Location: Świętochłowice, Poland
Camp commandants: SS-Hauptscharführer Josef Remmele, SS-Hauptscharführer Wilhelm Gehring
Number of prisoners: around 1374
Employers in charge:OSMAG (Ost-Maschinenbau GmbH), Firma Grün u. Bilfinger, Firma Holzmann-Posen, Königshütter Metallwerke
Dates of camp's existence: from May 1943 until 23rd January 1945
On May 4th 1943, the Eintrachthütte sub-camp in the Polish town of Świętochłowice was officially established. This followed negotiations with the German arms company Oberschlesische Maschinenbau and the main office of the SS Business Administration.
On this date, the conditions for costs and provisions of prisoners including security and daily rates were agreed following many discussions beforehand. 3 weeks later on May 26th, the sub-camp received its first 30 prisoners by truck from Auschwitz. Evidence of the establishment exists in Auschwitz archives from a letter dated May 7th 1943 from the SS Business Administrations office to the main office of Oberschlesische Maschinenbau in Kattowitz.
From this letter, we know that the factory agreed to pay 6 RM for 1 days worth of labour for a skilled labourer and 4 RM for a non skilled labourer. The prisoners received nothing, although on occasion the factory would provide tokens to spend in the canteen that very rarely offered anything of nutritious value to the half starved prisoners. A day of labour usually consisted of 2 12-hour shifts where the prisoners rotated. Like other sub-camps, the brutality towards the prisoners from the SS and Kapo overseers was rampant.
Eintrachthütte was one of the few places such as Birkenau that installed standing cells as punishment for even minor infringements. Other punishments included working on every second Sunday when the prisoners were due to have a day off. However, days off we mostly spent repairing areas of the sub-camp, working for the SS in the camp and repairing prisoner uniforms.
A pharmacy was set up inside the camp that offered little in the way of medicine, and like the sub-camp of Charlottegrube the medicines available could only primitively treat nothing more than minor wounds. The prisoners daily food consumption included coffee, soup and sometimes a small piece of sausage, margarine, cheese and a small piece of bread.
Between May 26th and June 7th, 1943, the first batch of prisoners extended the camp to accommodate the future expectancy of up to 1,500 prisoners. This included 12 main building structures accommodating prisoner barracks, administration buildings, kitchen and washroom.
The camp perimeter was shaped in a square with 1 watch tower in each corner and 10 spot lights were spaced equally around the fences. When the camp was deemed suitable enough to receive the second transport, a further 500 prisoners were sent from Auschwitz via train on the 7th June.
The security was tightened at the Eintrachthütte sub-camp with extra SS guards to take columns of prisoners to work and back which allowed even more prisoners to be sent in smaller numbers over a more consistent time frame over the next few months. This eventually peaked at 700 by the end of 1943, and the largest recorded number of prisoners in the camps history eventually grew to as many as 1,370. The prisoners lived in two-room barracks. The beds were three wooden bunks with straw mattresses and blankets with up to 80 prisoners per barrack.
There were several nationalities represented at Eintrachthütte including Jews from France, Slovakia, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Greece and Hungary. In 1944, the SS agreed to send Russian POWs to the camp too. As well as Jews, there were many Poles sent which was not a parallel representative of other sub-camps in the Upper Silesia areas. Many of these prisoners worked in the Baukommando, also known as the construction detachment.
This was similar to many of the prisoners in the industrial and even the larger agricultural sub-camps as their primary job was to demolish buildings that stood in the way of expansion plans. The primary job of the prisoners was to manufacture anti aircraft guns producing parts on machinery such as grinders and lathes with other prisoners controlling cranes and oiling the machinery keeping the manufacturing process in motion.
The civilian workers at the factory were warned in advance that speaking to prisoners was strictly forbidden. Any civilian who disobeyed this law could face being sent to a concentration camp. Despite this threat, many civilians tried to help the Poles with extra food and smuggling letters out of the camp. Erwin Smieja, Alfred Swoboda, Pawel Nawrat and Magdalena Szymik are just some notable people who helped.
Erwin Smieja helped 2 Russian soldiers named Sasha and Mikolaj escape from work. Smieja provided civilian clothes and false papers. At the end of October 1944, the successful escape took place. On July 3rd 1944, 9 prisoners escaped through a tunnel from the camp. This was only made possible only by the help of the civilians who lived near the camp. The SS quickly arrested 2 local civilians, one named Macinski a pharmacist. He was soon found guilty and sent to Auschwitz where he later died.
An underground organisation existed in Świętochłowice close to the sub-camp known as the Revolutionary Resistance Movement. They helped the prisoners whenever possible, mainly smuggling letters from the camp. When Typhus broke out at the camp, the resistance movement managed to smuggle medicines, garlic and cod liver oil to the prisoners with the help of local residents.
On average, 15 prisoners died each week through starvation or beatings. There were regular selections made on the assembly ground of the sub-camp where weak prisoners were sent to Birkenau to be gassed. Replacements would quickly be sent to make up the numbers.
This continued until the end of 1944 when the Red Army advance approached the camp. In January 1945, the majority of the prisoners were taken to open rail cars where they endured a 4 day journey to Mauthausen concentration camp. The majority of prisoners died on the journey through the extreme cold and cramped conditions. The Red Army liberated the camp and found under a 100 prisoners left behind.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.