The resolution of Mittelbau began in late fall 1944. Due to the overcrowding of the satellite camps, but especially by the onset of winter. The living conditions in all camps of the concentration camp complex, which led to a sharp increase in the death rate and deteriorated further. While the figure of (750) deaths dropped to 100 to 150 a month after the peak in March 1944 until the summer of 1944, it increased again from November 1944 onwards sharply, reaching in December, the number of 570 officially registered by the SS as dead, of which nearly 500 alone in the camp of Ellrich-Juliushütte. With this high death rate the Boelke barracks which was de facto a pure death-camp. Among the prisoners it was feared as a "living crematorium", and as photos of emaciated corpses went around the world, when the camp was liberated by the Americans on April 11, the Boelke barracks it's name "Nordhausen concentration camp" became quickly an international notorious example of the crimes committed in the Nazi concentration camps.
In fact a particular gruesome meaning finally came to this satellite camp , which was set up by the SS beginning January 1945 in the empty hangars on the site of the city on the south-eastern outskirts of Nordhausen, the Boelke barracks (Kaserne) in which, since the summer of 1944 with around 6,000 foreign workers of the North plant and several hundred inmates of a Gestapo detention camp were housed. Actually, this satellite camp had been provided as an accommodation for prisoner detail detachments, who had to work at Niedersachswerfen in over 20 different Nordhäuser companies during the construction of B 11 and were previously housed in the Dora camp. However, as from the end of January 1945 numerous transports with exhausted, sick and many already dead concentration camp inmates from the dissolved concentration camps Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen arrived in the South-Harz and simultaneously increased the overall sick numbers in the Mittelbau-camps drastically.
|Mittelbau-Dora,two survivors lie among corpses on straw-covered floor at the Boelke Barracks'|
Allied bombers attacked the city of Nordhausen in Germany on April 3, 1945. They also struck the Boelcke Barracks (Kaserne), a sub-camp of Dora-Mittelbau, although this was not the target of the attack. Almost 1,500 prisoners were killed in the attack, they were put on display for propaganda purposes after the liberation of the camp.(Most of them in a state of decomposing) The US weekly magazine Life (21/05/1945, page 36), comments: ‘The bodies of almost 3,000 slave labourers being buried by US soldiers. These dead, worked in underground factories in the manufacture of V1 and V2 rockets'.
In actual fact, these dead were the victims of Allied terror attack on Nordhausen on 4 April 1945. Although the war was almost over, German cities continued to be bombed. Thus, the city of Nordhausen was bombed and almost totally destroyed on 4 April (2 days before the evacuation of the camp to Bergen-Belsen), also destroying the Boelke barracks in which the inmates were being housed. [Source, from the series of publications of the Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, number 21, Stuttgart page 194, Prof. Martin.]
America's bombing involvement in the civilian bombing method was demonstrated in the following way: "In 1943, the theoretical became reality when the Chemical Warfare Corps built mock-up German and Japanese working-class neighbourhoods in the Utah desert. Exact replicas of the working class 'rent barracks' of Berlin's densely populated "Red" (Socialist and Communist) districts and the industrial towns of the Rhine were built. They were then bombed and studied in excruciating detail. Armed with the test results, including proof of the utility of the new anti-personal M-69 napalm ammunition, the Allies bombed into the rubble more 1920's socialist modernist utopia than Nazi villas.Yet the bombing of cities did NOT destroy Germans' will to fight, nor could the Allies continue the bombing raids indefinitely.
The Czechoslovakian architect Antonin Raymond, who worked several years in Japan (including a stint in Frank Lloyd Wright’s office) developed the planning basis of the Japanese Village. The emigré Jewish architects Erich Mendelsohn and Konrad Wachsmann consulted on the planning of the German Village—Mendelsohn, well known for his buildings in Berlin, was excluded from the Prussian Art Academy in 1933 and emigrated first to London, later to Israel [Palestine] and, in 1941, to the United States; Wachsmann fled to France and reached the US shortly before the occupation with the help of Albert Einstein, where he joined Walter Gropius to work on the development of prefabrication systems. Several unnamed architects affiliated with the “Gropius Group” at Harvard also participated in the research studies on typical German city structures and building constructions that accompanied the planning of the German Village.
