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Auschwitz - Grosswerther - Gunskirchen: A Nine Months' Odyssey Through Eight Nazi Concentration Camps

Joachim Neander

  1. 1 For a comprehensive history of Camp Mittelbau, see the author’s Ph.D. dissertation, Das Konzentrationslager Mittelbau in der Endphase der NS-Diktatur, Clausthal-Zellerfeld (Papierflieger), 1997.
  2. The data is according to the list of intakes at Mittelbau concentration camp (“Neuzugänge von Arb. Lager Morchenstern vom 15.3.1945”); Main National Archives, Warsaw, microfilm A1, F46-F330; copy at Mittelbau-Dora Memorial, Germany.
  3. The fact that every Häftling, not only the Jewish ones, was bound to die can be deduced from various factors, such as the average food ration provided for concentration-camp inmates. It was fixed so low that a prisoner inevitably had to die in the space of a few months from malnutrition alone.
  4. See Rudolf Höss, Kommandant in Auschwitz (Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1963), pp. 110-116.
  5. “L'univers concentrationnaire,” as a French survivor coined it; David Rousset, L'univers concentrationnaire, (Paris: Pavois, 1946).
  6. See “Examination of Vira Gombosova [Gombosová-Oravcová] by Major Fulton C. Vowell, War Crimes Investigating Team #6822, U.S. Army, 18 April 1945, at Nordhausen, Germany,” 1945, p. 5; in United States Army Investigation and Trial Records of War Criminals, United States of America v. Kurt Andrae et al. (and Related Cases), April 27, 1945 - June 11, 1958 (The Nordhausen case); National Archives Microfilm Publication M 1079, Washington 1979, roll 2, frames 377-385. According to the witness, they left Auschwitz on July 20, 1944; ibid., p. 2. Zillerthal-Erdmannsdorf now is Mysłakowice, Poland.
  7. Today it is Jelenia Góra, Poland.
  8. A (not always reliable) source states that the entire labor camp had approximately 1,000 inmates; see International Tracing Service, ed., Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German Occupied Territories (Arolsen: International Tracing Service, 1949-1951), p. 639. If so, the work detail in question seems to have had a sub-camp of its own, probably near the factory, and, in the following, “Camp Zillerthal-Erdmannsdorf” will refer only to this sub-camp.
  9. SS-Brigadeführer Albrecht Schmelt was Himmler's Special Representative for the Distribution of Foreign Peoples’ Manpower in Upper Silesia (Der Sonderbeauftragte des Reichsführers-SS für den fremdvölkischen Arbeitseinsatz in Oberschlesien). On Schmelt and his organization, see Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 1093- 1095.
  10. The name of the factory is according to Klara Opitz, former SS wardress, in “Evidence for the Defendant Klara Opitz,” in Raymond Phillips, ed., Trial of Josef Kramer and Forty-Four Others (The Belsen Trial) (London/Edinburgh/Glasgow: William Hodge & Co., 1949), pp. 379- 381.
  11. See Alfred Konieczny, “Das Konzentrationslager Gross Rosen,” in Dachauer Hefte, 5 (1989), pp. 15-27.
  12. Opitz interrogation, in Phillips, ed., Trial of Josef Kramer, p. 380. Langenbielau today is Bielawa Dzierżoniówska, Poland.
  13. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 6.
  14. Ibid., p. 7.
  15. Anette Raab-Neff, “Forschungsergebnisse,” in Magistrat der Stadt Mörfelden-Walldorf, ed., Nichts und niemand wird vergessen (Mörfelden-Walldorf: Magistrat der Stadt MörfeldenWalldorf, 1996), pp. 10-13.
  16. See the testimonies of Sarolta Mittelmann, Budapest, June 24, 1945, Archives of the Hungarian Auschwitz Foundation, Budapest, no shelf-mark; Helena Halperin, given in 1978, in Nichts und niemand wird vergessen, pp. 14-16, and Susanne Farkas, given on September 14, 1978, in ibid., pp. 19-22.
  17. Mittelmann testimony, p. 2.
  18. The performance of Jewish labourers under comparable conditions at the Landsberg and Mühldorf camps was estimated by OT engineers as equal to one-third of a German worker and less than half the performance of a Russian POW; see Edith Raim, Die Dachauer KZ-Aussenkommandos Kaufering und Mühldorf, (Landsberg: Neumayer, 1992), p. 126, note 72.
