Aussenkommando Chelmek

Name of the camp
Aussenkommando Chelmek
Commandant of the camp
SS-Unterscharführer Josef Schillinger
SS-Oberscharführer Wilhelm Emmerich
Number of SS Guards
Around 10 SS guards. Possibly, guard functions were also performed by the industrial guards from the Bata factory.
Work type
Other: Labouring at the former Bata shoe factory (deepening and cleaning the water reservoirs).
Employer
Ota-Schlesische Schuhwerke AG (formerly Bata)
Sub camp buildings
Prisoners were accommodated in the narrow gauge railway engine shed of the former Bata factory.
Number of prisoners
Approximately 150 male prisoners.
Nationality of prisoners
Mostly Jews from various countries, Netherlands, France, Poland, Lithuania and Austria. A German criminal whose name has not be determined was the Kapo.
Period of camp existence
October 1942 – 9 December 1942
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
9 December 1942 the sub camp was dissolved, and the prisoners were sent back to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006, September 2006, November 2007, June 2008
Memorialisation
There is a memorial in Chełmek near the site of the former sub camp to the victims of fascism opened in 1969. There is no mention of the Auschwitz sub camp Aussenkommando Chelmek.
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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 Ota-Schlesische Schuhwerke AG (Formerly Bata)

Tomaš Bata (April 3, 1876, Zlín – July 12, 1932, Otrokovice was a Czech entrepreneur. He learned the profession of shoemaking at his father’s plant. In 1894, together with his sister Anna and brother Antonin, he founded a footwear company. In 1904, Tomaš Bata began machine production and founded the first factory of this type in Austria-Hungary. In order to gain experience in running and organizing a plant using mass production, he travelled to the USA, where he was employed in a Ford factory (the first factory using mass production techniques). In the 1920s, he introduced the techniques used in the Ford factory, thanks to which he reduced the prices of his products, thus becoming a monopolist in the Czech market (80% of production) and one of the largest players in the global footwear market. In order to avoid high duties imposed on the import of his products, in 1929-1931 he founded branches of his factories in Germany, Switzerland, Poland and India. In the 1930s, he was the largest entrepreneur in Czech light industry, employing 16,000 employees in 32 factories. He introduced a modern work management and organization system as well as an innovative incentive system for workers. In 1931 his plants were transformed into a joint-stock company, and after World War II they were nationalized by the communist authorities of Czechoslovakia. He died in a plane crash.[1]

In December 1929 a new company under the name Polska Spółka Obuwia BATA SA was registered in the District Court in Krakow. The share capital amounted to PLN 3 million and was divided into 12 thousand. shares for PLN 250 each. At the time of registration, Tomáš Bata, the famous “footwear king” did not yet know where he would build a branch of his factory in Poland. He considered several locations, and finally decided to build a factory in Chełmek – then a small agricultural village on the edge of the Krakow Province.

The location had various benefits: the Vienna – Lviv railway line ran through Chełmek, the road from Krakow to Upper Silesia and access to two navigable rivers nearby – the Vistula and the Przemsza. Also the land and local labour were cheap.

Bata purchased 986 ha of land for the construction of a factory and a housing estate. Already during the construction of the plant in 1931, he sent future employees for training to the headquarters in Zlín. The factory in Chełmek was opened in 1932. In the same year Bata died tragically in an air accident. After his death, his half-brother Antonín Bata took over the management of the company. Already in the first year of production, Bata’s plant in Chełmek produced 560,000 pairs of shoes, which were sold in 150 company stores throughout Poland (in 1939, the number of stores increased to 440). In the same year, tennis courts were built near the factory, where the best Polish tennis players played demonstration matches.

In 1934, the first issue of Echo Chełmka appeared, which was the only factory newspaper in Poland. The content of the newspaper covered not only the factory but also the goings on of the local community. The development of the factory caused dynamic changes in Chełmek. The number of inhabitants doubled, and the town gained great economic significance.

In 1935, an information bulletin for employees of the Polska Spółka Obuwia BATA SA Polish Footwear Company BATA under the name Sprzedawca (Seller) was issued, and it was intended mainly for sales staff. Thanks to the development of the factory, new shops were built, new residential houses, social organizations were created. In addition to footwear, the factory produced for its own needs: rubber, packaging, heels and various other shoemaking articles as well as shop equipment. A large mechanical shoe production plant with its own tanneries’ were quickly built in Silesia (in Brzezie and Jaśkowice).

