The Concentration Camps: The Treatment of Concentration Camp Victims

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter XI

[Page 962]

The deterrent effect of the concentration camps was based on the promise of savage brutality. This promise was fulfilled, to an extent which defies description. Once in the custody of the SS guards, the victim was beaten, tortured, starved, and often murdered through the so-called "extermination through work" program, or through mass execution gas chambers and furnaces of the camps (which were portrayed in the motion picture evidence). The reports of official government investigations furnish additional evidence of conditions within the concentration camps. The official report concerning the concentration camp Flossenberg, prefaced by the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the United States Army, dated 21 June 1945, and supported by attached affidavits and testimony, contains this: "The work at these camps mainly consisted of underground labor, the purpose being the construction xbr>of large under- [Page 963] ground factories, storage rooms, etc. This labor was performed completely underground and as a result of the brutal treatment, working and living conditions, a daily average of 100 prisoners died. To the one camp Oberstaubling, 700 prisoners were transported in February 1945 and on 15 April 1945 only 405 of these men were living. During the 12 months preceding the liberation, Flossenburg and the branch camps under its control accounted for the death of 14,739 male inmates and 1,300 women.

These figures represent the deaths as were obtained from the available records in the camp, however, they are in no way complete as many secret mass executions and deaths took place. In 1941 an additional stockade was added at the Flossenburg camp, to hold 2,000 Russian prisoners. From these 2,000 prisoners only 102 survived. "Flossenburg Concentration Camp can best be described as a factory dealing in death. Although this camp had in view the primary object of putting to work the mass slave labor, another of its primary objectives was the elimination of human lives by the methods employed in handling the prisoners. Hunger and starvation rations, sadism, housing facilities, inadequate clothing, medical neglect, disease, beatings, hangings, freezing, hand hanging, forced suicides, shooting, all played a major role in obtaining their objective. Prisoners were murdered at random; spite killings against Jews were common. Injections of poison and shooting in the neck were everyday occurrences. Epidemics of typhus and spotted fever were permitted to run rampant as a means of eliminating prisoners. Life in this camp meant nothing. Killing became a common thing, so common that a quick death was welcomed by the unfortunate ones." *******

"On Christmas 1944 a number of prisoners were hung at one time. The prisoners were forced to view this hanging. By the side of the gallows was a decorated Christmas tree and as expressed by one prisoner 'it was a terrible sight, that combination of prisoners hanging in the air and the glistening Christmas tree'. "In March or April, 13 American or British parachutists were hung. They had been delivered to this camp sometime before and had been captured while trying to blow up bridges." *******

"On 20 April 1945, approximately 1,000 prisoners were as- [Page 964] sembled to make a forced march in the direction of Concentration Camp Dachau. The evacuation of these prisoners was caused by the impending capture of the camp by the Allies. These 1,000 prisoners were lined up in three groups and started on this march. Only those prisoners who could walk were taken and before leaving Flossenburg, many were executed, as also were those who collapsed in rank awaiting the movement to start the trek. No provision was made for the feeding of these prisoners or sleeping on this trip. They marched in long columns guarded by SS Guards. "Thousands were killed on the way and the paths which they took were littered with the dead.

Groups of from 5 to 50 were taken out and forced to dig pits and then were shot. Many graves were not even covered. As the already starved and weakened prisoners fell from exhaustion, a group of SS guards bringing up the rear would kill them by a shot in the back of the head. All who fell out of line were immediately executed in this manner. Death was also caused by beatings or bashings in the skulls. "The prisoners marched from Friday till Monday during which time they received only 100 grams of bread. They marched in the rain and slept in the fields in the mud and water. Many died from exhaustion. On the 23rd day of April 1945, between the towns of Cham and Roding, they were liberated by the American troops." (2309-PS)

