Location: Łagisza, today Będzin-Łagisza, Poland
Camp Commandants: SS-Rottenführer Karl Masseli, SS-Unterscharführer Horst Czerwiński
The town of Łagisza (Lagischa) is approximately 2.5 kilometres north of Będzin and approximately 40 kilometres north-west of Auschwitz. In 1941, The German company Energie-Versorgung Oberschlesien (EVO) began the site preparation work for the construction of a power plant named the Walter with a project output of 300 megawatts.
After fencing the site of the future project, the Klotz and Haga companies, using local inhabitants who had been assigned to work for them, started building living barracks for the future staff. Part of the barracks complex was set apart from the rest of the barracks by a double barbed wire fence running along concrete posts. Several brick barracks were put inside, some of the were for the camp inhabitants, while some were used as storehouses. Watchtowers were put up along the fence. This is roughly how the camp looked when a group of Jews were put there at the turn of the year from 1941 to 1942.
The date when the sub-camp was formed, can be established based on an invoice that the camp employment office issued to the Lagischa power plant management in September 1943. It shows that the first 302 prisoners were put to work building the plant on September 10th. However, since the previous day had been a Sunday, and September 8th was entered in one of the few surviving records of a Lagischa prisoner as the transfer date, we ought to assume that the sub-camp was formed on that day.
The aforementioned invoice and subsequent ones show that the Walter Power Plant paid 4 Reichsmark (RM) for a day’s work by a skilled workman and 3 RM for a helper. In October, the number of prisoners put to work was at a level similar to that of September, but it rose to over 500 in early November, which proves that another transport or transports arrived at Lagischa. But considering the fact that at other Auschwitz sub-camps the actual prisoner population was approximately 20% greater than the number of those put to work (more or less 10% of prisoners worked inside the sub-camp, and up to 10% were sick) it is probably safe to assume that there were 600 prisoners in Lagischa in late 1943.
Among the several dozen prisoners with entries surviving in camp records, the most names that appear are those of Polish and French Jews; there were also Poles and Russians in the camp. There is similar information about the ethnic makeup of the Lagischa prisoners in the accounts of former prisoners. Polish labourers and local residents were employed building the power plant. Former prisoners’ accounts indicate that a Pole, Jerzy Jackowski, held the position of cap elder; the kitchen Kapo was Stanisław Łapiński, and the chief of the camp infirmary was a German called Hans Bock.
There were 8 barracks inside the camp fence, of which 4 were used as quarters for the prisoners, 1 housed the cap infirmary, and the other 3 served as warehouses and office and utility space. A large water reservoir, used as a water supply for firefighting, was dug next to the infirmary near the assembly ground. Outside the fence near the gate was the SS guardhouse and living barracks for the SS men.
The prisoners slept on triple-decker bunks with straw mattresses. Meals were initially provided by the kitchen for civilian labourers, which was located on the power plant construction site, and later meal were cooked in facilities at the sub-camp premises. The prisoners have described the food as inadequate, and according to their accounts, it was even worse in quality and less in quantity than food issued in other parts of Auschwitz.
The prisoners were put to work at hard physical labour: building a railway siding leading to the site of the future power plant, demolishing houses and farm buildings, digging ditches and unloading machine parts and building materials. The work lasted 11 hours each day from 6:00am to 6:00pm with 1 hour for lunch break.
The prisoners were treated with extreme cruelty by the SS guards - often they repeatedly describe scenes of prisoner abuse, beating them with bats or rifle butts, chasing them into the firefighting reservoir and pushing anyone who tried to get back out, back in.
Surviving records show a successful escape of 3 Russian prisoners on June 1st, 1944, and on 23rd September of the same year, 2 Polish prisoners escaped.
As time went on, the camps population decreased as prisoners were sent back to the hospital at the main camp and probably at Monowitz. There were 477 prisoners at the camp on January 20th, 1944 and 409 a month later. In August, there were 725 prisoners in total.
In September 1944, the prisoners were transferred to Sosnowitz and then to the Neu-Dachs Sub-Camp in Jaworzno, although some were sent back to the main camp at Auschwitz I.
A small group of prisoners may have remained in the camp until January 1945, although no existing camp records can confirm this.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.