|VAIVARA - ESTONIA CONCENTRATION CAMP PART 2/2
The purpose of the camp at Vaivara was to gain the widest possible exploitation of prison labour , and avoid the deaths of larger groups of able-bodied prisoners before the German Retreat . For the period from October 1943 to June 1944 Dr. Bodmann registered 1506 deaths in all camps , with a peak of 296 in November , 294 in December and a third lower figure of 245 in March 1944. This means that more than one-sixth of the camp inmates had diseases , suffered from individual abuse and the targeted elimination of sick people that were killed . Among the deportation from Lithuania there were many old and weak people and children. Even in his report of October 25, 1943 Dr. Bodmann wrote that mainly ' old Jews [ ...] that could not endure the changing conditions [ ...] would die , or those who had never worked physically in their lives . The removal of these prisoners 'relieved a burden on the entire Vaivara Concentration Camp'. This does not mean that all prisoners died of natural causes , Bodmann did visit sub-camps (Außenlager) regularly for the purpose of selections to an entirely different method of killings , which were then carried out by the medical staff . ' Abspritzen ' by injections was routine. [ Dworzecki , himself a prisoner doctor , describes the most common characteristics within the camp system , in: Histoire , page 213f . Into the hospital grounds, only prisoners with high fever, by order of the Camp Leader were admitted , ibid , page 221, sic ] About the attending medical staff , former prisoners did speak with horror and disgust. A special despicable figure represented the medical orderly Erich Scharfetter who ruled in many camps because of its function as Disinfector . He cut his victim 's throat and pierced it with a pickaxe . Rumours of these crimes appear to have spread throughout the Lagersystem , Scharfetter was labelled as a ' Kirkennik ' (expression similar to the pickaxe ) [He was sentenced to life in prison by a German Court, for the murder of at least 21 inmates during his service in the camp. The date of his death is unknown, sic]
Children and those unable to work had been grouped in special parts of the camps , first in Vaivara, and later on in Ereda. The separation of children from their parents, many witnesses described as one of the most terrible events of the camp's existence. Dr. Bodmann saw the presence of children as a burden on the camp system and it's administration. The conditions in the 'lower camp' in Ereda where children and sick had to stay, were especially primitive. In rare cases, children were born in the camp, which were then drowned or suffocated by medical personnel. About the killings of the new-born in the affected camps was the topic conversation between inmates. [Women from Hungary, where the extermination of Jews began in 1944, some arrived that were frequently pregnant, testimony Sara S., 29.5.1974, in:. BArch Ludwigsburg, B 162 / 5134, sic]
Twice, larger groups of prisoners were deported. In February 1944, 907 old and sick prisoners and 184 children according to Bodmanns report were sent to the Riga concentration camp, which was equated with subsequent death by the prisoners. A mother, however, who had insisted to accompany their child, testified that the transport went to Auschwitz. In April 1944, 500 people, including children from Ereda, were deported and taken over by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst). Bodmanns reports, that in both cases Riga and Auschwitz were mentioned as destinations for these transports.
At the turn of 1943/44, a typhus epidemic broke out in many of the sub-camps (Außenlager), the medical staff tried to overcome the problem by boiling drinking water and control the spread of vermin and lice. Measures for delousing of barracks and people were generally part of the daily life in Vaivara. Much of the methods applied appear to be more barbaric than efficient. However, the SS-Administrator commended Aumeier highly for having shown Initiative in combating the typhus epidemic. In all camps, there were cremation facilities, mostly in the spatial distance from the camp in the woods, and sometimes within factories.