In June 1936, workers at the factory went on strike. The reason was the wish a create trade union that would defend the interests of the employees in terms of pay and working hours. After negotiations between the board and the workers, an organization named the Rodzina Szewska was created. In 1938, footwear production reached 2,260,000 pairs of shoes and the factory employed 1669 people. In 1939, 1,987,000 pairs of shoes were produced.

The development of the factory as well as the town of Chełmek itself was interrupted by World War II. The Germans occupied Chełmek on September 3, 1939 and almost immediately took over the plant. From then on, footwear for the army was produced in the factory. Only a small part of production was intended for the civilian market. A significant number of the inhabitants of Chełmek were taken to Germany for forced labour, and many were imprisoned in concentration camps. [2]


[1] Słownik biograficzny Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej XX wieku, Edit. Wojciech Roszkowski i Jan Kofman, Warszawa 2004.
[2] The text of the history of the Ota Schlesische Schuhwerke AG (formerly Bata) is based on the information contained in the publication: Chełmek – mini guide, Edit. Municipal Information Centre of the Municipal Office in Chełmek, Chełmek 2005.

The Post War History of the Former Bata Factory

Chełmek was liberated on January 25, 1945. A month later, production in the Bata factory resumed. By the end of 1945, 1,079,000 pairs of shoes were produced, and the factory employed 1,896 people. Factory stores were re-opened, and a sales department was organized with a branch in Krakow. However, in 1947, as a result of nationalization, the factory passed into the hands of the communist government of Poland.

 

In 1959, a multi-plant enterprise was established, Południowe Zakłady Przemysłu Skórzanego, which included: Zakłady Obuwia w Chełmku (Footwear Plant in Chełmek), Zakłady Obuwia w Będzinie (Footwear Plant in Będzin), Zakłady Obuwia w Krakowie (Footwear Plant in Krakow), and the tanneries in Żywiec, Łodygowice, Oświęcim and Szczakowa. The years 1990 to 1995 were a period of company restructuring. The plants located outside Chełmek became independent. The company transformed back into a joint-stock company with a significant share of private capital, and the company restructured. [1]


[1] The text of the post war history of the Ota Schlesische Schuhwerke AG (formerly Bata) is based on the information contained in the publication: Chełmek – mini guide, Edit. Municipal Information Centre of the Municipal Office in Chełmek, Chełmek 2005.

The History of the Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

The official name of this sub camp was Aussenkommando Chelmek, which would suggest the prisoners were designated as an external Kommando rather than a sub camp. However, Aussenkommando Chelmek is classified as a sub camp as it meets the basic determinant of being a sub camp: the prisoners of the Aussenkommando lived near their workplace and did not return to the main camp at the end of the day’s work.

The exact date of the creation of Aussenkommando Chelmek has not been established as yet. Undoubtedly, it was founded no later than October 1942, as evidenced by an order to leave Auschwitz on October 5 or 6 for Chełmek.[1] The Aussenkommando Chełmek is also mentioned in the special order of the camp commandant dated November 2, 1942. [2] The prisoners were sent to work at the former Bata factory as a result of a specific request from the management of the factory to the Auschwitz commandant. [3] The former Bata company wanted to reduce the costs of supplying industrial water to the factory, which was originally obtained from the Przemsza River. For this purpose, it was necessary to carry out drainage works, deepening the ponds, from which the former Bata factory drew its water and an inlet ditch, which supplied water to these ponds from source. Unfortunately, the specific details of the agreement between the former Bata factory and the Auschwitz camp have not been discovered to date.

The camp was located in Chełmek in the area called Paprotnik.[4] Here there was an engine shed (Map reference 1) for the narrow-gauge railway, which connected the former Bata factory with the Jazdówka quarry. The narrow-gauge railway delivered stone and sand from Jazdówka to the former Bata factory. This building was assigned as the accommodation for the prisoners. As it was made from wooden planks, local people called it a shed.[5] The roof of the building was made of sheet metal. From the west, a small building was added to it to store the bodies of deceased prisoners (Map reference 2). A metal basin and a row of taps were built outside the engine house. (Map reference 3) The prisoners washed here with water drawn from a nearby ditch. The area around the engine house was surrounded by barbed wire hung on wooden or concrete posts. The fence was not connected to the electricity network, although electric lamps were installed on the posts. There was also lighting in the accommodation building. There were no guard towers. The entrance gate to the camp was from the east. Apart from the above-mentioned elements of the camp buildings – a residential building, a morgue, a washroom and fencing with a gate, no other facilities were built in the sub camp.

