There are many ways and means of finding sources. Even though I should be just in the writing stages by now, I’m still finding sources to add to my collection. I was reading in Pierre Bleton’s book “Das Leben ist schön!” (no relation to the film of the same name, this book came out first), and a footnote here and there got me off on a web search for things. I don’t know why I have not searched the USHMM catalog until now, but it proved useful. I already knew of the three or four books that come up with a search for “Porta Westfalica”, but the 76 survivor interviews were a new find. I have transcripts from about 25 survivors that I found in the Neuengamme archive. Only one of those is listed in the results from USHMM. That gives me 100 survivor accounts. Of the estimated 3,000 prisoners in four camps at Barkhausen, Hausberge, and Lerbeck/Neesen, that gives me a view of 3% of the prisoners. Further looking into the records of the interviews, showed that not all of them were in English; some were in Danish, Hungarian, Hebrew, and Slovak. Of the 76 listed, only 45 were in English. So that gives me a total of 70 survivor interviews to use for my dissertation. I’ll have to compile some data points to draw up some graphs and what not (maps, info-charts, etc) about the survivors, and see what that can tell me. I also need to find some time to go down to the USHMM so I can view the interviews which are provided by the USC Shoah Foundation and only viewable from select locations.
South of Hamburg, and just south of the town of Bergedorf, lies the rural area known as Neuengamme. During World War II this area was turned into a large concentration camp, housing mainly political and war prisoners from surrounding countries. During the last few years of the war, many of these prisoners were taken to “satellite” camps for use in SS building projects. One of these projects was to become the underground factories in Porta Westfalica. Some 2000 men and women were transported from Neungamme to Porta Westfalica to convert the mines and create new tunnels into underground factory space. After the war, the Neungamme concentration camp was used as a prison, and only recently turned into a museum and archive commemorating the victims of Nazi terror.
The staff at the archive, particularly, Mrs. Alyn Beßmann, helped me find all of their resources regarding the sub-camps at Porta Westfalica. Of particular interest from the Neuengamme archive were the many interviews conducted by former concentration camp inmates. I was able to make copies of the interviews of twenty-four inmates who were moved from the larger camp at Neuengamme to one of the smaller camps at Porta Westfalica. Particularly helpful at Neuengamme was the exhibits about the life of inmates at the Neuengamme concentration camp, and the extent of the concentration camps in Germany’s occupied territories. Particularly striking, is a large map with small markers indicating the location of all known large main camps and sub-camps. Fourteen large camps provided inmates to hundreds of smaller sub-camps throughout Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. The extent of the terror brought about by the Nazi ideology is truly astounding.