At the end of 1944, the SS began, to "evacuate" the inmates of Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen from the advancing Red Army to further west located concentration camps. Many of these transports went to the concentration camp Mittelbau - a total of up to 16,000 prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen, was until the beginning of March 1945 taken into the Harz facilities, including women and children. [End of January 1945 arrived in the camp Dora a transport with over 500 almost exclusively Jewish women from Auschwitz, most of which were passed two weeks later into the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Only 10 non-Jewish women remained in Dora and in all likelihood were forced there to work in the newly established prisoner brothel. Other transports with female prisoners arrived in early March from Bergen-Belsen into Dora (26 Jehovah's Witnesses) and mid-March 1945 from a satellite camp of KZ Groß-Rosen (285 Hungarian and Polish Jewesses ), Ref: Wagner, Production of Death,(Poduktion des Todes) page 414 -418. sic] The Mittelbau camp was in a sense the continuation of the concentration camp methods of Auschwitz. On the one hand, the SS in Nordhausen was the "Transfer location of KL Auschwitz", which had the task of clarifying the whereabouts of personnel and equipment of the SS commandant from their "old" camp. On the other hand, and this had a dramatic impact on the conditions of the existence of the Mittelbau-camps, came 1,000 SS men from there to the Harz. Members of the Auschwitz command staff took over in early February 1945, all the important posts at Mittelbau. The new commander and successor of SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Förschner, who had been transferred to the satellite camp Kaufering (a sub-camp of the Dachau), were the former commandant of the Auschwitz , SS-Sturmbannführer Richard Baer. The all important positions in the administration of the concentration camp Mittelbau were replaced and occupied with "trusted"and familiar Auschwitz Personal and greatly contributed to the intensification of the SS Terror in the southern Harz.
'At the end of the war, Baer fled and lived near Hamburg as Karl Egon Neumann, a forestry worker. In the course of investigation in the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials a warrant for his arrest was issued in October 1960 and his photograph was printed in newspapers. He was recognised by a co-worker and arrested in December 1960 after Adolf Eichmann's arrest. On the advice of his lawyer he refused to testify and died of a heart attack in pre-trial detention in 1963. The story of Baer's arrest is vividly recounted by Devin Pendas in his book The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. After seeing a wanted picture in the Bild-Zeitung, a co-worker on Otto von Bismarck's estate reported that Baer was working as a forester there. When officials confronted "Neumann" in the forest on the early morning of December 20, 1960, he at first denied everything. Having already addressed Baer as her "husband", the woman in the house subsequently gave her name as "Frau Baer", but still claimed that Baer was named Neumann. Baer, however, finally admitted his true identity'.
With the transports from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen, the number of Jewish prisoners increased in the Mittelbau camps. Most of them were sick and exhausted after weeks of rail transport, many did not survive the rigours. The result of this development was a new dramatic increase in the mortality rate. Between January and early April 1945 about 6,000 prisoners died in the Mittelbau camps, of which approximately 3,000 in the death blocks of the Boelke Barracks.