Apart from the systematic killing of the sick and weak, certain members of the camp SS committed individual deeds in excess . They showed the same type of behaviour in all the camps in which they were stationed. Kurt Pannicke, born in 1917 and therefore still very young at the material time, distinguished himself by a curious mixture of personal familiarity with the prisoners and godlike omnipotence. He knew many prisoners personally and conversed with them, involved individuals in embezzlement and barter, he led them on the march to work, singing Yiddish songs and spoke at the same time that he could assume full power over 'his' prisoners at will: 'My Jews I'll shoot myself '. A witness reported the following about Pannicke: 'As long as he was humane (menschlich), nothing happened, but if he felt like an SS man, then we wanted to take cover, as it could be the end'. The prisoners gave Pannicke the name 'Tormentor'. Ernst Runde, a medical orderly adopted the cynical and arrogant form of address towards the prisoners with 'Meine Herren' (Gentlemen), which became his nickname. A young girl relates an incident with another camp leader: 'He told me once, to clean his boots, but he was not standing still on one spot, I had to crawl on my knees behind and around him and got kicked repeatedly by him on my head, obviously, I had done my task very badly '.[Statement Sara M.,9.6.1966, in ibid , Vol.22, sic]
Characteristic was the senseless transition of camp discipline into sadism. The usual corporal punishment in the camps could lead to the death of the victim. Various camp leaders led a chicanery as to the so called 'Sports Activity', performing absurd forced exercises on the roll-call court like squats, leap-frogging, 'duck walk' and the 'caps-on-and-off-drill'. Who was unfavourably noticed during these 'exercises' or 'sporting activities', was in danger of being abused or killed by the SS. Such an orgy of violence was the kinky behaviour by an SS-man called Runde. Still in a post-war interrogation he called it proudly as 'Remmi-Demmi' (racket-row) . He was frequently reported in cases of ill-treatment and killing of prisoners, his favourite 'hobby' was searching the pockets of inmates for hidden food. Here again, another perpetrator was often named as Helmut Schnabel. In all the camps were he was posted, he was constantly patrolling and immediately pounced on prisoners, which he caught in violation of any, of the peculiar rules. A statement at the post war trial in Hechingen, it shows that Schnabel's attitude had not changed significantly after the war. Schnabel commented on the news of the death of a Jewish woman from Ereda (which he is supposed to have been intimate with) by saying that it had touched him, however, If he had known that, he would rather shot her himself '. [Testimony Anton M., 01.23.1976, in: BArch Ludwigsburg, B 162/5136. The German witness had nothing but good things to say about Schnabel and seems to have even considered this, Schnabel's comment, as positive sic] Others like Aumeier was tried in Poland in 1948 and executed. In 1951, the Soviets tried a number of Estonian auxiliaries. Brenneis was killed at the end of the war. Dr. Bodmann committed suicide in May 1945. Pannicke disappeared after the war. Schnabel was sentenced in Germany to life imprisonment in 1977. Ernst Runde, received 5 years imprisonment. Others were indicted but not tried, due to their failing health.
EVACUATION, CAMP RESOLUTION OF THE KZ VAIVARA
There were two waves of camp evacuations from east to west, this meant the prisoners were subjected twice to the strains of the evacuation marches. Only rarely was any type of transportation provided, usually the prisoners had to overcome long distances on foot, without enough footwear, clothing or food. Many fell victim to exhaustion, those who could not go on, were killed. Dr. Bodmann listed distances, which were to be covered in bad weather from Vaivara on the 4th and 5th of February, 1944: 'Marching route to Kivioli about 60 km, to Ereda 45 km, 28 km up to Jewe, about 50 km to Glodfields. Marching time approximately 3 days. losses of 44 dead prisoners'. Some evacuation plans for March 1944 have been preserved, the situation is complicated by the fact that different organizations for different groups of prisoners were responsible for the move. The armed forces (Wehrmacht) were responsible for the prisoners of war, the civilian companies for their own employees and the SS for concentration camp inmates. Jews and Soviet prisoners of war were treated the worst. One of the unrealized plans envisaged to have 5,000 Jewish prisoners march from the east of Estonia, via Ereda, Kohtla and Kivioli to Riga, the route to be taken was estimated at three weeks. Even to the planners it was clear that this would encounter great difficulties because of the failing food provision. [Miniralölkommando Estonia reported to he German Army Group, Russia-North, 5/03/1944, in ERA, R 187/1/67: An evacuation of 5,000 prisoners did not take place at this time. There are transfers to Riga, as far as can be seen but not by foot. What is missing from all groups of prisoners the direction they took, so that nothing can be verified. sic]
The final German retreat in the summer of 1944 was complicated by a number of contradictory statements of Hitler forbidding the evacuation, but then approved it. The prisoners were brought to the western parts of the country, and partly loaded onto ships, some were imprisoned again in part due to lack of shipping space, back into the same camps of Lagedi and Klooga. Former detainees reported ill-treatment and brutality of the SS even during the voyage. Other prisoners were taken to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig, many of them subsequently to other camps. A portion found themselves in camps like Natzweiler, where also oil-shale was mined, as in Schörzingen, Schoenberg, Dormettingen, and Dautmergen.
