After an Allied bomb attack, the city of Nordhausen requested inmates from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp for rescue and clean-up operations. On 22 February 1945, 389 inmates had to march the five kilometres to the town and carry out the dangerous and exhausting work.
The hiring out of forced labourers from the concentration camps had been common practice for years. The SS rented out inmates to towns and companies for a flat daily rate. Hundreds of businesses, especially in the construction industry, availed themselves of the offer. By employing concentration camp inmates, many of them were able to accept lucrative armaments orders despite the shortage of manpower. They had an economic interest in the prisoners’ working capacity.
By insisting on the longest possible working hours, the employers further worsened the inmates’ living conditions. However, there were also companies that called for better provisions for the inmates to increase their performance.
Reference: Jens-Christian Wagner (ed.), Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp 1943–1945: Companion Volume to the Permanent Exhibition at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial, Göttingen 2011.