They Thought It Was a Military Casern

On the afternoon of 3 April 1945, the British Royal Air Force bombed the city of Nordhausen. The air raid caused especially heavy damage to the Boelcke-Kaserne. The attackers were unaware that the Wehrmacht was no longer using the grounds. The buildings now housed a subcamp and a forced labour camp of the Junkers company instead.

The SS had just set up the subcamp in January. It soon became Mittelbau-Dora’s main death camp. Severely debilitated inmates were sent there from the other camps. Some 6,000 of them – nearly one in two – died there within three months.

The air raid wrought severe destruction and killed hundreds of forced labourers and concentration camp inmates. Unlike their German guards, they were denied entrance to the bomb shelters. The next morning, a second attack on Nordhausen struck the Boelcke-Kaserne again, and this time the town centre as well.

(Karsten Uhl)

Reference: Jens-Christian Wagner, Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, 3rd edition, Göttingen 2015.