competitors or unloved neighbors. If a conviction could be obtained by law after an arrest by the Gestapo, a person was handed over to the appropriate courts of law.
Other political prisoners remained only a short time in prison Their detention was intended to put pressure as well as fear on certain segments of the population. [At primary school (1936) we received labels to be put behind radio dials with the warning that listening to a foreign station will result in four years Protective Custody in a KZ for sedition sic]. May 1938, at a public protest in Goldenstedt (Oldenburg) against the introduction of comprehensive schools and for the maintenance of Catholic denominational schools the Gestapo arrested the alleged spokesmen. Two of them were sent in June 1938 to Buchenwald, and ten of them to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. After two months they were released and were followed until March 1939 under constant police surveillance.
|Order of Protective Custody for Frank Plath, reason: Urgent, suspected of subversive activity.|
|Map of Emslandlager 1933-1945|
After a rather subdued echo of the German population at the beginning of the war the regime's popularity grew rapidly after the first military successes. However, there was a certain amount of resistance and the refusal of a minority to go along, although all opposition was a life-threatening risk. During the war, many resistance activities ended before special courts or before the People's Court. (Volksgerichtshof)
Many of the traditionally political prisoners at the beginning of the war were assigned to the new category of "Militarily Unworthy", the number rose to over 700 in the camp. The term goes back to the defense legislation, when individuals with prison sentences of nine months (or more) were termed as "unfit for the Armed Forces" and excluded from military service. Externally visible for the SS as the defense unworthy "Action prisoners" they had their inmate number, which was usually placed below the angle across the corner was now sewn on a transverse position.
During 1941 thirty-three "Rot-Spanienkämpfer" were brought from the internment camps in southern France to Buchenwald. These were Germans or Austrians, who had fought in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War along with the Republican troops, and were subsequently held in France. Only one of them remained in Buchenwald. The others went after a short time into other camps.
The followers of the "International Association of Jehovah's Witnesses" refused to give the government out of religious conviction, the required" loyalty "and military service. In many cases they continued the advertising of their religious community and spread their writings despite the ban. Since 1935, this resulted in ever increasingly higher detentions into concentration camps. Here they wear the purple triangle pattern. By late 1938 the number of "Bible Students" represented among the first prisoners arrived there, to about 477 people and was at its peak at that stage. This leveled off since 1940 at 259 to 300. Their detention usually began with 3 to 9 months in the delinquent company. Only in exceptional cases did Jehovah's Witnesses consider it at all, to renounce their faith, which could bring a rapid release from the camp. Almost all endured the suffering, of the SS, especially in the early years.
Jacket of "Bible Student" Paul Hirschberger with the stripe indicating repeated offender (second timer) he was first detained at KZ Lichtenburg and was from 1937-1945 a prisoner at KZ Buchenwald.
The first group of prisoners who had been taken in during the summer of 1937 came from the concentration camps Sachsenhausen and additional ones due to the closure of Sachsenburg and Lichtenburg, half of the so-called "professional criminals"-BV-(Berufs-Verbrecher) sometimes only for temporary detention. Among them were several people convicted of criminal offenses that had been again arrested by the police preventively, not infrequently immediately after serving prison sentences. In Buchenwald, these individuals called the "Greens" after the color of their angle in the camp, came to the forefront within the camp's order within the hierarchy right from the beginning with enormous criminal intent, especially with their cliques from 1937-38 the situation imprinted itself in the atmosphere of camp life. Names such as Hubert and Otto Richter Osterloh are deep in-printed in the memoirs of other inmates for blackmail, brutal mistreatment at workplaces and in the barracks as well as with the first public execution in the camp, which they committed on the order of the SS. The SS pushed a large proportion of them from between October 1938 and April 1939 as construction units into the new camps at Mauthausen and Flossenburg, others were killed or dismissed. It was not until the mid 1941 that their number rose again, but never exceeded 2 percent.
