Aussenkommmando Kobior

Name of the camp
Aussenkommmando Kobior
Commandant of the camp
SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner
SS-Unterscharführer Alfred Schönbohm
Number of SS Guards
Approximately 20 SS men.
Other information
Wood from Kobiór was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where it was used in the Sonderkommando 1005 Aktion to burn the bodies of murdered Jews exhumed in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Work type
Forestry Work
Employer
Oberforstamt Pless
Sub camp buildings
Civilian workers from the Pszczyna forest district built the sub camp by erecting a fence and building three wooden barracks.
Number of prisoners
Around 150
Nationality of prisoners
They were mainly Jews from Poland, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. In addition to Jewish prisoners, there were several Germans, Poles and Soviets.
Period of camp existence
Autumn 1942 – September 1943
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
September 1943
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
June 2006 and November 2007
Memorialisation
A monument and commemorative plaque to commemorate the former prisoners of the sub camp was erected in November 2005 at the former camp entrance. Next to the monument there is an information board in Polish describing the history of the former camp.
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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 Sub Camp Aussenkommando Kobior

The sub camp in Kobiór one of the four so-called forest sub camps, was the largest of them. It was founded on the outskirts of the village of Kobiór, located about 10 km north of Pszczyna and about 20 km west of Oświęcim. Unfortunately, the exact date the sub camp was established has yet to be established. The first time the name Kobior appears in the Fahrbefehl is on September 23, 1942, which ordered for that day a five-ton truck to be sent to the village of Kobiór to deliver timber to the camp.[1] However, we do not know whether prisoners were already there at that time.

According to the few testimonies of former prisoners, this sub camp was founded in the autumn of 1942, and certainly by December 19, 1942 [2] when a truck was sent to Kobiór with supplies for the prisoners.[3] The document confirming the existence of this sub camp is the order of the Auschwitz concentration camp headquarters of November 2, 1942. This stated that SS travel to the Plesser Forstkommando (Pszczyna Forest commando) be treated as travel outside the Interessengebiet (zone of interest) of the concentration camp Auschwitz.[4]

Even before the arrival of the prisoners from Auschwitz in Kobiór, civilian workers from the Pszczyna forest district built the sub camp by erecting a fence and building three wooden barracks.[5]

The Kobior sub camp had a rectangular shape. It was surrounded by a single row of concrete posts strung with barbed wire which was not electrified. The main gate was on the road. In two corners of the fence stood primitive guard towers made from wood. Three barracks stood inside the fence. In the first of them, on the right of the main gate (map reference 1), there were: an administrative room for the SS, a kitchen and a food warehouse. Prisoners lived in the barrack facing the gate (map reference 2). A small section of it was separated into a warehouse for work tools used by the prisoners (map reference 2a). The third barrack, standing to the left of the main gate of the sub camp, was divided into two parts – in one there lived prisoners (map reference 3), and in the other a primitive sick room (map reference 4). There was a well near the main gate, while a small shed stood next to the administrative and kitchen barracks, which served as a latrine. The bodies of deceased prisoners were also stored there. As the barracks were located around the inside of the camp fence, in the central part of the sub camp there was a large empty space. This was used for roll calls which took place twice a day – morning and evening. [6]

Prisoners from the Auschwitz concentration camp were transported to the Kobior sub camp by truck.[7] The number of prisoners was approximately 150 [8] and they were mainly Jews from Poland, France, Belgium and  Czechoslovakia. In addition to Jewish prisoners, there were several Germans, Poles and Soviets. German prisoners performed the most important camp functions: the Lagerälteste was Alfred van Hofe, the Lager Kapo was a man named Theo (he came from Hamburg), the kitchen Kapo was Rudolf Navratil. A few Poles were also employed in the camp in relatively lighter work.

