Stiftelsen för forskning inom områden med anknytning till Östersjöregionen och Östeuropa

The Other Victims of Auschwitz: The Murder of Sick Prisoners in Upper Silesian Forced Labour Camps for Jews

Ämne: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Eastern European History, Contemporary History
Projektledare: Susanne Barth
Startår: 2024
Projekttyp: Postdokprojekt
Beviljade medel: 2 606 000 kr

The project examines the Holocaust in Eastern Upper Silesia, a territory annexed by Nazi Germany from Poland after the invasion of 1939. Out of the local Jewish population of 120,000, about 50,000 died as a result of their internment in forced labour camps set up by Himmler’s Special Commissioner Albrecht Schmelt from October 1940. A major factor for their high mortality was the selection of sick and emaciated prisoners for the gas chambers of Auschwitz, or their murder in the camps by cold water, leading to drowning or hypothermia. As the so-called “Schmelt camps” operated in a legal vacuum, there were different perpetrators than in the concentration camps: German order policemen and ethnic German auxiliaries from Bessarabia served as guards, and male and female Upper Silesian civilians as camp leaders. The project investigates how this unregulated space was used to try out new, radical killing methods and how it permitted parts of the mixed Polish-German population of Upper Silesia to prove their alleged “Germanness” by collaborating in these crimes. Agamben’s theory of the Nazi regime reducing Jews and other groups to “bare life” without civil rights, who could be killed without punishment, will be used to analyze the delegation of the state’s prerogative to destine prisoners for death to civilian Schmelt camp leaders. The collaboration of ethnically diverse male and female perpetrators will be contextualized within the concept of “cross-identity performance.”