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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.
Robert Clary ~Born Robert Max Widerman
Robert Clary (born Robert Max Widerman;
Clary was the youngest of 14 children. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp, Ottmuth. He was later sent to Blechhammer, Gross Rosen, and finally Buchenwald where he was liberated on 11 April 1945. Twelve other members of his immediate family were sent to Auschwitz. Clary was the only survivor. When he returned to Paris after the war, he was ecstatic when he found that some of his siblings had not been taken away and had survived theNazi occupation of France.
- March 1, 1926
As Dina Gottliebova, she was imprisoned in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp during WWII, where she drew portraits of Romani inmates for the infamous Dr. Mengele. Following the liberation of the camp and the end of the war she emigrated to the United States and became an animator. She had been fighting the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for the return of her paintings.
- January 21, 1923~July 29, 2009
Below are thumbnails of the front and back of three postcards. The first is from an inmate at Blechhammer to Paris postmarked January 1, 1944. The card is cancelled with a "Heydebreck Oberschlesische 2" postmark.
The second and third are postcards to an inmate, Frank Kroneck, at a Bahnhofslager at Blechhammer. One is postmarked July 31, 1943, and the other is postmarked November 22, 1943.
Below are thumbnails of the front and back of Frank Kronek's identity card stamped Mannesmann-Rohrleitungsbau Prag and date stamped June 1, 1943. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Idenity Card" in the left frame to return.
Fifteenth Air Force
Unknown to many is the fact that there were six British prisoner of war camps in the Blechhammer, Heydebreck and Odertal area. About 2,000, mostly captured in North Africa, were employed in the oil plants to clean up after air raids, to maintain equipment and to perform other duties.
As was the case for prisoners of war in other camps about to be overrun by Soviet forces, the Germans began an evacuation of prisoners from Blechhammer. The prisoners were given 800 grams of bread, a small amount of margarine, and artificial honey for their march.
On 21 January 1945, about 4,000 prisoners from Blechhammer, plus another 6,000 from the sub-camps Neu Dachs, Gleiwitz I, II and IV began their death march. Those who survived reached the concentration camp Gross-Rosen on 2 February 1945. During the march there were about 800 prisoners who were unable to walk any further, or tried to flee; they were shot by the SS. Those who survived the march were sent to Buchenwald.
Those who served with the Fifteenth Air Force during World War II will remember Blechhammer, if only by name. Missions to Blechhammer were long, tiring, and always dangerous. The 460th Bomb Group (H) flew nine missions to Blechhammer South and two to Blechhammer North, at a cost of ten aircraft. Several of these were victims of the 25 flak batteries defending the Blechhammer/Odertal area. The guns ranged in size from 20mm to 128mm. Many of these were manned by students as young as fifteen years.
For all practical purposes, by late December 1944 the oil plants of Blechhammer and Odertal were destroyed. The 460th flew its last mission to Blechhammer on 19 December 1944. Today Blechhammer no longer exists, but it lives on in the town of Blachownia. It is a thriving industrial center which focuses on the production of chemicals, synthetic fuel and other products. Zaklady Chemiczne Blachownia manufactures plastics; Poludniowe Zaklady is a synthetic refinery. The I. G. Farbinindustrie chemical plant is still there on the Blechhammer site, producing chemical products based on coke and coal. It employs 3,000 workers. In addition to being industrial centers, Kedzierzyn-Kozle and Odertal are popular recreation areas. Times have changed!
Krysia, born in 1922, married Salomon (Salek) Kucynski in the Sosnowiec ghetto. When the ghetto was liquidated, the young people were sent to the Annaberg camp, where they labored at preparing equipment for the army. The women made soup from leftovers that had been thrown away by the kitchen and from food stolen from the Germans; they shared it with the men by smuggling it out at night through the fence. Krysia had a large coat under which she concealed the soup.
About one year later, Salomon was transferred to Blechhammer Camp. He and Krysia corresponded through letters passed along by a German kitchen worker whom they had bribed. Krysia was later transferred to Peterswald Camp and their communication was broken off. Salomon died during the death march to Buchenwald; Krysia survived. She remarried to Azriel Szampan in 1946 and later moved to Israel .
Salomon, Sosnowiec Ghetto, 1943
Letter written by Salomon, in Camp Blechhammer, to Krysia
I met Salek about two months after the war began. Salek was studying engineering in Warsaw and was about to be married with a girl who’d come down with typhus. She died. He was in a ghastly mood. Then his mother telephoned my mother and asked her to introduce me to Salek.
For me it was love at first sight, but for him it began slowly....
When we knew they were going to liquidate the ghetto, I told Salek that if we didn’t get married I wouldn’t be sent with him but rather with my parents. We had a wedding in the ghetto—we went to a rabbi and Mother made ‘meatballs’ that were mainly bread. Some time later, we also went to City Hall to register ourselves. We lived together until they liquidated the ghetto.
