Location: Harmęże near Oświęcim, Poland
Camp Commandants: SS-Untersharführer Bernhard Glaue, SS-Rottenführer Xaver Franz Eidenschinkt, Marie Rendel (commandant of the female prisoners)
In November 1940, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler decided to create an SS estate around the camp creating farms for raising food, animals and fish. To implement this plan, many Poles in the area had to be forcibly driven out. There were many ponds in the area of Harmęże and in Bór that made this an ideal landscape for the plan to work. Himmler issued orders on March 1st, 1941, and the SS soon began to establish the first of these farms in the zone of interest (39 square-kilometres) by December 1941 on the site of the village of Harmęże. They evacuated the area in the mid April.
The land in the village totalled 286 hectares and was incorporated into the farm, as were the farm equipment and animals confiscated. The first recorded establishment here was a poultry farm called Geflügelfarm Harmense. At this point in time, it was not a sub-camp as the dozen or so prisoners assigned to work here were marched each day from the main camp of Birkenau some 25 minutes to the west of camp 1. They demolished old buildings, levelled the site and built new facilities from what materials they could salvage or other materials bought from the main camp.
By September 1941, the Harmense detachment totalled 50 prisoner, 6 Germans, 4 prisoner foremen and 44 Poles. Some of them were put to work raising purebred poultry as well as rabbits, nutrias and fish. Other workers continued working on the farms structures and expansion. Since the prisoners employed at Harmense had to cover over 6 kilometres each way every day, and since winter was approaching and the days growing shorter, the camp authorities decided to move the detachment to Harmęże permanently. The move was carried out on December 8th, 1941, and so the sub-camp was therefore established.
The original group of prisoners, as well as women prisoners who arrived from Auschwitz-Birkenau in June 1942, lived in farmhouses and the former schoolhouse. Living conditions varied somewhat from building to building but in general were better than the main camp. Sanitary arrangements were primitive and most of the buildings had no plumbing but in terms of food, the prisoners were relatively fortunate. Lunch came from the main camp, whilst breakfast and supper were prepared on site. The detachment that worked on the fish farm also received an extra ration twice a week, for example, one loaf of bread for eight prisoners plus a piece of horse sausage, jam or cheese. Most important was the prisoners work gave them opportunities to organise additional food from the farm.
The farm administration divided the prisoners into four detachments, farm, poultry, a rabbit farm and a fish farm. A prisoner foreman then supervised each detachment.
In 1941, human ashes from the crematorium at Auschwitz I were dumped into the ponds where the fish farming was implemented.
With such extensive animal breeding, Harmense's male and prisoners that totalled 106 people by March 1944 were unable to operate the entire farm so additional work detachments were often drafted in to help on a day to day basis from Auschwitz 1. SS-Untersharführer Bernhard Glaue, was the commandant of the sub-camp as well as the farm itself until April 1943 when he transferred to the Budy male camp. SS-Rottenführer Xaver Franz Eidenschinkt became commandant shortly afterwards, probably on April 13th. Marie Rendel was in charge of the women labour.
A total of two escapes from the Harmense camp were recorded, both organised by Polish prisoners. On May 16th, 1942, two male prisoners successfully escaped. Three male prisoners escaped on March 8th, 1943 but in that instance they were all caught and killed.
In the late summer of 1943, the men from Harmense were moved to the nearby sub-camp in Budy, from where they continued to work in Harmense under escort. The women remained until evacuation. On January 18th, 1945, the women prisoners and those from the Birkenau camp just 15 minutes or so to the north, were evacuated on foot to Wodzisław Śląski and then on to Bergen-Belsen in cattle cars. The poultry hatchery was also loaded on to carts and sent to Ravensbrück with several female prisoners.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.