“Cause of death: total exhaustion”

“Departure through death” is the heading on the death certificate of the Frenchman François Audran, who perished in the Elrich-Juliushütte subcamp of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp on 20 February 1945. He had been transferred to the Harz Mountains from Rechlin, a Ravensbrück subcamp, just a week earlier.

The newly arrived inmates must have been completely emaciated. Over the following weeks, the death registers listed name after name of inmates from Rechlin nearly every day. Those still able to stand had to perform forced labour at construction sites in the area around Ellrich. Hardly a single Rechlin inmate lived to be liberated.

François Audran had been arrested in Southern France in 1943 for helping members of the Résistance flee to Spain. In January 1944, the SS deported him to Buchenwald and soon afterward, by way of Sachsenhausen, to the Rechlin subcamp of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. He was survived by his wife Berthe and two daughters. Paulette and Jeannine were just seven and eight years old.

(Jens-Christian Wagner)


Jens-Christian Wagner, Ellrich 1944/45: Konzentrationslager und Zwangsarbeit in einer deutschen Kleinstadt, Göttingen 2009.

Laurent Thiery (ed.), Le livre des 9000 déportés de France à Mittelbau-Dora, Paris 2020.