Location: Babice by Oświęcim, Poland
Camp commandant: SS-Oberscharführer Rosenoff
Number of prisoners: around 340
Employer in charge: Forst- und Fischwirtschaft
Dates of camp's existence: from March 1943 to January 17th, 1945
In October 1940, the Germans carried out a census in the Polish village of Babice that showed 2,260 people were living in 314 houses. These numbers included 402 Jews. In April 1941, prisoners selected for special labour details at the Birkenau camp were instructed to demolish buildings in Babice which is only 3 kilometres away in order to reclaim useful material for the construction of the camp. After 3 days of work, the prisoners had demolished over 40% of the farms and houses in Babice.
The villagers were given homes (mostly much smaller) in the town of Oświęcim, which had a pre-war population of 11,209 which included 7,613 Jews. Re-housing for the Poles came mostly from the houses left by the deported Jews.
Babice was unfortunate enough to be in the middle of the zone of interest, meaning all farm and land owners were automatically earmarked for eviction. The village was re-populated on a much smaller scale by SS men who worked at the Birkenau camp, Polish railway workers and German industrial workers employed by IG Farben in Monowice. Some of the farms in the village were expanded into much larger areas to raise cattle and grow crops. the former school building was converted into secure barracks equipped to house prisoners who were soon to be sent there. In this way, the sub-camp of Babitz, the German name for the village was established.
60 males and 50 female prisoners were amongst the first to be sent to the camp. By now, the perimeter around the working farms and sleeping areas were surrounded by a camp fence with barbed wire. The SS barracks were opposite the entrance to the school and a kitchen just next to it. Watch towers were erected in each of the corners and were patrolled by SS men 24 hours a day. The school building still exists today whilst the SS barracks have been converted into a farm house.
The original entrance into the sub-camp farm is still used as a path into the extended school grounds. No relics exist here apart from some buried camp posts by the former gate and drainage ditches around the road and fields.
Within a month, all of the prisoners sent to Babitz were murdered and replaced by over 200 Polish political prisoners, Greek Jews and Soviet prisoners. Compared to Birkenau, the living conditions were unparalleled. There was no overcrowding and prisoners slept alone on clean straw mattresses. Hot and cold water was available and the brick toilet block was cleaned daily. At night the prisoners had access to warm water and a portable toilet that was bought inside the barracks at night.
In the winter, prisoners received up to 3 blankets and indoor heating was provided. If prisoners got sick, they were looked after by a Russian prisoner trained as a nurse. Some medicines were available but in very short supply and rarely helped if the illness was sever.
Meals were delivered from the Birkenau camp in containers on the back of a truck. The prisoners were fed 3 times a day. Black coffee was issued at breakfast time, soup with potatoes in skins for dinner and bread in the evening. Sometimes with sausage or jam. Working in the farms meant the prisoners could sometimes organise extra food such as potatoes and sugar beets. The SS also allowed the prisoners to receive food parcels from outside of the camp which was very rare at Auschwitz.
As the sub-camp increased in numbers, the male prisoners were split up into 2 sections. The first looked after horses and cows. When there was not much work to do, the prisoners were assigned to demolishing buildings on farms. The second section prepared the grounds for growing crops.
For ploughing the land, the prisoners used horses that were reared on the farm, but when the army requested that all able work horses were needed on the front line, women prisoners had to take role and performed this back breaking labour themselves. The male prisoners also had the job of levelling grounds in the village and fertilising the fields with ashes from the crematoriums at Birkenau.
The women were split up into 4 detachments, each reporting to a SS member assigned to see the work was carried out correctly. The first detachment of 15 women raised 30 cows and 2 bulls. After milking the cows, samples were sent to the Hygiene Institute in Rajsko (a few kilometres away). The milk was then sent on to the camp dairy in horse drawn carts when SS trucks were not available. The prisoners’ work on the farms was yielding profits for the SS. It is impossible to determine how much the profits were, though, because of lack of needed documents.
In the second detachment, 25 Ukrainian women had the job of spreading manure in the fields. Detachments 3 and 4 worked in the fields of Babice growing potatoes, cabbage and beets. Over 140 prisoners worked in these detachments but when extra people were needed, prisoners from Birkenau were sent to provide extra help.
SS-Oberscharführer Rosenoff was appointed Commandant of the Babitz sub-camp. He appointed Erna Kuck, a female SS Supervisor to look after the women. Due to her kind nature and the support she gave prisoners, she was replaced in 1944 by Johanna Bormann who in comparison was strict and brutal. Bormann was later hanged for her crimes on the 13th December 1945.
In the history of the sub-camp, only 2 recorded escape attempts were made. A female prisoner named Lodka managed to escape to safety, but the Russian woman only got as far as Kraków where she was caught as a suspected partisan and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany.
On the 17th January 1945, prisoners from the Babitz Sub-Camp joined the evacuation columns from Birkenau and the camp was shut down.
Information about sources we used while researching the sub-camp you can find here.