The Auschwitz Study Group has been researching the Auschwitz sub-camp system and the locations they inhabited since 2010. Not all documents survived the war so finding many of the locations has taken several years. In some cases, towns have independently marked the existence of the sub-camp with a small plaque on a building, or in the town. However, the area of commemoration does not always represent the correct location of the camp. Therefore, where records do not exist, we have worked with the local communities, local museums, independent historians and used the testimonies from the Auschwitz archives to present the most accurate geographical locations of the sub-camp system to date. As our website grows, we are adding more information to this section including testimonies and sources. In most cases, we refer to locations in their post war border names, and often use Polish names for towns unless we are quoting testimonies. We are also using contemporary pictures to show how these sites look today, a symbolic action to represent an incredibly important part of the history of Auschwitz and how these sites have largely been forgotten.
The field research was carried out by the Auschwitz Study Group between 2010-2018.
The Formation of the Sub-Camps
Auschwitz expanded as a result of economic decisions that changed how the camp complex would operate. SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the creation of agricultural and industrial plants in the vicinity of the camps towns and villages, thus meaning Auschwitz would have to be extended to accommodate the immediate increase of prisoners.
Small networks of branches under the Auschwitz Administration were soon built that became known as sub-camps. The first such places were within the interest zone of Auschwitz in villages such as Babice, Brzezinka, Budy, Harmęże, Pławy and Rajsko. Some camps such as Pławy, Brzezinka and Harmęże were within walking distance from Birkenau. Budy and Rajsko were a few kilometres further away.
Nevertheless, it was decided over time to ‘house’ prisoners at their place of work. One reason for this was the fatigued state of the prisoners on arrival at work who had to march up to 15km in all weathers wearing just wooden clogs and thin striped uniforms. Commandants of the sub-camps were put in place, however they still fell under the administration of Auschwitz.
Other sub-camps in the industrial areas of Upper Silesia soon followed in towns where industry and transport networks already existed. Prisoners from Auschwitz were assigned to build camps around these plants where they would be housed.
Teams of prisoners, some of whom selected for their related skill sets would then be transferred to the industrial sub-camps to work in places such as coal mines, oil refineries, munitions factories and within cement manufacture.
Many of these sub-camps were permanent and stayed in operation until evacuation in early 1945. Some camps were of a more temporary nature. Work details such as forestry, building renovation, demolition or railway extension were established in the same way as the agricultural and industrial plants.
In the Polish village of Monowice, the camp known as Auschwitz III Monowitz was established. This became known as the largest sub-camp of Auschwitz and went on to house over 10,000 prisoners. In 1943, there was a change of administration. The camp of Auschwitz maintained control of the agricultural sub-camps whilst the administration of Monowitz (Auschwitz III) managed the industrial plants in the Upper Silesia areas.
In 1944, it is estimated that over 41,500 prisoners worked in the sub-camp system in over 45 locations. With some exceptions, living conditions would be generally better than in Birkenau but food rations were still at a starvation level. It was possible that prisoners working on the SS farms had opportunities to get extra food which helped their survival chances. However, the penalty for taking food that was not issued as part of the rations was death.
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