From the testimony of Krysia Kucynski, 2006
I received a letter that you wrote together with Sabina. All of the letters and greetings made me very happy. Please write to me with lots of details about how you’re living. Krysinku [a nickname for Krysia], if it means having to deny yourself something, don’t do it. In any event, write me [describing] how you look these days. I’m healthy and feeling well.
Krysia, I miss you very much. I think we’ll be seeing one another soon. Don’t laugh.
I’m giving you a big kiss.
Chain that Krysia received from her friend, Marysia Dzialowska, for her birthday in Peterswald Camp
Szymon Kluger was born as son of Symcha Kluger and Fryda Weiss in O?wi?cim. He attended the elementary school, which he finished in spring 1939.World War II
During World War II, Kluger was deported to the Ghetto in Bendsburg (B?dzin) and to one of the Blechhammer forced labor camps in 1942, and he was marked with the number 179539. (During this time, his parents were taken to, and died at, the Auschwitz concentration camp.) From Blechhammer he was brought to the KZ Groß-Rosen, later to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was a forced laborer in aircraft construction.
In April 1945 Szymon Kluger was rescued by the American Army near Halberstadt. Through the help of the Swedish Red Cross and theUNRRA he came to Sweden in July for a social treatment. Until 1946 he was in a hospital in Malmö and Kalmar and wanted to stay in Sweden. His remaining family was in Sweden (brother) and Frankfurt am Main (sister).
In the beginning he got social welfare because he had no job. Then he attended a technical school in Uppsala and learned a profession as mechanician and electrician. In the meantime he got to know with a woman from Romania. They became engaged, but broke it off soon after. Szymon Kluger became ill and had to stay in hospital again. After his treatment he worked with the Radio Svenska AB as a piece worker. He attended a distance learning program and tried to learn a technical profession. Meanwhile he got a Swedish alien passport.
In 1962, Szymon Kluger returned to Poland and started work at the O?wi?cim chemical factory, living in a hotel for workers on Wyspia?ski Street. Soon after his return to his parental home next to the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, he retired due to bad health
- January 19, 1925,
Arno Lustiger (born May 7, 1924, in Bendzin, Poland) is a German historian and author of Jewish origin. He is father of the author Gila Lustiger and cousin to Jean-Marie Lustiger, archbishop of Paris.
Lustiger grew up in B?dzin in Upper Silesia. His father, David Lustiger, City Councillor of Bendzin, had a company making machines for the bread production. In 1939 the company was confiscated by the National Socialists. Though, David Lustiger stayed in the company as a worker. In the beginning of 1943 the Jewish population of B?dzins was detained in the B?dzin ghetto. The Lustiger family were able to hide in a cellar. In August 1943, the ghetto was closed and the population was deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. A few days later, the family voluntarily went to a camp of forced workers in Annaberg, Silesia, in order to stay together as a family.
However, the family was torn apart. Lustiger was deported to concentration camp Ottmuth and later to Blechhammer, a subcamp of Auschwitz. Starting from January 21, 1945 Lustiger had to join the death march during the freezing winter towards the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Lower Silesia, as the Soviet troops were approaching. Only half of the 4.000 inmates survived the death march. Later he was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp and to theLangenstein-Zwieberge concentration camp near Halberstadt. There the expectancy of life was around three or four weeks.
In April 1945 Lustiger escaped during another death march, when the concentration camp was closed due to the approaching American troops. He was rescued by American soldiers and became a uniformed and armed translator of the US Army.
- May 7, 1924
John Henry Owen "Busty" Brown
John Henry Owen "Busty" Brown DCM
(died 1964) was a Quartermaster Sergeant in the Royal Artillery in the British Army, who served in France at the beginning of the Second World War. He was one of Britain's most successful espionage agents as a prisoner of war following his capture by German forces, and, following the war's conclusion, acted as a prosecution witness in trials for treason.
Before he left England he had been sent on a special course for spies operating in enemy hands. He was told that he would be of more use as a POW than as a combat soldier.
He was captured at Dunkirk on 29 May 1940 and remained a prisoner of war until 1945. He volunteered to serve at the Blechhammer POW camp in Upper Silesia, and the fact that he had been a member of the British Union of Fascists before the war helped him ingratiate himself with the Germans and strike up a relationship with the camp commandant.
In the summer of 1942 a special camp was established to separate potential collaborators from other British POWs, Stalag 111d near Berlin. This in turn was divided into Special Detachment 999 (an officers' camp) and Special Detachment 517 (for other ranks). Both were presented by the Germans as "holiday camps" away from the poor rations, hard work and cold of normal camps, but the camp security was run by the Abwehr.
Brown was one of the prisoners sent to Stalag 111d for an initial examination. A former member of the British Union of Fascists, he had developed a good relationship with the Germans, which he exploited to run a very efficient blackmarket operation among the conscripted foreign workers, using some of the profits to buy "luxury" items such as extra food, medicine for the camp hospital and even musical instruments for the camp band. Brown also had a hidden radio so was aware of the course of the war.
