1938 established the German Labour Front [Deutsche Arbeitsfront] (DAF) in the vicinity of the village of Hinzert located in the Rhineland-Palatinate, (Hunsrück) a [barracks] camp for workers of the Western Wall, the so-called Siegfried Line, 30 km from the Luxembourg border. During 1939 the camp was taken over by the Organisation Todt (OT). It was now used as a 'training camp' for detained individuals by the police, referred to as 'special camp'(SS-Sonderlager). On 1 July 1940, Hinzert was subordinate to the inspector of concentration camps and through this process assigned the status as a main concentration camp, however, it was not until February 1942, that the Group D of the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office controlled these facilities. Hinzert served first as a 'work camp' (Arbeitserziehungslager) for Western Wall workers and became the centre of the completed 'West camp', in fact a police detention camp, and were initially reporting to the Inspector of the Security Police and the SD. From November 1944 onwards Hinzert was subject to the control of the the Buchenwald concentration camp, until the evacuation of the last prisoners, which took place in March. In addition to labour education prisoners (work-shy), as well as political people held in 'protective custody', especially resistance fighters from Luxembourg and France, but also Italians, Poles, German Foreign Legionnaires, when they returned to Germany, [it was outlawed under the NS-regime to join the French Foreign Legion] and members of other groups of undesirable persons were kept here. For many, Hinzert was a transit station on the way to other camps.
|The Siegfried Line in 1938'
The longest existing satellite camp was in Wittenberg at the Phrix works where the prisoners were used in the production of cellulose. Because the company's management was not satisfied with the condition of the workers, they were sent back to the main camp, (Return Transfer) not out of care for them, but from considerations of less further utility and of no practical use, they demanded healthier prisoners as a substitute, on the grounds that there was no purpose for starved labour, the prisoners returned in February 1945. Thus, the factory management got rid of a burden, considering the given war's end-threatening conditions.
A special case is the camp Wöbbelin that was ten weeks at the turn of 1944/45 built as an evacuation and death camp for 5,000 prisoners and became for many the last station for them. About 1,000 people died there. Quite late, only in April 1945, a POW camp at Sandbostel had been established as a concentration camp, where about 10,000 prisoners languished.
|MAIN ENTRANCE TO SS-SONDERLAGER HINZERT CAMP HINZERT
The camp was designated in the Nazi era as 'SS-Hinzert special camp' (SS-Sonderlager Hinzert), and in it's early days run as a 'police custody camp Hinzert'[which was compulsory labour, by people kept in jails]. This is explained by the history of the camp. The historical name after 1945 led to repeatedly denying the character of a concentration camp and German officialdom only conceded its existence from the beginning as a functioning 'work camp'. Until into the 90s the claim was made to call the camp what it actually was, had been ignored by the German authorities. The pertinent efforts of former deportees, especially from Luxembourg, or of persons who had dealt with the history of the camp were blocked. However, the camp Hinzert was far more, and a special part of the concentration camp system during the Second World War.
The emergence of the camp on the outskirts of the small village Hinzert, about ten kilometres from Hermeskeil and about 25 km from Trier, was directly related to the construction of the 'Westwall' (Siegfried Line) along the German border with France and Belgium. Using the 'Regulation in ensuring the workforce-needs for special tasks of state political importance', which was adopted and enforced on July 1, 1938, workers were specially committed to serve on the Westwallbau (building the Siegfried Line). This Regulation was also the basis for convening the first guards of the SS Special Camp Hinzert (SS-Sonderlager). The camp complex was built in 1938, first for conscripts workers who were employed in the construction by orders of the German Wehrmacht to complete the Westwall, or in the construction of a projected nearby Reichs-Autobahn. These workers became the responsibility of the Organisation Todt, or were organized members of the Reich Labour Service (RAD) [All German males and later females from the age of 18 had to join the RAD which were Labour Service Companies, for two years]. However, already in early summer 1939 'work-shy' or 'work refusal individuals' (Arbeitsverweigerer) were brought in as 'a three-week' re-education stint into the camp at Hinzert. After a fire broke out in a larger camp part on 16 August 1939 new barracks were built for the Reichs Labour Service.(RAD)
|RAD squad, 1940
In the fall of 1939, the 'Security Offices' the competent authorities responsible for the Westwallbau superstructure responsible for delinquent workers, built more 'police detention camps', in which the inmates should not only be 're-educated', but were also collected and used on special work details. These camp structures were built at location at Vicht south of Aachen, in Uthlede at Wesermünde in Hamburg-West, in Mörsch in Frankenthal, in Reinzabern near Germersheim and Hinzert. All these camps were reporting and controlled by the camp commandant of the 'SS special camp Hinzert' (SS-Sonderlager') and thus assumed a national function from the beginning. These Polizrihaftlager should and would implement the 'Local Emergency Arresting Law' whereby to relieve overcrowded prisons and ensure that the prisoners were not lost for use in the labour process requirement, but were brought to heel by tighter labour laws in line with Nazi ideology. Looking at the background of their commercial use, the promotion of the Westwall building by allocating previously disciplined workers in the Nazi sense to build at the 'Superstructure Westwall'. These camps were also called 'the West Camps' in official communications.
