Work

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Depending on the type of camp, prisoners were assigned to a whole range of different duties. Some remained inside the camp working on a variety of jobs, from administration tasks to heavy manual labour.

Most prisoners worked outside the camps in one the many factories, construction projects, farms or coal mines. They would quite often have to walk several kilometres to their place of work.

 

Sonderkommando

The Sonderkommando (Special Work Unit) consisted of Jewish prisoners who were selected to work in the crematoriums in camps. They were selected due to their strength and fitness. The life-expectancy of a Sonderkommando was about four months in the camp.

 

Processing belongings

While the prisoners were being processed after their arrival, their belongings were taken away. A group of prisoners was assigned to collecting the valuables, while others sifted through the possessions. These were then transported back to Germany.

The prisoners working on this task were in a privileged position. They were able to ‘organise’ (steal) extra food on which to survive, a pair of shoes or extra clothing to protect themselves from the severe winter weather.

There were examples of prisoners smuggling valuables which could be used to bribe guards. However, if caught, they risked death.