Hof (Saale) Forced Labour Camp

Country Germany
GPS 50° 17' 36.5604" N, 11° 55' 51.5496" E
Address Unknown
Dates Active 1940 – 1945

Channel Islanders imprisoned in Hof Forced Labour Camp:

John Max Finkelstein, Emma Constance Marshall née Gander

By Roderick Miller

Two Channel Islanders are known to have been imprisoned in forced labour camps in the city of Hof (Saale), in the Bavarian district of Upper Franconia.

John Finkelstein was deported for the ‘crime’ of being Jewish in February 1943. At some point in mid-1943 he spent a short time imprisoned in Hof. In his 1964 application for compensation as a victim of Nazi persecution, he wrote that he ‘was then transferred to a camp at Hoff [sic] which, as far as I could tell, was merely a staging camp, and I stayed there for 48 hours.’ Finkelstein wrote his testimony over 20 years after his experience, and though he states there that he was in Hof prior to his imprisonment in Munich Gestapo Prison, the geographic situation makes it far more likely that he was briefly in Hof whilst in transit from Munich to Buchenwald Concentration Camp, in October 1943.

Emma Marshall was deported from the Channel Islands in December 1943 after being convicted and sentenced by the German Feldkommandantur, and was briefly in Hof in early 1944. In her 1965 application for compensation as a victim of Nazi persecution, she wrote: ‘We then went to Plauen and Oft [sic], and stayed in wooden shacks, each place a couple of days and nights, and slept on the floor. Then on to Nuremberg…’ It is safe to assume that with ‘Oft’, Marshall meant the city of Hof, as Hof lies en route between Plauen and Nuremberg.

It’s clear from the testimonies that Finkelstein and Marshall were both in camps rather than prisons, as Finkelstein specifically stated ‘camp’ and Marshall wrote ‘wooden shacks’, indicating a typical forced labour barracks camp. Much more problematic is the fact that there were 30 forced labour camps in the city of Hof alone, and determining, given the general lack documentation from forced labour camps, which of the camps Finkelstein and Marshall were in is nearly impossible. Since they were of different prisoner group types – Finkelstein was male and Jewish with no official length of sentence, and Marshall was female and a convict with a specific sentence length – and given the large number of forced labour camps in Hof, it is most probable that they were in different camps. [1]

The most likely location of Finkelstein’s imprisonment in Hof was a site with 4 barracks camp complexes, bordered on the south by Ostpreussenstrasse, the west by Moschendorfer Strasse, and the east by railroad lines. These barracks stood empty for a period, which would fit Finkelstein’s description of the camp as a ‘staging camp’ rather than an active forced labour camp. The camps on this site were later used as a sub-camp of Flossenbürg Concentration Camp and a forced labour camp of the German Railroad (Reichsbahn).

Another possible place of Finkelstein’s imprisonment was Moschendorf Camp (Lager Moschendorf), located about a half mile south of the previously described camp. Moschendorf Camp, on the site of a former porcelain factory, was in operation from 1941 as a forced labour camp, and from September 1944 as a sub-camp of Dachau Concentration camp and Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. Four forced labourers were murdered or died of illness in the camp. From 1946 to 1957 it was built out and used as a displaced persons camp for German refugees who arrived from parts of the former German Reich ceded to Poland and the Soviet Union after the war.

Marshall wrote in her 1965 compensation claim that she worked in a ‘spinning factory’, as did many women forced labourers. This makes it probable that her place of imprisonment in Hof was one of several forced labour sites of the textile industry, either the Spinnerei Neuhof, which had three camps on a site in the northwest part of the city, or the Weberei Rammensee in the Fabrikvorstadt district of the city. These two sites exploited the forced labour of more than 900 prisoners.

With the few remaining records of forced labourers in general, and the fact of Finkelstein and Marshalls short transit stays in Hof, it is unlikely their names would have been recorded in any of the forced labour record books.

The city of Hof was heavily bombed on 14 February 1945 by American Army Air Force bombers, killing 100 civilians – probably some forced labourers among them – and destroying 100 houses. The city was heavily bombed again on 8 April 1945 and the city occupied by US Army troops a week later. Trials for murders committed by Nazis in Moschendorf Camp were started in 1967 but stopped by 1973 with no convictions. The memorial at the former Moschendorf site (see photograph) commemorates the post-war refugees there, but not those persecuted and murdered there by the Nazis. There is no known memorial for forced labourers in Hof as of date (February 2019).

John Finkenstein survived a year and half in Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Emma Marshall went on to six further prisons in Germany and was liberated on 2 April 1945 from Schönebeck Prison. Like many of those imprisoned by the Nazis, they may have suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.

[1] See Bald, Albrecht Zwangsarbeiter in Oberfranken 1939-1945 in Sources below, pp. 74-75, for a detailed list of forced labour camps in Hof with company names, street addresses, types of forced labour, and prisoner counts.

Bald, Albrecht & Neblich, Esther: Zwangsarbeiter in Oberfranken 1939-1945. Die Verhältnisse im nördlichen Oberfranken (‘Forced Labourers in Upper Franconia 1939-1945: The Circumstances in Northern Upper Franconia’) Verlag C. u. C. Rabenstein, Bayreuth, 2008.

International Tracing Service Arolsen: Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, Bad Arolsen, 1949-1951, p. 219.

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1185, Emma Marshall
TNA FO 950/1563, John Finkelstein