The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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   Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume One, Chapter Ten

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
     "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
     "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
                                                  [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
     "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
     " 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)

After a demand for concentration camp labor had been
created, and a mechanism set up by Speer for exploiting this
labor in armament factories, measures were evolved for
increasing the supply of victims for extermination through
work. A steady flow was assured by the agreement between
Himmler and the Minister of Justice mentioned above. This
was implemented by such programs as the following, expressed
in Sauckel's letter of 126 January 1942 to Presidents of
Landes Employment Offices regarding the program for the
evacuation of Poles from the Lublin district:

                                                  [Page 918]

     "The Poles who are to be evacuated as a result of this
     measure will be put into concentration camps and put to
     work where they are criminal or asocial elements." (L-
     General measures were supplemented by special drives
     far persons who would not otherwise have been sent to
     concentration camps. For example, for "reasons of war
     necessity" Himmler ordered on 17 December 1942 that at
     least 35,000 prisoners qualified for work should be
     transferred immediately to concentration camps, (106-D-
     PS). The order provided that:
     "For reasons of war necessity not to be discussed
     further here, the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the
     German Police on 114 February 1942 has ordered that
     until the end of January 1943, at least 35,000
     prisoners qualified for work, are to be sent to the
     concentration camps. In order to reach this number, the
     following measures are required:
     "1. As of now (so far until 1 February 1943) all
     eastern workers or such foreign workers who have been
     fugitives, or who have broken contracts, and who do not
     belong to allied, friendly or neutral States are to be
     brought by the quickest means to the nearest
     concentration camps ***.
     "2. The commanders and the commandants of the security
     police and the security service, and the chiefs of the
     State Police Headquarters will check immediately on the
     basis of a close and strict ruling
     a. the prisons
     b. the labor reformatory camps
     "All prisoners qualified for work, if it is essentially
     and humanly possible, will be committed at once to the
     nearest concentration camp, according to the following
     instructions, for instance also if penal procedures
     were to be established in the near future. Only such
     prisoners who in the interest of investigation
     procedures are to remain absolutely in solitary
     confinement can be left there.
     "Every single laborer counts!" (1063-D-PS)

Measures were also adopted to insure that extermination
through work was practiced with maximum efficiency.
Subsidiary concentration camps were established near
important war plants. Speer has admitted that he personally
toured Upper Austria and selected sites for concentration
camps near various munitions factories in the area. This
admission appears in the transcript of an interrogation of
Speer under oath on 18 October 1945, in which Speer stated:

     "The fact that we were anxious to use workers from
     concentration camps in factories and to establish small
     concentration camps near the factories in order to use
     the manpower that was available there was a general
     fact. But it did not only come up in connection with
     this trip." [i.e. Speer's trip to Austria]. (3720-PS)

Goering endorsed this use of concentration camp labor and
asked for more. In a teletype which Goering sent to Himmler
on 14 February 1944, he stated:

     "At the same time I ask you to put at my disposal as
     great a number of concentration camp (KZ) convicts as
     possible for air armament, as this kind of manpower
     proved to be very useful according to previous
     experience. The situation of the air war makes
     subterranean transfer of industry necessary. For work
     of this kind concentration camp (KZ) convicts can be
     especially well concentrated at work and in the camp."

Speer subsequently assumed responsibility for this program,
and Hitler promised Speer that if the necessary labor for
the program could not be obtained, a hundred thousand
Hungarian Jews would be brought in by the SS. Speer's record
of conferences with Hitler on 6 April 1944 and 7 April 1944,
contain the following quotation:

     "*** Suggested to the Fuehrer that, due to lack of
     builders and equipment, the second big building project
     should not be set up in German territory, but in close
     vicinity to the border on suitable soil (preferable on
     gravel base and with transport facilities) on French,
     Belgian or Dutch territory. The Fuehrer agrees to this
     suggestion if the works could be set up behind a
     fortified zone. For the suggestion of setting this
     plant up in French territory speaks mainly the fact
     that it would be much easier to procure the necessary
     workers. Nevertheless, the Fuehrer asks an attempt be
     made to set up the second works in a safer area, namely
     in the Protectorate. If it should prove impossible
     there, too, to get hold of the necessary workers, the
     Fuehrer himself will contact the Reichsfuehrer SS and
     will give an order that the required 100,000 men are to
     be made available by bringing in Jews from Hungary.
     Stressing the fact that the building organization of
     the Industriegemeinschaft Schlesien Silesia was a
     failure, the Fuehrer demands that these works must be
     built by the O.T. exclusively and that the workers
     should be made available by the Reichsfuehrer SS. He
     wants to hold a meeting shortly in order to discuss
     details with all the men concerned." (R-124)

                                                  [Page 920]
The character of the treatment inflicted on Allied nationals
and other victims of concentration camp while they were
being worked to death is described in an official report
prepared by a US Congressional Committee which inspected the
liberated camps at the request of General Eisenhower (159).
The report states in part:

     "*** The treatment accorded to these prisoners in the
     concentration camps was generally as follows: They were
     herded together in some wooden barracks not large
     enough for one-tenth of their number. They were forced
     to sleep on wooden frames covered with wooden boards in
     tiers of two, three and even four, sometimes with no
     covering, sometimes with a bundle of dirty rags serving
     both as pallet and coverlet.
     "Their food consisted generally of about one-half of a
     pound of black bread per day and a bowl of watery soup
     for noon and night, and not always that. Owing to the
     great numbers crowded into a small space and to the
     lack of adequate sustenance, lice and vermin
     multiplied, disease became rampant, and those who did
     not soon die of disease or torture began the long, slow
     process of starvation. Notwithstanding the deliberate
     starvation program inflicted upon these prisoners by
     lack of adequate food, we found no evidence that the
     people of Germany as a whole were suffering from any
     lack of sufficient food or clothing. The contrast was
     so striking that the only conclusion which we could
     reach was that the starvation of the inmates of these
     camps was deliberate.
     "Upon entrance into these camps, newcomers were forced
     to work either at an adjoining war factory or were
     placed 'in commando' on various jobs in the vicinity,
     being returned each night to their stall in the
     barracks. Generally a German criminal was placed in
     charge of each 'block' or shed in which the prisoners
     slept. Periodically he would choose the one prisoner of
     his block who seemed the most alert or intelligent or
     showed the most leadership qualities. These would
     report to the guards' room and would never be heard
     from again. The generally-accepted belief of the
     prisoners was that these were shot or gassed or hanged
     and then cremated. A refusal to work or an infraction
     of the rules usually meant flogging and other types of
     torture, such as having the fingernails pulled out, and
     in each case usually ended in death after extensive
     suffering. The policies herein described con-
                                                  [Page 921]
     stituted a calculated and diabolical program of planned
     torture and extermination on the part of those who were
     in control of the German Government ***."
     "On the whole, we found this camp to have been operated and
     administered much in the same manner as Buchenwald had
     been operated and managed. When the efficiency of the workers
     decreased as a result of the conditions under which they were required to
     live, their rations were decreased as punishment. This brought about a
     vicious circle in which the weak became weaker and were ultimately
     exterminated." (159)

Such was the cycle of work, torture, starvation and death
for concentration camp labor -- labor which Goering, while
requesting that more of it be placed at his disposal, said
had proved very useful; labor which Speer was "anxious" to
use in the factories under his control.

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