|CONCENTRATION CAMP HINZERT - PART 3/3
The prisoners of the SS special camp/KZ Hinzert were required to perform physically demanding and dangerous work. Most of the prisoners were assigned, for example, to clearing work in the surrounding forests, which had to be carried out with totally inadequate tools in so-called external commandos (Außenkommandos). Often quarry, earthworks and drainage work was being undertaken.
With the change in command of the camp with the Office Group D of the SS-WVHA in February 1942, taking charge, it was intended to organize the work assignments of the prisoners more effectively and profitably. According to a statement from Oranienburg of the 12th February 1942 only 10 percent of prisoners in the camp, are to be used in so-called internal commandos. This was strictly adhered to by the Camp Administration. The Luxembourger Deportee Metty Barbel wrote in retrospect: 'For prisoners who had to stay in the camp during the day in Hinzert it was usually still inexorable than the heavy external commandos. The SS-thugs Pammer, Ivan and other henchmen would flay and torture them all day to pass the time. Particularly the ill and disabled prisoners who had not yet found acceptance in the Revier, the tormentors did not go out of their way to target them'. The classification of prisoners into the various working commandos was undertaken now by the Division III (labour) of the commandant's office, which cooperated with the detention camp leaders and the 'Rapprtbüro' that ensured the numbers of commandos formed at morning roll call was correct. [Some of the prisoner would try to hide]
Some external work details were far away from the camp. The guards then had to take the train with the prisoners from Reinfeld or Pölert. It was standard procedure that at least six guards for example would accompany the 'Kommando Trier' to the station where they went into a 'reserved' wagon. In Trier the work detail performed mainly contract work on sewer projects or road construction. To be assigned to an Aussenkomandos could increase the chances of survival as the inmates were given additional meals on
|Trier-Saarburg District Map'
THE PUBLIC AND NEIGHBOURHOOD
An anonymous letter to the Reichsführer SS, dated the 18 March 1944 from Hermeskeil shows that the neighbourhood knew much, what type of crimes happened behind the camp fence and in the treatment of prisoners that took place: 'The camp is supposed to be a training camp (Arbeitserziehungslager) , why is it performed with punches? People who work in the vicinity of the camp doing field work, hear the prisoners scream. Are these GPU methods? Even the camp leader is treating the prisoners with kicks and punches. Would a German Officer ever have done that in the past? This only occurs within the SS! In any case, in the summer an SS officer killed in the camp a prisoner by a shot through the neck. Every child here knows about this horrible crime. Whether that's fine and acceptable, I do not know, enemies of the state should and must disappear. But in November, a German woman did run through the village and has cursed the camp by loudly screaming: "in Hinzert those murderers have killed my child". The son had loitered at work, was put into the camp and died suddenly. When his parents found out about it, they wanted to lay a wreath on his grave. But they had been threatened and forced at the point of a gun to leave the cemetery and take the wreath with them. The local population is very upset about these methods. A transfer of their deceased son had been denied to the mother, perhaps because the boy was mistreated and tortured until he died, which an autopsy could have confirmed. Then it is known that the food made available to the inmates is very bad in the camp, because a large portion is deducted from the prisoners allocation and used by the SS to get more '. (Ref .: Engel/Hohengarten, Hinzert, page 435: BArch Berlin, Pers. Staff Reichsführer SS, NS 19.1808)
The total death toll of Hinzert concentration camp can not be determined exactly. According to the research of the 'Conseil National de la Resistance', they established a death toll of 321. In this figure the victims of mass killings are included. The French military administration estimated the number of concentration camp deaths in 1946 to about 1,000 men. Often the bodies buried in shallow graves in the woods were sprinkled with chloride of lime to accelerate decomposition and were never found. According to the accounts of former prisoners one must assume that the actual death toll was higher than this number of actual deaths accounted for and exhumed after the war. 217 victims of the SS-Sonderlager HInzert that could not be transferred to their home countries were, at the instigation of the French military administration in 1946 buried at the "Cimetière d'Honneur" (Honorary Cemetery), which characterizes the memorial today.
|Coffins containing the remains of exhumed prisoners
The documentation and meeting house in front of the cemetery, the so-called ”cemetery of honour” was established in 1946 by the French military administration on the grounds of the former guard accommodation. 217 people are buried here who could not be repatriated to their home countries after the war. It became more and more the beginning of the memorial. Georg Baldy and later his son, Bernhard Baldy, have been taking care of the graves since 1958. Many of the meanwhile deceased survivors of the concentration camp from different countries contacted them whenever they returned to the place of their imprisonment to pay their tributes to their murdered comrades. Until the 1990s, the grounds of the cemetery had a shadowy existence. The character of the furtive place was reinforced by the name ”cemetery of honour“ which was used until 1994 and actually covered up the background of the concentration camp. An open air information tableau in four languages which was installed at the south-east corner of the cemetery in 1997 briefly explains the historical background of the grounds. On the initiative of the Federal State Central Authority for Political Education and the Development Association of the Documentation and Meeting House from the former Concentration Camp at Hinzert, the Rhineland-Palatinate State Government together with support from all four parliamentary parties, decided in favour of a memorial.
