2 SS Bauzug

Name of the camp
2 SS Bauzug
Other Name of the camp
2 SS Bauzug-Karlsruhe
2 SS Eisenbahnbaubrigade
7 SS Eisenbahnbaubrigade
Commandant of the camp
SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Schäfer
Number of SS Guards
In the first period of the Bauzug the SS “guards” were soldiers pulled from the front who had not undertaken any specialist training in the concentration camps. Later, a guard unit of SS non-commissioned officers. Estimated 25.
Work type
Bomb Disposal: Clearing rubble and repairing railroad lines in the cities of Karlsruhe and Stuttgart.
Employer
SS-WVHA Bureau C
Number of prisoners
Initially 505 male prisoners in September 1944. Maintained at around 500 prisoners.
Nationality of prisoners
Mostly Poles (around 380) and Soviet POWs (around 120).
Period of camp existence
18th September – October 1944
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
Around October 10, 1944, the sub-camp was placed under the control of Buchenwald Concentration Camp and, several days later, was renamed 7-SS Eisenbahnbaubrigade and transferred to Stuttgart.
Memorialisation
No known memorial
Other information
1 April 1945 it was decided to split the Bauzug into two parts. Commandant of one part SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Schäfer, and the second SS-Scharfuhrer (?) Luger. On 2 April 1945 the Bauzug headed by Luger departed from Stuttgart for the South. The exact fate of this train is not known.
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The History

The history of the companies and the places prisoners worked, the sub camps, the SS guards and memorialisation of the sites.

The History of the Sub Camp 2 SS Bauzug

The history of the 2 SS Bauzug (or Bauzug 7 SS Eisenbahnbaubrior 2 SS Bauzug- Karlsruhe) is closely intertwined with history of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Organized in September 1944, the Bauzug initially consisted of 505 prisoners selected from Auschwitz II-Birkenau. For several months, while travelling around southern Germany, the Bauzug came under the control of several concentration camps but never actually reached any of them. The Bauzug, a compact and harmonious group of Auschwitz prisoners survived until liberation.[1]

The reconstruction of the history of the Bauzug is possible as one of the Schreiber – Ryszard Krosnowski, when he escaped from the Bauzug, took with him all the Bauzug documents available to him. These were documents related to the condition of prisoners, reports on transfers, Totenmeldungen and the books of Häftlings-Stärke. This whole file of documents remained hidden by Polish civilian workers in Stuttgart, even when Krosnowski, recaptured by the Gestapo after escaping was sent back to the Bauzug. Later, after the liberation, these documents were returned to Poland and were made available to the Polish Red Cross, who used them to provide families with information about the fate of Auschwitz prisoners.

The documents were later transferred to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. A copy also exists in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.[2] An article in the periodical of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Hefte Von Auschwitz No 5 by Aleksander Miziewicz is based on these documents. The documents concern the period from September 18, 1944 to April 1, 1945. The last period April 1945 was reproduced from memory and was not supported by any documents.

There were initially 505 prisoners in the Bauzug. They were mostly Poles (around 380) and Soviets (around 120). A detailed analysis of the nationality of prisoners has not been carried out. Most of the prisoners were “new numbers”, meaning they had arrived later in Auschwitz and had resided there for less than a year. Only 130 prisoners – almost exclusively Poles had spent more than 1 year in Auschwitz before being assigned to the Bauzug.

In the group of “new numbers” there were many residents of Warsaw accidentally arrested after the uprising and also many Soviet prisoners of war.

It was difficult in the first period for the prisoners to create any solidarity. It wasn’t until later, after a few months, that a feeling of solidarity amongst the prisoners of the Bauzug gradually emerged. In the tough moments before liberation, when it was necessary to maintain discipline and a uniform, consistent approach in the face of events this was to hold the prisoners in good stead.

