Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

Name of the camp
Arbeitslager Charlottegrube
Other Name of the camp
Arbeitslager Charlottengrube
Arbeitskommando Charlottegrube
Kommando Charlottegrube Rydultau
Kommando Charlottengrube
Konzentrationslager Monowitz – Arbeitslager Charlottegrube Kreis Rybnik O/S
Zweiglager Rydultau
Commandant of the camp
SS-Scharführer Georg Bonigut: September 1944 to October 1944.
SS-Oberscharführer Alfred Tschiersky: October 1944 to November 1944.
SS-Oberscharführer Hans Kirschner: November 1944 to 19 January 1945.
Number of SS Guards
In December 1944 54 guards from the Wachkompanie Monowitz and former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men from the 8th Sentry Company Auschwitz.
Work type
Coal Mining: Coal mining and mine construction work at the Charlotte mine and power plant.
Employer
Bergwerksverwaltung Oberschlesien der Reichswerke Hermann Göring part of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring
Sub camp buildings
Camp 1: stables adapted for use as a camp.
Camp 2: the Shlafhaus was a former building for housing miners.
Camp 3: Annarampe was originally built for POWs and forced labourers.
Camp 4: Judenlager (Lager Berlin) was specifically built for the Auschwitz prisoners.
Camp 5: Hercer´s brickyard. Barracks were originally constructed for Polish prisoners.
Number of prisoners
Approximately 1,000 male prisoners.
17 January 1945 833.
Nationality of prisoners
The prisoners were mostly Jews – from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. There were also Jews from Poland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Greece and Romania and several from the islands of Corsica and 300 from Rhodes.
Period of camp existence
September 1944 – 19 January 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
The camp was evacuated on 19 January 1945 to Wodzisław Śląski. The prisoners were then transported to Mauthausen concentration camp.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006, September 2006, October 2006, July 2007.
Memorialisation
A large monument located in the city centre at ul Ofiar Terroru. The monument erected in 1975 consists of a rectangular stone frame, to which a large cast-iron plaque has been attached with an inscription in Polish.
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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 Charlotte Mine

The beginnings of mining in the area are connected with geological research, initiated in 1792 by the Prussian minister of the Silesian Province, Karol Georg von Hoym. Based on this research, in 1803 Frederick von Sack, the owner of the property in Czernica, began searching for coal. In the area known today as Babiogóra he discovered a seam about 3 m thick. After obtaining the permission of the Royal Prussian State Mining Office of the Duchy of Silesia and the Kłodzko County, Frederick von Sack and his wife Luise launched the Charlotte mine in 1806.[1]

In 1827, the mine was taken over by Josef Doms, and 10 years later the merchant Frederick Wilhelm Hoffmann from Breslau became the owner. In 1839, Hoffmann transferred half of his shares to Franz Winckler. They merged the Charlotte mine with the Sack [2] and Petronella [3] mines a year later. In 1843, Professor Karol Kuh bought the combined mine from Hoffmann and Winkler. He decided to significantly expand the mine. Professor Kuh’s heirs set up Gewerkschaft Charlotte and on November 22, 1884, they connected the mine with the following mining fields: Eleonore, von der Heldt, Durant, Minna, Michael, Thürnagel, Georg Friedrich, Hans Julius, Heinrich, Carnall and Wit von Döring. [4]

Gewerkschaft, which in the meantime was in financial trouble, was bought in 1889 by a group of Austrian and Czech businessmen. They also purchased the Leo and Dicke Verwandschaft mines as well as the mining fields of Caecilie and Agnes Gluck. They were exploited together with the Charlotte mine. [5]

In 1928, the name of the mine was changed to Charlotte. In 1930, Rybnickie Gwarectwo Węglowe became the new owner. However, in 1932-1936 the mine was temporarily out of action.[6]

With the start of World War II, the Charlotte mine in Rydułtowy became part of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring. [7] The mine was directly subordinate to the Bergwerksverwaltung Oberschlesien der Reichswerke Hermann Göring and with five other enterprises formed Group II (Gruppe II). Within this group were the mines “Anna”, “Hoym”, “Emma”, “Römmer” and “Charlotte” and a coking plant.[8]


[1] Jaros, Jerzy, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[2] The Sack Mine in Czernica (Gaszowice) was established in 1806 on the initiative of Fryderyk von Sack. It was taken over successively by: in 1812 – merchant Jan Gotfryd Weiss from Wrocław; in 1818 – the merchant Karol Franciszek Steinitz; in 1828 – merchant Józef Doms and finally in 1836 – merchant Frederick Wilhelm Hoffmann.
[3] The Petronella Mine in Czernica (Gaszowice) was established in 1832 on the initiative of counsellor Cuno from Racibórz. In 1837 Franciszek Winkler bought it.
[4] Jaros, Jerzy, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[5]  Jaros, Jerzy, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[6] Jaros, Jerzy, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[7] The Hermann Göring Werke was founded in 1937 and was state owned. In 1939 it took over various businesses in Upper Silesia. A year later a sister company was founded under the name Hermann Göring Bergwerksverwaltung Oberschlesien Reichswerke der GmbH, which was the supervisory board for various mines in Upper Silesia.
[8] Strzelecki, Andrzej Podobóz Charlottegrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41. See also: APMAB, Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Wilhelm Czyż, Vol. 51, p. 53.

The Post War History of the Rydułtowy (Formerly Charlotte) Mine

After the war in 1945, the name of the mine was changed from Charlotte to Rydułtowy and was part of the Rybnicki Związek Przemysłu Węglowego. In 1968, the Ignacy mine was merged with the Rydułtowy mine.[1] In 1986, a memorial room was established in the historic administration building; the documents, photos, maps, mining tools and other historical items bring together the history and development of the mine from its inception to modern times.

In 1993, the Rydułtowy mine became part of Rybnicka Spółka Węglowa S.A., and since 2003 has been owned by Kompania Węglowa S.A. in Katowice. After the merger of the Rydułtowy and Anna mines in 2004, a company named KWK Rydułtowy -Anna was established with its headquarters in Rydułtowy.

In March 2007, after a series of shocks felt within a radius of several kilometres of the mine, a commission appointed by the State Mining Authority considered closing the mine due to dangerous operating conditions. The commission was established after one of the mine’s seams, as a result of the expansion of the rock mass, collapsed sharply from a height of 250 cm to 90 cm. However, after examining the case, the Commission expressed a positive opinion about the mine and did not decide to close it.

At the mine is the tallest slag heap in Europe about 130 m high.


[1] The Ignacy Mine in Niewiadom (Rybnik) was established in 1792 thanks to the efforts of the Kamery Wojenno-Dominikalnej we Wrocławiu. In 1832 it was purchased by counsellor Cuno from Racibórz who combined it with: in 1835 the Sylwester mine; in 1840 the Birtultau mining field and in 1871 the Laura mine. In 1890, Prince Hugo zu Hohenlohe-Öhringen acquired a majority stake. In 1914 the mine was connected to the Carolus mine and the Omer Pascha mining field. In 1940, the mines were taken over by the Herman Göring Werke, and after the war by the Rybnik Mining Industry Association. In 1968, it was incorporated into the Rydułtowy mine. The name of the mine until 1871 and in 1922-1936 and 1939-1945 was Hoym; in the years 1871-1922 Hoym-Laura; in the years 1936-1939 and after the war, Ignacy.

The History of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

Rydułtowy is a small town located within the southwestern part of the Silesian Upland on the Rybnik Plateau, in the Oświęcim-Raciborska basin. Coal mining was the determinant for the development of this region.

During World War II, five camps were located there and at least three, possibly all five were part of the sub camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube. Although the camps were separate in terms of location, so far no documents confirming their administrative separation have been discovered. Research in this area has been undertaken by Dr Andrzej Strzelecki from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum [1] when writing a history of the Charlottegrube sub camp. To date, his conclusions that the five camps in Rydułtowy formed one sub camp has not changed.

As a result of expanding the Charlotte mine and the increasing demand for coal in the economy of the Third Reich, the mine´s management sought additional labour. Given the research carried out by Dr. Strzelecki, it can be said with some certainty that the company did not intend to increase the number of civilian employees (their number remained in the years 1942-1945, constant at around 18-20 thousand). Instead they focused their attention on forced labourers, initially prisoners of war, and later prisoners from Auschwitz.[2]

The first camp in Rydułtowy was created at ul Mickiewicza in 1941 and was established in pre-war horse stables (map reference camp 1). The original prisoners were forced labourers, Ostarbeiter and Soviet prisoners of war.

