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