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Janinagrube

Location: Obieżowa Colony in Libiąż, Poland
Camp Commandant: SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner, SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Kleemann, SS-Unterscharführer Rudolf Kamieniczny

The town of Libiąż Mały, was about 18 kilometres from Auschwitz. The Janina hard coal mine was on the town limits and actually changed name 3 times during the Nazi occupation: Janinagrube, Johannagrube and Gute Hoffmungsgrube. In 1943, IG Farbenindustrie acquired the mine in order to supply coal to its chemical factory in Monowitz.

A camp for British prisoners of war (POWs) occupied a site close to the mine, but productivity from the POWs was very low, SO IG Farbenindustrie pressed to have prisoners from Auschwitz sent to the camp. On July 16th, 1943, Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and IG Farbenindustrie representatives Durrfeld and Dullberg conducted an inspection and determined that 300 Auschwitz prisoners should replace the 150 British POWs initially and the camp would be expanded to accommodate 900 prisoners by the end of 1943.

The Auschwitz sub-camp Janinagrube was established on September 4th, 1943, when the first transport of approximately 300 prisoners arrived. The largest portion of the transport, about 250 people, consisted of Polish Jews brought to Auschwitz in August 27th and 28th, 1943, who received camp numbers 140,000 to 142,000. Polish and German prisoners also arrived in the transport. Several hundred more prisoners arrived in 1944, although the exact numbers are impossible to determine.


Read testimony of Zygmunt Szwajc about living and working in Janinagrube sub-camp.


Approximately 80% of Janinagrube's prisoners were Jews from France, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. The other 20% included Poles, Russians and Germans.

Some 250 prisoners of non-Jewish descent were taken away from Janinagrube in late 1944. They were moved to Monowitz and the to Birkenau, and they departed in evacuation transports. The prisoner population did not change significantly between November 1944 and January 1945, however, which indicates that the SS sent in Jewish prisoners to replace the non Jews they had evacuated.

One two level building from the mines Obieżowa housing camp was included in the sub-camp; approximately 400 prisoners lived in it. The sub-camp also had three living barracks, with 150-250 prisoners in each. The kitchen, camp hospital, washroom and latrine were in separate barracks. A double row of electrified barbed wire ringed the camp. An SS guardhouse stood next to the gate, and half of the ground floor in the Obieżowa housing camp building, which bordered on the camp fence, was allocated for living quarters for the SS men and their families.

A small group of prisoners, consisting of professional bricklayers, carpenters and metalworkers, which arrived at Janinagrube in the first transport on September 4th, 1943, went to work immediately to expand the sub-camp. It was known as the camp detachment.

With the camp detachment aside, all the other prisoners were assigned to work underground in the Janinagrube mine on September 6th, 1943. The prisoners were put to work in the Wiktor (Squad I and II), Aleksander (Squad III and IV), and Zygmunt (Squad V and VI) beds. Some prisoners also worked in the squad that timbered the mine galleries or as help in operating electrical and motorised machines. A few worked on the mine surface at what was called the 'yard', sorting the wood for timbering the mine galleries. At a later time, prisoners were also put to work in the machine repair shops and expanding the mines railway tracks.

The prisoners who worked underground operated in three shifts: 6:00am to 2:00pm, 2:00pm to 10:00pm and 10:00pm to 6:00am while mining and moving coal. They often stood up to their waste in water or lay in the galleries for hours at a time in places where they could not assume any other position. Their strength faded quickly because of the unhealthy working conditions, the lack of protective clothing or proper food, and abuse by the supervisors. According to prisoner accounts, four to six weeks was the longest one could do mining work, even if one avoided accidents, which were very common. Many prisoners suffered a variety of fractures and internal injuries. Losses were very great; most of the prisoners died, and those who did not were often found to be unfit for work during a selection at the sub-camps hospital which was effectively a death sentence, in the opinion of the prisoners.

In the autumn of 1944, 70 people were chose from the Janinagrube prisoners for a detachment called the arms detail (Wehrkommando). They worked at the mine's railroad siding located next to the Leśniowa housing camp. Railway cars loaded with such ammunition as mines, torpedoes and antitank grenades were rolled on to the siding, where prisoners reloaded the ammunition onto trucks. The ammunition was hauled to the forest detail (Waldkommando) located in the forest near Libiąż.

During the day, the prisoners received less than 8.8 ounces of bread, along with some margarine, jam or sausage, 1 quarter of black coffee and the same amount of soup made of potatoes, carrots or rutabaga. Sometimes noodles, beans or meat was added to the soup. Such food rations combined with the very hard mining labour, brought on a quick loss of strength and starvation.

The Janinagrube sub-camp hospital was in a separate barrack, where there was a hospital room for a dozen or so patients as well as a dispensary and facilities for dental assistance. Due to the large numbers of sick prisoners, the hospital suffered a constant lack of drugs. besides illness cause by mining accidents, the most frequent encountered diseases were swelling from starvation, tuberculosis or typhus. Despite their sickness, some prisoners did not report to the hospital because of the selections  conducted among patients. Prisoners who were selected were taken to Monowitz or Birkenau by truck transport. Once a week, the bodies of dead prisoners were also taken to Auschwitz.

The commandants of the Janinagrube sub-camp were SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner, from September 1943 to March 1944, SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Kleemann, March to September 1944 and SS-Unterscharführer Rudolf Kamieniczny, from September 1944 to January 1945. The guards were SS men from the Third Guard Company under the Monowitz guard battalion, there was a total of 50 SS men at the sub-camp.

There were 857 prisoners at the last roll call at the Janinagrube sub-camp on January 17th, 1945. The next day, approximately 800 prisoners were escorted out of the sub-camp on a journey on foot to the Gross Rosen camp. The march lasted about 18 days. According to sub-camp doctor Orlik, approximately 200 prisoners reached Gross Rosen in a state of extreme exhaustion.

Approximately 60 seriously ill prisoners who were not evacuated remained at the Janinagrube sub-camp. Beginning with liberation day, January 25th, 1945, the people of Libiąż gave help to the surviving prisoners.

Janinagrube the sub-camp of Auschwitz
Remains of a prisoner barrack converted into a garden shed on the grounds of the former sub-camp. The Janina mine can be seen in the background
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.