The second camp in Rydułtowy was founded in 1943, almost directly opposite the camp located in the stables at ul. Mickiewicza in the mine shelter for workers the so called Schlafhaus (map reference camp 2). The Auschwitz prisoners were accommodated in rooms previously intended for miners. The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. This camp changed its name several times: I Lager No. 4923/22/01 (Rydultau Schreiberstrasse Schlafhaus Charlottegrube), Gemeinschaftslager No. 4923/22/01 (Rydultau Schreiberstrasse Schlafhaus Charlottegrube) and finally Kriegsgefangenenlager No. RA 252 (Schreibstrasse). Based on the changing name of the camp, it can be concluded that this camp changed its character from time to time, initially being a forced labour camp for workers from Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union, then becoming a camp for Soviet prisoners of war (in May 1944 it housed 1150 prisoners from the Red Army).[3]

The third camp founded in Rydułtowy in 1943 was built on a large square located at today’s ul Ofiar Terroru (then Adolf Hitler Strasse) (map reference 3). The square was located about 600 metres from the railway station, and about halfway between the Leon I and Leon III mine shafts of the Charlotte mine.

Work on the construction of this camp began by fencing in the area with barbed wire. These works were carried out by prisoners from the Schlafhaus camp. Due to the area of ​​the future camp being located on a small hill, the prisoners levelled the area by creating two terraces on which the barracks were built. To access the higher level of the camp, small stairs were built. In front of the main entrance to the camp, were the tracks of a railway ramp (along the northwest wall of the fence).

Again, this camp changed its name depending on the type of prisoners. It was variously called: Barrackenlager I der Charlottegrube, Ostarbeiterlager No. 4923/11, Ostarbeiterlager I der Charlottegrube and der Rampe. The locals however called it, the camp “at Pszowska Ramp”, the camp “at the ramp Anna” or “Annarampe” (map reference camp 3). [4]

Originally, the prisoners of this camp were forced labourers and later prisoners of war, mainly from the Soviet Union, but also prisoners of war from France and Great Britain.

The fourth camp established in Rydułtowy was a small camp for prisoners from the prison camp in Wadowice, located in the Hercer brickyard (map reference camp 5). This brickyard belonged to the Charlotte mine and at the request of the mine authorities in mid 1944 approximately 100 Polish prisoners were brought to the barracks located there.[5]

The “Berlin” camp (map reference camp 4) was located at today’s ul Urbana in Rydułtowy. The first works for the construction of this camp began in the spring of 1944. A fence and two barracks were constructed. In October 1944, Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz were transferred to the Berlin camp and the camp was therefore named the “Judenlager” by local residents.[6]

With the influx of Auschwitz prisoners, the Berlin camp was expanded. Until then, there were only two stone barracks located just off ul Urbana behind the fence. There were two floors in these barracks: a ground floor and a cellar. In both barracks, prisoners were housed on the ground floor, while in the basement were the punishment rooms, a temporary morgue and warehouses. The camp authorities planned to build a crematorium here, on which construction began in the second half of 1944. The crematorium was never completed but the incomplete structure still existed immediately after the war.[7]

The camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence that was not electrified.

In the Berlin camp, it was common practice to mistreat prisoners for any reason. Former prisoner Dr. Stanisław Brückner recalled: “Often, when a prisoner stumbled, he was beaten by the Kapos. The Kapos acted towards the prisoners like (they were) animals. One of them mistreated prisoners in a particularly brutal way. He was short, stooped, had a hoarse voice.”[8]

A Polish civilian worker, Franciszek Nowak witnessed the roll calls and the treatment of the Jewish prisoners, “Sometimes during the night shift when I worked at the mine I saw on the area of the “Berlin” camp nightly roll calls which lasted until 5 hrs in the morning. During these roll calls individual prisoners were taken from the rows and beaten, then they fell and were taken by other prisoners to a special room and left there. Around five o´clock in the morning after such a night other prisoners loaded the exhausted or dead prisoners onto a truck. Initially, such prisoners were transported on a trailer attached to a car or the dead prisoners were loaded onto the trailer. This happened almost every day, sometimes the prisoners were also loaded onto trucks. With these wagons the prisoners were driven off in the direction of Auschwitz. When the prisoners were loaded onto the trailer of the car and there was no space left the bones were broken. Most commonly it was Greek Jews from the Island of Rhodes. I have observed this from 300 metres when I was in the Kasselanlage on the wall. Different prisoners had explained to me about the breaking of the bones of the dead.” [9]

