Nacht und Nebel
Natzweiler-Struthof in the province of
Alsace, which is now in France, was one of the main camps where
"Night and Fog" prisoners were held, starting in the
Summer of 1943. Called "Nacht und Nebel" prisoners
by the Germans, these men were mostly anti-Fascist resistance
fighters from the countries occupied by the Nazis. Many of the
N.N. prisoners were intellectuals who were the leaders of the
Resistance. Their families were not notified about their imprisonment
and assumed that they were dead. They were made to disappear
into the Night and Fog. The expression Nacht und Nebel came from
Goethe, Germany's most famous writer.
On September 24, 1943, the RSHA decreed
that all "Germanic" N.N. prisoners would be sent to
Natzweiler. This included around 500 Nacht and Nebel prisoners
sent from Norway to Natzweiler, and also a group of Dutch resistance
fighters. There were also women who were N.N. prisoners; they
were sent to the women's camp at Ravensbrück, or to Mauthausen
and even Auschwitz.
The Nacht und Nebel prisoners were not
allowed to send, nor to receive, mail and packages from friends
and relatives, but the Norwegian N.N. prisoners did receive Red
Cross packages, which they shared with the other prisoners.
One of the Nacht und Nebel prisoners
at Natzweiler was Dutch resistane fighter Pim Boellaard, who
was captured on May 5, 1942 in the Netherlands. In September
1944, he was transferred to Dachau where he survived typhus and
was liberated on April 29th, 1945 by American troops. Click here for a video of an interview he gave
on May 5, 1945 in Dachau.
The Nacht und Nebel classification was
a cruel plan, originated by Hitler himself, which was used to
combat resistance activity. Many of the N.N. prisoners at Natzweiler
were members of the FTP, the French Communist resistance organization,
which was particularly active in fighting against Fascism beginning
in 1942. Others were partisans who fought in the FFI, the French
Forces of the Interior, which was the resistance organization
of Charles de Gaulle. General Frere, the commander of the ORA,
the Organization of Resistance Army, was also deported to Natzweiler.
The following quote is from a book that
I purchased at the Natzweiler Memorial site. These words were
written by François Faure:
Here is a precise figure on mortality
in concentration camps, taken from an official document: out
of the 167 French men of the first three trains of July 1943,
only three of us are left...I really think that there, on those
few square yards that we watered with our blood, and, why not
confess it, with our tears, we reached the bottom of human misery.
But it was also there that, on the verge of despair, in the warmth
of the friendship, or the brotherhood, of the solidarity which
brought us together, French people, FTP or FFI, communists or
gaullists, all of us "terrorists" as the S.S. said,
all of us, N.N. and condemned to disappear in the mist and in
the night, found the reasons and the strength to live...
According to Robert E. Conot, who wrote
the book "Justice at Nuremberg," the Nacht und Nebel
order was decreed on December 7, 1941 by Adolf Hitler and signed
by Wehrmacht Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel. The following quote
is from Conot's book:
A court-martial had the proper deterrent
effect, Hitler declared, only if the sentence was death and carried
out within eight days of the crime. Preferably, Hitler would
have done away with courts-martial altogether, for, he believed,
"court-martial proceedings create martyrs. History shows
that the names of such men are on everybody's lips, whereas there
is silence with regard to the many thousands who have lost their
lives in similar circumstances without court-martial proceedings.
The only weapon to deal with terror is terror." Therefore,
in every case of resistance in which the perpetrator was not
condemned to death - even if he or she was acquitted! - "the
disappearance of the accused without a trace" was to be
effected. "No information whatsoever may be given about
their whereabouts and their fate."
By September 1944, there had been 24,000
people turned over to the SD (Security Police) by the Wehrmacht,
the regular German Army, as a result of the Nacht und Nebel decree
signed by Keitel. According to his testimony at the Nuremberg
International Military Tribunal, Keitel claimed that he was not
aware that the Nacht und Nebel order was used for anything except
Wehrmacht soldiers who had been court martialled. As quoted by
Robert Conot in his book, Keitel testified as follows:
I learned here for the first time
of the full and monstrous tragedy, namely, that this order, which
was intended only for the Wehrmacht and for the sole purpose
of determining whether an offender who faced a sentence in jail
could be made to disappear by means of this Nacht und Nebel procedure,
was obviously applied universally by the police, and so the horrible
fact of the existence of whole camps full of people deported
through the Nacht und Nebel procedure has been proved.
The Nacht und Nebel prisoners were not
marked for execution. Except for not being able to communicate
with the outside world, they were treated the same as other concentration
camp prisoners, and could only be killed on direct orders from
Oranienburg, the headquarters of the concentration camp system.
The N.N. prisoners were confined to the camp and not allowed
to work on "kommandos," or work parties, outside the
camp. For this reason, at Natzweiler and Mauthausen, they were
not among the prisoners assigned to work in the quarries.
A Norwegian Nacht und Nebel prisoner
named Arne Brun Lie was among the inmates at Natzweiler; he survived
and was evacuated to Dachau where he was liberated by American
troops in April 1945. After the war, he wrote a book entitled
"Night and Fog," which told about the atrocities in
the Natzweiler camp, including the execution of women and children
in the gas chamber there.
This page was last updated on February