|Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 1|
|Prev||Chapter 10. CHAPTER X - THE SLAVE LABOR PROGRAM, THE ILLEGAL USE OF PRISONERS OF WAR, AND THE SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF SAUCKEL AND SPEER THEREFOR||Next|
A special Nazi program combined the brutality and the purposes of the slave labor program with those of the concentration camp. The Nazis placed Allied nationals in concentration camps and forced them, along with the other inmates of the concentration camps, to work in the armaments industry under conditions designed to exterminate them. This was the Nazi program of extermination through work.
The program was initiated in the spring of 1942. It was outlined as follows in a letter to Himmler, dated 30 April 1942, from his subordinate Pohl, SS Obergruppenfuehrer and General of the Waffen SS:
"Today I report about the present situation of the concentration camps and about measures I have taken to carry out your order of the 3rd March 1942."
"1. The war has brought about a marked change in the structure of the concentration camps and has changed their duties with regard to the employment of the prisoners. The custody of prisoners for the sole reasons of security, education, or prevention is no longer the main consideration. The mobilization of all prisoners who are fit for work for purposes of the war now, and for purposes of construction in the forthcoming peace, come to the foreground more and more.
"2. From this knowledge some necessary measures result with the aim to transform the concentration camps into organizations more suitable for the economic tasks, whilst they were formerly merely politically interested.
"3. For this reason I have gathered together all the leaders of the former inspectorate of Concentration Camps, all Camp Commanders, and all managers and supervisors of work on the 23rd and 24th of April, 1942; I have explained personally to them this new development. I have compiled in the order attached the main essentials, which have to be brought into effect with the utmost urgency if the commencement of work for purposes of the armament industry is not to be delayed." (R-129)
The order referred to in paragraph 3 above set the framework for a program of relentless exploitation, providing in part as follows:
"4. The camp commander alone is responsible for the employment of the labor available. This employment must be, in the true meaning of the word, exhaustive, in order to obtain the greatest measure of performance. Work is allotted by the Chief of the Department D centrally and alone. The camp-commanders themselves may not accept on their own initiative work offered by third parties and may not negotiate about it.
"5. There is no limit to working hours. Their duration depends on the kind of working establishments in the camps and the kind of work to be done. They are fixed by the camp commanders alone.
"6. Any circumstances which may result in a shortening of working hours (e.g. meals, roll-calls) have therefore to be restricted to the minimum which cannot be condensed any more. It is forbidden to allow long walks to the place of working and noon intervals only for eating purposes." (R-129)
This armaments production program was not merely a scheme for mobilizing the manpower potential of the camps. It was directly integrated into the larger Nazi program of extermination. A memorandum of an agreement between Himmler and the Minister of Justice, Thierack sets for the Nazi objective of extermination through work:
"* * * 2. The delivery of anti-social elements from the execution of their sentence to the Reich Fuehrer of SS to be worked to death. Persons under protective arrest, Jews, Gypsies, Russians and Ukrainians, Poles with more than 3-year sentences, Czechs and Germans with more than 8-year sentences, according to the decision of the Reich Minister for Justice. First of all the worst anti-social elements amongst those just mentioned are to be handed over. I shall inform the Fuehrer of this through Reichsleiter Bormann."
"14. It is agreed that, in consideration of the intended aims of the Government for the clearing up of the Eastern problems, in future Jews, Poles, Gypsies, Russians and Ukrainians are no longer to be judged by the ordinary courts, so far as punishable offenses are concerned, but are to be dealt with by the Reich Fuehrer of SS. This does not apply to civil lawsuits, nor to Poles whose names are announced or entered in the German Racial Lists." (654-PS)
In September, 1942, Speer arranged to bring this new source of labor within his jurisdiction. Speer convinced Hitler that significant production could be obtained only if the concentration camp prisoners were employed in factories under the technical control of the Speer Ministry instead of in camps. In fact, without Speer's co-operation, it would have been difficult to utilize the prisoners on any large scale for war production since he would not allocate to Himmler the machine tools and other necessary equipment. Accordingly, it was agreed that the prisoners were to be exploited in factories under Speer's control. to compensate Himmler for surrendering this jurisdiction to Speer, Speer proposed, and Hitler agreed, that Himmler would receive a share of the armaments output, fixed in relation to the man hours contributed by his prisoners. The minutes of Speer's conference with Hitler on 20, 21, 22 September 1942, are as follows (R-124):
"* * * I pointed out to the Fuehrer that, apart from an insignificant amount of work, no possibility exists of organizing armament production in the concentration camps, because:
"1. the machine tools required are missing,
"2. there are no suitable premises.
