National Necropolis in Thil
Source : MINDEF/SGA/DMPA-ONACVG
Subcamp (Kommando) to the Natzweiler Struthof concentration camp
To discover on site:
- Panel made by Frédérique Neau-Dufour for the necropolis.
- Remembrance path developed by the Thil municipality.
The only Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp on French soil, the site is now open to the public and through the European Centre for Deported Resistance Fighters features the history of all the resistants who rose up against the Nazi occupiers. www.struthof.fr
Located 15 km from Longwy, the national necropolis of Thil is built on the site of the former subcamp (Kommando) of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp. In November 1946, the crypt, built on the crematorium kept in its original condition, was inaugurated. It also contains the ashes of deportees, a model of the camp and objects recalling the deportation. In 1984 the crypt was recognized as a national necropolis.
Thil, the subcamp (Kommando) of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.
In August 1943, after the destruction of the secret weapons production site (V1 and V2) in Peenemunde (Germany), the Germans decided to spread out their production plants and to bury them.
The former Tiercelet iron ore mine in Thil was chosen as were other sites (Dora, Ebensee) to set up a factory. The Todt organization was in charge of the work which began in late 1943. Forced labourers from a huge variety of backgrounds came to the site. The workers were North Africans, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Yugoslavs and Hungarians. They were interned in the Errouville and Morfontaine camps near Thil where they were brought every day by train.
In late March 1944, 1,600 Russians and Ukrainians (1,200 men and 400 women) arrived in Errouville. The living conditions were appalling. Numerous deaths were reported. The bodies were either buried or burned in the open air. Unemployed miners in the region as well as requisitioned STO workers provided the additional labour needed.
On 1 June 1944, a subcamp of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp was set up. This was an exceptional move for two reasons: while the main Natzweiler-Struthof camp is located in Alsace annexed de facto by the Third Reich, the Thil subcamp was the only one open in occupied France. Twenty men from the Natzweiler KL formed the inmate self-administration team. They were lodged in huts already built by forced labour.
On 20 June 1944, 500 Jews from Auschwitz KL were given responsibility for large exterior and interior development work: earthwork, concreting, transportation and installation of the machines that arrived at Thil station. At the same time, inmates were building new barracks. A crematorium was installed (date unknown) inside the camp. It came from a knackery in Villerupt. It would seem to have been used to burn the bodies of Kommando deportees but also those of Errouville prisoners.
A second convoy of Hungarian Jews arrived on July 7 from the Neuengamme KL. Separated from other inmates, they were specifically assigned to machine work. Selected based on specific professional skills, the two convoys of Jewish prisoners mostly comprised metal workers. They were firstly responsible for installation work then for the production of V1 and V2 missiles. Occupying a special position among Thil inmates, they were lodged away from the others and were not evacuated at the same time. They formed a special Kommando called "Minette".
The real significance of the production remains unclear, but it seems minor. This decision to transfer a factory to the west with the allied armies approaching was strange: had military events been poorly estimated? It was probable that the cumbersome bureaucracy could not prevent a transfer that had been scheduled for some time.
On 1 September 1944, before the advance of allied troops, the Nazis gave the order to evacuate the Natzweiler KL. All the camp kommandos located west of the Rhine were concerned. On the same day, 557 men from the Thil Kommando headed off to Koblenz; on the way, they were diverted to the nearby camp of Kochendorf. The second convoy of 300 specialists left a few days later for the Dora KL.
In all, forty deportees died during the brief life of the Thil Kommando.
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Historial de la Grande Guerre
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