This article was published in Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace on August 26, 2016
___________________translation by DMH:______________________
MEMORY The work of an American researcher
Deepening the history of the Struthof [French name for Konzentrationslager Natzweiler/KLNa]
For the last 30 years, former American photojournalist Diana Henry has devoted herself to untangling the history of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp.
According to her, the question of the Jews in this camp has not been studied sufficiently.
It was in 1985 that Diana Henry, former journalist and photo reporter, recipient of a degree from Harvard, discovered the Natzweiler-Struthof camp. That was the year she came to Alsace, with her father, who fought in the American army in 1944 and took her first shots of the camp. She, who was photographing the women's movement in the early 1980s, dropped everything to dedicate herself to studying the prisoners of the Struthof. From California, she translated Eugène Marlot's L'Enfer d'Alsace, the account of a survivor of Natzweiler. In the mid-1990s, her appeal for testimonis appreared in Le patriote résistant and brought her into correspondence with numerous former prisoners and their families. It also allowed her to meet Joseph Scheinmann. Born in Germany, that man, become a French soldier, had taken the pseudonym André Peulevey. He entered the Resistance before joining the British secret service as a spy. He was arrested in February 1942 then transferred to the Natzweiler camp after having spent 11 months in solitary confinement in Fresnes prison. Deported, he succesfully concealed the fact that he was Jewish and found an explanation to justify his circumcision. To a guard, he is said to have answered: "Do you not know that all good French families have their children circumcized?"
A little-known path
Thus, just like many other prisoners, it was as a political prisoner and not as a Jew that Joseph Scheinmann was interned. Life at the camp was even more unbearable once the Nazis knew they were face to face with a Jew. That is what Charles Joineau, former prisoner of Struthof, describes in a text on the inequality of the races. [ NB. Joineau's text carries a question mark after this in its title: "The inequality of the races?" ] "Some of us were even more martyred than others. I see once again my comrade Jaques M., stretched out on the ground, a huge rock under his back, ...tortured for hours on end, his body covered with wounds, his shaved head covered with scabs. Because, understand, his red triangle [symbol for political prisoners] was sewn over the yellow star." "Jews had a better chance of surviving at Auschwitz than at the Struthof, explains Diana Henry. Natzweiler was a very murderous camp. She who introduces herself as an independent researcher believes that the story of the Jews at Natzweiler is not well known. "They should not be left in the gas chamber," she argues. According to Diana Henry, in the years 1942 and 1943, less than 50 Jews were identified as Jews in the camp, a number probably well below the reality. They were then transferred to Dachau or Auschwitz.
More than 10,000 Jews deported to Struthof
In 1944, because of the great loss of life, the Germans needed more manpower to run their industries. In all, more than 10,000 Jews, according to Diana Henry's sources, arrived at Struthof and its subcamps, mostly from Polish ghettos and from Hungary. Frédérique Neau-Dufour, historian and Director of the Centre européen du résistant déporté, located on the site of the former camp of Natzweiler-Struthof, supports the activities of Diana Henry. "Historian Robert Steegmann has done an enormous amount of work (on the history of the camp) but much remains to be done. That's why her work is very important. In addition, she is American, which takes us away from French controversies". According to the director, it's the entire history of the Struthof, as a topic for research for academic study, that is still too little developed.
"I share her conclusions and extend it to the whole of the camp, and even more so to its subcamps, that are even less well-known."
By Loup Espargilière.