The prisoners were brought to the camp by truck directly from Auschwitz. The Aussenkommando consisted of about 150 prisoners, mostly Jews from various countries: Netherlands, France, Poland, Lithuania and Austria. A German criminal whose name has not yet been determined was the Kapo of the Aussenkomamndo Chelmek. According to one of the few accounts by a former prisoner of the sub camp, Ernst Toch, he was a sadist.[6]

Conditions in the engine house were very harsh. The prisoners complained about the severe cold in the building. A furnace used for heating, and fuelled with sawdust was not sufficient to heat the entire room. The prisoners slept on wooden three-story bunks, but due to a lack of blankets some of the prisoners had to sleep without them.

A primitive latrine located next to the engine house building was provided for the prisoners but it was obviously too small for such a large number of prisoners. Additionally, it could only be used during the day. At night, when the accommodation building was closed, the prisoners had to use a barrel brought in for this purpose and in the morning, the prisoners had to empty it.

Food for the prisoners was supplied by the former Bata factory. It was brought in boxes and cauldrons on a draisine (light auxiliary vehicle) directly from the factory canteen. The rations and the quality of food for prisoners significantly differed from that of the civilian workers. The standard daily food in the sub camp in Chełmek consisted of a litre of black coffee, a bowl of soup (cabbage overcooked in water) and a piece of dry bread. The prisoners were constantly hungry, and quickly lost their strength and caught various diseases, or died of exhaustion. This sometimes led to dramatic requests. The former prisoner Ernst Toch recalled, “As a result of hunger and a decrease in my body weight (from 74 kg to about 40 kg), I broke down and asked him (the SS guard) to shoot me. He explained to me that I had to fake an escape, then he could shoot me. So I went towards the latrine, which was on the border of the workplace, and when I was there, he set the dogs on me. The dogs dragged me around the work area and tore at my thighs.” [7]

There were no roll calls in the Chelmek sub camp. Prisoners were counted at the gate when leaving and returning from work. The prisoners worked about 1.5 km north of the sub camp, where there were three connected ponds belonging to the former Bata factory. The first of them, closest to the factory, was one of the places the prisoners worked. The pond was emptied and the prisoners removed reeds and the roots of trees from its bottom. It was exhausting work, the prisoners were constantly soaked and covered in mud that they could not wash away. The excavated mud and reeds were used to strengthen the dykes surrounding the pond. A group of prisoners also worked in the Jazdówka quarry located about 2 km west of the sub camp. Dolomite stone was quarried there, which was then transported by narrow gauge railway to the ponds. The stones were used to further strengthen the dykes.

On the west bank of the dam separating two of the ponds stood a small pump house, in which the tools used for the work were stored.

Hunger and hard work were the main factors that weakened prisoners. Anna Wanat, a resident of Paprotnik, recalled: “At first there were about fifty prisoners brought to the sub camp (…). They all looked healthy then. After a few weeks of work, I saw those emaciated, extremely exhausted people….” [8]

Mortality Rates in the Aussenkommando Chelmek [9]


[1] APMAB. Zespół Fahrbefehl, order from 5th or 6th October 1942, sign. 654.
[2] APMAB. Zespół Kommandantur-Sonderbefehl, special order of 2 November 1942: Als Fahrten im Interessen-Gebiet sind auch Fahrten in das Baugelände der I.G. Farbenindustrie und Jawischowitz zu betrachten; Nich aber nach Golleschau, Chelmek und zu den Plesser Forstkommando.
[3] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Mieczysław Niedzielski, Vol. 5, p. 633.
[4] The name for the village, part of Chełmek, originates from the fact that many ferns grow there.
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Anna Wanat, Vol. 5, p. 631.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Ernst Toch, Vol. 9, p. 1289.
[7] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Ernst Toch, Vol. 9, p.1288-1289.
[8] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Anna Wanat, Vol. 5, p. 631.
[9] Table from Emeryka Iwaszko, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 52.
Literature:
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 47-55.

The SS Guard Unit

Little is known about the guards of the sub camp in Chełmek. The Kommandoführer was firstly SS-Unterscharführer Josef Schillinger and then SS-Oberscharführer Wilhelm Emmerich. About 6-10 other SS guards were assigned to the camp. Their names have not yet been established. They escorted prisoners on their way to work and back, and at night guarded the camp. In addition, the SS had several dogs at their disposal, which often attacked the prisoners. The guard functions were also possibly performed by industrial guards from the Bata factory.[1]


[1] Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chelmek [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1971] Nr 12, p.46.
Literature:
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 47-55.