The number of prisoners in the Charlottegrube sub camp constantly changed. This was related to the high mortality rate.[10] Dr. Strzelecki in his study of the Charlottegrube sub camp gives estimates of the number of prisoners. It shows that in September 1944 there were about 200 prisoners in the sub camp, in the first half of October about 1,100, at the end of October and in November over 900, and in December 880.[11]

The prisoners were mostly Jews from Hungary and Czechoslovakia. There were also Jews from Poland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Greece and Romania and several from the islands of Corsica and 300 from Rhodes. [12] Many of them were intellectuals.[13]

Augustyn Pawliczek at that time a foreman at the mine remembered, “Jewish prisoners worked in the mine both underground and on the surface. For underground work – like the civilian miners – they were brought through the Leon II shaft (mining shaft) and Leon III shaft (downhill shaft). (…) Every day about 40-60 Jews were employed on surface work in the area of ​​the Leon III shaft. In general, about 30-50 prisoners were employed per day in transporting extracted coal to the railway siding in order to prepare it for loading onto wagons. Work relating to this transport were carried out as part of the surface transport of coal and stone. As one of the few foremen employed on the surface, I ran this department. The prisoners of mine worked in two or three groups. Each group was supervised by two Wehrmacht or SS soldiers and one Kapo. Because at that time conveyor belts were not used on the surface – prisoners transported coal to the railway siding in carts (cradles) pushing them along narrow-gauge rails. The Jewish prisoners were very exhausted and weak (they looked like skeletons) and as a result they could hardly cope with the task imposed on them. Although in normal conditions two healthy people should be sent to transport one cart with coal – in this case three Jews were assigned to each cart. At the railway siding, Jews dumped coal into a dump, and in the event of wagons arriving, they loaded it into them from this dump.”[14] 

Prisoners were also mistreated by civilian workers, “I have sometimes seen the department overseer Müller, the head miner Jozef Brzezina, and the overseer Tannheuser with mine equipment made from wood hit the Jews when from exhaustion they could no longer work.”[15]

Prisoners were also employed on the surface in the area of ​​the Leon II mine shaft. There about 10-15 prisoners worked in mine workshops (e.g. in the locksmith or electrical workshops). About 60 other prisoners were employed loading wood from railway wagons onto mine carts near the same mine shaft. The work of this Kommando was extremely exhausting due to the large size and weight of the wood.

Prisoners also unloaded bags of cement, “Approximately two weeks after our arrival we were put to work unloading bags of cement. After returning from work we were punished by the Lagerkommandanten, every prisoner from our group received 25 lashes on our naked behinds, we went 24 hours without any food and given the hardest work unloading cement and pushing the cement laden waggons. Many of our group could not withstand this never ending task and were exhausted. These men were brought by the SS men to the trucks and driven away in an unknown direction.” [16]

In the final period of the sub camp’s existence, prisoners were also employed outside the mine in the construction of the mine’s power plant. The company Norddeutscher Hoch- und Tiefbau built the power plant. A group of about 300 prisoners – Jews from the Charlottegrube sub camp and Soviet prisoners of war were employed in its construction. Augustyn Pawliczek a local resident testified: “All were used for various earthworks, e.g. digging at the construction site… In the field, north of the mine, the above-mentioned workers dumped the soil from the carts and flattened out the uneven terrain. I saw them many times as they pushed carts with soil across the platform and I could watch them from a distance while unloading carts.” [17]

However, the toughest and most destructive work was underground in the mine. One witness recalled: “Each time, after taking the Jews underground, they were directed in groups of 20-30 to various departments. In individual departments they were assigned to various works….In total, about 10-15 civil miners, as well as many Soviet prisoners and other prisoners, were employed at each face…..Soviet prisoners of war and prisoners worked there as assistants to the civil miners. Two prisoners or Soviet prisoners were usually assigned to help one miner. Each working group consisting of one miner and two helpers constituted a team…..In principle, they were not employed directly with the output, except for the few strongest ones. Among them were also those who worked at the face as loaders. There were at most 10 loader prisoners in each unit. Often, Jews also transported wood and other materials to the face. Sometimes, very rarely, they handled conveyor belts. However, they were not employed at all during the reconstruction. Standards for civil miners, prisoners and Soviet prisoners of war when working underground were very high.” [18]

There were periodic selections of prisoners, “Twice during the time of this Lagerkommandant there were selections. SS men came from outside of the camp-from Auschwitz-and we had to come out naked and line up in rows. The SS men from outside did the selection with the Lagerkommandant and the selected prisoners were loaded on the trucks and driven to their destruction in Auschwitz.” [19]

Approximately, every two weeks, a truck came to the Charlottegrube sub camp to transport the most ill prisoners back to Auschwitz. Administratively, the Charlottegrube sub camp was subordinate to Auschwitz III-Monowitz.


[1] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41-89.
[2]  Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube…, p. 43.
[3] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube…, p. 44; see also: Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 1939-1945. Informator encyklopedyczny, Warszawa 1979, p. 567.
[4] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube…p. 44; see also: Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 1939-1945. Informator encyklopedyczny, Warszawa 1979, p. 567.
[5] This is confirmed by A. Strzelecki, in his article on the sub camp Charlottegrube. Strzelecki found in the archives in Pszczyna and Rybnik correspondence between the mine Charlotte and Bergrevieramt in Rybnik, concerning the employment of prisoners from Wadowice in a brickyard at the Rydułtowy mine.
[6] The residents also called this camp  “the pile” because of the huge piles of slag which surround Rydułtowy.
[7] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Stanisław Brückner, Vol. 51, p. 23.
[8] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Stanisław Brückner, Vol. 51, p. 19.
[9] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 978, testimony of Franciszek Nowak 9 April 1975.
[10] For this reason, it was planned to build a small crematorium in the “Berlin” camp.
[11] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube…, p. 56.
[12] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979, testimony of Herr Kozienicki 24 June 1973.
[13] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Henryk Pozimski, Vol. 51, p. 75.
[14] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Augustyn Pawliczek, vol. 51, p. 24-25.
[15] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 978, testimony of Franciszek Nowak 9 April 1975.
[16] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979, testimony of Meir Kozienicki 24 June 1973.
[17] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Augustyn Pawliczek, Vol. 51, p. 24-25.
[18] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia. Unknown.
[19] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979 testimony of Meir Kozienicki 24 June 1973.
Literature:
Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41-89.

The SS Guard Unit

The first Lagerführer was SS-Scharführer Georg Bonigut who for six weeks oversaw the building of the sub camp.[1] He was succeeded by SS-Oberschaführer Alfred Tschiersky, followed by SS-Oberscharführer Hans Kirchner. Kirchner performed his duties from November 1944 until the evacuation in January 1945. The Postenführer function was held first by former commandant of the sub camp Tschiersky and then SS-Oberscharführer Willi Robert Günther born on 9th April 1895. Günther was tried by the Poles after the war and on 22 January 1948 was sentenced to 12 years in prison.[2] The Rapportführer was SS-Scharführer Georg Bonigut.[3]

The SS guards were assigned from the 8 / SS-Totenkopf Wachkompanie. In November /December 1944 the guard unit numbered 54. On average, the guard unit consisted of about 50 SS men. After the war, they were remembered as being young, unsympathetic, conceited and puppy-like.

A number of the SS guards had been drafted into Landesschutzenbatallion 590. After having been trained some members of the Landesschutzenbatallion were transferred to the sub camp Charlottegrube as guards. There they were given SS uniforms.[4]

In December 1944, SS-Oberscharführer Rudolf Ullmann joined the Charlottegrube guards, and served as SDG.[5] The SS guards lived in barracks next to the Annarampe and Berlin camps.

Henryk Pozimski witnessed the treatment of the prisoners by SS guards, “The SS guards, especially those from the Ukraine, were characterized by exceptional brutality: they were particularly cruel towards Jews (…). They always tormented them, beat them almost constantly. When abusing prisoners, SS men knocked them down, kicked and beat them with butts, rods or sticks.” [6]


[1] Rudorff, Andrea, Charlottengrube in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p. 206.
[2] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 BA 978-0012, p. 486.
[3] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 52.
[4] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979, testimony of Herbert Schweide 25 April 1974.
[5] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube…, p. 54.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Henryk Pozimski, Vol. 51, p. 75.
Literature:
Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41-89.

