Research and Teaching

Deportation, Forced Labour and Extermination in the late stage of the Holocaust. Jewish prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp complex and their experiences reflected in testimonies from the earlier post-war period.

Researcher: Johannes Meerwald M.A.

Funding: Stiftung Ökohaus Doctoral Scholarship

This dissertation project examines the group of Jewish prisoners whom the SS deported to the concentration camp system on German territory, after the Wehrmacht had occupied Hungary in March 1944. With the deportations, the National Socialists abandoned their proclaimed primacy of the »Reich without jews« and forced around 200,000 Jewish women, men, adolescents and old to work on large-scale construction sites or in the production of military hardware. In this context, the SS deported about 36,000 Jewish forced labourers from Hungary and Poland to the Dachau concentration camp complex, where central armaments manufacturers, such as Messerschmitt AG or BMW Flugmotorengesellschaft mbH, were located. Despite the relatively short period of time in which the SS kept them prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp and its subcamps, the Jewish forced labourers thus belonged to one of the largest and most heterogeneous prisoner groups in the concentration camp complex. Between 1944 and 1945, at least 10,000 Jewish prisoners died in Dachau Concentration Camp and its subcamps or on the death marches in the so-called final phase.

In this PhD project, the deportation history of the overall group of Jewish forced labourers to the Dachau concentration camp complex is systematically investigated and analyzed. Furthermore, these groups' specific deportation, camp and post-war experiences are examined. Using the written memories of survivors from the earlier post-war period, which have so far received little attention from research, the project aims to provide a »bottom-up« perspective on this chapter of exploitation and mass violence. The aim of the work is to challenge trends in research centred on the main camps and to show that from 1944 onwards, the subcamps of the »old« concentration camp systems on German territory, such as Dachau, were key crime scenes of the Holocaust in its late phase. The history of the prisoners' group will thus be used to illustrate that the mass murder of the European Jews in this period, contrary to established popular assumptions and traditions, took place openly in front of the eyes of the German civilian population.