2 SS Bauzug
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Camp Commandant: SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Schäfer
In September 1944, 505 Polish and Russian prisoners were sent by train from Auschwitz to Karlsruhe train station in Germany with the primary task of forming a ‘moveable sub-camp’ that could attend to the immediate dangerous aftermath of bombing raids in the German towns and cities. Its primary base was in Karlsruhe but the train would be able to move to other locations when required. The prisoners had to work in highly dangerous conditions, helping civilians who were trapped in rubble from the bombing raids, often being killed themselves in the process. The prisoners were also on fire watch, extinguishing areas that were lit following bombing raids. The raids were frequent, especially as the town of Karlsruhe was frequently hit by allied bombing raids towards the end of 1944.
The prisoners lived in carriages that made a total of around 25 freight cars. Bunk beds were installed in the cars where prisoners slept and also in other cars for the SS guards. The train cars also served as a canteen, in which both prisoners and SS shared. This helped the prisoners organise better food to supplement the official rations that were equal to that at Birkenau. As the prisoners often worked in the town, this also provided opportunities to organise extra food.
In September, the sanitary conditions were extremely poor, to non-existent. The prisoners managed to persuade the SS to provide a makeshift bathhouse following a bout of typhus which was eventually controlled. This was also in the best interest of the SS who appealed to the higher administration to add another rail cart to the row of carriages. In addition, the prisoners were ordered to wash on a regular basis, particularly as they were living and eating in close proximity to the SS.
On or around October 10th, 1944, the sub-camp was placed under the administration of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and sent on to Stuttgart where it continued to provide additional help to the bombing raids there. Once in Stuttgart, the ‘camp’ was renamed 7-SS Eisenbahnbaubrigad.
The unit carried on working until April 1945 when the SS finally fled. The prisoners waited on the train to be liberated.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.