Location: Czechowice-Dziedzice, Poland
Camp Commandant: Knoblik
In late September 1944, a transport of around 300 Polish Jews sent from the Łódź Ghetto were selected almost immediately at Birkenau to work at a new sub-camp named Tschechowitz-Vacuum. A further 300 Czech Jews followed a week later.
The primary labour function was the removal of debris from bombed structures and the rebuilding of key structures that had been badly destroyed in bombing raids. Prisoners may have also had to dispose and diffuse bombs without protection to.
A farm building, most likely a pigsty was partly constructed to house the prisoners at an old farm. Knoblik, an SS men became the camps Kommandant.
The prisoners were emaciated even as they began work at the camp, and were seen daily scavenging food from the rubbish heaps on their way to work. If the SS caught prisoners, they would be severely beaten and in one testimony, a prisoner was shot for accepting a small food parcel. However some civilian testimonies show that other SS guards were occasionally lenient and allowed this to happen.
'Sports' followed the working day, just as they did at the main camp of Auschwitz. The SS guards tormented the prisoners by making them exercise after roll call, but the punishments did not end there. SS guards would often come in to the barracks to continue the beatings randomly and even at work. If the prisoners were seen to work slowly, they were shot dead. One prisoner managed to escape from the camp but was quickly discovered hiding. He wasn't bought back to the camp, but shot dead in his hiding place, which was most likely a dyke entrance by the river close to the camp.
On January 20th, 1945, the sub-camp was disbanded and those who could walk were sent to Wodzisław Śląski where they met with thousands of other prisoners from Auschwitz before being herded on to cattle cars and sent into Germany. Many prisoners from Tschechowitz-Vacuum ended up in Buchenwald, but several hundreds died before they made it.
Those who were left at the sub-camp were killed by a squad that was specially sent to kill them. The prisoners who had a small amount of strength left were ordered to dig trenches. The SS then shot the weak prisoners dead and threw their bodies in the holes and set fire to them. 2 prisoners survived and were able to give testimony to what happened here.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.