The SS Guards

References:
Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg StAL EL 317 III_BA 978.
Zppw-auschwitz.pl Zwiazek Polaków Pomordowanych w Auschwitz. List of 8,500 SS men in KL Auschwitz.
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2680 and B162/2679.
IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41-89.
Strzelecki, Andrzej, Das Nebenlager Charlottengrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1985] Nr 17, p. 41-90.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

On 17 January 1945 there were 833 prisoners in the Charlottegrube sub camp.[1] In January 1945, due to the approach of the front and the Red Army, preparations began for the evacuation of the prisoners in Rydułtowy. The evacuation was scheduled for January 19, 1945. The prisoners were gathered together in the Annarampe camp and there within 12 hours, columns of prisoners were formed; the prisoners stood in the cold, and the SS beat them. Finally, they marched out of the camp.[2]

The evacuation was recalled by Dr. Stanisław Brückner: “Evacuated prisoners were passing under my window. I saw them by tilting the curtain in the window. I remember that they were very poorly clothed, ragged, emaciated, dirty – they walked barefoot, in the best cases their legs were wrapped in rags. A difficult to describe sight of human misery. Prisoners pulled heavily loaded carts. Dead bodies were visible on the wagons. There are no words to describe how the SS guards beat them. The view was so terrible that, plugging my ears so as not to hear the screams, moans and barking of dogs, I escaped to a room further away.” [3]

The column marched west. [4] After a day of exhausting marching, the prisoners arrived at some unidentified property near the Oder river, where they spent the night. The destination of the evacuation column was the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. However, due to the strong pressure of the Soviet army on Lower Silesia, the decision was taken to return the column of prisoners to Rydułtowy. From there, on or around 22 January 1945 the prisoners were marched to Wodzisław Śląski, from where they were loaded onto freight wagons and transported to Mauthausen concentration camp.[5] “During the march on foot the SS men who escorted us shot those prisoners who had no more strength and could not keep up with the tempo of the column. When one of the prisoners tried to flee the SS men also shot the other prisoners in the row of five in which we marched.” [6]

The mortality rate on the death march was catastrophic. “As we left Charlottegrube we numbered between 600-700 persons, 100-120 arrived in Mauthausen, the rest had died or had been shot on the way.” [7]

The women’s camp in the Hercer brickyard was also evacuated. It is not known, however, whether these women were marched in the same direction as the other prisoners from the Charlottegrube sub camp, or if they joined one of the other columns.

Red Army troops entered Rydułtowy on January 26, 1945. At that time, a preliminary inspection of the abandoned camp facilities began. The bodies of deceased or murdered prisoners were found in the Annarampe sub camp. Some of the bodies were buried in shallow graves near the embankment behind the barracks. Several bodies were pulled from the fire-fighting pool.


[1] Testimony of Otto Wolken 22 June 1945. Viewed 10 August 2019. https://www.zapisyterroru.pl/dlibra/publication/3755/edition/3736/
[2] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Stanisław Brückner, Vol. 51, p. 22.
[3] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Stanisław Brückner, Vol. 51, p. 20.
[4] According to the testimony of witness Józef Świtula the column of prisoners marched toward Pszów-Raciborz-Bohumín. See: APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józef Świtula, Vol. 51, p. 110.
[5] Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17. p. 74.
[6] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979, testimony of Meir Kozienicki 24 June 1973.
[7] StA Ludwigsburg StAL_EL 317 III_BA 979, testimony of Meir Kozienicki 24 June 1973.
Literature:
Strzelecki, Andrzej, Podobóz Charlottegrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 17, p. 41-89.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

On October 26, 1945, in Rydułtowy, in the former Auschwitz sub camp of Charlottegrube, a forced labour camp for POWs was created by the Centralny Zarząd Przemysłu Węglowego (CZPW) – Rydułtowy (Central Board of the Coal Industry).[1] This camp was under the overall control of the CZPW in Katowice and the Rybnik Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Węglowego (Rybnik Unification of the Coal Industry). German prisoners detained in the camp worked in the Rydułtowy mine and their number is estimated at about 200. According to official data, 3 prisoners died in this camp. The camp was dissolved on August 30, 1948.[2]

The buildings of the Judenlager or Berlin camp and the Annarampe that originally survived after the war were demolished sometime after the visit of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 1966 and 1967. At the time of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visit the buildings of all of the camps were substantially intact although empty. What these camps were used for between the closing of the POW camp in 1948 and 1966/1967 has not been determined.

