The ‘production of death’ at the Juliushütte Concentration Camp.

In June 2023, a prospective excursion of the Chair of Contemporary History and Historical Migration Research and the Interdisciplinary Working Group on Conflict Landscapes at the University of Osnabrück, led by PD Dr. Frank Wolff, in conjunction with regional cooperation partners, the Mittelbau Dora Memorial and RWTH Aachen, examined the site of the former concentration camp “Juliushütte”.

A focus was on documenting the locations or remnants of cremation facilities erected in the concentration camp and the corpse-burning fields still in the area. The question arises: who were the people murdered in the Juliushütte concentration camp, where did they come from, where was social loss experienced after their violent death in a German concentration camp, and where was grief felt?

A few years ago, Christoph Rass and Sebastian Bondzio were able to present an analysis of the death book of the Mittelbau Dora concentration camp, which geocoded all recorded birthplaces of the approximately 11,000 known victims. Among the key findings of this exploratory study was a differentiated visualization of the distribution of victims over origin contexts throughout Europe occupied by Germany and beyond, the strong presence of Western Europeans among the victims, and an excessively increasing death rate among people forced into slave labor for the German armaments industry in the Mittelbau Dora concentration camp and its subcamps, which was reflected in specific patterns in the victims’ regions of origin.

Lukas Hennies and Christoph Rass have now returned to the geocoded data set of the death book of the Mittelbau Dora Memorial to make visible the victims listed there from the Juliushütte concentration camp (codename “Erich” or after the location of the facility “Ellrich”).

Exhaustion, malnutrition, diseases, and immediate violence led to extremely high death rates in the winter of 1944/45 in the context of the desperate and ruthless attempt by the Nazi regime to relocate further facilities of war production to bomb-proof, underground locations. Instead of bringing the dead as usual to a main camp, the Germans tried to cope with the high death rates in the Juliushütte concentration camp by erecting a crematorium specially built in the last weeks of the war. However, this quickly proved too small, so they decided to burn the victims on a nearby wood pile. In just a few weeks, approximately one thousand victims were “disposed of” in this way. Their remains, the so-called corpse burn, were dumped down the slopes behind the burning sites.

An animated representation, with which the deaths on the day of death are projected onto the birthplaces of the victims, not only clarifies the terrible dynamics of mass dying in the Juliushütte concentration camp. It also makes clear what an appalling swath of suffering, loss, and grief the murder of almost 3,000 people by Nazi Germany in a single camp has cut across Europe.

Through the suffering and death of these people, the camp-site at the border between Thuringia and Lower Saxony, which has now been converted into a memorial, is in a humanitarian, memory, and historical, cultural relationship with all the places shown on the map.

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