The end of the war and the annihilation of Jews
The concentration camp in Stutthof was initially founded to eliminate and persecute Poles. Later in the war the role of Stutthof changed as it became an integral part of the planned extermination of European Jews. Before the Soviet Army could liberate Stutthof, the surviving prisoners were send on horrible “death marches”.
The concentration camp of Stutthof is quite unknown, compared to camps like Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald. Right after the outbreak of the war Nazi leaders from Pomerania imprisoned and killed many male Polish citizens in Stutthof, all according to plans devised years before the war. The Nazi’s regarded Poles as “subhumans”, to be exterminated in order to germanise the region.
During the war, the role of Stutthof changed. It became an important place within the system of concentration camps established all over Europe. Thousands of Jews (mostly women) from Auschwitz and many more from ghettos and camps in the Baltic states were brought here. They were imprisoned in the so called “Jewish camp” where they were decimated by hunger, disease and the stress of forced labour. In addition, thousands of other women were killed in the gas chambers.
Because of its location near East Prussia, already at the beginning of 1945 Stutthof was within reach of the advancing Red Army. The prisoners who had managed to survive till then, were forced to take part in an extremely brutal evacuation. Already in bad condition, in the middle of a severe winter and half-starved, they were forced to march to the West. Those unable to walk were killed by German guards.