Natzweiler-Struthof was a German concentration camp located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller  in France, and the town of Schirmeck, about 50 km SW from the city of Strasbourg.

Natzweiler-Struthof was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on present-day French territory, though there were French-run temporary camps such as the one at Drancy. At the time, the Alsace-Lorraine area in which it was established had been annexed by Germany as an integral part of the German Reich, unlike other parts of France. The writer Boris Pahor was interned in Natzweiler-Struthof and wrote his novel Necropolis based on this experience.

Natzweiler-Struthof was operational between May 21, 1941 until the beginning of September 1944 when the SS evacuated the camp into Dachau. Its construction was overseen by Hans Hüttig. The camp was evacuated and sent on a “Death march” on early September 1944 with only a small SS unit keeping the camp’s operations, and on November 23, 1944, discovered and liberated by American Allies as the first concentration camp in Western Europe. The total number of prisoners reached an estimated 52,000 over the three years originating from various countries including Poland, the Soviet Union, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Norway. The camp was specially set up for Nacht und Nebel prisoners, in most cases people of the resistance movements. They were to be destroyed by labour and disappear without their relatives knowing their fate. The camp holds also a crematorium and a jury rigged gas chamber outside the main camp, which was not used for mass extermination; 86 Jewish men and women were gassed in it, 80 of them personally by Josef Kramer to provide ‘anatomical specimens’ for the Jewish skeleton collection for August Hirt’s anatomical laboratory of the Reich University of Strasbourg, France.

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