Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notes from a Transit Camp

Located in Dubrovitsi near Staraja Russa south of Lake Ilmen after 6 September 1941, Durchgangslager (Dulag) 150, a transit camp for Soviet prisoners of war, was subordinated to the 281st Security Division and the commandant of Army Rear Area 584.

The camp’s cook, Franz H., kept a diary, which is attached to the record of his deposition on 17.10.1970 (German Federal Archives Branch Office Ludwigsburg, 319 AR-Z 10/70, Vol. 1, fl. 187f.) and partially transcribed in the document collection Deutscher Osten 1939-1945. Der Weltanschauungskrieg in Photos und Texten., edited by Klaus Michael Mallmann, Volker Rieß and Wolfram Pyta, 2003 by Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt. The excerpts from this diary transcribed on pp. 163 ff. of the collection translate as follows:

"Several hundred prisoners refused to work (Robott). Like last time they had to kneel on the square all afternoon in the sharp wind and cold. K. shot one of these prisoners. One feels like they are target figures on a shooting range."

"The prisoners are dying like flies, the cemetery has been moved. 12 prisoners were dead this morning. Better dead than a prisoner."

"M. again struck down 2-3 prisoners. People who otherwise have barely anything to say in life discover their talent to play the ruthless masters here. How will it be later on, everything [one does] comes back some day."

"Fate and tragedies continue taking their course. The cold determines that ever more people die. This morning more than 30 dead are lying there. This week there were 20 dead several times. Again they stand freezing at the gate and wait for the clothes that the dead no longer need, they are stripped naked. There is always a jostle. […] Patient like animals, indifferent and apparently without any emotion they accept life. M. told that when burying the dead one was still moving and they stepped on his body and throat until he choked, for otherwise they would have had to carry him back."

"On the transport to Riga P. alone shot 30 prisoners."

"50 were again dead this morning. […] The dead are lying around like mice. Yesterday at the transport again 10 died until the station. Today there was again a transport of wounded and sick prisoners. Like always they are taken away on open, primitive and fragile vehicles. In the strong cold, 10 degrees at least, they come barefoot out of the cold hall and thus they are transported."

"Now they are using a panje cart to transport the corpses. The carriers can no longer manage. Stark naked they are thrown onto the carts like sacks. I get sick if I watch this longer."

"This morning there was a grisly incident here. It reminds of Dünaburg. They anointed a Jew's head with grease and set it on fire. When he screamed in pain they bashed his head in with an axe. He was taken to the mass graves, thrown into a grave, and when he was inside he probably regained consciousness and screamed that he was wounded. Thereupon the grave was quickly shoveled shut."

"Again Jews have been horribly murdered in the camp."

"A commissar was newly captured, after interrogation he was asked if he had anything more to say. In stalwart posture he declared that the German prisoners were better off than the Russian ones with us. Shortly before leaving the camp he was to be shot to simplify things. In the bunker where he sat another 2 prisoners had been added in the meantime, and the man carrying out the execution didn't know which of them was the commissar. He simply shot all three."

"The prisoners selected by us here for further transport live in the most primitive manner. 200 are already dead. Horrible scenes are taking place. They eat each other up. Again and again one finds corpses missing a part of the thigh, arm, breast or face. Even the brain is eaten. If only I got out of here."

"The prisoners tear out each other's hearts and lungs and eat them. 500 have been taken away, the ones that could walk, the others are dead. No one is left."

"As I have already known for some time, the Jews from Germany are taken to the east, mainly to Letonia (Riga), and there they are shot after some time."

According to a Soviet report referred to in the document collection, about 5,000 POWs succumbed to hunger, cold, mistreatment and shootings in the winter of 1941/42 in camps in the Staraja Russa area.

A photo showing some of the victims of Dulag 150 is included in the blog Photos from the German East.

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