Although no secret resistance movement existed in the Bauzug, a group of prisoners nevertheless took active steps to alleviate the fate of their fellow prisoners. Despite the strict supervision of the SS guards, there was fairly wide leeway given, which whenever possible, was taken advantage of by the prisoners to alleviate their conditions.

Compared to the conditions in the Auschwitz main camps those in the Bauzug were good. Of course, there was hard work, poor food, and some SS guards who were brutal with the prisoners, but compared to the conditions in the last months of the war in other concentration camps, conditions in the Bauzug were tolerable. The prisoners of the Bauzug, being outside of the typical concentration camp environment and structures and in a relatively open environment in the bombed out towns and cities were able to organise extra food. In addition, the guards were not in the initial period the typical brutal and experienced guards from Auschwitz or other concentration camps. In the first period of the operation of the Bauzug the SS guards were former Wehrmacht men withdrawn from the front and had not undertaken any specialist training in the concentration camps. They had received little instruction on the strict regulations of the concentration camps and behaved fairly decently towards the prisoners.

Later, a guard of SS non-commissioned officers was created, who introduced to the Bauzug typical concentration camp “drill” in all its worst manifestations. New guards were added to supplement them, who were recruited from the elderly and those tired of the war, who only implemented the minimum disciplinary requirements so they would not be accused of failing in their duties.

The history of the Auschwitz Bauzug began in early September 1944, when the Schreibstube of Auschwitz II-Birkenau was ordered to draw up a list of prisoners for a special transport to Germany. This list included 505 prisoners, among them 100 specialists of various professions specially selected from the entire camp. The Bauzug was formed to provide the Reich with a mobile work force to repair communications lines damaged in air raids and to remove rubble from wrecked railway stations and cities. The SS authorities created a mobile unit that could be quickly moved to bombed areas by effectively creating a “concentration camp on wheels.” This mobile unit consisted of a train of several dozen freight wagons adapted to carry concentration camp prisoners. It consisted of about 25 carriages, including a kitchen for the prisoners, an SS kitchen, an ambulance car, carriages to store tools, food warehouses, workshops, a Schreibstube, sleeping cars for the SS guards and one passenger car a Pullman wagon.[3] rebuilt for the commander of the train as an apartment and office. Later, a stable wagon was added to the train for a cart and horse. On the initiative and the efforts of the prisoners, a bathing car was also created.

On September 18, 1944 after the transport list of prisoners was approved and the completion of normal pre-departure activities (delousing, new striped uniforms, quarantine) the train departed. It consisted of 505 prisoners and a dozen or so SS guards.

The prisoners rode for several days in the closed rail wagons through southern Germany. Based on the stations they passed, they tried to deduce where they were being taken. In overloaded wagons (more than 20 prisoners crammed onto three-story bunks per freight wagon) it was cramped and stuffy. The prisoners spent all day lying on their bunks and looking alternately through the small barred windows. The only variation to the monotonous routine was the dispensing of food, which took place once a day when the train stopped at the railway sidings of one of the passing railway stations. Then, after the Postenkette [4] was formed, the prisoners could leave their wagons and received dinner cooked in the kitchen wagon during the journey, for example soup. There was very little water to drink. No cigarettes were given to the prisoners.

On September 26, the train arrived in Karlsruhe. It was halted near a railway siding leading to the freight station next to the road and nearby the viaduct. A roll call was taken and the prisoners were again locked in the wagons. That night an air raid alarm sounded and Allied aircraft appeared overhead and the sounds of the first bomb blasts were heard by the prisoners of the Bauzug. It was the first of the carpet bombing raids that destroyed Karlsruhe.[5]

Panic broke out amongst the prisoners in the wagons. The prisoners began to shout and bang on the bolted doors demanding that the wagons be opened. The panic, which also afflicted the SS guards and due to their lack of experience in the concentration camps the guards decided that the wagons should be opened. The prisoners were allowed to take refuge in a nearby forest. From the forest, for 3 hours, the prisoners watched the waves of planes overhead, destined for Karlsruhe, as the bombs dropped  started numerous fires.

