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Arbeitslager Janinagrube

Name of the camp
Arbeitslager Janinagrube
Other Name of the camp
Gute Hoffnung
Commandant of the camp
SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner: September 1943 to Spring 1944
SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Kleemann: Spring 1944 to 17 January 1945
Number of SS Guards
Approximately 50 guards from the 3rd Wachkompanie Monowitz and former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe men from the the 8th Sentry Company Auschwitz.
Work type
Coal Mining: Coal mining in the Johanna mine, subsequently renamed the Gute Hoffnung mine.
Fürstengrube GmbH owned 51% by IG Farbenindustrie and 49% by Fürstliche Plessische Bergwerke AG.
Sub camp buildings
Originally a camp for British prisoners of war.
Number of prisoners
853 male prisoners on 17 January 1945
Nationality of prisoners
Mostly Polish Jews and Jews from Hungary, Germany, Czechoslovakia. Also some non-Jewish Poles, Soviets and Germans.
Period of camp existence
4 September 1943 – 18 January 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
On January 18 1945 approximately 800 prisoners were formed into columns and marched on foot to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. Some prisoners unfit to march remained in the sub camp and were liberated on 25 January 1945.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006, November 2007, March 2008
The monument to the former sub camp is located at the end of ul Obieżowa. It was erected in 1965 and takes the form of a memorial stone.

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 Gute Hoffnung (Formerly Janina) Mine

The first works on the construction of the mine in the vicinity of Libiąż undertaken between 1901-1904 were drilling test wells aimed at identifying deposits of coal. The positive test results led to the building of a mine. The construction of the mine in the years 1905-1912 was carried out by a group of French industrialists who in 1906 established a joint-stock company Compagnie Galicienne de Mines[1] based in Paris, then in Libiąż. Coal mining started in 1907 while the mine was still being built. The mine was named Janina – probably after the daughter of one of the co-founders of the mine, Alexius Bartel.

The mine employed unskilled workers from Libiąż, Moczydła and Żarki, while the miners were hired from Upper Silesia and from Moravian Ostrava. In 1911, the construction of the miners‘ residential buildings – Kolonia Obieżowa and Leśniowa began and apartments for white-collar employees were constructed near the mine.

Exploitation of the coal seams on a large scale began in 1912, when mine shafts I and II were deepened to the level of 300 m. The standard workday of the miners´ at that time was long – between 9.5 and 11 hours underground.

During the First World War, the Janina mine came under German military supervision.

After the First World War the part of Upper Silesia including Libiąż became part of Poland. The Janina mine however was still owned by the French industrialists. Primitive methods of mining persisted in the Janina mine for a long time. It was not until 1922 that diesel locomotives began to be used at the pit face, while the first electric locomotive to transport away slag only appeared in 1930. In the 1930s, there were about 800 people working in the mine, and the 8 hour day at the bottom of the pit, was introduced in 1921, but still 10 or even 12 hours a day were still common. Miners working in sections at the bottom of the pit and seam earned up to 17 zlotys a day, the others only 7-8 zlotys. In 1938 a miners‘ bathhouse was built, and at the end of 1938 company fire brigade and anti-aircraft defence teams were established.

After the German occupation of Poland in 1939, the mine was taken over by Fürstengrube G.m.b.H. and it was renamed Johanna (1942-1943) and then Gute Hoffnung (1943-1945). [2] [3]

[1] Galicyjskie Towarzystwo Górnicze.
[2] Information on the pre-war history of the Janina mine from  Jerzy Jaros, Słownik historyczny kopalni węgla na ziemiach polskich, Katowice 1984.
[3] Information on the pre-war history of the Janina mine from the website of TAURON Wydobycie Spółka on August 4, 2019: Akcyjna

The Post War History of the Janina (Formerly Gute Hoffnung) Mine

On January 25, 1945, Soviet troops entered Libiąż. The mine management, panic-stricken, hurried to dismantle the machinery however, there was no time to implement plans to seal the mine. In the first days of February 1945, mining had already resumed in Janina.

After the war, the mine was taken over by the Krakowskiego Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Węglowego, and then from 1947 by the Jaworznicko-Mikołowskie Zjednoczenie Przemysłu Węglowego.

In the 1960s, the management of the mine undertook significant investment, including a transformer substation, a new hall, as well as the House of Culture and the House of the Miner in Libiąż, as well as new blocks of flats in Kolonia Urzędnicza.

Between 1975 and 1978 the Ministerstwo Górnictwa i Energetyki built a coal gasification plant, producing syngas from coal from the mine. On March 1, 1982, the plant was incorporated into the Janina mine.

