Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

Name of the camp
Arbeitslager Fürstengrube
Other Name of the camp
Lager Süd
Commandant of the camp
SS-Hauptscharführer Otto Moll: September 1943 to March/April 1944
SS-Oberscharführer Max Schmidt: March/April 1944 to 19 January 1945
Number of SS Guards
In September 1943 47 SS men. By January 1945 63 guards from the 3rd Wachkompanie Monowitz and former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men from the 8th Sentry Company Auschwitz.
Work type
Coal Mining: Coal mining and the construction of the new Fürsten mine.
Employer
Fürstengrube GmbH owned 51% by IG Farbenindustrie and 49% by Fürstliche Plessische Bergwerke AG.
Sub camp buildings
The buildings were constructed specifically for the sub camp.
Number of prisoners
1,283 male prisoners on 17 January 1945.
Nationality of prisoners
Most of the prisoners (about 85-90%) were Jews from Poland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Greece. Amongst the non-Jews were Poles and Soviets
Period of camp existence
2 September 1943 – 19 January 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
On 19 January 1945 the prisoners were marched towards Mikołów. On January 20 they arrived in Gliwice and were housed in the former sub camp Gleiwitz II. On January 21 they were transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp and then to the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006, November 2007, March 2008
Memorialisation
The commemoration of the Fürstengrube sub camp is a 2.5 m white cross made of welded steel pipes situated next to the entrance of the former sub camp. On the left side a stone was laid with an inscription. Unfortunately, the letters had been torn off.
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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 Fürsten Mine

The construction of a deep mine in the area of ​​today’s Wesoła mine near Mysłowice began in 1911 on the initiative of John Henry XV Hochberg, Prince of Pless. Production started in 1914 and the mine was named Fürstengrube, changed to Prinz in 1922 during the period of the Second Polish Republic. From August 1925 to January 1929, the Fürstengrube mine was connected to the Emanuel mine near Murcek. In 1931 the mine ceased production and in 1937 changed its name to Harcerska. [1]

After the outbreak of World War II, the occupation authorities in 1940 restarted the mine in Wesoła.

Fürstengrube one of the largest mines, a short distance from Oświęcim (approx. 30 km) was, part of the Górnicza Spółka Akcyjna Książęta Pszczyna (from 1939 owned by Fürstliche Plessische Bergwerke AG). In 1940 IG Farben planning to build a large chemical plant near Oświęcim was interested in buying the mine to secure coal supplies for the chemical plant.

Despite some objections from the managers of the mine, on 8 February 1941 in Katowice an agreement was signed to set up a new company Fürstengrube GmbH. The agreement was signed by: Günther Falkenhahn – on behalf of the receiver of the Górnicza Spółka Akcyjna Książęta Pszczyna and Dr. Heinrich and Dr. Reinhard Bütefish Goldberg on behalf of IG Farben.

The mine was taken over by Fürstengrube G.m.b.H. with its registered office in Katowice, in which 51% of shares belonged to IG Farbenindustrie and 49% by Fürstliche Plessische Bergwerke AG

A major problem for IG Farben was that Fürstengrube was unable to satisfy demand for all the coal supplies it needed for the chemical plant being built near Oświęcim. Close to Fürstengrube they therefore began construction of a new mine referred to in correspondence as Fürstengrube-Neuanlage, but soon found that it would take 5 to 7 years to begin production.

IG Farben could not wait, and decided that the demand for coal would have to be met from the existing Fürstengrube and the Janina and Günther mines.  To achieve the higher production required it would be necessary to significantly increase the available labour force.[2]


[1]  Jaros, Jerzy, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[2]  Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie Nr 16. [1975], p. 71-76.

The Post War History of the Wesoła (Formerly Fürsten) Mine

After the war, the mine in 1945-1946 belonged to the Mikołowski Stowarzyszenie Przemysłu Węglowego (Mikołowski Association of Coal Industry), and it was renamed at that time Książę (Prince) (1945) and later to Harcerska (1946). In January 1947, the mine became part of the new industrial association of Jaworznicko-Mikołowski Stowarzyszenie Przemysłu Węglowego. At that time, it was connected to the newly-built Wesoła mine and the name Wesoła was adopted by the entire mine complex. In 1949-1953 the mine still under construction constituted a separate enterprise, Wesoła II. The former Harcerska mine was renamed Wesoła I.