But not all prisoners were deported. Probably on, or about July 20, 1944, Dr. Bodmann undertook a special rigorous selection in all camps. Witnesses said they were a '10%-selection '. The selectees were loaded onto trucks and taken away. At this time the prisoners were very suspicious and no longer believed in the relocation to another camp, so it was agreed in several camps with the deportees, that, if possible, they should give some indication, what had happened. Coming back on the trucks, they then not only found bloodstained clothes, but inscriptions of the victims that they had to look forward to an execution at Ereda. The total SS personnel that took part in these actions and returned back with bloodstained uniforms and and very intoxicated. Members of the OT were able to observe on, or about July 24, 1944 from a shaft tower in Ereda the mass shootings: 'The picture that was offered to us there, was so beastly and unimaginably cruel and terrible that we were both of us disgusted' (ekelten) . [Testimony Francis L., 4/17/1965, in: BArch Ludwigsburg, B 162/5117. Another witness: Franz S., 21/01/1976, and Heinrich G., 22.01.1976, in: ibid, B 162/5136, sic]
The last mass shootings took place at Lagedi and Klooga. On the18th September, the inmates were allegedly 'evacuated' from the camp Lagedi by truck, but killed in truth in a forest clearing. [The Central Office in Cologne in their initiated proceedings established a figure of 426 victims at Lagedi, refer: Central Office in Cologne, 24 Js 18/71 Z sic] The following day, the members of all work detail detachments from Laoküla were taken to Klooga, this area was sealed off with the help of 20 members of the Waffen-SS Division under the command of the Training and Replacement Unit, under the command of Georg Ahlemann. An additional firing squad consisting of members of the squads of the Security Police of Estonia, which came from Reval. It is not clear who led on this day this Detachment because many members of the Concentration Camp Vaivara Administration were already present by midday in Klooga. [There are very different informations about the origin of the firing squad, and the most credible appears to be the testimony of the cook of the Marine Unit in Klooga, who was also responsible for meals to the SS and OT. According to him, they arrived in the late morning, it was a 20-25 man strong command, all German-speaking individuals (which would exclude the Estonian guard company of any participation) all members of the Security Police of Klooga, for whom he had to cook as well, and then took part in the shootings, witness testimony William F ., 07/12/1966. In: Ludwigsburg BArch, B 162/5123, sic] Camp leader of Klooga at this time was William Werle, but who claimed that the higher ranking Administrative Leader Otto Brenneis had commanded the action. The prisoners were led in small groups from the camp and shot on cremation pyres built beforehand and in an adjacent area. The corpses were set on fire later on by a detachment from Laoküla. Gradually, inmates, which were on the roll call square became restless, the sound of gunfire then triggered a panic and some started to flee. Slightly more than a hundred prisoners managed to remain in hiding until the Red Army arrived a few days later, some managed to escape from underneath the corpses as well. [I could not find in any German Court Investigations at Ludwigsburg as to the exact figure of the Klooga massacre, which is claimed to be a rather high figure. According to Soviet historiography, approximately 2,000 were shot, then their bodies were stacked onto wooden pyres and burned. Estonian Police Battalion 287 tried to defend prisoners and had a clash with the German unit. Soviet historiography is the methodology of history studies by historians in the Soviet Union (USSR). In the USSR, the study of history was marked by alternating periods of freedom allowed and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and also by the struggle of historians to conduct history by their own estimates (or in their own words, "to guard against bourgeois historiography"). Soviet historiography in itself should be read with a certain amount of scepticism. Soviet historiography was affected by extreme ideological bias, and potentially compromised by the deliberate distortions and omissions as well as exaggeration. Nevertheless I include the Soviet version of events HKS]
