From February 1944, male prisoners from Neuengamme concentration camp were used to excavate underground production halls in two neighbouring salt mines in Beendorf. From August 1944, up to 2,500 mostly German, Soviet, Polish and French female prisoners also arrived on several transports from Ravensbrück concentration camp to work in Beendorf in the context of the Jägerstab (“Fighter Staff”). The Jägerstab had been established by the Ministry of Armaments and War Production in March 1944 under the leadership of SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler, an architect, to coordinate the relocation of production facilities critical to the war effort in order to protect them from bomb attacks. The female prisoners produced munitions for the air force as well as parts (autopilots, controls, steering gears, etc.) for the Me 262 aircraft and the V1 and V2 rockets. The prisoners worked for 12 hours a day on the machines, which were between 425 and 465 metres underground. The women were lowered down the shaft in small cages.
The relocation projects for Askania Werke AG from Berlin and the Hakenfelde GmbH aeronautical equipment plant to the “Marie” (Beendorf) and “Bartensleben” (Morsleben) tunnels were given the code names “Bulldogge” and “Iltis”.
SS-Obersturmführer Gerhard Poppenhagen was the commander of both the men’s and women’s satellite camps.
On 10 April 1945, both camps were evacuated, and the women and men were loaded onto goods cars and taken via Magdeburg, Stendal and Wittenberge to the Wöbbelin “reception camp”, which they reached on 16 April. The men stayed there but the women continued on. Their train stopped for three days at the railway station in Sülstorf in Mecklenburg, and the many women who died there of starvation and thirst were hastily buried by the inhabitants of the village. On 20 or 21 April, the train reached Hamburg and the prisoners were distributed to the largely empty Hamburg satellite camps of Eidelstedt, Langenhorn, Sasel and Wandsbek. Most of the prisoners were able to leave Hamburg on a Swedish Red Cross train on 1 May, which took the women via Denmark to Sweden.
August 1944 to 10 April 1945
2500 Female Prisoners
Work for the armaments industry (as part of the Jägerstab)
SS Führungsstab A III, Askania Werke AG
KZ-Gedenkstätte Beendorf (in the cellar of the Bernhard-Becker-Grundschule)
At the Beendorf Cemetery there is a mass grave which holds around 100 concentration camp prisoners. In 1995, a memorial stone with explanatory text was placed next to an older stone inscribed with “FIR” (Fédération Internationale de Résistants).
In the 1960s, a monument to the victims of the Helmstedt-Beendorf satellite camp was dedicated in the centre of the village. Since Beendorf was in the restricted area of the GDR border, the site of the former camp was inaccessible until 1989.
At the initiative of the headmaster of the Beendorf school, an exhibition space was set up in the school in 1971. Since 1996, this space has held a concentration camp memorial with a provisional exhibition on the history of the satellite camp sponsored by the community of Beendorf.
A mass grave with the bodies of 53 Jewish women was discovered in 1947 in Sülstorf, where the train from the evacuated camp stopped for three days. In 1951, the Jewish community of Mecklenburg erected a memorial there, the entrance to which is decorated with a large Star of David. This is one of very few examples of publicly visible Jewish commemoration in the former German Democratic Republic.
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