Vincent C. Frank, Basle/Switzerland
Vampire Camps of the Wehrmacht
Slavic Children Forced to Donate their Blood for Wounded Enemy Soldiers
Parbleu! Hier riecht’s nach gebratenen Kindern.
The “Vampire Camps” existed in the final years of WW2 in Eastern Europe: Slavic – not Jewish – children were kept in these camps as living blood reserves to be used in German military hospitals. The blood was given to soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht. Wounded Waffen-SS probably also received Slavic blood.
The children were taken from the street, some having lost their parents some were stolen from their parents. These children camps are not mentioned in the respective literature nor are they mentioned among the thousands of German camps known.
Depending on the rarity of their blood group the children had to deliver blood up to once a week or even more frequently. The age-limit ranged from 5 years (sometimes lower) up to puberty. The few surviving victims remember the taking of blood as a coarse procedure that caused considerable pain. After the blood was taken the children were given a candy – but no nourishing supplements. When the child inmates of these camps were bled dry they were disposed of by gas-wagon or shot. Very few survived, probably less than 1 to 2 %.
The lack of documents is of special interest. The reasons for this explain why nobody in the past spoke or wrote about the topic. The number of people who knew must have been kept extremely small and those who had some overview also had good reasons to keep quiet.
It is obvious that the transfusion of Slavic blood to wounded Germans fundamentally contradicted the race theory dominating Nazi-Germany: Inferior Slavic blood was forbidden for Arians. This was the main reason to keep these transfusions top secret.
It was not advisable that German military at the front would learn that in case of being wounded or in shock they might get “inferior” enemy blood - even if this would save their lives. Furthermore it was not advisable that enemy soldiers would get to know what their children were used for. This would have strengthened their will to fight. Clearly, the operation had to be kept absolutely secret at home as well as towards Western countries.
The race theory omnipresent in Germany was more than a hobby of Himmler but an instrument of his power. The SS-Rassenamt had to take care of all race questions. In case the practice in the military hospitals would have become known, Himmler would eagerly have grabbed the chance to take them over from the Wehrmacht. Medical personnel or physicians to whom the SS could prove such a grave defiance of the laws on races even risked their lives. At best they would have been transferred to the front where it was most dangerous. This prospect certainly prevented them from producing or signing any piece of paper. No military order, no report or organization scheme could end up in any archive as nobody ever dared to produce such a paper. Awareness of their wrongdoing might have helped to keep the secret after the war. - The Military are usually successful in keeping secrets.
Survivors but not victims
To be a Soviet hero of WW2 was a sought after position in politics following the war. However, nobody was interested in giving the advantages connected to this status to these few surviving children of low class origin.
In recent interviews the witnesses stated that they had quickly learned not to boast of being victims as this would have lead to the accusation of having helped the enemy.
For some aspects of the blood transfusion by children-scheme quite a lot of small pieces of evidence, mostly from private sources, can be found in the former Soviet-Union. But the topic was and obviously still is practically taboo for researchers as well as in history books.
Evidences of the events
Despite the strong reasons for keeping the topic secret and not speaking about it, some evidence could be gathered. It origins from various sources which together lend further authenticity and evidential value to the case:
- 17 names of such camps all over Eastern Europe including two transferred to Germany. It may well be that on the retreat of the army different locations referred to the same military hospital.
- Two of these former camps recently had memorials: Krashnyi Berek in Belorussia and Kretinga in Lithuania.
- In recent years some survivors from different camps had the chance to tell their story to journalists. They spoke of about 3000 child inmates in their camp, those who died being replaced. They confirm the taking of blood as extremely painful. In some cases it was drawn from the heels and usually at a frequency of once a week. Children with rare blood had to deliver more often and there is one report that in a case of urgency all the blood of the victim was taken.
- Two short documentaries were broadcasted last year by ZDF. This leading German television company showed them after midnight. No re-run.
- Two German historians known for their work on the medical services of the army told me that they never saw any documents relating to this topic in any German archives but that they thought such a scheme to be quite likely and fitting the time.
- Lots of information can be found in Eastern Europe, be it contemporary or later, in personal memories or as evidence in court hearings. All supporting the events. Together they give a mosaic with some blank spaces but without relevant contradictions. They leave no doubt about the general fact.
- One victim reports that a nurse was ordered to watch outside the room and to let nobody enter while the blood was taken. Other children report that during their transport to the camp the guards told them about their destiny and that they will have to deliver blood until they die.
- Cases of transfusion from vein to vein are reported but no answer is given to the questions whether the receiver was conscious and able to recognise the donor. If he was unconscious perhaps this might explain why he never learned whom he had to thank for blood and life.
- In scientific literature only one short mentioning was brought to my attention.
- In a book on the ghetto of Vilnius an engine driver reports how he brought some thirty Jewish children to the military hospital in Krakow for having their blood and their skin taken for wounded German soldiers – up to now the only mentioning of Jewish children.
Only one unquestionable official document speaks about the topic: On November 20, 1945, the first day of the Nuremberg Trials, General Ozol, the Soviet Deputy Prosecutor listed 15 different ways in which children had been killed during the war. The 12 accusation states: “extracting their blood for the use of the German Army“. The other 14 crimes against children listed have been confirmed in the Nuremberg Trials and since then additionally supported in publications. The only accusation not spoken of further neither in Nuremberg nor researched subsequently is the extracting of children’s blood for the purposes of the Wehrmacht.
As the fact of taking blood from children had to be hidden, i.e. could not be mentioned at all, camouflaging explanations had to be used and were given. They are found and presented by today’s researchers:
Collecting children from the streets made sense as a precocious security measure preventing Soviet Resistance to assimilate them. But an explanation why children were taken from their parents by force is not given.
Children were used in military hospitals for smaller services but certainly not by the thousands and not at an age of around 5 years old.
The program of adoption in Germany for Slavic children under the auspices of Rosenberg and Himmler had an indirect camouflage effect too.
German race theory in conflict with medical ethos
The theory on race was of course well known by the physicians of the German army. They also knew about the curious exception of children: Until puberty blood was said not to have (fully) developed the bad qualities of the race. On this exception the program was based to take Slavic children to Germany for adoption by German parents having lost their own children in the war that was officially adopted and under the control of the SS and Himmler personally. Certainly, the Wehrmacht did not want to have their military hospitals under Himmler’s control like the said program. There were some connections between this program and the one of the child blood banks. When children for adoption by Germans did not pass the tests finally, they were in some cases transferred to the blood camps.
The physicians of the military hospitals were faced with a dilemma they could only solve by acting in absolute secrecy. On the one hand they as well as their superiors did not want to come under SS command. On the other hand they saw that their patients when given blood – even from inferior races – survived. Those who decided using children’s blood had chosen to disregard the race theory in favour of saving the lives of the soldiers they had to care for – yet disregarding the lives of the children.
Arian blood was hard to obtain in Eastern Europe. German military personnel could not be asked to donate blood too often as they should not be weakened too much. Towards the end of the war in the East the casualties increased tremendously and so did the need for blood.
Contrary to the United States, Great Britain and even in Switzerland not participating in the war there was no blood donation service in Germany. The German physicians’ main task was to send the soldiers back to the front as quickly as possible – the practice preferred: too early better than too late.
Although disputable in the context of race theory, the decision to take blood from Slavic children was first and foremost in the interest of winning the war. Transfusion of blood to wounded German military can be seen to correspond to the Hippocratic oath - as it saved the lives of soldiers. But certainly the wrong done to the children contradicts this.