Other names for the camp: Sośnica, Gleiwitz Oehringen
Location: Sośnica near Gliwice, Poland
Camp Commandant: SS-Oberscharführer Franz Hössler
On the July 10th, 1940, around 30 prisoners were sent from Auschwitz to Sośnica just outside of Gliwice to scavenge materials for improving the security at the main camp. The prisoners were sent to an old POW camp where Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss had identified badly needed materials to improve the security fences around the old Polish army barracks that would eventually become the main camp of Auschwitz.
The camp was named ‘Sosnitz’, the German name for the town. It was also the first sub-camp in the history of Auschwitz, however some testimonies found in the Auschwitz archives suggest that a forestry commando may have existed at the same time, working towards the same purpose of extracting materials.
The prisoners lived and worked on the site and at night, they had to sleep in a bunker filled partly with water. The barbed wire had to be carefully removed which was a long and tiring job. It was wound back and retracted back on to spools and sent back to Auschwitz. Metal rods, or rebars that are used to strengthen concrete posts and bunkers were extracted from fortified parts of the camp. So the prisoners had to smash the concrete that surrounded them to get to the metal. The bars would be useful when assembling the first permanent fence around the camp back in Oświęcim, which up until then was only temporary and completely inadequate.
Höss mentions the time in his memoirs:
Yet I still could not lay my hands on a hundred yards of barbed wire. There were mountains of it in the Engineer Depot at Gleiwitz. But I could not touch it without first getting authority to have it decontrolled from the Senior Engineer staff in Berlin. The Inspectorate of Concentration Camps refused to help in this matter. So the urgently needed barbed wire just had to be pilfered. Wherever I found old field fortifications I ordered them to be dismantled and the pillboxes broken up, and thus I acquired the steel they contained. Whenever I came across installations containing material I urgently needed, I simply had it taken away at once without worrying about the formalities. I had to help myself.
The location of the dismantled POW camp was just west of the Wagenwerk (rail road repair and maintenance factory that was eventually taken over by the Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk) (RAW). The same location became the working site of the Gleiwitz I sub-camp 4 years later. The site of the dismantled POW camp became ‘camp E22 Gleiwitz Oehringen’, and today is a railway junction known as Gliwice-Sośnica.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.