Millions of people suffered and died in camps, ghettos, and other sites during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their allies oversaw more than 44,000 camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder. Among them was the early camp Hainewalde.
On March 27, 1933, the SA established a protective custody camp at Hainewalde Castle in Saxony. Initially SA-Sturm III (Dresden) under SA-Sturmführer Ernst Jirka guarded the camp, but in May this responsibility fell to SA-Standarte 102 (Zittau) under SA-Standartenführer Paul Unterstab. Altogether there were about 150 guards. The camp's commandant was SA-Sturmbannführer Müller and the adjutant was SA-Sturmbannführer Mittag. On April 12, 1933, the camp held 259 prisoners, but that number subsequently increased to almost four hundred. In total, approximately one thousand prisoners passed through the camp.
An itemization for Hainewalde revealed that protective custody cost the Saxon government over 130,000 Marks. When the camp was dissolved on August 10, 1933, the remaining prisoners were transferred to larger early concentration camps at Hohnstein Castle and Sachsenburg.
Hainewalde's prisoners consisted mainly of leftists and Jews. About 150 were crammed into one barrack, where the prisoners slept on multi-tiered bunks with straw mattresses. The prisoners were required to attend Protestant religious services, as well as nightly Nazi indoctrination. For the latter purpose, younger and older prisoners were housed separately, on the theory that the young prisoners would be more susceptible to Nazification if isolated from their elders.
The SA forced the prisoners to perform penal exercises, conducted torture under the pretext of interrogation, and directed all but the most serious cases of injury or illness to a cellar for warehousing without medical treatment. The SA used an administrative office and a special bunker for interrogations. Prisoners were also compelled to work in woodcutting and latrine details. Jews and intellectuals were singled out for humiliation and brutal treatment.
The outlawed German Social Democratic Party continued to assist Hainewalde's prisoners. For example, the Prague-based, socialist newspaper Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung reproduced the photograph of a Hainewalde detainee. A sympathetic SA guard had smuggled the image out of camp, which revealed a prisoner in terrible condition. Zittau's underground Communist organization also smuggled propaganda into the camp that let the prisoners know their suffering had not been forgotten: “We know that you have remained loyal to the cause of the working classes with unfaltering courage, in spite of all the terror and despite the harassment to which you have been exposed. . . . We know very well-and also the working classes know-what you have suffered. If we send you this greeting despite all difficulties of illegality inside the concentration camp, take it as an avowal of our undivided solidarity with you.”
The camp administration imposed strict conditions for release from custody. On pain of arrest, released prisoners signed a declaration swearing not to discuss conditions in Hainewalde. According to another declaration, dated August 5, 1933, the released detainee promised not to associate again with “Marxist parties.” The well-known screenwriter, playwright, and novelist, Axel Eggebrecht, recalled a rumor that the prisoners would be released on May Day, but it turned out not to have any foundation.
Eggebrecht was held at Hainewalde from April to May 1933. A resident of Berlin, he was visiting his father in Leipzig at the time of his arrest, March 5, 1933, which coincided with Germany's election day. After a month in jail, he was delivered to Hainewalde. As the prisoners entered the gate, a teacher among them joked that the castle once held the “favorites” of the Saxon king, August the Strong. A guard then put them through a mindless initiation rite. With the command, “Right leg, high!” Eggebrecht raised his leg like a “stork.” When the SA next issued the impossible order to raise the left leg as well, he refused to do so, in the gruff language of the barracks. In the exchange that followed, the guard ascertained that Eggebrecht was a World War veteran. Eggebrecht soon realized, however, that his military service meant little to the guards. Stereotyped as an intellectual, he was ordered to work in a humiliating labor command. “Aha-the scriptwriter from Berlin!” Sturmführer Jirka exclaimed, “I have something extra fine for you-the shit detail!”
Eggebrecht's bunkmate, a Jewish prisoner named Benno Berg, experienced a rare moment of humor after a reeducation session. A Nazi Kreisleiter lectured the detainees on the Jewish threat, quoting the stock phrase, “The Jews are our misfortune.” After the speech, he inspected the prisoners and stopped in front of Berg. In response to the Kreisleiter's questions, Berg gave his name and birthplace: “Berg, from Reichenberg, Bohemia.” Not realizing that the prisoner was Jewish, the Nazi announced: “A Sudeten national comrade! Bravo! All of you will come to us again!” Eggebrecht added: “The big shot's fat hand struck the 'non-Aryan' appreciatively on the shoulder. 'For myself, you are the model of the true SA man! Heil Hitler!' Hand raised, he strutted away.”