The end of Mittelbau was initiated on the 3rd and 4th of April 1945, after two massive British air attacks, which caused severe damage in Nordhausen. The Boelke barracks whose prisoner accommodations were not marked with a red cross as a Hospital, received several direct hits. When the Americans marched into Nordhausen a week later, they counted 1,200 dead concentration camp prisoners in the barracks. However, it can not be stated how many of them were actually victims of the air raids. As the harrowing pictures showed emaciated corpses right to the bones, it is possible that some of them had been dead prior to the Air Raid. The American reporters made statements why their boys were fighting in this war, in April 1945, and it is more likely a lot of the people to have died of hunger and cold. [This is claimed as an excuse by other sources, the Boelke Kaserne was not the target. The victims of the bombardment were buried in mass graves in a nearby cemetery called "Ehrenfriedhof Nordhausen" at the Stressemann Ring in Nordhausen. All buildings of camp/Kaserne are gone, there is nothing left. On the former area of the Boelcke Kaserne, only a small monument is set up. sic]
The air attacks on Nordhausen did not solve the evacuation of the Mittelbau-camp, but accelerated it significantly. The evacuation of the main camp Dora began on the evening of the 5th of April, when 4,000 Soviet prisoners were taken by train to Bergen-Belsen. Around the 4 April the camp commanders of the other Mittelbau camps must have received orders to evacuate at the same time. Most camps were evacuated on 4 and 5 April 1945. This was a repeat in itself what the prisoners from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen had to suffer in January and February 1945: In a hurry and with great brutality, the guards drove the inmates into freight and cattle wagons. Several trains loaded with thousands of prisoners left up to the 6 April 1945 the South Harz, to Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen and Ravensbrück. In addition, many columns of exhausted prisoners, driven by the guards were dragged to walk through the Harz Mountains towards the north-east. Those who could not keep up with the forced marches, were shot by the guards were they had collapsed. In particular, in the area north of Magdeburg in mid April 1945 it came to repeated massacres of prisoners whose death marches were held up in the area. The brutal massacre committed by members of the SS, Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the Volkssturm and Hitler Youth on 13 April 1945 a few hours before the arrival of American soldiers in the Isenschnibbe barn at Gerdelegen was by any standards the worst ever.. The barn was set on fire and over 1,000 prisoners died in there , mainly inmates from the concentration camp Mittelbau and from Hanoverian sub-camp of the Neuengamme complex .
'On the night of 13 April 1945, after consulting with the local Nazi Party official Gerhard Thiele, the SS drove the prisoners out of the city and into an isolated barn on the Isenschnibbe estate. The SS then set light to the straw in the barn, which had been soaked with petrol. 1,016 prisoners burned to death, suffocated or were shot by the SS as they attempted to escape the flames. American troops reached Gardelegen on the evening of 14 April. They arranged for the victims of the massacre be interred properly in individual graves and ordered the residents of Gardelegen and the surrounding towns to bury the bodies.'The man who gave the order to burn the prisoners, Gerhard Thiele, escaped by disguising himself in the uniform of a German soldier and traveling with false papers. He lived in the Western zone of occupation and later in West Germany under a false name. He was never brought to justice and died June 30, 1994.
SS-Untersturmführer Erhard Brauny, the transport leader for the prisoners evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp who subsequently wound up in Gardelegen, was put on trial in 1947 before a US military tribunal and was sentenced to life in prison. He died in 1950.
More than half of the concentration camp evacuees from Mittelbau arrived in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Due to overcrowding of the camp by Mittelbau prisoners, they were not housed in the actual concentration camp proper , but kept in the 'barracks camp' (Kasernenlager), which was only occupied by them until its liberation by British forces on 15/16 April 1945. Mittelbau relocated inmates were considered part of the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, yet they still kept their own identity. The last officer in charge of the main camp Dora, SS First Lieutenant Franz Hößler, was still appointed commander of the barracks camp only a few days before the liberation of the concentration camp Belsen.
Most of the camps Mittelbau were completely cleared. Only in the Dora main camp and in the Boelke barracks, the SS left several hundred sick and dying behind who were liberated on 11 April 1945 by soldiers of the U.S. Army. The limited information available also suggests that the occupied camps exclusively with Italian military internees were not cleared. These prisoners may have been liberated by the Americans after the escape of the guards.
FORCED LABOUR AND DEATH
Crucial for the survival conditions of the prisoners in the Mittelbau-camps was the character of the work to which they were forced to perform. The hardest work had generally the prisoners to do in the construction commandos. Here the chances of survival were minimal. "Do not bother about the human victims. The work must take place, and in the shortest possible time", Kammler did instruct his subordinates in the Mittelbau Concentration Camp. With all haste the SS guide posts and the construction companies involved drove the inmates to work. Dates should be adhered to, the life and health of the prisoners did not count.
