The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe

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This monumental 7-volume encyclopedia, the result of years of work by the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will describe the universe of camps and ghettos-some 20,000 in all-that the Nazis and their allies operated, from Norway to North Africa and from France to Russia. For the first time, a single reference work will provide detailed information on each individual site.

This first volume covers three groups of camps: the early camps that the Nazis established in the first year of Hitler's rule, the major SS concentration camps with their constellations of subcamps, and the special camps for Polish and German children and adolescents. Overview essays provide context for each category, while each camp entry provides basic information about the site's purpose; the prisoners, guards, working and living conditions; and key events in the camp's history. Material from personal testimonies helps convey the character of the site, while source citations provide a path to additional information.

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Section I: The Early National Socialist Concentration Camps

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Two SA guards stand at the Oranienburg gate, 1933.
USHMM WS #96166, COURTESY OF BPK

Nazi Germany’s concentration camp system originated in 1933–1934 as an improvised response to cope with tens of thousands of opponents to the Nazi regime. The approximately 100 early camps (frühen Lager) appeared during the regime’s consolidation of power. Most closed, however, with the emergence of an SS police system under Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler; the remainder were consolidated under the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL). Administrations outside the Nazi paramilitaries played important roles in their foundation. The new regime quickly recognized the camps’ potential for persecuting not only opponents but also so-called outcasts from the “national community” (Volksgemeinschaft); embryonically, many exhibited the radical antisemitism that became the essential feature of Nazi rule. For many detainees, called Schutzhäftlinge or Polizeihäftlinge because they had been taken into “protective custody” (Schutzhaft), detention in 1933 inaugurated an ordeal in camps and prisons lasting until 1945.

 

Section II: Camps and Subcamps Under the SS-Inspectorate of Concentration Camps/Business Administration Main Office

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The “stairs of death” at Mauthausen’s Wiener Graben granite quarry, 1942.
USHMM WS # 15622, COURTESY OF AG-M

During the first year of the National Socialist regime, the National Socialists established a large number of prisons that soon held tens of thousands of prisoners.1 The prisons were established to terrorize the regime’s opponents. The orgy of violence that took place was aimed, first, against the political opponents of the National Socialists. It marked a fundamental break with the Weimar Republic, even though Weimar was marked by a comparatively high level of violence. German and international opinion noted that the violence had escalated to a new level.

In hindsight and in light of the later years of the National Socialist regime, this assessment becomes relative. The terror in 1933–1934 was the consequence of the establishment of an authoritarian dictatorship. It was not necessarily the first step of a plan to establish a comprehensive system of terror and extermination. The camps created in 1933–1934 show little uniformity and were fundamentally different from those that were established after 1936. The differences relate to the institutional support for the camps, the organizational structures, the persecution methods, the groups targeted for persecution, the prison conditions, and the number of victims. If one wants to grasp this analytically, for this phase the term concentration camp has to be discarded. The more appropriate term, which is already used by some researchers, is the term early camp.

 

Krakau-Plaszow Main Camp

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An entrance gate to Krakau-Plaszow concentration camp.
USHMM WS #03393, COURTESY OF LPPC/MSW

The Krakau-Plaszow (Polish: Kraków-Płaszów) camp became the major detention place for Jewish forced laborers in the Kraków district of the General Government and only in early 1944 was transformed into a concentration camp, which then existed for 12 months. Planning for the camp started in June–July 1942, as a consequence of the mass deportation from the Krakau ghetto to the Bełżec extermination camp, which lasted until June 4.

The staff of the SS and Police Leader (SSPF) in the Kraków district, Julian Scherner, started to erect a camp in the Płaszów suburb of Kraków in October 1942.1 The Płaszów train station had already served as a transit point for the deportations to Bełżec, and there was a small camp there for Jewish railway workers, the “Julag I” (Judenlager or Jews’ camp). The new camp, which several hundred ghetto inmates built, was situated nearby, partly on the site of two Jewish cemeteries. Until the spring of 1943, the camp area was approximately 10 hectares (25 acres); it was expanded to 81 hectares (200 acres) by September 1943.

 

Lublin Main Camp [aka Majdanek]

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Post-liberation view of Lublin-Majdanek concentration camp’s Field III section.
USHMM WS #50519, COURTESY OF IPN

Majdanek was the “other Auschwitz,” the only other SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA) concentration camp that engaged in the mass murder of Jews by means of poison gas. The 1941 decision to construct a major concentration camp outside the Reich in the Polish city of Lublin was an integral part of Heinrich Himmler’s plans to make Lublin the center of an SS military-industrial complex, where SS-owned industries using SS-controlled slave laborers would produce supplies for SS forces in the East. On July 20–21, 1941, Himmler charged SS and Police Leader (SSPF) Lublin Odilo Globocnik to build a concentration camp for 25,000 to 50,000 prisoners.

To evade the Lublin civilian authorities’ opposition to a concentration camp, the SS announced it would build a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp there. Officially designated Waffen-SS Prisoner of War Camp (Kriegsgefangenenlager der Waffen-SS) Lublin, the camp derived its Polish (and more widely known) name from its location in the Majdan Tatarski suburb. Eventually the camp consisted of five compounds or “fields,” with a capacity for 25,000 prisoners, with one more compound still under construction when the camp was liberated.

 

Mauthausen Main Camp

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Mauthausen entrance gate.
USHMM WS #74451, COURTESY OF COL. P. ROBERT SEIBEL

In May 1938, Theodor Eicke, Oswald Pohl, and a technical staff chose a site on a high plateau near the small town of Mauthausen, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from Linz, Austria, for a new concentration camp. The Mauthausen location was chosen because of the proximity to stone quarries and the need for a facility to hold political detainees in occupied Austria. A detail of several hundred prisoners from Dachau began construction there, and by the end of September, they had completed barracks for prisoners and the SS-guards. On February 17, 1939, SS-Obersturmbannführer Franz Ziereis took over as commandant, a position he held until the end of the war.1

Granite walls, built by the prisoners and topped with barbed wire charged with a high-power electric charge, enclosed the “protective custody” camp, a rectangular area 85 × 210 meters (279 × 689 feet). The street leading into the camp passed through two massive stone towers at the southeastern corner and led to the roll-call square. To the right of the entrance were the wash barracks, kitchen, confinement bunker, crematorium, and infirmary. To the left prisoners had constructed 24 barracks, each 45 to 50 meters (148 to 164 feet) long. Block One housed the camp clerk and, beginning in 1943, a brothel. Prominent prisoners were assigned to Block Two. Most of the construction at Mauthausen had been completed by late 1941, but a year later work began on a cluster of barracks for prisoners of war (POWs) outside of the stone walls. At night and on Sundays, prisoners remained in the protective custody camp, and guards staffed the towers along the stone wall. On the other days, shortly after the morning roll call and as the prisoner work details left the protective custody camp, the sentry chain of guards moved outward and was set up around the entire complex. Most of the prisoners worked in the quarry, northwest of the protective custody camp, and by May 1942, their number reached 3,844. Each day they marched down the 186 steps under SS guard into the quarry. Prisoners carried large blocks of stone up the steps: excruciating work in conditions of unimaginable difficulty, because of the inadequate food and clothing and the brutality of the guards and Kapos.

 

Mauthausen Subcamp System

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A few days after the Anschluss of Austria with the German Reich, Gauleiter August Eigruber announced that a concentration camp would be established in the Gau Oberdonau.

The choice of the site was dictated largely by the existing granite quarries in Mauthausen and Gusen and their close proximity to the “Führerstadt” Linz. The Granitwerke Mauthausen, (Mauthausen Granite Works) owned by the German Earth and Stone Works (DESt) was established in St. Georgen an der Gusen. Its purpose was to exploit the quarries.1 Even before the Mauthausen concentration camp was opened on August 8, 1938, the DESt had leased the quarries at Mauthausen and Gusen. It would later assume complete ownership.2

The first commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp was SS-Sturmbannführer Albert Sauer. He was commandant until February 1939. He was followed by Franz Ziereis, who held the position until the camp was liberated on May 5, 1945. He reached the rank of SS-Standartenführer. From March 1940, Georg Bachmayer was the first Schutzhaftlagerführer. He reached the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer. Until the end of 1941, the guards were mostly German SS members, but later their number was increased by ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche). Members of Wehrmacht units were based in several subcamps to guard the prisoners, as were members of the Schutzpolizei (municipal police) and Ukrainian volunteers.

