(also known as Dora-Nordhausen or Nordhausen) camp was established in
central Germany near the
southern Harz Mountains, north of the town of Nordhausen. It was originally
a subcamp of Buchenwald.
Prisoners from Buchenwald were sent to the area in 1943 to begin construction
of a large industrial complex. In October 1944, the SS
made Dora-Mittelbau an independent concentration
camp with more than 30 subcamps of its own.
Allied air raids on industrial complexes in Germany
necessitated the construction of underground production facilities.
Concentration camp prisoners dug huge tunnels into the surrounding mountains
to house the production and storage areas. In 1943, prisoners at Dora-Mittelbau
began construction of large underground factories and development facilities
for the V-2 missile program and other experimental weapons. These so-called
Weapons of Retaliation (Vergeltungswaffen), as the Germans called
them, were constructed and stored in the underground facilities and
Inside a hangar: hundreds of
Until the spring of 1944, prisoners were kept mostly
underground, deprived of daylight and fresh air, and enclosed in unstable
tunnels. The mortality rate was higher than at most other concentration
camps. Prisoners too weak or ill to work were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau
or Mauthausen to be killed.
In 1944, a compound to house forced laborers was built above ground
level south of the main factory area. Once full production of the missiles
began in the fall of 1944, Dora-Mittelbau had a standing prisoner population
of at least 12,000.
Dora-Mittelbau was enclosed by an electrified barbed-wire
fence, with the main entrance located in the east of the camp. To the
west of the main entrance was the roll call area, where prisoners were
assembled before they were marched off to forced labor. To the east,
beyond the entrance, was the SS camp. The crematoria were located in
the north of the camp. The camp prison was in the south part of the
Only two survivors in this
The Dora-Mittelbau camp was the center of a vast network
of forced-labor camps
constructed in 1944-1945 throughout the Harz Mountain region, including
those located in nearby Niedersachswerfen, Nordhausen, and Neusollstedt.
Prisoners in the Dora-Mittelbau camp system quarried stone and worked
in construction projects, munitions factories, the nearby ammonia works,
and other projects related to weapons development and production.
Dora-Mittelbau had a prisoner resistance organization,
which sought mainly to delay production of the Weapons of Retaliation
and to sabotage the rockets that were produced. Prisoners suspected
of sabotage were usually killed; more than 200 were publicly hanged
for sabotaging production.
THE LIBERATION OF DORA-MITTELBAU
In early April 1945, the Nazis began to evacuate the
prisoners from Dora-Mittelbau. Within days, most of the remaining prisoners
were sent to Bergen-Belsen
in northern Germany. Thousands were killed during death marches under
horrendous conditions. When American forces liberated
Dora-Mittelbau in April 1945, only a few prisoners were still in the