At Stalag 111d Brown quickly realised something was wrong, and after his visit he returned to Blechammer. There he had met Captain Julius Green, a Jewish-Glaswegian officer who was the camp's dentist. Green gave Brown the codes and the means to pass intelligence back to London through MI9's Escape and Evasion Network.
Brown decided to return to Stalag 111d as soon as possible; not only were the conditions better, he was suspicious of what the Germans were planning. After a carefully orchestrated row with the senior British NCOs at Blechammer he persuaded the Commandant, Rittmeister Prinz Von Hohenlohe, to transfer him back to Stalag 111d. He arrived on the 12th June 1943 where he was selected by Major Heimpel of the Gestapo to be senior British NCO of Special Detachment 517 based at Genshagen, in the Teltow-Fläming district of Berlin.
Throughout all this time, while being distrusted by the British P.O.W.s, he was reporting to MI6 by coded letters, giving guidance on targets for bomber attacks. More particularly he was engaged in subverting the German proposal to form a British Free Corps to fight for Germany. He was instrumental in identifying the British traitor John Amery, and had contact with William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw), and was recruited by Joyce as a broadcaster on the German Concordia radio service.
At one point Brown was confronted by Major Heimpel with a statement from a traitor giving details of Brown's espionage activities, but Brown blamed it on some of the Jewish inmates, saying they were out to destroy the idea of a British Free Corps. The Germans believed him, but Heimpel still believed that he was a secret agent, and when the British Free Corps were disbanded Himmler ordered Brown's arrest.
As the Allied forces entered Germany, Brown and a friend managed to kill an SS Colonel, steal his car and make contact with US forces. However, once back with British forces he found himself facing a charge of aiding the enemy. Word of his secret work for the Allies soon came from London, and he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of his achievements. After the war he was the chief prosecution witness at 20 treason trials.
Harry Fransman, b. 1922, Rotterdam, Holland. Immigrated to Australia 1949.
In late January 1945, 4000 prisoners were forced on a death march from Blechhammer, a subcamp of Auschwitz. About 1000 prisoners died during the march to Gross-Rosen concentration camp. After a short time, those remaining were moved to Buchenwald camp. Harry Fransman was one of the survivors.
Harry Fransman in Sydney, 1951
Harry Fransman today
"In 1945 the Russians came near our camp (Blechhammer) and it was evacuated. We walked for 23 days, pushed forward in thick snow without food, but the worst was still to come. Many inmates turned into walking zombies but the bravest ploughed on, for when they could not walk any longer and fell in the snow they were shot in the neck. The snow-covered roads were literally stained with Jewish blood.
Eventually we arrived in hell, a large camp called 'Grozroosen'; a big funeral parlour. When we came to the gates, many stuck in the mud where they fell and couldn't stand any more. In charge of this camp were German prisoners taken out of jail and asylums whose pleasure was constant killing. The weapons they used were their boots, sticks and knives. Those (Jewish prisoners) who could not walk any more were clubbed to death. The hunger became unbearable, and many ate the flesh of corpses.
I was put to work, stacking shriveled corpses three meters high, with my sick body and near death myself, but not daring to stop working. After a few days we left and they took us to the railway station and put us in cattle trains. We heard we were going to 'Buchenwald'. My two friends and I were pushed into an open wagon.
After two days, I think, most people were dead. Covered with thick snow I prayed to God to let me die also; so much suffering, even to my endurance, was the limit. I remember that in a feverish dream I was home again, I saw my Mama, who was telling me not to give up. We passed the burning city of Dresden and eventually the train stopped outside Liepzig. I could hear the sounds of a siren, and the lights were turned out.
I turned to my friend Bruno Part Ninger, from Vienna, who I had spent all those years with, and I said to him: 'Bruno, I am going to escape.' I could see his face in the moonlight and it was covered with ice. Then he put his arms around me and whispered: 'Servous (goodbye) Harry, Gruse Gott (God be with you).' Slowly I got up, and seconds later I went over the side. It was the 9th February 1945, then minutes later the train started to move again and left me lying in the snow."
Alter Wiener's father was brutally murdered on September 11, 1939 by the German invaders of Poland. Alter was then a boy of 13. At the age of 15 he was deported to Blechhammer, a Forced Labor Camp for Jews, in Germany.
He survived five camps. Upon liberation by the Russian Army on May 9, 1945, Alter weighed 80 lbs as reflected on the book's cover. Alter Wiener is one of the very few Holocaust survivors still living in Portland, Oregon. He moved to Oregon in 2000 and since then he has shared his life story with over 700 audiences (as of June, 2011) in universities, colleges, middle and high schools, Churches, Synagogues, prisons, clubs, etc.
He has also been interviewed by radio and TV stations as well as the press. Wiener's autobiography is a testimony to an unfolding tragedy taking place in WWII. Its message illustrates what prejudice may lead to and how tolerance is imperative. This book is not just Wiener's life story but it reveals many responses to his story. Hopefully, it will enable many readers to truly understand such levels of horror and a chance to empathize with the unique plight of the Holocaust victims. Please visit my Facebook page http: //facebook.com/alterwiener and consider clicking the "Like" button so you can see comments from live audiences and other readers and, should you choose to read the book, post your own comments as well.