Jewish prisoners were forced to perform the hardest work felling and pre-processing trunks and digging ditches for drying out forest meadows. They left for work in 3 groups, and they had to sing as they went. Large logs were exported to sawmills, and were used to support the ceilings in the coal mines. The waste material and branches were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. This material was used as kindling in the field crematoria set up in Auschwitz-Birkenau to burn the bodies of Jews previously gassed and buried before the erection of the 4 large gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was part of Aktion Sonderkommando 1005, headed by SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel and given the task of exhuming the bodies from the mass graves from all over Europe and burning them in order to destroy the evidence of the mass murders. [9]

In addition to forestry work, Jewish prisoners were also employed unloading wagons filled with lime at the train station in Kobiór. The work of the Aussenkommando Kobior was witnessed by Wincenty Jaromin: “During early spring, when returning from school [10], I saw a group of prisoners dressed in striped clothing at the railway station, who were unloading lime from wagons. The prisoners worked for the forest district in Kobiór, which imported powdered lime every year, using it as fertilizer. The unloading of the wagons took place every day and lasted for 2 weeks. From 2 to 4 wagons were unloaded daily. Each wagon was assigned to six prisoners, who were shovelling off (the lime) into the arriving carts. The carts were driven by locals who brought the lime to the meadows, poured it out there, and the prisoners, in turn, spread it out and sowed trees. Most of the forest meadows were located in the so-called Old Piła. The work unloading wagons and scattering lime was very hard and harmful to the health. Prisoners, without protective clothing or face masks, worked in clouds of limestone dust. From head to foot they were covered with a thick layer of biting powder that burned their skin and irritated the mucous membranes and eyes. The tears flowing from their red eyes, which, they wiped stealthily with a dirty sleeve, caused dermatitis to form in the wounds.” [11]

The group of prisoners employed unloading lime numbered about 16 men. If fewer wagons arrived and the prisoners completed this work earlier, they went to work in the forest. The workday usually lasted until 16.00 hrs.[12]

Prisoners received meals three times a day – breakfast and dinner were served in the camp, while lunch was brought to the workplace. The food provided was insufficient to meet the calorie requirements for such heavy labour. The prisoners suffered from severe hunger, confirmed by a local resident Wincenty Kret: “The prisoners were very hungry. When I marked the trees near them, they raised their hands to their lips, silently asking for food. I put a few slices of bread and even boiled potatoes under the branches almost every day.”[13]

A review of the Auschwitz death book by Danuta Czech from the Aushwitz-Birkenau State Museum, revealed that the Kobior sub camp had a fairly high mortality rate; on February 11, 1943, it was noted that in the mortuary of the main camp 21 prisoners were received, including one Soviet prisoner of war number RKG 10400. It was recorded that the body of prisoner number 72627 was delivered from the village of Kobiór, where a forest commando of Auschwitz prisoners worked whose employer was the Pszczyna Forest District (Oberforestamt Pless); On February 13, 1943, the corpse of prisoner No. 72504 from the Kobior sub camp was received in the morgue; On March 1, a note from Kobior appears about the body of prisoner No. 73508; On March 8, 20 prisoners were killed in the mortuary of the main camp, including 3 from the Buna sub camp and 1 from the Kobior sub camp; On March 24, 2 bodies from the Kobior sub camp were received in the morgue; on 26-27 March in the morgue, the bodies of three prisoners from the Kobior sub camp were recorded; on April 3, among the 57 bodies of prisoners laid in the morgue of the main camp were the bodies of two prisoners from the Kobior sub camp; On April 13, two bodies from Kobior were received in the morgue; On May 8, a corpse of one prisoner from the Kobior sub camp was received in the morgue; on May 27, among the bodies of 22 prisoners received in the morgue, one body was recorded as being a prisoner from Kobior; and finally, on June 1, the corpse of a prisoner brought from the Kobior sub camp was also received in the morgue.[14]


