While Dachau was the most famous of Germany’s concentration camps–its name became synecdoche for the entire camp system–many others sprang up during the 1930s. One that was important in Summer of Long Knives was the Moringen Concentration Camp, which housed some 1,300 female prisoners from 1933 to 1938. It was here that Anika Wagner’s girlfriend hanged herself after their arrest, and it was here that Frau Hofstengl was sent after she assaulted Captain Weissengel of the Gestapo.
The concentration camp gets its name from the surrounding town of Moringen, Lower Saxony. It’s an unremarkable town, known primarily for its psychiatric hospital and its landfill. The camp itself was formed in November of 1933 when the Nazis converted an old workhouse for the purpose of housing female political prisoners.
The administration of the camp was unusual. Though the SA and SS supplied guards for the facility, the Nazis retained the manager of the Moringen workhouse, Hugo Krack as camp commander. A former schoolteacher, Krack had joined the Nazi party and stormtroopers only five months earlier. Because the Nazis considered women prisoners less of a threat to the regime, Krack was not only trusted with the job, but he also didn’t have to worry about supervision from the SS Inspectorate of Concentration Camps. He ran Moringen more or less as he pleased.
Conditions at the camp were strict and unpleasant, though far less harsh than those at camps run by the SS and SA. The labor hours were long and the food substandard. The guards, though strict, were forbidden from torturing the inmates. The most common punishment given to inmates who misbehaved was suspension of mail, which left many inmates in terror of what was happening to their husbands, fathers or friends who were often inmates in the more dangerous camps. The hardest part of life in the camp was the numbing routine, often made worse by obligation to listen to long propaganda messages.
Hugo Krack, though hardly a heroic figure, did work to secure the early releases of several inmates, including a Jewish woman who subsequently emigrated. His relatively benign camp management helped him with the courts after the war. It also, however, attracted the attention of Nazi authorities.
Heinrich Himmler inspected the camp personally in 1937, and decided to close Moringen and move its remaining prisoners to Lichtenberg and Ravesnsbrueck, where much crueler conditions awaited them. The Moringen concentration camp was shut down in 1938. It remained closed until 1940, when it was repurposed as a concentration camp for juveniles sentenced to “protective custody”. It retained this role until the end of the war.