[As a side issue: Volunteers of the Hitler Youth from the age of sixteen did participate in the construction of the Westwall and were awarded a special commemorated Medal for their endeavours. It was not all forced criminals that worked there,sic]
|Hinzert, view of the camp 1941
ORGANIZATION AND CONSTRUCTION
The year 1939/1940 by Hinzert administrated system for the 'West camps' had lost its essential importance with the rapid success of the German armed forces in Western Europe. The expansion of the Western Wall was stopped. Thus, the associated camps to Hinzert were closed, and also for the SS special camp now raised the question of its existence. After an examination of the camp by the Chief of the SS Main Office, August Heißmeier, and an Annual Report of the camp commandant Pister it was decided that the Hinzert concentration camp would be transferred with effect of 1 July 1940, to the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL) in Oranienburg and the SS leaders who were subordinate leaders and other teams with equivalent effect incorporated into the Waffen-SS (SS Death's Head units'). Instead of the previous cost carrier, the Organisation Todt, now the Gestapo-Office would regulate the financial allocations for the remaining camp and the prisoners. The IKL took over the cost of the transferred and retained Waffen-SS guards and its leadership to Hermann Pister. But the camp was in its role as a 'work camp' assigned to Department II of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), which was responsible for 'organizational, administrative and legal aspects'. It was managed there in the office group C Division III, which administrated the area under the term 'accommodation and prisoners well being'. Between the IKL and the RSHA there were obvious rivalries about these camps. Pister as commandant simply ignored instructions from the Gestapo-Office to designate the camp as 'Hinzert concentration camp/tabor education camp'. (SS-Sonderlager Hinzert/Arbeiterziehungslager)
|The Westwall (Siefried Line) and the Maginot Line' The Americans never conquered the Westwall!
In addition to the 'labour education prisoners' increasingly political prisoners were now brought to Hinzert, especially members of the Resistance from neighbouring Luxembourg, which after the German invasion on the 10th May 1940, the Gauleiter of Koblenz-Trier, Gustav Simon, was appointed on the 2nd of August as head of the civil administration of Luxembourg. Simon incorporated the conquered state of Luxembourg into his Gau 'Moselland'. The first protective custody admission of political prisoners was taken by Luxembourg, and commenced from the summer of 1941.
On August 30th 1942, Gustav Simon publicly announced the introduction of compulsory military service. Having had wind of this ordinance, the resistance fighters decided to call a general strike. In order to inform the population that nobody was to go to work or school on August 31st 1942, fliers were printed and distributed. The strike commenced in Wiltz in the morning and, from there, spread through the entire country. The Germans retorted savagely, arresting those alleged to have been responsible and sentencing them to death by courtmartial (‘Standgericht’). Consequently, twenty people were shot in September 1942 at the concentration camp Hinzert.
When military service became mandatory, a good many young men fled the country, be it to enlist with the allied forces or join the French and Belgian resistance movements. Others completed their training but did not return from their home leave. If, for some reason or other, they could not or would not go abroad, they went into hiding aided by resistance fighters or common citizens. For this purpose, a large number of special hideaways were created, with utmost secrecy, in forests, mines, churches and on farms. About two thirds of the objectors made use of this arrangement, which came at a prize: Discovery could mean death for both the young men and their helpers, as well as the dreaded deportation to the eastern border of the Reich (‘Ëmsiedlung’). Nonetheless, a total of 3,500 out of the 10,200 young men that had been summoned managed to circumvent recruitment.
|Gauleiter Simon under Hitler's portrait
Oswald Pohl and Richard Glücks could show at the foundation of the SS-WVHA from available statistics of the IKL, to convey to the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler that the RSHA, had not run the camp Hinzert economically effectively until 1942. Himmler declared on 7 February 1942 at a meeting at Hitler's headquarters 'Wolsschanse': "I believe that we can not afford at the present time that the SS special camp 'Hinzert', which currently is under the Reich Main Security Office shall continue in its present form, because as I have noted, there is nothing rational done or what is performed there is not vital for winning the war. Anyway In the winter virtually nothing is ever finished. I reckon it as important that the Hinzert concentration camp on an economically basis should be incorporated into the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps ".
|A group of SS officers converse outside at a construction site in the Hinzert concentration camp'
After subordination of the camp personnel under the IKL as well as the economically responsibility by the IKL, which in turn was just incorporated as an official group D into the formation of the SS-WVHA, it became clear this meant that the prisoners of the SS Sonderlager of the IKL, respectively, became now under the new SS-WVHA. Up to and until February 1942, only the RSHA Department II had been responsible over the Gestapo-Section Trier's activities. With the intention of SS-WVHA, rigorous use of the concentration camp prisoners as manpower for the war economy would be demanded, and the degree of exploitation of labour of the prisoners in the SS special camp changed up to the 'extermination through hard labour' (Vernichtung durch Arbeit).
