On 17 September 1944, a satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp was established on Alter Banter Weg in Wilhelmshaven. Over 1,000 male prisoners were selected from the Neuengamme main camp to perform heavy physical labour at the German navy shipyards and to carry out clearance work. Some of the huts from a camp for forced labourers had been previously surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers to house the prisoners.
The prisoners had to work for 12 hours every single day with insufficient food and continual beatings and harassment. The death rate rose rapidly, and just a few weeks after the prisoners arrived at the satellite camp, the German navy demanded that the city council make extra space available in the Aldenburg cemetery. 234 deaths at the Wilhelmshaven satellite camp were recorded in the death registry of Neuengamme concentration camp, but the actual number of prisoners who died is probably larger.
The first camp commander was former Wehrmacht officer Otto Thümmel. He was replaced after the satellite camp was inspected by the commander of the Neuengamme concentration camp, Max Pauly. Thümmel was followed by SS-Unterscharführer Rudolf Günther who was, in turn, replaced after a few days at the request of the navy, which insisted that a former officer be in command of the camp. Little is known about the two final commanders of the camp, Arnold Büscher and a man named Schwanke. During the first two months, the prisoners were guarded by French SS men who were eventually replaced by around 200 navy artillerymen.
On 3 April 1945, 400 sick prisoners were transported from the camp by train. During an allied bomb attack at Lüneburg railway station on 7 April, at least 256 prisoners died. One group of survivors was forced to march on to Bergen-Belsen. On 11 April 1945, an SS commando murdered 60 to 80 prisoners who remained behind in Lüneburg, some of whom were injured.
Another 600 men left the satellite camp on Banter Weg on 5 April, some on foot and some by train. They were headed towards the Sandbostel “reception camp”, where the last prisoners arrived on 18 April. After unrest in the camp, some of the prisoners were forced to leave again and were taken via Stade to the “Olga Siembers” coal freighter on the Elbe River. The prisoners journeyed through the Kiel Canal to Kiel and then across the Baltic Sea to Flensburg, where they were finally liberated by British troops on 10 May aboard the “Rheinfels” tugboat.
17 September 1944 to 5 April 1945
1300 Male Prisoners
Shipyard and clearance work
Site of former camp:
Neues Küstenmuseum Wilhelmshaven
Directions by public transportation:
Site of former camp:
From the Wilhelmshaven railway station, take bus 2 to the “Weser/Ecke Werftstraße” stop, then walk 600 metres to Banter Weg.
From the Wilhelmshaven railway station, take bus 32 in the direction of Maadebogen-Nord to the “Gartenweg” stop.
Exhibition: 5 minutes' walk from the Wilhelmshaven railway station.
Wilhelmshaven Coastal Museum:
daily except for Mondays 11:00 AM-5:00 PM
In the early 1980s, the history working group of the Wilhelmshaven federation of trade unions began campaigning for a memorial at the site of the former satellite camp. The memorial was finally dedicated by the mayor of Wilhelmshaven on 18 April 1995. In addition to excavated foundation walls and floor plans, there are panels with information about the satellite camp and a memorial stone.
Several hundred victims of the Wilhelmshaven satellite camp are buried in the Aldenburg cemetery. In 1947, a monument was erected there to commemorate the victims of the Nazis. Large memorial slabs bear the names of the concentration camp prisoners buried there.
The history of the satellite camp on Banter Weg is also documented in the permanent exhibition at the new Wilhelmshaven Coastal Museum (Küstenmuseum Wilhelmshaven).
Tel.: +49 (0) 4421 – 4 00 94 0
Fax: +49 (0) 4421 – 7 79 78 5