After the constant changes of ownership on January 1, 1954, the Wesoła I and Wesoła II mines again became one enterprise, the Kopalnia Węgla Kamiennego Wesoła (Wesoła Coal Mine) (KWK Wesoła).

In 1967, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the October Revolution, the mine was renamed Lenin. In 1976, the Lenin mine was taken over by the Katowickie Stowarzyszenie Przemysłu Węglowego (Katowice Coal Industry Association).

The name Wesoła was restored to the mine in 1990 and three years later it became part of Katowicki Holding Węglowy S.A.

On January 1, 2007, the Wesoła Mine was merged with KWK Mysłowice and renamed KWK Mysłowice-Wesoła. [1]


[1] The post war history of the Fürsten Mine is based on Jerzy Jaros, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.

The History of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

Already in 1943, before the Auschwitz sub camp was established in the village of Wesoła, Fürstengrube GmbH had established three labour camps:

  1. Lager Ostland which housed Ostarbeiter and then Italian military internees. This was previously a combined forced labour camp for Jews, controlled by  Organization Schmelt and a civilian forced labour camp,
  2. Lager Nord for Soviet prisoners of war,
  3. Lager Waldeck for forced labourers of different nationalities.

The prisoners from these camps worked in both the existing mines as well as in the new Fürsten mine. The available labour was however, insufficient to ensure the required supply of coal to the IG Farben plant in Monowice. IG Farben and the newly formed company Fürstengrube GmbH sought Auschwitz prisoners to fill the labour shortages. The initiator of the new sub camp of Auschwitz in Wesoła near Mysłowice was IG Farben. On 16 July 1943 an agreement was reached between the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp and IG Farben to supply Auschwitz prisoners.[12]

The Fürstengrube sub camp had an irregular quadrangle shape. The initial building works were carried out in July 1943 before the arrival of the first Auschwitz prisoners, by Jews from the neighbouring Ostland camp (before the Organisation Schmelt camp was closed). Jews from the Schmelt camp fenced in the area and began building the first barracks. Later, prisoners brought from Auschwitz continued the construction works. The Auschwitz prisoners reinforced the camp fence with a brick wall about 3 m high built between the fence posts. Only the curved ends of the fence posts protruded at the top of the wall. Electrified barbed wire was connected to the curved ends of the fence posts. Lamps were also mounted on the posts, which illuminated the zone near the wall. The camp fence was thus difficult to escape from and also protected the area of ​​the camp from unwanted attention. Four guard towers were built in the corners of the camp wall. They were solid brick constructions, with observation windows facing both outside the wall and inside the camp. The height of the guard towers was above the camp fence and the entrance to the guard towers was inside the camp.

There was one entrance gate to the Fürstengrube sub camp, located in the wall on the south side. Next to it was one of the corner guard towers. The main gate was made of two metal frames lined with sheet metal and locked with a bolt; above the gate painted green, was an emblem in the form of crossed mining hammers and the inscription “GLÜCK AUF”.[13]

Inside the sub camp there were several brick and wooden barracks. The barracks made of wood were intended for prisoners (map references 1,2,3,5,13), one of them was a prisoner hospital (map reference 6) with an adjoining morgue (map reference 6a). One barrack built of brick also housed prisoners (map reference 10). Its construction began only after the sub camp was operational. It was put to use in the autumn of 1944. This building did not have a staircase leading from the ground to the first floor. The entrance to the first floor was from a set of wooden stairs mounted outside. Young prisoners were housed there. On the northern side of the prisoner accommodation was a small brick building, which housed the penal block and next to it a brick building which was a camp workshop.

At the northern wall of the sub camp there was a camp kitchen and food warehouses in the basement (map reference 7) with the inscription Küche (kitchen) on the front wall. Next to it was a small wooden barrack which was the so-called lamp room (for storing miners lamps) (map reference 8).

Along the western wall of the sub camp there was a long wooden barrack which incorporated the: Schreibstube, the room of the Lagerältester, a dental outpatient clinic, the camp canteen and a room where performances and concerts were organized by the prisoners (map reference 11).[14]

In the central part of the sub camp stood a long brick barrack with toilets and bathhouses (map reference 16), and two smaller brick barracks in which the camp workshops were located – a shoemaker’s and a tailor’s workshop (map reference 13 and 14). A water basin was built between them (map reference 15).

Behind the wooden barracks along the eastern wall of the sub camp was a small henhouse and pigeon loft (map reference 4), while vegetable and flower beds stretched along the wall.

