Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Struthof-Natzweiler Camp

There is a camp, which was not strictly speaking a direct extermination camp (but indirectly through labour so difficult that few survived), and which was equipped with a gas chamber where some gassings took place, especially the gassing of almost one hundred Jews selected at Auschwitz.
The distinctive feature of this camp is that it was situated in France, on the Alsatian mountainside of Vosges and that it was evacuated very quickly by the Germans faced with the unexpected advance of the Allies: the Germans did not have the time, as almost everywhere else, to destroy the compromising documents and buildings; its gas chamber (which was first used for gas mask training by the SS.) had been returned to its original use before the camp was liberated; it remained practically intact as compared to the period of the homicidal gassings.

Miloslav Bilik has written about this camp in French, and Michael stein has translated the work into English.

This camp is Struthof, place name of the town of Natzweiler (or Natzwiller according to German spelling) near Schirmeck. The French do not like the name Natzweiler (which is that of their town) and to not sully their name, prefer that of Struthof which is the name of the place situated some kilometers above the real location where this took place; nevertheless, the German correspondence naturally prefers the official location: Natzwiller (German spelling) or Natzweiler, because it is the name of the common territory.
These pages aim to present the essence of the Struthof camp. We have scrupulously taken up again some of the documents that were published at this time and a bit later. You can note the contradictions, the errors: it is the lot of historical documents and testimonies to contradict each other on certain points. On the French Revolution and still today, one can discuss about what happened to Robespierre at Thermidor: did he want to commit suicide, was he wounded by a policeman? But no one disputes that he was wounded before being guillotined the same day.

Here you will find the same uncertainties of detail: perhaps the witnesses exaggerate their actions, and if they have seen many things they spoil their testimony by indicating things that they did not directly see (having found out about them later) without them in any way being completely false; others (Germans, guards) minimize their role out of fear of being implicated; some reports, written quickly, are in error on several points; excesses (often because of lack of time in which to carry out the contradictory examination;) the perpetrators who attempt to sneak in impossibilities so they can eventually claim that they were extracted by force -- whereas those who interrogated them attempt to obtain material details, even going so far as to suggest them in aberrant cases that they hope to verify later on in order to strengthen the value of the confession. It is thus today that criminal trials unfold, with uncertainty about testimony, but allowing the court to build a strong case for conviction.

The articles may be found here: