Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression Volume I Chapter X The Concentration Camp Program of Extermination Through Work

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Last-Modified: 1996/06/12

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.