EXISTENCE CONDITIONS OF PRISONERS PART 5/10
The prisoners suffered under the extreme primitive accommodation, constant hunger, slave labour, the camp penalties and lack of medical care. The omnipresent in the daily running for each inmate of fear and terror humiliated the individual deeply, morally weakened him, robbing him of his individuality. This also led, in addition to a will to live and survive, direct to a gradual physical extinction. The years 1939 to 1941, when Stutthof was still under construction, this was for the detainees the most difficult period of the history of the camp. The first prisoners who arrived in September 1939, had to spend the nights in crowded tents. When barracks were built on piles in the marshy terrain they were not inhabitable until October, they were windowless and offered little protection from the cold. In winter, the interior walls were covered with hoar frost, which melted from the evaporation of the occupants and the floor covered straw on which they slept become wet and soggy. Added to this was the lice infestation. These conditions led to numerous diseases such as diarrhoea and typhoid fever, for which there was only one remedy, a piece of charcoal from the oven. Since sanitary facilities were still missing diseases spread fast. Wash-rooms emerged as late as June 1940. The latrine consisted of a large pit between the barracks, with two boards installed across to squat in ranks. Those who wanted to use the latrine at night, had by acclamation at the barrack door, get the attention of the guard at the nearest guard tower, for permission to leave the property. This could, however, end tragically, as the guard could pretend, he had not heard the call, and have him shot, under the pretext of 'thwarting an escape' of the prisoner.
The hunger in the camp was omnipresent. Lunch consisted mainly of steamed fodder beet leaves. For eight people there was 1 kg of bread and a small cube of margarine. Since the bread was meant to be distributed as fairly as possible inmates had constructed a primitive, self-made scale, and under the watchful gaze of hungry eight pairs of eyes, it was evenly divided.
The prisoners were exposed at every turn to all kinds of harassment by the SS guards. Jews suffered under special tortures: they were immersed (untergetaucht) for no reason at all into ditches filled with water, suspended or even forced to commit suicide by hanging themselves, which happened often, the SS men tended to reduce a prisoner functionary or foreman of the group, which meant a death sentence for many Jews and Poles. These sadistic atrocities of executions were then usually carried out, either in the forest, on a tree-filled space or in the carpenters shop. This is suggested by the conflicting entries as to the cause of death in the camp records: According to official information about an inmate who died of heart failure, while in the cemetery book of Zaspa, which was kept by the local gravedigger, the cause of death was noted as 'shooting' (Erschießungen) . [Drywa, Stracemi, page 153, sic]
|Old Camp: Construction of the first barracks, Fall 1939
From 1939 to April 1940, there was only one sick room in the camp. For more severe diseases, the prisoners were taken to the camp hospital at Neufahrwasser. The ambulance had only bandages made of paper and iodine available. Then the entire hospital from Neufahrwasser including the staff of Neufahrwasser was relocated and the Hospital was expanded at Stutthof in April 1940. After establishing a suitable barrack, the camp hospital had 120 beds. As a diarrhoea epidemic broke out, an own quarantine area was created. There were also accommodation for SS and hospital staff, a reception room, a clinic, a treatment room, a small pharmacy as well as sanitary and utility rooms. Physicians up to the October 31, 1941 was SS Technical Sergeant Werner von Schenk, Medical SS Master Sergeant Otto Haupt. Among the inmate doctors who distinguished himself was Dr. Stefan Mirau, head of the interior department, and Dr. Aleksander Witkowski, head of the surgical department. By his unusual commitment to combat the typhus epidemic in the spring of 1942, Dr Mirau paid with his life. [Miron Klusdak, Incidence of disease of prisoners and medical care in Stutthof. Zeszyty Muzeum I (1976) page 64, sic]
With the expansion of the camp, it gradually improved the living conditions of the prisoners, especially the completion of the Block in the new camp, with an additional area of 60 x 12.5 meters bigger and warmer than the ones built 1939-1941, which brought a great relief. The new barracks were divided into "A" and "B" sections. In between were the wash-rooms and lavatory facilities. The areas were divided into day and sleeping rooms. Wooden beds stood one above the other as triple beds. Each dormitory was equipped with straw mattress, straw or sawdust-filled pillows and two thin woollen blankets for each inmate. The day room areas had tables and benches and prisoner could take their meals there. In a Block about 500 prisoners were housed. In the new camp, with the construction of a deep water well the prisoners were given better quality water, as the existing groundwater contaminated by bacteria that caused diarrhoea diseases.
Mid-1944, the situation for the prisoners deteriorated again, as numerous transports arrived with Jewish prisoners in the concentration camp, the camp administration had to make room. Of the approximately 49,000 Jews who arrived in Stutthof on the 29th of June to the end of 1944, 11,106 were deported to the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Natzweiler, Flossenbürg, Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. The remaining Jewish women in Stutthof were initially housed in the quarantine block No. XVII to XX of the new camp, also in six barracks in the area of the Jewish camp and in the brick-built kitchen building. Jewish men were admitted into Blocks III (together with the Latvian Honorary Prisoners) XIII, (initially together with Danish prisoners) and in number XIV and XV. The Blocks were hopelessly overcrowded. Where before 200 to 600 prisoners were housed, now thronged 1,200 to 1,800 or 2,000 people for space. One or two sleeping bunks were pushed together taking up as many as four to six prisoners per pallet, others slept on the bare floor between the beds or even in the toilets. The worst conditions prevailed among the Jewish women who had to live in unfinished barracks in the Jewish camp. Right and left a little straw was piled up on the floor where the women slept. In some barracks there were straw mattresses. One inmate recalls: 'For four people a straw mattress was given with one blanket, that's when the fights started. The night was incredibly restless because of the constant struggle for a bit of room, so that everyone longed for the dawn, as the nights were very stressful to compete and fight for a little space. Everything was full of bugs (Ungeziefer). We rarely were allowed to wash ourselves. [Statement of Eugenia Kacownja, in: AK-IPN, SO Gd sign, 8Ia, p.2 sic] The most extreme conditions prevailed in the blocks XXIX and XXX, officially called the Jewish Hospital, but the prisoners called it the 'Stink Hall' or 'Death Block'. There were patients with Typhus and completely exhausted women who had been sent back from the satellite camps, and isolated. They were without medical assistance, without food, water or bread lying in the wet straw, which was imbued with pus and excrement. The rations for Jewish women were significantly lower than for other prisoners. In January 1944, the head of the catering division of the camp presented a table according to that, each prisoner would receive daily: 360g bread, 500g potatoes, 560g vegetables, 30g meat, 26g margarine 14g jam, turnips, coffee, sugar, sweets and curd(Quark), so the Table of Allowances states states. In reality, not a single prisoner ever received such rations, least of all the Jewish women. They received 250 to 300g of bread, about two grams of margarine and a half litre of watery soup. This starvation rations was further undermined by the block elders, who distributed them. On Saturday and Sunday there was a small allowance of jam and a jug of sweetened coffee. (g stands for 'gramm' which is a German weight measurement)
Packets received from the outside to supplement the camp rations of non-Jewish prisoners made an improvement, but until the end of 1942 these 'deliveries' with basic food and clothing arrived via an illegal route or with the consent of the Camp Commander for prisoners into the camp. Only since Himmler's circular of October 29, 1942, which expressly permitted the parcel reception into concentration camps, prisoners were allowed a package with a maximum weight of two kilograms per month. The fastest way to reach the packages for prisoners was from Pomerania as this was geographically the closes location. In a better situation were the Scandinavian and other detainees, and receipts of packages from the International Red Cross and the Danish, French and Portuguese Red Cross including the generosity of the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Association) when parcels were arriving. Jews and Russians were excluded from the packet receptions. Their only way to get additional food, was the bartering on the camp's black market. Barter items for a piece of bread were mostly things that had been illicitly manufactured from material at the workplace, such as logos, cigarette cases, spoons and combs, but also birth-name and festive cards as well as portraits of prisoners, as the two Russians Izaak Livshits and Piotr Woroschilin, graduates of an academy of arts, created.
|Operating Room at KZ Stutthof'
For cases of corporal punishment or the death penalty the year 1942 brought a formal change in the penal system of the concentration camp. For 'minor' offences, the camp administration imposed penalties based on their own authority, in cases 'of serious' offences they had to seek the approval of the IKL, the RSHA or the Reichsführer SS Himmler in Berlin. The hardest punishment in the camp was the death penalty by hanging, imposed mainly resulting from failed escape attempts or suspected sabotage at the workplace. 1943, in addition to the prohibition of corporal punishment, which was never addressed or adhered to in practice, even the death penalty for fugitives was forbidden. 1944, if a prisoner who was caught or suspected of trying to escape, or to plan his escape, received 25 blows (Hiebe), had to wear a pinned patch on his back 'Escape Point' (Fluchtpunkt) and was assigned to work in the 'Shit Commando' (Scheisskommando). Even in the camp's practiced penal system and the harassment served in particular to deprive prisoners of their human dignity and to limit the satisfaction of basic primitive needs. But even under these conditions the prisoners resisted and took up the unequal struggle against terror. The main objectives of the resistance groups were to fight both for survival and the dignity of man and inflict damage directed at the NS-regime, which was done through various individually or collective self-defence and self-help methods. This included the various forms of cultural life, like secret teaching, forbidden artistic activities, religious life or political activity. In the camp workshops, there were acts of sabotage. Armed groups emerged, and also attempts to escape were a form of protest. Since the camp was located in an area with a predominantly German population, the prisoners could hope for no help from the outside. In addition, the SS prevented the formation of national groups in order to avoid the emergence of any organized forms of resistance. Any attempts to establish an armed underground organization, were doomed to failure. For example, 48 'special prisoners' of Stutthof were on the 1st of June 1944 sent to Mauthausen, of which 22 were Russian officers and 26 Poles, top officials of the Polish resistance movement, which the Camp Administration considered to be dangerous.
|Stutthof at the peak of its expansion - the year of 1944'.
CONTINUED UNDER PART 6/10