The first satellite camp under the administration of the Neuengamme concentration camp was set up on 28 August 1942 in Wittenberge. The establishment of the camp was preceded by lengthy negotiations between the SS Economic Administration Main Office and the Phrix company, since this was the first time that prisoners would be housed outside of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The camp for 500 prisoners was located in Wittenberge directly on the premises of Kurmärkische Zellwolle und Zellulose AG, a rayon and cellulose company, along the quay wall leading to the Karthane River port. This firm was one of five founding companies in the rayon and synthetic fibre industry which joined together in 1941 to form Phrix-Werke AG. Philipp Holzmann and Grün & Bilfinger were two other companies involved in the operation of the satellite camp. The camp consisted of two staff huts, a guard hut and latrines, and it was surrounded by barbed wire. The concentration camp prisoners were initially used to set up and expand the yeast production facilities at the plant. Since many of them were classed as skilled labourers, the prisoners were put to work directly in the plant from March 1943.
Survivors say that the living conditions in the Wittenberge camp were extremely bad. The prisoners were drastically malnourished, lived in overcrowded accommodation and were subjected to daily beatings and harassment by the SS men and Kapos. By December 1944, 119 deaths had been registered in the Wittenberge satellite camp. The actual number was probably much higher, however. On 17 February 1945, the SS evacuated the camp at the instigation of the company management and transported the prisoners back the Neuengamme main camp.
The camp commander was SS-Hauptscharführer Max Kierstein. His deputy, Willi Dreimann, was notorious among the prisoners. After Dreimann was replaced in March 1943, the situation improved somewhat for the prisoners in Wittenberge. Dreimann was sentenced to death by a British military tribunal and executed in May 1946.
28 August 1942 to 17 February 1945
500 Male Prisoners
Construction of a chemical plant, production work
Phrix-Werke, Kurmärkische Zellwolle und Zellulose AG, Phillip Holzmann, Grün & Bilfinger
The grounds of the former camp are located on the industrial estate to the south-east of Wittenberge. They can be reached via Bad Wilsnacker Straße and Garsedower Weg.
After the war, the cellulose factory continued operating. Like many other former camps, the Wittenberge satellite camp was forgotten. In East Germany, public commemoration of the prisoners who died in the concentration camps was largely the responsibility of the Nationale Mahn- und Gedenkstätten (national memorials).
It was not until the 1990s that researchers began exploring the history of the satellite camp. Attempts to mark the original site of the camp failed as a result of indifference or resistance from local authorities. There is nothing left today to indicate the existence of the satellite camp. The cellulose factory in Wittenberge was torn down shortly after the collapse of the GDR since it did not meet the requirements of the market economy. The site is now designated as the “Wittenberge-Süd” industrial area. The camp area is currently used by a scrap metal business. Indications of the use of the site in the Nazi era are not present.
Since 2021, there have been efforts by both the city and in cooperation with the Wittenberge City Museum to redesign this site as a place of remembrance and commemoration. This includes not only the redesign of the former pond area, but also the installation of information posts.
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