On the right side of the main entrance to the subcamp, next to the camp wall, there was a wooden barrack, used as a guardhouse and the Lagerführer’s office (map reference 17). Behind this barrack, construction of a central heating building with a chimney began (map reference 18) however, this facility had not been completed before the sub camp was closed.[15]

There were also several air raid bunkers for SS guards outside the sub camp fence.[16]

The Fürstengrube sub camp originally came under the authority of the commandant of Auschwitz I, but in November 1943, after the reorganisation of the Auschwitz complex, it came under the control of the commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz.

In September and October 1943 the camp housed between 150 to 400 prisoners. In the coming months, this number increased from 700 to about 1,200 prisoners (July 1944) and this number remained constant until the evacuation of the sub camp Fürstengrube in January 1945.

Analysis of the number of prisoners and SS guards in the Fürstengrube sub camp by T. Iwaszko from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum [17]:

Most of the prisoners (about 85-90%) were Jews transported to Auschwitz from the ghettos or transit camps in Poland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Greece. The non-Jews were mainly, Poles and Soviets.

Transfer from the main Auschwitz camps to certain sub camps such as Fürstengrube was used as a punishment. Former prisoner Jan Ławnicki, “After a year, namely at the end of April 1944, (as punishment) for the escape of two Poles, I was placed in the bunker along with nine other prisoners, and after three days we were deported to Fürstengrube, where prisoners were usually transferred for crimes allegedly committed in the camp. Although the Monowitz camp was among the harshest, it seemed a paradise to us compared to Fürstengrube. We worked in an IG Farben coal mine – in terrible conditions when it came to safety…… After arriving in Auschwitz from Fürstengrube (7 September 1944) I felt as though I had been set free. From my conversations with prisoners from the main Auschwitz camp I gathered that they had no idea about what was happening in the small Auschwitz sub camps like the penal camps of Fürstengrube and Janinagrube, which were regular places of extermination (Vernichtungslager), although they were called work camps (Arbeitslager).” [1]

Most of the prisoners from the Fürstengrube sub camp were employed in the mines where work was carried out in three shifts: Shift I (Schichte I) – from 5.00 hrs – 13.00 hrs, Shift II (Schichte II) – from 13.00 hrs – 21.00 hrs, Shift III (Schichte III) – 21.00 hrs – 5.00 hrs. The prisoners working in the mine belonged to the so-called Kommando Grube. The Oberkapo was Michael Eschmann (No. 15583) a criminal prisoner of German nationality.

Work in the mine Kommando Grube was one of the toughest as recalled by former prisoner Jan Ławnicki: “Working conditions cannot be compared with others, especially when it came to safety and effort. Workplaces were often under water in which you had to wade up to your ankles, and as well there were places where you constantly had to bend over – because of the low ceilings. The work was done on a piecework basis and each of us had to prove the correct number of extracted coal carts. Our nervousness at work was compounded by the atmosphere in which it took place. Pushing, and beating on the face was constantly used by Kapos and Vorarbeiters, as well as by some professional miners who did not want to admit to being of Polish descent. Working conditions may be evidenced by the fact that when I worked in the coal mine (for 5 weeks), one of the prisoners committed suicide and two others went insane. There were also injuries caused by wall collapses. After the work was finished, we were taken to the surface, from where it was necessary to quickly descend the iron stairs, surrounded by SS men and Kapos, who rushed at us screaming, beating and kicking.” [2]

Prisoners brought to the surface were organised into a single column, counted, and then escorted to the camp. The SS guards accompanying the column forced the prisoners to march like soldiers; maintaining the right pace and step was obviously very difficult for the exhausted prisoners. Any shortcomings during the march were punished with “exercises” after returning to the camp. Sometimes prisoners who were entitled to a shower, meal and rest after work were forced to perform additional work expanding the camp.