[1] APMO. D-Au I – 4/28.
[2] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, Vol. 45, p. 14; testimony of Stanisław Łapiński, Vol. 53, p. 202, testimony of Julia Kumor and Monika Koczar.
[3] APMAB. D-AuI – 4/25. Kraftfahrzeug – Anforderungen.
[4] APMAB. D-AuI – 1/77. Kommandantur – Sonderbefehl.
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Julia Kumor, Vol. 53, p. 202.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Julia Kumor, Vol. 53, p. 202-203 and testimony of witness Wincenty Kret, vol. 53, p. 151 A.
[7] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Julia Kumor, Vol. 53, p. 202.
[8] APMAB. Materiały Ruchu Oporu, Vol. I, p. 24 order from 25.4.1943; Kobiór – 156 prisoners.
[9] Sonderkommando 1005 was the code name given to the coordinated action to excavate and burn the bodies of the victims of Nazi crimes in occupied Poland and the East. Prior to August 1942 victims were buried in mass graves. This included victims of the Nazi occupation of Poland from September 1939 and other Eastern European countries and Jews and other victims killed in the Nazi death camps, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Kulmhof, Maidanek and Auschwitz. Also the victims of the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union. In 1942 the Nazi leadership decided to erase the evidence of their crimes and appointed SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel to lead Sonderkommando 1005. Blobel began his experiments to find the best method to excavate and eradicate the remains of the victims in Kulmhof in June 1942. By September 1942 he had developed a simple method through the use of field crematorium built into the ground from brick and fuelled with wood, branches and oil. In September 1942 he invited representatives from Auschwitz concentration camp to visit Kulmhof to view these methods. The commanders of Auschwitz themselves were then tasked with implementing Sonderkommando 1005 for the tens of thousands of victims mainly Jews murdered in the so called White and Red bunkers in Auschwitz-Birkenau and buried near the Birkenau camp. It was likely one of the tasks of the Forestry sub camps of Auschwitz to gather wood and branches to be transported to Birkenau and used for fuel to burn the excavated bodies.
[10] The witness was 16 years old at this time.
[11] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Wincenty Jaromin, Vol. 54, p. 26.
[12] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Augustyn Poprucz, Vol. 54, p. 29.
[13] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Wincenty Kret, Vol. 53, p. 151 A.
[14] Czech, Danuta, Kalendarz wydarzeń w KL Auschwitz, Oświęcim, 1992, p. 345, 347, 358, 366, 378, 380, 387, 394, 414, 428, 435 and APMAB. D-AuI-5/2, Death Book, p. 66, 67-69, 83-85, 88, 89, 103-105, 113-114, 123, 140, 149, 151.

The SS Guard Unit

The sub camp guard unit consisted of about 20 SS men. The position of Lagerführer was held by SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner.[1] The reports about him are not conclusive; according to some, he behaved quite correctly towards the prisoners, while other witnesses maintain that to the contrary: he abused prisoners and tolerated numerous cases of shooting by sentries of prisoners under the guise of them trying to escape.[2]

Stanisław Łapiński a former prisoner testified, “The Lagerführer was SS-Unterscharführer Franz Baumgartner. I know he was married to an inhabitant from Kobior. He came from Bayern. With the exception of the Jews he behaved properly towards the prisoners and treated the Poles with sympathy and trust.”[3] 

SS-Unterscharführer Alfred Schönbohm may also have been the Lagerführer.[4]

Other SS men behaved brutally towards prisoners. One witness recalled: “Once on my way back from school, I witnessed such a scene – an SS guard watching prisoners at some distance noticed that one of the prisoners employed in throwing lime covered his mouth with his hand. At the order of the SS, he had to stand in front of him and wait in the bent position to receive lashes. But it wasn’t a whipping, as the SS man took a meter-long block of wood and threw it at the bent over prisoner with such force that he fell and did not get up again.” [5]

Witnesses also mention several SS men who behaved decently towards prisoners: “We remember the names of the following SS men: SS-Oberscharführer Schynbou, SS-man Karol Bischof, SS-man Schmidt and SS-man Schneider. These SS men let us plant food, they warned us not to do it officially, because we risked not only ourselves, but also them.”[6]


[1] APMAB. D.Hyg.Inst./23, segr. 17b, p. 687; from 22.6.1943.
[2] APMAB. Proces Hössa, Vol. 16a, p. 202, testimony of Karol Sperber.
[3] StA Hannover. Ha_Nds._721_Hannover_acc._90_99_nr._175_2, p. 69-78. Testimony of Stanislaw Lapinski dated 14 October 1964.
[4] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 III_BÅ 982_0096. p. 167.
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Wincentego Jaromina, Vol. 54, p. 26.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of witness Julia Kumor, Vol. 53, p. 203.

The SS Guards

References:
StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 III_BÅ 982_0097. p. 167-168.
Rudorff, Andrea, Kobier (Kobiór) in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p. 267.
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2679 and B162/2680.
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.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Aussenkommando Kobior

The dissolution of the Kobior sub camp probably took place in August 1943. The prisoners were transported by truck back to Auschwitz and British POWs (Probably working party E740 from Stalag VIIIB 344 Lamsdorf).[1] were brought to the abandoned barracks. They also carried out various forestry works.


[1] https://www.lamsdorf.com/working-parties.html. Viewed 2 October 2019.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Aussenkommando Kobior

Although nothing of the sub camp in Kobiór remains, the location is quite easy to find thanks to the monument located there. It is situated at ul Leśników on the edge of the commune. The wooden barracks were dismantled after the war.

