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Suddenly While Abroad

Hitler's Irish Slaves
David Blake Knox
New Island

Suddenly, While Abroad

 According to Christopher Ryan, it was a 'rule of the camp that no one could be allowed to rest, but must be kept on the move.' He thought it was a 'grim joke' on the part of the camp guards to make the prisoners run around the camp at night, when most of them could hardly stand. Each guard carried a length of weighted hose pipe. 'Prisoners were just slashed at random,' Ryan remembered, 'Sometimes, they used wires or whips - sometimes just their boots and fists.' There were also a number of Alsatian guard dogs, which could be set upon the prisoners. The SS personnel at Farge would sometimes amuse themselves by staging boxing matches between their captives: the winner would gain an extra ration of bread - and the starving men fought each other with a passion born of hunger and despair. At other times, one of the camp's Kommandants, Karl Walhorn, would arm himself with a hunting rifle. He would place a small piece of potato or turnip on a rubbish tip and then hide in one of the huts until a prisoner ran out to retrieve it - at which point he would open fire.

Kommadant Walhorn had joined the SS in Bremen in 1934. Two years later, he was transferred to the Totenkopfvebandethe Death's Head units in charge of concentration camps. He justified his setting of traps and shooting of prisoners by claiming that he 'had to make an example': 'There was a death penalty for those disobeying economic decrees in Germany', he told a military court, 'and I was told that I should pay for it with my head if all the potatoes were not accounted for.' He claimed that he was entitled to shoot 'because I had issued an order expressly forbidding potato stealing.