Prisoners were also employed in other Kommandos. About 200 prisoners were employed in the construction of the new mine, Fürsten. They worked on the surface in groups of: bricklayers, painters, welders, installers and transporters. The new mine was located about 500 metres from the Fürstengrube sub camp and was surrounded by wooden guard towers manned by SS men. This Kommando was supervised by Oberkapo Wilhelm – a German criminal prisoner who was characterized by his exceptional brutality towards the prisoners.[3]

The Waldkommando, consisting of about 30 prisoners worked at felling trees and digging up tree stumps near the mine. Other prisoners were employed in the camp, in workshops, in the kitchen and in the construction of the new camp facilities.[4]

The food rations issued to the prisoners of the Fürstengrube sub camp were wholly insufficient given the physical work required of them. Around 20 dkg of bread and cereal coffee were provided for breakfast. Lunch was usually soup – mostly made of cabbage. On Sunday, some meat was added to the soup. Supper consisted of a portion of bread with margarine and a slice of sausage or a spoonful of marmalade.[5]

An exhaustive account of the Fürstengrube prison hospital was given after the war by Karl Bara, a former SS paramedic in the sub camp, “After the liquidation of the Gypsy camp in Brzezinka (Birkenau)  (Note, however, that I did not participate personally in the liquidation of this camp), I received an official transfer from the SS authorities to the Fürstengrube sub-camp (…). My transfer took place sometime in August 1944 and I was sent to Fürstengrube as the Sanitäts Dienst Grad (SDG). There were several hundred prisoners in Fürstengrube at that time, how many – I don’t remember exactly – there was only me covering the prisoner hospital and the SS sick room. I remember that before my arrival in Fürstengrube, the prison hospital was located in a wooden barrack on the left of the entrance. However, during my time, the hospital for prisoners was located in a wooden barrack next to the southern section of the wall, next to the corner watchtower. It was a fairly large wooden barrack with windows, with only one entrance. The entrance to the barrack was on the north side – from the camp kitchen (..). A Jew, Dr. Seidel, worked in the prisoner hospital, he spoke Polish, I don’t remember his nationality. The second doctor was Dr. Lubicz, a short man with glasses, he also spoke Polish. They worked as doctors. There were also a few nurses (Pfleger) but I don’t remember their names. The number of sick prisoners was several dozen, I do not remember exactly (…). we received medicines in the prisoner hospital partly from the SS pharmacy of the main camp (Stammlager), partly also illegally sourced medicines from outside. There was also a dentist in the same barrack where the patients were treated. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name. The prisoner’s hospital was equipped with wooden two-story beds with straw mattresses. The interior of the barrack made a good impression, because I painted the interiors with paints (…). The prisoner hospital did not undertake any major surgical operations, but only procedures, dressings, etc. The entire hospital in Fürstengrube was supervised by Lagerarzt Dr. Fischer, who visited the sub camp more than twice a week… As for the prisoners, they had to carry coal from work in the mine needed for fuel – on their way back to the camp. Bricks were also delivered in a similar way.” [6]

The most frequently reported diseases were: phlegmon, ulcers, limb fractures, stomach disease, rheumatism and kidney disease. About 2-3 prisoners died every day in the hospital.[7]

There were also suicide attempts: “Another time I received a report about a prisoner hanging himself at work: it was a mine where coal was mined. It was supposed to be suicide. I immediately went down to the mine with the prisoner Dr. Lubicz, we found the noose cut off, someone was giving (the prisoner) artificial respiration. We continued treatments. We saved the prisoner. It turned out that he was a Kapo, Eschmann, who wanted to take revenge for the betrayal of a Pipel [8] – apparently choosing another partner. Eschmann was known for having homosexual relations with prisoners whom he forced to submit. The payment for this service was usually a portion of bread.” [9]

There was an attempted mass escape of five prisoners through a tunnel dug underneath their accommodation barrack (map reference 3, 3a). Former prisoner, Stanisław Łapiński testified after the war,“The most important event I remember from my time in Fürstengrube was the escape of 5 prisoners. All 5 escapees lived in a barrack on the western wall. This is the section where the barrack of the Lagerführer was found. For some time the escapees had secretly dug a tunnel that went out beyond the wall. If they could do it the prospects for escape were good. This was because nearby the camp was forest where you could simply hide. Unfortunately, the preparations for the escape were discovered by the Pipel [10] of the Lagerältesten, a young Jew. This was his supervisor so he betrayed everything. He did it more out of dumbness than with the intention of betrayal. Hermann (the Lagerältester) reported it to the SS. The prisoners were immediately brought to Auschwitz for interrogation. Naturally in the camp other interrogations were carried out. This happened at approximately the end of August. Some days later 5 prisoners were brought back to Fürstengrube in a car. These were the escapees. Also on this day the commandant of Monowitz Schwarz came to the camp with some SS men. All the prisoners had to appear on the roll call square in rows and were greeted by the sight of a gallows. The gallows was set up with a bar from which hung ropes. Under the (bar) were stools. One of the SS men read the judgement. The convicted were led to the gallows. Two of them cried as they already stood on the stools, long live Poland. One moment later they were hung, and after the shout there was a great silence. We stood a long time. The whole camp was guarded by the guards who were armed with machine pistols. They were afraid the prisoners might rebel. The machine guns were also ready. The execution I have described had the character of a deterrence. The SS authorities gave us an example of what awaited us when we tried to escape. This was also said when the judgement was read out. After the execution the bodies were loaded onto a truck and taken away…..I am convinced there were two Poles and other nationalities. I believe that after the attempted escape the Poles were then evacuated from Fürstengrube. Some days later some prisoners, all Poles were together transported to Auschwitz.”[11]


