Lagischa

Name of the camp
Lagischa
Other Name of the camp
“Haaga”
Commandant of the camp
SS-Rottenführer Karl Masseli
SS-Unterscharführer Horst Czerwinski
Number of SS Guards
Approximately 35 SS men from the 5th Wachkompanie Monowitz.
Work type
Power Plants: Construction of the Walter thermal electric power plant.
Employer
Energie-Versorgung Oberschlesien AG (EVO) a state owned entity.
Subcontractors:
KLOTZ
HAGA
Sub camp buildings
The camp was built by Jewish labourers from Organisation Schmelt in 1941. Taken over by the Auschwitz concentration camp in September 1943.
Number of prisoners
Up to 1000 male prisoners
20 January 1944: 477 prisoners
22 February 1944: 499 prisoners
Nationality of prisoners
Jews from Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary. Also some Poles and Soviets.
Period of camp existence
8 September  1943 – 6 September 1944
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
6 September 1944
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
September 2005, June 2006, March 2007, November 2007, March 2008.
Memorialisation
A stone obelisk commemorating those murdered in the Lagischa sub camp stands in front of the main gate leading to the Łagisza Power Plant.
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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 Walter Power Plant

The decision to create a forced labour camp for Jews in Łagisza,[1] which later became a sub camp of Auschwitz, was directly connected to the decision to construct the Walter Power Plant. The Germans began preparations for its construction in 1941. At that time during preliminary work, the location for the power plant was chosen to be situated on arable land confiscated from the inhabitants of Łagisza. The location for the construction of the new power plant was not accidental. Łagisza was located in the centre of the Dąbrowski Basin, close to the main communication and transport routes, in an area rich in coal and in the immediate vicinity of the large industrial centres such as Będzin, Dąbrowa Górnicza and Sosnowiec, which could provide the labour to build the plant.

The location was accepted by the investor, Energie-Versorgung Oberschlesien (EVO) with its headquarters in Katowice, which also owned power plants in Będzin and Jaworzno. Specialists were transferred to Łagisza from the power plant in Będzin to carry out preliminary assembly works.[2]

On September 1, 1944, the SS-WVHA ordered the Auschwitz III-Monowitz commandant to dissolve the Lagischa sub camp. The reason was the suspension of construction of the planned Walter Power Plant.[3]


[1] Łagisza – in the northern district of the city of Będzin in the Silesian Voivodeship. Łagisza is largely an industrial district (850 MW power plant, building materials plant). The buildings of Łagisza mainly consist of single-family houses. The history of the village of Łagisza goes back to the 13th century. However, until the end of the 18th century, it was a small village with only several dozen inhabitants, in which there was an inn and two mills. The development of Łagisza took place only in the 19th century, when open-cast coal mines began to open in the village. In 1914, the Łomiska commune was established, including the villages of: Grodków, Psary, Sarnów, Preczów and having 7,368 inhabitants (Łagisza alone had 3532 inhabitants). In 1969, Łagisz was raised to the rank of an independent city. At that time, Łagisza was the youngest and smallest town in the Dąbrowski Basin. On January 1, 1973, it was incorporated as a district into Będzin. However, to this day in Łagisza there are hamlets known as colonies, such as Łagisza Stara, Glinice, Bory, Podłosie and Niepiekło, as well as Stachowe, Pustków and Jazowe. See: Bolesław Ciepiela, Irena Zygmunt, Łagisza – wczoraj i dziś, Łagisza 1993.
[2]  Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69.
[3] APMAB. D-Au III-1. Kommananturbefehl Nr 9/44.

The The Post War History of the Power Plant in Łagisza (Formerly the Walter Power Plant)

The construction of a power plant in the Dąbrowa Basin had already been discussed in the interwar period. On June 18, 1947, on the ordinance of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, an area of ​​35 hectares of development land in Łagisza, became the property of the state treasury. This area had been partially developed in the interwar period and during the occupation, when the Germans began work on the construction of the Walter Power Plant. The post war Polish government ordered construction of the power plant and three possible locations were suggested. Łagisza was chosen based on the area being available for development and also its proximity to the Zagłębie mines, from where coal was to be supplied. There was also a large number of potential electricity consumers in the industrialized region.

Investors also had at their disposal the infrastructure already built for the Walter power plant: a railway siding, warehouses and 110 kV and 220 kV switching stations. The location of the Łagisza Power Plant was finally approved on January 17, 1958 during a meeting of the Komisji Oceny Projektów Inwestycyjnych Ministerstwa Górnictwa i Energetyki (MGiE). Soon, design work began at the Projektów Energetycznych Energoprojekt in Katowice.

