“ … and when we found earthworms, we ate them.”

On 5 March 1945, the SS of the Leipzig-Thekla subcamp admitted 579 new arrivals to the “Lagerstärke”, or camp population. The inmates had performed forced labour in aircraft production in the Gassen subcamp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp before being sent to Leipzig on a death march.

They had already been in Leipzig for two weeks, but because they were not yet officially registered with the so-called “Verpflegungsstärke” (“provision population”), had received nothing to eat. “We looked for food scraps and when we found earthworms, we ate them”, Piotr Pikulinski, a Polish inmate who was 44 at the time, later recalled. By 5 March, 20 of them had died.

The Erla Works in Leipzig-Heiterblick manufactured a Messerschmitt fighter plane. Inmates, prisoners of war and forced labourers already accounted for two thirds of the workforce as far back as 1943, when the subcamp was set up near the plant. The enfeebled inmates from the aircraft production operations in Gassen were intended to work themselves to death to ensure that the Germans could continue fighting the war.

(Harry Stein)

Source: https://www.zwangsarbeit-in-leipzig.de, accessed 30 January 2021.

Reference: Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel (eds.), Der Ort des Terrors: Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, vol. 3: Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Munich 2006.