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Bismarckhütte

Location: Chorzów-Batory, Poland
Camp commandant: SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Christoph Klemann
Number of prisoners: around 200
Employers in charge: Königs und Bismarckhütte AG, Konzern Berghütte
Dates of camp's existence: from September 1944 to 17th January 1945

The Sub-camp of Bismarckhütte was established in September 1944 in the Polish town of Chorzów-Batory which was on the south side of the town. Over 150 Jewish prisoners were selected from Auschwitz III by the administration and arrived in mid-September by rail. Other Jewish prisoners were sent to Bismarckhütte from the Blechammer sub-camp. These prisoners also arrived by rail as both camps were on the main line route.

The sub-camp was only partly completed when the Jews arrived so one of the first jobs they had included expansion and construction using the material that had already been delivered from the Auschwitz Bauhof (construction management warehouse in Oświęcim).

It was only towards the end of November 1944 that the 200 prisoners began working at the Bismarck Steel Mill which belonged to the Berghütte firm. The Mill still exists today and has been renamed Batory Mill.


Read testimony of Elżbieta Płaszczyk about living and working in Bismarckhütte sub-camp.


The sub-camp was around 10 minutes walking distance from the mill and the journey to work was in a heavily populated and industrial area. As a precaution, a high perimeter fence was built along the road to stop civilians looking in.

The prisoners lived in barracks that were made from sawdust cement panels. In the camp there was a kitchen, and infirmary for sick prisoners and a SS storeroom. Electric barbed wire fences surrounded the camp with watch towers at each end.

Several SS men with dogs that were bred at the Hundezwinger in Birkenau, escorted the prisoners to work. SS Unterscharführer Franz Monkos was one of these escorts. The Jews laboured for the production of guns and armoured vehicles in both the upper and lower parts of the Steel Mill.

Many prisoners had no qualifications so had to be given non-skilled jobs. Some of these included the handling and despatch of materials made in the Mill, renovation and digging as well as general odd jobs. The mechanical department of the Steel Mill required around 40 prisoners to operate machinery. No configuration to the machines was necessary as the Mill had many pre-war contracts with the military meaning the Mill was well equipped.

SS Guards did not patrol the Steel Mill so the Kapos were effectively in charge. There were however, regular inspections throughout the day, and a permanent presence at meal times. The food rations were at the starvation rate and in many cases, the soup did not contain any meat or vegetables. As a punishment, prisoners sometimes went without food.

Before the Red Army advanced towards Chorzów, the Directors Board at the Konigs-und-Bismarckhütte agreed on expansion plans to increase military production. The proposed expansion never materialised due to the increasing proximity of the Russians.

On 18 January 1945 SS Oberscharführer Klemann who was a commandant in charge of the evacuations, escorted prisoners on foot to the Polish town of Gliwice and the Auschwitz sub-camp Gleiwitz. Once the evacuated prisoners reached the camp, they were transferred to coal rail cars and sent to the Dora concentration camp.

Upon arrival, the prisoners began immediate work on the expansion of the Niedersachswerfen Mine. Only a few prisoners from the Bismarckhütte Sub-Camp survived to see the liberation on 4 May 1945. The prisoners of the Dora concentration camp were actually liberated on a death march in the area and not at the camp.

Bismarckhütte the sub-camp of Auschwitz
The original gate and wall of the former Bismarck Steel Mill
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

 

Sources

Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.

For further contemporary pictures or additional information on this sub-camp, please email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.