Under these conditions the prisoners were not properly guarded. There were not enough guards and thse there were,  hid in fear. These circumstances provided ideal opportunities for the prisoners to escape. That night, however, all of the prisoners returned to the train after the air raid alarm was cancelled.

On 27 September, during one of the repeated night raids, five prisoners took the opportunity to escape. They were: Mikołaj Rybkin, Ryszard Mirski, Zygmunt Wolski and two prisoners numbered between 190088 and 190119. It should be noted that under the working conditions of the Bauzug it was relatively easy to organize an escape. Most prisoners, took the view that it was safer to wait out the last, as everyone thought, months of war in relatively (after Auschwitz) good conditions than to run away and risk being caught by the Gestapo deep inside Germany. During this period, the advancing Soviet Army had cut off the former Polish territories from Germany and the escaping prisoners had little chance of fleeing back to their home countries.

On September 29, the Auschwitz commandant, ordered Marek Korganow who had been sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp by mistake to be released. He was the son of an activist from the pro-German Armenian committee . He had been deported to Auschwitz in error during the evacuation of the Polish population from Warsaw after the crushing of the uprising in 1944.

The first few days of work in Karlsruhe were chaotic. This was caused by the raids that had completely disrupted normal life in the city. Local authorities were constantly asking the train commander to dispatch prisoners to save burning buildings and the prisoners were being constantly moved around the city.

Some prisoners tried to save the documents from the burning city hall. Prisoners were also “loaned” to private individuals to help remove belongings from their burning houses. One of the prisoners commented “It was then that we saw how well the German cellars were stocked with food supplies. Of course, we used it to eat our fill. However, we did it in secret, because eating the discovered or scavenged supplies was viewed by the Germans as robbery. Being “caught” meant a referral to the Gestapo or a punishment in the camp.”

On October 5, two prisoners Czesław Rek and Wacław Małecki were sent back to Auschwitz I. On the order of the Bauzug commandant, the Oberkapo Małecki was ordered back to Auschwitz to collect a change of striped uniforms and underwear for the prisoners. They both went under the escort of one SS man, named Paul. Paul returned after a dozen or so days and reported that Małecki had died during an air raid on the way back from Oświęcim to the Bauzug. It later turned out that Małecki had bribed Paul with valuables taken from Auschwitz and fled.

After the initial period of constant air raid alarms, some peace returned to Karlsruhe. The prisoners were divided into Kommandos. Some of the prisoners worked in the city, but most of them were used to repair damaged rail tracks and railway stations. A large Kommando worked at the freight station. Bomb craters were filled in, new tracks were laid, wagons and locomotives destroyed by the bombing were removed. Life in the Bauzug gradually took on a routine; wake up and roll call in the morning at 07.00 hrs, working in one of the Kommandos, for dinner, a bowl of soup, at 17.00 hrs end of the day’s work, return to the train, coffee and a portion of bread, some free time and then the closing up of the prisoners accommodation wagons for the night.

On 6 October, in one of the basements of the rubble of a house in the centre of Karlsruhe, Ivan Pavlenko found some wine. He drank so much of it that he suffered alcohol poisoning and died a few hours later in the Bauzug. The guards began to pay closer attention to the prisoners at work so as not to give them opportunities to steal food.

On October 6, prisoner Tadeusz Trecz was taken to the hospital in Karlsruhe. The work of removing rubble from collapsed houses was carried out by hand. The only tools made available were shovels and pickaxes. The prisoners who moved among the fires and demolished buildings were exposed to the risk of accidents. Prisoners crushed by collapsing walls or burned from the fires were treated in the Bauzug ambulance railcar. Severe cases, were transferred to a hospital in the city.

