11. "EXTERMINATION THROUGH WORK"

The major concentration camps within the German Reich became significant economic enterprises during the war as their purposes shifted from correction of behavior to exploitation of labor. After establishing the German Earth and Stone Works in 1938, the SS erected several new concentration camps near quarries, while brickworks and other factories were attached to existing German camps. Technologically primitive, these operations relied heavily on the manual labor of large numbers of camp inmates working in inhuman conditions.

Homosexuals in these camps were almost always assigned to the worst and often most dangerous work. Usually attached to "punishment companies," they generally worked longer hours with fewer breaks, and often on reduced rations. The quarries and brickyards claimed many lives, not only from exertion but also at the hands of SS guards who deliberately caused "accidents."

After 1942, the SS, in agreement with the Ministry of Justice, embarked on an explicit program of "extermination through work" to destroy Germany's imprisoned "habitual criminals." Some 15,000 prisoners, including homosexuals, were sent from prisons to camps, where nearly all perished within months.


Quarry at the Flossenbürg concentration camp, established in 1938. A survey of the camp population in early 1943 listed 105 homosexuals among the camp's 4,000 prisoners.

Forced laborers in the quarry at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

The brickworks near the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin. At least 1,000 homosexual men are known to have been held at Sachsenhausen between its opening in 1936 and the end of the war. Many perished from the exertions of grueling labor in the brickworks.


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