The symbol "ASR" stands for "Work-Shy Reich" (Arbeits Scheue Reich) A similar "Aktion" by the Gestapo had been scheduled by the beginning of April 1938 and from April to June had been carried out. Already on January 26th 1938, Himmler had ordered to prepare for the arrest of all able-bodied men who refused to work and it could be shown in two incidents, the jobs offered to them, they had left the employment without good reason, or indeed started work but after a short time for no apparent reason again abandoned it. They were considered "antisocial". As this practice already existed in isolated cases, in some Federal States= (Gau) under the context of plan "Aktion" this should also now be extend to all "beggars, vagrants and alcoholics" throughout the Reich and sent into a concentration camp and pressed to work. In the concentration camp Buchenwald, which was awarded with the "Aktion"-plan, the first arrested a comprehensive and surprising number of 4,000 new slave laborers for the construction of the camp arrived in the last week of April 1938.
The extend of the "Operation Work-Shy Reich" expanded in a second wave of arrests, referred to as the "June Action". Under the2,378 men who arrived between 14th and 19th June 1938 in Buchenwald were 1,236 Jews. Thus was the "June action" the first mass arrest of Jews in Germany and Austria in direct connection with the 1938 enacted antisemitic Verteibungspolitik (Expulsion Policy). At the same time it became the pretext for the introduction of hundreds of Sinti and Roma to be sent into concentration camps. After 1938 there was no "action" of this magnitude anymore. The number of "ASR" prisoners declined consistently since 1943 and played only a minor role in a completely different climate in the running of the camp.
Homosexuality as a norm was a violation and has been prosecuted for decades within the Law according to paragraph 175 and 176. For the Regime, the "genetically sound reproduction," was the goal of human sexuality, they said this presented not only a breach of norm, but a fundamental threat to the biologically standardized "national community". Within the SS, homosexuality was therefore a capital crime and was perused with the utmost brutality. Himmler gave guidelines on 18 February 1937 in a speech to the SS-group leader which outlined his thoughts.
There's been a tightening of Section 175 in 1935 which led to an increasing number of arrests and convictions. The detention of homosexuals into the Buchenwald concentration camp were mainly due to one or several previous dealings with minors. Few in numbers, they remained in the camp isolated from society, rejected and alienated . They spent most of their time in prison in Punishment Detachments.[Only the active partner was sent to Buchenwald, catamites, the passive partners in sodomy were sent to Dachau sic.] .
Already in 1937 under the auspices of "Protective Custody" the first transports had already included individual Sinti. Hundreds of them were rounded up during the mass arrests in June 1938 and taken to Buchenwald, the SS categorized this group as"ASR-prisoners". Many broke down during the daily drill and forced labor. Even after their imprisonment in June 1938, they were exposed in groups of public floggings and other abuses. Buchenwald also maintained a card index system as matter of record for their "Racial Hygiene Research Unit" which was made available to the Reich Health Office of the Gestapo to complete their "Ziegeunerkartei" (Gypsies Index).
In a census in the spring of 1939 there were only just over one hundred Sinti and Roma in the camp. Immediately after the war began in 1939 the SS moved 600 Roma from the Dachau concentration camp to Buchenwald. Even before the war began the Criminal Investigation Branch had all those arrested living in Burgenland, where they had resided for generations. In the official language this was described as a "preventive" measure to combat the "Gypsy plague", these mass arrests led to the almost complete destruction of the entire group. One in three of them died in the winter of 1939/40 in Buchenwald. In 1940, the SS began to transfer the others to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where they succumbed to hard labor in the quarries.
After the last transports to Mauthausen in 1941only a few Gypsies and Roma remained in Buchenwald. One of them, the Sinti from Magdeburg, Otto Schmidt, had been taken already as a twenty year old because of his origin into "preventive detention". He survived the ordeal during the construction years and escaped the transport to Mauthausen. In the summer of 1942 he was chosen by camp doctor Hoven for a series of typhus experiments, the first trials were conducted in Block 46. Otto Schmidt was one of the "checks", which means he was infected with typhus, to study only the "normal course" the disease would take.. Pending the conclusion of the experiment, which ran from 15 October to 20 November, four of the "control" prisoners died. Otto Schmidt was killed immediately after this. "The control group consisted of 20 inmates, 17 of whom were killed by Dr. Hoven with a lethal injection in the hospital.
