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The British Victims of Auschwitz


The Auschwitz Preservation Society has commemorated British POWs who perished during American air raids on the IG Farben factory where they performed slave labor for the German company. The memorial plaque hangs on the wall of the parish cemetery in Oświęcim.

Thirty-eight Britons died when a bomb hit the shelter where they had taken refuge during an air raid on August 20, 1944. The Britons were buried alongside German soldiers in the local cemetery. During the next air raid, on September 13, a bomb hit the grave where the Britons had been buried.

The plaque, paid for by private sponsors, was unveiled on September 4, 2004 during a ceremony attended by the UK military attaché in Poland and the vice-mayor of the city of Oświęcim.

(see Gazeta Krakowska - pw, August 30, 2004)

British POWs at IG Farben

When the supply of concentration camp prisoners to Monowice was stopped in the summer of 1942, plant management looked around for other POWs to labor there. In September, general plenipotentiary for employment Fritz Sauckel assured them that, from among the 5,000 POWs being sent to construction sites in Upper Silesia, 2,000 would be allocated to Oświęcim. For unknown reasons, this pledge was never fulfilled.

The following year, IG Farben took over the Janina coal mine in Libiaż, where 150 British POWs labored. The Britons were quartered in a small camp known as Kommando E 562, Stalag VIII B. Management at the coal mine looked upon the Britons as unwilling workers. The Britons were generally regarded as having significantly lower productivity than average while demanding the same privileges as those accorded to German workers. The same situation was reported at other companies utilizing British POW labor in the eastern part of Upper Silesia. The management at one coal mine summarized things thusly: “The English deliberately work more slowly, and sometimes state with utter frankness that they have no intention of mining coal that will be converted to aviation fuel and used against their countrymen.”...

Photo: British POWs in camp VI - Pulvertum. Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Oświęcim
Photo: British POWs...