The Kiesgrube was a series of gravel pits around the Auschwitz I complex where materials were extracted for the building of the camp. The Deutsche Erd und Steinwerke (German Earth and Stonework's), or DEST, an SS company co-ordinated the management of the areas for extracting the materials using prisoner labour for the task. Most prisoners in this company were usually sent as a form of punishment particularly as the work was constant brutal hard labour, with several hundreds of deaths through torment, beatings, overwork and executions. One of the smaller gravel pits by the entrance of Auschwitz I was mentioned by Laurence Rees in his book 'Auschwitz: The Nazis & The 'Final Solution'' when interviewing a former Russian prisoner of war. The guards were relentless in mocking, beating and shooting prisoners for no reason at all. Random shootings were commonplace and the kapo overseers could be just as bad.
Many of the gravel pits were situated by the Sola river just across the road from the main camp, however the largest of the pits were by the camp I extension, the so called 'Schutzhaftlagererweiterung'. This particular gravel pit became known as the 'Palitzsch Grube' after Hauptscharfuhrer Gerhard Palitzsch who once bragged that he had personally shot thousands of prisoners. His house was at the eastern end looking directly over the gravel pit area. The gravel pits were extracted throughout the year including during the harsh winters with the ground frozen over. Prisoners would often work with primitive tools which would often be used against them by the guards or kapo's if they slowed down or showed signs of tiredness.
One of the gravel pits was just opposite the Haus 7, a shop for the SS families. Photo evidence from the war suggests the area was only separated by a small fence.
There are a few signs of the gravel pits former existence, most notably the rough terrain of the Palitzsch Grube and the ground and camp posts the separated the Bauhof sheds by the Tobacco Monopoly and the ground directly west of Auschwitz I.
Information about sources we used while researching the industrial zones of Auschwitz you can find here.