Buchenwald. An inmate of Buchenwald Camp during 1946 stated that persons who had been in the same camp under the Nazis complained that conditions were now worse. Some fat and meat had been issued by the Nazis, but under the Russians there was only bread and soup. It was estimated that the death rate was double that of the Nazi period. No correspondence was allowed."
- 'Concentration Camps and Maltreatment of Civilians in the Soviet Zone of Germany', report by the British Foreign Office Research Department, February 1948
The report begins:
At least six major concentration camps are known to exist in the Soviet Zone of Germany, together with at least thirteen others of smaller size.
The sum of the total number of inmates reported from these camps is of the order of 200,000, but there are grounds for belief that the total for all the concentration camps in the Zone may be nearer to 300,000. In proportion to the population of the Zone, this represent a much higher density of concentration camp inhabitants than existed in Nazi Germany up to 1939 and probably even during the war. [...]
These camps are constantly being depleted by a heavy death rate and by large-scale deportations to the U.S.S.R., particularly of ex-Ps/W released by the western Powers and re-arrested by the Russians. At the same time they are replenished by new arrests. [...]
The number of persons who have been imprisoned at some time within these camps is therefore well in excess of the total capacity of the camps.
It can be calculated that at the outside some 50,000 persons in the Soviet Zone might have been eligible for automatic internment as Nazis and war-criminals in the same category as those interned in the western Zones. In Western Germany, however, such persons are held in camps which are run on humane lines and which cannot be compared to the concentration camps in the Eastern Zone.
A large volume of first-hand evidence shows that the concentration camps are used to house the following categories of person:
a) officers and other ranks of the late Wehrmacht, re-arrested by the Russians after their release from the West;b) Nazis and war-criminals in the "automatic arrest" category; together with minor Nazis;c) "opponents of the regime", including women and children of a tender age;d) a number of the thousands of juveniles who have been arrested without reason by the Russian authorities, and who have disappeared without trace.
Arrests are made at Russian orders, though often through the instrumentality of the German police. Inmates are held at the pleasure of the Occupying Power without the right or possibility of legal process. Correspondence appears to be forbidden in contrast to the meagre allowance permitted in the Nazi concentration camps.
Conditions in all the major camps and at least the majority of smaller ones differ from conditions in the pre-war Nazi concentration camps insofar as deliberate or sadistic torture has not been reported. This kind of treatment is given in the cellars and prisons controlled by the Russian secret police (MVD and MGB), to which "opponents of the regime" are taken before dispatch to the camps. [...]
Persons who have been in both Nazi and Soviet Zone concentration camps report that the conditions are worse in the latter, in respect of food, provision against the cold, clothing and hygiene. [...]
It is hard to arrive at a reliable figure for the number of deaths in these camps over a given period. Many accounts by survivors however show that the death rate is extremely high. Thus, 2,500 prisoners are reported to have died out of some 15-20,000 in Buchenwald between the summer 1945 and summer 1946. In Sachsenhausen some 5-6,000 are estimated to have died in eighteen months up to Spring 1947 (12,000 died there between 1945 - 1950), out of a capacity of 20-30,000. The almost total absence of medical care, the exceedingly low rations, and absence of protection from the cold, destroy power of resistance to any disease. The most frequent cause of death is however reported to be exhaustion, and one report adds that "generally the victims die quietly during the night."
Then follows Annexe A, estimations of the prisoner capacity of each of the known concentration camps in the Soviet Zone of Germany:
MALTREATMENT OF CIVILIANS BY THE RUSSIAN SECRET POLICE IN GERMANY
An informant of Alsatian origin who had been sent to Sachsenhausen for a time by the Nazis in 1939 for refusing military service, and who worked actively against the Nazis during the war, was arrested in Nov. 1945 and interrogated by the Russian secret police in Bernau. When he refused to confess to being a French spy he was beaten senseless with the end of a cable. On recovery he was given a glass of water. He said important Communists would testify to his democratic attitude. Thereupon he was kicked. He was told that if he persisted in his statements his entrails would be torn out. He was then beaten senseless with the end of a cable. On recovery he was placed in a cellar, compelled to undress to his under-clothes, forced on his knees and threatened with a pistol. When he refused to "confess" he was told that a bullet would be wasted and he would simply be strung up. Subsequently he was placed in solitary confinement for 7 days, and after another "interrogation" placed in a cellar about 15 feet by 12, containing 36 persons. These included 11 youths of between 13 and 17, who had been beaten until they agreed to sign a statement that they had accepted sabotage orders from a British officer. Two of the youths died under arrest. Two policemen from the British Sector of Berlin were also in the cellar. One of them died under arrest as a result of torture. During two months at least 90 youths were brought in on a charge of espionage, 11 ex-Wehrmacht officers and a number of SPD members. All these were subjected to the same form of "interrogation". Most of them eventually signed the statement placed before them by the Russian secret police, drawn up in Russian and translated imperfectly or not at all. Daily rations were about 4 oz. of bread and less than a pint of thin soup.