The commissioning of five subsequent 120 MW power units each took from April 1969 to December 1970. Basic equipment was imported from abroad. They were mainly provided by British companies: Babcock & Wilcox (boilers) and AEI Metropolitan Wickers (turbine sets). On May 8, 1963, the first boiler was put into operation, and on September 28, the 120-megawatt generator of block No. 1 was commissioned.

The History of the Sub Camp Lagischa

The subcontractors KLOTZ and HAGA,  built the Walter Power Plant and employed the inhabitants of Łagisza and nearby towns. One of the former employees recalled this period, “In the spring of 1941 I started working at HAGA – as a manual worker. At that time, the company began preparatory works on the construction site of the future power plant. It was earthworks and construction of foundations, construction of chimneys and underground corridors. During the first preparatory work, residents of Łagisza worked as civilian employees. Soon after, I noticed that prisoners were also working.” [1]

These prisoners were Jews transferred to Łagisza by the Schmelt Organization. Civilian workers and Jewish prisoners worked on fencing in the construction area with a wire mesh fence. They also began erecting wooden barracks: KLOTZ and HAGA office barracks, barracks for civilian employees as well as a kitchen, two basements and an air raid shelter. A second kitchen for civilian employees was located near the so-called old church in Łagisza.[2]

The camp for Jewish forced labourers was set up in the northern part of the construction area occupied by Energie-Versorgung Oberschlesien AG (EVO). The original plans of the Lagischa sub camp have not survived. It´s shape and appearance were not documented until after the war during site visits and based on the accounts of former prisoners.[3] The labour camp for Jews of the Schmelt organisation was unusual as the barracks were built from brick. The camp was adapted when taken over by the Auschwitz concentration camp. The sub camp was surrounded by a double row of concrete posts, on which barbed wire was hung, connected to the electricity mains. Inside the camp fence there were 8 stone barracks, of which 4 served as residential barracks (map reference 3-6) for prisoners, one was designated as a hospital barrack (map reference 2), three were storehouses or kitchen or latrines (map references 7-9). A fire-fighting pool was built next to the hospital barrack (map reference 1). Around the fence there were wooden guard towers – so-called “Roosters”.[4] The SS barrack was located outside of the camp (map reference 11) and there was a guardhouse at the entrance (map reference 10).

Jewish prisoners in the Schmelt camp were divided into three Kommandos; the first group worked in the forest unloading wagons, the second built the railway embankment and laid track, while the third group worked directly constructing the power plant. [5]

It is unknown how the takeover of the Schmelt Organization camps by the Auschwitz concentration camp took place. We know, that on August 13, 1943, the head of the Auschwitz employment department SS-Untersturmführer Maximillian Sell informed the Auschwitz administration that in the coming weeks several new sub camps would be created, including a sub camp in Łagisza. Initially the sub camp in Łagisza, was planned for 100, and ultimately for 1,000 prisoners. The camps, including the Lagischa sub camp, were to be opened within the next 14 days, so Sell reported in the same letter that the necessary supplies for the new camps should be organised. [6]

The takeover of the Jewish labour camp in Łagisza took place around September 8, 1943. During the first days of the Lagischa sub camp, the prisoners from Auschwitz cleaned up the area of ​​the former labour camp and modernized it.[7]

It is not entirely clear when the first transport of prisoners from Auschwitz arrived at the sub camp. Jerzy Frąckiewicz in his article on the sub camp in Łagisza speculates that the first transport occurred in June 1943[8], although Sell´s letter regarding the establishment of the sub camp in Łagisza dates from August of 1943. It is assumed that the first transport from Auschwitz consisted of about 100 prisoners.[9] In the next transport, about 50 prisoners from the dissolved Sosnowitz I sub camp were transferred to the sub camp Lagischa. On 20 January 1944 there were 477 prisoners in the camp and on 22 February 1944 499 prisoners. [10]

Prisoners of the Lagischa sub camp were mainly Jews from Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary. There were also some Poles and Soviets. They were dressed in standard camp clothing transported from the warehouses of the Auschwitz main camp. Food was also brought on an ongoing basis by truck from Auschwitz.[11] Only coffee, tea and soup were prepared in the sub camp kitchen. As in all of the Auschwitz sub camps, in Lagischa the food was inadequate, which led to severe hunger and starvation. In addition, prisoners were robbed of the meagre rations they received by the SS guards and Kapos: “Because there were no controls – prisoners were robbed even of their starvation food rations that they were officially to receive. For example, if margarine was issued – the prisoner received only 1/16 of the cube.” [12]

