THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CAMP
After the establishment for the expansion of the concentration camp for an additional 3,000 prisoners until May 1942, from August 1941 until October 1941 there should should have been two additional barracks built to accommodate at least 1,200 additional prisoners. This plan could not be carried out, it was delayed by a transport of Soviet POW's into the camp, which at times had a catastrophic overcrowding as a result. In July 1942, the camp had only 1.890 prisoners, of whom 387 worked to erect barracks (Barackenbau), 69 in road construction, 60 expanding the sewage and drainage facilities, and about 700 worked in the quarry. 400 were partially unfit for work ('schonungsbedürftigt') or reported as hospitalized.
The plan for the gradual expansion of the camp foresaw a prison camp with ten barracks holding 200 prisoners each, moreover to be built were two isolation buildings, three workshops, a cell block, a crematory, a kitchen, a barrack for the laundry and bathroom, a storage shed, an office reception/admission barrack, an effect room and two barracks as hospital stations. For the SS, a garage, commercial buildings, the Kommandantur, a military exercise area and a sports field as well as barracks to accommodate the various (civilian) companies that had been planned ... The execution of these plans, however, were apparently repeatedly delayed and far-reaching changes towards the end accompanied by much-needed hasty extensions had to be provided, yet by 1944 a total of 21 prisoner barracks and four hospital enclosure areas as well as various administration blocks were completed in the camp. In October 1942, the first electrified barbed wire fence outside the camp and the eleven watchtowers were installed. For the planned development work since its beginning, and then repeatedly interrupted, more than one quarter of the inmates who took part in its construction, had to live for a long time in totally inadequate temporary accommodation. About 50-60 civilian workers, specialized in their respective field of trade to comply with local by-laws took part in the overall endeavour.
KZ Gross Rosen-Concentration Camp-Quarry'
A final extension was undertaken in the camp since the autumn of 1944, when it became a reception centre for evacuees mainly from Auschwitz, but also from several other camps, satellite camps and civil prisons during the advance of the Red Army. Because the existing detention camp (Schutzhaftlager) offered no more space for further accommodation, it was on the west side that an additional camp 'the Auschwitz camp' was installed, with probably only 16 out of 30 barracks originally envisioned, which mostly lacked doors, windows and no possibility of heating. Some of these barracks had been dismantled in Auschwitz and were re-used rather down-graded in Gross-Rosen.
The plan of the camp which is not specifically listed are the barracks or homes (Heime) for stonemason apprentices. Given the expected huge demand for granite and in spite of the unsatisfactory development of the quarry, the plan was taken up at the highest level and promoted by the plant manager Ketterer who took up the proposal, and developed it in the Gross-Rosen, as in Mauthausen and Flossenburg to train stonemasons in large numbers. For the recruitment of school-leavers this in itself was a career when counsellors, parents and school principals were invited to the camp. The apprentices were being trained at work, theoretically (weltanschaulich) informed and were given also sporting and ideological instruction. Accommodation and meals were provided free, as for leisure, a summer and a winter clothing of the Hitler Youth were issued to them. It was forbidden of the apprentices to speak with the prisoners with whom they worked closely together. Already in May 1941, 40 apprentices could begin, in the next spring 68 boys began their training/teaching time. 1943 there were already 140, and even as late as in April 1944 new apprentices arrived. Finally, there were six apprentice homes in the immediate neighbourhood of the camp provided for them.
Already in September 1940, Himmler had ordered to to train prisoners in the concentration camps to stonemasons and bricklayers, but with the old model of training and treatment this was bound to collide with the objective of economic exploitation and even the extermination through work. Who wanted to be a stonemason, which even promised anticipated freedom? In the Gross-Rosen the DESt began to train 20 prisoners as cobblestone makers and to train 200 stonemasons. But as it is said in a monthly report from January 1943, under these circumstances [...] a regular training of prisoners to stonemasons is impossible [...]. There were, for example, 200 prisoners recruited in June, to be trained as stonemasons. Of these 200 prisoners are currently still about 30 as a stonemason apprentices available, the rest went partly back to the camp, partly to Dachau, partly dead '.
|Mauthausen:Selection of children and young people for the work detail stonemason apprentices (SS photo)|
THE CAMP PERSONAL AND ADMINISTRATION.
