In 2002, the registered society “Gegen Vergessen – für Demokratie e.V.” began to research and document the history of the Nazi concentration camp in Hailfingen. In 2007, the community of Gäufelden resolved to establish a permanent exhibition in Tailfingen Town Hall and the town Rottenburg am Neckar erected a memorial on the site of the airfield. In July 2010, the Hailfingen-Tailfingen Concentration Camp Memorial Site was opened. It was at this opening that Israel Arbeiter was able to share the story of his time at Hailfingen.
The Hailfingen-Tailfingen Memorial
In the winter of 1944/1945, Arbeitskommandos (prisoners of war were forced into hard labour) from the concentration camp Natzweiler/Alsace to build a night-fighter airfield on the plain lying between Hailfingen and Tailfingen, on the site of an existing airfield which had been built in 1938. There had also been a camp, surrounded by a barbed wire perimeter fence, which had been built, it is thought, in 1942 for approximately 100 Russian prisoners of war. In addition, there were other prisoners working at this camp: French prisoners of war, Belgian civilian workers, Italian volunteers from the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany, a group of Hungarian soldiers and, from January 1945, 300 members of the British Army in India who had been taken prisoner in North Africa.
On 19 November 1944, 600 Jewish prisoners were transported from the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof to Hailfingen. The majority of the prisoners had come from Ausschwitz, with 50 from the Baltic States. They were aged between 14 and 60 years old and came from 16 different countries. They worked in the surrounding quarries on the enlargement of the existing runway and the building of two taxiways, felled trees and were deployed in the removal of unexploded ordnance.
The prisoners were made to live in a fenced-in hanger in the dead of winter with no heat or insulation. There was next to no sanitation and no medical care whatsoever. The major cause of death amongst the prisoners was malnutrition, the cold, diseases and the effects of hard labour. At least 186 prisoners are known to have died with an estimate closer to nearly 300.
On 14 February 1945, the last transport left Hailfingen and the remaining 296 prisoners were deported to Dautmergen. The date and place of death of 267 of these prisoners has since been verified. The fate of a further estimated 200 prisoners is still unaccounted for. 124 are known to have survived. In June 1945, the corpses of the Jewish prisoners were exhumed from a mass grave situated at the south-east of the runway.
At the end of 1985, a Society of Friends was set up in order to erect a memorial at this site and one year later a memorial stone was unveiled at the Tailfingen cemetery.
On 10/26/1944 Israel Arbeiter was transported to Stutthof and separated from his brothers. It was very cold and there were no warm clothes and little food. Three weeks later he was again transported, this time to Hailfingen, where he was forced to work in the quarry. He has quite detailed memories of that time. After the Allied troops bombed the Airfield of Hailfingen, Israel Arbeiter was transported to Dautmergan. In mid-April 1945, he was sent on a death march to the south – finally on his 20th Birthday, he escaped with other prisoners, some of which were shot by the SS. A day later came the French.
Here are the documents of Israel Arbeiters story of this time, as well as photo’s and other artifacts currently on display at the Hailfingen-Tailfingen Documentation center.
Full audio of Israel Arbeiters speech at the opening of Hailfingen-Tailfingen in 2010 Israel Arbeiter MP3 Hailfingen-Tailfingen
Israel Arbeiter Interview excerptsDownload file
Full text of Israel Arbeiter’s Speech at HailfingenDownload file