The SS Guards

References:
StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2 I BA.
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.
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 47-55.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

The dissolution of the sub camp in Chełmek probably took place on December 9, 1942. This is evidenced by the order to leave Chełmek, in which the purpose was given as: Chelmek-Einziehung des Arbeitskommandos.[1] The closing of the camp was witnessed by Anna Wanat: “The evacuation of the prisoners was similar to when they arrived. Posts of German soldiers surrounded the nearby houses and the trucks arrived at the pasture, where the sub camp was located. The prisoners were taken out, loaded into trucks and taken away in a direction unknown to us, the civilian population. We supposed, however, that they were transported to the Auschwitz camp. “ [2]

The sub camp in Chełmek was closed suddenly; the reasons for closure are unknown. The work to clear the pond had not been completed and as Emeryka Iwaszko indicates in her history of the sub camp in Chełmek, the reason for the dissolution of the camp was not the deterioration of weather conditions due to the onset of the winter period. If this had been the case, the sub camp would have been reopened in the spring of 1943.[3]


[1] APMAB. Zespół Fahrbefehl, 9th December 1942.
[2] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Anna Wanat, Vol. 5, p. 632.
[3] Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 54.
Literature:
Iwaszko, Emeryka, Aussenkommando Chełmek. Komando zewnętrzne Chełmek, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1970] Nr 12, p. 47-55.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

The narrow gauge railway linking the Bata factory and the quarry Jazdówka and the wooden engine house were demolished sometime after the war.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

Aussenkommando Chelmek is one of the few Auschwitz sub camps, for which there are no remnants of the camp. Nevertheless, Tiergatenstrasse4Association undertook a detailed examination of the area, and managed to locate the precise location of the camp and the workplaces of the prisoners.

The buildings of the Aussenkommando Chelmek existed where today stands the statue to remember the Chełmek residents who died during World War II. It is situated in a small clearing at the end of the ul Ofiar Terroru in Chełmek. This monument is not related to the martyrdom of the prisoners of Auschwitz sub camp. Here was the wooden engine house (Map reference 1) for the narrow-gauge railway linking the Bata factory and the quarry Jazdówka. The wooden engine house has not survived, nor has the narrow-gauge railway. However, several meters into the woods behind the statue can be found traces of the embankment on which the rails of the narrow-gauge railway were located. According to information from residents of Chełmek this is exactly where the narrow-gauge railway line ran.

Heading east toward Libiąż there is the Jazdówka quarry. The prisoners of Aussenkommando Chelmek worked here quarrying the stone, which was used to strengthen the dykes of the ponds. The ponds exist to this day a few hundred meters north of the former Bata factory. Originally there were three ponds separated by dykes, now four, since the western pond was divided into two parts.

Memorialisation

There is a memorial in Chełmek near the site of the former sub camp to the victims of fascism opened in 1969. There are also tablets listing names of the victims. These appear to be local Poles. There is no mention of the Auschwitz sub camp Aussenkommando Chelmek.

There is a small museum in Chełmek, the Tomaš Bata Memorial House dedicated to the history of the former Bata factory and its founder Tomaš Bata. Although there is little information on the former Auschwitz sub camp there is a significant archive of photographs of the Bata factory from the 1930s onwards which the museum was kind enough to provide us with copies of.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the site of the former Chelmek sub camp on 26 March 1959 and took 8 photographs including:

  1. “Main view of the area of the sub camp.” (photograph reference 4396),
  2. “Remnants of the narrow gauge railway which transported stones from the “Jazdówka”quarry. On the right a fragment of the camp area.” (photograph reference 4398),
  3. “One of the ponds where prisoners worked.” (photograph reference 4402),
  4. “Pond in Chełmek where prisoners worked. Pump station for Bata factory; 1959.” (photograph reference 4401),
  5. “Drainage ditch. Water from this ditch was transferred to the Bata factory. Ditch dug by prisoners; 1959.” (photograph reference 4400).

Topography of the Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

Technical drawing of the Bata quarry. APMAB
Map of former Aussenkommando Chelmek sub camp and surrounding area. T4 21.50.31

Location of the Sub Camp Aussenkommando Chelmek

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Photographs

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