The growing need for workers in the armament industry since 1942 brought a temporary improvement for prisoners in concentration camps, consideration and changes in policies of the SS WVHA from the usefulness of inmates was the main motivator. In Goss-Rosen this fell roughly in conjunction with other changes that were made in the camp. After the first commander, the ponderous, extremely brutal, known from his Buchenwald days, SS-Obersturmbannführer Arthur Rödl and then following on September 16th 1942, as incompetent and as unscrupulous SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Gideon who came from the camp Neuengamme, followed on October 10, 1943 the last in the standing rank, SS-Sturmbannführer Johannes Hassebroek, who as the commander remained until the evacuation of the camp. He belonged to a new generation that had already been socialized into the SS. He seemed to be more suitable as far as his economic and administrative abilities of a camp were concerned than his predecessors, he was an 'SS moderate in attitude', 'of fresh soldierly appearance' and 'attested to be sufficient in hardness'. All three had served highly after the First World War and in the thirties from a difficult life and career with fair contacts in Nazi groups of the NSDAP and its affiliated organizations, they saw themselves as dutiful party soldiers and were not due to their 'attitude', but probably because of their ability, thereby unchallenged by any others.
|Weekly food rations for prisoners at the Markstädt men's camp in Lower Silesia|
[Hassebroek was first arrested by Czechoslovakians before ultimately passing into the hands of the British Army who put him on trial. Initially sentenced to death, this was quickly commuted to life imprisonment and finally fifteen years, with him being released from prison in 1954. He settled in Braunschweig where he worked as a sales agent until 1967 when he was arrested under German law for his involvement in the camps. He was accused of being personally responsible for the killings of nine Jews and three other inmates at Gross-Rosen, in part because of evidence arising from the testimonies given by Oskar Schindler earlier in the decade. In the case that followed he was acquitted firstly by the Braunschweig court and then again, following an appeal by the prosecution, by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. He continued to be under investigation until his death in 1977.
Up to his death in 1977 Hassebroek remained nostalgic for his SS days, commenting to Israeli historian Tom Segev that "our service was an overwhelming emotional experience of enormous strength. We believed not only in the same values and ideals - we believed in each other". He also claimed that he had no involvement in killings, arguing "all I know about the atrocities at Gross-Rosen I learnt during the trials against me." sic]
|HSSPF Heinrich Schmauser, third from left, accompanied by Commander Rödl, at his right, during the visit of the quarry at Gross-Rosen|
The command staff was divided in 1941 in the departments of Adjutant, Political Department, the Protective Custody Camp as the most important and powerful, the Administration, Sanitary Engineering and a Department of Political Training (Politische Weltanschauung) for the SS.
[SS-Sturmbann ("SS-Storm Unit"): The Sturmbann commands were battalion formations within a Standarte, usually three or four in number. These units were commanded by either a Sturmbannführer or Obersturmbannführer. sic]
|Guards stand at attention at a checkpoint at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.|
The mention by name of prisonr-functionaries at the Neusaltz camp and the willingness of a prisoner-functionary to testify on behalf of his commander call attention to the internal leadership of the labour camps. This echelon of leadership was composed of prisoners who received high-ranking appointments, as a result of which they treated their fellow inmates with condescension. the participation of prisoner-functionaries in routine camp management, alongside the German supervisors, is on of the agonizing issue of the Holocaust. The author Primo Levi defined the functionaries' domain as a "grey zone" of influence and arbitrary power.
In attempting to understand the survivors' dichotomous feelings, one needs to be familiar with the world of the camps and conditions under which the inmates lived. Prisoners regarded the camps as a threatening cocoons of aliennes that were divorced from the outside world. In their continues struggle for survival, they were compelled to do things that they would never have imagined doing under ordinary circumstances. In order to sustain an ember of life, they adopted various modi operandi. Some were driven by a clear and uncompromising world-view that considered helping others the epitome of humanness and existence, while others abandoned all inhibitions and did anything that might keep them alive. Some attempted to straddle the fence. They followed the Germans' orders but exploited their status and meagre influence to ease their comrades plight as best they could. From Levi's standpoint, they became "rivals in disguise".
Rudolf Höss described the underlying logic of culling supervisors from among prisoners: "The more conflicts there were and the more fiercely the prisoners struggled for control, the easier it was to lead the camp. Not only in grand politics is 'divide and conquer' an important rule, in the concentration camps, too, it was a factor that should not be belittled". Basing their approach on this view, the camp commanders entrusted the direct administration of the camp routine and the inmates' daily lives to prisoner-functionaries who were chosen or nominated themselves for the job. The Nazi authorities found it expedient to stay out of prisoners' camp and limit their duties to policing outside the the fence. Apart from repulsion over contact with the desiccated, disease-ridden prisoners, their decision contained a psychological aspect as well - the prisoner would be all more anguished to discover that they were being punished by their own countrymen and peers. Indeed, much of the hate and fear that the prisoners felt toward the Germans was also directed at the prisoner-functionaries, and the authorities often turned them into a corrupting force.
