Auschwitz Sub Camps
The Individual Histories of the Auschwitz Sub Camps in Text, Photographs, Maps and Documents.
The Individual Histories of the Auschwitz Sub Camps
In this section Tiergartenstrasse4Association present the individual textual, topographic, photographic and documentary histories of the 45 sub camps of Auschwitz. The textual history of each sub camp is organised as:
- The pre-war history of the entity that employed the prisoners,
- The post-war history of the entity that employed the prisoners,
- The history of the sub camp,
- The SS guard unit,
- The SS guards,
- The post-war history of the former sub camp,
- The preservation status of the former sub camp,
- Memorialisation of the former sub camp,
- Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum site visits,
- Other site visits and photographs.
The topographical material for each sub camp includes a map of the sub camp buildings with the surviving material elements highlighted. In addition, for some sub camps there are original technical drawings of the sub camp buildings and illustrations of the sub camp buildings by surviving former prisoners.
The over 3,500 individual photographs and documents related to the Auschwitz sub camps are organised by individual sub camp as follows:
- SS contemporary photographs,
- Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum photographs,
- Tiergartenstrasse4Association photographs,
- Other photographs and postcards,
- Sub camp documents.
The individual sub camps and their histories, photographs, topography and documentation can be accessed directly from the interactive Google Map and listing of all 45 sub camps below or from the section – The Auschwitz Sub Camps and their Classification by Industry Type of the Company or Entity that Employed the Prisoners or from the Companies and Prisoner Labour Section.
Virtually all of the Stammlager (main concentration camps) had three types of Arbeitskommandos (Work Kommandos):
- Lagerkommandos (Camp Kommandos) – prisoners worked within the boundaries of the Stammlager on building work, and within the various departments of the main camp,
- Aussenkommandos (External Kommandos) – prisoners left the Stammlager for the duration of their workday and were employed in factories, camp workshops or farms, returning to the main camp at the end of the workday,
- Aussenlager (External Camp or Sub Camp) – prisoners were accommodated outside of the Stammlager at or near their workplace.
A sub camp could be described as, or referred to as, a subsidiary or branch camp (Aussenlager, Zweiglager or Nebenlager) or simply a labour camp (Arbeitslager) but it could also be described as an Aussenkommando (External Kommando) or Sonderkommando (Special Kommando). Such a multitude of concepts and names used in the original German nomenclature sometimes creates confusion in the interpretation of the concept of a sub camp. Use of the terms Aussenlager, Zweiglager, or Nebenlager could suggest a different degree of organizational structure and subordination of the affiliate camp to the main camp. However, as the former commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss testified on this subject: “these terms are not associated with any separate organizational structure of the given sub camp, they were all synonymous and used at the same time.” 1
The editors of the Zeszyty Oświęcimskie journals also faced this definitional problem, when they sought for the first time to write the histories of the sub camps and Aussenkommandos of Auschwitz concentration camp beginning in the 1950s and 1960s. How should a sub camp be defined? The definition of a sub camp adopted by the editors of Zeszyty Oświęcimskie was set out in the introduction to the series, “It should be understood as being a work kommando or group of work kommandos living in a separated and fenced off area (using walls or barbed wire), and living in barracks located in the area.” 2
Some external Kommandos of Auschwitz for example Aussenkommando Chelmek are included in the list of Auschwitz sub camps. Most of the Aussenkommandos of Auschwitz were “day” Kommandos; the prisoners were marched to their workplace outside of the Stammlager in the morning and returned in the evening. It could even happen that there were day Kommandos and a sub camp co-exisitng in the same location and performing the same tasks for example in some of the agricultural sub camps of Auschwitz. Again the test of whether an Aussenkommando can be defined as a sub camp or purely an Aussenkommando is whether the prisoners were housed at their place of work.
