Experience: Hessenthal

Harry Tuchklaper
Hessenthal was a subcamp of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.

The Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp (called Natzweiler for short), the only camp built by the Nazis on French soil, is one of the least known camps.  Located initially in Schirmeck near Natzweiler, about 50 kilometers south of Strassburg in Alsace, it was established in 1940 as a forced labor camp, primarily for local opponents of the German occupation.  Late in 1941, the SS moved in and established a camp in Natzweiler to mine a nearby granite quarry.  Gradually other sub-camps were established but the total number of prisoners remained small until late 1942.  However, by 1943 the scope of the camp was expanded into southwest Germany, and dozens of small sub-camps were established.

At its peak it probably held 19,000 prisoners and a total of 46,000 prisoners were registered as prisoners at some time or other until its evacuation in September 1944.  As Allied troops approached, many of the prisoners were forced on marches eastward, during which many died.

Initially, Natzweiler held few Jews, but in 1944 larger numbers arrived there, transferred from Auschwitz and other East European camps

Accessed on July 21, 2011

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