Many prisoners formed tight friendships, which could help them to survive. Some friends had already known each other before their arrest. Many more found each other in the camps, in the same barracks or work place. Some became so close they called each other “sisters” or “brothers”. In his 1946 memoirs, Heinrich Christian Meier, a German political prisoner who survived Neuengamme, spoke of friendships as a kind of “marriage”.

058 – The Neuengamme survivor H. C. Meier on the importance of friendships

It’s simply not true that people can rely on themselves alone. For a start, the person in the next bed is definitely somewhat closer to you than the other comrades, and so friendships develop even if you actually spurn them. It’s comforting to have a comrade at work to rely on. It’s even better if he’s a [political] party comrade who won’t let you down in an emergency. There are days when you feel weak and vulnerable. It’s really good then to have a workmate willing to take on some of the burden […]

What little they possess they share

You have a comradely marriage with him [the friend][…] [The two comrades] look out for each other like man and wife. What little they possess they share with one another. They look after each other’s clothing. They enjoy what little free time they have together. If they have common interests, all the better. They go on visits together. They’re seen going to the canteen together. They share the food parcels that they get from home. They sort out their financial arrangements systematically and together. If one of them is attacked the other defends him. There is nothing more natural and human than such comradeship. It’s necessary in the camp. For anyone who is forced to remain completely on his own in the camp is ominously close to ending up in the crematorium.

Source: R. Fröbe et al. (eds), Konzentrationslager in Hannover (Bremen, 1985), vol. 1, pp. 243–4

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes