Natzweiler-Struthof Gallows

Shown in the photo above is the gallows where prisoners, who had been condemned to death, were hanged at Natzweiler. In the background you can see the terraced hillside where the barracks once stood. The hangman's noose was set up whenever an execution was scheduled.

Some time after France was liberated by the Allies, with the help of the French resistance fighters, a gathering was held at the Natzweiler camp to honor the brave men and women who had died for France. According to a book which I purchased at the Memorial site, Professor Simonin, one of the survivors, said the following words at the ceremony:

I can see Commandant Kramer up on the platform with his S.S. sidemen, by the gallows, in front of the convulsed body of a poor hanged man. I can see the vile and grinning face who shouts, coldly, with unparalled scorn, above the heads of the prisoners gathered in the yard: "I wouldn't mind having you hanged, just like this one, one after the other."

Josef Kramer

Josef Kramer was the Commandant at Natzweiler before he was transferred to Auschwitz and then to Bergen-Belsen. He was brought before a British military tribunal after the war, convicted, and hanged in December 1945.

In a book which I purchased at the Memorial site, the following description of a hanging at Christmas time, written by Docteur Ragot, one of the survivors, is quoted:

Christmas came, waking time was set one hour later and we did not go to work in the afternoon for two days in a row. Our kapo had changed two weeks before that, and the new one was a German "green" that had been detained for many years. A man of about fifty, he would lead us roundly but he had the merit of being just.

As he had liked our sunday songs, he asked us to organize something for Christmas Eve, and himself decorated a fir tree with garlands and even with small candles. There were to be some festivities consisting mainly of supplementary food. There is no need to say that these were the ones that most appealed to us. But there were to be others...

As early as noon, as we were coming back from work, we were offered the first one. That is the way the German mind is; mystical and infernal at the same time. Two gallows were erected on the upper platform and two deportees were hanged in front of all the prisoners: slow hanging by strangulation, without letting the hanged man fall down; it takes him at least two minutes to die.

When it was finished, we were marched - Mützen ab - (caps off) five in a row, between the two corpses on our left and the S.S. staff among whom Kramer was sitting, with a cigar in his mouth; they enjoyed every bit of it and watched for our reactions. We marched past them like automans, unconcerned, our eyes in the vague, mostly thinking of the soup that was waiting for us and that was getting cold in our mess tins. did not keep us from enjoying our three potatoes served with a little bit of gravy a few minutes later, or from singing and from playing music in the afternoon. We lived, we died, we lived working, starving, but still hoping. Alas we died, alone most of the time, without a friend to close our eyes, without religious help for the believers; once the pitiful corpses of the executed prisoners were burned, only their memory would stay.

The photo below shows the area between where two of the barrack buildings formerly stood. This is where the prisoners were forced to watch public executions. In the background on the left is Barrack No. 1 which is now a Museum. The rose-colored area is where Barrack No. 2 formerly stood. In the foreground is displayed a cart used on a narrow gauge railroad to haul stones from the quarry where the prisoners were forced to work in the early days of the camp. Later, the prisoners worked in munitions factories. The second photo below shows another view of the same cart.

In the photo above, the camp kitchen is shown in the background on the right. In the background on the left is a small white stone block. Each of the terraced spaces where the barracks formerly stood has one of these blocks. They are engraved with the names of other Nazi concentration camps where Jews died in the Holocaust, such as Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Bergen-Belsen. Although Natzweiler was not a death camp for the extermination of the Jews, these blocks serve to link together the atrocities of the Nazis.


Camp Prison



The Camp


Ash pit