At the former Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in France’s Alsace region, archaeologists are carrying out excavations in the hope of learning more about daily life for the inmates.
The 20-strong team has partially uncovered, among other things, a road built by forced labour. Inside the old forge, most of which is just foundations, they discovered the name Ivan carved into stone. Researching in a place with such a dark history is strange, the excavation director, Juliette Brange, told dpa. “But during the work you don’t think about it too much.”
The Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, in the middle of the Vosges Mountains, was operational between 1941 and 1944, during which it housed some 52,000 prisoners from all over Europe. Most of those held were political prisoners, but there were also Jews, Sinti and Roma and male homosexuals.
Most of the inmates were forced to work in the nearby quarry, and many died of overwork and due to the camp’s poor living conditions.
The first excavations at Natzweiler-Struthof were carried out in 2018, Brange told dpa. She and her team are focusing on the kind of work the prisoners had to do, the architecture of the buildings and the living conditions in the camp.
The excavations will continue next summer with the exploration of tunnels dug by the inmates into the Vosges Mountain, whose purpose remains unclear. The dig is being financed largely by the French Ministry of Culture.