Although in official camp documentation some sub camps were described as Aussenkommandos, these sub camps differed from the larger sub camps of Auschwitz only by their lesser degree of organization, fewer prisoners and length of operation of the sub camp. Small sub camps described as Aussenkommandos without extensive camp structure were created to perform specific tasks. The prisoners were placed in adapted rooms of existing buildings for this purpose and little sub camp infrastructure was needed or built. After the works were finished, the Kommando was dissolved and the remaining prisoners were transferred back to the main camp.
Individual sub camps could also have a number of seperate Kommandos and Aussenkommandos that performed different tasks in the sub camp and outside of the sub camp for external employers. In many cases the primary employer of prisoners from a sub camp seconded some or all of their allocated prisoners to independent companies they had sub contracted work to, for example building companies.
Female and male prisoners were always physically separated even though they were housed in the same location and performed similar tasks. In the case of Auschwitz concentration camp, such female and male camps co-existed in Hindenburg, Arbeitslager Gleiwitz II, Arbeitslager Blechhammer, Wirtschaftshof Budy, Wirtschaftshof Babitz, Wirtschaftshof Plawy, Geflügelfarm Harmense, Arbeitslager Bobrek, Arbeitslager Charlottegrube and SS Hütte Porombka. These co-existing male and female camps are classified as single sub camps as the male and female camps came under the authority of a single Lagerführer.
So the complete definition of a sub camp should be: work Kommando(s) from the Stammlager where the prisoners were housed at or near their place of work and in addition, the camp (s) came under the authority of a single Lagerführer.
In Budy, there were three camps: Wirtschaftshof Budy Männerlager, Wirtschaftshof Budy Frauenlager and the Strafkompanie. The Strafkompanie was set up by SS-Oberaufseherin Maria Mandl as a punishment camp for female prisoners. The prisoners were subject to harsher conditions than prisoners in the sub camps however the prisoners also performed agricultural work in Budy. For the purposes of this study these camps are treated as a single sub camp, even though we have separated them for the purposes of their textual histories.
In Rydułtowy there were up to 5 separate camps housing Auschwitz prisoners. These are treated as one sub camp, Arbeitslager Charlottegrube, as there is no evidence they came under the authority of separate Lagerführer.
In Gliwice there were four camps (Arbeitslager Gleiwitz I, Arbeitslager Gleiwitz II, Arbeitslager Gleiwitz III, Arbeistlager Gleiwitz IV) but these are treated as four separate sub camps as each camp came under the authority of separate Lagerführer.
The head of each sub camp was the Lagerführer, who, depending on the size of the camp, could also be the commander of the guard unit stationed in the sub camp (the Postenführer or Kompanieführer), while the Kommandoführer was the head of a Kommando or Aussenkommando. If the sub camp was small, the functions of the camp commander and the guard commander were combined. If the sub camp was larger, with thousands of prisoners, then its organizational structure was much more sophisticated. The Lagerführer of the sub camp could have deputies, report officers (Rapportführer), block officers (Blockführer), supervisors of working Kommandos (Kommandoführer), a head of employment (Arbeitsdienstführer), a head of a separate political department, a head of the censorship office, and even separate SS managers of the prisoner kitchen and hospital.
The employment of SS overseers so called SS-Aufseherinnen is a separate definitional problem in the camps and sub camps. In the case of sub camps for women, the post of SS-Oberaufseherin was created, who were the heads of the other female SS-Aufseherinnen in the camp. The sub camp would also have an overall male SS Lagerführer. No military ranks were introduced for the SS-Aufseherinnen, but a functional hierarchy existed. Due to the guiding principle that women in SS service could not give orders to SS men, conflicts of competence often arose between the SS-Oberaufseherin and ranking SS men.3
Virtually all of the Nazi concentration camps defined as Stammlager, which reported directly to the head of the Inspektion der Konzentrationslager, Amt D in the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA), had their own complex of sub camps.
