The Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp was in the Northern Vosges in Alsace that the National Socialists de facto annexed in June 1940. The ceasefire agreement between France and Germany on June 25, 1940 were, accordingly incorporated into the upper and lower Elsasss and the Moselle area around Metz into the German Reich and subjected to Germanization and Nazitification policy. For residents it meant preparing themselves for the third Nationality change since 1871. Alsace and the Moselle region were administratively separated: The Mosel region was incorporated into the Gau (District) 'Westmark' and directed by Josef Bürkel . The two Alsatian departments were added to the State of Baden and formed the Gau 'Upper Rhine', which Robert Wagner headed, one of the oldest comrades of Adolf Hitler.
In the course of Germanization policy of the region in July 1940 this part came under the jurisdiction of the Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD) Strasbourg, the education and security camp Schirmeck (La Broque) was opened in Breuschtal. By war's end, Karl Buck ran the camp.
Abut eight kilometres from Schirmeck-Vorbruck there was the Natzweiler concentration camp. The management of both camps was separated, and only occasionally prisoners were transferred from Schirmeck to Natzweiler. Schirmeck-Vorbruck was a camp only for the inhabitants of Alsace and the Moselle region (from 1942 on, prisoners of war were interned here as well), which were held there for a limited time to be 're-educated' by force to the National Socialistic ideology . In Natazweiler, however, of the total 52,000 inmates, were only 230 of Alsace extraction and 810 from Lorraine. All other detained Alsace and Lorraine individuals were held in other more remote camps away from their homeland.
[Wagner(born as Robert Backfisch) became also Gauleiter of Alsace, where he earned the moniker the Butcher of Alsace (Schlächter vom Elsaß). Wagner was given a free hand to govern like no other Gauleiter. He took part in many trials dictating death sentences. Of the 4,464 Jews sent to the Gurs concentration camp in France, only some 800 survived. At the end of the war, Wagner was arrested by the French, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the Permanent Military Tribunal in Strasbourg in 1946. The sentence was carried out by firing squad on August 14, 1946. HKS]
The concentration camp was located on the 759 Metre height of the Vosges mountain, on a north slope, which was exposed to the icy wind and had a direct view of the Breusch-valley as well as the Donon Massif . Located near Strasbourg, the Breusch valley was used by the city dwellers in the summer for hiking and in winter for skiing and sledding.
Since 1829 there was a hostel called: The Struthof. In 1906 a new building was erected, which served as a hotel and restaurant and was completely renovated in 1936, Struthof was owned by the family Idoux, they operated both the hotel and also the 200 meter distant farm. Located opposite the hotel was a building which served as a restaurant and a ballroom. In 1943 the gas chamber was installed here, the nearby villa, which had originally belonged to a Strasbourg banker, but now served as a summer residence for the commander of the concentration camp.
|View over the Struthof: In the foreground the farm of the Idoux family, in the background the hotel, back left the barracks of the camp Natzweiler|
[Himmler, head of the Gestapo and the police, and Oswald Pohl, head of the principal administrative and economic section of the SS (WVHA), wanted to build camps close to quarries in order to exploit the deportees, as in Mauthausen and Flossenbürg, as part of the Deutsche Erd und Steinwerke (DESt), the SS Mining Firm set up by Himmler in 1938.HKS]
|The gas chamber located at 2 km from the camp'|
Another reason for the choice of location was the direct train connection between Strasbourg and the village Rothau which allowed the transport of construction materials and labour requirements. However, the road link between the valley and the camp was not sufficient. Therefore, a seven-kilometre-long route from forest house in Rothau was built up to the camp and quarry. After a short quarantine, during 1941-1943 all the new arrivals went into the obligatory " Road Commando", which simultaneously served as a penal company.
Forest house and the street as it is now
Virtual view click at arrow between Rothau Station and Toilet building. It is by this route that the deportees went by foot, truck or van to the KL-Natzweiler. Escorted by the SS and their dogs, the climb to the camp (eight kilometers) was the second stage of the ordeal after the arrival at the rail way station of Rothau.http://visite-virtuelle.struthof.fr/visite.php
Station Rothau today:
Deportees sent to the concentration camp Struthof passed through the station Rothau. It was forbidden for residents to get in touch with them and they had to close their shutters.
Transports could be up to 100 people. The deportees were still wearing in most cases their personal clothes, except when coming from another camp. In this case they did wear their striped KZ-uniforms.
From the station, they first passed the Post Office and through the current street, then the future inmates walked to the camp on foot, in rows of three. Smaller convoys were taken to the camp by truck or van.
The quarry was not exploited to the extent as originally planned. still it remained operative up to the evacuation in September 1944. However, in early 1943 the DESt's aim turned towards the more war related defence contracts, mainly in the production of Aerospace requirements. A local construction company built 14 barracks for this purpose, which served as a repair shop for Junkers aircraft and its engines. At the same time Motorenwerk AG, opened in the halls of the camp which was its branch of the Automotive Factory Mathis originally located in Sraßburg-Meinau. More than 1,000 prisoners worked in the camp on engines. The SS had three underground tunnels driven into the quarry, but these were never used.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CONCENTRATION CAMP
On May 21, 1941 as the first prisoners arrived at Natzweiler, the camp served only as a provisional solution. The SS administration was housed at the hotel Struthof and the prisoners were kept in an built-on extension secured with barbed wire. The first two transports originated with detainees from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, each of the 150 men on the 21 and 23 May 1941 respectively. The prisoners were likely selected by Josef Kramer, at that time, the officer in charge of camp security (Schutzhaftlagerführer) reporting to the first Kommendant of Natzweiler, Hans Hüttig. Two-thirds of its inmates were classified as "professional criminals" or "anti-socials". Apart from two Czechs and seven Poles all other prisoners were Germans. Among them were twelve, who had been registered as the first 1,000 detainees in Sachsenhausen. From the Dachau concentration camp came 20 men on 27 June, Sachsenhausen provided with three transports, the last on June 29 a total of 365 inmates, and Buchenwald 150 men with one transport on the 26th of October.