Not only in the tunnels, but also on the construction sites in the open air, such as the construction of the Hel-metal-track, the hard work quickly led to full-exhausting prisoners. There were also long, to- and from- departure paths that often had to be overcome by walking, inadequate safety precautions, inadequate clothing and nutrition, lack of working equipment and not least the harassment and abuse by the SS, Kapos and civilian foremen.
For the prisoners the commandos that were used in the development of underground factories, were the most dreaded. Again and again they were exposed to the pressure waves of blasts during tunnel driving without a adequate safety distance. They hovered constantly in danger of being injured or killed by falling rock masses. The dust in the tunnels sapped the body of the prisoners. But drinking water, which would have been rudimentary in an emergency, or could alleviate thirst was denied to them. [There is no reason given, why not] Many prisoners were suffering from lung diseases. Tuberculosis was among the most common causes of death. Most patients did not have the slightest chance of being cured, it was often enough that the smallest abrasions could be fatal to the lives of completely exhausted and emaciated prisoners . The inadequate clothing promoted the weakening process: The prisoners from other camps of Ellrich and Harzungen had to do heavy work (Schwerstarbeit) on the sharp and edgy underground in the tunnels partially barefoot.
|Tunnel - A One of the two parallel tunnels'.|
Hardly any better than in the tunnel were the working conditions on construction sites in the open. Although the prisoners did not have to contend there with the unbearable dust that prevailed in the tunnels, they were certainly exposed throughout the year to the weather. In the summer they had hot conditions, and in winter, when snow, cold and deep frozen ground made soil movement and lifting difficult, the construction work actually had often to stop.
After the calculation of the SS corporate offices and profiting from the inmate work, private companies felt the 'construction prisoners ' were easily replaceable. Thus, one did not bother to preserve the health and lives of these prisoners, because 'replenishment' seemed to be there in sufficient numbers as a stand-by, especially after the evacuation transports from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen arrived and many Mittelbau camps were always filled to capacity.
Study and view German Aircraft Designs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhetGy7HigM
Generally better than in the construction teams were the survival chances in the production commandos. At the start of the operation in production, it was often assessed by the reckless driving on the sites, and it's time-consuming training phase. This was especially true for the mustered prisoners as a skilled worker. To receive a minimum level of effectiveness of the work output the plant managers and the supervisory staff were instructed, to be more 'friendly' when dealing with the prisoners and their labour force. This not only meant a lessening of terror by the SS or Kapos and civilian supervisors, but among others, better clothes, more food and shorter marching routes. Besides that, the work itself did not tire prisoners in the production commandos to the same extent as on the building sites. To be assigned to a production commando meant first of all, to work in a relatively warm and dry place. Compared to a prisoner who had to carry in the cold, bricks or very heavy bags of cement, that alone was a major advantage. Besides the work on the machine which was physically usually less exhaustive, and as the production process was organized, for example in the Mittelbau factory, so that free German workers and prisoners worked together on the assembly lines, the prisoners could benefit from work breaks that were granted to the German civilian workers. The engagement of prisoners and paid civil labour went so far that even mixed efficiency groups of prisoners and civilian German workers were planned in the Mittelbau factory, which was a financial incentive scheme for both. (Arbeit nach Akkord).