[1] Testimony of Jan Ławnicki 5 June 1947. Testimony viewed 8 August 2019. https://www.zapisyterroru.pl/dlibra/publication/3096/edition/3077/content.
[2] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60, p. 104.
[3] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60, p. 105.
[4] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60, p. 103.
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60, p. 107.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Karl Bara, Vol. 60, p. 86-87.
[7] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60, p. 106.
[8] A word used amongst Nazi concentration camp inmates to describe an attractive male youth who received special favours or privileges by maintaining a homosexual relationship with another detainee who was in a position of authority over the inmates.
[9] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Karl Bara, Vol. 60, p. 88.
[10] A word used amongst Nazi concentration camp inmates to describe an attractive male youth who received special favours or privileges by maintaining a homosexual relationship with another detainee who was in a position of authority over the inmates.
[11] StA Hannover. Ha_Nds._721_Hannover_acc._90_99_nr._175_2, p. 69-78. Testimony of Stanisław Łapiński dated 14 October 1964.
[12] APMAB. Zespół Fürstengrube, No 72829, p. 46-47.
[13] German Glück Auf – Mining industry greeting meaning “Good Luck”.
[14] In the barracks that originally housed the camp hospital.
[15] The prisoners thought – probably due to the chimney – that the proposed boiler would be a crematorium. See: APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Ludwik Frąszczak, Vol. 41, p. 63, testimony of Jan Skotnicki, Vol. 57, p. 53 and testimony of Jan Ławnicki, Vol. 60.
[16] The description of the sub camp was based on analysis of the material in the Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum: the original sub camp plans, testimonies of Karl Bara, Ludwik Frąszczak, Jan Skotnicki and Gerhard Hoch contained in the publication: “Von Auschwitz nach Holstein” (Hamburg 1990).
[17] Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p 71-151.  
Literature:
Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p 71-151. 

The SS Guard Unit

The organizational structure of sub camp Fürstengrube did not differ from the other Auschwitz sub camps. The Lagerführer from September 1943 until March or April 1944 was SS-Hauptscharführer Otto Moll. He was succeeded by SS-Oberscharführer Max Schmidt, who held this position until the evacuation of the camp. The Rapportführer was SS-Unterscharführer Anton Lukoschek, followed by Georg Swierczynski. The nurses were successively SS-Rottenführer Adolf Voigt, SS-Unterscharführer Günther Hinze, SS-Oberscharführer Franz Wloka and SS-Oberscharführer Karol Bara.

The SS guard unit in Fürstengrube in September 1943 numbered 47. By the time of the evacuation of the camp there were 64 SS guards.

The SS were mainly ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) from Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia. They were accommodated in wooden barracks on the outside of the camp, near the railway line (map references 19 to 23). The SS officers lived in private houses.

The Fürstengrube sub camp was visited on October 27 1943 by the Kommandant of the Wachsturmbanns SS Sturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein. [1]

The Kapos in the sub camp were German criminals and were especially brutal. Jan Ławnicki remembered them, “The German Lagerältester [camp elder] Josef Hermann was particularly cruel; to ingratiate himself with the SS authorities he would administer various types of torture. His zealous helpers included: Lagerkapo Michał (I don’t remember his last name) from Upper Silesia, Oberkapo Wilhelm (I don’t remember his last name) and Eschmann, as well as various kapos, Vorarbeiters and block elders. Of these the following deserve mention: kapo Walter – a renegade from Upper Silesia, block elders Olszewski (a German from Berlin) and August (I don’t remember the latter’s last name) and a host of others, regular German criminals, whose last names I unfortunately don’t remember.”[2]


[1]  Iwaszko, Emeryka, Das Nebenlager Janinagrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1967] Nr 10, p. 51.
[2] Testimony of Jan Ławnicki 5 June 1947. Testimony viewed 8 August 2019. https://www.zapisyterroru.pl/dlibra/publication/3096/edition/3077/content.
Literature:
Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p 71-151. 

