Lager VI: Pulverturm (later also E715)
Camp for: Croatian workers, German civilian workers, Danish Workers then later British POWs
Camp population: around 240 from Croatia, followed by 600 Germans, then around 1400 British POWs
Camp Lagerführer: Hugo Bujok (however, the Wehrmacht were in charge of the British)
Lager VI, or Pulverturm was located 5 minutes west of Lager IV (Buna Monowitz) and eventually housed around 1,400 British prisoners of war (POW). 24 barracks were constructed in the camp at various stages of development by the end of 1943. The first people to be housed there were Croatian civilian workers, followed by German civilians who were eventually moved on too. In the early spring of 1944, British POWs were transferred from Lager VIII Karpfenteich which was just to the south west. More POWs captured during the African Allied campaigns traveled to Germany through Italy before being sent to Pulverturm, and a small minority were already POW veterans having been taken at Dunkirk some years before.
The administration of the Stalag VIII B POW camp located in Lamsdorf established Pulverturm as a sub camp just as the British arrived. Wehrmacht soldiers were therefore assigned to guard the prisoners. Soon after the British arrived at Pulverturm, many were sent on to other camps in Germany, most probably Blechhammer and Heydebreck. The camp population stalled between 550 and 650.
Around 39 or 40 British POWs were killed either at Pulverturm or in the IG Farben complex. Many were killed by a stray bomb from the US Army that was intended for the chemical plant but hit the camp. There were no bomb shelters for prisoners, so those in proximity were killed almost instantly by the blast. The date of the air raid was August 20th, 1944. At least 1 more prisoner was killed whilst work following a scuffle with a German guard who most probably got shot accidentally.
Living conditions were probably equal to those Germans in Leonhard Haag, however the British received Red Cross parcels up until the end of 1944. This allowed them to trade with other prisoners at IG Farben for vodka and other items. Some British prisoners would leave extra food for the Jews they worked alongside, particularly as the soup rations issued to the Jews was much less edible than that given to the British.
There were opportunities to escape in January 1945 before the evacuation, but due to the harsh weather (it was record freezing temperatures and heavy snow), and the sound of the impending Russian Army getting closer persuaded those who harbored ideas of escape to think again. Unfortunately, the British POWs were marched away in the snow and spent many weeks travelling into Germany, sleeping rough with very little food.
As of 2016, the site of the camp has not been commemorated, however the Minister for Veterans, Ivor Caplin unveiled a plaque at Cmentarz Parafialny (the Perish Cemetery nearby) listing the names of those known to have died during the bombing raid. The plaque was unveiled in 2012 and states that the remains of the deceased were sent to the Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery. The plaque does contain a factual error stating the E715 was Lager VIII however the name E715 was carried from Lager VIII to Lager VI when the British moved in early 1944. The plaque should therefore read Lager VI. The Auschwitz Study Group has passed on this information to the British office concerned so that future commemorations can be corrected.
Prisoner Testimonies of Pulverturm
Existing Camp Relics
Until 2015, there were a few notable relics of the camp: 2 posts that formed the gate were still fully intact, as was a powder/water tower (we could not find exact records of its purpose in the Auschwitz archives), bomb shelters on the north perimeter and what appeared to be the remains of the latrines. Several SS bomb shelters exist to the east of the former camp including single and mass shelters. However due to large scale construction works, many of these relics no longer exist.
The British POWs (Lager VI). Pic was taken in 1944.
Second to the left: Bill Leman, fifth to the left (sitting): Bill Owen
Photo courtesy of the Auschwitz Museum archives
E715 Pulverturm Plaque at Cmentarz Parafialny (the Perish Cemetery)
Photo by Michael Challoner ©
On the right one of the original gate posts at the entrance of Pulverturm
Photo by Michael Challoner ©
Information about sources we used while researching the werk kamp you can find here.