The Zeithain 'Russian camp' 1941-42
The first transport of about 2,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Jacobsthal station in July of 1941. After registration, medical examination and delousing they initially vegetated in the open air. There was an acute shortage of water, and the prisoners were forced to drink from puddles.
Nutritional oedema, scurvy and chronic diarrhoea spread rapidly under these conditions, further weakening prisoners already worn down by the deprivations of combat and long transports. Lack of latrines and washing facilities, insufficient delousing and similar deficiencies led to wretched health conditions.
The Armed Forces High Command willingly accepted these precarious living conditions in Zeithain and in other camps. Such conditions were conducive to the outbreak of dysentery, typhoid fever and typhus. Epidemics in Zeithain in 1941-42 claimed thousands of victims. A quarantine ordered in December of 1941 in response to the spread of typhus was primarily intended to protect the camp guards and the local population against infection. In contrast, the deathly sick prisoners were left on their own as of 1 January 1942. The inner gates of the compound remained locked until March. Prior to the quarantine 10,677 prisoners lived in the camp. When it was finally lifted in April 1942, only 3,729 remained. There were no new arrivals during this period.
A task force of three Gestapo officers from Dresden 'filtered out' at least 1,000 prisoners in 1941-42. These prisoners were then transported via Stalag IV B in Mühlberg to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Immediately after arriving, they were killed by a gunshot to the back of the neck in a facility developed specifically for murdering Soviet prisoners of war.
After tens of thousands more captured Soviet soldiers had arrived in Zeithain in the summer of 1942, Stalag 304 was relocated. In September 1942 about 10,000 Soviet POWs and most of the German personnel were moved to Leuven in Belgium. From there Stalag 304 administered work details of Soviet prisoners of war in the coal mining industry in Belgium and northern France until the Allied liberation of Belgium in 1944.