Between May and December 1941, 536 detainees were held in the concentration camp Natzweiler. All the prisoners had been transferred from other camps, Natzweiler was until September 1942 not an admission centre. (Einweisungslager).The German prisoners constituted the vast majority (454), and there were very few Eastern European occupants (six Soviets). Of the 536 prisoners remained until 1945 only nine within the camp system of Natzweiler.
Taking the exchange of prisoners between camps into consideration-in January 1941 the only return transfers to Sachsenhausen took place - there were an average of 400 prisoners in Natzweiler. They were housed in the ballroom of the Struthof and had the task to build the camp. To this end, the forest had been cleared, an access road for trucks provided, the barracks to be built and also the quarry surface exposed. First of all prisoners were employed in the construction of the camp and the excavation of the quarry, which was an 800-meter distance away fro the camp. The inmates of the transport column dragged wooden slats high out of the valley in order to erect shacks.
|Drawings by survivor Henri Gayot of Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp prisoners building the road to the camp|
|prisoners returning to camp, some carrying the wounded or corpses on their backs.|
[After his spell at Buchenwald Hüttig saw service at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and Flossenbürg concentration camp and in both garnered a reputation as a troubleshooter who was suitable for special tasks. Thus he was called upon to oversee the construction of a new facility at Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace. Following this he spent time in Norway, overseeing the construction of both concentration camps and prisons. Whilst here he commanded the security at Grini concentration camp and served as SS and Police Leader for the country. This assignment then ended abruptly when he was sent to Herzogenbusch concentration camp as commandant following the removal of Adam Grünewald for his part in the Bunker Tragedy. The incident had caused uproar in the local area and as such Hüttig oversaw the closure of Herzogenbusch before returning to Germany to serve out the war working in a police station. After the war Hüttig was in Allied internment. He was sentenced to death on July 2, 1954 by a French military court in Metz, but the death sentence was not enforced. In 1956, he was released from detention after eleven years and led a discrete life at home, until his death in 1980.
Hüttig was one of only a handful of camp commanders interviewed by Israeli historian Tom Segev for his book on the commandants Soldiers of Evil. During the course of the interview he admitted to Segev that "I knew very well what I was going to do in the SS". sic]
Kramer served as commandant of Natzweiler-Struthof, the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on present-day French territory, though there were French-run transit camps such as the one at Drancy. At the time, the Alsace-Lorraine area in which it was established had been annexed by Nazi Germany. As commandant at Natzweiler-Stuthof, Kramer personally carried out the gassings of 80 Jewish men and women, part of a group of 87 selected at Auschwitz to become anatomical specimens in a proposed Jewish skeleton collection to be housed at the Anatomy Institute at the Reich University of Strasbourg under the direction of August Hirt. Josef Kramer was imprisoned at the Hamelin jail. Along with 44 other camp staff Kramer was tried in the Belsen Trial by a British military court at Lüneburg. The trial lasted several weeks from September to November 1945. During the trial Anita Lasker testified that Kramer took part in selections for the gas chamber. Kramer was sentenced to death on November 17, 1945, and hanged at Hamelin jail by Albert Pierrepoint on December 13, 1945. sic]
Dr.HANS EISELE (PHYSICIAN)
In January 1940, Eisele joined the Waffen-SS and was for a short time in the Mauthausen concentration camp, then from February to August 1941 in Buchenwald concentration camp. He served as camp doctor, and murdered 300 prisoners suffering from tuberculosis. He also did experimental surgery, sometimes without anaesthesia and with a fatal outcome; in addition, he abused and tortured patients. Then he was in concentration camp Natzweiler and in June 1942 used in the SS hospital in Prague. Furthermore, he did service with the SS Division Das Reich on the Eastern Front. In February 1945 he was sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he served under the First Camp Physician Fritz Hintermayer. He was arrested by U.S. forces in April 1945.
On 13 December 1945, Eisele was tried in the Dachau main trial for his participation in three executions for which he had issued the death certificate. He was sentenced to death. After commutation of the sentence to a life sentence on 11 April 1947, he was in the Buchenwald main trial, tried again and received together with twenty co-defendants the death penalty. However, the basic conviction against Eisele proved dubious and uncertain, that four of the eight military judges submitted an application that the judgment be converted by the reviewing body to a ten-year sentence, which was granted.
During his detention in prison for war criminals Landsberg, he wrote an extensive defense titled Audiatur et altera pars in which he denied the allegations and represented himself as a convinced Christian, who had always been a physician only for the sake of others. In contrast, numerous witnesses of his crimes were from the ranks of former concentration camp prisoners, and sometimes even from former SS members. But after another penalty reduction, Eisele, on 26 February 1952, was released from prison
After his release, he opened a medical practice in Munich. In 1958, during the course of the trial of Martin Sommer, a guard at Buchenwald, new allegations were made against Eisele. He fled to Egypt, where he settled under the pseudonym Carl Debouche in upmarket Cairo suburb Maadi.
Eisele moved in the circles of former Nazi scientists in Egypt, after a German extradition request had been rejected.There was at least one assassination attempt on Eisele by Mossad, a package bomb in which the Egyptian deliverer died, but Eisele was unhurt. Eisele died on 3 May 1967 in unknown circumstances in his home in Maadi, and was buried in the small German cemetery in grave No. 99.sic]
CONTINUED UNDER PART 2/4