The SS Guards

References:
Rudorff, Andrea, Fürstengrube in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p 220-221.
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2680 and B162/2679.
Zppw-auschwitz.pl Zwiazek Polaków Pomordowanych w Auschwitz. List of 8,500 SS men in KL Auschwitz.
IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards. https://truthaboutcamps.eu/th/form/60,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p 71-151. 

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

The dissolution and evacuation of the sub camp Fürstengrube took place in several stages. On 7th September 1944 a group of 28 Polish and Soviet prisoners were selected, and transported to Auschwitz I. After a few days they were transferred to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where evacuation transports were being organised. Some of the prisoners from Fürstengrube sub camp went on the transport of 18 September 1944 to Flossenbürg concentration camp.[1]

At the end of November 1944 the next group of 13 Polish and Soviet prisoners, were transported back to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On December 1st 1944, some of these prisoners were transported to the Buchenwald sub camp of Lagensalza.[2]

In early December 1944, another group of Polish prisoners were transported to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Some of these Fürstengrube prisoners, were transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. On 17 January 1945 in the sub camp Fürstengrube 1,283 mainly Jewish prisoners remained.

On 19 January 1945 the prisoners were taken to work, but in the afternoon, most of them were brought back to the camp. A roll call was convened during which Lagerführer Schmidt told them the camp would be evacuated. At the same time in the camp office the SS burned the camp documents. After the roll call, prisoners were issued with three-quarters of a loaf of bread, a little jam and margarine. They could also take from the camp store, blankets or change their prison uniforms. The first column of prisoners began leaving Fürstengrube at approximately 21.00 hrs. In the sub camp remained approximately 250 sick prisoners unable to march.

The largest evacuation column which consisted of about 1,000 prisoners left the camp after midnight and was directed towards Mikołów. The prisoners were led by armed SS guards and the Lagerführer Max Schmidt. The extreme cold and snow meant that many prisoners could not keep up with the column – they were immediately shot by the SS. That night, the column of prisoners from Fürstengrube joined a column from Monowitz. The exhausted prisoners were allowed a short break in Mikołów. Then, throughout the day of the 20 January 1945, the column marched towards Gliwice. There, they were taken to the former sub camp Gleiwitz II, where many evacuees from Auschwitz were being concentrated before being sent on elsewhere. On 21 January, around 4,000 prisoners were loaded onto open rail wagons and transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. After almost a week, the transport reached its destination, but the camp Mauthausen refused to accept such a large number of prisoners and sent the transport onto the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The train arrived at the ramp at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp on 28 January 1945. Of the 4,000 prisoners who had departed Gliwice on 21 January 1945 only 3,500 had survived. Several hundred more died over the subsequent days.

The prisoners who arrived in Mittelbau-Dora, including those from Fürstengrube, were then directed on several smaller transports to various sub camps. In the majority of cases their fate is unknown, and to this day it is not known how many of them survived until liberation.

The fate of the sick prisoners left in the Fürstengrube sub camp was tragic. Retreating SS troops set fire to the barracks in which the sick prisoners were housed. 239 prisoners died. Only 20 prisoners survived.[3]


[1] Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p. 139-140.
[2] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of former prisoner Jan Skotnicki, Vol. 57, p. 51.
[3] Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p. 143-145.
Literature:
Iwaszko, Tadeusz, Podobóz Fürstengrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1975] Nr 16. p 71-151. 

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the site of the former Fürstengrube sub camp on 31 July 1963. The former sub camp was almost in its original condition including the guard towers and camp fence and the buildings were inhabited at the time by Polish families. The former site of the sub camp was demolished in the mid 1960s and the Polish families living there at the time of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visit in 1963 were rehoused.[1] The area, mostly derelict is used by a building company.


[1] Website of Sam Pivnik survivor of Auschwitz and Fürstengrube and author of Survivor: Auschwitz, death March and my fight for freedom. Hodder Paperback 2013. https://www.sampivnik.org/furstengrube.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

The remains of one of the largest Auschwitz sub camps, Fürstengrube, can be seen near the railroad crossing at ul Murckowska in Mysłowice (Wesoła-Murcki district).

