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History of the Camp

The SS Special Camp / Hinzert Concentration Camp was operated from 1939 to 1945. It was originally set up as a police detention camp, then as a ‘re-training camp’ for workers from the Organisation Todt (OT) who had worked on the West wall and had become delinquents according to the National Socialists’ understanding of delinquency. During the Second World War the camp was turned into a concentration camp for deportees from numerous countries occupied by the Wehrmacht. The camp retained its title of ‘SS Special Camp’ due to the various special functions the camp assumed over the course of time, although it was run like a concentration camp by the Office for Economics and Administration as of 1942. A total of ca. 10.000 people suffered from the terror of the SS in the camp’s six year existence.

First Commandant of the SS Special Camp – this title being used from November 1939 on – was Hermann Pister, who assumed the position on 9 October 1939. His successor as of December 1941 was Egon Zill.  The position of the camp was ‘upgraded’ in 1940, when it was placed under the jurisdiction of the Inspector of Concentration Camps on 1 July 1940. Another ‘upgrade’ in the concentration camp system took place on 7 February 1942 when the camp was allocated to the SS Central Office for Economics and Administration (WVHA). This remained under Zill’s jurisdiction until he was transferred to the Natzweiler Concentration Camp in Alsace as Deputy Commandant in April 1942.  Paul Sporrenberg followed him as the third Commandant of the Hinzert Concentration Camp. Formally the SS Special Camp / Hinzert Concentration Camp retained its autonomy, until it was assigned to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp on 21 November 1944.

Whether or not the decreed assignment actually took place in practise is however unclear. An air raid on 22 February 1945 destroyed parts of the camp. The camp remained in operation until March 1945, when most of the prisoners were evacuated and sent with guards to Buchenwald shortly before the arrival of American troops. At least 3 prisoners did not survive the march: guards shot one Frenchman, beat a Luxembourger to death and killed another Luxembourger with an injection. The rest of the prisoners who were forced toward Buchenwald were freed in Langendiebach in Hessian. A small portion of the prisoners did however remain in the camp under the supervision of guards. After the last guards departed, American soldiers liberated them in the middle of March. 

Hitherto it has not been possible to investigate all the deaths in the SS Special Camp / Hinzert Concentration Camp. Research by the Luxembourg Conseil National de la Résistance has confirmed 321 deaths. One can assume that all the victims could not be found after the end of the war.

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