From the end of March 1942, the economic aspect of detention in National Socialist concentration camps began to prevail over the strictly “re-educative.” On March 31, 1942 SS Brigadeführer Richard Glücks, head of Amtsgruppe D – Konzentrationslager (Office Group D – Concentration camps) of newly-formed SS Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt, sent commandants of all the concentration camps a letter in which they were informed:
“By order of the Reichsführer SS, in a number of camps work is being carried out inside these preventive detention camps on behalf of the arms industry. These works are of military importance and therefore particularly urgent. With newly-arrived inmates, I must first fill these camps; then, according to the level of urgency, the needs of other camps will be met.”
These new tasks of importance to the war required safeguarding of inmate labor. On December 15, 1942, Himmler, concerned about the high mortality of inmates in concentration camps, wrote the following letter to the head of the SS WVHA:
“Dear Pohl, re our conversation in Hegewaldheim. In 1943, seek to acquire to a maximum extent for the inmates’ sustenance raw vegetables and onions. During the vegetable season, distribute large quantities of carrots, kohlrabi, turnips and as many other similar vegetables as are available, and store a sufficient quantity for the inmates in winter, so that inmates can receive a satisfactory amount of them every day. I believe that in this way we will significantly improve [their] state of health. Heil Hitler. Yours, Himmler.”
Other measures concerned the improvement of winter clothing, the shorter duration of roll calls, the right to receive food parcels, and a cookery class in Dachau for inmate cooks.
On December 28, 1942, Himmler ordered concentration camp inmate mortality to be reduced at any cost. As a result of these measures taken by Himmler, in the first half of 1943 deaths in concentration camps dropped significantly. On October 26, 1943 SS Gruppenführer Oswald Pohl, head of the SS WVHA, issued an important directive that concerned the improvement of inmates’ living conditions. Reproduced is ‘part of’ the full text of this directive, which was sent to the commandants of 19 concentration camps, including Auschwitz:
“Within the framework of German war production, thanks to the construction work carried out during the past two years, concentration camps represent a factor of decisive strategic importance. We have created from nothing armaments factories that have no equal. Now we must act with all forces at our disposal so that the achievements realized so far are not only maintained, but furthermore steadily increased in the future.”
I have pointed out already multiple times the need for correct and appropriate food for inmates. I remind you of the following principles:
Store vegetables and potatoes in such a way as to minimize loss of stock. First-class storage facilities.
When cleaning potatoes and vegetables, keep waste to the lowest level possible. Constantly monitor peeler teams.
Wash potatoes as briefly as possible; do not leave them in running water for hours. If soaking in water is unavoidable, keep them just covered with water, whole and not broken. Distribute boiled potatoes as far as possible in their skins.
Shortly before distributing rations, mix 10-50% of all vegetables raw with the cooked food.
Stir into the food about 10% of raw grated potato.
Only throw away vegetable cooking water when it has a bad smell or taste.
Distribute vegetables alongside meals also raw as salad, or uncooked (carrots, sauerkraut). The collection of wild greens and herbs must be done with great care as before.
Do not overcook warm meals!
The amount of the lunch ration should be between a liter and a quarter and a liter and a half, yet not a watery soup, but a substantial dish, rich in content.
The cooks must turn their attention mainly to proper seasoning. No excessive amounts of salt, in general no more than 20-30 grams per day. The supply of spices, to the extent that they are not rationed, should be implemented vigorously.
Inmate cooks must be supervised constantly and replaced immediately in case of negligence in the service.
In contrast to cooking for soldiers, in cooking for inmates, food must be chopped and cooked together. Only workers involved in heavy labor are to receive in their hands their additional sausage ration.
All possibilities of providing additional food must be fully exploited (e.g. yeast, curd).
In the concentration camps there must be no waste food.
Hot food and drinks must be given and consumed hot.
Bread may not be ovenfresh. Where possible, distribute bread in whole loaves.
Great attention must be given to distribution of the food in equal shares. An inmate who receives food late through no fault of his own is entitled to the same amount as those who ate before him. Portions of surplus food must be distributed equally or equitably in turn.
Inmates are to be encouraged to carefully peel potatoes boiled in their skins.
The receipt of additional packages is to be encouraged. Eating and digesting well require peace and quiet. Therefore, sufficient time off when food is received. No unnecessary walking: take the food to the people, not the people to the food.
Do not burden meal breaks with other tasks.
In the kitchens, living quarters and food receptacles there must be maximum cleanliness.