Of the former Fürstengrube sub camp, there remains only a 70 m section of the southern wall, and a 10 m section of the eastern wall. There is an incomplete guard tower located in the corner connecting the afore-mentioned sections of the original camp fence (map reference W4). The fence consisted of two elements: concrete posts, between which a brick wall had been built This wall is about 2.2 m high and had been built quickly, as evidenced by the unevenly laid mortar. The height of the wall was determined by the curvature of the columns. Their ends directed inside the camp protruded above the wall. 6-7 insulators were attached to the arches of each pole, to which electrified barbed wire was fastened. Insulators have survived on several posts. It is worth noting that the lowest mounted insulators, and thus the lowest running electrified barbed wire was below the upper edge of the wall. The posts have survived in reasonable condition, although a few of them lack the concrete cover in the upper part.

The observation tower existing in the southeast corner is only partially preserved. In shape and construction, it resembles the construction of guard towers from the Gleiwitz III sub camp. It has the shape of an irregular pentagon; whose two sides form an edge at an angle of 90º and connect with the wall surrounding the camp. Only the lower part has survived, with a metal hatch door to the tower and a bricked window. The interior creates a fairly spacious room. In the ceiling, the metal cover of the entrance is visible, through which the guard walked up the metal ladder rungs to the upper, proper observation level. At the outer edges of the tower, metal brackets were mounted at the height of the fence posts, to which insulators were attached. Here, live barbed wire was wrapped around the tower. Two such supports have survived, one of them still has the old insulator.

The former site of the sub camp was demolished in the mid 1960s and the Polish families living there at the time of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visit in 1963 were rehoused.[1]

Near the former Fürstengrube sub camp there are remains of other camps whose prisoners worked for Fürstengrube G.m.b.H. Directly opposite the Auschwitz sub camp, on the other side of the railway track was Lager Ostland – a labour camp for Ostarbeiter and workers from Italy, and earlier a Schmelt forced labour camp for Jews. Several original barracks and fragments of fencing have survived: posts and barbed wire. However, of Lager Nord intended for Soviet prisoners of war, nothing but a fire basin has survived.


[1] Website of Sam Pivnik survivor of Auschwitz and Fürstengrube and author of Survivor: Auschwitz, death March and my fight for freedom. Hodder Paperback 2013. https://www.sampivnik.org/furstengrube.

Memorialisation

The commemoration of the Fürstengrube sub camp is a 2.5 m white cross made of welded steel pipes outside of the entrance of the former sub camp. There are four stoneware vases in the corners. On the left side a stone was laid with an inscription. Unfortunately, the letters had been torn off.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the site of the former Fürstengrube sub camp on 31 July 1963 and took 35 photographs (photo references 5667 to 5701). It is one of the most comprehensively photographed of the former Auschwitz sub camps. The former sub camp almost in its original condition including the guard towers and camp fence was inhabited at the time by Polish families. There are discrepancies between the map and the descriptions on the photographs. These discrepancies seem to come from the fact the map has been created from the original plan for the camp and testimonies of camp survivors. The post war photographs would suggest some of the buildings were in different positions. The photographs include:

  1. “Brick barrack where prisoners lived.” (Photo references 5672 to 5674) (map reference 10),
  2. “Latrines.” (described as the old shower block on the map) (photo reference 5680 to 5682) (map reference 12),
  3. “Kitchen building.” (shown on the map as new baths and latrines (map reference 16) The water basin can be seen in the foreground (map reference 15) (photo reference 5683, 5684, 5690),
  4. “Wooden barrack – Blockführerstube.”(This is outside of the camp and is shown on the map as the Guard house and room of the Lagerführer) (photo references 5686 to 5689) (map reference 17),
  5. “Brick building close to the gate – guardhouse.” (This building is again outside of the camp. Possibly the Lagerführer´s office) (photo reference 5685),
  6. “Building of the laundry and storage.” (this shown on the map as the kitchen for prisoners and food storage) (photo references 5678, 5679) (map reference 7),
  7. “Penal barrack and washhouse and storage.” (these are not shown on the map. They look like they are on the north-eastern side of the camp close to the fence where the prisoners hospital barrack was located (map reference 6) (photo references 5676, 5677),
  8. “Corner guard tower next to the main gate and fragment of fence in 1963.” (This shows in the middle background a small brick shed. At the rear of this is the new baths and latrines (map reference 16). On the right hand side inside the camp is a brick building. This is not shown on the map (map reference 17)) (Photo reference 5669, 5670),
  9. “View of the “Wesoła” coal mine in 1963.” (photo reference 5699),
  10. “Old coal-mine.” (photo reference 5698),
  11. “New coal-mine.” (photo reference 5700),
  12. “Corner watch tower visible from inside.” (photo references 5671, 5676),
  13. “General view of the fence from east.” (photo reference 5695),
  14. “General view on sub-camp from railways 1963.” (On the left hand side of the camp is the prisoner brick accommodation and on the right hand side a large unknown brick barrack in the south-western corner) (photo reference 5667)