  19. An early document states they arrived on November 27, 1944; cf. testimony of Rózsi Blobstein (Mrs József Klein) and her sister Helena Blobstein (later married, Halperin), given at Budapest, on July 6, 1945; Archives of the Hungarian Auschwitz Foundation, Budapest (no shelf-mark), p. 1.
  20. Mittelmann testimony, pp. 2-3.
  21. Blobstein testimony, p. 2.The witness says “the owner” (der Fabrikbesitzer), but it might as well have been one of the factory’s managers.
  22. Dates taken from Blobstein testimony, p. 1, and Mittelmann testimony, p. 3.
  23. See Mittelmann testimony, p. 3 (nagyon rendesen kaptunk).
  24. See Blobstein testimony, p. 2, and Mittelmann testimony, p. 3.
  25. Copy at Stadtmuseum Walldorf.
  26. The two exceptions may be disregarded in this approximate calculation.
  27. The date can be counted back from information given by Opitz, in Phillips, ed., Trial of Josef Kramer, p. 380.
  28. Mittelmann testimony, p. 3.
  29. “Halt die Fresse, halt die Fresse, geh herein [...] hat er ihr gesagt”; interview with Helena Halperin (née Blobstein) int Bnei Brak, Israel, by Herbert Oswald, in 1978; copy from the tape recorded, unpublished manuscript, Stadtmuseum Walldorf, p. 12.
  30. Today Smržovka, Czech Republic. The name of the camp is spelled either “Morchenstern,” or “Morgenstern.” The author prefers the latter version as used by the survivors.
  31. Today Jablonec nad Nisou, Czech Republic.
  32. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 7.
  33. See Opitz interrogation in Phillips, ed., Trial of Josef Kramer, p. 380.
  34. Testimony of Johann Demange, former SS guard, May 16, 1947, at the Dachau camp; in The Nordhausen Case, roll 2, frames 732-736, p. 3.
  35. Der Beauftragte des Führers für das Programm “Brechung des Luftterrors,” appointed on January 21, 1945, by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring; see Karl-Heinz Ludwig, Technik und Ingenieure im Dritten Reich (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1974), p. 503.
  36. Mittelmann testimony, p. 3. The factory is still unidentified.
  37. Ibid.; Blobstein testimony, p. 2. The air raids were on April 3, 1945, in the afternoon, and on the following day in the morning.
  38. Demange testimony, pp. 1-2.
  39. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 8.
  40. See Paul Lauerwald, “Das Aussenlager Grosswerther des Konzentrationslagers Mittelbau-Dora,” in Beiträge zur Heimatkunde aus Stadt und Kreis Nordhausen 15 (1990), pp. 26-31.
  41. On Mittelbau, see Neander, Das Konzentrationslager Mittelbau, p. 266.
  42. Testimony of Mrs. Ursula Körber née Schönemann, daughter of the owner of the inn “Zur Weintraube,” March 3, 1988, as quoted by Lauerwald, “Das Aussenlager Grosswerther,” p. 29.
  43. Ibid., pp. 29-30.
  44. Ibid., p. 29.
  45. Ibid., pp. 28 and 30. Cf. also Demange testimony, p. 4.
  46. See Lauerwald, “Das Aussenlager Grosswerther,” p. 30, and Helena Halperin interview, p. 12.
  47. See Mittelmann testimony, p. 3.
  48. For a comprehensive analysis of those preparations, see Neander, Das Konzentrationslager Mittelbau, pp. 257-328.
  49. Among over 8, 000 victims, there were about 1,400 concentration-camp prisoners, inmates of Camp Boelcke-Kaserne; see ibid., pp. 284-288.
  50. For details, see ibid., pp. 329-477
  51. See the testimony of SS wardress Ilse Steinbusch at the Belsen Trial, in Phillips, ed., The Trial of Josef Kramer, p. 352.
  52. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 8; and Demange testimony, p. 2.
  53. Except a few of them who hitched a ride to Bergen-Belsen with SS personnel from the Kleinbodungen camp, another out-camp of Mittelbau.
  54. Joachim Neander, “Auf Transport - ou: Le camp de concentration sur roues,” in Souviens-toi 44-45 (1996), pp. 31-42.
  55. In fact, the front still was about 100 kilometers away.
  56. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 8.
  57. A similar experience from the strongly Catholic Bavarian “outback” is reported by the Frenchman Richard Ledoux, inmate of Buchenwald, in Pierre Durand, Les armes de l'espoir. Les Français à Buchenwald et à Dora (Paris: Editions sociales, 1977), p. 215.