On October 9, Jakub Tremow was caught by the SS while “organizing” food and was shot. Five prisoners: Roland Skarżyński, Jerzy Skarżyński, Vasyl Lebiediev, Grzegorz Arechow and Eugeniusz Ziębicki escaped from the Kommando working at the goods station in Karlsruhe during an air raid alarm. Two of them were later recaptured by the Gestapo and brought back to the train.

Probably as a result of the ongoing evacuation of the Auschwitz complex of camps, control of the 2 SS Bauzug was transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Despite numerous orders from the commander of Bauzug and repressive measures, the prisoners still took advantage of every opportunity to organise extra food. Even the less favoured prisoners, who worked at railway stations, and not in the collapsed buildings, tried to organise extra food from the railway depots. Eventually prisoners caught organising extra food rations were sent to the Gestapo in Karlsruhe. In addition to the crime of organising extra food prisoners were sent to the Gestapo for refusal to work, incitement of other prisoners, and even for the intention to escape.

On October 13, Jakub Malczuk was handed over to the Gestapo for organising an escape attempt and inciting colleagues to boycott their work.

On October 17, the Gestapo transferred Aleksei Bukov to the Bauzug. He was the first prisoner of the Bauzug from a concentration camp other than Auschwitz. He was later transferred (December 27) to the concentration camp of Leonberg, a sub camp of Natzweiler. Tadeusz Urbanowicz was handed over to the Gestapo.

From time to time, there were Allied air raids. During the daily air raid alarms, the prisoners had to remain at their workplaces. They could not go to the shelters and were exposed to the obvious dangers.

On October 19, during an air raid, Mieczysław and Kupiec Stanisław Markowski were injured by a shrapnel bomb. They were both sent to hospital.

On October 20, Markowski died in the hospital. The 2 SS Bauzug changed its official name to 7 SS Eisenbahnbaubrigade.

On October 23, the Kommandos did not leave for work. Prisoners were ordered to clean up the area where the train was halted.

On October 23, at 24.00 hrs, at the behest of Berlin, “SS WVHA Amtsgruppe C”, the train left Karlsruhe in the direction of Stuttgart.

October 25, at 19.00 hrs the train arrived in Stuttgart and stopped in a railway tunnel at the ends of which guard posts were set up. The rail cars were opened and it was possible for the prisoners to move around within the tunnel. There was of course no light.

On October 27, the first cases of typhus were reported due to poor hygiene, lack of water and bathing facilities; Mikołaj Wołoszyn was sent to an infectious disease hospital.

On October 30, during raids, trains from the Stuttgart station entered the tunnel at high speed where the Bauzug was halted.

Three prisoners (Bronisław Przywara, Iwan Tarasow and Jurko Rybak) were killed during an air raid by a passing train. The same day, Leonid Michałow climbed onto the roof of a rail car and was fatally electrocuted by a high-voltage electricity wire in the tunnel.

On November 10, the Bauzug was moved 500 m from the tunnel entrance onto a side-track. During the air raids that night, prisoners were forced to leave the rail cars and hide in the tunnel. The raids were more frequent. Sometimes the prisoners had to run for cover several times during the night. At the same time trains moved into the tunnel from the station to escape the bombs.

A group of prisoners ran into a locomotive moving into the tunnel killing: Roman Frankiewicz, Antoni Czyż and Michał Pliumek.

On November 15, Roman Skarżyński and Eugeniusz Ziębicki, who had escaped on October 9, were recaptured by the Gestapo and returned to the Bauzug. The same day, after his wounds had healed, Mieczysław Kupiec returned from hospital.

In Stuttgart, in addition to the small Kommandos, which worked on clearing the rubble from the air raids, a large Kommando was created utilising the majority of prisoners (about 300 men) to build a railway siding. The work was extremely hard because of the digging of earthworks and the lack of opportunities to source additional food.

On November 10, “for poor work and disobedience,” Franciszek Przybysz was handed over to the Gestapo.