 

Mittelbau Main Camp [aka Dora]

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Camouflaged entrance to the underground rocket factory at Mittelbau concentration camp, April 12, 1945.
USHMM WS #66285, COURTESY OF NARA

The Mittelbau (Central Construction) concentration camp was the last main camp created by the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA) and the only one not named after a specific place. It officially came into being on October 28, 1944, but its origins stretched back to the founding of a subcamp of Buchenwald, code-named “Dora,” on August 28, 1943. On that date, the SS trucked 107 Buchenwald prisoners to tunnels in the southern Harz Mountains, near the small central German city of Nordhausen. These unlucky individuals were to pave the way for the thousands of their comrades tasked with converting a central petroleum reserve for the Reich into a secret factory for the A4 (Aggregat 4) ballistic missile, later christened the Vengeance Weapon (Vergeltungswaffe) 2, or V-2. While Dora was far from the first location where prisoners were sent out of a main camp to be used in the armaments industry, rather than exploited in SS camp industries, it also proved to be highly influential—a model for the many new and often grotesquely unrealistic underground projects that the Nazi leadership ordered into existence in response to the Anglo-American strategic bombing offensive. The Nordhausen region got a number of such projects, and Mittelbau emerged as the camp system that embodied in its purest form the final phase of the SS concentration camps: that of large-scale exploitation of prisoners for work in the war economy.

 

Mittelbau Subcamp System

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The Mittelbau concentration camp is regarded as the last National Socialist main concentration camp. It was established in the autumn of 1944 from a dense system of Buchenwald subcamps in the area around Nordhausen, the center of which was the Dora camp. This camp was established in the late summer of 1943 for the purpose of expanding the subterranean Mittelwerk. Rocket production began in January 1944. The Mittelbau concentration camp was known to the public as a rocket concentration camp (Raketen KZ). The establishment of the majority of the other camps in the Mittelbau complex was only indirectly connected with the assembly of rockets. Using the subterranean rocket factory as a model, countless new underground facilities were to be established for Junkers, which was to relocate its various factories underground, and for the development of subterranean facilities for the oil industry. The SS, whose construction arm was under the command of SS-General Dr.-Ing. Hans Kammler, gathered tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners, for which subcamps would be established close to the planned subterranean facilities. The name of this gigantic construction project was formulated in March 1944 at the headquarters of the Junkers company: Unternehmen Mittelbau. In October 1944, it became the name for a concentration camp complex independent of Buchenwald. Dora, on the other hand, was the name of a Buchenwald subcamp that later became the main camp of the Mittelbau concentration camp (the name “Mittelbau-Dora” encompasses both phases of the camp’s development: the Dora subcamp and the independent Mittelbau concentration camp).

 

Natzweiler-Struthof Main Camp [aka Natzweiler, Struthof]

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French resisters guard the entrance to the newly liberated Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, December 2, 1944.
USHMM WS #77581, COURTESY OF NARA

The Natzweiler concentration camp (Le Struthof-Natzwiller) is the only one to have been built by the Nazis on French territory. It was set up in Alsace, whose two departments had been annexed to the Reich in July 1940. The occupiers considered Alsace and Moselle to be German lands destined for radical Germanization. Alsace was joined with the Nazi Party province (Gau) of Baden, whose Nazi Party provincial chief (Gauleiter) was Robert Wagner, and Moselle was joined with that of the Palatinate, under the leadership of Gauleiter Josef Bürckel. A civilian administration was installed in Strasbourg, and an internment camp was created as early as July 2, 1940, just two weeks after the entry of German troops into Strasbourg. Doctor Scheel, the first commandant of the SS and of the SD in Alsace, organized the construction of a small camp able to handle the internment of 150 people. The construction order gave a list of people to be held in the camp: (1) Germans who had fought in the international brigades; (2) Alsatian insubordinates; and (3) opponents of the German army.

 

Natzweiler Subcamp System

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The Natzweiler concentration camp’s subcamps stretched across all of southwestern Germany and occupied Alsace (France) but were primarily located in the areas of northern Baden and Württemberg. Several camps were located in the southern areas of Hessen.

The first Natzweiler subcamps were established at the beginning of 1942. The majority were to follow much later, mostly in 1944, with a few at the beginning of 1945 after the Natzweiler main camp had been abandoned in September 1944 due to the approaching front. The command was not dissolved after the camp was abandoned but relocated to Guttenbach in northern Baden. The subcamp administration was based here as well as the administration responsible for the labor demands of regional firms and the preparation of statistics, which served as the basis for the SS-Business Administration Main Office’s (WHVA) accounting of labor use. The administration and storage offices of the former main camp were relocated to Schloss Binau, the vehicle pool and its maintenance to Neunkirchen, and the mail service to Rothau. The establishments in these locations should not be seen as actual subcamps but rather as installations where the leadership and administration of the Natzweiler main camp and its satellite system of subcamps were located.

 

Gruppe Wüste Complex

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The code name “Wüste” was used for the extraction of oil from Württemberg shale oil, which was part of the Geilenberg project from July 1944 onward. However, the use of shale oil has a longer history. As part of the rearmament and autarky program from 1936 onward, engineer Freiherr Hans Joachim von Kruedener (employed by the Benzin-Benzol-Verband and Reichsstelle für Mineralöl Berlin) promoted the economic exploitation of shale oil. The “Amt für den Vierjahresplan” rejected this idea, as it thought that fuel production would be met by the construction of hydrogenation plants.

During the war, shale oil was the cause of many disputes between different agencies, initially between Carl Krauch (chairman of IG Farben, Generalbevollmächtigter für Chemie [GeBeChem], and head of the Reichsamt für Wirtschaftsausbau), who was in charge of fuel production, and SS-Brigadeführer Walther Schieber (head of the Rüstungslieferungsamt in the Rüstungsministerium). Schieber, who was always getting involved in the affairs of GeBeChem, pushed Krauch in 1942 to use shale oil more intensively.1 This resulted in the formation of the first of three shale oil companies in Württemberg, which experimented with different ways to extract shale oil and which conducted practical tests based on those experiments: the Lias-Ölschieferforschungsgesellschaft Frommern in September 1942.2

 

Neuengamme Main Camp

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The main entrance to the SS camp at Neuengamme, 1941–1942.
USHMM WS #55243, COURTESY OF AG-NG

The Neuengamme concentration camp was established in 1938 as a Sachsenhausen subcamp. In the spring of 1940, it became an independent concentration camp, the central concentration camp for northwest Germany. By 1945, around 104,000 people were held in the main camp and its more than 75 subcamps, including 13,500 women. The Gestapo also brought around 2,000 additional prisoners to Neuengamme to be executed.

The Neuengamme site was chosen, as with Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenbürg, and other concentration camps, because it was connected to the economic interests of the SS: the prisoners were to work in a brickworks where clinker would be produced for the transformation of the Hansestadt Hamburg. On August 31, 1938, the SS acquired for the Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH (German Earth and Stone Works, DESt) an unused brickworks with 50 hectares (123.6 acres) of land in the Hamburg suburb of Neuengamme on the Dove Elbe, a dead-end branch of the Elbe River, no longer used by ships. The first 100 prisoners from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp arrived there on December 12, 1938, via Berlin, to work in the factory and to expand it. A decision to establish a larger concentration camp had not been made at this time. Critical for the decision to establish a concentration camp was a visit by Heinrich Himmler to Hamburg in January 1940. The Reichsführer-SS was looking for new places to accommodate concentration camp prisoners as a result of the large number of people arrested after the outbreak of war. He appointed SS-Sturmbannführer Walter Eisfeld as commandant, who in February began to expand the camp.

 

Neuengamme Subcamp System

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With more than 75 subcamps, the Neuengamme concentration camp was one of the medium-sized camp complexes that deployed prisoners for the benefit of the German war economy, and it also played an important role in the first attempts to do so: at the beginning of the spring of 1942, Staatsrat Walther Schieber (Reich Ministry for Armaments and Munitions, later War Production) suggested, as one of the first projects, that a Neuengamme subcamp be established at the Francke factory in Bremen.1 This suggestion was not implemented, and the subcamp was established at the Phrix factory in Wittenberge. This was the first Neuengamme subcamp. When it was constructed in August 1942, it was also the first subcamp in Germany located within a privately owned company. The Salzgitter-Drütte camp at the Reichswerke “Hermann Göring” (RWHG) was also one of the early detachments within Germany.

Eventually the expansion of the Neuengamme subcamps almost came to a halt: in 1943 there were “only” two new camps. At the insistence of the navy, one camp was established in Hannover-Stöcken so as to guarantee the production of U-boat batteries at the Akkumulatoren-Fabrik (battery factory), and the other was in Bremen-Farge for the construction of the U-boat Bunker “Valentin,” the most important of the naval projects at the time. It was only at the beginning of 1944, when it became obvious that with the retreat of the Wehrmacht the Generalbevollmächtigter für den Arbeitseinsatz (General Plenipotentiary for Labor Allocation, GBA) Fritz Sauckel would no longer be able to supply new foreign forced laborers, that concentration camp prisoners were seen as the last available labor force, thereby becoming a much desired resource. As a result, a net of subcamps spread across northern Germany like a plague: if at the beginning of the year there were only 4 subcamps, by the end of the year there were around 70. The majority of the camps were established in the second half of 1944: in the first quarter, there were 4 new camps; in the second, 11; and in each of the third and the fourth quarters, 24. In the last year of the war, another 9 new camps were established. Three-quarters of the Neuengamme subcamps only came into existence in the 12 months prior to the capitulation of the German Reich.

