Foreigners in the camps

In 1933, the first Nazi camps were set up as weapons against German political opponents. Ten years later, the camps threatened the peoples of Europe: foreigners now made up the majority of prisoners, with many resistance fighters and slave labourers among them. In Buchenwald, for example, the proportion of German prisoners fell from close to 100 per cent (1937) to 34 per cent (August 1942) and 9 per cent (July 1944). The influx of foreign inmates is reflected in the 1945 testimony of Stefan Heymann, a Communist survivor of Buchenwald, who had worked as a Kapo in the SS labour statistics office.

052 – The German Communist Stefan Heymann on deportations of foreign inmates to Buchenwald

With the fall of Stalingrad in [early] 1943, the problem of foreign workers became increasingly urgent. Under the direction of [Gauleiter Fritz] Sauckel, millions of foreign workers were forcibly sent to Germany. Of course these people used every opportunity to commit sabotage or escape to their homelands. Therefore, from this point on an unceasing stream of foreign workers arrived in camp.[…]

an unceasing stream of foreign workers arrived

At the same time the great actions began in France, where after the fall of Stalingrad, the [resistance] movement took on ever larger dimensions.[…] In this year, and in the early months of 1944, a total of 21,851 prisoners were brought to Buchenwald from France. In addition several thousand Belgians and Dutch were deported to Buchenwald for the same reasons. […]

In 1944 Nazi rule fell apart everywhere. It was all the more criminal to continue to deport these victims of Nazi barbarism from all parts of Europe. But the German arms industry needed cheap workers and could find them best through the SS. Therefore strong men were transported to Buchenwald from every direction, soon to end up as starved wrecks in the crematorium.

Source: D. Hackett, The Buchenwald Report (Boulder, 1995), p. 111