Arbeitslager Althammer

Name of the camp
Arbeitslager Althammer
Commandant of the camp
SS-Oberscharführer Hans Höwner
SS-Oberscharführer Johann-Josef Mirbeth
Number of SS Guards
Around 10 SS Guards and estimated 20 former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men from the  8th Sentry Company Auschwitz. Estimated total number of guards 30.
Work type
Power Plants: Construction of a thermal electric power plant.
Employer
Godulla
Sub camp buildings
Previously the camp was a labour camp for Italian military internees.
Number of prisoners
Around 500 male prisoners. 17 January 1945 486
Nationality of prisoners
Mostly Jews from the Litzmannstadt (Łódź) ghetto and Drancy transit camp in France.
Period of camp existence
September 1944 – 18/19 January 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
Around 18/19  January 1945 the camp was closed, and the prisoners were evacuated to Germany. Several prisoners remained in Althammer and were liberated by the Red Army.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006, October 2006 and July 2007
Memorialisation
On the foundations of the former sub camp kitchen is a plaque erected in 2005 with an inscription in Polish. There is also an information board in Polish with brief information on the prisoners who constructed the power plant in Halemba.
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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 Kraftwerk Godulla

In 1940 it was decided to build a new power plant in Silesia in the town of Stara Kuźnica near Halemba. The idea to build a power plant in Ruda Śląska-Halemba originated with the German occupiers. It was a very attractive location: in the Silesian industrial area, near large coal deposits but outside of dense urban areas. These advantages blended together perfectly for the concept of a complex consisting of a mine and power plant that could process the on-site coal. The planned power plant was to have 75 MW of power and bear the name of Kraftwerk Godulla. The name of the power plant in the plans was Godulla. [1]

Given the scale of the project, houses were built for the construction workers and future employees of the plant. In addition, to the residential housing intended for the management of the construction, the German technicians, specialists and overseers, a few brick barracks were built, which housed in turn: civilian workers from Wielkopolska, Soviet prisoners of war and former Italian military internees. These barracks were about 250 meters north of the power plant near the railway viaduct. The railway line connected the power plant to the mine that provided the coal. [2]


[1] Tiergartenstrasse4Association has not researched the ownership structure of Kraftwerk Godulla.
[2]  Piper, Franciszek, Podobóz Althammer [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137.

The Post War History of the Halemba Power Plant (Formerly Kraftwerk Godulla)

The end of the war marked the failure of the German implementation of the power plant project, but the idea of building a power plant on the site was not abandoned. After the war the work undertaken by the concentration camp prisoners POWs and forced labourers was completely demolished and work began on a completely new power plant called Halemba. Initially Halemba was to be part of the Central Processing Plant (CZP), which it was planned to be located in the region. The concept of the CZP was abandoned however, and since the mid 1950s intensive design work began on the plant that exists today.

Modelled on French designs, Energoprojekt – Gliwice assumed the construction of the first stage of four power units of 50 MW each (a total 200 MW), the first of which was opened on October 12, 1962 and another 14 months later. The implementation of the second phase – scheduled for the beginning of the 1970s for the expansion of the power plant to 600 MW never happened.

Despite this, the power plant had been built very quickly (4 years) at the cost of over one billion zlotys. It was also the first power plant in the country burning coal.

The History of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

In September 1944, the former Italian military internees housed in the labour camp near the Halemba power plant were transferred, and in their place came a group of 30 prisoners from Auschwitz.  The prisoners Poles, Jews and one German were transported to Stara Kuźnica by truck.  Their task was to convert the barracks of the Italian military internees to a sub camp of Auschwitz.

The sub camp Althammer took the form of a rectangle with four guard towers at the corners, each with a nearby concrete bunker where the SS men could shelter if there was an air raid. The fifth tower was located next to the entrance gate to the sub camp. The whole area was surrounded by two rows of concrete posts hung with barbed wire. The inner fence was connected to the mains electricity. Inside the fence there were eight barracks, 7 of which were occupied by prisoners (map reference 1 to 7), while the one located next to the entrance gate was an infirmary, and an office for the block leader (map reference 8). One of the barracks housed a clothing store for the inmates. In each of the prisoner accommodation barracks there was a latrine and bath. Also, a new kitchen barrack was built (map reference 10). Barracks were divided into two large rooms that shared a long corridor. The rooms had steel, three-tiered bunks, which were organised in the middle of the rooms in two rows in which about 35 prisoners slept. Next to the windows there were primitive wooden tables and benches. In the corners of the rooms were standing lockers.

Outside the fence of the sub camp area there were two large barracks. One of them was the Blockführer-Stube building (map reference 12), located next to the entrance gate of the sub-camp, which housed the SS guards, the prisoners’ kitchen, offices and the accommodation for the SS guards. A second barrack was a store for potatoes, vegetables, coal and general storage rooms (map reference 13).

The prisoners did not complain about their accommodation: “Our barracks were new, clean, and were luxurious compared to the blocks in Birkenau.” [1]

After finishing the expansion and conversion of the sub camp in late September and October 1944 the main transport of prisoners arrived in Stara Kuźnica from Auschwitz. According to the analysis carried out by Franciszek Piper of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum from surviving transport records, we know that most of the prisoners in Althammer were Jews from the Litzmannstadt (Lódz) ghetto and the transit camp at Drancy in France.[2]

Overall, the sub camp Althammer held approximately 500 prisoners. Whilst the accommodation was good compared to the Auschwitz main camps, the food as in all of the other camps was totally insufficient; prisoners often were not given even the meagre rations they would expect to receive.

Most prisoners were employed in the construction of the thermal power plant Godulla. They were mainly engaged in bricklaying, excavation works and transport, the most physically exhausting jobs.

Some prisoners were employed in the construction of a railway siding from the Bielszowice railway station to the Halemba mine. Ludwik Cipa a local resident recalled: “(…) I saw some of the prisoners who worked in the construction of railway tracks for the Halemba mine (from the Bielszowice station). The prisoners were dressed in prison stripes, guarded by SS men and criminals (Kapos). On the construction of the railway track worked a total of 20 prisoners. There were about 8 to 10 SS men who guarded the prisoners. The standard hours of work were 6.00 hrs to 18.00 hrs. However, if there was a dense fog or it was getting dark, work was started later or ended earlier. Prisoners were forced to work hard, but personally I did not see that prisoners were beaten.” [3]  

Prisoners unfit for hard physical work on the site, performed a variety of jobs in the sub camp.


[1] Drożdżyński, Aleksander, Mały spokojny obóz, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1964] Nr 8, p. 38.
[2] Piper, Franciszek Podobóz Althammer, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137-153.
[3] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Ludwika Cipy, Vol. 54, p. 131.
Literature:
Piper, Franciszek Podobóz Althammer, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137-153.

The SS Guard Unit

Sub camp Althammer came under the supervision of Auschwitz III-Monowitz. The first Lagerführer of Althammer was SS-Oberscharführer Hans Höwner, formerly acting Kasinoleiter in Auschwitz III-Monowitz. The character of Höwner was portrayed in the testimony of former prisoner Aleksander Drożdżyński: “Our commander was a very strange man. He was tall, handsome, no more than 23-24 years old. He wore a smartly tailored uniform and belonged to the exclusive formation of the SS. Apparently his father was a high dignitary in Berlin. He was previously a Rapportführer in Buna. He had fairly broad interests. Amongst his duties was the creation of a brothel. He paid particular attention to this facility. He often sat there and assisted the residents while they were “doing their job”. In addition, the camp canteen was directly under him. All the attractive goods coming in were for his exclusive use. He was appointed commander from the date of the establishment of the camp. He chose the camp prisoners in Buna himself, who would perform the functions in Althammer.” [1]

The second Althammer sub camp Lagerführer was SS-Oberscharführer Hans Mirbeth. He introduced a strict camp regime – long roll calls, searches, and general harassment of prisoners. 

The sub camp Althammer guards were members of the SS 5th Guard Company and numbered around 10 SS men. In addition there were former Wehrmacht men assigned as guards. [2]


[1] Drożdżyński Aleksander, Mały spokojny obóz, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1964] Nr 8, p. 38.
[2] BA Ludwigsburg B162/9987, p.220.
Literature:
Piper, Franciszek Podobóz Althammer, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137-153.

The SS Guards

References:
BA Ludwigsburg B162/14261 and B162/9987.
Zppw-auschwitz.pl Zwiazek Polaków Pomordowanych w Auschwitz. List of 8500 SS men in KL Auschwitz.
IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
Piper, Franciszek Podobóz Althammer, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137-153.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

The number of prisoners in the Althammer sub camp on 17th January 1945 was 486.[1] The sub camp Althammer was dissolved on January 18, 1945, and the evacuation column was led directly by the commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz, Heinrich Schwarz. All prisoners able to march left the camp around 10.00 hrs in the direction of Gliwice.

