Established: 2 September 1939
Location: about 30 km from Danzig
After having invaded Poland, the Nazis forced 250 Polish prisoners to built Stutthot concentration camp, originally intended to be a work camp, in the vicinity of the Polish village of Sztutowo. But as events unfolded, Stutthof turned into a fully-fledged site of indiscriminate murder, complete with all the facilities necessary for such a task.
Its gas chambers had a capacity of 150 people at a time, but in order to expedite matters, thousands of prisoners were shot before they even actually entered the camp. At first, the inmates were mainly Polish, civilians, navy personnel and dispersed soldiers rounded-up in the nearby area. But later Stutthof also housed Latvians, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Belgians, Russian, Hungarians and Roma.
Prisoners worked mainly in twenty external commandoes, where the repression and living conditions were especially harsh. They were forced to work on excavations and on organising the nearby land, constructing airports and military installations of all types under the direction of the Organisation Todt. But they also worked in mechanics’ garages and factories producing chemicals for war production. Around the camp, AEG set up an industrial facility, to which mainly female Jewish prisoners were allocated.
The appalling living and health conditions were such that in 1944, a tyhpus epidemic killed more than 5,000 inmates.
The camp at Stutthof continued to function up to the last minute: it was only abandoned on 25 January 1945 as the Red Army closed in. More than 25,000 prisoners were sent on foot in a forced march, in the depths of the Polish winter, towards a variety of destinations, which only a few hundred walking skeletons struck down by fear and exhuastion managed to reach.
In its five years of operation, more than 127,000 prisoners were registered at Stutthof, both men and women (the number of positively identified Italians at the camp stands today at 24). Registered deaths totalled 85,000, but it is not known how many Soviet and Polish prisoners-of-war and how many Jews were simply executed on their arrival at the camp, without undergoing the formalities of registration. When the Red Army entered Stutthof, they found only a few dying prisoners and masses of dead bodies.