The prisoner-functionaries rung on the hierarchy was more or less parallel to that of camp headquarters. In the guidelines for new labour camps,Gross-Rosen headquarters defined the duties of prisoners-functionaries in its sub-camps: "All persons employed in camp maintenance, such as the Lagerälteste, the Blockälteste, chefs, sanitary physicians, barbers, recorders, tailors, and shoemakers, belong to the staff of the camp'. Theirs was a thankless job.Even though it gave them opportunities to survive, the functionaries' status was very precarious and subject to the whims of the SS overseers. By and large, the functionaries were well aware of their comrades censure. "I myself was a victim os Nazism, so how can I be accused of collaborating with them"? Jakob Tenenbaum, a prisoner and Kapo at the Görlitz camp, asked in bewilderment. One survivor, whoever, testified that Tenenbaum was not a run-of-the-mill Kapo but a man who took pleasure in exploiting his status and aggravating his brethrens' suffering. The inmates felt that he had become more zealous than his masters and went to extremes that had not been demanded of him because he considered himself an integral part of the system. Prisoner-funktionaries were not cut of one cloth. Many wee vicious criminals who exploited the overall excesses of the system to amass easy wealth, exact revenge, and satisfy a penchant for violence. Ultimately, however, they, too, were prisoners whose world stopped where the camp fences began. Their status was shaky, any slight misstep could cost them their job.
In October 1940, a camp doctor, SS Untersturmführer Dr. Herrum was appointed, and part of the kitchen barracks was converted into a hospital. But even a modest primary care of the sick and injured prisoners was not and could not be given in the following two years. There was always a lack of medicines and bandages, often there was nothing but paper dressings, lack of ointment for scabies and delousing and disinfection agents were always short in supply or not available at all. The sick and weakened were initially sent back to a large extent to the camp at Sachsenhausen, and increasingly since 1941 prisoners, that were not expected to recover, deported to Dachau. In 1941 there were 104 of them and in 1942 almost 900, some could no longer survive the journey, the rest had no chance upon their arrival to recover in Dachau, but left to their most deadly fate.
Because of the ever-growing number of patients the infirmary at the end of 1941 received its own barrack, then soon came a second and they had to add a third in December 1942. In January 1945, when there were 3,174 patients, there were seven blocks, one alone for diarrhoea patients, another one for serious Infections. On July 15, 1942 there were 1,890 affected prisoners of which 400 were in the infirmary. Most of those admitted were suffering from fibrosis, from swollen feet and legs and pus wounds, diarrhoeal diseases, general exhaustion and malnutrition. The average food that was provided consisted of two slices of bread, a little margarine or horse sausage and twice a day a soup of indeterminate content.
In the fall of 1941 and 1942 a typhus fever (Fleckfieber) broke out, the latter caused by the end of it over 1,000 deaths. In January and February 1942 there was a raging typhus epidemic, which temporarily forced a general Camp-lock-out as a result, and in the fall of 1943, an endemic trachoma infectious disease, in which individuals were isolated into a barrack. In the treatment of this eye disease SS physicians were accused allegedly to have performed medical experiments on the sick that led in part to blindness.
|The former infirmary at sub-camp Görlitz'|
At the beginning of 1943 with the expansion the infirmary a certain improvement of the medical care of prisoners came into effect, starting that fall there was a department of 'Convalescent' (Schonung) provided in two blocks, into which approximately 1,000 prisoners were taken, and released for a short time from work for recuperation, expected to recover. At the same time several Polish inmate doctors were first used in the infirmary, where medical records for the years 1942 to 1945 indicate that they helped many patients effectively.
But what was and remained in the history of the infirmary of Gross-Rosen was a place of dying and deliberate killings. Doctors not only killed in the Section of the Crematorium, thousands of Soviet prisoners of war with phenol and cyanide, this also took place in the infirmary, the injection of these toxins eventually became a daily tool by physicians and their assistants by means of removing the weakened and those that were no longer able to work, including the sick from satellite camps. The prisoners knew that, and that's why they avoided as far as possible the infirmary, even if they were very ill or weak, because "here the agenda was that of murder if you needed care'. These killings have continued in Gross-Rosen to the dissolution of the camp in February 1945. [Statement Gorzel, 18.12. 1953, in: BArch Ludwigsburg, ZStL Js 8/81, sic]
CONTINUED UNDER PART 5/6