During this period, the Bauzug came under the authority of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

By this time the hard physical work of the Kommandos and the poor diet began to take its toll on the prisoners. The prisoners were becoming weaker and weaker and couldn’t keep up at work. Selections of the sick and Muselmänner were carried out and they were replaced with healthy prisoners from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

On November 27, 4 sick and weak prisoners unable to work were transported to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

On December 3, Eugene Caban escaped from the Bauzug.

On December 5, four new prisoners arrived from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

On December 6, Ryszard Kurman fled.

On December 15, an internal order was issued on the obligation to return all money. It was the result of numerous escapes.

On December 18, another 15 prisoners unable to work were sent to Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.

On December 27, Alexei Bukov, a prisoner sent to the Gestapo on October 17 was transferred to the Leonberg concentration camp.

On December 29, Mikołaj Wołoszyn returned from the hospital.

On January 5, 1945, Ryszard Mirski, who escaped with five prisoners on September 27, 1944 (the first escape from the Bauzug) – was captured by the Gestapo and taken back to the Bauzug. He was locked in a “bunker”.

The SS built a “bunker” on one of the rail cars.[6] Prisoners suspected of attempting to escape and those recaptured after an escape were locked in the bunker. Also the bunker was used as punishment for prisoners who were disobedient, organised food, or had contacts with civilians.

On January 8, Aleksandra Misiewicz was sent to a hospital in Stuttgart with suspected typhus.

On January 10, after serving a seven week sentence in a Gestapo prison, Franciszek Przybysz returned to the Bauzug.

As the end of the war approached and the position of the German army worsened, discipline on the train relaxed more and more. During this period the beating of prisoners was officially abolished in the concentration camps – and the Bauzug commandant complied with this order. The only sanction against unruly prisoners was their transfer to the Gestapo.

Of course, there were numerous cases of prisoners being beaten, but this happened at the initiative of individual guards and was not an official punishment.

On January 11, Mikołaj Pokidyszew died.

It is difficult to say now with certainty whether the escaped prisoner returned by the Gestapo to the Bauzug and abused by SS man Paul in the bunker until he died was Pokidyshev.

On January 13, a transport of sick and prisoners unable to work was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

The prisoners’ health now deteriorated rapidly. There were more and more prisoners unable to work. The camp doctors (prisoners) gave more and more exceptions from work (so-called Schonung), and this resulted in fewer and fewer prisoners going to work in the Kommandos. The SS protested against this insisting that even weak prisoners should work. Therefore, a Kommando named the Muselmankommando was created on the initiative of a group of prisoners, which did light housekeeping duties and peeled potatoes. Assignment to this Kommando was based on the decision of the camp doctor (of course also a prisoner) and lasted about a week. Tragically for those affected, when the number of Muselmänner, increased too much, the Bauzug commander sent some of the weaker prisoners back to the concentration camp to which the Bauzug reported, with a request to send healthy prisoners in their stead.

On January 13, three prisoners (Edward Barton, Edmund Kwiatkowski, Mieczysław Janka) were handed over to the Gestapo in connection with “organizing” food and cigarettes on the Zollamt Kommando. This large Kommando consisted of professionals who renovated partially destroyed warehouses. The warehouses contained many different goods that tempted prisoners working there. Thanks to the organization of the prisoners in this Kommando, many foodstuffs and cigarettes were smuggled from the warehouses back to the train. The shortages in the warehouses aroused the suspicion of the Germans, which resulted in frequent searches and raids by the Gestapo and Kripo on the Kommando when they returned to the Bauzug. After a few days’ investigation, the three detained prisoners were sent back by the Gestapo back to the Bauzug (on January 17).

On January 17, the SS killed Vasyl Jakimczuk during work.

On February 1, Marian Lewandowski was sent to the hospital suspected of suffering from typhus. After a few days on February 6, he returned to the Bauzug, because the original diagnosis was incorrect.

On February 5, two prisoners: Hipolit Krogulec and Henryk Miskiewicz escaped from the Kommando during work.