"Both these assets would be available in the armaments industry, if use could be made of them by a second shift.
"The Fuehrer agrees to my proposal, that the numerous factories set up outside towns for ARP reasons, should release their workers for supplementing the second shift in town factories and should in return be supplied with labor from the concentration camps-also two shifts.
"I pointed out to the Fuehrer the difficulties which I expect to encounter if Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler should be able, as he requests, to exercise authoritative influence over these factories. The Fuehrer, too, does not consider such an influence necessary.
"The Fuehrer however agrees that Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler should draw advantages from making his prisoners available; he should get equipment for his division.
"I suggest to give him a share in kind (war equipment) in ratio to the working hours done by his prisoners. A 3-5% share is discussed, the equipment also being calculated according to working hours. The Fuehrer would agree to such a solution.
"The Fuehrer is prepared to order the additional delivery of this equipment and weapons to the SS, according to a list submitted to him.' (R-124)
After a demand for concentration camp labor had been created, and a mechanism set up by Speer for exploiting this labor in armament factories, measures were evolved for increasing the supply to victims for extermination through work. A steady flow was assured by the agreement between Himmler and the Minister of Justice mentioned above. This was implemented by such programs as the following, expressed in Sauckel's letter of 26 November 1942 to Presidents of Landes Employment Offices regarding the program for the evacuation of Poles from the Lublin district:
"The Poles who are to be evacuated as a result of this measure will be put into concentration camps and put to work where they are criminal or asocial elements." (L-61)
General measures were supplemented by special drives for persons who would not otherwise have been sent to concentration camps. For example, for "reasons of war necessity" Himmler ordered on 17 December 1942 that at least 35,000 prisoners qualified for work should be transferred immediately to concentration camps, (1063-D-PS). The order provided that:
"For reasons of war necessity not to be discussed further here, the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police on 14 December 1942 has ordered that until the end of January 1943, at least 35,000 prisoners qualified for work, are to be sent to the concentration camps. In order to reach this number, the following measures are required:
"1. As of now (so far until 1 Feb. 1943) all eastern workers or such foreign workers who have been fugitives, or who have broken contracts, and who do not belong to allied, friendly or neutral States are to be brought by the quickest means to the nearest concentration camps * * *.
"2. The commanders and the commandants of the security police and the security service, and the chiefs of the State Police Headquarters will check immediately on the basis of a close and strict ruling.
a. the prisons
b. the labor reformatory camps
"All prisoners qualified for work, if it is essentially and humanly possible, will be committed at once to the nearest concentration camp, according to the following instructions, for instance also if penal procedures were to be established in the near future. Only such prisoners who in the interest of investigation procedures are to remain absolutely in solitary confinement can be left there.
