Friday, December 16, 2011

BUCHENWALD KZ 1937-1945 Part 5


After the failure of the Blitzkrieg in the East and the U.S. declaration of war, by the end of 1941, hostilities had finally reached the dimension of a world war. The SS saw the opportunity and need  to their role in the elimination and extermination of whole populations, the necessity to play a greater function and create essentially economic enterprises, [not actually new  sic] to their normal activities. The growing need for soldiers and the expanding war economy (Rüstungswirtschaft) had led to a labor shortage, which the NS leadership met by, and relentlessly recruiting workers in the occupied countries of Europe. Hitler appointed March 1942 one of his old "fighters," (alten Kämpfer) the Reich Governor Fritz Saukel of Thuringia, the "Plenipotentiary for Manpower" and gave him authority to obtain an army of millions of forced laborers, no matter what method was used.
Almost simultaneously with the analog aim with the establishment in March 1942 of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office also reached the streamlining of bureaucracy and centralization its final conclusion. The concentrated internment camps where the prisoners had been more likely on average a purpose of confinement should now take over their own economic enterprises and hire prisoners out to the private industry. As part of a development that began with the inclusion of inspections of the concentration camps as an official component of Group D in the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office, the SS was now a factor in the German war economy. Oswald Pohl, head of the SS Main Office made ​​an in depth report on the subject during April 1942.
Letter dated 24 June 1942 from the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office to the Buchenwald Commandant, listing the expected and projected Engineering and other  Projects to be undertaken, which on closer examination seems to be an overwhelming task.

For some Administration Staff of the concentration camps these new circumstances permanently won the upper hand in a cold-blooded, bookkeeping procedure, the "selection" and "labor" were specifically linked to each other so that the camps received a new character. Earlier climbers like the Buchenwald camp commandant Karl Koch's methods collapsed because they did not and could not completely change their habits, while others opened up within the SS just by chance and saw a career opportunity. One of these was Hermann Pister, with his service beginning at Buchenwald in January 1942, he laid greater weight on bureaucracy, then on outright brutality.. He did replace some of the headquarters staff and laid, in contrast to his predecessor, Koch, now more value of personal continuity and in implementing permanent Departments.
In this context, changing the influence of the various departments within the Administration took place. Especially from 1943, according to the instructions of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office to ensure and reduce the death rates in the concentration camps, the department V (camp doctor) recorded a real increase in competence. Their division of labor cooperation with the Division III E (labor) had the responsibility for both the admission of prisoners into different work areas as a  target in order to mobilize reserves, even the segregation of the sick and vulnerable for extermination. In the "Wechselbad", an institution of the prisoner infirmary, SS-doctors scrutinized the new inmates only briefly and divided them into categories according to their usefulness.
The result of such "Musters" as they took place in 1943,  the prison hospital provided continued labor statistics, which, divided by orders of the SS labor assignment officer prepared  them in collaboration with the office, with lists of transports, and  prisoners into the various work details for satellite camps. The prisoners  classified as "unusable" were living usually for a short time. Although there were no extermination facilities in Buchenwald as the like in Auschwitz , but the murder by injection in the hospital, called the "Abspritzen" took place.There was an Czechoslovakian clerk, Jaroslav Bartl, who had been  within the infirmary since 1942 and describes the method in detail:
"Most prisoners knew what was expected when they entered the operating room II where an SS-man was already sitting with a syringe. There was not a single case in which a prisoner would have resisted the lethal injection. Perhaps this whole milieu, where it took place-the white, clean operating room, the polished instruments, the doctor in a white coat, who had a friendly face and encouraging smile, perhaps all this, although the prisoners knew about murders in the Revier,(Infirmary) perhaps there were at this moment the thought that it was  impossible that they would just, just now be killed in cold blood in this beautiful operating room. Death was in the camp in the mind of the prisoner almost always there either by  blows by a stick, a rifle shot, with the chunks in the quarry, the gallows, the bunker, the hunger all this connected- but this here, this is not looking like death from ... but they were finally on the floor in a heap of  the crematoriums with those who had been shot in the quarry or from exhaustion or leather lashes and  remained lying in the dirt somewhere ...."

