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The transit camps for German POWs and Polish citizens

In April-May 1945 at the latest, the Soviet military authorities established transit camps at the sites of the Auschwitz main camp and Birkenau for German POWs and for Polish citizens of Upper Silesia, Bielsko, Biała, and the vicinity who had signed the volksliste [declaration of German ethnicity] during the occupation. The State Bureau for Public Security (Państwowy Urząd Bezpieczeństwa Publicznego – PUBP) participated in administering the camps for Poles. The transit camp in the main camp probably existed until the fall of 1945, and the one in Birkenau until the following spring. One other camp existed in the buildings that had formerly made up the Gemeinschaftslager, a camp for conscript laborers employed by German construction firms. That camp opened in the early spring of 1945, and was transferred to Jaworzno in May of the following year. The PUBP headquarters occupied three blocks, and persons suspected of disloyalty to the Polish state were held in five wooden barracks.

The POWs and civilians held in these three camps were used for groundskeeping work, the dismantling of wooden barracks, and above all for disassembling the equipment and installations in the former IG Farben plant in Dwory. This equipment was next shipped to the Soviet Union. There were Poles from Upper Silesia who had been conscripted under duress by the Wehrmacht among the German POWs. The internees also included Poles detained by the Soviets during “mopping up operations behind the front lines” in the Bielsko, Biała, Rybnik, and Racibórz areas, and others suspected of opposition to the new political order. In August and September 1945, the Soviets freed some of the Poles interned in the camps.