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                         Stalag IV-D photos
IV-D Kommandos

My guide to visiting:

Stalag IV-D, Torgau, Germany
July 2007

Torgau
DIZ
Stalag IV-D
The Headquarters building
The Main Camp building

Torgau

Torgau is famous as the place where the Allied (American) troops finally met up with the Soviet Red Army forces on the road bridge over the River Elbe on 25 April 1945.

This pretty, historic town has a handsome market square at its centre with the tourist office occupying an impressive location on the ground floor of the town hall in the southwest corner. Torgau is a prison town as explained in one of the pamphlets (in English) available from the TO, about the two military prisons there used during and after WWII. It is titled "Traces of Injustice" and subtitled "Penal system of the Wehrmacht, NKWD special camps and East German prison in Torgau".

The first is the Bridgehead prison (Bruckenkopf) just east of the River Elbe on the B87 road leading out of the town. This is now deserted, in a state of disrepair and surrounded by country walks and woods. The second is Fort Zinna, to the west of the town alongside the B182, which is still used as a prison today. These held mainly German military prisoners.  The only Allied troops held there were those accused of serious "non-military" crimes such as sabotage.

Torgau_market_square-1.JPG (21377 bytes)    Torgau-1.JPG (23748 bytes)    Torgau Bruckenkopf prison 1.jpg (155498 bytes)    Torgau_fort_Zinna_prison_2-1.JPG (18375 bytes)

TORGAU: Square                           Town hall        Bridgehead prison         Fort Zinna prison

 

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DIZ

During WWII Torgau was at the very centre of Germany's military penal system. As well as being the location of the two prisons mentioned above out of only eight in the whole of the country it is also the place where the two infamous Feldstraflager (field punishment camps) were built and operated. Here many prisoners died through hunger, punishment regimes, maltreatment or summary execution.  And from August 1943 it was also the home of the Military Court of the Reich the highest authority in military law.

After the war, the Soviet secret police agency NKWD established "special camps" here where Germans and Soviet citizens were interned or served sentences passed by Soviet military tribunals.

From 1950 to 1990 the East German People's Police used Fort Zinna prison  as a penitentiary where, in the 1950s, it primarily housed political prisoners.

As part of the Memorial Foundation of Saxony the Dokumentations & Informations Zentrum (the Documentation and Information Centre) known as DIZ (www.diz-torgau.de) was created and is based in Hartenfels Castle in Torgau. This houses a permanent exhibition "Traces of Injustice" in commemoration of the victims of political despotism.

It also has a large archive of material concerning all aspects of imprisonment in Torgau including information on PoW camp Stalag IV-D.  I am indebted to the director of DIZ for all this patience, tenacity and professionalism in helping me during my visit there. Without his assistance, I would not have been able to visit the sites of the camp in such detail.

Torgau Schloss Hartenfels.jpg (158800 bytes)   Schloss Hartenfels (Hartenfels Castle)
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Stalag IV-D

Prior to my own visit in July 2007, I could find very little concrete information about the camp.  Certainly I could not find any photographs or precise details of its location on the Internet. So, as far as I am aware, this is the only and definitive report on the camp publicly available. If I am wrong on this I would be grateful to hear from anyone with other sources.

Stalag IV-D was not a true PoW "camp" in the normally accepted sense ie lots of huts in a barbed wire compound designed to hold prisoners within. Rather it was a processing centre for distributing PoW out to the many arbeitskommandos or work camps under its jurisdiction. These could be factories, mines, railway yards or even farms up to 160 km/100 miles from Torgau. Stalag IV-D comprised two separate buildings both located in the town itself.

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The Headquarters building

The "command centre"  was the administrative "head office" for the camp and is situated on the northern edge of the old town centre at the corner of Wolfersdorffstrasse and Puschkinstrasse. According to a Red Cross inspection report of 21 October 1944 it was a "large stone building (a former German Army school for NCOs) with six wooden huts [each taking six men] which are still in good condition". It is in fact a large red-brick building now used as a night school and vocational training centre. Naturally, the wooden huts are no longer there. Only 20 or so PoW were housed here to assist the German staff with their administrative duties.

The building and its various outbuildings are surrounded by railings and securely gated. However, it can be easily viewed from the street and, during the day in term time you can enter the courtyard to look around the exterior. I also made an appointment to see inside the building by telephoning the administrator whose offices are on the top floor. Now returned to their original purpose as classrooms, there is nothing inside to evoke the building's use during WWII.

To see a comprehensive set of photographs of the headquarters building, please click on the navigation button in the left margin or click here

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The Main Camp building

According to the Red Cross inspection report of 810 March 1945 the main camp was situated "about 300 yards west of Torgau railway station". The distance is about right but the direction is in fact southwest. It is in Naundorferstrasse, right beside the railway line, located between the Torgau brewery and the town's monumental mason with its display of modernistic gravestones.

The building was originally a small, privately-owned factory making flags and doing other specialist printing.  After a previous fire, it was rebuilt during the 1930s and was requisitioned to be used as a PoW camp in May 1941.

After the war it remained in the hands of the East German state (GDR) but was not utilised. When Germany was reunited in 1990 the owner's daughter (now in her 70s) was able to reclaim ownership of the property. Since then parts of the factory have been rented out to various businesses but, at the time of my visit, it was completely unoccupied and derelict.

I was fortunate enough to meet the current owner who still lives near Torgau and who told me stories about the camp and the liberation of Torgau when she was a child.  She was also kind enough to take me and the director of DIZ round the factory both inside and out.

Although used for most of the war as a transit camp for PoW being sent out to work camps elsewhere, towards the end of the war it was also used as a holding camp for PoW to be exchanged for German PoW (a "Heilag") and as a "convalescent camp" for sick and wounded PoW intended for repatriation. In this capacity the main camp held up to 800 PoW. Unfortunately, despite building up hopes of repatriation and exchanges of PoW, it never happened as the British feared that repatriated Germans would be returned to combat duties.

Again I am most grateful for the assistance, co-operation and hospitality provided to me by the current owner of the factory for allowing me to visit the site of the old Stalag IV-D main camp, and the director of DIZ for arranging it all and acting as interpreter.

To see a comprehensive set of photographs of the main camp building, please click on the navigation button in the left margin or click here

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(Last updated 30 August 2010 )

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