  58. Helena Halperin interview, p. 14. Cf. also the testimony of an unknown villager, quoted in Ludwig Hotze and Richard Seidenstücker, “Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung in Bischofferode,” 1969, mimeographed.
  59. Ibid.
  60. Helena Halperin interview, p. 13.
  61. Demange testimony, p. 4.
  62. Hotze and Seidenstücker, “Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung in Bischofferode.”
  63. For this paragraph and the following quotation, see “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” p. 8.
  64. Helena Halperin interview, p. 13. The witness gives all the credit to an elderly Wehrmacht soldier who, according to her testimony, convinced the SS personnel to treat the prisoners in a humane way; ibid., pp. 12-14.
  65. Hotze and Seidenstücker, “Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung in Bischofferode.”
  66. Shmuel Krakowski, “The Death Marches in the Period of the Evacuation of the Camps,” in Yisrael Gutman and Avital Saf, eds., The Nazi Concentration Camps (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1984), p. 488.
  67. “Examination of Vira Gombosova,” pp. 8-9.
  68. Demange testimony, p. 5.
  69. Ibid.
  70. Ibid.
  71. For details of this transport, see Neander, Die Konzentrationslager Mittelbau, pp. 349-353.
  72. Scheufelen was one of the German missile experts associated with Werner von Braun who, immediately after the war, were brought clandestinely and against the law to the United States by “Operation Paperclip.” See, for example, Linda Hunt, Secret Agenda (New York: St. Martin's, 1991); Tom Bower, The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Battle for the Spoils and Secrets of Nazi Germany (London: Michael Joseph, 1987); and Rainer Eisfeld, Mondsüchtig (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1996).
  73. Testimony of Karl Feuerer, German prisoner at Dora, undated (probably before 1948), Archives of Mittelbau-Dora Memorial, Nordhausen, shelf-mark 50.3.2. no. 35.
  74. The responsible SS NCO was never identified; see United States Army Investigation and Trial Records of War Criminals, National Archives Microfilm Publication M 1079, roll 7, frames 641 ff.
  75. Testimony of German prisoners at Dora Oskar Büschler and Theo Webers, given before a U.S. commission on April 24, 1945, at Leipzig; Nuremberg Document PS-2222.
  76. The number of Jewish prisoners among the wounded, as well as the name of the dead prisoner, is unknown.
  77. Friedrich Kochheim, German political prisoner at Dora, Bilanz. Erlebnisse und Gedanken (Hannover: published by the author, 1952), p. 78.
  78. Andreas Baumgartner, “Frauen im Konzentrationslager Mauthausen. Dokumentation, Quellensammlung und Datenbank” (Vienna, 1996, unpublished), pp. 79-80.
  79. A survivor tells about “many dead among us” due to air attacks; Blobstein testimony, p. 3.
  80. Demange testimony, p. 5.
  81. Mittelmann testimony, p. 3.
  82. Andreas Baumgartner, Die vergessenen Frauen von Mauthausen (Vienna: Österreich, 1997), p. 189.
  83. Ibid., p. 187. Marie Mauer's fate, however, is also unknown.
  84. Blobstein testimony, p. 3, Mittelmann testimony, p. 4, and testimony of Ilona Sichermann, given at Pocking, Germany, on July 8, 1947; The Nordhausen Case, roll 2, frames 639-640.
  85. Peter Kammerstätter, “Der Todesmarsch ungarischer Juden von Mauthausen nach Gunskirchen im April 1945,” Linz, 1971 (mimeographed).
  86. Mittelmann testimony, p.4.
  87. Ibid.
  88. Martin Broszat, “Nationalsozialistische Konzentrationslager,” in Hans Buchheim, et al., Anatomie des SS-Staates, vol. II (Olten and Freiburg i.Br.: Walter, 1965), p. 159.
  89. The author believes that the evacuation transport from Grosswerther to Mauthausen had no economic reasons, whereas Andreas Baumgartner believes it did; see Neander, Das Konzentrationslager Mittelbau, p. 440; Baumgartner, Die vergessenen Frauen, p. 183.
  90. Daniel J. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), p. 160, and chapters 13 to 14.
  91. This matter, and various other possible strategies of the SS, has been discussed in detail in Neander, Das Konzentrationslager Mittelbau, chapter 3.6.
  92. Alles war möglich, is the title of a film about the Dora concentration camp; on video at the Mittelbau-Dora Memorial, Nordhausen/Germany.