Stutthof was a concentration camp near Danzig. The camp operated from 2 September 1939 to 9 May 1945. At the beginning it held civil prisoners of war, but was recognized as a state concentration camp from 8 January 1942. Some 115,000 prisoners passed through Stutthof, 65,000 of whom perished, while 22,000 were transferred to other concentration camps. Before it was turned into a concentration camp, several thousand inmates were released from the camp. The remaining prisoners were released when Stutthof and its satellite camps were liberated by the Red and Polish armies. The inmates of Stutthof included Jews, Poles, Russians, Norwegians and Danes.
Stutthof was a work camp and the working conditions were very hard, killing many of the inmates (Vernichtung durch Arbeit). In 1943 the conditions of the non-Jewish prisoners improved slightly. The inmates worked in various factories, including armaments. At the beginning these were housed in the wooden barracks of the old camp, but from 1943 they were in the cement blocks of the new camp. There were frequent executions, especially of resistance activists. In 1944 large numbers of Jews arrived, mostly women, who were transferred from the Baltic states and from Auschwitz. The weak were sent straight to the gas chambers. Most of the 50,000 Jews who were sent to the camp died.
In January 1945 the main camp and most of its satellites were evacuated and the inmates forced to march westwards towards Lembork. In the severe winter weather, thousands of prisoners died on these "Death Marches". Some inmates were evacuated by sea in small boats. So when the camp was liberated on 9 January 1945 there were only a few hundred inmates left.
One of the women inmates, who was imprisoned both in the main camp and later in one of its satellite camps, was the artist Esther Lurie. She drew portraits of her fellow inmates on small scraps of paper and managed to keep them hidden on her body until the camp's liberation.
(Dr Pnina Rosenberg)