THE PRISONER SOCIETY
In general, the inmates of the various groups and nationalities were distributed into accommodations that were mixed. [This was done for security reasons,sic]. It was different with the Jews and by the SS particularly hated Jehovah's Witnesses who were in the second half of 1940 from other prisoners billeted together in their own block. [Normally Jehovah's Witnesses were trusted by the SS, for example in Dachau a handful of women prisoners did wear their civilian garments and had a free pass to do minor shoppings and other duties for them in the city]. In June 1942, the penal company, newly formed was isolated and housed from the rest of the inmates. [As a rule prisoners held in a penal company (Strafkompanie) were their own SS members that had been incarcerated refusing to shoot hostages or other given orders.sic]
Since the winter of 1940-41 the incoming transports to Neuengamme concentration camp consisted mostly of foreign prisoners. Soon their number overtook the German nationalities by far. During the war, the Gestapo and the SS Security Service (Sicherheitspolizei), deported tens of thousands from all the occupied countries of Europe as concentration camp prisoners to Hamburg-Neuengamme. They were mostly people who resisted what the German occupation regime had done, in retaliation they had fallen victims by the Wehrmacht and SS who had rebelled against the prescribed forced labour or were persecuted as Jews. Many detainees were subjected to arbitrary reprisals. Among them were, for example, several thousand that were arrested after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Polish women and men, or the 589 men from the Dutch village of Putten, who were deported in October 1944 in retaliation for an attack on a Wehrmacht Army car, and transported to the Neuengamme concentration camp, only 49 of them ever returned . Putten was later called the 'Village of Widows and Orphans'.
Among the foreign prisoners were also many who had previously been deported to Hamburg and the surrounding area as forced labourers and had violated against their instruction from the 'Department for Foreigners' against 'work sabotage', escape attempts or other forms of 'refractoriness' by the Hamburg Gestapo. As the police prison at Fuhlsbüttel in 1943 was overcrowded, the Gestapo termed a large number of prisoners as 'police detainees' and transferred them to Neuengamme. These formed a special group of prisoners in the camp with its own numbering system, also with an arm band reading 'gate lock'(Torsperre), individuals were prominently marked with one side shaved of their head hair. As their trials were scheduled in front of a civil court, this was a precautionary measure which should prevent them to be used in an outside working assignment, thus offer them the possibility of an escape. The 'police detainees' were members of various German resistance groups of Hamburger citizens, such as members of student opposition circles "Hamburg branch of the White Rose". [For further reading see: http://www.katjasdacha.com/whiterose/biographies/hcleipelt.html]
|Schumacher probably during an Election Campaign'
|Prisoner with a bowl. This is a detail of a photograph taken shortly after the Wöbbelin satellite camp was liberated in 1945'.
Although the racial ideology classification towards the different treatment of the various nationalities in the camp was, but for their respective positions in the camp, and for other factors very decisive. First ranked the Czechs and still more so the Poles that since 1941/42 formed the largest national group, which by SS standards were at the lower end of the scale value. While non-Jewish German prisoners usually after a certain time gained access to relatively easy employment, in offices and other functions, and also from the fall of 1941, the Belgians and the Dutch had opportunities for improvements during their internment. Members of the Slavic nations were often for several months exposed to the deadly long term conditions in the mass assignments with excavation and construction work, such as the 'Commando Elbe'. They were also particularly victims of abuse. Still unequal bad was the situation in October 1941 of the secreted 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war at the camp. They were given no chance of survival, their treatment was rather part of a racial extermination policy. In 1942 Russian and Ukrainian slave labourers were brought in large numbers into the camp, and moved to the bottom end of the national ranking. With their intake mainly Soviet prisoners now presented the strongest group in the concentration camp from 1943, used in the heaviest work details, the clay pits and the construction of the docks as well as excavation, in the 'Commando Manufacturing Site'(Kommando Fertigungsstelle) where particularly infamous 'green' and 'black' Kapos on behest of the SS abused and killed countless prisoners.
|Prisoners working in the clay pits'
From the diversity of the individual prisoner groups to form a coercive society in the camp, numerous problems were found. A major difficulty was in the various languages, another was the sometimes competing group interests. The SS tried the national resentment among the prisoners and matches them between the different groups to foment existing contradictions and encourage them to their own deceitful purposes.
|Slave Labour in Brick Production. Brick carts in front of the ramps of the former brick factory.
CONTINUED UNDER PART 3/