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Presentation of Research Results on Polish Prisoners at Hinzert

Lecture by Dr Susanne Urban „Help for Survivors and their descendants: Research and Remembrance – The ITS in past and present.”

The memorial of the SS Special Camp/Concentration Camp Hinzert and the International Tracing Service (ITS) have presented first results of the joint research project „When love is turned into a crime” on 13 May 2013. In the focus of the project are the fates of the so-called "Germanization-Poles". Most of them were Polish forced laborers who had a love relationship with a German woman and contrary to the usual prcatice did not face the death penalty but since 1942 were deported to Hinzert to examine their “capability to become Germans”.

About 1 000 „Germanization“ prisoners hab been imprisoned at Hinzert. “300 fates of the Poles, the women and their children could be traced back with the help of ITS documents”, reported Dr Susanne Urban, head of the ITS research and education department. Dr. Beate Welter, head of the memorial site Hinzert, explained that the documents are relevant on different levels. „We still have to analyze about 5 000 documents. This research is important for survivors as well as their descendants. We have gained a lot of new historical findings.” The review of the “capability to become German” was based on a “racial screening” that included the appearance and the family. The behavior of the prisoners was also put under surveillance.

If a forced labourer was considered “capable of Germanization” he could marry and raise a family. Whoever failed the test in the eyes of the Nazis was sent to another concentration camp. The German women were incarcerated in prisons or in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The children who arose from these relations and whose mothers were arrested either found a home with relatives or were put up for adoption.

Children from such a forbidden relationship between a Polish forced labourer and a German woman were Ingelore Prochnow and Anne Boehnisch who talked at the presentation at Hinzert about the difficult conditions under which they were raised and of the humiliations they and their parents had to endure. Beside the two children, the former Polish prisoner and 94-year-old Alois Halat was also present". For him it is important that this unique prisoner's category and the indignities linked with it become better known and memorized.

Ingelore Prochnow was born in the Ravensbruck concentration camp and spent the first months of her life there. “Without the solidarity among the women in the camp survival would have been unthinkable”, she said. Mother and daughter survived, but the young woman left behind her daughter in 1947 in a refugee camp in Siegen and disappeared. Ingelore was taken care of by an unfamiliar married couple. „I have been a nervous, intimidated, today one would say, traumatised child“. She only got to know her natural mother as a 45-year-old. An emotional bond between daughter and mother did not arise. Of her roots from the father’s site, Ingelore only heard years later thanks to the research of the journalist Thomas Muggenthaler in the archives of the ITS. Finally, after the death of her mother she received information from the archives and a photo of the bricklayer who survived the camps of Hinzert, Sachsenhausen, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau.

Anne Boehnisch grew up with her grandparents. The last sign of life of her mother came from the concentration camp Ravensbruck. Anne has never got to know her father who emigrated after the war to Canada. However, thanks to the ITS she could meet a Polish cousin and her family with which she keeps close connect. Thus she got to know a little more about her father. “My favorite picture shows him in the garden. That’s the way I see him – impressive and strong”, Anne said.

The cooperation of the ITS with the memorial Hinzert exists since 2009. After several visits to the ITS and research in the database by Dr Beate Welter, and advanced training for teachers could be arranged in 2010 and in 2011 an agreement about the project of the so-called “Germanization”-Poles could be reached, a prisoner group that only existed in the Hinzert concentration camp.