Evacuation and the Death Marches – January 1945
17 January 1945
Units of the Red Army advance on the outlying areas of Krakow from the north and the northwest and surprise the German positions, which do not expect an attack from this flank.
The last official meeting of the General Governor Hans Frank takes place at 12.0 o’clock, barely two hours later Hans Frank leaves Krakow in the direction of Silesia.
On this day 178 female prisoners and two boys were transferred from the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow to the women’s camp in Birkenau.
The male and female prisoners fall in for their last roll call. The number of prisoners incarcerated in the main camps and sub-camps are as follows:
Male or Female
Birkenau Production Area
Auschwitz Men’s Camp
Birkenau Men’s Camp
Auschwitz Women’s Camp
Birkenau Women’s Camp
In the wake of the decision to remove the prisoners from Auschwitz, Commandant Baer personally chooses the leaders of the evacuation columns from among the members of the guard companies and orders them to liquidate ruthlessly all prisoners who attempt to escape during the evacuation or drag their feet.
Among the SS guards who were chosen to lead the evacuation columns were the notorious SS- Oberscharfuhrer Wilhelm Boger, who was a feared member of the Politische – Abteilung, SS-Unterscharfuhrer Oswald Kaduk, Rapportfuhrer, who was also considered one of the more brutal members of the SS guards.
In the auxiliary camps that belong to Monowitz, formerly Auschwitz lll, are the following number of male prisoners:
Monowitz – Buna Werke
Female prisoners in auxiliary camps
The prisoners in Sosnowitz sub –camp are evacuated, food leftovers found in the kitchen are divided among the prisoners and at about 4.00pm they depart on foot in the direction of Gleiwitz and continue on to Ratibor and Troppau.
At Troppau they are loaded into freight cars and transported to Mauthausen concentration camp. The evacuation lasts 16 days, of which 12 are on foot.
The prisoners have to pull handcarts with the luggage of the SS, who with zeal set about to kill the weak and those unable to keep up. The food ration is pitiful each prisoner only receives three potatoes and two pieces of cheese, many die during this evacuation.
Approximately 3,200 prisoners who are fit enough are led out of the Neu-Dachs sub-camp, with the usual SS escorts, they pass through Konigshutte, Beuthen, and Gleiwitz to the Blechhammer sub-camp. From Blechhammer on the 21 January 1945 they are transferred to Gross Rosen Concentration Camp.
18 January 1945
The departure of the female prisoners from the Birkenau women’s camp begins towards morning. At short intervals columns of 500 women and children each leave the camp, escorted by SS men.
A total of 5,345 female prisoners leave the camp on this day, among them 176 from Plaszow, 1,169 from Camp B-IIc and 4,000 from Camps B-ll b and B-ll e. They are taken to Auschwitz and wait there for the formation of the evacuation columns, whilst approximately 4,500 prisoners remain in the women’s infirmary located in B-ll e.
800 prisoners are led out of the Janinagrube sub- camp and are forced – marched to Gross Rosen. The prisoners have no protection against the cold. They receive small portions of dry food for the 18-day march. Of the 800 prisoners who leave Janinagrube sub–camp, approximately only 200 persons reach the Gross Rosen Concentration camp, in a state of complete exhaustion.
Columns of prisoners leave Birkenau at specific intervals. The last column with approximately 1,500 prisoners leave Camp B-II d in the afternoon, some 400 prisoners join this column to escape certain death in Birkenau.
Among them are some youthful prisoners from the Penal Company (Strafkompanie), 70 prisoners from the squad which demolished the crematoria. Also joining the march are 30 members from theSonderkommando, who take advantage of an unguarded moment in Crematorium V to escape certain death.
The route of this column of prisoners marched through Auschwitz, Rajsko, Brzeszcze, Gora, Miedzna, Cwiklice, Pszczyna, Kobelice, Kryry, Suszec, Rudziczka, Kleszczow, Zory, Rogozne, Roj, Rybnik, Swierklany, Dolne, and Marklowice to Wlodzislaw, along the way 172 prisoners are buried in mass graves.
In the evening the female prisoners in the Auschwitz women’s camp were formed into columns, including the female prisoners who were transferred from Birkenau, and driven out in the direction of Rajsko. The female prisoners of the gardening and plant breeding squads from the Rajsko sub-camp join the procession of the male and female prisoners evacuated from Auschwitz- Birkenau and bring up the rear.
They march through the communities of Pszczyna, Poreba, Wielka, and Jastrzebie Gorna to Wodzislaw in Silesia. Only Eugenia Halbreich (No 29700), who had hidden herself in the attic of a dwelling next to the house of SS man Grell, remains in the Rajsko sub-camp.
