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Lichtewerden

Location: Světlá Hora, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; today Czech Republic

The Lichtewerden sub-camp was established on November 11th, 1944, at the thread factory in the village of Světlá Hora, near Bruntál, now Czech Republic. The factory belonged to the Gustav Adolf Buhl and Sohn textile firm. Buhl and Sohn planned to use labour of Jewish women, among them Poles who had been put in forced labour camps as well as prisoners from Gross Rosen and Auschwitz, starting in the Autumn of 1944. The Auschwitz prisoners were put to work at the thread factory in Světlá Hora.

A selection of Jewish women took place on November 9th, 1944, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau women's camp. A group of 300 women were selected, bathed and given camp numbers that were tattooed on their arms and then sent on to the camp in Lichtewerden on November 11th. The new sub-camp, like others being established at industrial facilities, became under the administration of Auschwitz III Monowitz. According to the accounts of prisoners who were in the selected group, SS men conducted the selection. One of them with the rank of SS Oberscharführer, later the commandant of the Lichtewerden camp, looked at all the women's hands during the selection and picked those whose hands were tough from work. Polish Jews predominated among the women moved to Lichtewerden, but there were also Czechs and Slovaks selected. That was both the first and last transport sent to this sub-camp. The sub-camps buildings consisted of four wooden barracks painted green, including two accommodation barracks, a kitchen and a washroom. The accommodation barracks for the prisoners contained the three-decker bunks and were divided into rooms holding 32 women each. There were stoves in the rooms, but the SS staff would beat any prisoners who tried to use them. Instead of striped uniforms, the prisoners wore civilian clothing marked lengthwise down the back with a stripe of red oil paint.


Read testimony of Celina Hochberger-Strauchen about living and working in Lichtewerden sub-camp.


In the washroom, the prisoners could use the cold running water; sometimes warm water was even available. They were issued soap in small quantities. The living and sanitary conditions were considerably better here in comparison to the camp at Birkenau. A dispensary was also established for the prisoners in the camp, as well as an infirmary where a doctor and a burse selected from the prisoners were put to work.

The camp was fenced with barbed wire and had four watchtowers in which SS men kept guard all day through. These were Wehrmacht soldiers who had been removed from service at the front due to their age or incapacity to serve on the front lines. They were incorporated into the SS after only a few weeks of training, something quite common at this stage of the war to increase active numbers in the ranks. Unfortunately, no records of any of the SS staff survived but it is known that 16 SS guards and 4 women supervisors were amongst the staff at the camp. The women called the camp commandant, who was disabled with one eye, 'Schnauze' as he used that word the most often in his communications with them. The prisoners all described him as a ruthless sadist, a simpleton and a brute. He would often beat them and threaten to send them back to Birkenau for the smallest of offenses or just for no reason at all. He always walked with a cane. An SS man with the forst name of Martin was his assistant throughout, who in contrast, was described as a harmless elderly old man. Out of the 4 women overseers, one of them named Maria, had a bad reputation. However, Luiza, also one of the overseers had been described as quite the opposite. She defended the prisoners against the SS personnel.

The prisoners would leave for work in a tight group under the escort of SS men after the morning roll call. They returned from work the same way. A small group of women worked inside the camp in the kitchen, infirmary or cleaning the sub-camp areas. Work at the factory lasted from 6:00am to either 4:00 or 6:00pm. In the factory facilities, they worked at the same workstations with Czech female civilian employees. These civilian workers supervised the prisoners' work but otherwise were prohibited from communicating with them. The camp escort purposely misled the factory staff saying that the prisoners were common criminals. Therefore, their attitude towards the prisoners was rather indifferent. There were sporadic instances of furtively leaving some food or newspapers, especially towards the end of the war, when discipline started to break down from the SS men dealing with the prisoners.

Some of the prisoners were put to work on the yarn-winding machinery; others worked in the linen spinning mill, where the labour was especially hard, as the dust hovering in the air made breathing difficult. Those who were put to work weighing and delivering 50 kilogram cotton bales at the respective workstations had equally hard labour. Some prisoners received serious injuries while operating the machinery and the camp commandant treated every on-the-job accident as sabotage. There were also instances of hungry, exhausted prisoners fainting at work, as the hunger in the camp kept growing from month to month. Meals were only issued twice each day in the camp; the morning and evening after work. The prisoners got about one seventh of a kilogram of bread per day, plus a cup of unsweetened black coffee, and some soup made of rotten vegetables or potato peels in the evening. The factory management provided the camp with some food rations for the prisoners working at the factory but they were often stolen by the camps German personnel.

On May 6th, 1945, the entire SS staff left the camp, headed by the commandant. Two days later, the Russians entered Lichtewerden, liberating the 300 prisoners that were left.

Lichtewerden the sub-camp of Auschwitz
The former house for SS men, now used as flats for private owners
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

 

Sources

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.