Hans Adamo and Florence Hervé
Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2002
Who has not heard of Auschwitz, that gargantuan of concentration camps and Death Factory? It ranks as the first among equals among the pleiade of dark "planets," such as Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Stutthof, and Majdanek in the constellation of the Nazi mass murder universe. There remain hundreds of other camps--less known or barely known. Among them is Nazweiler (the French Alsatian name) or Strutthof (the German name) (henceforth N/S).
N/S was erected in 1940 shortly after Nazi Germany annexed the province of Alsace, the only Extermination Camp in the west; it was a veritable Death Camp, regardless of its modest size. Between 1940 and 1944, a total of 45,000 inmates were sent to N/S, of which 25,000 perished. Incarceration meant to die from the regime of killing work, much of it plain sadistic, especially for those condemned to labor in the stone quarry. Most of those were prisoners mysteriously identified as Nacht und Nebel--Night and Fog. Others were worked to death in N/S's 70 satellite camps. Still others died an agonizing death as victims of sadistic, pseudo-medical "experiments," carried out in conjunction with physicians and scientists from the University of Strassburg's clinic. The latter compiled a collection of skulls, ordered from N/S: those who were selected were gassed and them decapitated.
The publication under review is two-thirds text and one-third photographs (by Martin Graf). Both segments are of superior quality. There is no sentimentality, no attempt to skew the information, presented bilingually (French and German). It is a veritable scholarly guide into the camp, and from there into the unvarnished universe of the concentration camps. N/S is a microcosm with all there is to learn of the Hitlerian madness, from the victimization of Jews, Gypsies, POWs, resistance fighters, homosexuals, to Jehovah's Witnesses. All are condemned to die by work, with no exceptions, no real distinctions, no reprieve.
Reading this well-designed book emphasizes the need for greater knowledge of other Nazi camps. Decades of Auschwitz centrism has stunted understanding; Auschwitz is not enough, any more than knowing about the Holocaust is an unqualified entreé into the world of genocide.