I was 20, about 1.7 metres (5ft 7in) tall, blond, not bad looking and, despite the beating, in pretty good shape. When my limit in the hospital was up, they sent me to the gas chambers. There I met Dr Mengele, who asked me what was wrong. I said: “You can see, I’ve been beaten up.” Instead of sending me to the gas chambers, I was sent back to the hospital, presumably he saw the potential for labour in me. As I had trained as a tailor, he decided I had my uses there. The soldiers wanted to look nice, so they’d come to me in the hospital if they wanted their uniforms fixed up. The very fact that my new job meant I didn’t have to get up in the morning in the harsh winter in thin clothes standing around for hours for the headcount was a big thing. It meant that being a tailor saved my life.
Of course, there were aspects of Nazism which were reactionary, such as their attitude toward the role of women in society, which was completely traditionalist,[284] calling for the return of women to the home as wives, mothers and homemakers, although ironically this ideological policy was undermined in reality by the growing labor shortages and need for more workers. The number of women in the workplace climbed throughout the period of Nazi control of Germany, from 4.24 million in 1933 to 4.52 million in 1936 and 5.2 million in 1938, numbers that far exceeded those of the Weimar Republic.[285]
Since our clothing did not offer enough protection against the prevailing cold—the temperatures were around freezing point—the restriction resulted in many diseases of the respiratory organs. These affected us in two ways: for one, the prisoners with colds were much tormented by coughing, and, for another, the rest of us suffered much from their comforts. In the room in which we were lying penned up together on the straw, with two covers at the most, the snoring alone of the many men produced a noise like a spinning mill. Now the barking and panting noise of the coughing was added to that. We were given only one handkerchief every two weeks. To make matters worse, there was no warm water for washing our handkerchiefs and it was impossible to dry them at the stove.
Under the Gleichschaltung process, Hitler attempted to create a unified Protestant Reich Church from Germany's 28 existing Protestant state churches,[408] with the ultimate goal of eradication of the churches in Germany.[409] Pro-Nazi Ludwig Müller was installed as Reich Bishop and the pro-Nazi pressure group German Christians gained control of the new church.[410] They objected to the Old Testament because of its Jewish origins and demanded that converted Jews be barred from their church.[411] Pastor Martin Niemöller responded with the formation of the Confessing Church, from which some clergymen opposed the Nazi regime.[412] When in 1935 the Confessing Church synod protested the Nazi policy on religion, 700 of their pastors were arrested.[413] Müller resigned and Hitler appointed Hanns Kerrl as Minister for Church Affairs to continue efforts to control Protestantism.[414] In 1936, a Confessing Church envoy protested to Hitler against the religious persecutions and human rights abuses.[413] Hundreds more pastors were arrested.[414] The church continued to resist and by early 1937 Hitler abandoned his hope of uniting the Protestant churches.[413] Niemöller was arrested on 1 July 1937 and spent most of the next seven years in Sachsenhausen concentration camp and Dachau.[415] Theological universities were closed and pastors and theologians of other Protestant denominations were also arrested.[413]
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps (German: Konzentrationslager, KZ or KL) throughout the territories it controlled before and during the Second World War. The first Nazi camps were erected in Germany in March 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control of the police by Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring.[2] Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps initially held around 45,000 prisoners.[3] In 1933–1939, before the onset of war, most prisoners consisted of German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of 'asocial' or socially 'deviant' behavior by the Germans.[4]
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