The general assembly process went as follows: First, the centre section of the rocket (the fuselage with its two huge alcohol and liquid oxygen tanks) was assembled. Next the propulsion group (combustion chamber, turbine pump, air bottles) was attached. Then the tail section of the rocket with its propulsion ring, rudder servos, and fins was attached to the motor. Finally, the guidance compartment (control amplifier, electrical distribution panel, main time switch, radio equipment, etc.) was attached to the front of the missile and the completed rocket went to Hall 41 for final testing and delivery to the launching batteries. Warheads were transported separately and attached to the rockets in the field.
|'V-2 Rocket Assembly inside Tunnel- Mittelbau-Dora'|
Under these described circumstances it was not to think of a normal work performance of inmates, either in production or on construction sites. Generally who was benefiting from forced labour were companies that had anticipated the fact that the prisoners would only be able to do half as much as German civilian employees. This under-performance was already included in the calculation of the daily fees as to inmate work-output. For skilled workers, the companies paid the SS, and thereby into the Reichs-Household Budget, as in other camps a daily wage of 6 RM. Labourers cost RM 4 a day, regardless of how long they had to work. If only for this reason, many companies had to base their daily shift on a 12-hour working day for prisoners. The long hours of arrival and departure routes to work areas and time-consuming roll-calls in the camps meant that the prisoners had little time to recover. Even after scrutinizing SS data shows, the prisoners in the camp Ellrich-Juliushütte for example, had only 4.75 hours of sleep. Consequently, chronic sleep deprivation alone led to exhaustion.
Various former factory structures were utilised by the SS, to hold the inmates at KZ-Aussenlager Ellrich-Juliushütte'.
The long and often calculated decline of the prisoners labour in the perspective of the SS and their Advisory Staff, were fully aware that in the medium term, this was economically counter-productive - when finally, the workers who were urgently needed would die. The SS tried to overcome this dilemma to escape through a practice of mobile selections: the requirements of the SS-Advisory Board (Führungsstab) and the defence contractors accordingly met continuously to request new prisoners from other concentration camps into the Dora camp and were thence in a system of permanent selection depending on their physical condition and vocational qualifications and then have them distributed into the various Mittelbau camp complexes. Prisoners who were professionally qualified and physically fit, still seemed reasonably efficient, would remain in the main camp of Dora or were assigned to work details in the defence industry. In contrast, debilitated inmates had little chance to escape the transfer into one of the notorious construction camps, where the last bit of labour was beaten out of them. When they eventually were no longer able to work even by SS standards, they were deported to death zones - 'Protection-Blocks'- Schonungsblöcke) in the individual camps, or, from January 1945, in the northern houses of the Boelke Garrison (Kaserne). Most of the prisoners went through in this way on an ordeal, which led them from camp to camp, with ever shortening intervals, to the next one, and ended with death. This practice of mobile selection in a hierarchical camp system would allow the SS, and benefiting companies from inmate work to get the maximum performance for a minimum of support or care..
At the permanent selections not only the Labour Administration Staff were involved in the camps, but also the SS doctors. Before the transfer into other camps or into the camp zones, (Lagerzonen) usually medical screening took place, whose goal it was, the separation of weaklings, as it had been labelled by the SS doctor and 'Supreme Hygienist' Dr. Joachim Mrugowski in April 1944. Similarly, only three months before, his co-worker and colleague SS-Doctor Karl Gross, formulated a poignant assessment after an inspection of camp Dora: 'In order to avoid an unnecessary load within the operation with physically ineffective human material (Menschenmaterial) and a consequent accumulation of those unable to work, it should be recommended a correspondingly strict selection of prisoners (medical screening before work employment) which is already done in part by camp doctors out of their own initiatives '. Next he suggested: 'They are already thinking about the establishment of an Alternative Camp (Ausweichlager) for handicapped prisoners, as their number is constantly increasing.'
The best educated and technically qualified prisoners, primarily from Western Europe, were selected to serve on the missile assembly line, while the others were put on the harsher outdoor, transport, and construction commandos. The SS in Mittelbau-Dora had developed a system of “mobile selection,” where inmates who were worn out or less valuable were transferred to commandos, sub-camps, infirmaries or “death blocks” of increasing harshness, so that the weakest died off.
|Joachim Mrugowsky as a defendant in the Doctors' Trial.|
In 1940, as the troop physician of an SS "Das Reich" Division hospital company, Mrugowsky participated in the conquest of Western Europe. He was implicated in all medical experiments, with the exception of the aviation ones, which were conducted on concentration camp prisoners. Mrugowsky was condemned to death in August 1947, and executed on June 2, 1948 at Landsberg am Lech.
