Saturday, September 28, 2013


Unlike the losses  of the DESt new operations in Mauthausen and Buchenwald the enterprise at Flossenburg posted modest gains from the beginning. Although this may have been created by a very generous managed balance sheet of their accounting method, for the SS Economic Administration the quarry was a profitable and a  promising object. Therefore, they invested more in the infrastructure within the camp. At the same time the initially sceptical SS-Chief Administrator Pohl ordered in April 1939 increasing the occupancy strength of the KZ  by the end of July to 3000 prisoners and four squadrons of SS guards. He instructed: "This date must be adhered to, as to achieve  a full occupancy by this time". [There was a good reason for this order, as we will see later,sic]. Both in the camp and in the quarries the construction of additional buildings was begun. Using prison labour they erected on the premises of the DESt, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a machine shop, garages and several other workshops. in addition a community hall (Gefolgschaftshalle) was built. In the SS area and in the prison camp some temporary functional buildings were converted into permanent facilities or newly built. Thus far, the prisoners' kitchen housed in a wooden hut was replaced by a massive stone building. The new prisoner kitchen with the laundry under construction since June 1939 was now bordering the parade ground. In the basement of the laundry there was the 'prisoners bath' with adjoining rooms for disinfection of clothing.

The prisoners’ bathroom in the basement of the laundry (photograph 4th May 1945).
On orders of 24 March by Eicke, who marked this as 'Urgent', began the construction in April, of a 112 meter long building on the southern edge, a massive Detention Building, which, however, was only completed in March 1940. The infirmary was permanently established in the same year in a wooden building. Also SS administrative and residential areas were extended into some functional [utility] buildings.

The gate to the prisoner area, with one of the gateposts, can be seen just to the right of the small gatehouse building in the centre of the period photo. The buildings seen here were all razed after the war, except the two large buildings in the centre distance - the kitchen and laundry buildings for the prisoners - and the guard tower on the hill

A schedule of work performed by prisoners at the concentration camp as from 1 July 1939 broken down in detail, gives an accurate picture of the number of work details and their assignments. Of the 1509 total inmates, 646 prisoners were employed in the quarry, another 863 engaged in individual construction projects to improve or extend the camp. The main applications here, were during the construction of the SS settlement and the camp's  workshops, as well as in the four 'macrolevellings', (Planierungen) with the expanding camp area due to the removal of granite from the quarry, inmates levelled and extended further into southern, northern and eastern directions to gain badly needed building sites.

This original building of the SS camp also survives, just outside the memorial grounds. It was the SS Casino (officers club and dining hall), and is now a privately-owned restaurant. This building can be seen in the period photos below, above the headquarters building (left) and over the camp gate area (right)