Meals were served three times a day: in the morning – 1/2 litre of a liquid supposedly coffee, at noon – 1 / 2 litre of carrot or cabbage soup, in the evening – 20-30 dkg of bread with margarine or marmalade. Breakfast and dinner were served in the sub camp barracks, while lunch was delivered in cauldrons to the workplace. Apart from the Jewish prisoners, all other prisoners were able to receive packages from their families to supplement their meagre rations.[13]

Former prisoner Tadeusz Lapka testified after the war as to the existence of a death bunker in the Lagischa sub camp, “ It is known to me that on the area of the camp Lagischa was a concrete bunker used as a death chamber. In this chamber, that was built into the earth there was an opening, and the chamber itself measured approximately 4m by 4m by 2.5 meters (high). One day after liberation, around 27th January I came with a comrade to the area of the camp Lagischa to see this chamber of which the prisoners had so often spoken. When we came there, with a help of a ladder we found there, we went into the interior of the chamber and saw on the walls traces of blood and small amounts of hair.”

Corpses of dead or murdered prisoners were stored in the sub camp itself, near the entrance gate.[14] The bodies of prisoners were subsequently transported by truck to Auschwitz-Birkenau, to be burnt in the crematoria.[15]

The prisoners of the Lagischa sub camp received some help from the local residents of Łagisza, “(…) many inhabitants of Łagisza tried to help the prisoners in some way. This help consisted mainly of tossing food to the prisoners. Most often it was done in such a way that when passing by the place where the prisoners worked, when the SS man was not looking, we threw packages with food, bread. The prisoners then took advantage of the SS man’s inattention and took the food away.”[16]


[1] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Stanisława Dydak, Vol. 44, p. 1. The testimony, relates to the Juden Zwangsarbeitslager controlled by Organization Schmelt.
[2] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 57.
[3] This is based on the accounts of former prisoners of the sub camp Lagischa.
[4] Description of the camp based on: Jerzy Frąckiewicz, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69, APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia and oral information from the residents of Będzin recorded during the site visit to the former sub camp by Tiergartenstrasse4Association in 2006-2008.
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Otylia Piaskowska, Vol. 44, p. 8.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Fürstengrube GmbH, No 72829, p. 46-48.
[7] Czech, Danuta, Kalendarz wydarzeń w KL Auschwitz, p. 515.
[8] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 60.
[9] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 60.
[10] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy,  Das Nebenlager Lagischa, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1966] Nr 9, p.113.
[11] This is confirmed by so-called departure orders (Fahrbefehl) from March 14, August 24 and August 30, 1944 with the stated purpose of departure: “Beförderung von Häftlingsbekleidung”
[12] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Zbigniewa Mroczkowskiego, Vol. 44, p. 43.
[13] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 60-61.
[14] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Zbigniew Mroczkowski, Vol. 44, p. 44.
[15] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Otylia Piaskowska, Vol. 44, p. 8.
[16] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Stanisław Drygalski, Vol. 44, p. 6-7.
Literature:
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy,  Das Nebenlager Lagischa, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1966] Nr 9, p.109-123.
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69.

The SS Guard Unit

The Guard unit consisted of 35 SS men from the 5th Kompanie des SS-Sturmbanns Auschwitz. The 5th Guard Company was commanded by SS-Utersturmführer Bruno Pfütze.[2] Until the end of 1943 the Lagerführer and Kommandoführer was SS Rottenführer Karl Masseli.[1] SS-Unterscharführer Horst Czerwinski, who previously held the same position in the Sosnowitz I sub camp, succeeded Masseli as Lagerführer. SS-Unterscharführer Pfeuer was the head of the camp kitchen, while the Kommandoführer was SS-Rottenführer Masseli. The head of the camp hospital was SS-Unterscharführer Hans Nierzwicki. The SS were accommodated in a long stone barrack standing outside the fence on the Eastern side of the sub camp (map reference 11).[3]

The Lagischa sub camp was visited on October 27 1943 by the Kommandant of the Wachsturmbanns SS Sturmbannführer Fritz Hartjenstein. [4]

