History of the Morsleben repository
1934 – 1945: Armaments production and forced labour in National Socialism
- Between 1937 and 1944, the air force used the Marie mine to develop an ammunition plant at the surface and to store aircraft ammunition underground.
- From 1944 until the end of World War II in 1945 the entire mine was confiscated for armament production. Concentration camp prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp were forced to produce armaments underground. The work killed many people.
- Today the repository is also a memorial site for survivors and their next of kin
The sub-camp Helmstedt-Beendorf
In the middle of 1942, armament companies and businesses demanded concentration camp prisoners be used as work forces. Concentration sub-camps were established to accommodate these prisoners. A sub-camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp was built in Beendorf: From March 1944 a men's camp for about 800 concentration camp prisoners used for building works and from August a women's camp for up to 2,500 concentration camp prisoners for armament production.
The prisoners slept in primitive, unheated storage halls of the former ammunition factory. From autumn 1944 the camp was overcrowded. The food rations for the prisoners were insufficient and most of the prisoners were always hungry. Prisoners who were terminally ill were taken to other camps.
Eventually, the number of prisoners increased to 4,500. Designed for about 2,000 persons, the camp was thus completely overcrowded.
Armament production underground
From 1944, the SS deployed about 2,500 female prisoners in armament production in the Bartensleben and Marie mine. They worked for the Askania factory in the Bartensleben mine and Luftfahrtgerätewerk Hakenfelde in the Marie mine. Supervised by German and foreign skilled workers, they manufactured electro-mechanical components such as control units and steering gear for the V1 and fighter aircraft.
Under time pressure, the prisoners did very hard work. As a result of the insufficient diet and the high work load, the prisoners were weak and sick. The exhausting work killed many people in the building squads.
From the evacuation of the camp until today
The evacuation of the camp on 10 April 1945 extended the misery of the prisoners by weeks. At the time of evacuation over 4,000 prisoners were in the camp. In freight wagons and without food, they were taken to other places. The exertions killed over 500 people.
The male prisoners were freed by US soldiers in Wöbbelin. The female prisoners arrived in the already evacuated Hamburg sub-camps, from where they could be evacuated and saved by the Swedish Red Cross.
When the war was over, not all perpetrators were held accountable for the crimes committed in the Helmstedt-Beendorf sub-camp, despite of several court proceedings.
At the end of the war, the Marie and Bartensleben mines were located within the Soviet occupation zone and later on in the Border Area of the GDR. Commemoration of the victims was only possible to a limited extent. In the centre of Beendorf, a memorial stone and, on the cemetery, a mass grave remind of the victims. Only since 1989, have survivors had the option to visit this location as memorial site.
Exhibitions on the mine's history in National Socialism
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) presents the repository’s history in an exhibition at the Info Morsleben. An important part of the exhibition is the mine's use for armament production.
In Beendorf, a small exhibition commemorates the concentration sub-camp. The exhibition also displays a collection of documents on armament production in Beendorf.
|1934 - 1937||Lease of Marie mine to the air force|
|From July 1937||Expansion and use of Marie mine as air force ammunition plant|
|March 1944||Construction of a sub-camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp in Beendorf and fitting out of production facilities underground|
|End of May 1944||Armament production underground launched|
|10 April 1945||Evacuation of the concentration sub-camp in Beendorf|
|From 1990||Former concentration camp prisoners and their next of kin could again visit the premises of the concentration sub-camp|
State of 2017.01.03
- 1897 – 1937: Potash and rock salt mining in Beendorf and Morsleben
- 1934 – 1945: Armaments production and forced labour in National Socialism
- 1958 - 1996: Chicken production and interim storage of toxic waste in the GDR
- 1970 - 1990: Repository of the former GDR
- Since 1990: Pan-German repository