Concentration Camps

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					                                   Concentration Camps

      Hitler makes policy to eliminate “inferior” people and enemies of the state.

         The Third Reich established notorious concentration camps for “enemies of the state.”
Suspects were picked up and sent to the camps without warning or trial. A 21-your-old political
prisoner who escaped related his experiences in several of the concentration camps:
         “In March 1933 we came to the concentration camp called Burg Hohenstein, in Saxony. As
soon as we entered the reception room we were tortured. For this purpose the commander of the
camp and two Storm Troopers used a dog-whip to the end of which a lead pellet was attached. After I
had been beaten into unconsciousness, I was taken into the courtyard and water was poured over me.
Then my hair was cut off with a pair of hedge clippers and a knife. I was forced to count the hairs
and arrange them in bundles of 13 each. This took all night.
         “The next morning we were driven to work and all day long we were forced to push
wheelbarrows, filled with stones, to the shipping camp. We had to do this on the double-quick.
There was no lunch the first three days. During one of the next nights we were taken to a hearing.
To force us to testify, our lips were burnt with red-hot wire, the soles of our feet were slashed,
and pepper and salt were put into the wounds. Then I was laid into a sort of wooden coffin in
which I was unable to move. In the cover over my head was a hole through which, at regular
intervals, water dripped on my forehead.
         “A Few days later I was examined again. During this procedure a Strom Trooper thrust
the butt of his rifle into my spine so that I fell. To force me to get up they tramped upon me, and
one of my kidneys was injured.
         “I then was put in a hospital, where they shackled my feet in bed, although I was in a
plaster cast. After nine months in the hospital I was returned to the concentration camp, only to
be immediately tortured again. New methods had been invented in the meantime. Kidneys were
no longer injured by trampling: beatings now were administered with sandbags, which had the
same effects but left no visible marks.
         “On July 2, 1934, I was discharged from the hospital and allowed to go home. At home I
had to register at the police station three times a day and was not allowed to go out from 9 o‟clock
in the evening to 7 o‟clock in the morning. On January 21, 1935, I was without any reasons taken
into protective custody. First I was taken to the city prison, and from there, in February, I was
sent to the concentration camp at Sachsenburg. On my arrival I was told that I would receive 50
lashes, as it was the second time I was in protective custody. I was put on a frame, with my head
and legs hanging down, my hands and knees strapped. Ten Storm Troopers hit me five times
each with canes that had previously been soaked in water. Before I got on this frame I was forced
to sing the song, „When I climb the mountain, what joy it is for me.‟ Later on, as I could no
longer walk, I was carried into the dungeon. There we received only one pot of water a day and
one slice of bread…..I was there for 21 days.
         “There were about one hundred Jews in the camp. They were used for the hardest work,
especially breaking stone. One day a certain Sachs was committed. He was supposed to have
been at one time the editor of the leading Dresden newspaper. Sachs was tortured to death within
nine days after his admission…
         “In the summer and fall of 1935, there were in Sachsenburg 300 criminals, 400 Jehovah‟s
Witnesses, and 627 political prisoners- a total of 1,327 men.”
         Jews were considered major enemies. They were prohibited from teaching in
universities, voting, and holding government offices, working as lawyers or doctors, acting in the
theater, writing books, paintings pictures. Germans were prohibited from marrying Jews. Jews
were barred from schools. The motto “Slaughter the Jews” was painted on synagogues and
Jewish property. After Hitler successfully invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium,
and France, the “final solution”- to exterminate the Jews-began. This required a new kind of
camp, the death camp.
         Oskar Berger, a Polish Jew, tells his story of “resettlement” from a city ghetto:
         “I was separated from my wife and never saw her again. Just before the resettlement all
the sick, in homes as well as the hospital- some four or five hundred persons- together with the
inmates of the homes for the aged and the orphans in the orphan home, were either shot or killed
by injection. I was a strong young man and was detailed to recover the bodies and bury them in a
large garden.
         “There were about 60 Jews in this detail. The bodies were flung into the pit dressed as
they were, after we had searched them for jewels, gold and money, which had to be delivered to
the SS. When the work had been done, we were assembled in the synagogue and Gestapo Chief
Thomas picked some of us for shipment to Treblinka.
         “The trip was a nightmare. We crouched in the cars, crowded together, children crying,
women going mad. We arrived toward 3 o‟clock the next afternoon. There was a big sign at the
railroad station: „Treblinka Labor Camp.‟ The train was shunted to a siding which led into the
woods for two or three miles. A ghastly scene greeted us at the end. Hundreds of bodies lay
about, together with scattered luggage and clothes, all in wild confusion. We were herded out of
the carriages as German and Ukrainian SS men mounted to the roofs and began to shoot
indiscriminately into the crowd. Men, women and children writhed in their own blood; screams
and sobs rent the air. Those who were not shot down were ultimately driven across the mounds
of dead and wounded through an open gate into a barbed-wire enclosure…
         “Together with several other men I was chosen to clean the cars, to pick up the bodies of
the new arrivals and take them to great pits that had been dug by steam shovels. Into these the
bodies were flung, regardless of whether they were dead or still twitching. The work was
supervised by SS men who held pistol or truncheon in one hand, whisky bottle in the other. Even
now my memory stands aghast at the picture of small children seized by their feet and dashed
against tree trunks…
         “Sometimes there were shipments that held only corpses. I believe these people must
have been gassed in the cars, for I never noticed any wounds. The bodies were convulsively
intertwined, the skin blue. Curiously enough there were isolated instances of small children, from
three to five years old, who survived these shipments. They were deaf and incapable of speech,
and their eyes were haunted. We were never able to conceal them for very long. The SS would
discover them and put an end to them. There were also shipments that consisted exclusively of
children or old people. They would crouch in the clearing for hours, until they were liquidated by
machine-gun fire.
         “During the weeks I worked at Treblinka a small brick building was constructed off to
one side in the woods. The path leading to it was marked with a sign reading „To the Bath-
House.‟ Another sign requested that gold, money, foreign exchange, and jewels be deposited in a
bundle at a bath-house window. From this time on new arrivals were gassed rather than shot. A
special detail like ours took care of burying or cremating the bodies.”