All the prisoners of the Monowitz sub-camp, the camp near the I.G. Farben works, are assembled on the parade ground in the evening. They are formed into columns of 1,000 prisoners each. Divisions of nurses were placed among the individual columns. The columns lead through Bierun, Mikolow, Mokre Slaskie and Przyszowice to Gleiwitz, 850 prisoners remain in the prisoners infirmary, among them are assistant doctors, and 18 doctors, including Dr Czeslaw Jaworski.
The prisoners are evacuated from the Trzebinia sub-camp and those able to march are led to Auschwitz, those that cannot remain there. Those still alive upon their arrival in Rybnik are loaded into open freight cars.
After four days they arrive in the Gross Rosen Concentration Camp stiff from the cold. Because of overcrowding at the camp the transport is refused and is directed onto Sachsenhausen, but after remaining there for two weeks, it was sent to Bergen-Belsen. Arnost Tauber, Abraham Piasecki and Karl Broszio escape during the march.
Those unable to march are sent to the secondary railway track of the Trzebinia refinery, where they are crammed into four freight cars which set off for an unknown destination.
Raizl Kibel recalled after the war, the death march from the Union factory, “In a frost, half barefoot, or entirely barefoot, with light rags upon their emaciated and exhausted bodies, tens of thousands of human creatures drag themselves along in the snow. Only that great, strong striving for life and the light of imminent liberation, keep them on their feet.
But woe is to them whose physical strength abandons them. They are shot on the spot. In such a way were thousands who had endured camp life up to the last minute murdered, a moment before liberation.
Even today I still cannot understand with what sort of strength and how I was able to endure the “death march” and drag myself to Ravensbruck camp, and from there, after resting a week, or two, to Neustadt, where I was liberated by the Red Army.” In Gleiwitz l sub-camp the camp management conduct a selection during which several dozen sick, lame and weak prisoners are singled out. The SS guards lead those selected behind the barracks and murder them by shooting.
The remaining prisoners were warned that everyone who cannot keep up will be shot to death. Each of the prisoners receives a loaf of bread when they leave the camp. Some are forced to pull handcarts loaded with luggage and weapons of the SS, the SS men kept their word, weak prisoners were shot to death during the march.
After three days and two nights on the march, they spend the nights in barns they passed on the way, they arrive in the Blechhammer sub-camp, which is also on the verge of being dissolved.
Some of the prisoners from Gleiwitz l succeed in remaining in Blechhhammer and thus avoided further deportation. Some of the prisoners die when the SS men burst into the prisoner’s barracks, firing their machine pistols, some prisoners escape.
On the 21 January 1945 the remaining prisoners from Gleiwitz l are led under SS guard from Blechhammer to Gross Rosen Concentration Camp, where they arrive at the beginning of February. After a short stay of a few days they are transferred in freight cars from there to Buchenwald, Nordhausen and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camps.
After the prisoners were marched off, Gleiwitz l, like Gleiwitz ll, lll and IV becomes a temporary concentration point for thousands of prisoners from other sub-camps of Auschwitz, particularly from Monowitz. The male and female prisoners of Gleiwitz ll receive the order to prepare themselves to leave the camp. The director of the Deutsche Gasrusswerke, Schenk intervenes, so that the female prisoners receive additional clothing.
All prisoners, male and female, are given a blanket and a loaf of bread for the trip. The columns of prisoners marching on foot are escorted by numerous SS guards under the direction of SS Technical Sergeant Bernhard Rackers.
After a march of approximately 13 miles the prisoners were driven into a barn to spend the night. The next morning three prisoners who were no longer able to march were shot and killed in the barn. In view of the approaching Red Army the prisoners were sent back to Gleiwitz, to spend the night near the city. The next day they were led to the railway ramp in Gleiwitz where they were loaded into open freight cars.
The transport travels through Moravia and reaches Orainienburg approximately ten days later. The men were sent to Sachsenhausen and the women to Ravensbruck. Several women prisoners escape from this transport, among them Anna Markowiecka, who climbs up the wall of the freight car, jumps from the train into the undergrowth, dodging the bullets fired by the SS guards.
The prisoners of the Bismarckhutte sub-camp are marched off in typical Concentration Camp prisoner garb, and in wooden clogs, although some were bare-footed. They have to pull sledges behind them loaded with things the SS thought essential, the prisoners were led by SS Staff Sergeant Klemann from Hamburg and the columns reach Gleiwitz on the 20 January 1945, where they wait for other columns of prisoners to join them.
The labour squads of the Gunthergrube sub-camp work a normal day and begin preparing for departure that evening. At about 10:00pm, 560 prisoners begin the march under the supervision of 40 SS men. The column is led towards the village of Kosztowo using the side roads. In the morning hours of the 19 January near the village of Mikolow the prisoners from the Gunthergrube sub-camp joins the columns of prisoners coming from Monowitz.
A two hour rest pause is ordered at the edge of Mikolow, after this rest those prisoners who cannot continue were shot and killed by the SS guards. The rest of the prisoners reach Gleiwitz in the evening and are sheltered in the sub-camp.
