Prisoner of War Reserve Hospital Zeithain 1943-1945
As a branch camp of Stalag IV B in Mühlberg, Zeithain's primary function from September 1942 on was to house Soviet prisoners of war who were unfit for labour. In the months that followed, the camp was converted into a hospital for prisoners in the work details who had been injured or become sick. Upon completion it had a capacity of 7,700 beds. From 1 February 1943 on, the Zeithain camp was no longer referred to as Stalag IV B/Z, but as the Prisoner of War Reserve Hospital. However, it remained part of Stalag IV B in Mühlberg.
As the war continued, Soviet prisoners of war as a source of labour became increasingly important to the German wartime economy. During the course of 1942, preserving the manpower of Soviet prisoners of war gradually took priority over their destruction. Rations and living conditions were improved only very slightly. Together with the exhausting labour they continued to contribute to epidemics.
The number of Soviet prisoners of war infected with tuberculosis rose steadily at Zeithain. These prisoners were transferred to Zeithain from the work details or from other hospitals in Military District IV. Given the minimal improvement in living conditions and the totally inadequate means of treatment, the chances of ever curing these patients were negligible. Various estimates place the number of deaths between 10 and 20 prisoners every day. The Zeithain hospital remained a death camp for Soviet prisoners until the end of the war.
On 23 April 1945 units of the Red Army liberated the Zeithain and Mühlberg prisoner of war camps. Many of the prisoners in Zeithain died as a result of their captivity within a few weeks of liberation.