Stutthof Concentration Camp

Stutthof Concentration Camp

TOPIC

Introduction

    Stutthof was the first Nazi concentration camp built outside of 1937 German borders.

    Completed on September 2, 1939, it was located in a secluded, wet, and wooded area west of the small town of Sztutowo (GermanStutthof). The town is located in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig, 34 km east of Gda?sk, Poland. Stutthof was the last camp liberated by the Allies, on May 9, 1945. More than 85,000 victims died in the camp out of as many as 110,000 people deported there.

    The Nazi authorities of the Free City of Danzig were compiling material about known Jews and Polish intelligentsia as early as 1936 and were also reviewing suitable places to build concentration camps in their area. Originally, Stutthof was a civilian internment camp under the Danzig police chief. In November 1941, it became a "labor education" camp, administered by the German Security Police. Finally, in January 1942, Stutthof became a regular concentration camp.

    The original camp (known as the old camp) was surrounded by barbed-wire fence. It comprised eight barracks for the inmates and a "kommandantur" for the SS guards, totalling 120,000 m². In 1943, the camp was enlarged and a new camp was constructed alongside the earlier one. It was also surrounded by electrified barbed-wire fence and contained thirty new barracks, raising the total area to 1.2 km².

    The camp staff consisted of SS guards and after 1943, Ukrainian auxiliaries. In 1942 the first female prisoners and female German guards arrived in Stutthof, including Aufseherin Herta Bothe. A total of over 130 women served in the Stutthof complex of camps. 34 female guards, including Gerda SteinhoffRosy SuessEwa Paradies and Jenny-Wanda Barkmann, have been identified later as having committed crimes against humanity at Stutthof. Starting in June 1944, the SS in Stutthof began conscripting women from Danzig and the surrounding cities to train as camp female guards because of a severe shortage of guards. In 1944 a women's subcamp of Stutthof calledBromberg-Ost (Konzentrationslager Bromberg-Ost) was set up in the city of Bydgoszcz.

    A crematorium and gas chamber were added in 1943, just in time to start mass executions when Stutthof was included in the "Final Solution" in June 1944. Mobile gas wagons were also used to complement the maximum capacity of the gas chamber (150 people per execution) when needed.

    Prisoners

    Inside the gas chamber

    The first inmates imprisoned on 2 September 1939 were 150 Polish citizens, arrested on the streets of Danzig right after the outbreak of the war. The inmate population rose to 6,000 in the following two weeks, on 15 September 1939.

    Tens of thousands of people, perhaps as many as 110,000, were deported to the Stutthof camp. The prisoners were mainly non-Jewish Poles. There were also Polish Jews from Warsaw andBia?ystok, and Jews from forced-labour camps in the occupied Baltic states, which the Germans evacuated in 1944 as Soviet forces approached. These totals are thought to be conservative, as it is believed that inmates sent for immediate execution were not registered.A number of German was also sent to the camp, where they were known as "camp aristocracy"-a large group of German criminals was also given kapo positions and terrorized other inmates, other Germans included a couple of socialdemocrats , and later members of military faction that tried to gain power from Hitler; in 1945 the camp authorities noted that 35% of inmates are Poles, 8% Russians, and 7% Germans(some of which were Poles who refused to accept Volksliste)

    When the Soviet army began its advance through Nazi-occupied Estonia in July and August 1944, the camp staff of Klooga concentration camp evacuated the majority of the inmates by sea to the Stutthof concentration camp.

    Conditions

    Crematory building

    Conditions in the camp were brutal. Many prisoners died in typhus epidemics that swept the camp in the winter of 1942 and again in 1944. Those whom the SS guards judged too weak or sick to work were gassed in the camp's small gas chamber. Gassing with Zyklon B began in June 1944. Camp doctors also killed sick or injured prisoners in the infirmary with lethal injections. More than 85,000 people died in the camp.

    The Germans used Stutthof prisoners as forced labourers. Some prisoners worked in SS-owned businesses such as the German Equipment Works (DAW), located near the camp. Others laboured in local brickyards, in private industrial enterprises, in agriculture, or in the camp's own workshops. In 1944, as forced labour by concentration camp prisoners became increasingly important in armaments production, a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory was constructed at Stutthof. Eventually, the Stutthof camp system became a vast network of forced-labour camps; 105 Stutthof subcamps were established throughout northern and central Poland. The major subcamps were Thorn and Elbing.

    The Stutthof camp has been suggested as one of the possible sources for human remains that Dr. Rudolf Spanner used to make a limited quantity of soap from human fat.[8]

    The former prisoner of Stutthoff and Lithuanian writer Balys Sruoga later wrote a novel Diev? miškas (The Forest of Gods) describing the everyday life of this camp.

    Soap production from the bodies of victims

    Some evidence exists of small-scale soap production of soap made from human corpses in the Stutthof concentration camp.

    In his book "Russia at War 1941 to 1945", Alexander Werth reported that while visiting Gda?sk/Danzig in 1945 shortly after its liberation by the Red Army, he saw an experimental factory outside the city for making soap from human corpses. According to Werth it had been run by "a German professor called Spanner" and "was a nightmarish sight, with its vats full of human heads and torsoes pickled in some liquid, and its pails full of a flakey substance - human soap".

    Death march

    Camp memorial

    The evacuation of prisoners from the Stutthof camp system in northern Poland began in January 1945. When the final evacuation began, there were nearly 50,000 prisoners, the majority of them Jews, in the Stutthof camp system. About 5,000 prisoners from Stutthof subcamps were marched to the Baltic Sea coast, forced into the water, and machinegunned. The rest of the prisoners were marched in the direction of Lauenburg in eastern Germany. They were cut off by advancing Soviet forces. The Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to Stutthof. Marching in severe winter conditions and treated brutally by SS guards, thousands died during the march.

    In late April 1945, the remaining prisoners were removed from Stutthof by sea, since Stutthof was completely encircled by Soviet forces. Again, hundreds of prisoners were forced into the sea and shot. Over 4,000 were sent by small boat to Germany, some to the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, and some to camps along the Baltic coast. Many drowned along the way. A barge full of prisoners was washed ashore at Klintholm Havn in Denmark where 351 of the 370 on board were saved on 5 May 1945. Shortly before the German surrender, some prisoners were transferred to Malmö, Sweden, and released into the care of that neutral country. It has been estimated that over 25,000 prisoners, one in two, died during the evacuation from Stutthof and its subcamps.

    Liberation

    Soviet forces liberated Stutthof on May 9, 1945, and liberated about 100 prisoners who had managed to hide during the final evacuation of the camp.


    Additional Info
    Owner:
    bgill - Anyone can contribute
    Created:
    November 11, 2011
    Modified:
    November 11, 2011
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