On January 20, 1939 the first commandant of the camp, Jacob Weiseborn died unexpectedly. About the circumstances of his death different rumours were circulating. [Jakob Weiseborn turned up dead in his apartment under mysterious circumstances, spawning rumours that he had committed suicide to avoid scandal, sic] Among the prisoners it was said that he,(Weiseborn) had taken his own life, as it had been proven that during his tenure at Buchenwald he was involved in embezzlements. A suicide is however not recorded in any of the official death reports. He was succeeded by Karl Künstler, who had previously served with the Totenkopfverbände (SS-Scull Head Unit) in Dachau. The leader of theTotenkopfverbände, Theodor Eicke, considered him unreliable and alcohol dependent. However, after Weiseborn's death, Eicke gave SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Künstler one last chance to prove himself, by appointing him as the new commander of the concentration camp Flossenburg. Among the Administration Staff there, since May 1938 was the Protective Custody Camp Leader (Schutzhaftlagerführer) Hans Aumeier whose performance against prisoners under Karl Künstler made changes and clearly radicalised the internal structure of the camp, only these two were directly responsible for the conditions that followed. The situation in Flossenburg for the prisoners deteriorated significantly. Actually, the camp would have been able in July 1939 to accommodate 3,000 inmates, but the construction continued to be sluggish. Although  more transports of prisoners arrived in the spring, the reduction through deaths, individual releases and departures to other camps made very little difference, yet the number of 2,000 prisoners never exceeded its occupancy rate until September 1939. With  its maximum capacity, however, the camp had  already substantially outnumbered what they could actually absorb. In the protective custody area at this time only eight accommodation barracks with a planned capacity of 224 inmates per barrack was available. In autumn, the prisoner strength and thus the occupancy of the camp continued to increase. On 27 September, a transport arrived with nearly 1000 prisoners from Dachau concentration camp. The Dachau camp was almost completely cleared after the invasion of Poland for half a year, to make room for the reorganization and training of an SS division.[They used the KZ barracks and installations which were in fact built to military standards as at that time, sic] The incoming prisoners were housed on a temporary basis in concentration camps like Mauthausen, Buchenwald and Flossenburg and later returned.
Distribution of food to prisoners in Flossenbürg. The prisoners, who were assigned to the granite quarry, stood to attention before receiving a portion of food from the kapos. Germany, 1944. (Ordnung muß sein im Dritten Reich"!)
The 'Dachau' prisoners wore mostly the red triangle of political prisoners. They were housed in separate barracks, received not the Flossenburg camp numbers, but were included in the daily work details. With them there was in November 1939 a total of 2242 able prisoners fit for work. Of these 1297 had been employed in the two quarries of the DESt,  and 945 were engaged on the building construction sites, in the supply or sewage treatment facilities such as it existed, in the  effects room and kitchen. Even for long term 'Dachau' arrivals in the Flossenburg it was a shocking experience. In almost all their memories of their time in Flossenburg the murderous work in the quarry, the extreme cold, the totally inadequate nutrition and the dominance of the 'green' prisoner functionaries stands out as the worst time during their entire incarceration.
From the first moment on, the SS showed a tendency to humiliate the political prisoners and make them understand that they are far more dangerous and reprehensible as any habitual criminal. Most thoroughly was a SS Lieutenant, a work commando-leader who temporarily was supervising the quarrying, and treated the 'Greens' relatively gentle, but addressed the political prisoners with nothing less than 'pig'(Schwein) or 'dog'.(Hund) [both expression more than derogative in the German language,sic]. Partly due to overcrowding and penetrated full confinement combined with inadequate water supply to the prisoners, a dysentery epidemic among prisoners broke out at Christmas 1939. Only after the prison doctor, an Austrian Anton Hittmair, made it clear to the SS garrison physician that the spreading of the infection to the SS accommodation would occur, he, the SS-doctor, imposed then a quarantine over the detainee area on 26 December to protect the ranks of the SS and all work in the quarry and the camp expansion were stopped until February 9th 1940. Thus Hittmair had saved the lives of hundreds of prisoners who were thereby not exposed during this period to the tortures by the SS and the debilitating work in the quarry.[source:'Ncht über Deutschland, page 77, Maleta, Bewältigte Vergangenheit, page 222 sic]
Work in the quarry was one of the hardest and most murderous work details (photograph from around 1940
The Death Register of the Flossenburg shows for the year 1939 that a total of 87 deceased prisoners were officially notarized. In its second year, the last assigned (and highest)concentration camp prisoner number was 1748.  Taking into consideration the deceased and prisoners transferred to other camps, or released from detention, we can assume that the total number of about 2,000 people were imprisoned in Flossenburg in the year 1939, plus the nearly 1000 temporarily detainees from Dachau. On 3 March 1940, the Dachau prisoners were transferred back again. Many of the prisoner that arrived back there, died  shortly after, still as a result of hunger and diseases during the winter months of 1939/40 at Flossenburg.[Source:Statement by the former mayor of Vienna, Richard Schmitz, 27 and 28.5.1945 in Berlin BArch, microfilm FC 6279, sic]
The returning Dachau prisoners were replaced by two transports with prisoners from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, so there were in Flossenburg in April 1940 approximately 2200-25000 prisoners. 1122 were employed to expand the facilities of the camp and 902 at the German Earth and Stone Works (DESt). Compared to the period of November 1939, the ratio of employment had now reversed. Following the lifting of the quarantine of the camp, the SS forced the development of the required infrastructure very vigorously moving forward under stringent conditions. The construction project included primarily the completion and commissioning of the camp's own Crematorium, the establishment of six massive watchtowers of granite and perfecting the barriers with a double row, electric fence around the protective custody camp. Besides that they also started the construction of a gate for the surveillance headquarters building, at the entrance from the prisoner-area. With the completion of these buildings, the first stage of the KZ Flossenburg should have been be completed. However, in late summer of 1940, a new overall plan for the camp, which meant war-related activities and also the associated decline in available building material, another strategy was developed.

