Sick labourers

Sick prisoners needed SS authorization to rest and seek medical help. The SS often denied them this, accusing them of being cheats and malingerers. One such unfortunate prisoner was Ludwig Bendix, a German-Jewish lawyer and left-wing legal commentator. In February 1937, Bendix was deported from Lichtenburg to Dachau, where the SS forced him to push a heavy cart full of soil. Weak and ill, the 59-year-old struggled to keep up. In his memoirs (written soon after his release in May 1937 and his emigration to Palestine), Bendix described what happened when he approached the Dachau camp compound leader Hermann Baranowski for permission to see a doctor.

039 – The Dachau prisoner Ludwig Bendix pleads for medical help in 1937

Although all my mates told me not to, [I decided] to venture into the lion’s den and at the morning roll call to go to the [SS] Compound Leader, Baranowski, with my request to be allowed to see the doctor because of my terrible stomach pains, which were sometimes unbearable, though sometimes they eased off for a while […]. The six of us who were ill were separated from the others, made to stand in a particular place and taken to Baranowski at morning roll call. As soon as he caught sight of me he shouted: “Get to work! I know you from Lichtenburg! There’s a different regime here! Clear off!” […] I had no choice but to force myself reluctantly to stay upright and return to my place in the column of prisoners, then march out to work and face the familiar torments and tortures. As I moved off I heard him bellow at another of the six ill prisoners, who must have spoken to him after me: “O come off it! In wartime people have marched for hours holding their guts in their hands! You lot have to learn how to put up with pain! I’ll take care you do! Clear off!” “Clear off” was the rough equivalent of the Roman Emperor’s death sentence as shown by the downturned thumb of his outstretched hand in the arena.

Source: Leo Baeck Institute Archives (Berlin), MF 425, L. Bendix, “Konzentrationslager Deutschland”, vol. V, pp. 20–1 (emphasis in the original)

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes