In the autumn of 1942, the industrial conglomerate known as the “Reichswerke Hermann Göring” established the Drütte satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp in the grounds of the Braunschweig iron and steel works in Salzgitter in order to produce artillery shells. The first 50 prisoners came directly from Buchenwald concentration camp to Salzgitter on 18th October 1942. As the production operations expanded, the number of concentration camp prisoners rose to over 2,700 men by mid-1944. According to an agreement between the company management and the SS, up to 3,150 prisoners were to be transferred to Drütte, making it the largest satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp.
The prisoners, who were housed in storage rooms beneath an elevated road, were forced to work in the steel works and to produce bullet casings and artillery shells. The largest group of prisoners worked in the section known as “Aktion 88”, where they forged 8.8-cm shells. The workers in this ultra-modern section of the plant were almost exclusively concentration camp prisoners. Around 500 men were also used to expand what was known as Hall X. The prisoners in Drütte were subjected to very difficult physical labour. Production was carried out around the clock in three shifts. The large number of executions recorded in the registry of deaths indicates the complexity of the work, which inevitably entailed errors that were attributed to prisoner sabotage, thus leading to executions. Other prisoner shootings were deceptively registered as “escape attempts".
The Drütte satellite camp was evacuated on 7 April 1945. The prisoners were transported north by train together with the women from the Salzgitter-Bad satellite camp. The train carrying 3,400 prisoners was hit by American bombs at the goods station in Celle on the night of 8 April 1945. Several hundred prisoners died from the resulting explosion of a nearby munitions train and because they were not allowed to leave the train cars in which they had been locked. Those who were able to escape from the train were hunted down by the SS, the police, the Wehrmacht, the Volkssturm, the local Hitler Youth and some residents of Celle. 200 to 300 prisoners were shot or killed. At noon on 9 April, most of those who survived the bomb attack were forced to start marching to Bergen-Belsen. 300 injured prisoners who were “unable to march” were largely left to their own devices in the huts of the "Heidekaserne” barracks in Celle, where the survivors were liberated by British troops on 12 April.
The first camp commander was SS-Hauptsturmführer Rautenberg, followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Hermann Forster, SS-Obersturmführer Arnold Strippel and, from around February 1945, SS-Obersturmführer Karl Wiedemann. Strippel’s deputy, SS-Scharführer Peter Wiehage, was also responsible for the Watenstedt/Leinde satellite camp.
18 October 1942 to 7 April 1945
3000 Male Prisoners
Artillery shell production
Reichswerke Hermann Göring
Drütte Concentration Camp Memorial Site and Documentation Centre on the premises of Salzgitter AG, Entrance I, Salzgitter-Watenstedt, Eisenhüttenstraße 99, 38239 Salzgitter, Germany.
Directions by public transportation: From Braunschweig railway station, take bus 603 or 631 in the direction of Salzgitter-Bad to Watenstedt Tor 1. From the Salzgitter-Bad railway station, take bus 603 or 631 in the direction of Braunschweig.
Starting in the early 1980s, the “Arbeitskreis Stadtgeschichte”, the Amicale Internationale de Neuengamme and the “Komitee Dokumentationsstätte Drütte”, an association of working groups, representatives of political parties and trade unions, churches and other organisations, began to persistently campaign for the right to use the surviving prisoner huts in the factory grounds for documentation purposes. A plaque was installed there in 1985 at the initiative of the Peine-Salzgitter AG works council, but the plaque was not publicly accessible.
Despite support from many civic groups, the memorial plans were thwarted for years due to resistance from the company management. It was not until 1992, after the government-owned steel works were sold to Preussag AG, that the new company management approved the project and made some of the rooms which formerly housed prisoners under the elevated road available for a memorial. In April 1994, the “Arbeitskreis Stadtgeschichte” opened the Drütte Concentration Camp Memorial Site and Documentation Centre on the plant premises. The site is now publicly accessible.
Opening hours: Every 2nd Saturday of the month from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM and by appointment.