Relations between prisoners, Siemens employees and SS guards

The civilian Siemens employees mostly came from facilities of the company in the region. Let us look at one person, named „Frau K.“ by way of example: she was hired from a Siemens factory in Berlin in July 1943 to work as a supervisor at the Siemens facility in Ravensbruck (Strebel, 398). „Despite initial concerns K. eventually acquiesced, mainly because of vague authoritarian fears and the temptation of exceptionally high wages.“ (Strebel, 396f).

The reports about the behavior of the individual master craftsmen and supervisors paint a differentiated picture, ranging from brutal harassment to decent treatment to concrete help such as giving food rations.(Feldenkirchen 2003, 174).

Margit Rustow and Selma van de Perre reported about rather positive relations with the civilian workers, there were even some closer personal relations. Selma van de Perre talked about a Herr Seefeld, head of her factory hall, who became something of a protegé. She also reported about a „red-haired“ supervisor who treated the women well, at least compared to the other overseers. Margrit Rustow spoke about „good people“ such as the engineers and brothers Rüschke or a Herr Bahl. Overall the relations between prisoners, Siemens staff and SS guards were described as better compared to the main camp. They also cannot recall a deliberate exchange of weakened prisoners instigated by Siemens employees. A „switching off“ of frail prisoners it seems, was apparently never executed. The reports about selective measures are in part contradictory (Strebel, 417f). A firm conclusion can therefore not be given on this issue.

„There were occasional conversations of political content, and civilian workers sometimes even received or delivered prisoner’s letters secretly. In some personal accounts there is even mention of Siemens employees who outed themselves as left-wing, passing on reports about the war front etc.“ (Jacobeit, 167).

„The head of the production facility Otto Grade was described by former prisoners as a Nazi and a pedant). For business reasons he may have protected the prisoners to some degree, but he felt no compunction about „reporting unwilling workers to SS guards“ (Strebel, 400). Witness statements indicate that this reporting was predominantly done out of vocational ambition and in the interest of productivity rather than National Socialist loyalty. In most cases at Siemens & Halske in Ravensbruck it was evident that the people in charge were dependent on the cooperation of the workforce and prisoners (ebd. und Krause-Schmidt, S.40).