(Wirtschaftshof) Budy Female Camp
Location: Budy, south of Oświęcim, Poland
Camp Commandants: SS-Oberaufseherin Runge; SS-Oberaufseherin Elisabeth Hasse; SS-Oberaufseherin Johanna Borman
Number of prisoners: 455
Employer in charge: SS-WVHA/Amt W V; Land-, Forst- und Fischwirtschaft
Dates of camp's existence: from April 1943 until late 1944
Wirtschaftshof Budy was an SS farm set up in the villages of Brzeszcze, Budy and Bór around 5 kilometres from Auschwitz. During over a 4-year period, Budy became the location for housing prisoners of the Penal Company, a men’s camp and a women’s camp. Prisoners would walk the distance each morning and evening from Auschwitz to Budy until 1942 when the sub-camp was established. It existed until liberation in January 1945, apart from short break in winter 1942 when prisoners returned to Birkenau or worked on other farms such as Babitz or Harmense until their return in early spring 1943.
Although men and women worked separately and in different parts of the village, the surviving camp records refer to the work and activities concerning these years just as Budy. It is therefore important to distinguish Budy as 3 separate entities in the camps history.
Preparation for creating the farm began in March 1941 when the majority of Poles living in the area were forcibly moved to houses often vacated by Jews in the town of Oświęcim. A team of prisoners selected at Auschwitz were assigned to demolish most of the farm buildings and begin to level ground to prepare for new buildings. In 1943, both the men’s and women’s camp were fully operational and became directly subordinate to Auschwitz as an agricultural sub-camp.
The men’s camp became known as Budy I and for the most part of its existence incorporated 19 buildings such as workshops, barracks, barns and stables. The SS oversaw the camp throughout the day in force walking the perimeter fence which was made up of concrete posts and barbed wire and 10 watch towers overlooking the prisoners workplace and sleeping quarters.
Just like the Babitz Sub-Camp, the sleeping barracks were heated in the winter and an indoor toilet was made available. Sleeping arrangements in the male camp were cramped but still preferable to Birkenau. Prisoners slept on 2 tier bunks, blankets and mattresses stuffed with straw that was changed monthly on Sundays. Each evening, new clothes and tools were bought in for the next day that were dry but not necessarily cleaned. Damp clothes were returned back to Birkenau. Meals were also bought from Birkenau in the mornings.
SS-Oberscharführer Herman Etinger was appointed Commandant by Joachim Caesar until he left in April 1943 to be replaced by SS-Unterscharführer Bernhard Glaue. On the 25th April 1943, 167 prisoners were registered as being in the camp made up of Poles, French, Belgian, Czech, Romanian, German, Greek and those simply listed as Gypsies. Over the next 12 months, the population increased to a peak of 388. The prisoners worked a 12-hour working day from 6am to 6pm in the fields sewing grain and growing beets. Other prisoners were assigned to work based on their previous experience in farms raising livestock.
Working on the farm meant that organising extra food was sometimes possible which helped sustain their poor diet. If any prisoner was caught in possession of stolen food, they would be severely punished or most likely killed on the spot as an example to other prisoners. The SS were particularly cruel and would often beat prisoners for no reason. All deaths had to be entered into the camp record stating the prisoners details, date and reason for death. In cases where prisoners were beaten and killed, a false reason of death was entered giving the impression the death was due to natural causes.
By the spring of 1943, SS-Oberaufseherin Elfriede Runge was made commandant of the women’s sub-camp. The location in Budy was the brick building formerly occupied by the women’s penal company. The prisoners sent from Birkenau included Poles, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, Czechs, and Yugoslavians. German women were appointed as overseers to the prisoners. The camp seemed to have been hastily set up as sanitary and sleeping provisions were largely overlooked.
It didn't take long for illnesses to spread and within 6 weeks, the conditions had effected production and became a concern of the Runge who either escalated the issue direct to Rudolf Höss, or a camp inspection bought the conditions to his attention. It is known that Rapportführerin Drechsel inspected the camp in late May 1943.
A protocol was set like in other camp for Sundays to be used for cleaning everything from personal hygiene, to the grounds of the camp. Provisions were made for the women to repair and keep their clothes orderly at all times. After Runge left as commandant, SS-Aufseherin Elizabeth Hasse who was previously in charge of the women at Raisko was appointed in her place.
Hasse paid particular emphasis to cleaning over food in some cases such as the use of hot water for washing on weekends from the large kettles instead of hot food. After the conditions improved, the women slept 2 per bunk with one blanket to share. Despite the improvements in hygiene, underwear was only allowed to be cleaned once each month. Extra blankets and clothes were forbidden which made the winter months especially brutal. This was made more painful as the barracks were not heated like they were in other farm camps such as Babitz.
The daily meal was issued half way through the prisoners working day. This consisted of herbal tea, bread and sometimes jam or margarine. Nettle soup would be provided at the end of their work. All food was prepared in the sub-camp area. Sometimes, Polish villagers who were still in the area of Budy could make contact with the prisoners. They could see how badly treated and malnourished they were and helped when ever possible.
The Poles would sometimes put food hidden in the fields so the prisoners could find them in the day. They also helped them communicate with their families whenever possible. The Polish villagers were risking their own lives as well as their families as the consequences of being found would almost certainly have been death. Between 1942 and 1945, Polish villagers helped 9 prisoners successfully escape from the camp by providing food, clothing and shelter. Only 1 recorded escape failure was recorded.
The women were separated into different units such as digging the earth, preparing for planting, fertilising and finally harvesting. Fertiliser was mixed with ashes from the crematoriums of Birkenau that was bought in to the camp on open trucks. The varied tasks also included forestry work and the upkeep of a fruit-tree nursery. Amongst some of the hardest labour in Budy was the dredging of the lakes about 1 kilometer from the camp.
The women had to work in all weathers in water up to their chests under constant surveillance and beatings from the SS and the overseers. In other cases, the prisoners were also used to build new roads and improve existing infrastructure including drainage of the land into the Vistula river near by.
An SS man was put in charge of each individual prisoner unit who appointed a foreman for each group.
The SS man was in charge of the guard bringing them back and forth from the camp and to their place of work. The work was often too demanding even for able bodied prisoners, but starvation rations and even instances of the low rations being stolen by the camp overseers made it near impossible. For this reason, there were recorded cases of suicides in the camp. It was only when Johanna Bormann took over from Hasse in 1944 did the food improve as Bormann was also responsible for food distribution.
Before Budy became a sub-camp, the main brick building was used to house women from the Auschwitz Penal Company. The conditions for the women were amongst some of the worst in the Auschwitz Administrations history. Budy was supposed to be a prison within a prison and the work was irrelevant to the Nazis as the labour was designed to destroy the body and soul of the prisoner within a very short time.
Over 400 women were crammed into the small camp at Budy in 1942 in reprisal for a previous escape from the main camp at Auschwitz. In October 1942, a massacre took place at the camp and German overseers butchered 90 French Jewish women in cold blood. The overseers used a variety of tools to kill the wretched prisoners with some being repeatedly thrown from the upper windows of the building. Rudolf Höss later commented that it was the prisoners who started a revolt in an attempted breakout.
SS officer Perry Broad said that a German woman said one of the prisoners was seen armed with a stone in the sub-camp building. One of the German women overseers shouted for help claiming she had been attacked. This was the catalyst for the massacre. Anyone who remained alive were murdered the following day including 6 German women who were suspected of taking part.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.