In the 1993, the Janina mine became part of the Nadwiślańska Spółka Węgla S.A. in Tychy, while in February 2003 it became part of the Kompania Węglowa SA with its registered office in Katowice.

The Company Zakład Górniczo-Energetyczny Janina was established on December 20, 2003. The official start of mining operations as part of the Południowy Koncern Energetyczny commenced on April 1, 2004.

In January 2005, Południowy Koncern Węglowy SA / PKW / consisted of- ZG Sobieski and ZG Janina. In May 2007, the holding company TAURON was created.

From 2014 Południowy Koncern Węglowy S.A. changed its name to TAURON Wydobycie S.A. [1]

[1] Information on the post war history of the Janina mine from the website of TAURON Wydobycie Spółka on August 4, 2019: Akcyjna

The History of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

One of the largest sub camps of Auschwitz was established near the small town of Libiąż located about 13 km north-east of Oświęcim, where a large coal mine Janina was situated. [1]

In 1941 IG Farben began construction of a chemical plant in Monowice near Oświęcim, which required a huge supply of coal and therefore, the management of IG Farben began negotiations to purchase coal mines located nearby to Oświęcim. A controlling interest in the mine Janina in Libiąż was purchased by IG Farben on March 2, 1943. [2]

Within the miners‘ colony of Obieżowa in Libiąż a camp for British POWs was established in 1943. The POWs worked in the mine Janina, however, their work was deemed inefficient and the British prisoners caused problems by refusing to work. Soon, IG Farben commenced negotiations with the commandant of Auschwitz to source other prisoner labour to work in the mine. After an inspection by the commander of Auschwitz – Rudolf Höss, and the representative of IG Farben, Dr. Dürrfeld, Technical Manager of IG Farben Auschwitz Werke, they agreed that the British POWs would be replaced by prisoners from Auschwitz concentration camp.

The British POWs vacated the camp on August 20, 1943, and on 4 September 1943 the first transport of prisoners from Auschwitz arrived at the new sub camp of Arbeitslager Janinagrube.

The sub camp of Janinagrube lay in the miners colony of Obieżowa near the coal mine Janina. The camp was of rectangular shape and was surrounded by a double row of barbed wire fencing hung on concrete posts. The outer fence was electrified. In the corners of the camp stood four wooden guard towers equipped with floodlights. The gate leading to the camp was in the main street running between the residential buildings. Over the gate there was an inscription “Arbeitslager Janinagrube”. One of the buildings from the miners colony of Obieżowa was taken over by the sub camp (map reference 6). The building of the colony utilised by the sub camp was built of brick and some prisoners were accommodated there and in the basement of the building were the camp’s detention cells. On both sides of this building were two one-storey extensions. In one of them located on the side of the entrance to the sub camp there was the Schreibstube (map reference 12), and in the second a lamp room (map reference 11), where the miners lamps were stored. The remaining prisoners were accommodated in wooden huts located on both sides of the street (map reference 3 to 5). One of the prisoner barracks in the middle housed the camp hospital (map reference 8). In addition to the prisoner barracks, there were also three other barracks:  the kitchen (map reference 7), baths (map reference 8) and latrines (map reference 10). In between the barracks was an open space, used for daily roll calls. Outside the fence of the camp on the mine side, the buildings were used for SS barracks and a guardhouse (map reference 13). [3]

By mid-1944 the sub camp Janinagrube housed about 800 prisoners. They were mostly Jews, Poles, Soviets and Germans. The prisoners slept on the two-story bunks.

Once a week a truck arrived in Janinagrube from the Auschwitz main camp to deliver letters, parcels, clothing, shoes, and take back to Auschwitz the bodies of the dead prisoners. Before transport to Auschwitz the bodies of dead prisoners were stored in the cellar in a specially designed chest located next to the prisoner cells. When it was hot the bodies were sprinkled with chlorine. [4]

The first transport of prisoners who arrived at the camp adapted the POW camp for use as a sub camp. The prisoners of the Lagerkommando built a fence and new barracks and also a barrack for the SS.

After completion of the camp almost all of the prisoners were sent to work in the mine Janina at mine shafts: Viktor I, Viktor II, Alexander III, Alexander IV, Sigmund V and Sigmund VI. The work was exhausting and dangerous. A former prisoner Fiszel Lis testified, “The prisoners worked in the coal mine in three shifts. For the whole time I was assigned together with my brother to the night shift. My work consisted of directing the coal coming up from the pit into dumpers and to move the dumpers when they were full. It was strenuous work and I had to make sure no coal fell next to the dumpers otherwise the whole process would have had to be interrupted.” [5]

The prisoners worked in three shifts: the first 6.00 hrs to 14.00 hrs, the second from 14.00 hrs to 20.00 hrs and the third from 22.00 to 6.00 hrs. Every shift consisting of around 250 prisoners was assigned to six different work departments.

