Location: Czechowice-Dziedzice, Poland
Camp Commandant: SS-Oberscharführer Wilhelm Edmund Clausse
On the 20th August 1944, a second sub-camp was established in Czechowice (Tschechowitz in German) that became known as Tschechowitz-Bombensucherkommando. The oil refinery in the town, as well as the well-used rail network became constant targets for bombing and an estimated 600 bombs were dropped on the area at the beginning of August alone. For this reason, around 100 prisoners from Auschwitz were sent to the area to undertake the incredibly dangerous task of manually removing those bombs that had not exploded.
Small groups of SS men, civilians and kapos would identify areas where bombs had formed a crater and send a team of prisoners to excavate the bomb for its safe destruction. The bombs could explode at any time so care and time was essential ingredients in the task. Sometimes, the removal of an unexploded bomb could take up to 8 hours.
70 prisoners were loaded on 2 trucks and sent to an old beer bottling plant near to the Czechowice Południowe railway station, where they would live and sleep whilst not working. The SS were houses in a building next door that was once a restaurant before the war.
The Commandant of the camp was SS-Oberscharführer Wilhelm Edmund Clausse. According to the testimony of prisoner Jeno Vamasi, Clausse gave a welcoming speech where he informed the prisoners they would have to work hard, or be killed. In return for their hard work, he would make sure they are well fed and be given extra incentives such as cigarettes and chocolate. Clausse also organised that each prisoner be given a large glass of beer on arrival.
Jewish prisoners from France, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary made up the working units, which eventually reached around 100. The German guards were often changed causing problems with the shift patterns of the prisoners. Due to the volumes of unexploded bombs to remove, the prisoners were supposed to work in 2 separate shifts, 24 hours each day. But sometimes this was not possible as guards were not available to watch over them. SS guards were replaced by the office of Tschechowitz Chief of Police as well as technicians from the Luftwaffe.
3 weeks after the camp had opened, the prisoners had dismantled and made safe 80 unexploded bombs. They were then sent back to the main camp and subsequently the sub-camp was shut down never to be re-opened.
Prisoners testified that the food was better than at Birkenau, which was unusual for the satellite camps where starvation was often worse in relation to the work undertaken by the prisoners.
Clausse testified to his time at the camp after the war but died in 1948 under Polish imprisonment. He noted that the work of the prisoners was extremely tiring and dangerous, and they were under the constant threat of death at any second.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.