Memorialisation

Although nothing of the sub camp in Kobiór remains, the location is quite easy to find thanks to the monument located there. It is situated at ul Leśników on the edge of the commune. The monument is in the form of a raw dolomite stone block erected at the former entrance to the camp. The lump of stone is surrounded by coils of barbed wire, while on the front wall there is a commemorative plaque with an inscription (in Polish): “DLA UCZCZENIA PAMIĘCI OFIAR WIĘŹNIÓW PODOBOZU ZAGŁADY AUSCHWITZ BIRKENAU ORAZ DLA UPAMIĘTNIENIA INTERNOWANIA W TYM MIEJSCU JEŃCÓW WOJENNYCH KOALICJI ANTYHITLEROWSKIEJ W 60. ROCZNICĘ ZAKOŃCZENIA II WOJNY ŚWIATOWEJ / Mieszkańcy Gminy Kobiór.” (TO CELEBRATE THE MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE PRISONERS OF THE AUSCHWITZ BIRKENAU DEATH CAMP AND TO MEMORIALISE IN THIS PLACE THE INTERNATIONAL PRISONERS OF THE ANTI HITLER COALITION ON THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF WAR II. Inhabitants of the Kobiór commune.) The monument was unveiled in November 2005 through the efforts of residents of the Kobiór commune. As the Kobiórskie Forest District was during the occupation (and is still located) in Kobiór, this monument also commemorates the prisoners of the other Auschwitz forest sub camps in Radostowice and Stara Wieś near Pszczyna.

Next to the monument there is an information board describing the history of this place. It contains the following text in Polish prepared by the Commune Office in Kobiór: “W czasie II wojny światowej, od września 1942 do sierpnia 1943, funkcjonował tutaj podobóz KL Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oświęcim – Brzezinka). Teren obozu ogrodzony był płotem z drutu kolczastego. W narożnikach na zewnątrz ogrodzenia usytuowano cztery wieże wartownicze. Na placu zbudowano trzy baraki drewniane dla 150 więźniów i 20 esesmanów. Więźniami podobozu byli w większości Żydzi, głównie z Polski, Francji, Belgii, Holandii i Czech, a ponadto kilku Niemców, Polaków i Rosjan. Więźniowie pracowali przy wyrębie lasu, naprawie dróg leśnych, rozbiórce starych domów i zabudowań gospodarskich oraz przy kopaniu rowów i rozsiewaniu wapna na pobliskich łąkach. Z zachowanych dokumentów wynika, że w obozie zmarło lub zostało zastrzelonych co najmniej 21 więźniów. Po rozwiązaniu podobozu więźniów przeniesiono do Auschwitz, a ich miejsce od jesieni 1943 zajęli brytyjscy jeńcy wojenni, których zatrudniano w kobierskim tartaku oraz przy załadunku drewna na bocznicy kolejowej. Kamienny obelisk upamiętniający przedstawione fakty z historii Kobióra ustawiono w miejscu bramy wjazdowej do podobozu.” (During World War II, from September 1942 to August 1943 a sub-camp of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oświęcim – Brzezinka) operated here. The area of ​​the camp was fenced in with barbed wire fence. Four guard towers were located in the corners outside the fence. Three wooden barracks for 150 prisoners and 20 SS were built on the square. Prisoners of the sub camp were mostly Jews, mainly from Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, as well as several Germans, Poles and Soviets. The prisoners worked at felling the forest, repairing forest roads, demolishing old houses and farm buildings, digging ditches and spreading lime on nearby meadows. According to the preserved documents, at least 21 prisoners died or were shot in the camp. After the dissolution of the sub camp, the prisoners were transferred back to Auschwitz, and their place was taken from the fall of 1943 by British prisoners of war, who were employed in a carpenter’s sawmill and at loading wood at a railway siding. A stone obelisk commemorating the facts of Kobiór’s history was placed at the entrance gate to the sub-camp.)

This simple, but very eloquent commemoration is one of the most impressive memorials to the prisoners of the Auschwitz sub camps.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

As far as we could determine the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum had not visited the former sub camp in Kobiór.

Topography of the Sub Camp Aussenkommmando Kobior

Location of the Sub Camp Aussenkommmando Kobior

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Photographs

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

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Sub Camp Documents

Fahrbefehl 3 APMAB
Fahrbefehl 2 APMAB
Fahrbefehl 1 APMAB