In the Autumn of 1944 a special work Kommando of 70 men was created to unload an ammunition train near the mining colony Lesniowa. [6]

Even after the day’s work the prisoners ordeal was not over. Every evening there was a roll call and every prisoner was counted. Prisoners were often kept by the SS men for two or three hours performing penal exercises. [7]

The food for the prisoners was totally insufficient for the hard physical work to which they were assigned; daily they received 400 grams of bread and a bowl of cabbage soup and sometimes there was a peice of horse sausage or jam. [8]

Hygienic conditions for prisoners in the camp were catastrophic. There was no hot water in the camp and no heating, until the Autumn of 1944, and prisoners after a hard days physical labour underground in the mine had to wash in cold water. It was only after the intervention of the mine management that a shower with warm water was installed in the camp washroom and central heating in the prisoner accommodation. [9]

The sub camp hospital treated ill prisoners but prisoners unable to work were transported by truck back to Auschwitz where they were probably gassed. [10] In addition, some prisoners were killed in the hospital by phenol injection administered by the SS medical orderly. [11]

The prisoners were treated brutally by the SS guards, but also by some of the civilian mine workers. A former Jewish prisoner testified: “I believe in the winter of 1943/1944 that the Obersteiger (mine supervisor) Balcarek beat a prisoner so badly that he died. After work as we came back from the mine Balcarek attacked a young Dutch prisoner. The Obersteiger hit the young Dutchman with his stick, the blow was so hard that he fell on the floor. I was only a few meters from the Dutchman and afterwards he didn’t move anymore.[12] Another prisoner testified that, “Much worse than the SS guards were the supervisors of the mine. The head supervisor, who went from workplace to workplace and who had oversight of the whole operation was an especially brutal man. As soon as he appeared, every prisoner tried to work faster, and occasionally there were accidents. As far as I remember a prisoner was run over by a dump truck and had to be carried away. He was still not dead but so badly injured that he must have subsequently died from the injuries.” [13]

[1]  Iwaszko, Emeryka, Podobóz Janinagrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967] Nr 10, p. 59.
[2]  Iwaszko, Emeryka, Podobóz Janinagrube [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967] Nr 10, p. 59-60.
[3] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Kazimierz Ślimak, Vol. 35.
[4] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Kazimierz Ślimak, Vol. 35. p. 72 – 73.
[5] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 6, p. 571- 572. Testimony of Fiszel Lis.
[6] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 6, p. 553.
[7] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 8, p. 4.
[8] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 8, p. 3.
[9] Iwaszko, Emeryka, Das Nebenlager Janinagrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz, [1967], Nr 10, p. 54.
[10] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 5, p. 258-259.
[11] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 6, p. 561.
[12] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 5, p. 258-259.
[13] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 8, p. 54-55.
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Podobóz Janinagrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967], Nr 10, p. 59-82.
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Das Nebenlager Janinagrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz, [1967], Nr 10, p. 42-65.

The SS Guard Unit

The first Lagerführer was SS- Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner, until the spring of 1944. He had previously been the Lagerführer in the Kobior sub camp. [1] Later, he was replaced by SS-Oberscharführer Hermann Kleemann, who was remembered by the prisoners as especially sadistic. Kleemann served as Lagerführer of the camp until it was dissolved in January 1945. The paramedics were SS-Oberscharführer Ludwig and SS-Schütze Vohland. The director of the camp kitchen was SS-Unterscharführer Max Ulig. The 50 SS guards were men from the SS 3rd Guard Company.

The Janinagrube sub camp was visited on October 27 1943 by the Kommandant of the Wachsturmbann SS Sturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein and on 11 January 1944 by the Kommandant of Auschwitz I Obersturmbannführer Arthur Liebenhenschel. [2]

[1] StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 7, p. 4666.
[2]  Iwaszko, Emeryka, Das Nebenlager Janinagrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1967] Nr 10, p. 51.
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Podobóz Janinagrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967], Nr 10, p. 59-82.

The SS Guards

Rudorff, Andrea, Janinagrube in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p. 259-260.
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2680 and B162/2679.
StA Hannover Nds 721 Hannover Acc 2007/082 Nr 6, p. 555-556. Zwiazek Polaków Pomordowanych w Auschwitz. List of 8,500 SS men in KL Auschwitz.
IPN database of Auschwitz SS guards.,Zaloga-SS-KL-Auschwitz.html.
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Podobóz Janinagrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967], Nr 10, p. 59-82.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

The evacuation of the sub camp Janinagrube commenced on December 6, 1944. Initially 250 prisoners were evacuated to Monowitz, then to Auschwitz II-Birkenau and eventually transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. In the sub camp of Janinagrube remained approximately 860 prisoners. On January 18, 1945 around 800 prisoners were formed into columns and marched on foot to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. These prisoners did not receive sufficient quantities of food and clothing to protect them from cold, on the long march to Gross-Rosen; after 18 days on the road only 200 prisoners survived.

