Location: Chełmek, Poland
Camp commandants: SS-Oberscharführer Josef Schillinger; SS-Unterscharführer Wilhelm Emmerich
Number of prisoners: around 150
Employer in charge: Ota Schlesische Schuhwerke AG, previously BATA
Dates of camp's existence: from October 1942 until 9th December 1942
The sub-camp at Chełmek was fairly short lived over a 2 month period, and yet the logistics of the operation involving over 150 prisoners actually stretched over 3 main sites in the town. Chełmek is only 8 kilometres from Oświęcim and sits on the direct train route to Trzebinia that also passes the coal mines of Libiąż (the sub-camp of Janinagrube).
The SS planned expansion of the Bata factory relied on a steady water source to draw from in order to keep factory operations in motion. The readily available option was to channel water directly from the Przemsza river several kilometres away at the foot of the Skała hill.
The costs of managing such an ongoing operation included vast amounts of materials, labour and security which forced the Nazis to look closer for cheaper alternative options. 3 large ponds existed only 1.5 kilometres from the Bata factory but were not suitable for using in the factories machinery. The ponds would have to be cleaned, dredged and lined with rocks before a connection could be made to channel the water across. The Jazdówka quarry in Chełmek was perfect for extracting the large stones needed to reinforce the areas of the dikes whilst lining the base of the ponds.
Scaling the surface of the quarry was highly dangerous and no provisions were made to protect the prisoners from the dangers that presented themselves in this environment. The ponds were also about 1.5 kilometres from the quarry and equidistant from the sub-camp area, with the majority of the prisoners sent to work clearing silt and roots from the perimeter trees.
According to the Auschwitz archives, a memo from November 1942 suggests the sub-camp was established at some point in the October. This is the first time that Chełmek was mentioned in surviving records. The death register at Auschwitz corresponds with this, listing the registration of approximately 47 bodies sent from Chelmek to be disposed of by the Birkenau crematoriums. The bodies were sent to Auschwitz from Chełmek over 10 separate journeys. The dates listed in the Auschwitz archive date from November 7th - December 3rd 1942 which also mentions 26 prisoners returning to Auschwitz who could no longer work. On December 9th 1942, the remaining prisoners were sent back to Auschwitz by truck. The work was never completed on the ponds, and the sub-camp was never re-established in the future. No reason can be found for this decision.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.