|Preliminary Report of the Typhus Trial Station KZ Buchenwald dated 10.11.1942. Otto Schmidt "with abortive radically deteriorating course of illness."|
From the beginning of 1937 to spring 1938, the Gestapo exclusively interned Jewish prisoners into the Dachau concentration camp. Most had been imprisoned for political reasons. Also those known as "Mischlinge" (of mixed marriage)
In 1938, when the Nazi regime accelerated the economic exclusion and expulsion of the Jewish population through terror, they began the mass deportation of German and Austrian Jews to Buchenwald which reached its climax at that stage. From early April to December 1938 the Police and Gestapo arrested 13.687 Jews. With their arrest, they were often forced to deliberately abandon their property in exchange for permission to emigrate of their choice. Alone in 1938 a total of 10,012 Jews were released under theses conditions out of the camp. Overall, by the end of 1941 approximately 17.000 Jews staying in the camp more than 11.600 were set free. Despite the often short period of detention, by the year 1940 they had had the highest number of deaths.
The SS at Buchenwald introduced the prisoner category "Jew" as a sub-group of all other categories in late April 1938 after the first arrests of "Operation Work-Shy Reich". The first Jews arriving at this time, as well as the 1.256 ASR Jewish prisoners of the "June Aktion", became a favorite target of SS terror. This terror continued also against the 2,395 Austrian and German Jews which arrived in the last weeks of September 1938 from the Dachau concentration camp. The majority were held in Austria and German as political prisoners. But with these transports were also 113 so-called "Race Defiler", and 51 Emigrants and 26 Deportation Detainees.[A Christian male marrying a Jewish girl was not considered a Race Defiler, but she had to be sterilized as only children by the MOTHER can claim to be Jews, by law, not by a Jewish father sic.]
The category "Race Defiler" were Jews who had violated the existing Nuremberg laws banning sexual relations with non-Jewish women. Most of them had been sentenced for a brief period before they came into a concentration camp already with a jail sentence. Sometimes, these were, as the arrest and conviction of Ferdinand Faybush shows the criminalization of communities and relationships that had existed long before the Nuremberg Laws. Faybush already lived in a consensual relationship with his partner and they had a son who was since the adoption of the 1936 Nuremberg Laws already 12 years old. After a denunciation in 1936 before a Grand Criminal Court of Hildesheim, on a "Racial Shame" charge, he was sentenced to a jail term. After his release from imprisonment in November 1938, the Gestapo brought him to Buchenwald, where he, like the other prisoners in category "Race Defiler", immediately came to the punishment battalion where he remained until his murder in the killing center at Sonnenstein (Pirma).
|First letter of Faybusch from Buchenwald dated 26.11.1938|
The only group which was singled out by the SS camp administration were Jewish prisoners when it came to separate living and work assignments, they set out and treated them as a group for special harassment, collective punishment and toughest forced labor. Jews were also the first to be affected, if the living conditions radically deteriorated during overcrowding of the camp. Not infrequently, the SS deliberately introduced into the Jewish barracks perceived emergencies. Some SS doctors closed several times the medical treatment for Jews or referred them during 1938/39 to the "Jewish Hospital" which was the most primitive one in in every respect in this area.
The Jewish Revier was formed in December 1938 when the SS moved the inpatient hospital for the treatment of Jews to the prisoner roll call square into the barrack Number 2. Officially it was staffed with four nurses and four to six Jewish inmates as pallbearers (Leichenträger). In the first quarter of 1939 the Annual Report of the detainee hospital is characterized as a block, "to give exclusive treatment for the Jews in these hospital facilities.
|Hospital Facilities at Buchenwald 1945|
After Germany and Austria conducted the pogroms, there were by the middle of November1938, about 13,000 Jewish prisoners in the camp. Many had been released up to and until mid-1939. For the rest of the camp inmates with the start of the war it was a deadly trap. This was also true of the 1.035 stateless Jews from Vienna and hundreds of Polish, Dutch, German and Czech Jews who were admitted during the early war years. From 1940 to 1942, there were just 114 releases of Jewish prisoners. 1942 the SS murdered about one-third of the remaining Jews in the "euthanasia" killing center of Bernberg and deported most of the others to Auschwitz
|Jews taken into "Protective Custody" during assembly at KZ Buchenwald November 1938.|
The first foreign prisoners, integrated demonstratively by the SS as the "German Reich Subjects", were the Austrians in the Dachau transport from September 1938. Mostly of Jewish origin, they had been systematically arrested in the first weeks after Austria's Annexation. Among them were many celebrities from the arts, politics, literature, science, and many from the Jewish Community (Jüdische Kultusgemeinde), the writers Jura Soyfer, the famous comedian Paul Morgan and Fritz Grünbaum, the Social Democratic Politician and writer Benedikt Kautsky. The young talented Jura Soyfer died in Buchenwald.
