A model boat made by a Natzweiler-Struthof deportee
This unusual object was made by a deportee to Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, who was assigned to the Obernai subcamp to carry out maintenance work.
On 31 May 1942, Himmler decided to set up a training school for female SS auxiliaries in Obernai. The school was installed at the Chateau of Hell and other nearby properties, which had to be converted beforehand. To that end, the Nazis installed, in the chateau buildings, surrounded by electrified barbed wire and watchtowers, the Aussenkommando Oberehnheim, consisting of detainees from the neighbouring Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.
The external works which the deportees were required to carry out brought them into contact with the local population, who were sometimes able to come to their aid. So it was that, when the camp was evacuated in November 1944, one detainee, whose name has been lost, presented this boat as a gift to one Obernai resident in thanks for the food they had secretly smuggled them.
This object therefore sheds light on the acts of solidarity that could be carried out in such circumstances, despite the risks and difficulties. It is also a testament to the creative activities that went on secretly inside the concentration camps, and hence to the humanity which the Nazis tried so hard to diminish.
In the heart of the Vosges mountains, 800 metres above sea level, stand the preserved ruins of the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil, the Natzweiler-Struthof camp.
On the site of the former camp, visitors can see four huts, among them the prison and crematorium, and a history museum. A mile lower down, the gas chamber can also be visited.
Adjoining the camp is the European Centre for Deported Resistance Members, which houses a permanent exhibition on Nazism and the Resistance, as well as temporary exhibitions. A place of remembrance and contemplation, the site preserves the memory of the 52 000 deportees from across Europe who were interned in this camp and its subcamps, where more than 15 000 perished.
Help keep their memory alive by contributing to the campaign for donations of documents and objects relating to the history of Natzweiler-Struthof.