Thursday, April 10, 2014


Natzweiler was a "small camp" as Josef Kramer put it, who stayed the longest time  any commander was ever stationed there. It was built entirely by the prisoners and was completed in October 1943 with the final construction of a crematorium. There's hardly an acre there, were 17 buildings had been erected, surrounded by double barbed wire, whose inner fence was electrified with 380 volts, which severed the camp from the outside world . The sloping location with a 20 % degree fall made ​​ the creation of terraces a necessity. On these, left and right of a central axis within the camp, connected and limited by stairs, barracks had been erected. Around the camp run a walkway, which was constantly patrolled by SS guards. Outside of this small chain of posts, some barracks were there for the guards, which also housed parts of the camp administration. Above the camp on three terraces, there were several workshops. A dog kennel was located between two garden terraces. This whole complex, which included the villa that belonged to the commander with a swimming pool was secured by a fence which made up the outer cordon.

Villa of the commander of the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof, France'
The total area was 4.5 hectares. To the Natzweiler KZ included two additional grounds, which were also surrounded by barbed wire, these were the quarry and and the Struthof with the Hotel, and was occupied by SS officers together with some administrative units, as well as the 1943 built gas chamber. The two complexes were 800 meters away from the main camp, the quarry went  in the direction of Mont Louise, were-else the Struhof as such was separated, located in a valley. The surrounding land had been cleared to complicate attempts to escape. On the way from Rothau in order to avoid unwanted sightseers, signs demanded not to go any further, in German and French, that read: Attention! Camp area, no trespassing. Shots fired without warning. No Photography ".

Main Camp (Stammlager) Natzweiler"
Although the area was cut off from the outside world, however, this did not mean that it was not possible there was no contact with the civilian population. Every day, employees came from civilian companies out of the valley to bring food and other provisions. Or at the construction sites to work in the quarry in their own profession. The residents of the farm (Struthof) continued further to cultivate their estate during the whole time.
The entrance to the camp consisted of a simple gate without inscription. Only one clock installed in 1944 still remembered what was a normal time. Camp life was marked by Roll Calls and work in the various commandos. There was the Baukommando (Construction), the quarry, the commandos in the service of the SS and the commandos for management of the camp. One of them was the commando for horticulture, in which the prisoners were responsible for the green areas within and outside the camp. Above all, the commando "potato cellar" was a place of suffering for the NN prisoners. On June 30, 1943, the construction management began work on a 70 meter long cellar, which should be carved out near the entrance gate into the rock formation. The work continued right through into the following year. To this Baukommando (Construction) only the French NN prisoners were assigned. SS and Arbeitskapos distinguished themselves here by their special sadism ; commando leader Franz Ehrmanntraut rushed over and over again with his dog on the prisoners. A forced obligated civilian (zwangsverpflichteter) worker said after the war: "I saw some Frenchmen who could hardly stay upright because theirleg calves were torn by dogs and the loose flesh tissues hung in shreds [...] I have seen a Frenchman lie with mangled feet on the ground . His heel bone was visible, and he lay there without any dressing. An SS guard told me: "This Jew will probably die soon." The purpose of this cellar is unknown: It never served as a potato cellar, and for an air-raid shelter, the ceilings were not stable enough.
Feeding time, distribution of daily soup" (Drawing by Henri Gayot, previously a French inmate)
The newcomers arrived at the Rothau Railway Station. Most of the prisoners had to walk up to the camp on foot, eight kilometres away, only a few trucks drove them the first part of the road that led through the main street of the village Rothau whose inhabitants had received orders to close the shutters of their windows. The SS was encouraged to behave in this part of the journey correctly towards the prisoners . After the prisoners reached the camp entrance and had passed through, an entirely new vista opened up to them in a spatial arrangement that gave them the following impression: "I do not feel able to leave these terraces behind me , because they are created so clearly that I can see everything at a glance. There are no places, visually (Unübersichtbarkeit) as in other camps and nowhere to hide, all is open to the eye. All is clearly displayed. Everything was organized rationally by ambitious servants of death, and the stairs were as cleanly carved in stone that you could descend without difficulty to the hot glowing altar of hell " [Boris Pahor , a Slovene inmate in Natzweiler, in: . Pelerin parmi les ombres , Paris 1990 , page 220 sic] The atmosphere of the camp describes another prisoner: "An exceptional landscape with mountains and valleys in various green shades and then thousands of striped walking pyjamas in wooden shoes, who marched around the blocks . [ ... ] Typhus-carriers , human guinea pigs and other lepers" . On the terraces of the camp, who were exposed to a height of approximately 800 meters from the sometimes icy wind , the lengthy Roll Calls were held here. On the first terrace, between the prisoners' kitchen and the block 1, played on Sunday an inmate orchestra for the SS. Launched by Kramer, the Ensemble was one of the elements of the "normality" of the concentration camp , as well as the library of nearly 700 books and a cinema, which was located in a Block above the camp . [To the catalogue of the library see Steegmann , Struthof , page 368 and 435 , sic] For the inmates this "normality" meant suffering and death. The suffering was a constant companion":  "A prisoner at Natzweiler-Struthof must constantly ascend very high levels to reach his abode. After some time, the prisoners has no longer enough strength to lift his legs , and therefore is moving in a strange way: before each step he takes a swing , put his hands under one knee and lifts his foot high enough, level, to be able to reach the next  step. This goes on until he  finally gets to  his block . Sometimes it happens that a prisoner can not make it alone . Then he is happy if a less poor fellow inmate helps him  along. [Ottosen , Nuit et Brouillard , page 36 sic]

