Research for the benefit of Concentration Camp Memorial Schwäbisch Hall-Hessental
In an honorary capacity, Manfred Krey conducts research at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for the benefit of Concentration Camp Memorial Schwäbisch Hall-Hessental – and has spent as much as 200 hours’ time investigating so far. “I could complete the prisoners’ list by 170 new names”, rejoices Krey. “All in all, over 800 largely Polish Jews were detained in Hessental. We have come to know of 650 fates now.”
A concentration camp commando, that is to say a subsidiary organisationally dependent on Concentration Camp Natzweiler-Struthof, Hessental was in operation over six months. “The first transport packed with 600 prisoners arrived on 14th October 1944”, knows Krey. “Having worked for the German occupiers in the labour camps in Radom and its surroundings before, the Polish Jews were transported to Hessental via Auschwitz and Vaihingen/Enz.” Two other transports followed in November and December 1944 increasing the number of prisoners to more than 800.
At the ITS, Krey completes the data of the Hessental inmates adding new biographical details to the list available. “I have looked through a card index of Concentration Camp Natzweiler that is organised by prisoner’s numbers. Wherever it showed an indication of Hessental, I have made a respective note.”
Against payment of a daily fee, the SS recruited the inmates for forced labour at the Hessental military airfield. Their main task consisted in repairing the damage the bombs had caused the runway and keeping it usable. Due to the brutal life and work conditions on the one hand and to maltreatment and murder on the other, 182 inmates lost their lives. “So far, I have been able to compile the names of 89 persons murdered only”, relates 74-year-old Krey. “This number includes nine men who perished on the death march.”
Concentration Camp Memorial Hessental was opened on 5th April 2001. A field of steles on the camp’s former roll call square represents the victims. The plaques fixed to the steles record the victims’ names known up to now adding their place of origin and their age while incarcerated in the concentration camp.