“Malachit” – Gruelling Construction Work in the tunnel

On 18 February 1945, 135 Jewish inmates arrived in the Langenstein-Zwieberge subcamp of Buchenwald. In an operation with the code name “Malachit”, the SS were having a tunnel system constructed there in the Thekenberge, a chain of hills in the Harz Mountains. It was to cover an area of 40,000 square metres. Thousands of inmates worked on the project twelve hours a day.

Within a year, 1,800 of them had lost their lives to hunger, cold and forced labour. The death certificates of the nine men who died on this day – three Poles deported from Warsaw, two Latvians, a Communist from Estonia, two Hungarians and an Italian teacher from Trieste who had belonged to the partisan unit “Garibaldi” – stated phlegmon, heart failure, diarrhoea and pneumonia as the causes of death.  

The Jewish inmates who arrived in Langenstein-Zwieberge on 18 February had been mustered to set up the underground production operations of the Junkers aircraft works. Several of them later wrote about their experiences, among them the scholar and novelist H. G. Adler and Ivan Ivanji, today a well-known writer.

(Harry Stein)


H. G. Adler, Panorama: A Novel, New York 2012.

Ivan Ivanji, Schattenspringen, Vienna 1993.