The Injection Syringe used on 'unusable inmates'. 

The conversion of the concentration camp on the Ettersberg to a Main- and Transit Camps began 1942. While inside the camp on the parade ground in a specially constructed double barrack an experimental Rifle Manufacturing Factory was set up, the prisoners had to walk along the road to Weimar and erect within few months production halls. The structure of this Gewehrfabrik (Rifle Manufacture)  of 1942/43 originally went back to the idea of the SS-guidance committee to open its own weapons manufacture (Waffenschmiede). The economic interest of the armaments companies proved however stronger, so that the SS would not become generally accepted. Already during the building phase one agreed finally to a Leasing of factory buildings including prisoners to " Fritz Saukel Werk" the Wilhelm Gustloff-NS- Industriestiftumg.(NS-Industrial Foundation)

Installation of machinery at the Gustloff-Factory II at Buchenwald 1943

Return of inmates from  the Gustloff-Factory back into the camp, about 1944
For this so-called Gustloff-Werk II, the SS built with a high mortality rate of  prisoners within three months a railway line from Weimar Main Station  to Buchenwald. The inauguration was celebrated by the SS in June 1943 as a victory. In fact, it took another year before the poorly built and damaged route were allowed in transporting people. Among the prisoners these successes of the new SS-camp guidance procedures had very little impact, for the high number of casualties shows poorly for Hermann Pister's first year of service and rather contributed significantly that on average every third inmate had died in Buchenwald.

Prisoners building Railway Line from Weimar to Buchenwald 1943

De-loading Station at the Buchenwald Rail Terminal 1943

Even within the barbed wire fence was an expansion. To accommodate mass transportation, an advanced shanty town in the north was built of two rows of wooden barracks, the so-called Small Camp (Kleines Lager). The disinfection facilities served as from 1942 east  of the storage buildings and the newly built flat roofed laundry as a "cleaning station" (Schleuse) to keep diseases out. New prisoners gave up their own clothes and all property, were shorn, dipped in a disinfectant solution and driven naked into the supply building, where they received camp clothing bearing their numbers. Alone in the first quarter of 1944, approximately 15,000 people passed through this building. In the summer of 1942, the SS had also  the crematorium expanded and equipped it, specially developed ovens  by the company "Topf & Sons' of Erfurt for the cremation of the dead.

The Disinfection Building 1943
Crematorium 1943 with extension for autopsy and pathology, on the left
The Gustloff-Werk II and the German Armament Factories next to the camp in 1944 employed  about 4,500 prisoners. The SS demanded of them the highest level of performance, driving them to work and brutally punished any unauthorized break (Ruhezeit) as sabotage. In November 1943 the head of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office, Oswald Pohl, ordered  new and stricter orders.
Especially in situations where differential skilled work was required by the prisoners, the terror of the SS was found to be after a short time as useless to enhance work performance. The attempts to adapt to the changing circumstances, remained superficial and did not affect the nature in the running of the camps. In early December 1942, Himmler ordered the camp commanders, that corporal punishment would be applied "in the future only as a last resort" when other punishments have failed. Behind its formulation, "that the spirit and purpose of harder punishment in most cases has not been recognized ", was hiding with difficulty the reality of a beating regime in the camps, which was so firmly entrenched to the everyday routine of the SS, that the central instructions had hardly any effect. The only official closing of corporal punishment  was subsequently no longer performed before the assembled prisoners, but in the cinema barracks instead  and was discontinued altogether in late 1944 on Himmler's orders. Commander Pister later had the "flogging block" burnt and removed all  evidence of beatings carried out from the prisoner files.
Since 1942, privileged facilitations for long term prisoners and prison functionaries were introduced. They justified the weekly correspondence and for preferred canteen purchasing. Prisoners who were in possession of the corresponding pass were allowed  also to grow their hair as well. In May 1943, the SS reward system came up for special work performance by issuing canteen coupons, known as camp money.

