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Neu-Dachs

Location: Jaworzno, Poland
Camp Commandant: SS-Obersturmführer Bruno Pfütze

The Germans established the Neu-Dachs sub-camp on June 15th, 1943, in Jaworzno. The German company Energie.Versorgung Oberschlesien AG (EVO) initiated the sub-camps establishment in order to put Auschwitz prisoners to work in Jaworzno's hard coal mines and building a thermal power plant. The first group of 100 prisoners arrived in Jaworzno on June 15th, 1943. Over the next six months, the population grew to about 2,000, and a year later, on January 1945, shortly before the evacuation, there were 3,664 prisoners there. This was 1,500 more prisoners than the Germans estimated at the beginning. That growth came about because EVO kept asking for more prisoners. The decided majority of prisoners were Jews from all over Europe. Poles constituted the majority of non-Jews.

The living conditions, clothing and food in the camp were no different from those at Auschwitz. Prisoners often would not get new clothes in exchange for worn out clothing. The mines assigned leather or rubber shoes and overalls to some prisoners who worked in flooded places, but these were never repaired. Prisoners received neither helmets nor rubber capes, which civilian workers had. Besides the camp food, the mines provided prisoners classified as hard labourers with a bowl of meatless soup during work, to increase work output. For good work, prisoners also received 10 cigarettes each from the mines companies, plus vouchers worth 1 to 4 Reichsmarks (RM) for use in the camp canteen. However, the camp canteen did not have what the prisoners most needed - food - and the companies distributed the vouchers in small quantities, so there was little real incentive to work harder. The SS authorities kept drawing attention to the small amount of vouchers being allotted and called on the mines companies to increase them, most likely out of concern for the SS canteen's profits rather than the prisoner's welfare.

The sub-camp was an independent administrative and management unit; it had its own kitchen, hospital, clothing warehouses, food warehouses, laundry, workshops, baths and delousing facilities. Clothes, food – except for bread, which was supplied locally in Jaworzno – medicine, and other materials were provided from the Auschwitz central warehouses.


Read testimony of Włodzisław Smigielski about living and working in Neu-Dachs sub-camp.


The sub-camp was under the command of Auschwitz I until November 21st, 1943, after which it became subordinate to Auschwitz III Monowitz. SS-Obersturmführer Bruno Pfütze was the sub-camp's commandant. The guard staff was composed of around 200 to 300 SS men who belonged to the Monowitz 4th Guard Company.

Jaworzno's Rudolfgrube, Dachgrube, and Friedrich-Augustgrube hard coal mines and the Wilhelm power plant were the prisoners chief places of work. Prisoners worked in three shifts, with only one Sunday per month off. Prisoners compromised approximately 60% of the staff at the Jaworzno mines, with the rest of the staff mainly Polish workers.

The prisoners marched to work under SS escort, fastened to metal bars that they had to hold with their bare hands, even in the coldest weather. To entertain themselves before sending the prisoners underground, the SS men would throw them cigarettes , then set their dogs on them. 30 prisoners were packed into elevators designed for 8 persons. Once underground, the prisoners were divided up into groups of several men each assigned to civilian workers who were responsible for their output. In the mines, the prisoners did almost every job possible; excavating coal, loading it onto carts, conveying it, digging new galleries, deepening shafts and so on. For the malnourished prisoners, it was work that exceeded their physical capabilities. 

Some prisoners were hired out from EVO, which was the main employer, to various construction companies, large and small. For instance, the Breitenbach-Montanbau company employed several dozen prisoners to build a railroad siding for the Dachs mine. Quite a large group of prisoners worked building the new Richardgrube mine.

After they returned from work, the prisoners were also forced to perform carious clean-up jobs in the camp. Brutal discipline was the preferred method for maintaining high output. Some of the German min foreman would beat prisoners severely - sometimes fatally - for taking a moments break from work. Especially after meetings of the SA to which most of the foreman belonged, they would go underground and abuse the prisoners on any pretext. Eventually, the sub-camp commandant intervened; in a special letter he notified the management of Jaworzno's mines that regardless of their position, all civilian workers were prohibited from beating prisoners. 

In order to tighten discipline and step up work output, on June 28th, 1944, mine inspector Bergmann asked the sub-camp commandant Pfütze to replace Jewish prisoner foreman with Aryan ones, which, as he stated bought the desired results.

Besides summary on the spot beatings, prisoners also received so called regulation punishments such as flogging and confinement in a standing cell. A Polish prisoner was locked in the standing cell for 13 nights for having bought into camp a package with food and medicine, which he had secretly received from a prisoner's wife. Juda Kalvo, a Jew, was punished by flogging  for having exchanged his two gold teeth for 5 kilograms of bread. Long roll calls each morning and evening, which sometimes lasted up to two hours, added to the suffering, especially in winter. If the SS found that someone had escaped, the punitive roll calls could last 12 hours or more.

A hospital and dentist's office were set up in the sub-camp for the sick and disabled prisoners. There were 3 wards: internal medicine, surgery and diarrhoea. The Jewish prisoner doctors wanted to help the patients, but a lack of basic drugs that was all too common in the sub-camp system hindered their efforts. They mainly treated people with aspirin and carbon, used disinfectants, and bandaged wounds. The hospital was only intended for those who were seriously ill. SS doctors (including Horst Fischer from the Monowitz hospital) selected the rest to go to the Auschwitz hospital or straight to the gas chambers. For example, a surviving list of selected prisoners dated January 18th, 1944, shows 247 prisoners who were taken away to Birkenau and killed.

Some Polish workers took the risk of aiding them by sharing food and helping to organise escapes, some of which were successful. The risks were substantial. Głowacz, a miner from the Rudolf mine, was arrested for supplying bread to the prisoners. He was taken away to the Auschwitz concentration camp and died in a few weeks. The Jewish prisoners who had helped him was tortured to death. One escape ended tragically when the SS arrested 30 prisoners for treason after they tried to get out of the camp through a tunnel. After an investigation held at the Auschwitz I camp, the SS hanged 19 prisoners at the sub-camp on December 6th, 1943 and sent 7 to a penal company.

The SS began shutting down the camp in January 1945. On January 17th, 1945, 3,200 prisoners were marched out via Mysłowice towards the Auschwitz sub-camp of Blechammer. The prisoners reached it after three days of marching in sever cold and snow. Many of those who could not keep up with the columns were shot along the way. The prisoners stayed at Blechammer for one day and then herded to Gross Rosen, then by train to Buchenwald. Russian forces liberated the 400 seriously ill prisoners who remained in the camp on January 19th, 1945.

Neu-Dachs the sub-camp of Auschwitz
A section of the prison wall by the Neu-Dachs sub-camp
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

 

Sources

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

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