Bild vom Totenbuch im Krankenrevier des Stammlagers Neuengamme, 26.3.1943.
The death register from the infirmary of Neuengamme main camp, 26 March 1943. (ANg 1996-491)

Death Register

The Prisoners

Almost 100,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Neuengamme concentration camp between December 1938 and April 1945. Around 80,000 men and 13,000 women were registered by the camp’s administration and given a prisoner number. Roughly 1,000 Soviet prisoners of war kept their POW numbers and status. 1,500 people in police custody were registered with special numbers, while another 1,400 people were sent to Neuengamme concentration camp to be executed and were therefore not given prisoner numbers.
At first, Neuengamme concentration camp was used to imprison people from Germany who were detained for political or “racial” reasons, because they were considered “criminals” or “anti-social elements”, or because they were homosexuals or Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the war, the Gestapo and the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) deported tens of thousands of people from all over occupied Europe to Neuengamme concentration camp. The greatest number of prisoners by far came from the Soviet Union and Poland. The largest groups of prisoners from Western Europe came from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. Among the female prisoners were thousands of Jewish women from Poland and Hungary.

Death at Neuengamme Concentration Camp

Weakened by the living and working conditions at Neuengamme, many prisoners soon died of disease, malnutrition and the effects of physical maltreatment. The first prisoner died on 22 February 1940. Over the following months, the death rate continued to increase steadily. During the last six months of the war, about 2,000 people died in Neuengamme and its satellite camps every month.
A large number of executions were carried out in Neuengamme. 448 Soviet prisoners of war were gassed with Zyklon B in the detention bunker (Arrestbunker). In 1942, executions were introduced in the camp as a punishments for escape attempts or suspected sabotage. These executions were often carried out as a deterrent on the roll call square (Appellplatz). In April 1942, a committee of SS doctors rounded a group of roughly 300 Neuengamme prisoners, including many who were sick or emaciated as well as politically undesirable prisoners and many Jews. Soon afterwards, they were taken to the State Sanatorium and Nursing Home (Landes-Heil- und Pflegeanstalt) in Bernburg, a site of the Nazis’ euthanasia programme, where they were gassed.

The Dead

Because very few, scattered original documents exist, we can only estimate the overall number of people who died in Neuengamme and its satellite camps and on the evacuation marches during the last weeks of the war. According to certified figures, at least 42,900 prisoners of Neuengamme concentration camp were killed. Of these, 14,000 prisoners died at the main camp, and 12,800 or more died at the 80 or more satellite camps. At least 16,100 prisoners lost their lives during the last weeks of the war on the evacuation marches, in collection camps or in the bombing of the prison ships in the Bay of Lübeck.
The countless number of people who died after being transferred from Neuengamme to other concentration camps or who died after the war from the effects of their imprisonment must also be taken into account when considering the overall number of victims.
We know the names of 23,394 victims. They are the only names recorded in this death register. Of these, 12,270 prisoners died at the main Neuengamme camp, another 7,671 died in the satellite camps or in the SS construction commandos, and 3,453 died elsewhere, many of them in unknown places. 23,075 of the victims known by name were men, 319 were women. They came from the following countries:

Soviet Union5451
Poland4101
Netherlands3401
France 3037
Germany 2892
Belgium 1571
Latvia 605
Hungary 381
Italy 345
Denmark 316
Yugoslavia 182
Czechoslovakia 171
other countries  452
unknown origin  489

Sources

  • Death records kept by the special registry offices in Neuengamme in Hamburg and Bad Arolsen, and death records kept by the registry offices in Hamburg, Hanover, Bremen, Salzgitter and many other towns in northern Germany
  • Records of cremations and burials at Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg, and lists of cremations and burials from several other cemetery offices
  • Preserved original records from Neuengamme concentration camp, including prisoners’ death certificates from the main camp (February 1940 – March 1945) and satellite camps (March 1943 – December 1944)
  • Lists of victims from various nations compiled after the end of the war, including the following:
    • “Mémorial des Français et des Françaises déportés au camp de concentration de Neuengamme et dans ses Kommandos” (French commemorative book compiled by the Amicale française de Neuengamme et de ses Kommandos)
    • “Listes des Belges détenus dans le KZ et ses Kdos” (Belgian memorial book compiled by the secretary of the Belgian Amicale, Victor Malbecq)
    • “In Memoriam Nederlandse Oorlogsslachtoffers 34” (Memorial book of the Dutch War Graves Foundation)

A detailed list of sources is available from the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.