On this day we went to concentration camp Natzwiller-Struthof. It just took more time to get there than we thought. When we looked at the map it seemed that we could drive fast. Not.
When we were on our way we had to stop for the customs. That was the last thing we expected in the middle of the Vosges. They wanted to know a lot: Where did we come from? Where we were going? Did we have a lot of money with us? Was this all our luggage or did we have more at the hotel? Could we show our ID or driving license? And so on.
In the evening we saw on the TV that this was an action of the customs from a few different countries. This route was frequently used by smugglers from Morocco. We already had the impression that we had to stop because of our foreign license plates. Cars with French license plates were allowed to drive on.
But, finally we arrived at the concentration camp. At the pay-desk we got our tickets. It was a large piece of paper, but we didn’t have to pay to get in because of the building works. Nobody at the entrance even asked for our tickets.
The terrain is still surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. There are still four sheds left standing. One of them is part of the prison and other contains the crematory and rooms for human experiments.
There were a lot of German students visiting the camp. They were noisy when they came in but they were quiet and supressed when they were leaving.
Next to the camp is a cemetery for the political prisoners and resistance fighters who were deported. Also next to the camp were the gas chambers, but because of the building works we couldn’t visit them.
The closing time for the camp was supposed to be noon, but it strictly enforced. Only the pay-desk closed exactly at 12. We were just in time to buy a book about the camp.
In the Alsace were the only two concentration camps of France. The one near Schirmeck is gone and the other was Natzwiller-Struthof. 40,000 prisoners from different countries stayed there for a short or a long time between 1941 and 1945. About 12,000 prisoners died there.
In August 1944 the camp was in the middle of the fighting. Every day there came new prisoners from the prisons at Epinal, Nancy and Belfort. The camp was build for 4000 prisoners, but soon there were 7000 inmates. Shortly after that, all the prisoners were transported to Dachau.