Pass for canteen privileges
After a visit to Buchenwald in March 1943, Heinrich Himmler, criticized the lack of a camp brothel for prisoners. The brothel visit was to be used  as a means and a reward  for a higher working performance. Also, the head of the Economic and Administrative Main Office, Oswald Pohl, issued in his Premiums Regulation of May 1943 among others, "the award" for good conduct and specific work performance of the brothel visit. (This incentive apparently did not work in the Dachau KZ sic.)
On July 16, 1943, the SS brought 16 female prisoners aged between 20 and 30 years from the concentration camp Ravensbrück into the "special building",(Sonderbau) as the SS called the brothel in Buchenwald. They had better food, a quarter of the intake and an early release ( which did not happen) had been promised. Each of the women had on an average make themselves available to five men per day. For the Small Camp (Kleines Lager) prisoners like Jews, Gypsies and Russians visiting to the brothel were forbidden. Others, especially the German, Austrian, Czech and Polish prisoners could apply for a visit to the brothel in writing through their block leader to the SS-Camp Administration. The approvals were announced at the evening at roll call by the SS. For a brothel visit  two RM, had to be paid, by February 1944, this was reduced to only one RM. Closures occurred only during late evening Roll Calls, and water shortages and during transmissions of Hitler's speeches. The number of women changed only slightly: At  the end of March 1945 there were still nine women in the camp brothel.

The Brothel Building "Sonderbau" 1943

The actions of the SS apparently led to further social differentiation within the camp, and did not achieve the targeted goals. Overall, the general care of most of the prisoners deteriorated permanently. Up to 1942 the official food rations remained largely unchanged, effectively from 1942 there was a reduction in fat, meat, bread and potatoes. It started in May 1942, when the weekly rations for bread was reduced to 2,450 grams, meat to 280 grams and fat to 170 grams, and the supply of potatoes, substituted with turnips, was mainly up to the respective camps and the local food agencies(Ernährungsamt). The amount of food that finally arrived for the prisoners, was clearly below the average diets of the population. The standard diet was about 25 per cent lower than that what was in general made available for civilians. In addition, the food that was handed out was often of poor quality or in a spoiled condition.
Per day, the SS took from the industry an average of 4-6 Reichsmark per inmate, which they had to transfer to the Reich treasury. An estimated expense for an inmate up to1944, on a daily basis was 1.34 Reichsmark, made up and including accommodation for 30 Pfennige, 39 Pfennige for clothing and food with an extra allowance of 65 Pfennige for heavy laborers(Schwerarbeit)allowance.For female inmates they made only a provision of 1.22 Reichsmark.
Even these official records existed only on paper, because the majority of people lived in battered barracks, dressed in repeatedly worn ragged clothing and hungry. In a study of the body weight of the inmates of the main camp in March 1944 - half of the prisoners was at this point in time, living under worse circumstances then those in satellite camps. It was found that 81-percent of the camps inmates were malnourished, or about 18,990 of 21,500 people.
Among the worst diseases was tuberculosis. Approximately one in ten suffered from it by mid-1944 in the main camp of Buchenwald  from the open type and was highly infectious. This figure was nearly five times higher than outside the camp. Only a fifth of the patients was admitted into the prison hospital, the others with open tuberculosis were subjected to daily  forced labor. Open tuberculous prisoners belonged to the SS doctors to Category 5: "unusable". Many were killed simply by direct injection.