Eggebrecht was interrogated, but not tortured. In this regard his experience contrasted with other Hainewalde prisoners. Eggebrecht recalled the interrogator's interest in how he had gotten mixed up with the Communists, after growing up in a “good home.” His release came through his father's intercession with an influential Saxon official, Professor Apel. Eggebrecht's father wrote him about Apel's interest in his case. Sometime later, his father visited him at the camp. Exclaiming that the conditions were “unworthy” of his son, the father added that he should be patient, because “it won't last much longer!” Several days later, Eggebrecht was released after signing a promise not to circulate “atrocity stories."
In 1948, the Bautzen state court sentenced 39 guards to penitentiary terms for their role in the maltreatment of Hainewalde prisoners. The trial was conducted under the auspices of the Soviet occupation, but further details are not known. No additional information has emerged so far about Hainewalde, for which further research is needed.
The Early Camp: Hainewalde article builds upon the standard study of the early Nazi concentration camps, Klaus Drobisch and Günther Wieland, System der NS-Konzentrationslager, 1933–1939 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1993). See also Mike Schmeitzner, "Ausschaltung - Verfolgung - Widerstand: Die politischen Gegner des NS-Systems in Sachsen 1933–1945," in Sachsen in der NS-Zeit, ed. Clemens Vollnhals (Leipzig: Gustav Kiepenhauer Verlag, 2002), pp. 183–199.
A listing for Hainewalde can also be found in "Dritte Verordnung zur Änderung der Sechsten Verordnung zur Durchführung des Bundesntschädigungsgesetzes (3. ÄndV-6. DV-BEG), vom 24. November 1982," in Bundesgesetzblatt, ed. Bundesminister der Justiz, Teil I (1982): 1575.
A memorial is recorded in Stefanie Endlich, Nora Goldenbogen, Beatrix Herlemann, Monika Kahl, and Regina Scheer, Gedenkstätten für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus: Eine Dokumentation, vol. 2, Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt, Sachsen, Thüringen (Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1999).
A very good history of this camp, which unfortunately does not cite primary sources, is found at the website, Mahnung gegen Rechts - Städte und Gemeinden in der Zeit von 1933 - 1945 - Zittau <<http://www.mahnung-gegen-rechts.de/pages/staedte/Zittau/pages/wahlschlager.htm>>, last accessed January 25, 2005.
Primary documentation for Hainewalde begins with files nos. 4842 and 4852 in the Hauptstaatsarchiv Dresden, Ministerium für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten, as cited by Drobisch and Wieland and by Schmeitzner.
Additional primary documentation may be found in the Archivverbund Bautzen/Staatsfilialarchiv (formerly the Sächsische Hauptstaatsarchiv, Aussenstelle Bautzen), Amtshauptmannschaft Bautzen, no. 7542, as cited in Drobisch and Wieland. An important personal account is Axel Eggebrecht, Der halbe Weg: Zwischenbilanz einer Epoche (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, 1975). Eggebrecht's camp testimony constituted a small portion of his autobiography. As a screenwriter, he faithfully recaptured the guards' poor German.
Hainewalde was also mentioned in the National Socialist and exile press. See "Stätten der Hölle: 65 Konzentrationslager - 80,000 Schutzhaftgefangene," Neuer Vorwärts, August 27, 1933. As cited in Drobisch and Wieland, it was mentioned in the Oberlausitzer Tageszeitung, March 28, April 15, and August 30, 1933; and an unspecified issue of the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (Prague). Photographs of the castle, the latrine and woodcutting details, and certain SA leaders, including Standartenführer Paul Unterstab, and the reproduction of the release document for Fritz Seiler, may be found at the Mahnung gegen Rechts Web site.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What was the purpose of the early camps?
- To what degree was the local population aware of this camp, its purpose, and the conditions within? How would you begin to research this question?
- How did the functions of the camp system expand after World War II began?
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. Vol 1, Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), ed. Geoffrey Megargee. Bloomington: Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2009.