"Every single laborer counts!" (1063-D-PS)
Measures were also adopted to insure that extermination through work was practiced with maximum efficiency. Subsidiary concentration camps were established near important war plants. Speer has admitted that he personally toured Upper Austria and selected sites for concentration camps near various munitions factories in the area. This admission appears in the transcript of an interrogation of Speer under oath on 18 October 1945, in which Speer stated:
"The fact that we were anxious to use workers from concentration camps in factories and to establish small concentration camps near the factories in order to use the manpower that was available there was a general fact. But it did not only come up on connection with this trip." [i.e. Speer's trip to Austria]. (3720-PS)
Goering endorsed this use of concentration camp labor and asked for more. In a teletype which Goering sent to Himmler on 14 February 1944, he stated:
"At the same time I ask you to put at my disposal as great a number of concentration camp (KZ-) convicts as possible for air armament, as this kind of manpower proved to be very useful according to previous experience. The situation of the air war makes subterranean transfer of industry necessary. For work of this kind concentration camp (KZ-) convicts can be especially well concentrated at work and in the camp." (1584-I-PS)
Speer subsequently assumed responsibility for this program, and Hitler promised Speer that if the necessary labor for the program could not be obtained, a hundred thousand Hungarian Jews would be brought in by the SS. Speer's record of conferences with Hitler on April 6 and 7, 1944, contain the following quotation:
"* * * Suggested to the Fuehrer that, due to lack of builders and equipment, the second big building project should not be set up in German territory, but in close vicinity to the border on suitable soil (preferable on grave base and with transport facilities) on French, Belgian or Dutch territory. The Fuehrer agrees to this suggestion if the works could be set up behind a fortified zone. For the suggestion of setting this plant up in French territory speaks mainly the fact that it would be much easier to procure the necessary workers. Nevertheless, the Fuehrer asks an attempt be made to set up the second works in a safer area, namely in the Protectorate. If it should prove impossible there, too, to get hold of the necessary workers, the Fuehrer himself will contact the Reichsfuehrer SS and will give an order that the required 100,000 men are to be made available by bringing in Jews from Hungary. Stressing the fact that the building organization of the Industriegemeinschaft Schlesien Silesia was a failure, the Fuehrer demands that these works must be built by the O.T. exclusively and that the workers should be made available by the Reichsfuehrer SS. He wants to hold a meeting shortly in order to discuss details with all the men concerned." (R-124)
The character of the treatment inflicted on Allied nationals and other victims of concentration camps while they were being worked to death is described in an official report prepared by a U.S. Congressional Committee which inspected the liberated camps at the request of General Eisenhower (L-159). The report states in part:
"* * * The treatment accorded to these prisoners in the concentration camps was generally as follows: They were herded together in some wooden barracks not large enough for one-tenth of their number. They were forced to sleep on wooden frames covered with wooden boards in tiers of two, three and even four, sometimes with no covering, sometimes with a bundle of dirty rags serving both as pallet and coverlet.
"Their food consisted generally of about one-half of a pound of black bread per day and a bowl of watery soup for noon and night, and not always that. Owing to the great numbers crowded into a small space and to the lack of adequate sustenance, lice and vermin multiplied, disease became rampant, and those who did not soon die of disease or torture began the long, slow process of starvation. Notwithstanding the deliberate starvation program inflicted upon these prisoners by lack of adequate food, we found no evidence, that the people of Germany as a whole were suffering from any lack of sufficient food or clothing. The contrast was so striking that the only conclusion which we could reach was that the starvation of the inmates of these camps was deliberate.
"Upon entrance into these camps, newcomers were forced to work either at an adjoining war factory or were placed 'in commando' on various jobs in the vicinity, being returned each night to their stall in the barracks. Generally a German criminal was placed in charge of each 'block' or shed in which the prisoners slept. Periodically he would choose the one prisoner of his block who seemed the most alert or intelligent or showed the most leadership qualities. These would report to the guards' room and would never be heard from again. The generally-accepted belief of the prisoners was that these were shot or gassed or hanged and then cremated. A refusal to work or an infraction of the rules usually meant flogging and other types of torture, such as having the fingernails pulled out, and in each case usually ended in death after extensive suffering. The policies herein described constituted a calculated and diabolical program of planned torture and extermination on the part of those who were in control of the German Government * * *."
"On the whole, we found this camp to have been operated and administered much in the same manner as Buchenwald had been operated and managed. When the efficiency of the workers decreased as a result of the conditions under which they were required to live, their rations were decreased as punishment. This brought about a vicious circle in which the weak became weaker and were ultimately exterminated." (L-159)
Such was the cycle of work, torture, starvation and death for concentration camp labor-labor which Goering, which requesting that more of it be placed at his disposal, said had proved very useful; labor which Speer was "anxious" to use in the factories under his control.