Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof was a Nazi German concentration camp in operation from September 2, 1939 following the invasion of Poland in World War II. It was set up in a secluded, wet, and wooded area west of the small town of Stutthof (Sztutowo) in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig, 34 km (21 mi) east of the city of Gdańsk. It was the first camp outside German borders, and 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 inmates 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, totaling 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 (0.5 sq mi). 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.
The camp staff consisted of SS guards and after 1943, the Ukrainian auxiliaries. In 1942 the first female prisoners, and German female SS guards arrived in Stutthof. A total of 295 Aufseherinen women guards worked as staff in the Stutthof complex of camps. Among the notable female guard personnel were: Elisabeth Becker, Erna Beilhardt, Ella Bergmann, Ella Blank, Gerda Bork, Herta Bothe, Erna Boettcher, Hermine Boettcher-Brueckner, Steffi Brillowski, Charlotte Graf, Charlotte Gregor, Charlotte Klein, Gerda Steinhoff, Ewa Paradies, or Jenny-Wanda Barkmann. Thirty-four female guards including Becker, Bothe, Steinhoff, Paradies, and Barkmann were identified later as having committed crimes against humanity. The SS in Stutthof began conscripting women from Danzig and the surrounding cities in June 1944, to train as camp guards because of their severe shortage after the women's subcamp of Stutthof called Bromberg-Ost (Konzentrationslager Bromberg-Ost) was set up in the city of Bydgoszcz.
Several Norwegian Waffen SS volunteers worked as guards or as instructors for prisoners from Nordic countries, according to senior researcher at the Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, Terje Emberland.
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 100,000, were deported to the Stutthof camp including non-Jewish Poles and Jews from all of Europe. These totals are thought to be conservative, as it is believed that inmates sent for immediate execution were not registered. 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 and sent them to Stutthof.
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 Nazis used Stutthof prisoners as forced laborers. Some prisoners worked in SS-owned businesses such as DAW, the heavily guarded armaments factory Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke (de) located inside the camp (see map). Other inmates labored in local brickyards, in private industrial enterprises, in agriculture, or in the camp's own workshops. In 1944, as forced labor 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-labor camps; 105 Stutthof subcamps were established throughout northern and central Poland. The major subcamps were Thorn and Elbing.
Research shows that the Stutthof concentration camp was a potential sources for human remains that Nazi Dr. Rudolf Spanner used to make a limited quantity of soap from human fat. The former prisoner of Stutthoff and Lithuanian writer Balys Sruoga later wrote a novel Dievų miškas (The Forest of Gods) describing the everyday horrors of this camp.
Soap production from the bodies of victims
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 Gdańsk/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 torsos pickled in some liquid, and its pails full of a flakey substance - human soap". This process was confirmed in 2006 by researchers from the Gdansk University of Technology
Stutthof sub camps
The main German concentration camp in Stutthof had as many as 40 sub-camps during World War II. In total, the sub-camps held 110,000 prisoners from 25 countries according to the Jewish Virtual Library. The sub-camps of Stutthof included:
- SS-Sturmbannführer - Max Pauly - September '39 - August '42
- SS-Sturmbannführer - Paul-Werner Hoppe - August '42 - January '45
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 machine-gunned. The rest of the prisoners were marched in the direction of Lauenburg in eastern Germany. Cut off by advancing Soviet forces the Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to Stutthof. Marching in severe winter conditions and brutal treatment by SS guards led to thousands of deaths.
In late April 1945, the remaining prisoners were removed from Stutthof by sea, since the camp 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.
Soviet forces liberated Stutthof on May 9, 1945, rescuing about 100 prisoners who had managed to hide during the final evacuation of the camp.
The Nuremberg Trials did not include staff of the Stutthof concentration camp. However, the Poles held four trials in Gdańsk against former guards and kapos of Stutthof, charging them with crimes of war and crimes against humanity. The first trial was held against 30 ex-officials and kapos of the camp, from April 25, 1946, to May 31, 1946. The Soviet/Polish Special Criminal Court found all of them guilty of the charges. Eleven of them, including the former commander, Johann Pauls, were sentenced to death. The rest were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
The second trial was held from January 8, 1947, to January 31, 1947, before a Polish Special Criminal Court. Arraigned 24 ex-officials and guards of the Stutthof concentration camp were judged and found guilty. Ten were sentenced to death.
The third trial was held from November 5, 1947, to November 10, 1947, before a Polish Special Criminal Court. Arraigned 20 ex-officials and guards were judged; 19 were found guilty, and one was acquitted.
The fourth and final trial was also held before a Polish Special Criminal Court, from November 19, 1947, to November 29, 1947. Arraigned 27 ex-officials and guards were judged; 26 were found guilty, and one was acquitted.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to KL Stutthof.|
- Female guards in Nazi concentration camps
- List of Nazi-German concentration camps
- List of subcamps of Stutthof
- Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles
- Rescue of Stutthof victims in Denmark
- Soap made from human corpses
- Stutthof Trial
- "Stutthof, the first Nazi concentration camp outside Germany". Jewishgen.org. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
- Nunca Mas (2007), Datos de 295 Mujeres Pertenecientes a la SS: Christel Bankewitz, Stutthof. Historia Virtual del Holocausto.
- Benjamin B. Ferencz. Less Than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation. Retrieved 2013-06-24.
- "Norske vakter jobbet i Hitlers konsentrasjonsleire". 2010-01-01. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
- "Tests show that Nazis used human remains to make soap". Mail & Guardian Online. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
- Shermer, Michael; Alex Grobman (2002). Denying history: Who says the Holocaust never happened and why do they say it?. Univ. of California Press. pp. 114–117.
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- who analysed the chemistry of soap samples produced at the camp
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Stutthof concentration camp.|
- Stutthof National Museum
- Memorial to the Victims of the Stutthof Concentration Camp
- Several authors, Monografia KL Stutthof (KL Stutthof monograph) Organization, prisoners, subcamps, extermination, responsibility. (Polish)
- SS personnel serving at Ravensbrück
- SS personnel serving at Stutthof
- Karl M. Haugan describes conditions at Stutthof
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia entry
- Brief facts and photos of the camp
- "The Soap Allegations"