They spend two days nights there, without receiving any food, on the 21 January they are loaded in open freight cars with other prisoners from Auschwitz who had also arrived in Gleiwitz.
The train stopped often and by the next day they are only several dozen kilometres from Gleiwitz, many of the prisoners died of hunger and exhaustion. On the 22 January the train halted next to the train station in Rzedowka.
The SS men under the direction of SS man Kurpanik ordered the prisoners to throw the dead out of the freight cars, following this, the remaining prisoners are led off into the forest, at which point some of the prisoners attempt to escape.
Some escape into the forest, but 331 were shot and killed, but the exact fate of the rest of the prisoners is unknown, although probably they were shot and killed in the stadium at Rybnik, since 292 bodies of prisoners was discovered after the war.
Approximately 450 prisoners leave the Tschechowitz sub-camp at 7pm guarded by heavily armed SS men. On the 20 January 1945 the prisoners reach Wodzislaw in Silesia via Dziedzice, Goczalkowice and Pszcyna.
Those who cannot keep up the fast pace of the march are shot and killed, at the train station in Wodzislaw they meet thousands of other prisoners from Auschwitz who had been forced – marched from the Auschwitz main camp and other sub-camps.
The prisoners are transported to Buchenwald Concentration camp in open freight cars full of snow. Of the 450 prisoners who leave the Tscechowitz – Vacuum sub-camp, nearly 300 survived the transfer.
In the evening a column numbering several hundred prisoners from the Golleschau sub-camp, started their march. A second column of equal size leaves the camp the next day. Approximately 100 prisoners who are unable to march are left behind.
Both columns arrive by foot in Wodzislaw in Silesia, from there they are taken to Sachsenhausen and Flossenburg Concentration Camps in Germany, in open freight cars, normally used for transporting coal. Almost half of the prisoners die on the way of hunger, of exhaustion and the freezing weather.
During the day columns of 100 prisoners each leave the Auschwitz main camp at regular intervals. One of these heavily guarded columns consists of male and female civilian prisoners who have been detained in Block 11 by order of the Police Court –martial of the Kattowitz Gestapo.
19 January 1945
The last large transport with 2,500 prisoners leaves the Auschwitz main camp at 1:00 am under the supervision of SS First Lieutenant Wilhelm Reischenbeck. Near Rajsko the last column joins up with 1,000 prisoners from Birkenau. Behind the village of Brzeszcze the procession joined with a column of 1,948 prisoners from the Jawischowitz sub-camp.
The route of this last, very large column of prisoners is led to Wodzislaw, during the march the columns of the prisoners combined to form a very large mass of people. On the route of the march and at the side of the road lie the corpses of the prisoners, who could not keep up.
After the arrival in Wodzislaw the prisoners are loaded into open freight cars and transferred to Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, where they arrive on the 26 January 1945.
At 4:00 am the last group with 30 prisoner functionaries left Auschwitz, they follow the familiar route to Wodzislaw and join the prisoners being loaded into open freight cars.
The Gleiwitz lll sub-camp is dissolved. SS men lead the prisoners westward in columns. The march lasts several days, when they reached the left bank of the Oder River, they turn around and are led through Cosel to the Blechhammer sub-camp. From there, part of the column, are transferred to Gross Rosen Concentration Camp.
380 prisoners were taken from the Gleiwitz IV sub-camp and led in the direction of the village of Sosnicowice. After, a few miles, however, they were ordered back to Gleiwitz and taken to the Blechhammer sub-camp.
From here some of the prisoners were transferred to Gross Rosen and some to Buchenwald. 57 prisoners who were unable to march remained behind in the sick-bay of the sub-camp.
After several hours the Commander of the Gleiwitz IV sub-camp SS –Corporal Otto Latsch returned to the camp with Gustav Gunther, a member of the Todt Organisation. These two men set fire to the sick bay, with the 57 sick prisoners inside.
The prisoners who jump out of the windows of the burning building are shot to death by SS men. Only two prisoners Dabrowski and Rosenfeld, were able to save themselves, by hiding amongst their fallen comrades.
In the early morning hours 202 prisoners leave the Hubertushutte sub-camp under SS guard. Before being marched off the prisoners received bread and margarine. They are led through Chropaczow and Lipiny to Gleiwitz, where they arrived at around 3:00pm to join other columns of prisoners waiting for transport westward.
In the Hindenburg sub-camp SS- Supervisor Joanna Bormann ordered the women returning from work to prepare to leave, each woman is allowed to take a blanket and bread.
Approximately 470 female prisoners arrive in the Gleiwitz ll sub-camp in the evening on foot. Here they are loaded into open freight cars used to carry coal and brought to Gross Rosen. Because of over-crowding the prisoners cannot be accommodated and are transferred to Bergen-Belsen, in a journey that lasts two weeks.
833 prisoners begin the march from the Charlottengrube sub-camp, as with all the other columns, those who cannot keep up are shot, they spend the night in a farm near the Oder River.
