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IG Farben Werk Kamps

The growth of Auschwitz from its beginnings as a ‘backwater’ concentration camp into the largest mass murder killing site the world has ever seen was mostly the by-product of a series of extraordinarily turns of fate. Economic decisions ordered by SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, particularly the early establishment of large agricultural farms and nurseries in the towns and villages around Oswiecim set the precedent for the growth that would follow. 

The steady establishment between 1941 and 1944 of industrial sub-camps, mainly in the coal mining and oil industry made up around 28 of the 45 or so external sites of Auschwitz. This was to increase as IG Farben decided to build a large chemical industrial plant around 5km east of the main camp of Auschwitz.

Read more about the Auschwitz sub-camps here.

IG Farben were certainly one of the largest companies in the world between the 1920’s and 1930’s and without their expertise and cooperation, it is doubtful Hitler would have gone to war in 1939. Hitler’s early meeting with the IG Farben representatives shortly after taking office in 1933 can historically be seen as just how important Hitler saw this as a pivotal moment for the future of the Reich. Historians have noted that this was possibly only one of the few meetings Hitler was on time for. During the meeting, Carl Bosch of IG Farben made a case to Hitler that the removal of Jews could be detrimental to the industry and German economy overall, but despite Hitler’s reliance on the future collaboration with the company, he became enraged and informed Bosch that he should leave his opinions outside of the meeting room. The company’s Directors were far from enthusiastic about early Nazi policies and had no immediate fiscal desire to sign up for long term contracts at this early stage. Whilst the levels of cooperation gradually changed throughout the 1930’s, IG Farben still managed to donate the very minimum amount of party contributions percentage wise to the National Socialist party by the end of the war. It is worth pointing out that despite IG Farben’s political disagreements with the Nazi party, no significant actions were taken that would result in a loss of profits or contracts, and disagreements could simply be recorded as verbal disgruntlements.

Read more about the Auschwitz Industrial Zones here.

Over the years that followed on from 1933, IG Farben signed several large military contracts ensuring they owned the monopoly of the industry over their competitors. Business strategies changed over time and the shareholders agreed to only concentrate on highest profit margin. The outbreak of war limited IG Farben’s exporting whilst the German army were making it clear they could broker favourable deals with their competitors should agreements not be met. When war broke out with Russia, the companies exporting deals were completely severed so once again immediate plans were dictated by Germany’s military situation.

IG Farben were looking at either expansion at one of their existing plants or building a new factory within the new Nazi occupied territories. It is possible that they expected the British to surrender or at least be defeated by the Luftwaffe which would have had a great significance on their territorial investments. The failure to defeat the British led the IG Farben board to look once again at moving their expansion plans in the east as ownership of Britain’s colonial resources would clearly not happen in the near future. IG Farbens reluctance to make a decision on factory sites previously earmarked in Poland had led to rival companies signing contracts with local coal mines, thus meaning they missed out on these possibilities. 

IG Farben soon began looking at the possibility of building a new plant on farm land just 5km east of Auschwitz I. The area was perfect in so much that it had a large water supply nearby and the land could be extended almost indefinitely in all directions. Local coal mines to provide energy to the plant and the housing estates required to house its workers were available to purchase (most notably the Furstengrube mine that became a sub-camp of Auschwitz).

The labour needed to build such a large scale project within very limited time scales became such a large operation that Auschwitz 3 became an established administration which IG Farben became directly subordinate to. Thousands of their workers required housing by the plant, and one of the options was to use properties in Oswiecim that were vacated by the deported Jewish population. However, converting these properties into suitable accommodation for the IG Farben work force became expensive but more importantly time consuming. 

The solution was the construction of a new district, but in the meantime small barracks where workers could live would have to be built. To construct these large industrial and residential plans, several thousand labourers were required, many of which were sent from the main camp of Auschwitz to Auschwitz III Monowitz. 11,000 would eventually be housed there working directly for IG Farben. In addition to Monowitz, several other camps (werk kamps) were established housing civilian workers from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia as well as POW’s from Russia, Great Britain and Italy. In total, 10 werk kamps were constructed holding several thousand workers. In reality, the ‘workers’ were prisoners. The camps were housed inside fences and barbed wire, and the work lasted 7 days a week with an exception on every second Sunday. The food was awful and insufficient and beatings were commonplace. Certain perks were on occasion available such as visits to or from families, and in the case of the British POW’s, Red Cross parcels. Some workers were also given permission to visit the brothel in camp I, and despite the poor food issued, canteens that sold cigarettes and beer could sometimes be accessed.

The Auschwitz Study Group have spent a considerable amount of time researching the testimonies of former prisoners in these werk kamps at the Auschwitz archives. We have also researched and conducted field research in the areas they occupied. We also use the work carried out by authors who have studied the area of Monowitz and IG Farben, particularly Piotr Setkiewicz and the history of IG Farben werk kamps. Archival research has been carried out by Iga Bunalska of the Auschwitz Study Group, and field research by Michael Challoner and Natalia Nowak, also of the ASG.


Map of IG Farben Werk Kamps
Click on the image to see the map of IG Farben Werk Kamps
Map courtesy of the Auschwitz Museum archives, modifications by Michael Challoner ©


List of IG Farben Werk Kamps

Lager I: Leonhard Haag                           Lager VI: Pulverturm
Lager II: Buchenwald                           Lager VII: Angestellten Wohnlager
Lager III: Teichgrund                           Lager VIII: Karpfenteich
Lager IV: Dorfrand                           Lager IX: (unnamed)
Lager V: Tannenwald                           Lehrlingsheim