A Small List with a Big Lesson
On July 30, 1943, Ahnenerbe, a SS organization, arranged for the shipment of 86 Jews, men and women, from Auschwitz to Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace, France. After arrival there on August 2, 1943 these Jews were then murdered in the gas chamber and their still warm bodies given to the university in Strasbourg for the research purposes of the Nazi doctor, August Hirt. With the approach of the Allied troops these bodies, preserved in formalin, were hidden deep in the basement of the Anatomy Institute, where they were discovered. The fact that their numbers were still visible enabled the years of research to give them back their identity and names.
The Natzweiler-Struthof (called Natzweiler for short) concentration camp, the only camp built by the Nazis on French soil, is one of the least known camps. Located initially in Schirmeck near Natzweiler, about 50 kilometers south of Strasbourg in Alsace, it was established in 1940 as a forced labor camp, primarily for local opponents of the German occupation. Late in 1941 the SS moved in and established a camp in Natzweiler to mine a nearby granite quarry. Gradually other sub-camps were established, but the total number of prisoners remained small until late 1942. However, by 1943 the scope of the camp was expanded into southwest Germany and dozens of small sub-camps were established. At its peak it probably held 19,000 prisoners and a total of 46,000 prisoners were registered as prisoners at some time or other until its evacuation in September 1944. As Allied troops approached, many of the prisoners were forced on marches eastward, during which many died.
Initially Natzweiler held few Jews, but in 1944 larger numbers arrived there, transferred from Auschwitz and other East European camps.
This collection of names, totaling 86, was taken from a collection held at the United States National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The extent of information on individual prisoners varies, but generally includes prisoner number, nationality, family and given name. In many cases a notation is included giving a date of death or other camp to which the prisoner was transferred.
Hans-Joachim Lang spent years of research chronicling this event and identifying the 86 victims. In his book, Die Namen der Nummern (The Names of the Numbers), Hoffmann and Campe, 2004, ISBN 3-455-09464-3, he describes how he was successful in this endeavor, and he provides brief biographical sketches of each of the victims.
While the number of victims is small, they illustrate a significant problem faced by researchers seeking to compile Holocaust victim lists. Many, perhaps most, simply take deportation/transport lists and assume that, since the persons on these lists did not return, they must have perished in the destination camp. For example, all the Germans included among the 86 whose names appear in the German Government's Gedenkbuch are listed as verschollen (vanished, assumed dead) Auschwitz. Yet none died in Auschwitz. Similarly, none of the Dutch, Greek, Belgian or French Jews in this collection is listed in relevant reference books or on the Yad Vashem, USHMM or JewishGen websites as having died in Natzweiler. The moral of this story never stop looking.
Between 1945 and 1951 there were two series of burials in both the Robertsau Cemetery and the Cronenbourg Jewish Cemetery of Strasbourg, initiated by the Communauté Israëlite of Strasbourg and the Consitoire of the Bas-Rhin under the supervision of Rabbi Abraham Deutsch zl, beginning with one at the Robertsau on Oct. 23 1945. Rabbi Deutsch supervised all official and religious burials until his retirement about 1969. He passed away in 1992. In 1951 all of the remains were moved together and reinterred in one location in the Cronenbourg-Strasbourg Jewish Cemetery.
At a ceremony on Dec. 11, 2005, under the aupices of the Communauté Israélite of Strasbourg, the Consistoire of the Bas-Rhin, and in the presence of officials of the French government, local authorities and relatives of the martyrs, two austere, dark memorial stones engraved with the names of the 86 victims was placed there. One is at the site of the mass grave, the other along the wall of the cemetery. An additional memorial plaque honoring the victims was place outside the Anatomy Institute at Strasbourg's University Hospital.
Those readers who do not have access to this book may look at the author's website, www.Die-Namen-der-Nummern.de for information on the victims, in both German and English, as well as a contact point were any reader to be able to provide additional information on the victims.
We wish to offer our thanks and appreciation to Peter Landé of the USHMM for his assistance in obtaining the permission for us to place this data online, and to Dr. Pierre Kogan, of Strasbourg for his assistance in the translation of some of the material. Also our thanks to the photographer, Henri Gallin, of Strasbourg, who took the pictures of the Memorial stones, which he has kindly donated to the Yizkor book project. And our deep gratitude goes to Hans-Joachim Lang both for his persistence in the research to identify these remains, and his generosity in permitting us to place this online on JewishGen.
6 August 2006
|Memorial stone at the Anatomy Institute
in Strasbourg, France
|Monument placed in the
|View of the stone at the Mass grave
(grey gravel area)
|Family name||Given name||Year of birth||Place of birth||Nationality||Last residence|
|SACHNOWITZ||Frank||1925||Larvik||Norwegian||Gjein Gard, Stokke, Norway|
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