[The above is somewhat a misnomer and describes the actual inner running by prisoners of the camp and their fight within different factions for dominance, which was openly describes as "Häftlingskriege"(Wars of the Inmates). The Krankenhausbau or Infirmary was the hot bed for conspiracies and  the center to establish illegal committees as it was mainly run by prison orderlies as well as their own doctors without little or no interference by SS-Guards, the same goes for the offices manned by competent inmates of the varies Departments and their secret network of communication.sic]
The re-evaluation of the administration as well as the Department for Provisions(Versorgungsarbeiten) and the interests of the new camp commandant Pister in a well-functioning camp regime, also determined the outcome of the "Prisoner War" between Communists and BV-prisoners (Professonal Criminals), which since the appointment of BV-inmate Joseph Ohles as the Camp Elder No.:1 in the fall of 1941 was received rather bitterly. The Political Department undertook the first attempt to decide in favor of the BV-prisoners, to
name Joseph Ohles and utilized a method that had already been applied in previous years, to abruptly announce and re-appoint  inmate functions. On 26 March 1942, they removed due to a denunciation by the BV- 48 political prisoners and block leaders including KAPO's for dissemination of broadcast messages into a special unit of a penal battalion. Four others, including the head of the illegal Communist Party Organization, Albert Kunz went into the "bunker."
A few weeks after the establishment of the details in the penal company Ohles was also relieved of his functions and replaced by the former captain (Rittmeister) Fritz Wolff, a political prisoner and an opponent of the Communists. On June 7, 1942, from a report of a political prisoner to the SS about Ohles homosexual inclinations, Ohles was dead a day later. Within the internal conflict of interests of the SS between the elimination of their own ranks, the (Political Department) and the functioning of the camp, the (Commandant) it was Commander Pister with his authority who set  the priorities. At the height of the "prisoner's war", he  unexpectedly dissolved the penal battalion on 30 June 1942 and put the majority of the communist prisoners back into their functions.
There followed a period of "Fene" (secretly held trials) until spring time, to ensure followers of Ohles were no longer alive. During this time the illegal Communist Party Leadership disciplined their own ranks, suppressed all forms of factionalism and isolated  members, which they did not consider were pulling the party line. The No.:2 camp leader Hans Bechert (KPD), was replaced during this "cleansing" operation because of his alleged  unreliability and died on 03.02.1943 in unexplained circumstances at the infirmary. There are strong indications that he was murdered. The last of the camp leaders, Fritz Wolff fell in June 1943 for a well launched and  targeted indication of homosexuality.
Shortly after the beginning of the great mass transportation, which filled the camp, the SS, had a prisoner administration in Buchenwald since June 1943, a composition, that had never been achieved under any other KZ-system. Nearly the entire official power of the camp, the three senior camp prisoners, the labor statistics, the office, most block elders, the most important Kapo positions was in the hands of an illegal, centrally managed and monopolized by a single and disciplined party organization of the Communist Party. No prison  functionary could work for some time on his own account against them. The newly formed "troika head"(Dreierkopf) of the Communist Party organization included Walter Bartel, Harry Kuhn and  the Infirmary Kapo Ernst Buse. Kuhn led the "defense mechanism", a kind of intelligence service, who oversaw the preservation of power of perceived or convicted actual "traitors", which were then sent  within a short time on a transport or died mysteriously.
In mid-1942 the SS approved, given the rapidly growing prison population, the establishment of a prisoner Kommando, who guarded and patrolled during the the night the magazines  and stores within the camp. It was "called camp patrol" (Lagerschutz). During the day, it oversaw the cleanliness of the camp, established and reported cases of theft and received regulatory task on incoming transports. That, after the climax of the"consistent prisoner war" between "green" and communist prisoners formed a command exclusively from political prisoners and strengthened the position of the political Camp Elders. They had the  authority over the camp patrol (Lagerschutz) through an auxiliary police force. In the appeal list of the camp patrol records on October 10th 1942, for the first time 20 prisoners are mentioned in the report. After the air raid on 24 August 1944, the number grew to 51 after the air raid the  command almost doubled and with an entirely internationally make-up . While these protection squads operated, the presence of the SS within the camp was considerably  reduced .Their acts of terror was limited, and not violent. It is strange that they received and accepted security tasks from the communist resistance organization, [and it makes you wonder who actually run and controlled the internal functions of Buchenwald, sic.].

