On this evening, the thermometer registered -8 °C (17 °F); it had been bitterly cold for weeks. Nevertheless, more than 1,000 women from the Markkleeberg subcamp set off for their twelve-hour shift in the Junkers factory. The coats they had had in Bergen Belsen were in the storage depot, and they had nothing to wear over their thin two-piece uniforms. Miriam Porat later recalled:
“These work uniforms didn’t warm us at all, but the long trouser legs did protect our legs and feet a bit […]. We had no gloves, and when we went outdoors we stuck our hands in our uniform pockets. But woe to us if we encountered an SS guard and didn’t stand still immediately and take our hands out of our pockets.”
What is more, the inmate lodgings were not heated because the SS kept the coal for themselves. Many of the women already had tuberculosis. Now they suffered a further affliction: frostbite on their hands and feet.
Source: Miriam Anna Porat, Nicht befreit: Erinnerungen aus der Zeit des Holocaust, Düsseldorf 1993.
Reference: Irmgard Seidel, “Markkleeberg”, in Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel (eds.), Der Ort des Terrors: Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, vol. 3, Munich 2006, pp. 520–523.