Changes from 1941 to 1944

Natzweiler’s deportees came from prisons, internment camps and other concentration camps all over Europe. The intake process was the same for all of them. They got off the train at the Rothau railway station, walked or rode in trucks to the camp and received a registration number. They were stripped of their identities and personal belongings, deloused, disinfected and given mismatched clothing or, sometimes, striped uniforms.

They had been arrested for all sorts of reasons. Most of the camp’s earliest deportees were common criminals, “asocials” and political prisoners from Germany. The first Poles and deportees from lands annexed by the Third Reich (the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia and Alsace-Lorraine) began arriving in 1942. The following year many people from Luxembourg and Resistance members of different nationalities — Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and French —began streaming in from various concentration camps and prisons throughout Europe. The French included many military men, in particular members of the Secret Army and the Organisation of Armed Resistance. In June 1943 the first convoy of French NN deportees arrived in Natzweiler. They had been arrested as Resistance fighters under the Nazi’s 1941 “Nacht und Nebel” (“Night and Fog”) decrees , which aimed at eliminating all the Resistance movements and opponents of German occupation. They were imprisoned, deported, totally cut off from the outside world and doomed to a slow death by work, exhaustion, hunger and disease. Some were eventually sentenced at the court in Breslau; others were kept in the camps without trials. Their loved ones had no news about them.

In 1944 the Germans started deporting Jews, mainly from Poland and Hungary, to the annex camps.