EVACUATION AND LIBERATION
Through increased air raid attacks at the beginning of 1945, the transport infrastructure collapsed largely in the Trier area at the end of February all together. The Reichsbahn (railway) line Trier-Hermeskeil was interrupted by the bombing of a bridge at Waldrach. The use of external commandos of camp inmates had to be restricted more and more.
On November 21, 1944, the Hinzert concentration camp was formally subordinated to the Buchenwald concentration camp, but the enforcement was apparently not performed correctly. On the 17th of January 1945 camp commander Sporrenberg signed his last Hinzert documents. Sporrenberg was transferred to Buchenwald and got to oversee a satellite camp in Thuringia. Now only a provisional camp, it was taken over by a chief criminal inspector and Obersturmfuhrer from Trier. As the 3rd US Army had reached Trier, the SS special camp Hinzert (SS-Sonderlager) was officially closed on 2/3 March 1945. The prisoners were accompanied by some men of the SS guards, and hastily taken on an evacuation march with the aim to reach Buchenwald. The exhausted prisoners walked across the Hunsrückhöhenstrasse R-327, R-50 and R-9 to Mainz and then over the bridge across the Rhine into Hesse. Two carts with files and partially seated by SS personnel had to follow at the rear. Three prisoners who could not continue due to their exhaustion, were killed during the march by their captors. Some prisoners succeeded to escape in Hesse from the column, especially since gradually also guards made their own get-away. The US forces overtook the columns which were split into different groups and freed the prisoners at last at Giessen.
Some prisoners, however, had remain in the camp. While American solders approached the camp, the remaining SS-Guards had disappeared , so that the prisoners were left to themselves. Fearing a possible return of the SS men they fled into the surrounding forests. It was only after the arrival of American troops that they came out of hiding places to face their liberators. According to the survivor Philip Golowatschenko those that were still in a good physical condition from Western European countries made their own way to their home countries. He himself was still under medical care and brought later into a refugee camp at Siegen and from there to Frankfurt. He returned to Ukraine in July 1945. [He was still alive in 2004 and did speak to this author.]
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AFTER 1945
In 1946 a US military court sentenced the former camp doctor Dr. Waldemar Wolter for his crimes he had committed during his tour of duty in Mauthausen concentration camp, to death, he was hanged in 1947 at Landsberg am Lech. In 1947, the former Lagerkapo Eugen Wipf, who was a Swiss citizen, was arrested in Switzerland and received a life imprisonment after a trial of the federal circuit court in Zurich. Wipf died a few weeks after the pronouncement of judgement from a blood disorder. Hermann Pister was sentenced in Dachau by an American military tribunal during the Buchenwald Trial in 1947 to death. He died prior to execution in the US War Crime Prison at Landsberg am Lech. In June 1948, the [French] Tribunal General Government Militaire de la Francaise d'occupation zone en Allemagne en Autriche got established in the castle of Rastatt and indicted 15 former members of the SS, and in September 1948 another seven members from the SS-Sonderlager/KZ Hinzert. The Tribunal imposed in the first instance four death sentences against the defendants: Pammer, Reiss, Schattner and Fritz. Life imprisonment with hard labour was the verdict for the defendants Windisch and Heinrich. Five defendants were in terms of the indictment found not guilty, another was set free for lack of evidence, about the rest of them, the court imposed prison sentences for the others. After a subsequent revision process, the death sentences were reduced in part to life imprisonment.
On 14 April, Georg Schaaf, called "Ivan the Terrible", and Joseph Brendel were sentenced by the Mannheim Regional Court to ten years, and two years and six months respectively. Brendel was in 1961 again before the court because the murder of Soviet prisoners of war had not been part during the first trial. The district court Trier considered him innocent on December 20, 1961 on the charges that he assisted in the murder of 70 Sowjet Prisoners of War in October 1941 at Hinzert.
Egon Zill, second in command of the SS-Sonderlager Hinzert/KZ and later commander of Natzweiler-Struthof and Flossenbürg, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Circuit Court of Munich in 1955. In 1961 he was set free. He died in Dachau in 1974.
Celui qui se targue de répondre n'a, comme moi, pas connu cet enfer. Celui qui l'a vécu ne répond pas, parce qu'il ne peut répondre. Il tait son angoisse, il tait ses souffrances, il enfoui en lui toutes les cruautés subies. Et, si un jour il avait eu à choisir de donner son morceau de pain à son meilleur camarade en train de mourir pour qu'il vive un quart d'heure de plus, il ne vous le dira pas. Soyons humbles. Taisons-nous et n'oublions pas !
Let us be humble. Let us be silent and do not forget!
Der Ort des Terrors
Researcher /Author: Uwe Bader/Beate Welter
C.H.Beck oHG, München 2007
Institute for Research on Anti-Semitism-Berlin
Translated from German by: Herbert Stolpmann, March 2015