The next day they are marched back to Rydultowy and on the 22 January to Wodzislaw, where they are loaded onto open freight cars and are transported to Mauthausen, along with other prisoners from Auschwitz.
The liquidation of the Althammer sub-camp and evacuation is personally supervised by Commandant Heinrich Schwartz of Monowitz. All prisoners able to march at around 10:00 am to Gleiwitz.
Approximately 150 prisoners remain behind, at around 4:00pm an SS division arrives in the Althammer sub-camp. The SS commander called for a prisoner roll call, selects a new Camp Senior, but this only is a short lived regime.
On the 25 January the SS leave the camp taking around a dozen prisoners with them, those who remained are guarded by local self-defence unit, until the Russians liberate the camp, among those liberated are Mieczyslaw Francuz, Alexander Gelermann and the Lejbisz brothers.
The Neustadt sub-camp is dissolved, the female prisoners were marched to Gross Rosen and from there to Bergen-Belsen. Approximately 1,000 prisoners were removed from the Furstengrube sub-camp, the evacuation being supervised by Camp Commander Max Schimdt. In the early morning hours the columns passed through Mikolow and joined the columns from Monowitz.
The journey from Mikolow to Gleiwitz a mere 15 miles takes 12 hours, in the evening the prisoners from Furstengrube and other sub-camps are accommodated in the Gleiwitz ll sub-camp.
In the evening the prisoners in the last column from Auschwitz – Birkenau and Jawischowitz stop in the village of Poremba and Brzeszcze. Some of the prisoners find shelter in barns, the remainder are forced to spend the night in the open air, at below zero temperatures
20 January 1945
At 6:00 am the columns of prisoners leave Poremba and Brzeszcze, the SS men search through the straw and hay piles in the sheds and barns. They shoot to death several prisoners who attempted to hide, but nevertheless 36 prisoners succeed in escaping from Poremba.
21 January 1945
The evacuation of the Golleschau sub-camp is completed, the last group of 96 sick and exhausted and 4 corpses are put in a freight car which is sealed and sent to the Freudenthal sub-camp in Czechoslovakia.
But on the 29 January 1945 the station supervisor at Zwittau informs the director Oskar Schindler (once of Krakow) of the munitions factory in Brussen- Brunnlitz that a wagon with Jewish prisoners has arrived at his station.
Schindler orders that the wagon be shunted to Brussen- Brunnlitz, where the frozen hinges and locks are opened by force. Half of the transport are no longer among the living, either they have starved or frozen to death. Schindler takes the survivors into his care, more than a dozen die after several days but the rest survive.
In the Gleiwitz sub –camps, prisoners from Auschwitz and other sub-camps wait to be transported farther. The prisoners are divided into several transport groups and taken to the ramp and are loaded into open freight cars and are taken to Buchenwald, Gross Rosen, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen.
The prisoners are evacuated from the Laurahutte sub-camp. On the railroad track near the foundry a train is prepared into which were the prisoners were loaded. The civilian personnel were evacuated in the same train.
During the trip through Silesia the train stopped in a forest near the train station in Rzedowka. Corpses in the typical striped prison clothing lie along the track. The prisoners are ordered by the escort unit to remove the striped clothing from the corpses, collect the scattered camp bowls, and load them into the train. The dead are probably prisoners from the Gunthergrube sub-camp.
The transport travels through Kattowitz, Mahrisch- Ostrava and Vienna. The trip lasts five days and nights, 134 prisoners die en route. Over 1,200 are led out of the Eintrachthutte sub-camp, they spend the night on the railroad platform waiting for a train in Schwientochlowitz to be made ready. Toward morning they were loaded into several cattle cars, whose floors were thick with animal feces.
A good dozen prisoners die during the journey to Mauthausen which lasts several days, arriving in the camp on the 29 January 1945.
Auschwitz – Political Department
Wilhelm Boger was born on the 19 December 1906 in Stuttgart- Zuffenhausen, the son of a local merchant who did not enjoy the best of reputations. Boger joined the National Socialist youth movement (later called the Hitler Youth) in 1922. Boger later recalled, “I was an old-timer in the Nazi movement.”
In the summer of 1925, after nine years of schooling and a three year apprenticeship in a business firm, he obtained a clerical job with the Stuttgart district office of the National German Commercial Employees Association.
Boger joined both the Nazi Party and the SA in 1929. Until the end of 1929 he was also a member of the Artaman League, an organisation that wished to substitute voluntary agricultural service for universal military service.
In the years following, Boger worked for a number of private business firms in Stuttgart, Dresden and Friedrichschafen. In 1930, while in Dresden he joined the SS.
Boger lost his job in the spring of 1932, a year later on 5 March 1933, as a member of the SS, he was called for duty in the auxiliary police of Friedrichschafen.
On 1 July 1933 he was transferred to the Stuttgart political emergency police corps and after another six weeks to the Württemberg political police, also at Stuttgart and in October 1933 to the offices of the Friedrichschafen political police.