Most deaths in the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora were a consequence of the murderous forced labour, insufficient hygienic conditions and inadequate nutrition. Especially towards the end but also many prisoners victims died from abuse and direct killings. An unknown number of detainees died after torture and interrogation at the detention cell building (bunker) of the Dora camp, whose outside court yard was set up as a place of execution, where the SS and Gestapo in secret executed prisoners, whose deaths obviously should not be known in the camp. The bunker courtyard was, were the two temporary communist camp elder George Thomas and Louis Symcak who had refused in the spring of 1944 to hang a Russian fellow prisoner, and immediately prior to the evacuation of the camp on 4 April 1945, together with five other German prominent political prisoners and a Russian, who had been part of the resistance group, were shot there by the Gestapo members. Also, the high-ranking Communist Party functionary and former member of the Prussian Landtag Albert Kuntz died in the bunker. After weeks of torture he was found strangled in his cell at the end of January 1945.
|Remains of Prison cells - Post war picture|
Georg Thomas, 37 years of age, a mechanic from Munich, member of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) since 1929, had to take the decision of his life. In 1933, the Nazis had arrested and interned him in KZ Dachau. Later, he had in the meantime released in 1935, he was again detained and deported to Buchenwald. On August 28, 1943, he arrived in KZ Mittelbau-Dora as Block Elder I.
Georg Thomas stood in the front of the gallows. Behind him, he felt the gazes of thousands of comrades from France, Czechoslovakia, Germany, the Soviet Union[...] His voice loud and well audible, he called out: 'I refuse to obey this order'! Death silence. Nailed boots hurried across the roll square. Georg Thomas was tied by the SS guards, who then escorted him to the bunker.
Again the voice of the camp commandant: 'Block Elder II, come here'! Ludwig Sznczak, the mine-worker from Upper Silesia, came forward. His stare was firm.
As a communist, he had lived in the Soviet Union before 1933, and had participated in the creation of the Soviet State. After his return to Germany, he had settled in Wuppertal. The Nazis, after they had sized power, had arrested the upright communist. He was in the function of Block Elder ever since he had arrived in Mittelbau-Dora.
Ludwig Szimczak did not falter. His words resounded loudly over the square: 'I refuse to obey the order'! Two SS-guards stepped forward, tied Szimczak and brought him to the Bunker.
Only the Bver (for Berufsverbrecher), or professional criminal Zwiener was ready to take over the hangman's job. Replacing Georg Thomas and Ludwig Szimczak, he was declared Block Elder. The criminal prisoner took over [...] The refusal of the German communists became a token of vitality, and the fire signal of the well-measured antifascist resistance. Their brave and cool-blooded act dug deep into the brains of the ten thousand prisoners. The resistance was reinforced. Ref.:(Dickmann/Hochmut 1971:73f.)
|Execution Site - Post-war picture'|
Far more often than the secret executions were public hangings on the parade ground, when all camp inmates had to watch, in first place as a deterrent and secondly to install discipline. Most of the victims of these public executions were Soviet prisoners whom the SS and Gestapo accused of sabotage and resistance. Between November 1944 and March 1945 alone, more than 200 prisoners were hanged or shot. In March 1945, the executions took on apocalyptic dimensions - on some days 30 prisoners were hanged, even on one day alone the figure were 50 inmates hanged at once. In some cases, the executions were carried out not on the parade ground of the camp Dora, but at the work stations, at the construction sites and in the tunnels of the Mittelwerk plant. During these executions, not only the inmates were forced to watch the gruesome spectacle, but also the German civilian employees. [Ref: ibid, page 354f. Sellier, forced labor in the rocket tunnels, page 346 ff.sic (Zwangsarbeit im Raketentunnel)
|Place where the Italian POW's were shot|
CONTINUED UNDER PART 4