The Blechhammer (English: sheet metal hammer) area was the location of Nazi Germany chemical plants, prisoner of war (POW) camps, and forced laborcamps (German: Arbeitslager Blechhammer; also Nummernbücher). Labor camp prisoners began arriving as early as June 17, 1942, and in July 1944, 400-500 men were transferred from the Terezin family camp to Blechhammer. The mobile “pocket furnace” (German: Taschenofen) crematorium was at S?awi?cice.) and Bau und Arbeits Battalion (BAB, English: Construction Battalion) 21 was a mile from the Blechhammer oil plants and was not far from Katowitz and Breslau. Blechhammer synthetic oil production began April with 4000 prisoners.
Chemical plantsTwo plants in the area, Blechhammer North (south of S?awi?cice) and Blechhammer South at Azoty (5 miles (8.0 km) from thelabor camp) were nicknamed "Black Hammer" by Allied bomber aircrews.The facilities were approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) apart with each occupying a 3,000 x 5,000 ft area in open country. Similar to the Gelsenberg plant, the Blechhammer plants used bituminous coal in the Bergius process to synthesize Ersatz oil. In June 1944, the United States Army Air Forces considered Blechhammer one of the four "principal synthetic oil plants in Germany", and after the Fifteenth Air Force had dropped 7,082 tons of bombs on Blechhammer, the Blechhammer plants were dismantled post-warby the Soviets.EvacuationThe March (1945) evacuated POWs (one camp went to Regensburg, BAB 21 went to Landshut) and on January 25, labor camp prisoners were force-marched for five days to Bergen Belsen (about 20% died enroute).
A few dates in Blechhammer's history:
April 1, 1944
SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Heinrich Schwarz, commander of the independent concentration camp Auschwitz III in Monowitz takes over of the "Juden-Zwangsarbeitslager" (existing since fall 1940) of the "Oberschlesische Hydrierwerke AG" (synthetic gasoline plants) in Blechhammer (former Kreis Cosel im Upper Silesia). The new sub-camp of Auschwitz III is now called "Arbeitslager Blechhammer". SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Otto Brossmann is appointed to become the first "Lagerfuehrer" of Blechhammer.
The first 3,056 male prisoners of Blechhammer have tattoos of the Auschwitz-numbers 176,512-179,567 and 132 female prisoners of the numbers 76,330-76,461. Prisoners declared "unable to work" are sent by the camp administration to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) in order to be murdered, other "healthy" workers are sent from Auschwitz to Blechhammer instead.
September 9, 1944
American Bombers destroy large parts of the plants of the "Oberschlesische Hydrierwerke AG" in Blechhammer and of the oil refinery in nearby Trzebinia.
November 9, 1944
SS-Ustuf. Kurt Klipp is appointed as the 2nd "Leiter des Nebenlagers Blechhammer". (Kalendarium, p. 924) End of 1944, the evacuation of Blechhammer started : the prisoners will be sent to other camps, they'll have to walk during several days with only a little bit of bread and margarine to survive the walk. Many of them will die of exhaustion and hunger or shot by the SS officers.
List of the industries established in Blechhammer
- Camp no. 2: Beton- + Monierbau
- Camp no. 6 Fa. (firm) Krause
- Camp no. 9 Fa. Uhde
- Camp no. 14 Isolierbetrieb
- Camp no. 15 Fa. Roesner
- Camp no. 21 Kraftwerk
- Camp no. 22 Fa. Niederdruck
- Camp no. 24 Schwelerei
- Camp no. 25 AEG Gleiwitz
- Camp no. 28 Betriebskontrolle
- Camp no. 30 OHW Holzlagerung
- Camp no. 36 Fa. Dyckerhoff + Widmann
- Camp no. 40 Fa. Peters
- Camp no. 49 Fa. Pook + Gruen
*The firms Uhde, AEG, Dyckerhoff + Widmann are widely known and still in existence.
Evacuation of Blechhammer: "The Death March"
This evacuation from Blechhammer started on January 21, 1945. The prisoners each got 800 grams of bread, a small portion of margarine, and artificial honey for their march.
Approximately 4,000 Blechhammer prisoners plus another 6,000 from the sub-camps Neu-Dachs, Gleiwitz I, III, and IV began their death march. They walked from Blechhammer (Blachownia Slaska) - via Kole - Neustadt - Glucholazy - Neisse - Otmuchow - Zabkowice Slaskie - Schweidnitz - Strzegom. On February 2, 1945, survivors finally reached the concentration camp Gross-Rosen.
During the march approximately 800 prisoners who were not able to walk any longer or who tried to flee were shot by the SS and the police (on these death marches they killed Jews, Poles, Russians etc. alike without making a difference). This march was lead by SS-Untersturmfuehrer Kurt Klipp, the 2nd (last) Lagerleiter of Blechhammer.
The prisoners stayed in Gross-Rosen for 5 days. Then they boarded a train to Buchenwald (Feb. 6 or 7). On the way the train was attacked several times by Allied Fighter Planes, which caused many deaths.
The total number of forced laborers working in all camps at Blechhammer (not only the sub-camp of Auschwitz III) and surroundings reached about 48,000 people (Jews being only a small part of them). This included 2,000 British Prisoners of war.