Oswald Pohl had succeeded in being awarded the responsibility for the special camp in Hinzert. At the same time he received the budgetary control over the Gestapo-Section Trier and the RSHA Department II for the maintenance and infrastructure for barracks construction and supply of goods plus the amount of lease-hold payments to their original owners. That was a very cost effective solution for him by his newly founded SS-WVHA. The SS special camp, therefore, was in the truest sense of the word a special form of a concentration camp.
|Defendant Oswald Pohl, a former SS Obergruppenfuehrer and general in the Waffen-SS, is sentenced to death by hanging at the Military Tribunal II at the Pohl/WVHA trial.
|Portable crates, which the prisoners had to drag while running, were used to transport wood,slates and coal. This is a contrived photo, and originates from an SS guard not known so far
The first admissions to the camp in 1939 was made to discipline workers of the Organisation Todt. The men who had refused to work were designated 'wards' (Zöglinge) and were held for a period of 21 days in a police custody section or for 56 days in the labour camp. After their release, they had no criminal record in a legal sense, but were considered 'difficult-unworthy'(wehrwürdig). With the outbreak of war this position changed somewhat as people were taken into Hinzert and were abused there, to punish them because of their political beliefs or their religious convictions. During the year 1941, the classification of prisoners was adjusted with the term 'ward', as a category abolished and replaced wit he the term of 'Protective Custody' and 'Work Education Prisoners'(Arbeitserziehungshäftlinge) were now only used. The first major consignments of protection prisoners took place in the summer of 1941 from the Grand Duchy Luxembourg. Henceforth Hinzert was the central prison facility for Luxembourg opponents of the German occupation forces and members of the Luxembourger Resistance. Many were deported from here to other places of detention and concentration camps.
During the second world war, political prisoners were deported from countries occupied by the Wehrmacht into the SS special camp/concentration camp Hinzert. Three times prisoners were taken only to Hinzert in order to be liquidated there in groups: (1941- 70 Soviets, 1942- 20 and 1944- 23 Luxembourger victims). Most of the prisoners who were not released, but deported either after a term in a Hinzert sub--camp of the KZ or to other concentration camps.
|Commandant Hermann Pister oversees a column of prisoners.
if she was 'nordic' and if approved even received a Govt. Monetary Grant (Ehestandsdarlehn) quite openly to establish families.
[It should be noted that a number of mixed blood (coloured) people did in fact live normally under the NS-Rgime without persecution, especially those descendants from former colonies, after 1918.]
A special feature had the SS-Sonderkommando since the decree 'Nacht und Nebel' (Night and Fog) of December 7, 1941 for those in France detained political prisoners. The 'NN-deportation' were brought by rail from French prisons of La Sante, Cherche Midi and Fresnes near Paris via Trier to Reinsfeld, from there they reached on foot or by truck into the camp. The first transport of NN prisoners from France came into Hinzert on May 29, 1942. Until October 1943 at least 40 NN transports have been indicated. According to present knowledge there were about 2,000 French Night and Fog deportees in Hinzert. Among the prisoners there were also Dutch, Belgian and Luxenbourg resistance fighters who had been apprehended in northern France. Women who were caught as' Night-and-Fog' prisoners, were taken to Germany from time to time into the women's camp at Flußbach near Wittlich. Thither the mother of the youngest NN prisoner was brought here. The mother later died in a concentration camp at Ravensbrück, her son was killed during an air raid in a concentration camp at Nordhausen in Thuringia.[Reference: Bader, Hitler's "Nacht und Nebel-Erlaß",page 40]
REINSFELD TRAIN-STATIONFrom Trier to Hinzert:
Priest, painter draughtsman and engraver, the Frenchman John Daligault a member of the Resistance in 1940, through the Volunteer Army Caen branch network, arrested on 31 August 1941 he was detained in Fresnes, tried, and then transferred to Germany, into the prison of Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate). He was then interned in the nearby concentration camp Hinzert from 1942 to March 1943. After several months in captivity in prisons and other camps, he was executed in Dachau, April 28, 1945.
|Hinzert commemorative plaque of the Night and Fog victims
CONTINUED UNDER PART 2/3