'The crematorium was actually a small building with only a dissection room and one oven.'

In the case of the composition of the inmate population, only crude statements can be obtained for 1940 and 1941. The highest (prisoner) number recorded and allocated in 1940 was 2697. More than 400 other had passed through the camp in the same year, but they've been given numbers of previous prisoners. At least 240 of these had died during 1940 in Flossenburg. With the arrival of two transports in April from Sachsenhausen, the proportion of political prisoners had increased significantly in the camp. Although the numerical and percentage of Preventive Detainees (Vorbeugehäftlinge) to the inmate population of the camp through deaths, transfers to other camps and releases from detention had been steadily decreasing since the year 1939, but the political new comers, did not succeed to break the dominance of the "Greens" as prison-functionaries. As in other camps, the composition of the prisoners from 1940 changed fundamentally and permanently. From the 'Protectorate of Bohemia Moravia' the first Czech prisoner were transferred directly to Flossenburg from Stapo (Gestapo) points Brno(Brünn) and Prague. In April few Polish prisoners arrived, also the first eleven Jewish prisoners were noted in the camp registries on the 24th May. Almost all had been entered the additional expression as 'Political'. Although the German prisoners in 1940 still constituted the majority in the camp, the inmate community gradually became more and more  internationalized. The sophisticated hierarchy of the SS, the allocation of the coloured Triangle and with that the system of power which derived from it, favouring certain groups of prisoners, was now staggered according to national and racial criteria.
From the second half of 1941, the use of concentration camp prisoners working for the SS leadership gained a new significance. Himmler, Pohl and the head in autumn appointed Civil Engineer of the SS, Hans Kammler developed jointly considerations for the use of concentration camp prisoners who should now no longer work exclusively in the SS-owned stone factory plants or in the concentration camp workshops. The new emphasis were initially not war economic needs, to increase their position much more was on the intended evaluation of German settlement areas as part of the 'General Plan East' and the needed labour productivity of the quarries and the quality of the required building stone, which began in winter of 1941 on the part of DESt . It went so far as to introduce even an instructional program to train inmates as Stone Masons and other required skills, which had been arranged by Himmler on December 5. 1941 and started with the training of 179 Flossenburger prisoners to stonemasons and would increase to a total 600-700 by 1942. This led to efforts in the increase of production in the DESt plant to a significant profit in sales of around 640,000 RM in 1941 to approximately 966.800 RM in 1942. However, this increase was not due to the optimization of prison labour or by improving prison conditions. Rather, the proportion of less valuable road material in the total production through greater use of more and more prisoners which had risen considerably. The sheer amount of material as well as the rising price of natural stones made ​​for the profit of the company and not the quality of the work they produced in granite stones.
SS members at Flossenburg concentration camp, September 1938
The increased labour demand and the changing trends in the internal structure of the SS administration  within concentration camps affected inmates rather drastically. Himmler sought to expand the labour input specifically to the introduction of new groups of prisoners to concentration camps, such as prisoners from occupied countries and Soviet POW's. This was accompanied at the same time, with the systematic selection of incapacitated prisoners and the murder through 'Action 14f13', which also began and was held in Flossenburger in spring 1942. The inmate population was increasingly differentiated by nationality and based by the SS on racial principles of 'prison administration'. While the German prisoners, and of those with the green triangle stood at the top, engaged, onto a forced community in the camp, keeping central function within it's administration, thus the elimination pressure increased significantly on the Polish, and Jewish prisoners.
After 1940, the first Czech and Poles were deported to Flossenburg, it came increasingly to admissions of Polish prisoners with the beginning of 1941. On 23 January 1941, a large transport of nearly 600 political prisoners arrived from Auschwitz at Flossenburg. Until the arrival of the first Soviet prisoners the Poles were at the lowest level of the camp hierarchy. They were rushed to the quarry commands specificly to perish and systematically disadvantaged in the food distribution and functions as compared to German prisoners, so that their health deteriorated quickly. Immediately after their arrival in late January at the same time began the deliberate extermination of that group.
Shortly before his 18th birthday the worker Stanislaw Rydel from Huta Dobrowa was shot on February 6, 1941 on a 'command of the Reichsführer SS' (Auf Befehl des Reichsführers SS) in KZ Flossenburg. The murder of the young Pole was the beginning of a number of executions, which continued until 8 September and 184 detainees of this transport were killed. The selection for execution were taken after the evening roll call, their numbers were called out in the courtyard of the detention centre who was, at that time Hans Aumeier, leader of the Schutzhaftlager ( protective custody camp), the death sentence was read out by him without any pre-amble or reason and the condemned taken away . After a night in the cells of arrest they were shot in the early hours by a firing squad on the shooting range of the SS, which was located in a valley below the prison camp in the immediate vicinity of the crematorium.

