Mittelbau Dora Concentration Camp
Copyright © 2000 Mary Galione-Nahas.
All rights reserved.
The Nazis sent large numbers of Jews to Camp Dora between May and June of 1944. Many of them were sent to work in Dora-Ellrich, where they died in agony from the most brutal working conditions. Buchenwald work teams who transferred to Dora sub-camps were mostly Jews who were in terrible condition. Hungarian Jews assigned to Camp Dora in May were beaten, starved, and made to work beyond the limits of human endurance. They were made to work in construction, while undergoing the brutal blows of the SS with no food or water in their stomachs.
At Dora, Jewish workers were housed separately from non-Jews and special torture was designed for them. In Andre Sellier's book, A History of the Dora Camp, Francois Heumann describes the torture they had to endure on the way back to their barracks: "Inside the camp, the Jewish barracks was specially surrounded by barbed wire; we walked beside them when we came back from work at night. One courtyard was surrounded by barbed wire; in the middle of the courtyard was a post; the courtyard sloped downward. After a day's labor, the Jews were required to go around this post. The farther they were from the post, the faster they had to walk. One had only to see them to realize that some of them would not come through the ordeal alive."
In the end of May, Jewish children between the ages of ten and fifteen were sent to the Mittelbau. They were fed less than the adults, but forced to work top-speed with adult work groups. They spent their nights sobbing in despair. Survivors reported two hundred young Hungarian Jews who died after working three days under the most barbaric conditions. The Hungarian children first worked in Dora, then died in Dora-Ellrich. In September, about three hundred Hungarian Jews were sent to Dora from Volkswagen factories. They were assigned to the tunnels to manufacture V-1 and V-2 missiles; some were tasked to unload trains. In November a band of Jewish children arrived at Camp Dora and simply disappeared.
Between January and February of 1945, several thousand Jews were evacuated to the Mittelbau from Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen. Those who escaped death in the extermination camps were cruelly treated at Dora. Abraham Biderman was thrown in the Bunker, put in charge of the waste bucket, and tortured with the threat of vicious dogs and vice-grips. The exhausted, emaciated prisoners who had been through the ranks of camps and were too weak to work were sent to wither and die in Dora's death camp, Nordhausen's Boelcke Kaserne. When all Jews were ordered over the loudspeaker to report to the roll call square, fellow inmates were willing to risk their lives in order to hide Dr. Hermann Scharf, a gynecologist who had come from Auschwitz, but he went willingly saying, "I must share the fate of my people." He was never seen again.
The percentage of Jews in the Mittelbau Dora complex may never be known, since (1) many of them who simply disappeared were never counted, (2) some of them were not recognized as Jews due to false identity papers, and (3) many Jewish transports were immediately warned by fellow inmates to disguise themselves since "Jews don't last long in Dora."
The majority of people who suffered and died in this dreadful complex were French (many from the French Resistance); however, I have posted my research on "The Jewish Presence in Mittelbau Dora" to ensure that their history in the Dora complex of camps and sub-camps is not forgotten.
Mittelbau Dora Concentration Camp has been written in history as a non-Jewish camp; however, further research shows that during the course of Camp Dora's existence thousands of Jews suffered and died there. Abraham Biderman, a Jewish survivor of Camp Dora, wrote in his book, The World of My Past, that "Many of the victims were Jews, even though today they are always referred to as Poles, Russians, Hungarians, Czechs . . . they are never classified as Jews," he wrote, "yet, when they were doomed to destruction, the only reason for it was their Jewishness."
During the creation of Camp Dora in August of 1943, there weren't many Jews working in the camp, other than a man named Alex Baum who transferred to Dora from Peenemunde. However, large numbers of Jews came later. According to George Benedict, a Jewish survivor of Dora, "When the camps in the east were being emptied and slave labor was getting short, the Nazis started to send everybody to Dora and any other manufacturing camp in Germany."
The Nazis were sure that the Jews who escaped death in the extermination camps due to evacuation would be annihilated through the most physically punishing work in labor camps. Fifteen high-ranking Nazis discussed this agenda at the Wannsee conference (January 20, 1942-Berlin) where they decided to send Jews to labor camps, where large populations could "die of natural causes."
The Jewish Presence in Mittelbau Dora