Natzweiler had five commanders , four of which were in the main camp itself. All had been " trained" in Dachau. The first commander was SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Hüttig (May 1941) - January 1942 ) who was followed by SS- Sturmbannführer Egon Zill  (February - October 1942) , who introduced a strict discipline.  SS -Hauptsturmführer Josef Kramer worked as officer in charge of security under both commanders. He was promoted in October 1942, as the successor to Zill . Since May 1941 Kramer had started service in Natzweiler and significantly, not only influenced, but radicalised the conditions in the camp. He was cold-blooded and exercised his duties without scruple. Frequently he personally performed the executions, and he was responsible for the killings of inmates by gas in August 1943: "In carrying out these actions, I have felt nothing, because I had been ordered to [...] execute 80 inmates. By the way I have been brought up that way".  Kramer became in 1944 commandant of Auschwitz -Birkenau on a rotating basis for Obersturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein, who replaced him in Natzweiler . Along with Rudolf Höss ( Hoess ) he organized in Birkenau the murder of the Hungarian Jews in the summer of 1944. In January 1945, Kramer left Auschwitz in order to be next in line of the concentration camp Bergen- Belsen. SS -Sturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein had a military training and thus was senior officer, compared to the others, who led the Natzweiler camp. He was transferred to Auschwitz in 1942, where he had held several positions before he became commandant of Birkenau. It was his job to organize the evacuations of Natzweiler from September 1944. In November 1944 he left the main camp and moved to the hostel " To Carp " (Zum Karpfen) in the small village of Guttenbach . From there, he administrated the camp and set up even after the dissolution of the Stammlagers (Main Camp) a number of satellite camps at the same time. In January 1945 he was transferred to a combat unit. The last commander of Natzweiler was Heinrich Schwarz , formerly commandant of Auschwitz III -Monowitz. He took up his duties on 18 February 1945 , a few weeks before the final dissolution of the camp , he organized the evacuation and the death marches.
During the whole period of its  existence of the main camp , the number of guards never exceeded 200 people. The men who first arrived were members of the SS Death's Head units , later on came members of the Waffen-SS who were led by non-commissioned officers and officers who had distinguished themselves by special zeal and efficiency. They organised the lives of the prisoners after the motto that Eicke had written in his KZ Manual while establishing the Dachau concentration camp : "Tolerance means weakness ". (Toleranz bedeutet Schwäche) The nicknames used by inmates for some of the SS and Kapos and their behaviour give a clear indication of prevailing conditions within the camp : 'Bone Crusher' (H. Förster ) , Rapport leader in Leonberg, 'Tiger' , 'Goebbels', 'Jojo the baton' (H. Oehler ) , 'Boxer' ( J. Turner ) , 'shot in the neck commissar'(Genickschusskommissar) or 'head hunter' ( A.Fuchs ) .
Often prisoners, that had been  sentenced, were forbidden to write , or 'on- pillory standing' at the camp gate , the deprivation of food , admission to a penal company , public floggings on the spanking block , the confinement in the bunker or the death penalty . In the bunker with its 20 cells in which at times were up to 25 inmates crowded together and could only stand upright , even small cages that were hermetically sealed, shut  and locked with an iron door. They were 1.30 meters high , sometimes two prisoners were crammed into them, waiting for their execution. Only a small grid was installed, to let some air into these cages .



National Socialism (Nazism) was based on racist and anti-Semitic theories that affirmed the superiority of the "Aryan" people, the "pure German race", over all other human beings. German doctors and academics won over by Hitler's ideas sought to prove these theories through pseudo-scientific investigations. Experiments were carried out on various diseases, combat gases were used and "race studies" carried out on prisoners in a number of Nazi concentration camps. At KL-Natzweiler, a series of "medical" experiments were conducted as part of the work of the Reichsuniversität, (the Reich University) of Strasbourg, and Ahnenerbe,(Forebearer Traits) the SS administration attached to the headquarters of Himmler in Berlin. The principal perpetrators of these experiments were: August Hirt, a professor of anatomy known internationally, Otto Bickenbach, a professor of medicine and specialist in combat gases, and Eugen Haagen, a virologist who had discovered a vaccination against typhus that put him on the short-list for the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1936. Hirt carried out experiments on mustard gas and planned to create a collection of skeletons using the bodies of 86 Jews deported from Auschwitz; Bickenbach carried out experiments on phosgene gas and Haagen continued his work on the effects of typhus.

'August Hirt, like many Nazi doctors, is most closely associated with his role in the medical experimentation on and gassings of groups of Jewish prisoners. What makes him unique was his motive: instead of seeing the gassing of prisoners as a quick and effective method of extermination, Hirt wanted to significantly expand the skull and skeleton collection for his institute at the University of Strasbourg. He wanted to create a museum of "sub-humans (Untermenschen), in which proof of the degeneracy and the animality of the Jews would be collected." Hirt considered it to be a task of up-most importance and extremely time-sensitive since soon the Jewish population would be completely exterminated, at which point Jewish "skeletons would be as rare and precious as a diplodocus.'
'The bodies of Hirt's victims comprised some of the gruesome evidence left behind. The relatively limited number of Hirt's victims allows us to investigate what it was that caused him to choose that particular group of people, and what happened to their bodies following their deaths. Hirt's selections were based primarily on racial characteristics: he wanted the most prominent examples for his collection that would be used both in anthropological studies, as well as to "demonstrate the superiority of the Nordic race.'

The medical care of prisoners in Natzweiler was insufficient. Until the establishment of an infirmary in the fall of 1942 there was only a makeshift infirmary in block 5, which was run by the first physician deported to Natzweiler, Dr. Fritz Leo . The area took only half of the block and had just eight beds. In September 1944, an expansion took place and eventually included six blocks: surgery (block 3 and 4) , general medicine (block 5 and 6) , tuberculosis ( block7 ) and typhoid fever (Block 8). At this time, it housed more than 1,200 inmates, more than a quarter of all inmates of the main camp. Although the SS supervised all activities, it was only because of the self-sacrificing use of inmate doctors who worked without aids and medicines, that reasonable care could be given to the sick, but vital medication that was needed, was used on SS subjects only: "We had medicine and facilities as in the old medieval times to operate [ ... ] We met all sorts of pathologies of decay". The Norwegian physician Dr. Leif Poulson , who worked in the mining districts of Natzweiler , Neckarelz and Vaihingen together with the Belgian physician Dr. Georges Boogaerts , found that 60 % of the patients received no therapeutically effective treatments.
On 23 September, the " State University " was inaugurated. They took the place of the installed in 1939 French university of Clermont-Ferrand . Their Teaching and Research Staff consisted of well-known, politically adapting professors. The medical faculty was one with 38 teachers. Three of them abused its reputation to commit the worst atrocities in the name of science.  Natzweiler became the site of their macabre experiments.
The famous anatomist August Hirst, a convinced National Socialist , was a confidant of Reichsführer-SS  Himmler. By the end of 1942 , he tested on prisoners the effects of mustard gas. A prisoner , who was present at these experiments , witnessed eight deaths : "Wherever a drop of mustard gas touched the body, it created burns, sometimes they even became partially blind. They suffered unimaginable torment ".
In conjunction with the 1935 founded by Himmler of the " Ahnenerbe " suggested to Hirt in 1942 to create an anatomical collection by representing of a "new breed'. These were " identified " by the National Socialists "as a  race of "Judo - Bolsheviks" . For this purpose, a gas chamber was constructed in the annexe opposite the hotel Struthof , in August 1943 86 Jews Hirst conducted the suffocation by gas to build up its anatomical collection (Sammelung) at the Reichsunivertät Strasbourg with the skeletons of the victims. [The Nuremberg IMT (International Military Tribunal) records indicate that an assistant to Dr. Hirt secretly noted the numbers tattooed on the arms of the 86 victims, making their identification possible. During a conversation with Hirt, Kramer was also told he was to divide the bodies into smaller groups to be delivered directly to Hirt following the gassings.
"One evening, about nine o-clock, the eighty prisoners arrived. I led about fifteen women to the gas chamber. I told them they were going to be 'disinfected.' With the help of some of the S.S. guards, I got them completely undressed and pushed them into the gas chamber. When I closed the door they began to scream. I put some of the crystals that Hirt had given me into the funnel above the observation window. I would watch everything that was going on inside through it. The women continued to breathe for half a minute and then fell to the floor. I turned on the ventilation, and when I opened the door they were lying dead on the ground, full of shit. I told some of the male S.S. nurses to put the bodies in a truck and take them to the Institute of Anatomy at 5:30 the next morning".sic]
Attached to a letter from Ostuf. (Obersturmführer - First Lieutenant) Wolfram Sievers (Reich Secretary of the Ahnenerbe Society) to Stbf. (Sturmbannführer - Major) Dr. Rudolf Brandt, was a report written by Hirt in February 1942 describing the minimal amount of Jewish skulls existing at the Strasbourg Reich University (Reichsuniversität Strasbourg), and how to best procure the desired number of additional skulls through the assistance of the field Military Police ("Feldpolizei"). It should be noted that in the report, the skulls requested for procurement were those of "Jewish Bolshevik Commissars". Historian Heather Pringle points out in her book, The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust, that by "commissars," the army actually meant "Jews." Nazi propagandists had skillfully portrayed Soviet political officers and officials as Jews for years, and so deeply engrained was this notion in the minds of many SS and Wehrmacht officers that they simply accepted it as fact." In addition to Hirt's personal interest in the collection of skulls he hoped to obtain, it has also been suggested that Hirt himself had considered getting into the skull mail-order business as an additional source of income.
Himmler's Response to Hirt's Deadly Proposal:
Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler received Hirt's report with great enthusiasm. He was "prodigiously interested" in the project, considering it to be of "enormous value," and according to Jean-Claude Pressac, he "unceasingly gave his entire support to Professor Hirt's proposal." Soon after his receipt of the report, Himmler sent Wolfram Sievers of the Ahnenerbe Society to meet with Hirt personally, and agreed to the importance of his research. Sievers then worked with Hirt to determine the best method of transportation of his victims. A letter used as evidence during the war crime trials at Nuremberg, includes an attachment with a report on "securing skulls of Jewish-Bolshevik Commissars for the purpose of scientific research," which initially allowed Dr. August Hirt to begin his gassings of Auschwitz Jews at Natzweiler - Struthof.