In early October 1938, inmates from the police stations of Vienna arrived at Buchenwald, including a number of former senior civil servants. Even a year later, at the outbreak of war, transports coming from Dachau included many Austrians. In the course of 1939, the number of Austrians through releases and deaths declined significantly. After the war began the last big transport from Vienna arrived with stateless Jews, most of whom died within a short time.
After the war began, the share of foreign prisoners in Buchenwald increased sharply first, and then remained level almost constant until 1941. More than half of the total 4,514 Poles, which were sent until the end of 1941 to Buchenwald, had been immediately detained after the occupation of their country in September 1939. With the arrival of the first Poles in late September, they appeared as a category of prisoners in the camp statistics.
Approximately 2,100 Poles who arrived in transports on 15/16 October 1939 came solely from those territories that prior to the Versailles Treaty until 1919 belonged to Germany, namely Posen, West Prussia and from the Upper Silesian industrial region. Many of them died during the first few months, others went with a transport in early March 1940 to the concentration camp at Mauthausen.The 474 Poles that arrived on the 16th August 1940 included 35 priests and came from the notorious detention center in Fort VII in Poznan, and had been arrested in the newly formed "Reichsgau Wartheland". The first SS-Transport on the 22 August 1940 of 622 Poles came from the so-called General Government into the camp. Many Poles were also arrested by the Gestapo in Germany for breach of working contracts or breach and resistance as legislated for forced Polish laborers in Germany. Some of them, the Gestapo brought into the camp only to murder.
1940 German troops invaded and occupied the Netherlands. On 21/22 July 1940 the commander of the Security Police and SD, gave orders to deliver from the Occupied Netherlands the first 232 Dutch hostages to Buchenwald, including 14 women who were taken to Ravensbrück concentration camp. By October 1940, a further 124 Dutch were added. These were mostly government officials, who were arrested as hostages (Geiseln) and reprisal for the internment of Germans living in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia sic) and taken into a detention camp. The Dutch, despite special conditions, were housed separately and could receive packages and did not have to work-it was also in this group that stayed until mid-November 1941 in Buchenwald, that had reported deaths.
The Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands, Arthur Seyß-Inquart, issued on 22nd October 1940 the first drastic anti-Jewish regulation, its contents was based in many respects similar to the Nuremberg race laws. Encouraged by the reckless actions of the German occupation force, on the 9th Februar1941 hordes of NSB (National Socialist Movement) raided the Jewish neighborhoods of Amsterdam. In a defensive measure a member of the Order Police was killed. One of the highest ranking SS and Police Leaders, SS Brigade Führer Reuter, had in retaliation 400 Jewish men aged 20-35 years arrested in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The public announcement of their Deportation into a German concentration camp sparked a wave of strikes in which tens of thousands of Dutch workers participated in several parts of the country, especially in the surroundings of Amsterdam.
[During the initial German phase of occupation the highest percentage of "converted" NS-Members of any invaded country was in Holland sic.]
|Arrest of Jewish inhabitants in Amsterdam 22.2.1941 in retaliation of the general strikes and and deportation to Buchenwald.|
|Picture shows Jews from Amsterdam upon their arrival at Mauthausen 26th June 1941.|
A rather unflattering commentary was added when this photo which was published in the "Das Schwarze Korps" (SS-Publication "The Black Corps". Part of the German caption reads:"Teil einer Seite zeigt die Amsrterdamer Juden nach dem Eintreffen in Mauthausen: Nutzbringend verwandt. Die Bilder dieser Seite sind wieder Ergebnis einer jahrelangen intensiven Sammlung, noch Aufnahmen aus einem Wachs-und Abnormitätenkabinett, es sind auch nicht Bilder, aufbewahrt von der nun schon Jahre zurückliegenden Flurbereinigung des deutschen Volkes von jüdischen Verbrechern. Die Bilder zeigen ausscließlich ehemalige holländische"Arbeiterführer", die auf Grund erheblicher Verbrechen nun, und diesmal unfreiwillig in puncto Arbeit, tatsächlich nutzbringend verwertet werden. Sie mögen sich vor nicht zu langer Zeit ihr "Zukunftgeschäft" gewiß anders gedacht haben".
