Nordhausen Concentration Camp

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U.S. troops in the courtyard of Nordhausen concentration camp supervising the removal or corpses from the underground facility.

The Nordhausen Concentration Camp was a Nazi slave labor camp in which around 20,000 inmates died from malnutrition, overwork, or executions (out of 60,000 prisoners in all). The camp was located in the German city of Nordhausen. A huge complex of hangers made of concrete, the camp operated from 1943 until the U.S. troops reached Nordhausen on April 11, 1945.[1] The labor force was forced to dig under the Kohnstein, a large mountain at Nordhausen, to create the large underground facility where V-2 missiles and other weapons could be produced well away from aerial bombing by Allied forces.[2] The brutal conditions of the camp at the time of its relief are documented in the Warfare History Network's article called "The Liberation of the Nordhausen Concentration Camp".[3]

Nordhausen was a death camp

Conditions were so harsh that it is reasonable to designate the camp as a "death camp", and survivors were in dire condition by the time of its liberation. Following the Nazi terminology, Nordhausen was a "Vernichtungslager" (extermination camp) for ill prisoners. Per the website JewishGen[4], the Nordhausen Concentration Cap was a sub-camp of the concentration camp Dora-Mittelbau. The Nordhausen camp was created by the SS for prisoners too weak or too ill to work in the tunnels of Dora on the fabrication of the German V1 and V2 rockets. Unlike at Dachau and other extermination camps, there was no gas chamber in Nordhausen; the prisoners died by starvation, lack of medical care, or murder. The Nordhausen camp completely lacked sanitary installations. Inmates had to stay in the hangars nights and day, without food, until they died. For prisoners who were already exhausted and ill, these cruel conditions quickly resulted in death.

Bombing of the camp by Allied forces

Nine days before the camp was to be liberated, the camp was bombed by the U.S. Air Force, who thought that is was a munitions depot of the German army. That bombing killed many inmates who had been forced to stay in the hangars as they were set ablaze by bombs. When the first American soldiers entered the Nordhausen camp, they discovered more than 3,000 corpses scattered on the grounds. In several hangars, there were no survivors, and in others, there were only 2 or 3 living inmates lying amongst dozen of corpses. More than 400 German civilians living in the direct vicinity of the camp were forced by the soldiers to carry the corpses out from the underground facility for burial in a mass grave. Despite receiving last minute medical care, many inmates died in the hours and days following the liberation of the camp.

Nordhausen Concentration Camp survivors are said to have repeated, "If Dora was the hell of Buchenwald, Nordhausen was the hell of Dora".

Wikipedia's removal of Nordhausen from the camp name

U.S. armed forces used the locations of Nazi death camps to name them. The National Archives holds records referring to several World War II Nazi concentration camps by location, including Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenberg, Nordhausen, and Mauthausen.[5] The National Archives makes the following statement about why its archivists may have chosen the names they did: "Archivists often re-use language provided by creators or former owners of the material. This can provide important context, but it can also reflect biases and prejudices."[6]

The National Archive contains death records for Nordhausen dating from Oct 16, 1943 until Mar 22, 1945.[7][8] Per the National Archive, "Dora" was one work camp within the Nordhausen complex. The National Archives contain a list of inmates working at the Dora sub-camp.[9]

Despite its location squarely at Nordhausen, Wikipedia calls the Nordhausen Concentration Camp Dora-Mittelbau, and the camp and its horrors are documented in an article separate from the town where they occurred.[10] At Wikipedia (or in Google, which indexes Wikipedia prominently), searching on "Nordhausen" no longer brings up the article about the Nordhausen Concentration Camp. This naming choice in Wikipedia has made it easier for the German city of Nordhausen to disassociate itself from the horrors that were perpetrated in the camp. Under a bland heading entitled "History: 1900 to present", Wikipedia's Nordhausen article has six short paragraphs, only one of which mentions the camp. That paragraph reads:[11]

In the 1930s the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. It imposed discrimination against Jews, with increasing restrictions and violence such as Kristallnacht in 1938, when businesses and synagogues were destroyed. It deported Jews to concentration and death camps. The Mittelbau-Dora Nazi concentration camp, established in 1943 after the destruction of Peenemünde, was located on the outskirts of Nordhausen during World War II to provide labor for the Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory in the Kohnstein. Over its period of operation, around 60,000 inmates passed through Dora and its system of subcamps, of whom around 20,000 died from bad working conditions, starvation, and diseases, or were murdered. Around 10,000 forced labourers were deployed in several factories within the city; up to 6,000 of them were interned at Boelcke Kaserne, working for a Junkers factory.

Other websites and archives, but not all, have adopted a version of the watered-down name for the Nordhausen Concentration Camp. This is an unfortunate example of Wikipedia's anonymous contributors influencing history in the direction of sanitizing places from their unsavory past history.

The same kind of sanitization occured for almost all places documented in Wikipedia, including towns, cities and states in the U.S.--the history section, if it exists, is notably sparse on past atrocities such as removal/killing of prior inhabitants, allowing slavery, or practices leading to the killings of entire groups of people, motivated by racism or feelings of ethnic superiority.


  1. The 104th Infantry Division was the force that occupied the Nordhausen camp, but the 3rd Armored Division and the 9th Infantry Division were also involved in taking Nordhausen. General Terry Allen of the 104th is reported to have ordered all of his troops to enter the camp and witness its conditions.
  2. Dora - Mittelbau/Nordhausen Concentration Camp, Holocaust Research Project
  3. The Liberation of the Nordhausen Concentration Camp on the Warfare History Network website.
  4. Forgotten Camps: Nordhausen (Germany) from the website "JewishGen: The Global Home for Jewish Genealogy".
  5. Holocaust Records: Records Relating to Concentration Camps at the National Archives website run by the U.S. Government.
  6. Harmful Content explanation page at the National Archives.
  7. Case Number 000-50-37, Vol 3: Death registers, Oct 16, 1943 - Feb 2, 1945; Category: Nordhausen Concentration Camp at the National Archives, consisting of 40 images of handwritten lists of those identified as having died in the Nordhausen camp.
  8. Case Number 000-50-37, Vols 1 and 2: Daily death certificates of inmates of the auxiliary camps, Dec 3, 1944 - Mar 22, 1945; Category: Nordhausen Concentration Camp at the National Archives, consisting of 822 images of handwritten records.
  9. Case Number 000-50-37, Vol 8: A list of inmates at Work Camp Dora, [Blank; Category: Nordhausen Concentration Camp] at the National Archives, consisting of typewritten lists of names of workers at the Dora camp within the larger Nordhausen facility.
  10. Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp article in Wikipedia accessed on May 20, 2023.
  11. Nordhausen, Thuringia article in Wikipedia accessed on May 10, 2023.