The mood of the prisoners of the Bauzug was optimistic; the front was approaching rapidly. Germany was less and less confident. Messages leaked to prisoners through contacts with civilians suggested the imminent end of the war. Forced labourers deported to Germany were less afraid and easier to contact by the prisoners. Hopes for a quick end to the war and the weakening vigilance of the Germans resulted in many prisoners deciding to escape and hide in the forest until liberation.

On February 15, Mieczysław Olenderek escaped from the Kommando.

On February 18, Stanisław Fliks and Mieczysław Mazur were handed over to the Gestapo as suspects in planning an escape.

On 19 February, 11 prisoners escaped.

On February 21, Paweł Radiuk, who had been sent to the hospital in Stuttgart from the 8 Baubrigade after recovery he was sent back to the Bauzug.

Timofiej Szuluk was sent to the hospital.

In the Bauzug there was a special ambulance car staffed with two doctors and three paramedics. It was primitively equipped with only basic dressing materials. Prisoners in need of more seriuos  help were only sent to the hospital in the city as a last resort. Given the basic supplies of the Bauzug ambulance car prisoners organized the necessary medicines and dressings on their own. The medicines and dressings came either from destroyed German homes, or from civilians and prisoners of war. Of course, all contact with prisoners of war was strictly prohibited.

On February 23, the first Erziehungshäftlinge arrived at the Bauzug. Later, more and more of them arrived, so that in the last days of the existence of the Bauzug there were 30 Erziehungshäftling. They were recruited from among civilian employees of different nationalities (Zwangsarbeiter). They were treated the same as the other prisoners of the Bauzug, but after some time they were released and returned to their work.

On 24 February, from the group of 11 prisoners who escaped on 19 February, Karol Baranowski was recaptured and brought back to the Bauzug.

Sanitary conditions had steadily deteriorated. There was very little space in the train wagon which accommodated an average of 20 prisoners. Only the centre of the wagon was not occupied with bunk beds. In the centre was a table, bench and stove. There was a “toilet” in the corner. So, after entering the wagon, the prisoners lay or sat on the three-story narrow bunk beds. Repeated air raids forced the prisoners to run to the shelter several times during the night; most of them didn’t take off their clothes overnight. Of course, washing under these conditions was out of the question. Tiredness and the cramped conditions were not conducive to cleanliness. So diseases spread and the number of lice increased. The bathhouse built by prisoners on their own initiative from organized materials, only partially solved the problem of cleanliness. This led to numerous cases of illness in the Bauzug including typhus.

On February 27, Józef Śliwek was sent to the hospital.

On February 28, Mieczysław Mazur, one of the two prisoners transferred to the Gestapo on February 18, was returned to the Bauzug.

All prisoners handed over to the Gestapo were returned to the Bauzug. The Gestapo no longer worked as efficiently as in the earlier period of the war and now had more issues with its own citizens. In the last months of the war, the Gestapo was reluctant to take on new responsibilities. Therefore, punishment generally consisted only of a spell in a Gestapo prison before being returned to the Bauzug.

On March 6, Roman Wróblewski was sent to hospital.

On March 7, Tymofiej Szulik returned from hospital.

The escapes of Soviets began to be more frequent. News of the advancing Red Army troops encouraged the Soviet prisoners, many prisoners of war, to try their luck at breaking out on their own.

On March 14, three Soviets: Vasyl Mopsiej, Grzegorz Arechow (for the second time) and Michał Komisarow escaped at night during an air raid alarm.

On March 16, three Soviets Wasyl Gorobkin, Piotr Korniejczuk and Marian Osiurko fled from their Kommando during an air raid.

Despite the difficult living conditions, terrible nutrition and exhaustion – the arrival of spring and the prospect of freedom kept the mood in the Bauzug reasonable. At that time, many prisoners worked in smaller Kommandos, which, under the supervision of one guard, went to various parts of the city to organize and clean up bomb damage. This created many opportunities to organize extra food.

