Prisoners making goods for the war effort, such as munitions and gas masks, had a better chance of survival than those in construction. Their work was less exhausting. And because they were skilled (and thus more difficult to replace), these prisoners often received better treatment. This was true of inmates in a Nuremberg satellite camp, who made electric goods for the Siemens-Schuckert works between October 1944 and February 1945. Although conditions were extremely poor, they were not deadly: the SS recorded no more than three deaths among the 550 female prisoners. One survivor was Ágnes Rózsa, a Jewish school teacher from Hungary, who had arrived from Auschwitz-Birkenau and kept a secret diary.
Nuremberg, Tuesday, 5 December 1944
We arrived here on 16 October and since yesterday I have been working with a hundred others in the Siemens workshop that has been set up inside our camp. The SS brought us into the vast, dark hut, where even by day they need lamps burning by every worker. We were given pencils to note down how much work we had got through and magnifying glasses for our eyes, because we have to work on secret machine components […].
I could hardly wait to be moved from Auschwitz-Birkenau to a work camp. […] Though it’s freezing in this hut it’s quiet and I can work.
In the first few days, when I heard the words “forced labour” I couldn’t precisely describe my own feelings. Even so, I was in fear and trembling that they might take my work away from me. […]
We no longer face the daily threat of the selections
Nuremberg, Wednesday, 6 December 1944
[…] We have turned into workers here. Each of us has her own bunk with straw, a plate and even a spoon as well. We no longer face the daily threat of the selections or the fear of being gassed. […]
Nuremberg, Friday, 22 December 1944
[…] It’s broad daylight but it’s impossible to see out of the washroom window; it’s covered in frost patterns. There are icicles on the inside window ledge. It’s pretty but it’s bitter. We don’t get enough calories to keep our bodies warm. Even winter was conspiring against us! We’re sitting round the lighted stove and we can see our breath.
I’m still alive, basically, because for the moment nobody wants to kill me.
Source: M. Diefenbacher and G. Jochem (eds), “Solange ich lebe, hoffe ich” (Nuremberg, 2006)
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes