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Research on Concentration Camp Prisoners in Salzgitter-Drütte

Victims of the Salzgitter-Drütte satellite camp have been the focus of the recent research conducted by Elke Zacharias and Meike Weth. This week at the archive of the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, the two historians thoroughly examined the documents on the first 50 prisoners who had been transported from the Buchenwald concentration camp to the satellite camp. “I never would have thought that our work at the ITS archive would be so successful,” says the memorial site director Zacharias.

The historians sifted through personal documents for a new exhibition concept at the Drütte concentration camp memorial site and documentation centre. “In doing so, we particularly focussed on the Sinti and Roma prisoners, as well as on homosexuals. Not much attention had been paid to them in the existing exhibition,” says Zacharias. No complete list of all the prisoners at the Drütte concentration camp exists. “The largest satellite camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp had a high rate of prisoners passing through,” as the 47-year-old explains. “Existing information is comprised of witness reports, lists and previous research findings.”

The first transport from Buchenwald to the Salzgitter-Drütte satellite camp was made on 18 October 1942. The camp was situated at the Hermann-Göring factory premises. The first 50 prisoners were Sinti and Roma, Jehova’s witnesses and people who had been arrested during the Nazis’ “Arbeitsscheu Reich” campaign against the “asocial” or “work-shy”. “What’s striking about this transport is the high average age of the prisoners and the fact that most of them were Germans,” says Zacharias. For the following transports, the SS mainly chose younger prisoners in good physical condition to do hard labour.

The prisoners were deployed in the production division of the Hermann-Göring plant where they had to manufacture cartridge and shell casing. “They were subject to heat, toxic fumes and stick beatings. The mortality rate of the concentration camp prisoners was quite high,” says the director. Around 3,000 victims of the Nazi regime are buried at the Jammertal cemetery – not only concentration camp prisoners, but also forced labourers and prisoners of war. “We were also able to do good research at ITS on the other groups of persecuted people,” adds Zacharias. “I have visited a few different archives around the world, but at ITS our research endeavours were particularly successful.” The Allies’ lists of slave labourers from the immediate post-war period and the documents on DPs were also of interest to the historians.