Vaivara concentration camp complex

​The concentration camp at Vaivara was established in August 1943 in the eastern part of Estonia, about 20 km west of Narva. The camp was answerable to the inspector of concentration camps of the SS Main Economic and Administrative Department (SS Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt). The aim of the camp was to provide a workforce for the oil-shale industry in north-eastern Estonia, which was controlled by the German company Kontinental Öl AG, and produced motor oil and petrol. In January 1943, the German troops began retreating from the oil regions near the Caspian Sea, and thus the petrol and oil produced in Estonia became increasingly important.

The Vaivara concentration camp system constituted a complex with a total of 20 labour camps. The headquarters of the command was in Vaivara; the camp there was primarily used to distribute the arriving prisoners between labour camps. The most significant labour camps were in Kiviõli, Kunda, Narva, Klooga and Ereda.

The camps were guarded by police battalions formed of Estonians and Russians, and by Germans who belonged to the organisation Todt. The commandant of Vaivara, SS Hauptsturmführer Hans Aumeier, arrived there from Auschwitz, having served at various concentration camps since 1939.

In 1943-1944, about 10,000 Jews were brought to the Vaivara complex, mostly from Lithuanian ghettos. Approximately 5000-6000 of them died in Estonia. In winter 1943/44, some of the inmates died in an epidemic, or from malnourishment and difficult work conditions. By the end of June 1944, at least 1500 Jewish prisoners had died, and a roughly equal number of those unable to work were despatched to other camps outside Estonia, where they were killed. In July 1944, the camps were gradually eliminated, which included the mass execution of Jews incapable of work or those who were not evacuated in time, culminating in the mass murder of about 2000 Jews in the Klooga camp on 19 September 1944.
Between 1942 and 1944, 12,500 Jews were brought to Estonia, of whom about 7500-7800 lost their lives here.

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