 

Ravensbrück Main Camp

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Panoramic view of the Ravensbrück concentration camp for an SS presentation album, 1940–1941.
USHMM WS #15010, COURTESY OF LYDIA CHAGOLL

During its almost six years of existence, from May 1939 until late in April 1945, approximately 123,000 women of over 40 nationalities were prisoners at Ravensbrück, “the women’s hell.” Next to the women’s section at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Ravensbrück was the largest women’s camp, and between 25,000 and 26,000 female prisoners died there.1 Over the course of its existence the camp became a complex of facilities that included a small men’s camp, nearby industrial facilities (some with their own separate barracks), part of a nearby “youth protection camp,” and more than 30 subcamps.

Ravensbrück’s first commandant was SS-Standartenführer Günther Tamaschke, who was in charge until August 31, 1939. He had held a similar position in the women’s Lichtenburg early camp, which had been in operation since December 1937 and from which Ravensbrück received its initial group of prisoners. His second in command, SS-Hauptsturmführer Max Koegel, officially replaced him on January 1, 1940, having been unofficially in charge for some time. After he was transferred to the Lublin-Majdanek concentration camp on August 20, 1942, the former “protective custody” camp leader (Schutzhaftlagerführer) at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritz Suhren, was appointed commandant and remained in that position until operations ceased.2

 

Ravensbrück Subcamp System

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There are only a few consolidated studies on the history of the Ravensbrück concentration camp system. As historian Bernhard Strebel shows, there are considerable differences in research, for instance, in the number and extent of the complex of subcamps. This is due largely to the comprehensive reconstruction of the Ravensbrück subcamp system that occurred in the summer of 1944.

The Ravensbrück subcamp system exhibits several peculiarities that distinguish it from the subcamp systems of other Nazi concentration camps. The first is that the Ravensbrück subcamp system, which began with the first subcamp at the end of 1942–beginning of 1943, was not, as was usually the case, restricted to a particular area but encompassed just about all the subcamps with female prisoners—with locations in the Prussian provinces of Brandenburg, Pommern, and Sachsen; in the states of Mecklenburg, Bayern, Thüringen, and Sachsen (that is, within the area of the later German Democratic Republic); and also in the Reichsgau Sudetenland and in all areas of the so-called Ostmark (Austria). It was only with a reorganization in the summer of 1944 that this principle was abandoned in favor of a system based more on location, during which many Ravensbrück subcamps were handed over to main camps that were geographically closer. The result was that the Ravensbrück complex, unlike those associated with other concentration camps, had already reached its maximum extent in the summer of 1944, with approximately 40 subcamps. Of these, one-quarter (about 10) were large subcamps, with more than 1,000 prisoners, and one-half (around 20 camps) were medium-sized, with between 250 and 1,000 prisoners. At the end of 1944, however, when there were around 334 subcamps for women existing within the concentration camp system in total, only 20 were under the control of Ravensbrück—considerably fewer, for example, than the number of women’s subcamps under the control of Neuengamme or Gross-Rosen. Despite this, and this is the second peculiarity, Ravensbrück remained administratively responsible for several of these camps not under its jurisdiction, in that it trained and/or paid the camp personnel. Third, many Ravensbrück subcamps were directly connected with leading personalities, institutions, or interests of the SS, be it that they were established on estates operated by leading SS men or that they supported the operation of SS overflow institutions.

 

Riga-Kaiserwald Main Camp [aka Mežaparks]

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Post-liberation photograph of an execution site in the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp.
USHMM WS #96909, COURTESY OF STA. LG HAMBURG

