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Labelled and murdered as a “professional criminal”

“My mother told me that my grandfather had died in a concentration camp when she turned forty.” The thought of his grandfather’s fate stuck in Uwe Schmeichel’s mind and he began researching it.

In the concentration camps, the Nazis made so-called “professional criminals” wear uniforms marked with a green triangle. Like many thousands of people, Uwe Schmeichel’s grandfather Max Schlott was thus stigmatized. The designation is also found as an inmate category in the documents held by the International Tracing Service (ITS). Uwe Schmeichel was braced for it: he had already obtained information about his grandfather’s concentration camp custody in the Sachsenhausen and Niedernhagen Memorials.

“The matter of the ‘professional criminal’ is as follows,” Uwe Schmeichel explained. “Grandfather was a tradesman with his own firm in Klingenthal and had gotten into financial difficulties. He couldn’t manage to repay money he had borrowed from his brother-in-law, who then reported him to the police, and my grandfather was condemned for fraud and jailed.” After his release from a penitentiary in Saxony, Max Schlott went to live with a sister of his in Rostock, who had been caring for his two youngest children. His wife had died in 1938. Uwe Schmeichel’s mother, the daughter of Max Schlott, remembers that she saw her father for the last time in Rostock. The attempt to start over in Rostock didn’t work out for Max, a trained metalworker, as he failed to find work or a place to stay.

“In the summer of 1941, the SA or SS came to fetch him from his sister’s flat”, Uwe Schmeichel explains in telling about the unfortunate fate of this grandfather. Since 1937 it had been National Socialist policy to also label people as “professional criminals” who, after having been imprisoned, were without permanent employment.” Max Schlott was incarcerated at first in Rostock; his sister tried in vain to have him released.

The files in the ITS archive indicate that he was detained in the inmates’ infirmary of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp from July 14 to August 11, 1941. A letter addressed to his mother dated 10th September 1941 shows that he was in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp even longer. The letter tells of another tragedy in the family: his sister in Rostock had died unexpectedly. Max Schlott feared for the future of his children. Uwe Schmeichel sketches out his mother’s difficult childhood years: Things got very bad for her then, because she was literally pushed around from one family to another. She experienced hard times in the family of a cousin. Finally she was kindly taken in by the parents-in-law of her big brother, who worked for the Nazis. No one was allowed to find out about her father’s fate.”

Death in the Niedernhagen concentration camp

It is not known when Max Schlott was deported from concentration camp Sachsenhausen to the Niedernhagen concentration camp: on the surviving effects card, his birth date was erroneously entered as the date of his committal to the camp. What is known, however, is his date of death. He died there on January 16, 1942. The Niedernhagen concentration camp was situated in the direct vicinity of Wewelsburg, which had been altered to serve as the central assembly site for the highest-ranking SS officers. Survivors described it as a place of especially brutal and cruel harassments by the SS.

Since 2008, Uwe Schmeichel has been attending the memorial service for victims held at the Wewelsburg Memorial and Place of Remembrance every year on April 2. The visit to the ITS was important to him because here he was able to view documents pertaining to his grandfather in the original for the first time, including the effects card with Max Schlott’s signature. The effects card lists the personal belongings Max Schlott had with him and had to turn in upon committal to the camp. On the back is a handwritten memo likewise documenting the pretense of “law and order” in the illegitimate state: “Estate . . . sent . . . for delivery to his father Heinrich Schlott on Jan 20, 42.”