A part of one of the prison buildings where the Resistance prisoners were held has been refurbished and now has a display on the history of the camp. A memorial plaque on the wall outside honours
Bonhoeffer, Canaris, Oster, and others who were executed here in April 1945

(On 7 February 1945 Canaris was brought to the Flossenburg concentration camp. For months Canaris baffled the SS-interrogators
with one ruse after another, and he denied all personal complicity in the conspiracy against Hitler. He never betrayed his fellow participants in the Resistance Movement. In the closing days of World War II, in the grey morning hours of April 9, 1945, gallows were erected hastily in the courtyard. Wilhelm Canaris, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Major General Hans Oster, Judge Advocate General Carl Sack, Captain Ludwig Gehre - all were ordered to remove their clothing and were led down the steps under the trees to the secluded place of execution before hooting SS guards. Naked under the scaffold, they knelt for the last time to pray - they were hanged, their corpses left to rot.Two weeks later the camp was liberated by American troops - on 23 April 1945. One of Canaris' fellow-prisoners, the Danish Colonel Lunding, former Director of Danish Military Intelligence, was imprisoned in the cell next to Canaris. He had contact with Canaris shortly before he watched the naked figure of the Admiral being led to execution. Through tapping on the wall of his cell Canaris told him: "This is the end. Badly mishandled. My nose broken. I have done nothing against Germany. If you survive, please tell my wife .." Eberhard Bethge, a student of Bonhoeffer's, writes of a man who saw the execution: "I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God
[It is most likely that a Lynching Method was used during the hanging of Canaris. After the war the hangman made the statement:"Nun, ja, wir mussten den kleinen Admiral mehrmals hoch und herunter ziehen, da er lange strappelte ehe er sein Leben aufgab."(Well, yes, we had to pull the little Admiral few times up and down as he struggled quite long before he gave up his life). [I am unable to find the source to verify this statement, HKS]

Formal orders for the massacre for a series of execution were given  by command of the RSHA, which had also arrived with the prisoners in January and probably arose for reason of retaliation. On July 2nd, 40 Polish prisoners and another  20 were shot simultaneously, liquidated on the 8th September, with this series of execution, it came to an abrupt end with the deaths of the transport, but still it continued  in Flossenburg, until the end of 1941, by that time about two-thirds of the nearly 600 Poles that arrived in January were no longer alive.
The extent between the completion of the shootings of Polish prisoners and the start of mass executions of Soviet prisoners of war on 3rd September 1941, if there was a connection, it is difficult to assess, however, the time proximity of the two events is significant. In addition, the infrastructure of the camp  and the number of daily tasks to cremate corpses seems to have grown and could not sufficiently cope. On the 2nd of October, the head of the crematorium reminded the Administration of the urgent need of a second furnace in order to to conserve the existing oven to continue and maintain the proper operation of the camp's cremation.

 The ramp ended above the crematorium (photograph around 1945   

  US-army investigative commission examines the tunnel entrance (photograph 24th April 1945 

View YouTube:

'Bodies from the upper part of the camp were moved to the crematorium on the lower left by means of a ramp with an entrance near one of the guard towers. The ramp led downhill to the crematorium.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

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