A new online lesson about the history of the subcamps system of the Auschwitz camp
A new online lesson of the Museum is devoted to the history of subcamps of the Auschwitz camp complex. It was created by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, the head of the Museum Research Center.
In the system of German concentration camps, work of prisoners was an integral part of their camp existence. Every prisoner had to work. Their usefulness in performing the tasks assigned to them, usually far beyond their strength and health, determined their further fate and even their lives. In the early days of Auschwitz, there were no plans for the development of sub-camps. It was only later, as the camp expanded, that the need emerged to house individual prisoner work groups at their work sites.
‘Also, during the initial period of the existence of Auschwitz concentration camp, the SS authorities did not provide permanent accommodation for the separated working units outside the camp. At that time, the prisoners worked either in the camp itself and constructed new residential blocks, or in the area directly adjacent to it: in workshop barracks, warehouses, and unloading wagons on the nearby railway site,’ one reads in the lesson.
‘It was only since the end of 1940 that prisoner commands were gradually deployed to more remote locations: to demolish houses belonging to Poles from the suburbs of Zasole, later synagogues and other houses in the right-bank part of Oświęcim, to do road construction, strengthen flood embankments, or they were sometimes also sent to a municipal slaughterhouse, sawmills, etc. However, all these activities did not require prisoners to be transferred to the area for a longer period of time; they usually stayed there for the night in isolated, guarded accommodation,’ wrote Dr. Setkiewicz.
This had become necessary as at the end of 1940 the idea developed that the SS should use land confiscated from Poles within the so-called "Interest zone of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp” (Interessengebiet des KL Auschwitz).
‘In the lesson, we present a clear division of the subcamps according to their nature,’ said Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka, head of E-learning at the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz Museum. ‘Thus, discussed separately are the agricultural, forestry, and industrial sub-camps, along with the special role of the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp, as well as others, such as the SS Bauzug/Eisenbahnbaubrigade, formed in September 1944, a so-called mobile sub-camp that dealt with clearing streets and factory buildings in bombed German cities,’ Juskowiak-Sawicka added.
The lesson also tells about the living and working conditions of prisoners in the subcamps, as well as the situation at the time of the evacuation of the Auschwitz camp complex.
‘The subcamps' prisoners moved to escape marches or joined the others marching from the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps in the direction of Wodzisław Śląski or prisoners crossing through the city of Mikołów to Gliwice. In the best scenario there were prisoners from subcamps in the Czech Republic, who were not evacuated at all, and where, like in the case of the subcamps in Gliwice, direct rail transport was possible. Thousands of prisoners from the Neu-Dachs subcamp in Jaworzno experienced tormenting torture, as they had to walk through Chorzów, Bytom, Gliwice to the Blecchhammer subcamp, and from there to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp,’ one reads in the lesson.
‘The subcamps of Auschwitz’ online lesson is available in English and Polish.