Increasingly and more consistently, efforts were made to work as efficiently as possible. The basic principles of the movable concentration camp were perfected. In any case, the guards by now mostly old men from the Volkssturm, did not care too much about the work at that time.

On March 19, Roman Wróblewski returned from hospital.

On March 23, there was one Norwegian on the Bauzug, in addition to the Poles and Soviets. At the end of the war, when as a result of the Red Cross intervention, Scandinavian prisoners were to be released from the concentration camps, Ernst Elingsen was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for release.

An order from the commandant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp sought prisoners who felt German and wanted to serve the Greater German Reich. Applicants were promised release from the camp to serve Germany. None of the Bauzug prisoners volunteered.

On March 25, during an air raid three Soviet prisoners: Mikołaj Kowal, Wasyl Kokarew and Semen Klimen escaped from their Kommando.

On March 25, in exchange for sick prisoners sent back to the Buchenwald concentration camp, a transport of 49 prisoners arrived from Buchenwald. Although these new prisoners were to replace “Muselmänner”, their condition was not much better than those who had been sent back to Buchenwald. Buchenwald was such a brutal concentration camp that the prisoners transferred to the Bauzug from it were sent to the Muselmankommando and were frequently patients in the hospitals.

On March 27, the cook Wincenty Mikołajewski and Czesław Domagała were transferred to the Leonberg concentration camp for poor behaviour.

On March 29, four Soviets fled from their workplace: Noe Chachibai, Vladislav Kirychenko, Teodor Sabaldiv and Aleksander Diaczenko.

On March 30, the first prisoner transferred from Buchenwald – Szatochin was sent to a hospital in Stuttgart.

On April 1, the documented history of the Bauzug ends. All subsequent information was reproduced only from the memory of the authors of the report.

On April 1, a decision was made to evacuate the train from Stuttgart. The approaching front, bombings and growing chaos in the city contributed to the Bauzug being ordered by the local authorities to leave. There was a rumour among the prisoners that the transport was to be directed to the Friedrichshafen area, where there was allegedly a death camp. The rumour contributed to many prisoners deciding to risk falling into the hands of the Gestapo and stay in Stuttgart. A number of prisoners escaped on the day the train left. The number of escapees is not known. The Schreibstube documents were maintained only until April 1st. Later the Bauzug was in chaos; some prisoners were escaping, others were being brought back, and no accurate records were kept.

Due to transport difficulties (running such a large train on bombed railways) it was decided to divide the Bauzug into two parts. One of them was led by the Bauzug commandant, Obersturmführer Schäfer, the other by Scharführer Luger. The residential rail cars, warehouses and SS wagons were divided into two separate parts.

On April 2, the train led by Luger left Stuttgart to the south. The fate of this part of the train is not exactly known. However, there were rumours that during a night bombardment part of the train was destroyed causing the death of some of the prisoners, and there were also rumours about a mass shooting by terrified SS men in the last days of the war. But the accuracy of this information cannot be verified. However, the fate of the second part of the Bauzug led by Obersturmführer Schäfer is known and is as follows.

On April 3, a locomotive was attached to the train and it was prepared for departure. Many prisoners took advantage of the confusion and fled just before its departure or at the time of departure. The Germans were already so confused that they did not organize a pursuit. The train headed south towards Bodensee. Among the escaped prisoners was Ryszard Krosnowski, who took with him from the Schreibstube the documents underlying this report and two photographs of SS men.

