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Sonderkommando Kattowitz

Location: Katowice, Poland

In late 1943 and early 1944, Katowice (Kattowitz under German occupation) was under heavy bombing from the allied forces. The industrial town had many armament targets and coal mines surrounding the city, but also a strong German presence, not least the Gestapo.

In January 1944, the Zuber company, under the orders of the Gestapo unit in Kattowitz required 10 prisoners from Auschwitz to construct and reinforce air raid shelters and barracks for the Gestapo. The majority of the work required excavating existing buildings creating underground level shelters. An air raid bunker underneath the Gestapo headquarters in Kattowitz became one of the largest projects, and was also the area close to where prisoners lived. The original building occupied the pre-war Savoy hotel in the center of the town before being moved several hundred feet further down the road to Powstańców Street. The prisoners carried out most of the menial tasks and supported civilian workers employed by the Zuber company. The prisoners also had to remove unexploded bombs from the town, excavating them from marshy lands under the immediate threat of death at any time.

Read testimony of Jerzy Wehle about living and working in Sonderkommando Kattowitz.

The basement areas of the Gestapo headquarters were often used to keep those arrested before being sent to Auschwitz. The stairs that lead down to the basements were quite often covered in blood stains. The task of the Sonderkommando was also to clean up the blood and mess from those killed by the Gestapo under interrogation. On occasions, those under arrest would commit suicide, sometimes jumping from the higher floors of the building. 

The work in Kattowitz lasted the entire year of 1944 and the prisoners were only evacuated in January 1945 due to the proximity of the Red Army.

Sonderkommando Kattowitz the sub-camp of Auschwitz
An air raid shelter built underneath one of the Gestapo buildings recently converted into a wine bar and now a pub
Photo by Michael Challoner ©


Sonderkommando Kattowitz

Location: Schaffgotsch Palace, Kopice, Grodków and Kłodzko, Poland

Instead of joining the death marches to the west, the prisoners were still required to work for the Gestapo which meant that the planned execution of the commando was halted. All of the cities files from the Gestapo headquarters were to be evacuated on January 31st, 1945, along with the prisoners to a ruined castle in the Polish village of Kopice in south-western Poland close to Grodków. The ruined castle, although exposed in several parts was unoccupied and offered several utility buildings that were perfect to store the evacuated files. The area of the castle was surrounded by fields and made it easier to protect. It is not known how long the prisoners were kept here upon arrival before being sent further west to Kłodzko. 

Sonderkommando Kattowitz the sub-camp of Auschwitz
The ruined castle in the Polish village of Kopice where the Gestapo files were sent to
Photo by Michael Challoner ©



Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.

For further contemporary pictures or additional information on this sub-camp, please email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.