The death march was recalled by one of the prisoners: “We trudged throughout the day on snowy roads towards the west. We could not feel our hands or feet because of the fatigue and cold. The weaker ones fell on the road. The SS finished them off with shots. In the evening we all collapsed completely exhausted. We were so exhausted that everyone was ready to lie down on the snow, just to avoid having to go on. We did not care. Then we decided that it was necessary at all costs to overcome the apathy and fatigue. We must go on. We took each other by the hand. We pulled the exhausted along. But all this hardly helped.” [2]  

When the prisoners of the Althammer sub camp reached Gliwice, they were loaded onto trains and transported to Ellrich a sub camp of Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp and finally to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In Althammer remained about 150 sick prisoners and those who had managed to hide. These prisoners were liberated by the Red Army.


[1] Testimony of Otto Wolken 22 June 1945. Viewed 10 August 2019. https://www.zapisyterroru.pl/dlibra/publication/3755/edition/3736/.
[2] Drożdżyński Aleksander, Mały spokojny obóz, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1964] Nr 8, p. 51.
Literature:
Piper, Franciszek Podobóz Althammer, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1971] Nr 13, p. 137-153.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

At the time of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visit to the former Althammer sub camp in 1967 it was virtually identical to how it looked during its occupation by Auschwitz prisoners. The brick buildings of the camp still existed and were occupied by families. Sections of the areas in front of the barracks had been cornered off to make small gardens. Whether there were any wooden barracks in the sub camp is unknown. Given the photographs taken by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum it would seem not. It is likely given the shortage of housing after the war that the surviving camp buildings were occupied by Polish families. Sometime in the following forty years the site was cleared, and the families rehoused. The site was then turned into a park with the foundations of one brick barrack retained as a memorial.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

A few fragments of the sub camp Althammer camp still exist. Travelling from Halemba towards Stara Kuźnica along ul Skargi, you can see part of a destroyed air raid bunker, a so called Einmannbunker (air raid bunker) (map reference 15) cylindrical in shape with observation holes. Here was also the main gate to the sub camp from the road. The camp was built parallel to the road. No fragments of the fence surrounding the camp have survived.

Behind the air raid bunker are located a few original buildings, now owned by a private company. One of them is the building, which contained the guardhouse, the camp office, kitchen and living quarters of the SS (map reference 12). This building was located outside the camp. Just behind it is a small path which extends from the building and is in the exact spot where the main street of the camp ran.

Half-way along the path, on the right side there is another camp building known as the new kitchen (map reference 10). The foundations are preserved and on the north-west corner of the foundations, there is a plaque made of dark marble.

On the area of the former sub camp Althammer can still be found water drains and valves from the time of the sub camp. There is an iconic view of the monumental Halemba power plant cooling towers from the remnants of the sub camp kitchen.

Memorialisation

Half-way along the path in the former sub camp area, on the right side there is camp building. It was known as the new kitchen (map reference 10). The foundations are preserved and on the north-west corner of the foundations, there is a plaque made of dark marble. On the plaque erected in 2005 there is an inscription in Polish: “LUDZIE LUDZIOM ZGOTOWALI TEN LOS / MIEJSCE PAMIĘCI OFIAR HITLEROWSKIEJ PRZEMOCY OBYWATELI NARODOWŚCI POLSKIEJ, ŻYDOWSKIEJ, AUSTRIACKIEJ, CZESKIEJ, FRANCUSKIEJ, WŁOSKIEJ I WĘGIERSKIEJ WIĘZIONYCH TU W LATACH 1944-1945 / CZEŚĆ ICH PAMIĘCI / 8 MAJA 2005 ROKU –SPOŁECZEŃSTWO RUDY ŚLĄSKIEJ.” (PEOPLE INFLICTED THIS ON OTHER PEOPLE. MEMORIAL PLACE FOR THE VICTIMS OF HITLER´S VIOLENCE ON POLISH, JEWISH, AUSTRIAN, CZECH, FRENCH, ITALIAN AND HUNGARIAN CITIZENS IMPRISONED IN THIS CAMP IN 1944-1945. MAY 8, 2005 – RUDA ŚLĄSKA SOCIETY.)

In the upper left corner of the plaque there is a prisoner triangle. The prisoner triangle has inside it stripes representing the stripes of the prisoner uniform, a withered flower and the inscription Althammer 1944-1945. Outside of the triangle there is the inscription Halemba Arbeitslager and finally diagonally along the left hand side KL Auschwitz III.

