German witnesses

After the Second World War, many Germans claimed that they had known nothing about the camps. But the spread of satellite camps during the war had made the prisoners impossible to overlook. Take a city like Nordhausen in central Germany. Here, the locals often saw prisoner columns from the nearby Dora camp. Many locals even worked at the tunnels of the Kohnstein mountain, where the camp was based: in summer 1944, 3,000 German civilians worked on the production of V2 rockets in Dora, together with 5,000 prisoners. Looking back in 1951, after the war, local teacher Fritz Güntsche criticized fellow Nordhausen citizens for claiming ignorance of the SS crimes.

097 – A German teacher on popular knowledge of the camps

“We knew nothing about what was going on in the Kohnstein and the Dora camp”. That’s what all those people say who are now being held responsible for the consequences of the Nazi regime.

But anyone who says that is lying!

everyone heard the Zebra columns marching through Nordhausen

After liberation, the dead of Dora are buried by German civilians from Nordhausen (April 1945)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National, courtesy of Joseph Mendelsohn

For everyone heard the Zebra [prisoner] columns marching through Nordhausen every morning and every evening. Everyone will have looked at them at least once and seen the men with pale faces dragging themselves along accompanied by heavily armed SS. How often did a vehicle drive through the lower town in the direction of Weimar full to the brim with dead bodies on their way to the Buchenwald crematorium. […] Look how many men and women worked with the Zebras […], yes even for the Mittelwerke in Kohnstein! Were these men and women so discreet that they didn’t even talk about it at home? […] I could provide many examples of such people. They prove that we certainly did know something about the Dora camp and its prisoners!

Source: J.-C. Wagner, Produktion des Todes (Göttingen, 2004), p. 534

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes