September 1943: newly established Mittelbau-Dora has more than 3000 inmates
The establishment of Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp was preceded by the development of the A4 rocket as a weapon of terror – later known by the propaganda designation "V-2" – at the Peenemünde army research centre on the island of Usedom.
On August 28, 1943, ten days after the air attack on Peenemünde by the Royal Air Force, the first 107 concentration camp inmates arrived at the Kohnstein Mountain near Nordhausen with their SS guards. A new subcamp of Buchenwald Concentration Camp opened: the Arbeitslager Dora (Dora labour camp), as it was officially designated by the SS. In the weeks and months that followed, further inmate transports arrived from Buchenwald almost daily.
Because of the fact that no barracks or permanent living quarters had yet been made available for the inmates, the SS housed them in the tunnels of the planned Mittelwerk, as one section of the underground factory was called. For this purpose, Chambers 43 to 46 – four transverse chambers of the ladder-shaped tunnel system – were furnished with four-tiered wooden bunks.
There were no sanitary facilities. The inmates suffered and died of hunger, thirst, cold and the heavy labour itself. Between October 1943 and March 1944, nearly 2,900 inmates died in Dora. A further 3,000 dying inmates were transferred to Lublin-Majdanek and Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camps in the spring of 1944. Hardly any of them survived.
Once Mittelbau had become an independent concentration camp, it gained further subcamps through the relocation of new armament projects to the Southern Harz Mountains. By the spring of 1945, the Mittelbau camps – then numbering approximately forty – accounted for over 40,000 inmates.
Photographs : Below : View of a tunnel entrance to the rocket factory at the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, near Nordhausen. Germany, April-May 1945.
Above: Members of a U.S. congressional committee investigating German atrocities view a V-2 rocket