The Dora camp expands in size
In March 1944, an outdoor camp was completed to house the prisoners who worked in the underground factory. Dora was the prototype for a new generation of camps that the SS put at the service of the Reich’s weapons production. The factory’s technical supervision was the responsibility of engineers from Peenemünde.
Prisoners at Camp Dora - by Walter Frentz, Hitler's photographer
In this same spring of 1944, the SS began developing new underground factories in a 20 km radius around Mittelwerk, designed for aeronautical production, which had to be protected from Allied bombings. In October, Dora was officially detached from Buchenwald and "raised" to the rank of "main camp"; symbolically, from then on, it was equipped with an incinerator…
The prisoners’ conditions deteriorated abruptly during the winter of 1944-1945, when thousands of prisoners evacuated from the camps situated in the East (Auschwitz, Gross Rosen) flooded in, in a pitiful state. The numbers in the concentration camp complex formed by Dora and its Kommandos rose from 26,000 to 40,000. Famine and epidemics reappeared: the mortality rate shot up again (5,321 deaths between December 1944 and March 1945).
The SS unleashed their violence against the German political prisoners and those of Soviet origin (several dozen of whom hanged themselves); the horror of those last few months in Dora has been admirably depicted in the drawings of the French prisoner-painter, Léon Delarbre.