The sub camps were not separate legally identifiable entities; they were effectively branches of the Stammlager to which they were attached, which themselves were not separate legal entities. The concentration camps were financed by the Nazi State Treasury and the camps were identifiable entities within the SS, Police and other legal structures of the Nazi State. The concentration camps were therefore able to negotiate contracts with third parties in their own right on behalf of the Nazi State.
Given the lack of separate legal identity of the Stammlager perhaps it is not surprising that the nomenclature of the sub camps is inconsistent.
The Stammlager were generally named for the German equivalent place name of the location of the camp with the description prefix Konzentrationslager. So for example Konzentrationslager Auschwitz located in Oświęcim took the German name for the town, Auschwitz; Konzentrationslager Gross-Rosen located near Rogoźnica took the German name of the village where it was located, Gross-Rosen.
Most sub camps were known in external Auschwitz concentration camp correspondance by a description prefix combined with a name, as for the Stammlager. In internal Auschwitz correspondance many sub camps were referred to only by their name with no prefix.
The sub camps of Auschwitz have no standard description prefix in the surviving camp documentation. Some sub camps took the prefix Arbeitslager others: Aussenkommando, Sonderkommando, Arbeitskommando, Wirtschaftshof and a myriad of other prefixes. Other sub camps were just known by their place name. In addition, some sub camps had multiple names and prefixes. For example there were at least six prefixes and names used for Arbeitslager Charlottegrube: Arbeitslager Charlottengrube, Arbeitskommando Charlottegrube, Kommando Charlottegrube Rydultau, Kommando Charlottengrube, Konzentrationslager Monowitz – Arbeitslager Charlottegrube Kreis Rybnik O/S, Zweiglager Rydultau.
The SS Kommandos sometimes took the prefix Aussenkommando. Others only used a name.
However, there was some method to the prefix description and the naming of the sub camps.
The prefix description assigned to the agricultural sub camps was Wirtschaftshof (farm). The exception was Harmense where the prefix Geflügelfarm (poultry farm) was applied. The prefix assigned to most of the sub camps where prisoners worked for industrial entities was Arbeitslager (labour camp). It may be that all such camps were prefixed Arbeitslager but this has not yet been verified.
The six agricultural Auschwitz sub camps took the German place name of the local village at which the sub camp and farm were located. So for example Wirtschaftshof Plawy took the German place name for the village of Pławy near Oświęcim where the sub camp and farm was located.
When it came to the sub camps where prisoners worked for companies or entities involved in oil and chemicals, coal mining, steel works and power plants, sometimes the camp was named for the German name for the mine, steelworks or factory in which the prisoners worked. For example, Arbeitslager Laurahütte in Siemianowice Śląskie, was named after the Laurahütte steel plant in which the prisoners worked. In other cases where the prisoners of the sub camps worked at a number of different locations in the locality, the camp was named for the German name of the town or locality as in the case of Neu-Dachs in Jaworzno. Prisoners from the Neu-Dachs sub camp worked at coal mining in the mines of Dachsgrube, Rudolfgrube and Richardgrube and in the construction of the Kraftwerk Wilhelm and expansion of the Kraftwerk Friedrich-August power plants.
The four Auschwitz sub camps in Gliwice were not named for the businesses for which the prisoners worked but simply named: Arbeitslager Gleiwitz I, Gleiwitz II, Gleiwitz III and Gleiwitz IV.
The four forest sub camps of Auschwitz were named for the German locality in which the prisoners were accommodated. We have so far only confirmed that one forest camp was definately prefixed with Aussenkommando, Kobior. Again it may be that in reality all four were prefixed Aussenkommando.
The SS and other Kommandos were generally named for the German place name of the town or locality in which the prisoners were accommodated.
Two Kommandos of Auschwitz prisoners were specifically allocated to bomb disposal and/ or bomb damage clearance: Tschechowitz – Bombensucherkommando in Czechowice-Dziedzice, and the 2 SS Bauzug. The prefixing and naming of these Kommandos describes literally what they are.