He attended the police training school at Stuttgart between autumn 1936 and spring 1937, took the criminal police candidate examination and was appointed Kommissar in March 1937.
At the outbreak of the Second World War he was transferred to the state police office at Zichenau; after three weeks he was put in charge of setting up and supervising the border police station in Ostrolenka.
After a spell in a Gestapo prison in 1940 he was called up to the 2nd SS and Police Engineer reserve unit based in Dresden. After a brief training period, he was sent to the front and in March 1942 he was wounded.
In December 1942 he was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Boger served as an SS Staff Sergeant in the Political Department, this department was the representative of the RSHA in the camp and its chief responsibilities was keeping files on individual prisoners, the reception of prisoners, maintaining the security of the camp, combating resistance and conducting interrogations etc.
It was Wilhelm Boger who invented the “Boger swing” an instrument of torture which consisted of two upright beams, in which an iron pole was laid crosswise. Boger made the victim kneel, placed the iron pole across the backs of the knees, and then chained the victim’s hands to it.
Then he fastened the iron pole to the beams so that the victim hung with their head down and their buttocks up. In this way Boger wrung confessions out of his victims.
Josef Kral a Polish citizen arrested on 4 February 1940 in Vienna, was deported to Auschwitz in June 1941, and was interrogated by the Political Department in December 1942. He recalled at the Auschwitz trial in 1965:
“At first I didn’t know what it was all about. I was arrested in the basement of Block 17, a new building, brought to the Political Section, and left standing there in a hall.
I was taken into a room by Untersturmfuhrer Wosnitza and Grabner said, “At last we’ve got you. We’ll talk to you.” I saw Kirchner, Boger, Dylewski, and other SS men in the room.
They said, “We are not the Gestapo, we are not the criminal police, we are the Political Section. We don’t ask - we only listen. You yourself must know what you have to tell us.” At a signal from Grabner somebody knocked me unconscious.
At that point I saw Boger standing next to me. When I came to again I was lying in the hall. My ankles hurt badly, as if someone had kicked me. When I opened my eyes I saw Boger standing next to me. Later I was again interrogated together with my comrades in the presence of Security Service men from Berlin. Boger interrogated and mistreated the prisoners till they died.
First Janicki was put on the swing, and tied hand and foot. One SS man put him into proper positions and two others alternated hitting him. They simply made mincemeat out of Janicki. He was torn to bits.
Afterwards Boger threw him out into the corridor. After a while he moved his lips, it was obviously that he was thirsty, because he stuck out his tongue all the way. Boger went over to him and pushed his head around with his boot.”
Boger remained at Auschwitz until its evacuation, when he accompanied prisoners, when he accompanied prisoners being transported to Germany. Toward the end of the war he was to have gone to the front from Ravensbruck, but his unit disintegrated, and he succeeded in making his way to his parent’s home in Ludwigsburg.
On the 19 June 1945 he was arrested by the American Military police. He was to have been extradited to Poland on the 22 November 1946, but he managed to escape at Cham, which probably saved him from execution in Poland.
For about three years he lived in the vicinity of Crailsheim under an assumed name. In 1950 he took a job at an airplane factory in Zuffenhausen. On the 8 October 1958 he was arrested and charged with complicity in the crimes of Auschwitz.
Boger and ninetee other former members of the Auschwitz –Birkenau garrison were tried before a court in Frankfurt –am – Main 1964/65, the so-called Auschwitz Trial.
Frau Braun a witnesses for the prosecution against Boger had the following to say after the trial:
"I almost fainted the first time she entered the courtroom and saw Wilhelm Boger himself. During the questions meant to establish his identity, I came close to utter collapse, having to face this now old man in civilian clothes, who stared into me eyes with cold rage."
Frau Braun had been his private secretary and stenographer chosen to observe daily and take notes while he “interrogated” prisoners. SIt was her job to sit beside Boger daily, attending him not only in his office, but in that “chamber,” as we would term the place of torture.
Not all testimony at Bogers trial was as cut and dried, sever judges acknowledged that "the possibilities of verifying the witness declarations were very limited." This situation was underscored during the trial when former inmate Rudolf Kauer suddenly repudiated earlier statements about his one-time SS masters.
In pre-trial interrogation he claimed to have seen defendant Wilhelm Boger brutally beat a naked Polish woman with a horse whip, ripping off one breast and flooding a room with blood.
When asked to repeat his statement in court, Kauer admitted:
"I lied about that. That was just a yarn going around the camp. I never saw it ..."
Another claim that Boger had smashed an infant's skull against a tree trunk was also not true, he claimed. Although Boger was not liked, Kauer told the court, he was actually a just SS man.
The court did not agree with Kauers claims and Boger was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life and an additional five years hard labour.
- 19 December 1906 ~
A Former Prisoner Reenacts a Torture Method Used
Werkluftschutzplan, Oberschlesische Hydrierwerke Bautechnische Abteilung Vermessungsbüro Blechhammer o/s den 28 April 1944
- 28 April 1944