Established: 21 May 1941
Location: about 50 km from Strasbourg
After the Third Reich annexed Alsace-Lorraine, 300 prisoners despatched from Sachsenhausen were set to work constructing a camp in the Vosges region, at an altitude of 800 metres; the Nazis devoted particular attention to the construction of the camp to make it fit in with its splendid surroundings.
Originally designed to hold 1,500 prisoners, by 1944, Natzweiler actually held more than 8,000, mainly French, Luxemburghers, Dutch, Germans, Russians and Poles. There were also some Italian prisoners detained at the camp. The main work carried out by the prisoners was on the roads, but some groups were also to be found in workshops and building sites set upin the area. 75 sub-camps operated out of the main facility, some of which were hived off to Krupp, Adler, Daimler Benz, Heinkel and other German companies: in total, they had 15,000 inmates at their disposal.
Conditions at Natzweiler were similar to all the other camps: excessive punishments, murders and summary executions, pseudo-scientific experiments carried out on inmates (the SS were especially interested in the effects of typhus and other contagious diseases). The camp had a gas chamber at its disposal, located in a small building that looked like a farmhouse, where experiments with various poisonous and lethal gases were also carried out.
A secret resistance movement known as “Alliance” was uncovered by the Germans a short time before the camp was evacuated. Around 200 resistance fighters, mainly French, were hanged shortly before the rest of the prisoners were despatched to other camps, notably Dachau. Allied troops reached Natzweiler on 23 November 1944, but the camp had already been decommissioned.