The Skała residential housing now exists on part of the site of the former Annarampe camp. At the site of the former Judenlager nothing survives of the former sub camp.

The brickyard at ul Bohaterów Warszawy still survives although many of the original buildings have been demolished. In the first camp located in ul Mickiewicza the so-called stables there are no remnants of the former camp. Apartment blocks were built there after the war.

The Schlafhaus is now a residential building and the seat of the municipal public library in Rydułtowy.


[1] It should be remembered that during World War II, there were a total of 5 camps in Rydułtowy, which served as forced labour camps, camps for Soviet prisoners of war and finally as a sub camp of Auschwitz. Post-war forced labour camps for German prisoners of war at the Rydułtowy mine were founded in two camps at ul Mickiewicza in Rydułtowy – on the grounds of the former sub camp: the horse stables and in the Schlafhaus (see the location map of the camps in Rydułtowy).
[2] Kopka, Bogusław, Obozy pracy w Polsce 1944-1950, Warszawa 2002 p. 111.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

In Rydułtowy, the Nazis established five camps. Prisoners form Auschwitz concentration camp possibly passed through all five of them.

In the first camp located in ul Mickiewicza in the so-called stables (map reference 1) there are no remnants of the former camp. Apartment blocks were built there after the war.

However, on the other side of ul Mickiewicza stands the impressive building of the former so called Schlafhaus (map reference 2), where a workers’ hotel was located before the war. Currently, it is a residential building and the seat of the municipal public library in Rydułtowy.

The remains of the third camp, Annarampe (map reference 3) are located in the Skała estate. Apartment blocks cover the northern part of the sub camp area. The barracks that were located there and other remnants of the camp infrastructure were probably removed during the construction of the housing estate. However, some remnants of the camp structures in the southern part of the camp have been preserved, located on a higher terrace, whose natural border was a rocky slope. There is a nature monument in the south-east corner. It is a small monument, the surface of which is entered after three steps, with a built-in concrete frame, in which there was originally an information board of different content.

This was the location of the “wall of death” of the Annarampe, where prisoners were executed. The plaque was moved to ul Ofiar Terroru, while a red plaque with the inscription: NATURE MONUMENT was installed in the empty space.

Just below the rocky slope are the foundations of one residential prisoner barracks (map reference 8). The entrance to the barrack with three steps has been preserved on the east side. From the preserved foundations, it can be estimated that the barrack was about 20 m long and 7 m wide. The full concrete floor of this barrack has survived and has been adapted for use as a car park.

A block of flats is located in front of the foundations of this barrack. To the rear of this building from the west there survives another foundation of a building, this time only fragments. It is a remnant of the foundations of the disinfection barracks – Entwesungsbaracke ( map reference 11). Only a few meters long the edge of the foundation and a section of concrete floor are visible.

An original prisoner barrack, is located about 10 meters to the right of the “Skałka” nature monument. We ascertained that the building located there was from the Annarampe camp, using photographs taken by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in May 1966. Using testimonies and maps the barrack does not stand in its original location. It was moved, perhaps from map reference 8. This is not the entire barrack, but half of it. It is a brick structure with a gable roof and double-leaf windows and has been modernized and covered with plaster.

The Judenlager or Berlin camp (map reference 4) was built behind the slag heap at ul Urbana. Unfortunately, the buildings that originally survived after the war have been demolished. During the site visits, Tiergartnestrasse4Accoiation found no remains of the Judenlager camp. We did manage to identify its precise location however, from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum who took photographs of the camp in the 1960s.

The remains of the other camp founded by the Nazis in Rydułtowy can be seen in the brickyard (map reference 5) at ul Bohaterów Warszawy. Around 100 female prisoners were transferred there from the prison camp in Wadowice. In the brickyard a wartime building has survived, which houses a kiln and a shed for drying bricks. There is a clay pit behind the building.

It is also worth paying attention to the buildings of the Rydułtowy mine located in front of the main entrance to the mine at ul Leona in Rydułtowy. On the left side is the administrative building – modernized, but dating back to before the war. Just in front of the gate, also on the left hand side of the street, is the former weight building of the Charlotte Mine, where today the Memorial Room is located. The Memorial Room has some information on the Auschwitz sub camp including documents and photographs.