There are also two photographs of a former prisoner who accompanied T.Iwaszko from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on his site visit: Ludwik Frąszczak:

  1. “Former prisoner Ludwik Frąszczak – on the left.” (photo reference 5701),
  2. “Former prisoner of Kl Auschwitz – Frąszczak -younger man in suit.” (photo reference 5668).

Other Site Visits/Photographs

A former Jewish prisoner of Fürstengrube, Sam Pivnik published his memoires of his time in Auschwitz and the sub camp Fürstengrube.[1] Included are a number of photographs of the Fürstengrube sub camp from the time of the war, just after the war and just before demolition of the former sub camp in the mid 1960s:

  1. “Lager Süd at Fürstengrube. This picture was taken shortly after the war and shows one of the walls of the camp that has since been demolished. Sam was one of the brick layers that built this wall.”,
  2. “This is a contemporary photo of Lager Süd near the Fürstengrube mine, taken in 1944.”,
  3. “This photo was taken shortly after the war and shows part of the long wooden barracks housing the camp office, Hermann Joseph’s office, the dental station, theatre and penalty room. This wooden building was situated by the front entrance.”,
  4. “This is the front entrance of Lager Süd. This picture was taken shortly after the war.”
  5. “This is a drawing of what the entrance of Lager Süd was like during the time of its operation.”,
  6. “This picture is of the large brick built barracks in Lager Süd. This was where Sam slept. This picture was taken in the mid 1960s on the day of its demolition, so it is very lucky that we have a picture of this building.”,
  7. “The front wall at Lager Süd facing the rail line. The entrance gate is not seen in this picture, but it would have been the next feature just outside the frame of this photo on the left. Notice the two grates in the wall at the centre of this photo.”,
  8. “This is a photo of the same watchtower taken in the 1960s before the upper storey was demolished.”,
  9. “Fürstengrube Fire Pool.  This is a very rare contemporary photograph of the pool that Sam helped to build in the Fürstengrube mining camp for the storage of water to put out fires. This was the pool where Otto Moll shot a prisoner, as described in Sam’s book. In the photo are various SS officers including Oberscharführer Max Schmidt sitting on the edge of the pool with his legs in the water.”,
  10. “This picture was taken shortly after our liberation in 1945. Henry Bawnik (Herzko) Left, Kapo Hersh Goldberg (Seated). The other two fellows in the picture are familiar to me from the Fürstengrube camp but I can’t remember their names. This picture has only recently been discovered.”,
  11. “This is a rare photograph of Hermann Joseph before the District Court in Ansbach 1947. This photo came to light after I had written my book, else it would have been included.”.

The source for most of the photos is the collection of a local miner named Jacek Zajac who currently (2013) works in the mine at Fürstengrube and is also a keen amateur historian. [2]


[1] Website of Sam Pivnik survivor of Auschwitz and Fürstengrube and author of Survivor: Auschwitz, death March and my fight for freedom. Hodder Paperback 2013. https://www.sampivnik.org/furstengrube.
[2] Website of Sam Pivnik survivor of Auschwitz and Fürstengrube and author of Survivor: Auschwitz, death March and my fight for freedom. Hodder Paperback 2013. https://www.sampivnik.org/furstengrube.

Topography of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

Location of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Fürstengrube

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Photographs

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

SS Contemporary Photographs

Photograph of Lager Süd from the time of the camp. Jacek Zajac/Sam Pivnik
Lagerführer SS-Hauptscharführer Otto Moll. APMAB 21058 1
Fürstengrube Fire Pool. SS guards swim in the pool. Jacek Zajac/Sam Pivnik
SS-Unterscharführer Erich Voigt. APMAB 2027

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Other Photographs and Postcards

Sub Camp Documents