With transports from the concentration camp Dachau at the end September 1939 came about 700 hostages from Czechoslovakia after the occupation and the establishment of the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" those arrested were mainly Czech officials, scholars, clerics and politicians that came to Buchenwald, who were termed as "protectorate prisoners." While the Jews had to share with them from the beginning in the camp life of Jewish prisoners, the other was temporarily held in a special position. They did not work, they were not their heads shaved, and they had a number of other perks. Beginning in January 1940 with a ban on receiving parcels, these privileges were abolished by the SS more and more and disappeared completely in 1942.
|Post Card from Buchenwald to his daughter of Gottfried Hendrych a Czechoslovakian Political Prisoner 1939-45. Note: All messages had to be written in German and had the usual restrictions.|
A special position among the foreign detainees was applied to the prisoners of war who were delivered by the Wehrmacht to the SS. These transports were solely to:either executions in order to take measures for the suppression of resistance within POW camps and/or the release of prisoners as laborers for the SS. On the18th April 1940, the Gestapo-Kassel, sent a contingent of 56 Military Priests from the Polish military officer prison camp Rothenburg/Fulda to Buchenwald. With the entry into the camp, they lost their status as prisoners of war. In early July 1942, 51 of them were brought by order of the Reich Security Main Office, to the Dachau concentration camp.
In 1941 the SS demanded as a labor force thousands of Soviet prisoners of war who were handed over by the Wehrmacht in the fall of 1941. 2,000 of them came on October 18 from the POW camp Stalag XD (Wietzendorf / Wehrkeis Hamburg) to Buchenwald. They were in such a miserable condition that more than 600 of them died from starvation and disease within a year. The SS enclosed barracks 1, 7 and 13 of the Western series with barbed wire and built an enclosed prison camp. Prisoner of war camp Lager elder was a German BV-prisoner. Formally, the POWs were initially placed under the administrative nature of the Wehrmacht POW code. From 1942 they were used for the heaviest work.
|picture Kurt Franz|
Kurt Franz as an NCO (he gained officer rank later on) administers punishment in Buchenwald, he either has shot the prisoner on the ground or is in the process of doing so, as he seems to either removing his pistol or putting it back into its holster
He joined the SS-Totenkopfverbände in 1937. First he received training with the Third Death Head Regiment Thuringia at Weimar, and then served as cook and guard at the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he attained the rank of Unterscharführer (Corporal).Franz was transferred to Treblinka. He had a baby-like face, and for this he was nicknamed "Lalke" ("doll" in Yiddish)Franz was known for his unusual amount of cruelty and sadism, he made his rounds of the camp, often riding a horse, and he would take his St. Bernard dog, Barry, along with him. Barry was trained to follow Franz's command, and Franz's command was usually to bite the genitalia or buttocks of the prisoners and frequently bit his victims in the buttocks, in the abdomen and often, in the case of male inmates, in the genitals, sometimes partially biting them off.Following the war, Kurt Franz first worked as a laborer on bridges until 1949, at which point he returned to his former occupation as a cook and worked in Düsseldorf for 10 years until his arrest on 2 December 1959. A search of his home found a photo album of the Treblinka horrors with the title, "Beautiful Years".
At the Treblinka Trials in 1965, Franz denied having ever killed a person, having ever set his dog on a Jew, and claimed to have only beaten a prisoner once. On September 3rd, he was found guilty of collective murder of at least 300,000 people, 35 counts of murder involving at least 139 people, and for attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in 1993 for health reasons. Kurt Franz died in Wuppertal in 1998.
PS: There is no death penalty in Germany, nor could he be tried as a war criminal, those laws were made up by the Allied War Crimes Tribunals after 1945 and have no precedent in German Jurisprudence.
PUNISHMENT AT BUCHENWALD TO BE WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED AS PART 3
November 30th 2011