The Concentration Camp Program of Extermination Through Work (Part 1 of 2)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter X

A special Nazi program combined the brutality and the purposes of the slave labor program with those of the concentration camp. The Nazis placed Allied nationals in concentration camps and forced them, along with the other inmates of the concentra- [Page 915] tion camps, to work in the armaments industry under conditions designed to exterminate them. This was the Nazi program of extermination through work. The program was initiated in the spring of 1942.

It was outlined as follows in a letter to Himmler, dated 30 April 1942, from his subordinate Pohl, SS Obergruppenfuehrer and General of the Waffen SS: "Today I report about the present situation of the concentration camps and about measures I have taken to carry out your order of 3 March 1942."

"1. The war has brought about a marked change in the structure of the concentration camps and has changed their duties with regard to the employment of the prisoners. The custody of prisoners for the sole reasons of security, education, or prevention is no longer the main consideration. The mobilization of all prisoners who are fit for work for purposes of the war now, and for purposes of construction in the forthcoming peace, come to the foreground more and more.

"2. From this knowledge some necessary measures result with the aim to transform the concentration camps into organizations more suitable for the economic tasks, whilst they were formerly merely politically interested.

"3. For this reason I have gathered together all the leaders of the former inspectorate of Concentration Camps, all Camp Commanders, and all managers and supervisors of work on 23 April 1942 and 24 April 1942; I have explained personally to them this new development. I have compiled in the order attached the main essentials, which have to be brought into effect with the utmost urgency if the commencement of work for purposes of the armament industry is not to be delayed." (R-129) The order referred to in paragraph 3 above set the framework for a program of relentless exploitation, providing in part as follows:

"4. The camp commander alone is responsible for the employment of the labor available. This employment must be, in the true meaning of the word, exhaustive, in order to obtain the greatest measure of performance. Work is allotted by the Chief of the Department D centrally and alone. The camp commanders themselves may not accept on their own initiative work offered by third parties and may not negotiate about it.

"5. There is no limit to working hours. Their duration de- [Page 916] pends on the kind of working establishments in the camps and the kind of work to be done. They are fixed by the camp commanders alone.

"6. Any circumstances which may result in a shortening of working hours (eg. meals, roll-calls) have therefore to be restricted to the minimum which cannot be condensed any more. It is forbidden to allow long walks to the place of working and noon intervals for eating purposes." (R-129) This armaments production program was not merely a scheme for mobilizing the manpower potential of the camps. It was directly integrated into the larger Nazi program of extermination. A memorandum of an agreement between Himmler and the Minister of Justice, Thierack sets for the Nazi objective of extermination through work: "*** 2. The delivery of anti-social elements from the execution of their sentence to the Reich Fuehrer of SS to be worked to death. Persons under protective arrest, Jews, Gypsies, Russians and Ukrainians, Poles with more than 3-year sentences, Czechs and Germans with more than 8-year sentences, according to the decision of the Reich Minister for Justice. First of all the worst anti-social elements amongst those just mentioned are to be handed over. I shall inform the Fuehrer of this through Reichsleiter Bormann." ******* "14. It is agreed that, in consideration of the intended aims of the Government for the clearing up of the Eastern problems, in future Jews, Poles, Gypsies, Russians and Ukrainians are no longer to be judged by ordinary courts, so far as punishable offenses are concerned, but are to be dealt with by the Reich Fuehrer of SS. This does not apply to civil lawsuits, not to Poles whose names are announced or entered in German Racial Lists." (654-PS)

In September, 1942, Speer arranged to bring this new source of labor within his jurisdiction. Speer convinced Hitler that significant production could be obtained only if concentration camp prisoners were employed in factories under the technical control of the Speer Ministry instead of the camps. In fact, without Speer's cooperation, it would have been difficult to utilize the prisoners on any large scale for war production since he would not allocate to Himmler the machine tools and other necessary equipment. Accordingly, it was agreed that the prisoners were to be exploited in factories under Speer's control. To compensate Himmler for surrendering this jurisdiction to Speer, [Page 917] Speer proposed, and Hitler agreed, that Himmler could receive a share of the armaments output, fixed in relation to the man hours contributed by his prisoners. The minutes of Speer's conference with Hitler on 20, 21, 22 September 1942, are as follows (R-124):

I pointed out to the Fuehrer that, apart from an insignificant amount of work, no possibility exists of organizing armament production in the concentration camps, because: "1. the machine tools required are missing, "2. there are no suitable premises. "Both these assets would be available in the armaments industry, if use could be made of them by a second shift. "The Fuehrer agrees to my proposal, that the numerous factories set up outside towns for ARP reasons, should release their workers for supplementing the second shift in town factories and should in return be supplied with labor from the concentration camps-also two shifts. "I pointed out to the Fuehrer the difficulties which I expect to encounter if Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler should be able, as he requests, to exercise authoritative influence over these factories. The Fuehrer, too, does not consider such an influence necessary. "The Fuehrer however agrees that Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler should draw advantages from making his prisoners available; he should get equipment for his division. " I suggest to give him a share in kind (war equipment) in ratio to the working hours done by his prisoners. A 3%-5% share is discussed, the equipment also being calculated according to working hours. The Fuehrer would agree to such a solution. "The Fuehrer is prepared to order the additional delivery of this equipment and weapons to the SS, according to a list submitted by him." (R-124)

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