By Mareike Fallet and Simone Kaiser for Spiegel Online International on June 25, 2009—
“Concentration camp brothels remain a hushed-up chapter of the Nazi-era horrors. Now a German researcher has probed the dark subject — and has revealed the meticulous cruelty of the so-called “special buildings.”
Kicking them with his boots, the SS soldier drove Margarete W. and the other women prisoners out of the train and onto a truck. “Move the tarpaulin, put the flap down. Everyone get in,” he yelled. Through the plastic window in the truck’s canvas side, she watched as they drove into a men’s camp and stopped in front of a barracks with a wooden fence.
The women were taken into a furnished room. The barracks were different from the ones Margarete W., then 25, knew from her time at the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. There were tables, chairs, benches, windows, and even curtains. The female overseer informed the new arrivals that they were “now in a prisoners’ brothel.” They would live well there, the woman said, with good food and drink, and if they did as they were told, nothing would happen to them. Then each woman was assigned a room. Margarete W. moved into No. 13.
The prisoners’ brothel at the Buchenwald concentration camp opened on July 11, 1943. It was the fourth of a total of 10 so-called “special buildings” erected in concentration camps between 1942 and 1945, according to the instructions of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. He implemented a rewards scheme in the camps, whereby prisoners’ “particular achievements” earned them smaller workloads, extra food or monetary bonuses.
Himmler also considered it beneficial to “provide the hard-working prisoners with women in brothels,” as he wrote on March 23, 1942, to Oswald Pohl, the SS officer in charge of the concentration camps. Himmler’s cynical vision saw brothel visits increasing the forced laborers’ productivity in the quarries and munitions factories.”
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