To compensate the growing shortage of laborers to work in the Peenemünde test facilities, forced laborers were put to work between May 1943 and April 1945. To house the workers this “KZ-Arbeitslager (Eng: labor camp) Karlshagen I” was built in the direct vicinity of the Community barracks East. The buildings of the camp were originally built for the Wehrmacht and consisted of five prisoner barracks, a kitchen, a bath house and a parade ground. It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and several small bunkers and watchtowers for the camp guards.
The camp housed about 1500 male prisoners of different nationalities, who mainly worked at the Luftwaffe test sites. They did ground work at the Peenemünde airfield, refuel airplanes and had to defuse unexploded bombs dropped during air raids. During the tests of the V1 Katapult (“Fieseler Fi 103″ or “FZG 76″) the laborers had to recover the 150 kg heavy piston and test projectiles from the surrounding marshlands. 248 forced laborers died because of the harsh treatment under heavy conditions and the bad nutrition.
After the Allied bomb attacks of 18 August 1943 and 17 July 1944 the Germans decided to move the production of the V1 and V2 underground. From Januari 1945 KZ-Arbeitslager Karlshagen I was gradually resolved of it’s workers, when finally in April 1945 the last 200 prisoners were transported to one of the most horrific labor camps of Nazi Germani, camp “Dora-Mittelbau”, to work in the underground facility at Nordhausen.
That same month (the nights of 3/4 and 4/5 April), the RAF bombed the facility at Nordhausen and also hit the barracks of the forced workers. Next to destroying three quarters of the town of Nordhausen, an estimated 1450 workers die as a result.
Visit KZ-Arbeitslager Karlshagen I
Though the site is marked with a sign, it is next to the open road, so it is easily missed. And when you do manage to stop and have a look, you will find there is not much left of KZ-Arbeitslager Karlshagen I. The wooden barracks have completely gone, though you can still see some of it’s foundations in the foliage. Most of the surrounding guard bunkers are still there but they have obviously been demolished after the war. Probably the only structure left pretty intact is the shower building, which you can find when you follow the trail from the road into the forest, the building is on the right hand side near the end of the path.
When you do wonder around the site a little bit, you can see that the place is littered with all kinds of stuff that used to belong to the camp.