If a patient can recover faster with a special diet, it must be provided for him, but only in the infirmaries.
Clothing, along with hot meals, has the task of keeping the body warm and of protecting it from the common cold. This is of particular importance for inmates working outdoors. I order that in winter, where these are available, hats, coats, woolen cuffs and socks be worn. Several light garments keep one warmer than one heavy garment, so in the winter, if a coat is not available, wearing two shirts or similar must be allowed. Newspaper is an effective protection against the cold (because it keeps in the heat). Therefore, if necessary, have several layers of newspaper worn on the chest, belly and kidney area. You must give attention to procuring a sufficient amount of paper. If need be, inmates may make their own paper waistcoats. Shredded paper in socks is also a good protection against the cold. If no hat is available, allow close-fitting paper caps to be made as well. In this case, hair may be kept long as well to retain heat. I will reward suitable designs of heat-retaining clothing of any kind.
3) Natural hygiene measures.
In winter, care must be taken that the inmates are not subjected to hypothermia. So in the case of outdoor work, have repeated short breaks for energetic body exercise. Make use of roll calls for warming-up exercise. Hot drinks and foods promote blood circulation and warm the body from the inside. Always distribute cold food together with a hot drink. Bedding should not be allowed to cool; therefore, in unheated barracks during the day, put blankets on straw mattresses. Constantly check that straw mattresses are properly filled. You must provide an undisturbed night’s rest of at least 7 to 8 hours. Inmates who work during the day in dark areas, if possible, should be exposed during the lunch break to the light of day with a naked torso.
4) Avoid unnecessary exertion
Roll calls should be as short as possible; long periods of standing must be avoided. If it is cold, allow short exercises stamping the feet; if the weather is fine, have them sit [on the ground]. As far as possible organize workplaces with regard to layout and lighting so that all resources available work to the advantage of the labor process. In the future, useful and easily-achievable proposals made by the inmates in this regard will be rewarded (facilitations, cigarettes).
Treatment of Registered Prisoners Unfit for Work
In all preserved documents on the camp population of Auschwitz from 1942 to 1945, a very high number of “Prisoners unfit for work or deployment” is consistently to be seen. The legal status of these prisoners was established by the WVHA as early as 1942. On June 24 of that year, the head of Agency DII, SS Obersturmbannführer Gerhard Maurer, sent the commandants of the concentration camps new instructions for the submission of reports on the utilization of prisoners for work. Under Point 1 it stated:
“Prisoners unfit for work or deployment. These are to be listed in the daily reports under ‘Remarks’ in the following order:
Sick a) outpatients b) inpatients
As we shall see, these categories appeared regularly in various forms in reports from the year 1944, of which a number of examples have been preserved. These are the “Summary of Number and Utilization of Prisoners in Auschwitz II Concentration Camp.” On September 22, 1942, Auschwitz Camp held 28,207 prisoners, of which 16,459 were men and 11,748 women; 5,481 (19.4%) of the inmates were “Unfit for work and not deployable.” According to a report by the camp in December 1, 1942, 22,391 prisoners were in the men’s camp, including 1,620 patients in the Auschwitz Sickbay and 4,719 patients in the Birkenau Sickbay, in all therefore 6,339 patients, or 28.3% of the inmates. For 1943, the preserved documents enable us to derive the following more complete picture of the situation.
On September 4, 1943 SS Obersturmbannführer Gerhard Maurer, head of Agency DII of the WVHA (Prisoner Deployment), wrote the following letter to Höß:
“There are at this time about 25,000 jewish prisoners in CC Auschwitz. On Aug. 25, I told SS Hauptsturmführer Schwarz that I must know the number of fully work- and deployment-capable jews, because I had in mind to transfer jews from the concentration camp in order to put them to work in the Reich in arms production. I renewed this inquiry by teletype on Aug. 26, 1943. According to the reply teletype message of Aug. 29, 1943 of the 25,000 jews in custody, only 3,581 are fit for labor. These, however, are in constant utilization in arms production and cannot be given up. What are the other 21,500 jews doing? Something here doesn’t add up! Please review this situation once more and report back to me.”
Since the number of prisoners in Birkenau who were unfit for labor or deployment in June 1943 lay at about 34% of the total camp population, the number mentioned by Maurer was probably correct: of the 25,000 jews in Auschwitz at the end of August 1943, only about 3,581 were fit for labor, from which follows that about 21,400 were unfit for labor.
From Healthcare In Auschwitz – Medical Care and Special Treatment of Registered Inmates, Carlo Mattogno