In Sosnowiec, there were two separate camps, in two different locations, performing different tasks and with separate Lagerführer which are referenced as Sosnowitz I and Sosnowitz II. Auschwitz did not differentiate in naming terms between these two camps. The nomenclature was proposed by the Polish Historian Dr. Franciszek Piper from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum while working on the history of the sub camps in Sosnowiec to differentiate the two camps. The designations Sosnowitz I and Sosnowitz II have now been accepted in the professional literature.1
1 Piper, Franciszek, Podobóz Sosnowitz (I), [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie  Nr 11, p. 83-90.
The Auschwitz Sub Camps and their Classification by Industry Type of the Company or Entity that Employed the Prisoners
To date 45 Auschwitz sub camps have been identified. The sub camps of Auschwitz have been classified by the industry type of the company or entity which employed the prisoners or otherwise by type of work performed by the prisoners, where there is no specific industry:
Oil and Chemicals:
Arbeitslager Trzebinia in Trzebinia-Trzebionka,
Arbeitslager Gleiwitz II in Gliwice,
Monowitz in the village of Monowice near Oświęcim,
Arbeitslager Blechhammer in Sławięcice near Bachownia Śląska,
Arbeitslager Tschechowitz – Vacuum in Czechowice-Dziedzice.
Neu-Dachs in Jaworzno (coal mining and building power plant),
Arbeitslager Fürstengrube Wesoła near Mysłowice,
Arbeitslager Janinagrube in Kolonia Obieżowa, now Libiąż,
Günthergrube in Lędziny,
Arbeitslager Charlottegrube in Rydułtowy,
Arbeitslager Jawischowitz in Brzeszcze-Jawiszowice.
Arbeitslager Sosnowitz II in Sosnowiec,
Arbeitslager Hohenlinde (Hubertushütte) in Łagiewniki Śląskie near Bytom, currently Bytom-Łagiewniki Zabrze,
Bismarckhütte in Chorzów-Batory,
Eintrachthütte in Świętochłowice,
Arbeitslager Gleiwitz I in Gliwice,
Arbeitslager Laurahütte in Siemianowice Śląskie, Śląskie,
Arbeitslager Bobrek in the town of Bobrek near Oświęcim,
Hindenburg, in Zabrze
Arbeitslager Gleiwitz III in Gliwice.
Wirtschaftshof Budy (Männerlager, Frauenlager, Strafkompanie) in the village of Budy near Oświęcim,
Wirtschaftshof Babitz in the village of Babice near Oświęcim,
Wirtschaftshof Birkenau in the village of Brzezinka near Oświęcim,
Geflügelfarm Harmense in the village of Harmęże near Oświęcim,
Wirtschaftshof Plawy in the village of Pławy near Oświęcim,
Wirtschaftshof Raisko in the village of Rajsko near Oświęcim.
The vast majority of prisoners accommodated in the sub camps were male. On January 17, 1945 there were 33,035 male prisoners and 2,097 female prisoners in the Auschwitz III-Monowitz sub camps. In addition, there were 814 male prisoners and 650 female prisoners in the agricultural sub camps of Auschwitz II-Birkenau.1 Of the 45 sub camps of Auschwitz, 10 accommodated both male and female prisoners, and another 4 were female only camps: Wirtschaftshof Raisko, Arbeitslager Neustadt O/S in Prudnik, Lichtewerden in the town of Světlá Hora and Freudenthal in the town of Bruntál both in the Czech Republic.
Predominantly the female prisoners worked at agriculture, in textile mills and in armaments production or in the operation of lampblack production machinery. Male prisoners were predominantly assigned to building works in the chemical and oil industries, mines, steel works and power plants. They also operated machinery for armaments production and other production facilities. The male prisoners worked alongside female prisoners in the agricultural camps of Auschwitz. The hardest work of all was reserved for those male prisoners assigned to work in the coal mines, a death sentence for many.