On April 5, the Bauzug, moving slowly from station to station, reached the town of Biberach. It is not clear whether it was because of the destroyed rail tracks or because French troops were advancing quickly southwards that the Bauzug was stopped. It was halted on a railway siding running next to the main line through a field below the town, 100 m from the road. There was complete chaos on the train. However, the guards and the camp commander tried to preserve the appearance of the Bauzug functioning normally. In agreement with the local authorities of Biberach, Kommandos were created that went into the town to remove rubble from collapsed houses. There was already great confusion in the town. Barricades had been built on the roads, guarded by the Volkssturm. The prisoners awaited liberation at any day. There was growing concern among the SS men. In this situation, several older prisoners approached the train commander Schäfer with a proposal that in exchange for guaranteeing him that he would be taken prisoner as an officer of the Wehrmacht and not of the SS, and for issuing him a letter that he behaved decently towards prisoners he would try to bring the train into the hands of the French and would ignore further evacuation orders. After several discussions, Schäfer agreed and evacuated the guards. One day all of the SS men packed their belongings on a horse cart and left with orders to report to their units. Of the 200 prisoners, three German guards remained on the train, who were to signal to the German authorities the normal state existing in the Bauzug. They were the commandant Schäfer, SDG Stachowski and the chef (his name is not remembered). They kept in touch with the authorities outside and created the appearance that nothing had changed in the Bauzug. The prisoners guaranteed that they would keep order on the train themselves and that there would be no escapes. Both of these commitments were met.

On April 22, 9 prisoners who escaped during the train departure from Stuttgart were brought back by the Gestapo.

On April 23, an order for a further evacuation was given to the Bauzug. The locomotive was replaced and the train drove off towards Ulm. A dozen or so kilometres away in Schussenried it was learned that the German army had already withdrawn and that the French were approaching. At this station the train was stopped by prisoners who took over the locomotive and here formal liberation took place.

It turned out, however, that German troops had already left the town of Schussenried, but the French troops, after handing over a certain number of weapons to the Bauzug prisoners, followed the retreating Germans. The city was in chaos and the prisoners of the Bauzug along with several liberated prisoners of war had to organize shelter from the retreating German units. About 100 prisoners were armed and an occupation city council was organized.

Later, the French army legalized the status quo and granted the former prisoners command authority over Schussenried.

The Bauzug prisoners lived in a group for several weeks after their release. Partly as a “military” unit commanded by selected prisoners of the Bauzug, partly as a group of “civilians” accommodated together and running a joint “farm.”

This organized life ended two months after liberation, when the town received a permanent French occupation board, and the prisoners after recovering and acclimatising to freedom parted, to go their individual ways.

A summary of the number of the prisoners from the formation of 2 Bauzug on 18 September 1944 through 1 April 1945:[7]

Given the catastrophic death rates in the period in other sub camps of Auschwitz the death rates of prisoners in the 2 Bauzug were minimal.


[1] This text is based on: Ryszard Kosnowski, Aleksander Miziewicz, 7 SS Eisenbahnbaubrigade, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1961] Nr 5, p. 41-56.
[2] USHMM RG-04.066M Acc. 1998.A.0071 Reel 7 file 708 and APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia.
[3] Pullman – railway passenger car with a distinctive narrow corridor, which lead to the compartments. The name comes from the name of the constructor, George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897), American engineer and inventor who designed this type of railway carriage in 1863.
[4] Postenkette – a security chain made up of camp guards.
[5] During World War II, Karlsruhe was heavily damaged by Allied bombing of the night, due to the characteristic projection represented an easy target and a landmark for the aviation industry. Particularly affected historic centre.
[6] The “bunker” the underground cells in Auschwitz Block 11. Certainly for the witnesses a penal cell organized by the SS.
[7] Fings, Karola, Krieg, Gesellschaft und KZ: Himmlers SS-Baubrugaden, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh 2005.

Evacuation of the 2 SS Bauzug

The prisoners of the 2 Bauzug were not subject to a death march which caused the death of a large proportion of prisoners who left Auschwitz and the sub camps around 17 January 1945 on the death marches west.

Memorialisation

As far as we aware there is no memorial to the members of the 2 Bauzug in the major cities in which they worked, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe.

Topography of the Sub Camp 2 SS Bauzug

Map of travel route of 2 SS Bauzug. T4

Location of the Sub Camp 2 SS Bauzug

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