The Women of Penig

The Max Gehrt Works in Penig had already been requesting concentration camp inmate labourers for some time. On 10 January, the SS responded by sending a transport of 700 female forced labourers from Ravensbrück to the new Buchenwald subcamp in the small Saxon town.

The women were Hungarian Jews. They had been driven to the German-Hungarian border by force, many of them on foot. From there they were taken in cattle cars to Ravensbrück, where they arrived in early December 1944. They were exhausted and sick. Many were suffering from frostbite. For the managers of the Gehrt Works, however, they were still healthy enough for further exploitation.

In Penig, the female inmates had to manufacture aircraft parts seven days a week. The kilometre-long marches to and from the factory compounded their suffering. The hygiene conditions in their barrack camp were disastrous. It was not long before typhus, tuberculosis and gangrene grew rampant. By the end of January, the first lives had been claimed.

(Michael Löffelsender)

Literatur: Ronald Hirte, Die Frauen des Konzentrationslagers Penig – 87 Fotografien ihrer Befreiung: Ein Bildungsmaterial, Stiftung Gedenkstätten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora, Weimar 2019.