Meanwhile, about 60 prisoners too sick to go on the death march remained in the sub camp and were liberated on 25 January 1945. These prisoners were helped by the local residents of Libiąz.

Emeryka Iwaszko, Podobóz Janinagrube, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1967] Nr 10, p. 59-82.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

After the liberation of Libiąż, the area and infrastructure of the former Auschwitz sub camp came under the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court in Krakow (Specjalny Sąd Karny w Krakowie). In 1945, the Libiąż camp was established there, a branch camp of the Centralnego Obozu Pracy w Jaworznie (COP) in Jaworzno. Originally, it served as a joint penal detention and labour camp, for mainly ethnic Germans and prisoners of war. Due to the large number of women held there, the thesis that the Libiąż camp was a female COP sub-camp in Jaworzno is reasonable. In October 1947, there were 105 prisoners, supervised by 11 guards.[1]

In 1947, a conflict arose over the buildings and equipment of the camp between the  COP in Jaworzno and the Janina mine. As a result, the grounds of the Janina camp came under the control of the CZPW in Katowice (National Police in Katowice) and the Jaworznicko-Mikołowskiego Zjednoczenia Przemysłu Węglowego (Jaworznicko-Mikołowski Unification of the Coal Industry). In August 1948, a forced labour camp for prisoners of war was established at the Janina mine in the former Janinagrube branch camp in Libiąż. The official name of the camp was – Obóz Pracy Przymusowego Zatrudnienia przy kopalni Janina w Libiążu (Forced Labour Camp at the Janina mine in Libiąż). About 250 German prisoners of war worked in the Janina mine. The camp was dissolved in March 1949.[2]

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the site of the former labour camp in Libiąż in 1959 when the camp seemed to be largely unchanged. Only the posts and barbed wire of the former camp fence had been removed. Polish families were living in the former buildings and the barracks built for the sub camp and subsequently labour camp for German prisoners of war. Sometime later the wooden barracks and the complete infrastructure of the camp were dismantled.

[1] Kopka, Bogusław, Obozy pracy w Polsce 1944-1950, Warszawa 2002. p. 136.
[2] Kopka, Bogusław, Obozy pracy w Polsce 1944-1950, Warszawa 2002. p. 96.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

The remnants of the Janinagrube sub camp can be found in the former mining colony of Obieżowa in ul Obieżowa in the city of Libiąż. The camp was located at the southern end of this street. One of the residential buildings of the Obieżowa colony was part of the sub camp (map reference 6). This is a two-storey building with a gable roof with an external staircase at the back of the building. In this building there were the rooms for prisoners, the camp commandant and cell blocks. In the cellars you can still find the cells. On the sides of this building there are two outbuildings, in the form of huts with a single-pitched roof, covered with roofing paper. In one of them there was the Schreibstube (map reference 12) , in the other the so-called lamp room (map reference 11).

Behind this building there is a small one-storey brick building, in which the latrines were located (map reference 10). Going towards the monument located at the end of ul Obieżowa, you can also see fragments of the foundations and floors of the barracks with washrooms and showers (map reference 9).

The wooden barracks, as well as the camp fence, have not survived. There was also no trace of the barrack built during the communist period, when the Janinagrube sub camp was transformed into a camp for political prisoners and German prisoners of war.


The monument to the former sub camp is located at the end of ul Obieżowa. It was erected in 1965 and takes the form of a memorial stone.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the site of the former Janinagrube sub camp in 1959 and took 28 photographs including:

  1. “Fire-basin”. (photo reference 4394),
  2. Barrack used as a guardhouse; “Janina” coal mine in the background.” (photo reference 4386),
  3. “Barrack for SS-men set against “Obierzowa” colony in the background .”(photo reference 4393),
  4. “Barrack built after a war on the camp area.” (photo reference 22 270/3),
  5. “View on the “Janina” from the camp. (photo reference 6117),
  6. “Brick barrack – laundry and baths; wooden barrack was built after the war.” (photo reference 4379),
  7. “South corner of the camp. In the rubbish are visible remnants of the original barbed wire (fence).” (photo reference 4390),
  8. „“Obierzowa” colony.” (photo reference 6115),
  9. “Main administrative building; barracks in the background.” (photo reference 4388).

Topography of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

Location of the Sub Camp Arbeitslager Janinagrube

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

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Other Photographs and Postcards

Sub Camp Documents

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