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.

French Resistance

Albert-Marie Guérisse

General Charles Delestraint

Alliance Réseau

SOE agents execution


This page was last updated on February 24, 2009