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The building of SS-Unterkunftskammer was located at the very end of the railway siding, by the SS kitchen. The front of the building faced the Kiesgrube (the gravel pits) by the Theatergebaude. Before the war this building was a part of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly complex which was established in Oświęcim in 1924 and during the German occupation it went through only small changes. 

The prisoners working in the SS-Unterkunftskammer were assigned to deliver everyday items to the SS. There were warehouses of any items that might be needed by the SS coming to live in Oświęcim in that building, such as furniture, kitchen equipment and food.

This work unit was also assigned to deal with the goods belonging to people killed in the gas chambers – they were brought to SS-Unterkunft every day from the ramp in Birkenau and Kanada I. The prisoners had to sort them and search through them. In time another work unit was created – its task was to look for hidden jewellery and other precious things. 

The prisoners (100-150 of them) were housed in Block 23 in Auschwitz I. They had to walk 500 meters every day to get to their workplace. Sometimes they were temporarily assigned to other places, such as DAW Kohlenplatz.

The work in Unterkunft was considered a very good one as the prisoners were able to organise food and whatever they needed there. It made the survival much easier.  However, a lot of them testified after the war that the conditions depended on the humour of the SS-man in charge of this kommando - SS-Hauptscharführer Reinicke. Usually though he remained neutral towards the prisoners. When a lot of transports were arriving to Auschwitz, he would send his kommando to work at the ramp in Birkenau. 

There was a printing house in the building, alongside the place where the soap was made. Some Slovak Jewish female prisoners were employed there – they were sewing things for the SS-men and their families. Not even the SS-men were allowed to enter the printing house. The prisoners were making all kinds of documents needed in the camp there: the records, the letters informing about the death of a prisoner, bulletins, the IDs for the SS-men and the civil workers. SS-Unterscharführer Reck was in charge of the print house. In 1943 it was moved to Schutzhaftlagerweiterung (the expansion to Auschwitz I). It was where the prisoners started to cooperate with the resistance and copied the most important documents in the Auschwitz complex.

The prisoners of the Unterkunft were assigned to work at the liquidation of the ghetto in Sosnowiec and Będzin in autumn 1943. They had to dismantle some of the machines and bring them back to Auschwitz. When they were working in one of the buildings of the former ghetto, the Auschwitz SS-men found a couple of dozens Jews hiding in the basement. The SS ordered them to lie down facing the floor, and executed all of them. The prisoners were told not to stop their work and witnessed everything. Later on, they had to clean the uniforms of the SS-men, as all of them were bloody and dirty.  

Map showing the location of the Unterkunftskammer
Map showing the location of the Unterkunftskammer
Map designed by Michael Challoner ©
A view of the Unterkunftskammer as taken towards the south west
A view of the Unterkunftskammer as taken towards the south west
Photo by Michael Challoner ©


Information about sources we used while researching the industrial zones of Auschwitz you can find here.