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Krupp Union

At the far north perimeter of the Industriehof, the SS used slave labourers to build what would become the Krupp slave labour factory, the largest spatial area of any of the factories attached to Auschwitz including the vast sub-camp system, even eclipsing the former porcelain factory in Bobrek close to Oświęcim, that was taken over by Siemens. Eventually, over 1200 prisoners would be forced to work here but not before it became the Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke, who took over the factory management from October 1943.

The former Krupp Head Office
The former Krupp Head Office
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

Auschwitz prisoners were sent to work constructing the building that would produce gun parts. The factory was ready to begin operations in March 1943 but a series of bombing raids at the main Krupp manufacturing plant in Essen delayed the start up date. Over half a million artillery detonators were planned to be made at the factory in Auschwitz every month. The Krupp management agreed with the Kommandant of Auschwitz, Rodolf Höss, that punishments to prisoners over concerns of productivity and sabotage were to be carried out at the request of the Krupp overseers present at their discretion. Delays continued for a further 2 months and only around 200 prisoners were actually working in the large Krupp hall by July, a space designed to house around 1500 workers at capacity.

A continuation of problems and low productivity finally led to a loss of patience from the army contractors. As a result, Krupp were told to vacate the premises to make way for Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke who intended to manufacture fuses.

The materials that were used to assemble the detonators included gun powder which became an interest of the Auschwitz-Birkenau underground. Jewish women smuggled out small amounts of gun powder in the crevices of dead bodies that were then sent to the crematoriums to be disposed of. Members of the Sonderkommando were aware of this and built up enough gun powder to make hand made grenades that were eventually used during the Sonderkommando uprising of October 7th, 1944 that lead to the destruction of krematorium IV.

Civilian workers also worked alongside the prisoners. They were housed in a building opposite known as the Zivilarbeiterlager or Gemeinschaftslager. These buildings are now private residential flats.

After the war, the Oświęcim Vehicle Repair Works bought the land and made changes to the roof, which can be seen by comparing pictures from the Yad Vashem's construction album. Although the walls are said to be original, Auschwitz researcher, Marek Rawecki, maintains the only original structure is the metal frame work. After sitting idle for several years, the Itlagroup corporation purchased the land in 2001 to build their factory and after sales offices. Their plans to develop the area and bring jobs to the town never materialised and the factory remains derelict to this day. The Krupp head office which was located just north of the factory is still fully intact and was turned into social housing after the war, and now mostly private flats. The large heating plant that was built to the west of the Krupp factory was eventually demolished at the turn of the 21st century and can be seen lying in rubble to this day.

As of 2016, researcher and architect Marek Rawecki was invited to propose a series of spatial plans to the current owner for the use of the area, considering the sensitivity of the land and bringing the area into the community as a recreational meeting place for people. We will present plans of these proposals in the near future through the continued co-operation of Mr Rawecki.

Map showing the location of the Krupp Union and head office
Map showing the location of the Krupp Union and head office
Map designed by Michael Challoner ©
         
A view of Krupp Hall how it looks today
A view of Krupp Hall how it looks today
Photo by Michael Challoner ©

Sources

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