In July 1940, the International Committee of the Red Cross sent a delegate to report on conditions in expectation of Warth Mills changing to a prisoner of war camp. He wrote that it was substandard because of ‘its dilapidated condition, lack of hygiene, absence of hot water, and the fact that there were beds for only 30 sick people at a time whereas 250 needed treatment’.
Quakers’ relief worker William Ravenscroft Hughes filed a report the same month. He had been to camps in Germany and Britain. He states that, at this point in the war, Warth Mills is ‘certainly worse than any I have seen’. He goes on:
‘An interesting incident occurred when a man stopped me and said, ‘I saw you at Sachsenburg Camp’. This was true […] Many of these interned men have been in German camps. Several had said to me that the physical conditions in Dachau were better than in Bury. Having seen both, I agreed, but we also agreed, ‘Die Leute sind ganz anders, Gott sei dank!’ (‘The people are wholly different, thank God!’).’
Perhaps the most shocking report into conditions at Warth Mills was completed by Sir Walter Monckton from the Ministry of Information. He writes of two deaths in the camp. “The two men who succeeded in committing suicide had already been in Hitler’s concentration camps. Against this they held out, but this camp has broken their spirit.”
The situation for Jewish men, women and children in Nazi concentration camps would, of course, become unspeakably worse. It’s nonetheless interesting to note that, in mid-1940, conditions at Warth were bad enough to justify unfavourable comparison in official reports.