Conditions at Mauthausen, one of the most notorious extermination centers, are thus described in an official report of the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Third United States Army, dated 17 June 1945: "V. Conclusions. There is no doubt that Mauthausen was the basis for long term planning. It was constructed as a gigantic stone fortress on top of a mountain flanked by small barracks. "Mauthausen, in addition to its permanency of construction had facilities for a large garrison of officers and men, and had large dining rooms and toilet facilities for the staff. It was conducted with the sole purpose in mind of exterminating any so-called prisoner who entered within its walls. The so-called branches of Mauthausen were under direct command of the SS officials located there. All records, orders, and administrative facilities were handled for these branches through Mauthausen. The other camps, including Gusen and Ebensee, its two most notorious and largest branches, were not exclusively used for extermination but [Page 965] prisoners were used as tools in construction and production until they were beaten or starved into uselessness, whereupon they were customarily sent to Mauthausen for final disposal." (2176-PS)

It is clear from both the motion picture and these reports, which could be supplemented by many similar ones, that the brutal conditions in all concentration camps followed the same general pattern. The widespread incidence of these conditions makes it clear that they were not the result of sporadic excesses on the part of individual jailers, but were the result of policies deliberately imposed from above. The crimes committed by the Nazis in the concentration camp were on so vast a scale that individual atrocities pale into insignificance. But there are two exhibits in the possession of the prosecution which illustrate the contempt in which the Nazis held human values. The first is a frame showing sections of human skin, taken from human bodies in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and preserved as ornaments. (This was offered by the prosecution as a physical exhibit.) They were selected because of the tattooing which appeared on the skin. Attached to this exhibit is an extract of an official US Army report describing the circumstances under which this exhibit was obtained (3420-PS):

"Mobile Field Interrogation Unit No. 2 PW INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN "no. 2/20 19 February 1944 " Address Briefs and Requests to HQ, FID, MIS, APO 887 "EXTRACT "13. Concentration Camp, Buchenwald. 'Preamble. The author of this account is PW Andreas Pfaffenberger, 1 Coy, 9 Landesschuetzen Bn. 43 years old and of limited education, he is a butcher by trade. The substantial agreement of the details of his story with these found in PWIS (H)/LF/736 establishes the validity of his testimony. "PW has not been questioned on statements which, in the light of what is known, are apparently erroneous in certain details, nor has any effort been made to alter the subjective character of PW's account, which he wrote without being told anything of the intelligence already known. Results of interrogation on personalities at Buchenwald have already been published (PWIB No 2/12 Item 31)." ******* "In 1939, all prisoners with tattooing on them were ordered [Page 966] to report to the dispensary. No one knew what the purpose was. But after the tattooed prisoners had been examined, the ones with the best and most artistic specimens were kept in the dispensary, and then killed by injections, administered by Karl Beigs, a criminal prisoner. The corpses were then turned over to the pathological department, where the desired pieces of tattooed skin were detached from. the bodies and treated. The finished products were turned over to SS Standartenfuehrer Koch's wife, who had them fashioned into lampshades and other ornamental household articles. I myself saw such tattooed skins with various designs and legends on them, such as "Hans'l und Gret'l", which one prisoner had had on his knee, and ships from prisoners' chests. This work was done by a prisoner named Wernerbach." (420-PS)

The following certificate is also attached to the exhibit: "I, George C. Demas, Lieut., USNR., associated with the United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, hereby certify that the attached exhibit, consisting of parchment, was delivered by the War Crimes Section, Judge Advocate General, US Army, to me in my above capacity, in the usual course of official business, as an exhibit found in Buchenwald Camp and captured by military forces under the command of the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces." (3421-PS)

This is the conclusion reached in an official US Army report attached to the exhibit: "Based on the findings in paragraph 2, all three specimens are tattooed human skin". (423-PS)

One more example of this pathological phase of Nazi culture, another Nazi trophy, is a human head with the skull bone removed, shrunken, stuffed, and preserved. (This was offered by the prosecution as a physical exhibit.) This head probably belonged to a foreign worker, kidnapped by Sauckel to work in Speer's armament industry. The Nazis had one of their many victims decapitated after having had him hanged for fraternizing with a German woman; they fashioned this ornament from his head. This represents the end product of the Nazi system, representing both the degradation of the Nazi "master" and the anguish of his victim. The official US Army report attached to this exhibit deals with the manner in which this exhibit was acquired. It reads in part: "There I also saw the shrunken heads of two young Poles who had been hanged for having relations with German girls. [Page 967] The heads were the size of a fist, and the hair and the marks of the rope were still there:" (3423-PS)

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