KLOOGA - THE SOVIET INVESTIGATIONState Archives of the Russian Federation. Fund 7021. List 97. File 17a. Pages 95. Original. Typescript. 32 DOCUMENT 8 Report about atrocities of Nazis and their Estonian accomplices against prisoners of the Klooga concentration camp September 29, 1944:
We, the undersigned, attest hereby that after the liberation of the Harjumaa Uyezd (Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic) by the Red Army, near the Klooga railway station that is 38 km to the west of Tallinn, we found a concentration camp organized by fascist invaders and transformed by them in to a death camp. By [our] personal survey of the camp and its vicinities, by evidence of the survived prisoners of the camp and stories of local residents we determined the following:
The concentration camp in Klooga was organized in September, 1943, as a camp for Jews who had been taken out by Germans from the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. The camp in Klooga was included into the system of concentration camps which Germans arranged in Estonia, which was managed from Vaivara (Virumaa Uyezd). Prisoners of the Klooga Camp were exposed to an unbearable routine, irrespective of sex and age. Each prisoner was given a number which was sewed in two places on his clothes: for prevention of flights, women had their hair shaved off, and men had a strip shaved going from the forehead to the nape. Prisoners, including
children (lately there were 84 children in the camp), worked over 12 hours per day, performing heavy labour, for example, railway works, etc. During the year, the prisoners starved. The official daily nutrition rate consisted of 330 grams of bread, 25 grams of inedible margarine, a plate of prison soup (water and 40 grams of groats), a mug of coffee. However, even this ration was not completely maintained, and was partially given to the housekeeping staff of the camp. Owing to such nutrition and monstrous conditions of life in barracks, illnesses with a great mortality percentage raged throughout the camp. The administration of the camp consisted of members of the SS. Works of the prisoners were carried out on demands under the auspices of representatives of the so-called organization "Todt”. Members of the SS and representatives of the “Todt”
that created the unbearable conditions for the prisoners in the camp, carried out a routine of the unbridled arbitrariness, terror, and mockeries. Every day, public flogging of prisoners took place in the camp on a bench specially equipped for it. Depending on the "fault," the following punishments were determined: confinement without food for 2 days, attachment to a column (in the frost, for 2-3 hours), flogging 33 - 25, 50 or 75 strokes, whereas the prisoner being punished was supposed to count the amount of strokes aloud. They were beaten by a special scourge with a steel core. Besides the "legal" punishments, members of the SS and representatives of the “Todt”
carried out systematical beating. Prisoners were beaten on various occasions: for unfriendliness, for revealing a second shirt or a piece of bread. The mockeries were carried out not only by the SS security guards, but also by
the administration of the camp, by authorities of the concentration camp system of Estonia, and representatives of “Tod”. The commandant of management of concentration camps of Estonia Hauptsturmführer BRENNEIZEN would personally beat the captured when he came from Vaivara to Klooga. Before him, his predecessor Hauptsturmführer AUMAIR, organizer of concentration camps in Estonia, would do the same. German doctors participated in beating of the prisoners: Hauptsturmführer BOTMANN, who had arrived to Klooga from Vaivara, personally beat two prisoner doctors: doctor ZILKINDSON – “for unfriendliness” and doctor HEZOV for his having apiece of bread. The same German doctor would regularly poison the diseased, injecting them with poison (Evipan, injected under the skin in (high dozes). Hospital attendant of the camp Untersturmführer GENT has slashed 23 aged prisoners to death with an ax.[in fact he first slit their throats before using a pick ax, sic] Chiefs of the Klooga Camp (till August, 1944 - Obersturmführer BOK, then Obersturmbannführer VERLE) were known as the most malicious executioners who personally beat prisoners on the bench and scoffed them at searches and checks. Representatives of the organization “Todt” did not lag behind in the atrocities from their SS colleagues, also beating, torturing, and killing prisoners. One of the leaders of the organization “Todt” in Estonia Baurat BEIN would beat the confined with an iron rod. Haupttruppführer set dogs on them. Haupttruppführer PSCHESSUNG "specialized" in beating women by a lash. “Todt” members were also engaged in beating of prisoners - Haupttruppführer Ganz KEPPEL and Obertruppführer DUJARDIN. Executioners and sadists – members of the SS and “Todt” were promoted for their villainies, receiving higher ranks and
awards. For example, the SS soldier SCHWARZE, manager of labor works in the management of concentration camps across Estonia, quickly elevated - from Unterscharführer up to Obersturmbannführer - after he slaughtered a teenager, and the “Todt” member DUJARDIN- from private to Haupttruppführer. Regularly destroying prisoners in the camp by tortures and executions, the camp officials also killed many representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia: doctors, musicians, writers, and lawyers. The following perished in the Klooga Camp : Director of the Philharmonic society in Vilno [Vilnius] conductor Woolf DURMASHKIN; director of technical school in Vilno, engineer SCHWEIBER; historian, author of numerous academic works Herman KRUCK; poet Lejb ROZENTAL; director and writer BOSTOMSKI; director of the tubercular hospital in Vilnius Vladimir POCHTER; outstanding doctors ZALKINDSON, POMERANZ, POMM, HOHEM; and many others. After the Red Army liberated some areas of the Estonian SSR, the management of concentration camps ran from Vaivara to Saku, and then in August, 1944, moved
34 to Klooga where Russian prisoners of war, abducted residents of the Leningrad area, Pskov, Orel, and other cities, and also political prisoners - Estonians, who were earlier contained in the Tallinn prison, were pulled together, being prepared for their mass execution. Having a presentiment of inevitability of their rout in the Baltic and aspiring to cover up traces of their villainies, the Nazi Germans committed a monstrous crime in Klooga on September 19.
On the 19th of September at 8 am, closed cargo motor vehicles arrived to the camp from Tallinn. They brought: 800 Russian POW’s, 700 Estonians - political prisoners, 74 Jews from the Lagedi Camp where Germans just did not have time to destroy them, (there, receding in haste, Germans shot 440 people). At the same time, a vehicle with the SD team – Gestapo members – arrived. At once, Oberscharführer SCHWARZE had started preparing for carnage which was done in the following way:
Prisoners were separated into groups in front of the barracks. One group of the 300 people received a task to prepare firewood. The prisoners were announced that they were going to be evacuated to Germany. However, all of them, seeing strengthened police guarding around them, realized the criminal plan of the Germans. At 14.30, the Germans began the annihilation of prisoners. Most of them were brought out on to a glade behind the camp. Here the prisoners were forced to make four big fires from the firewood that was prepared in advance. The Germans ordered [prisoners] to lie down closely on the first row of logs in rows. Then prisoners were
shot from submachine guns. Then on the first row of corpses the prisoners who expected their turn, put a new row of logs and on hilarities command the laid down prisoners were shot by SS and Gestapo soldiers. When three firewood fires of 8-10 rows of the corpses were ready, the Germans poured their gasoline specially brought here (14 barrels) and lit it. Fires were burning for two and a half days. The base of the fourth fire prepared by the Germans remained untouched as they had no time; it forced the Germans to finish executing the remained prisoners in barracks. The larger group (about 800 people) was destroyed by the Germans in an empty house - a
barrack that consisted of 8 rooms. The guards brought prisoners there one by one and in dark rooms (as the shutters were closed) closely stacked the people on the floor, killing them by shots in the nape. After that the Germans opened the windows, poured gasoline over the corpses and lit the house. From this house, prisoners Abram VAINIK and Gena OKENICKAYA escaped through a window; they pretended dead and then ran.