Memorialisation

The commemoration of the Charlottegrube sub camp in Rydułtowy, is a large monument located in the city centre at ul Ofiar Terroru. The Annarampe stretched some fifty metres behind this monument. The monument consists of a rectangular stone frame, to which a large cast-iron plaque with an inscription in Polish is attached: “NA TYM TERENIE W LATACH 1942-1945 ZNAJDOWAŁY SIĘ FILIE OBOZU KONCENTRACYJNEGO W OŚWIĘCIMIU. WIĘŹNIOWIE ICH PRACOWALI PONAD SIŁY NA KOPALNI „RYDUŁTOWY” I MORDOWANI BYLI POD ŚCIANĄ ŚMIERCI. BOHATEROM CO ZA WOLNOŚĆ OJCZYZNY ODDALI ŻYCIE W XXX-LECIE ZWYCIĘSTWA NAD FASZYZMEM SKŁADAJĄ HOŁD GÓRNICY KOPALNI „RYDUŁTOWY” I SPOŁECZEŃSTWO MIASTA RYDUŁTOWY. WIECZNA CZEŚĆ ICH PAMIĘCI. 9 MAJA 1975.” (IN THIS AREA IN 1942-1945 THERE WERE CAMPS OF THE CONCENTRATION CAMP OŚWIĘCIEM. THE PRISONERS FROM THERE WORKED AT THE “RYDUŁTOWY” MINE AND WERE MURDERED AT THE WALL OF DEATH. TO THE HEROES WHO FOR FREEDOM OF THE HOMELAND GAVE THEIR LIFES. ON THE XXX ANNIVERSARY OF VICTORY OVER FASCISM. ETERNAL MEMORY TO THEM. MAY 9, 1975.) On the left side of the inscription there are three stripes symbolizing the camp striped uniform and a triangle with the letter P. This memorial located near the former Annarampe camp references the entire structure of the Charlottegrube camps in Rydułtowy.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the Charlottegrube camps in 1966 and 1967 and took 21 photographs including:

Camp 2 The Shlafhaus:

  1. “Building for prisoners on ul Mickiewicza; 1966 (Schlafhaus).(photo reference 9793),

Camp 3 Annarampe:

  1. “Fragment of “Annarampe”. Foreground – barracks, background – shaft “Leon III” of “Rydułtowy” coal mine where prisoners worked; 1966.” (photo reference 9778),
  2. “Water reservoir, barrack for prisoners and storehouse.(Annarampe)” (photo references 9781, 9782),
  3. “Barracks for prisoners.(Annarampe)” (photo references 9775, 9776, 9783, 9787),
  4. “Three storehouses and a barrack for the guards.” (photo reference 9779),
  5. “Probably one of the places of executions.” (photo references 9784, 9785),
  6. “One of the storehouses.”(photo reference 9786),
  7. “One of the storehouses.”(photo reference 9777),
  8. “Remnants of the camp.” (photo reference 9780).

Camp 4 Judenlager (Lager Berlin):

  1. “Lager “Berlin” – barracks for prisoners.” (photo references 9790, 9791),
  2. “General view of the “Rydułtowy” coal mine – shaft “Leon II” where prisoners worked.(from the Lager Berlin). ” (photo reference 9792),
  3. “Fragment of “Rydułtowy” coal mine (shaft „Leon III”). Building of the services station of the mine; 1966.” (photo reference 9788),
  4. “Barracks for Jewish prisoners on the area of the so-called “Berlin camp” in 1966.” (photo reference 9789).

Camp 5 Camp in Hercer´s brickyard:

  1. “Probably one of buildings where prisoners lived (Hercer´s brickyard)” (photo references 9794).

Other Photographs / Site Visits

The Memorial Room includes a photograph of Soviet prisoners of war at work near the mine in 1944. There are also pre-war photographs of the Charlotte mine and document from 1944 and a documents from 6th January 1944 on the status of Poles, Ostarbeiter, Soviet prisoners of war and Auschwitz prisoners in Rydułtowy.

Topography of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

Location of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Charlottegrube

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Photographs

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

SS Contemporary Photographs

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Other Photographs and Postcards

Sub Camp Documents

Document on the status of Poles, Ostarbeiter, Russian POWs and Auschwitz prisoners.