Armband carried by the Inmate Auxiliary Police

Under these circumstances, the capo of the hospital, Ernst Busse, was the most influential official in the prison camp. He belonged to the political leadership of the Communists and held in his hand while in the hospital during one of the " prisoner wars" 1942/43 repeatedly the power over destruction during disputes, but also that of rescue . Due to the economic aspirations of the SS  the prisoners' Work and the Statistics were one of the most influential positions inside the camp administration. Under the control of the Hospital  Kapo came now also that of the practicing Prison Doctors.  Only the purely administrative function were part of the SS. Compared with 1938, the number of prisoners employed in the hospital until mid-1944 rose to a factor of ten times as much as before.
[Busse came from a working class family in Solingen and at the age of 21 years in 1919 joined the Communist Party, was elected in 1932 into the Reichstag and was arrested in 1933 and convicted for conspiracy to commit high treason by the People's Court(Volksgerichtshof) and sentenced to  hard labor(Zuchthaus). After that the Gestapo took him into custody and sent him to Buchenwald in 1937. Due to the alleged  inconsistency as a Kapo and Camp Functionary, after Liberation by the Sowjets, led him in 1950 into the Russian Gulag Camp Woruta, where he died in 1952 sic].
The management skills and arrangements the Communist Prison Functionaries in the offices and in the camp had built up, made them indispensable for Pister under the pressure of  mass transportations and the transit camp which was an overwhelming task . There were several reasons for this: they were Germans, insisted on obedience, and by their understanding of internationalism with foreign prisoners their relationship went smoothly, had known for long time  the camp practice, and were versed in many skilled trades and knew  well-practiced discipline, they could rely on each other, did not shy away from the ambiguous deviation in position of power between the SS and the other prisoners.
By the absolute cohesion in the acquisition of these functions, they could increasingly ensure the survival of their cadres and protect allies and loyalty. With that and the ensured internal order, the camp provided a more predictable and better life for all prisoners, their prestige is kept in memories of many survivors. In border line situations within the camp one could only be saved at the expense of others, only the secret organization was defended with draconian measures. This often affected other prisoners who did not have the privileges of the "trusties". It often entangled the German Communists in the camp by the racist hierarchy enforced by the SS.[Eugen Kohn writes extensively on the subject sic]
The creation of a special zone served since 1938 to overcome the overcrowding in the camp and shift the burden back onto the inmates in order to keep the rest of the camp  functioning. This logic emanated and was based for the necessity in the separation of the sick and infirm. So it is not surprising that both functions the "Quarantined" and the segregation of the "Labor Requirement" from 1943 had a permanent "abode" where the accommodation is minimized with reduced rations and hygienic conditions which were astrophysical, the  so-called small camp (Kleines Lager) was located at the northern end of the shanty town.The barracks had been built for the Army as horse stables without windows, about 40 meters long and 10 meters wide, the inside had a two meter center aisle, left and right with two rows of three or four-story sleeping boxes on each side.

Camp Street along the Latrines inside the Kleine Lager, May 1944Camp Street along the Latrines inside the Kleine Lager, May 1944

The Quarantine Facilities inside the Kleine Lager , May 1944

The Horse Stable type of barracks inside the Kleine Lager 1945
Pictures were taken illegally by inmate Georges Angeli who worked in the Photography Department.                  

The initial capacity of these stables was about for 50 horses. In Buchenwald records still available indicate up to 1.960 people per barrack were housed there. From May to December 1944  the Kleine Lager had an additional five Military Type tents.

                                                              TO BE CONTINUED UNDER PART 6

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.