From mid-May 1944 on, an existing camp complex on Reichsstraße 248 across from the village of Leinde was cleared and converted into the KZ (concentration camp) Watenstedt/Leinde. The huts in which the prisoners were housed, supplied barracks and the camp of the SS guards were visible from afar.
On May 27, 1944 the first transport with male prisoners from KZ Neuengamme arrived at the newly established satellite camp Watenstedt/Leinde. The first female prisoners were transported to Watenstedt/Leinde from KZ Ravensbrück in July 1944; the grounds of the camp were expanded and restructured accordingly.
After a short time, about 2000 men were housed in the male camp and the number of women in the other camp rose to 1500. In the beginning, the biggest group consisted of French prisoners who had been transported to the KZ Watenstedt/Leinde from the camp Compiègne via the concentration camps Neuengamme and Ravensbrück. They were mainly active members of the Résistance. Towards the end of the war, the prisoner populations changed when the KZ Watenstedt/Leinde turned more and more into a “reception camp.” Already at the end of 1944 prisoners from KZ Schillstraße and SS Reitschule in Braunschweig who were unfit for work came to KZ Watenstedt/Leinde. When the satellite camps in the Braunschweig region were dissolved, the number of prisoners in both parts of the camp rose to an unknown figure.
The prisoners worked in the Braunschweig steel works nearby. They had to walk the two kilometers to the factory under strict supervision. The company had been founded in 1939 and was used primarily to produce ammunition to be dropped or fired.
They were forced to work in Halls 16 and 17 at big presses or at the mechanical processing of blanks.
During an air raid on January 14, 1945 Hall 16 was largely destroyed, and the production of ammunition was partly interrupted. The prisoners had to continue working in the open air, and now mainly had to clean up the place and do repair works.
The Living Conditions
The living conditions in the satellite camp Watenstedt/Leinde were similar to those in other satellite camps. Clothing, the sanitary conditions and the food were insufficient in every way. Due to the lack of clothing for prisoners, the women often were only given civilian clothes that were marked with paint. Since the food was insufficient, and the physical work extremely hard, there were many accidents and diseases. The two huts of the infirmary were constantly overcrowded, and there was a shortage of medical personnel, medicine and dressing material. This situation was also reflected in the rapidly rising mortality rate. The dead were buried on Cemetery Jammertal.
On April 7, 1945, only a few days before the allied troops invaded the city, the concentration camps in the Salzgitter area were evacuated. The prisoners of the camp in Watenstedt/Leinde were transported to KZ Ravensbrück, where they arrived after a train transport lasting about 10 days. Those prisoners who could still march had to walk by foot from there to the west. Some of them reached the KZ Wöbbelin at the beginning of May, others were eventually liberated in the vicinity of Malchow.
The Memorial Place
Photographs taken by a former concentration camp prisoner in the 1960s display some remains of the buildings of the former KZ Watenstedt/Leinde. Over the years, these were also taken down. The premises are now used for industrial production, tall slag piles dominate the landscape.
For a long time nothing here called to mind the former satellite camp. This changed in the late 80s, when there was an initiative by the French Amicale Internationale de Neuengamme/Kommando Watenstedt to erect a monument on the former camp premises. On May 10, 1991 a monument at the B 248 (A-road) was presented to the public.
A stele and information plaques in five languages fixed to a wall were put up in remembrance of the KZ Watenstedt/Leinde. The stele, which measures 2,50 meters and is made of forged steel, bears the inscription:
27/5/1944 – 8/4/1945 Concentration Camp Watenstedt/Leinde. The secret of redemption lies in remembrance.
Location The memorial place is located on Seesener Straße, 38239 Salzgitter
(A-road/Bundesstraße 248) close to “Firma Friedrich.”