From Auschwitz to the Harz Mountains

The Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp received its first major clearance transport from Auschwitz, carrying approximately 4,000 inmates, on 28 January. By mid-February, the SS would send altogether some 16,000 inmates, many of them Jews, from the Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camps to the Southern Harz Mountains. Hundreds died on the journey, which took several days; the others arrived in a completely enfeebled and half-frozen state. As the crematorium did not have the capacity for such a large number of corpses, the SS had many burned in heaps in the open air.

In later years, even inmates who had experienced Nazi terror over years of custody still remembered the arrival of the transports from the east with horror. The inmate clerk Lubomir Hanak, for example, recalled: “Hundreds of poor devils lay on the floor, the live ones alongside the dead or half-dead. I determined their identities by way of their number tattoos […] because the great majority of the inmates could neither speak nor move.

(Karsten Uhl)

Source/reference: Jens-Christian Wagner, Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, 3rd ed., Göttingen 2015.