There is also an old information board on the site, which reads: “1940. OKUPANT HITLEROWSKI ROZPOCZYNA BUDOWĘ OBIEKTÓW PRZEMYSŁOWYCH NA TERENIE STAREJ KUŹNICY. PRACUJĄ TU PRZYMUDOWO POLACY Z WIELKOPOLSKI. MIESZKAJĄ W BARAKACH. 1941. POLACY, PRACOWNICY CYWILNI, ZOSTAJĄ Z BARAKAÓW PRZENIESIENI DO INNCYH POMIESZCZEŃ, A ICH MIEJSCE ZAJMUJĄ JEŃCY RADZIECCY. BARAKI ZOSTAJĄ OTOCZONE DRUTEM KOLCZASTYM I POWSTAJE OBÓZ JENIECKI. 1943. DO OBOZU ZOSTAJĄ PRZYWIEZIENI JEŃCY WŁOSCY. 1944. WE WRZEŚNIU PORZENIESIENIU WŁOCHÓW DO INNCY BARAKÓW PRZYWIEZIONO DO OBOZU KONCENTRACYJNEGO AUSCHWITZ III PIERWSZY TRANSPORT WIĘŹNIÓW.OD TEJ CHWILI POWSTAŁA FILIA KL AUSCHWITZ – ARBEITSLAGER ALTHAMMER. PRZECIĘTNY STAN WYNOSIŁ 500 WIĘŹNIÓW. BYLI TO POLACY-ŻYDZI Z GETTA ŁÓDZKIEGO, ŻYDZI Z CZECHOSŁOWACJI, AUSTRII, FRANCJI I WĘGIER. ZMUSZANI DO NADLUDZKIEJ PRACY, GŁODZENI, BICI, GINĘLI Z ODNIESIONYCH RAN I WYCIEŃCZENIA. TRUPY WYWOŻONO DO KREMATORIUM W OBOZIE OŚWIĘCIMSKIM.” (1940. HITLER OCCUPIERS START CONSTRUCTION OF INDUSTRIAL PLANT STAREJ KUŹNICY. POLES FROM WIELKOPOLSKA WORK ON IT. THEY LIVE IN THESE BARRACKS. IN 1941 POLES, CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES ARE TAKEN TO OTHER CAMPS. 1943. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR ARE BROUGHT TO THE CAMP. 1944. IN SEPTEMBER, THE ITALIAN’S LEAVE AND THE BARRACKS ARE TAKEN OVER BY THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP III. THE FIRST TRANSPORT OF PRISONERS. IT IS A BRANCH OF AUSCHWITZ – ARBEITSLAGER ALTHAMMER. THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF PRISONERS IS 500. THEY WERE POLES – JEWS FROM LODZ GHETTO, JEWS FROM CZECHOSLOVAKIA, AUSTRIA, FRANCE AND HUNGARY. DUE TO THE INHUMAN WORK, STARVATION, BEATINGS THEY DIED. THE CORPSES WERE TRANSPORTED TO THE CREMATORIUM IN THE AUSCHWITZ CAMP.)

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkeanu State Museum visited the site of the sub camp on 21 September 1967 and took 22 photographs. These include:

  1. “The Blockführerstube, kitchen for prisoners and barrack for SS men.” (map reference 12) (Photograph reference 11201),
  2. “Storehouses on the area of the former sub camp.” (Photograph reference 11202),
  3. “The former roll-call square (map reference 14), and from the left storehouse for clothing, Office, hospital barrack and one of the barracks for prisoners.” (map reference 8) (Photograph reference 11209),
  4. “The former bathhouse.” (map reference 11) (Photograph reference 11213),
  5. “The latrine.” (map reference 9) (Photograph reference 11212),
  6. “Barracks for prisoners.” (map reference 1 to 7). (Photo reference 11219).

Topography of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

Map of former Arbeitslager Althammer. T4
Former Auschwitz prisoner drawing of Arbeitslager Althammer. APMAB
Contemporary map of  Kraftwerk Godulla and Arbeitslager Althammer. APMAB
Contemporary map of Kraftwerk Godulla and Arbeitslager Althammer. APMAB

Location of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Althammer

TitleCategoryAddressDescriptionLink

Photographs

Taken by the SS, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Tiergartenstraße4Association and other

SS Contemporary Photographs

SS-Unterscharführer Nikolai von Greig APMAB 2761

SS-Oberscharführer Bruno Georg Arthur Lehmann APMAB 2731

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Sub Camp Documents

Fahrbefehl 18_11_1944 APMAB