Buchenwald’s subcamp „Schwalbe V“ in Berga/Elster

Forced labour and mass extinction

Finally, some 230 SS men served as guards and supervisors to guard the concentration camp and the work deployment, many acting with extreme brutality against the prisoners.
The core of the camp was a former machine hall of the company Crous & Co. (formerly Ernst Engländer), used as mass accommodation near the Berga train station; in addition there were smaller farm buildings within the barbed wire fence.
Although guarded and fenced, what was happening in the camp was no secret because of the short distance to the everyday life of the people of Berga.
Occasional attempts to help the prisoners occurred, but they remained the exception.
The inmate Josef Krauze from Kielce remembered the situation in the camp as follows:
„There were three-storeyed bunk beds with straw sacks. No sheets, no pillows; just one old blanket per person. We slept and worked in the same clothes. As far as I remember, it wasn’t possible to clean or wash one self. We ate lice and other insects to survive. Work was very hard and often there were bad weather conditions. Our work clothes were utterly unsuitable for this type of work in February. We had to use outdoor field latrines. As I recall it, compared to the other camps one thing was better. There were larger portions of food. But that was no compensation for the hard work and the working conditions.“
The majority of the prisoners had to work hard at transportation, tunnelling, tunnel removal and so forth, often being instructed by German civilian superiors. The so-called „potato peelers“ - children and adolescents, who did auxiliary work in the kitchen and the camp - had it a little easier in comparison.

Due to poor food supply, hard labour and ill-treatment by the guards, 315 men and adolescents aged 16 to 65 died between the end of November 1944 and the beginning of April 1945 and were buried at Baderberg mountain. The victims were shown no respect whatsoever; in fact for the SS it was crucial to get rid of the bodies as quickly as possible. The transport of the numerous deceased prisoners happened under the eyes of the civilians, as Frau Gerstner from Berga recalled:
„The 4 dead were thrown into a wooden shed next to the dormitory and removed early the next day at 5 a.m. in a two-wheeled cart. The trip went through the city to a hill, which is surrounded by forest on two sides. Two prisoners were used as draft animals and 2 SS men ran alongside. The dead were covered with a dirty blanket.“
There were numerous other victims among the sick and injured transferred to Buchenwald. At least 36 of the 69 prisoners who were transferred to Weimar on January 4, 1945, died - many of them shortly after their arrival in Buchenwald.
The camp was closed in the second week of April 1945. 320 prisoners unable to march were transported to Dachau. The SS drove the remaining prisoners on a death march towards Czechia.
Numerous inmates perished due to the hardships, were murdered or died as a result of the imprisonment.
Since April 24, 2005, a plaque at the former camp site commemorates the victims of the subcamp.