The cadaver of Berlin dairy merchant Menachem Taffel. Deported to Auschwitz in March 1943 along with his wife and child who were gassed upon arrival. He was chosen to be an anatomical specimen, shipped to Natzweiler-Struthof and murdered in the gas chamber in August 1943'
Otto Bickenbach was a virologist . He, too, used the gas chamber to research on poison gas for his experiments , even though he had found an antidote before the war . He made 15 attempts on" Criminals " and " Gypsies ", most of which would die after . One of the survivors said: "After about 10 minutes I heard a muffled bang - as if someone would clap their hands . Those were the lungs of two prisoners who had to run around the ventilating fan . They lungs were > burst< , 'and out of their mouths , their ears and their noses ran a brownish foam. [Statement Franz H.S. 1.7.1981 , in BArch Ludwigsburg , B 162/19282 . sic]
Even the world famous bacteriologist Eugen Haagen , who had been on the 1938 short list of Nobel Prize candidates , participated in medical experiments. He conducted research on typhus. In 1943 and 1944 , he launched two series of experiments : Vaccinated and un-vaccinated subjects were infected with spotted fever virus (Feckfieber). The vaccine was developed in 1936 , among others, by Haagen itself, but Haagen was still not satisfied . A prisoner doctor reported that the tests "were carried out under horrible hygienic conditions. The experimental room was reminiscent of two overcrowded monkey cages" . The raggedly experiments conducted in April / May 1944 spread the virus throughout the camp as a result . Vaccine developed by Haagen is still in use today.

Strasbourg University faculty member, Professor Otto Bickenbach, used the gas chamber in pseudoscientific medical experiments involving mustard gas and other vesicants .  Many victims of these experiments were Roma (Gypsies) who were transferred from Auschwitz for use as guinea pigs.  Doctor Eugen Haagen,  the chair for hygiene and bacteriology at Strasbourg University was in charge of medical experiments on the camp.  He conducted experiments on prisoners involving typhus and yellow fever.  The operating room above was the site of many of these “experiments.”

Prior to his arrest August Hirt committed suicide. The other two "scientists" Bickenbach and Haagen were sentence in 1952 to life imprisonment by a Military Tribunal at Metz. In a revision process in 1954 a military court in Lyon commuted the sentence to 20 years of hard labour. Both , however, were pardoned in 1955 and able to practice their profession in Germany , Bickenbach settled down in 1962 as a doctor in Köln (Cologne) . The medical profession certified him there thus: "It is noted that the applicant has not violated by his participation in these tests, his duties in his medical professional duties " . At the end of his career he was Internist  in Sieburg , where he died on November 26th 1971.
Haagen had left when the war ended Strasbourg and set up his laboratory near Jena. He was first arrested by the Americans , then released in June 1945. He accepted the offer of the Soviets to open a research institute in Berlin. In 1946 he was arrested again when he strayed into the American Sector of Berlin and delivered to the French in January 1947 . In 1955 he was released and got a job at the Federal Research Centre for Virus Diseases of Animals in Tübingen. In 1965 he went back to his native city Berlin, where he died on 3 August 1972 convinced (überseugt) always to have only served to science. From his prison Haagen had written to his wife: "Without these cursed (diese verfluchten Franzosen) Frenchmen who hold me here , I would be wearing a Nobel Prize Medal (Nobelpreisträger). [Brigitte Crodel, was his assistant-and spouse, as well as a scientist in her own field.HKS]

                                                                                                                                                                  CONTINUED UNDER PART 4/4

No comments:

Post a Comment

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