After finishing with two groups, Germans began to shoot the last set of prisoners. With submachine guns in their hands, they ran into a barrack where were Russians and Estonians brought by the Germans, among whom were women with babies. Having turned the prisoners' backs upon them, Germans shot them in turn in the nape. Everyone who tried to escape from the carnage were shot by the Germans, and only 84 people managed to save themselves, hiding under plank beds and in attics.
On the scene of the crime, accomplished by fascists, we found:
• Remnants of three big fires with remains of scorched corpses;
• Ashes of a burnt-down house - a barrack with 8 rooms with a heap of burnt bones and corpses;
• A barrack filled up with corpses of the shot prisoners, which the Germans had no time to burn;
• A great number of corpses laid in the territory of the camp and near the place of the massacre (many corpses have traces of scorches, significance of the Germans' burning people alive). During one day, on September 19, 1944, in the Klooga Camp, by estimates of the escaped prisoners and local residents, 3, 000 people were destroyed, including:
• 800 Russian prisoners of war and abducted Soviet citizens;
• 700 Estonian political prisoners;
• 1500 Jewish prisoners of the concentration camp.
In the area of the Klooga railway station the second camp is located in which the Germans contained 6, 000 people. Abducted Soviet citizens who were also intended to be executed and which survived owing to the prompt approach of the Red Army.
Organizers and executors of the monstrous villainy accomplished by the Germans on 9/19/1944, and also central for the crimes regularly committed in the Klooga Camp, are:
Hauptsturmführer AUMAIR, Hauptsturmführer BRENNEISEN,
Hauptsturmführer BOTMAN, Hauptsturmführer KREBSBACH, Oberscharführer
SCHWARZE, Oberscharführer HELVIT, Oberscharführer BOK, Oberscharführer
VERLE, Oberscharführer GENT, Baurat WEIN, Haupttruppführer SCHTAHE,
Haupttruppführer Hans KEPPEL, Haupttruppführer PSCHESUNG, Obertruppführer
DUJARDIN, Matron Inga WEIZMANN.
Representatives of the Red Army: Lieutenant Colonel P. IVANOV, Major A.DIMSCHIZ,
Captain O. PYARN, Senior Lieutenant A. FETISOV
Citizens of the Estonian SSR: Railwayman Y. HIEPU, Peasant M. JEGE, E. KUNGER
Witnesses, former prisoners of the camp:
Former prisoner # 225, lawyer L. OLEYSKI
Former prisoner # 818, bookkeeper N. ANOLIK
Former prisoner #2, engineer [...]
Former prisoners #0566, nurse G. OLKENITSKAYA
Former prisoner # 0556, dressmaker L. DERCHIN
State Archives of the Russian Federation. Fund 7021. List 97. File 17a. Pages 3-11. Copy. Typescript. 36 DOCUMENT 9
After the reincorporation of Estonia into the Soviet Union, the Vaivara complex at Klooga and Ereda became part of the memorization of World War II by the Soviet authorities, which was characterized by a mixture of memories of the victims of the German occupation and became legitimized by Soviet rule. In the newly independent Estonia these sentiments were not supported, which resulted sometimes in very violently discharged historical controversy between Estonia and Russia. In recent times, the 'United States Commission for the Protection of American Heritage Abroad' has undertaken the setting of memorial stones which are exclusively for Jewish victims. Originally only excessive Soviet casualties should have continued, this was not done. Unfortunately, however, the text is historically incorrect to those previously presented in Klooga, Kiviöli, Vaivara, Ereda and Kuremäe memorial stones. The majority of the victims were not Jews.
Der Ort des Terrors Vol 8
C.H.Beck oHG, München 2006
Researcher/Author: Ruth Bettina Birn
Institute for Research on Anti-Semitism-Berlin
Translated from German:
Herbert Stolpmann, Nov. 2013
a)Cultural Department of the
Federal Republic of Germany
b)The Foreign Office of Germany
c)Alfred Krupp Foundation