On March 15, 1943, the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL) established the Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp, with SS-Sturmbannführer Albert Sauer as commandant.1 Situated at the Mežaparks Forest resort near Riga, Latvia, the camp was divided into male and female sections separated by barbed-wire fencing. Some 47 German and Polish criminal, political, and “asocial” inmates from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp set up the “prisoner self-administration.” This contingent grew to 500 prisoners, but most were returned to the Reich by December 1943. A Ravensbrück detachment, including “asocials,” opened the women’s section. Under the supervision of the Wolf & Döring construction firm, Jews from the Riga ghetto built the camp, which had three accommodation barracks per section and an infirmary.2 Located in the camp’s rear was the Anode Kommando, a battery recycling detachment, which was accessed by a narrow path between the men’s and women’s sections. Holding approximately 2,000 to 3,000 prisoners at a time, Kaiserwald was a clearing house for an estimated 15,000 Jewish prisoners deployed in 12 to 14 subcamps, called quartering sites (Kasernierungen).3 Although Kaiserwald registered the prisoners, some were moved from one site to another without entering the main camp. Kaiserwald’s prisoner statistics are scant, because shortly after the camp opened, SS-Brigadeführer Richard Glücks, the head of IKL, exempted the newly established camps in the East from reporting admissions and deaths to IKL and because most of its records were destroyed prior to evacuation.4 An incomplete mortality list, from December 15, 1943, to August 8, 1944, recorded 484 deaths.5 To these must be added the numerous prisoners killed in shooting operations (Aktionen), the synonym for “selections” that carried over from the ghetto. The victims were placed on trucks and dispatched to the forests for shooting. Prisoners and staff referred to the killing sites by the euphemism, “base command” (Stützpunktkommando).

 

Sachsenhausen Main Camp

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Undated photograph of the “roller detachment” marching to work.
USHMM WS#82927, COURTESY OF AG-S

Situated next to the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL, later Office Group D of the SS-Business Administration Main Office, or WVHA) at Oranienburg, just north of Berlin, Sachsenhausen stood at the center of the Nazi concentration camp system. Begun in the summer of 1936, just before the Berlin Olympics, it was the first new concentration camp built after Hitler gave full control of that system to the SS in 1934. As such, Sachsenhausen was intended to be a model facility; indeed, the Nazi press corps toured it for propaganda purposes in March 1938. Nevertheless, the camp’s striking triangular layout—an unwieldy blend of art deco and Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon—proved ill-suited to expansion, and subsequent camps would follow more conventional patterns.

The SS brought the first 50 prisoners to the proposed site from Esterwegen in July 1936, followed by another 200 before the month was out. Construction began immediately. The protective detention camp, where the prisoners would be housed, took the shape of an isosceles triangle, with a narrow, rectangular headquarters area superimposed over the left side of the triangle’s base. Entrance to the camp was through an imposing gate house, topped by a guard tower. With the camp barracks laid out below in a radial, fanlike pattern, guards in this tower had an unobstructed line of sight virtually throughout the camp. Additional towers punctuated the camp’s stone perimeter wall, inside of which ran an electrified barbed-wire fence. Just inside the main gate was the camp’s sprawling, semicircular roll-call area. Painted on the ends of the barracks abutting it was one of the implausibly exhortative slogans favored in the 1930s-era camps: “There is one path to freedom! Its milestones are: diligence, obedience, honesty, order, cleanliness, sobriety, truthfulness, spirit of sacrifice, and love of the Fatherland!”

 

Sachsenhausen Subcamp System

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The “concentration camp of the Reich capital city” (KZ der Reichshauptstadt) Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 as a model and main camp in Oranienburg to the north of Berlin. The first subcamps were established as bases for future main camps—Neuengamme (1938–1940), Ravensbrück (1938–1939), Gross-Rosen (1940–1941), and Wewelsburg (1940). With the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union, the first regular subcamps were established in Berlin (Kastanienallee and Lichterfelde), in Oranienburg (Heinkel and Klinker-werk), as well as at SS bases (Prettin, Hohenlychen, Drögen, Brandenburg); 5 of the first 7 subcamps lasted until the end of the war. In 1942, a subcamp was established at an SS position (Glau) and another for a future main camp in Kiev (Ukraine) and at a secret research station for the Reichspost (Kleinmachnow Hakeburg). The first Construction Brigade or Bau-brigade (“West”) was attached to Sachsenhausen. In 1943, the number of subcamps increased to 26. The system now expanded geographically. In the area around Berlin, many camps were established that were connected to backup quarters for the Nazi Party, SS, and Reich authorities. In the area of the SS bases or SS-Standorte Bad Saarow and Jamlitz (“Kurmark”) there were established in 1943 2 larger camps (Bad Saarow and Lieberose), and in the following year, 4 other subcamps. Beginning in 1943, 5 camps were established at private armaments firms, a direction that reached its climax in 1944 when there were 32 subcamps. In 1944, Sachsenhausen had 59 subcamps. Almost all of the subcamps, which ultimately held the majority of Sachsenhausen prisoners, were located in the immediate vicinity around Berlin or in Berlin itself.

 

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