Stalag XB, Sandbostel
At the end of September 1939, the Wehrmacht [the united forces of Germany; Army, Navy and Airforce] brought the first 3,000 Polish prisoners of war into the prisoner of war camp Stalag XB, which had just been set up near the Lower Saxon village of Sandbostel.
Contrary to what the name suggests, Stalag XB in Sandbostel, was not a singular camp, but a camp complex consisting of four parts:
Prisoners from the conquered territories were imprisoned. They came from all over Europe, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, Belgium and the Soviet Union.
For those prisoners of war who held the rank of officer. These prisoners of war were transferred to other officers' camps in 1941.
Marinelager - Marlag
Here, British naval crews and officers, prisoners of war, were imprisoned. They were under the administration of the German KriegsMarine [Navy]. This part of the camp was moved to a new camp, specifically built for British Navy prisoners of war, in the neighbouring town of Westertimke in 1941.
Internment camp - Milag
For civilians, such as sailors and passengers, who were captured by the German navy on enemy merchant ships. British Merchant Navy seamen were interned here. These prisoners of war were also transferred to a new camp, specifically built for them, beside the Marlag, in the neighbouring town of Westertimke in 1941
After the relocation of the Officer's camp, Marinelager - Marlag and Internment camp - Milag in 1941, Stalag XB was restructured to provide capacity for Soviet prisoners of war, who constituted the largest prisoner of war group there. These prisoners of war were forced to work, not only in agriculture, peat mining, forestry and crafts, but also against the Geneva Convention, in armaments production and in military construction projects such as Bunker Valentin.
From October 1944 on, over 500 Polish women who had fought in the Warsaw Uprising from August to October 1944, were incarcerated in Stalag XB.
In April 1945, over 9,500 Neuengamme concentration camp prisoners and prisoners from other concentration camps, were brought to Stalag XB by the SS. About 3,000 prisoners died along the way with an estimated 6,000 dying in the camp shortly after liberation, due to exhaustion, lack of care, illness and the direct violence of the guards while they had been imprisoned there. According to estimates, about 10,000 people perished in the camp and approximately 8,000 of them were Soviet prisoners of war.
Because many documents were lost during the chaos of liberation and the time after, it is very difficult to determinate the number of prisoners who died in Stalag XB Sandbostel. A commission installed by the District Authorities in 1949/50 established a death toll of between 8,000 and 8,500 Soviet soldiers. The real number is certainly higher. According to a statement from a POW, who was a German officer’s interpreter, in Winter 1941/42, 35,000 Soviet prisoners died. [Source: Text: Dokumentationsstätte Sandbostel]
It is estimated that at times there were as many as 50,000 prisoners at Stalag XB, but the total number of prisoners and victims at Sandbostel remains unknown. Most of the prisoners died from hunger and disease and are buried at the War Cemetery, in Sandbostel.
The prisoners of war and the concentration camp prisoners were liberated by units of the British army on 29 April 1945.
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