In addition to the harsh living conditions in the Lagischa sub camp, the prisoners also complained of brutal treatment by the SS. It happened that prisoners were killed or died from beatings from the SS guards. “During my daily journey to work, I have repeatedly witnessed how SS men abused working prisoners. For example, I remember the following: I was walking with my colleague to the mine near this place – where the prisoners worked on laying railroad tracks. At work – one of the prisoners fell over a heavy joist. Then the SS man beat and kicked him for so long that the prisoner did not move anymore. Then the SS called over one of the other prisoners and told him to continue to beat (the prisoner) with a stick, even though the prisoner probably was already dead.” [5] Prisoners returning from work to the sub camp often had to carry large stones. If any of them fell over due to exhaustion, the SS and Kapos tormented them – beating him and kicking them. There was also the so-called “Swing”. This consisted of laying a thick wooden beam on the body of a prisoner lying on the ground and the SS guards sitting on either end and using it like a swing in a childrens playground. The prisoner was then killed.[6]

There were many cases of SS guards abusing and killing prisoners. A civilian worker testified after the war: “The first time I witnessed the killing of a young Jew was three months after starting work in Łagisza. The prisoner walking over the railway tracks hit his shoe against the track and fell over. He tried to get up, but the SS man noticed and crushed his head with his shoe. Then he ordered his body to be removed from the steel (railroad) tracks, leaving scraps of the prisoner. When I returned to the office after this butchery, I fainted. When in 1944 the prisoners were working at the new railway siding, one of the SS asked if there were any artists among the workers . When one of the prisoners volunteered, the SS told him to sing, dance and jump. When the prisoner was no longer able to jump, the SS shot him.”[7]


[1] BA Ludwigsburg B162/ 8952, p. 200.
[2] Pfütze was also the commander of the 4th Guard Company in the Neu-Dachs sub camp in Jaworzno. See: Aleksander Lasik, Załoga SS w KL Auschwitz, [w:] Auschwitz 1940-1945. Węzłowe zagadnienia z dziejów obozu, Vol. I: Założenie i organizacja obozu, Edit. Wacław Długoborski, Franciszek Piper, Oświęcim 1995.
[3] Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 62.
[4] Iwaszko, Emeryka, Das Nebenlager Janinagrube, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1967] Nr 10, p. 51
[5] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Stanisława Drygalskiego, Vol. 44, p. 6.
[6] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Otylii Piaskowskiej, Vol. 44, p. 9.
[7] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Tadeusz Łapka, Vol. 44, p. 11.
Literature:
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy,  Das Nebenlager Lagischa, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1966] Nr 9, p.109-123.
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69.

The SS Guards

References:
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2680 and B162/2679.
Rudorff, Andrea, Lagischa (Łagisza) in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p. 269-270.
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.
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy,  Das Nebenlager Lagischa, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1966] Nr 9, p.109-123.
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69.

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Lagischa

On September 1, 1944, the SS Main Economic and Administrative Office ordered the Auschwitz III-Monowitz commandant to dissolve the Lagischa sub camp. The reason for the dissolution of the camp was the suspension of construction of the planned Walter Power Plant.[1] The commandant of Auschwitz III-Monowitz SS-Hauptsturmführer Schwarz informed the SS guards from Lagischa that the sub camp would be dissolved and that the SS guards would be moved to the newly created sub camp in Prudnik (Neustadt O/S).[2] Some of the prisoners of the Lagischa sub camp were transferred to the Neu-Dachs sub camp the rest where sent back to Auschwitz. [3]

Red Army troops occupied Łagisz on 27 January 1945. The sub camp was completely empty, yet it still left a strong impression on the soldiers and residents of Łagisza, “I will never forget what I saw. Namely, more or less in the middle of the camp there was a bunker – without windows – walls painted black. Thick layers of dried blood on the floor. On the walls – blood, even among these traces of blood – clumps of hair.”[4]


[1] APMAB. D-Au III-1. Kommananturbefehl Nr 9/44.
[2] APMAB. D-Au III-1/66. Kommandanturbefehl Nr 9/44.
[3] BA Ludwigsburg B162/8952. Testimony of Tadeusz Lapka.
[4] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Tadeusz Łapka, Vol. 44, p. 12.
Literature:
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy,  Das Nebenlager Lagischa, [in:] Hefte von Auschwitz [1966] Nr 9, p.109-123.
Frąckiewicz, Jerzy, Podobóz Lagischa, [in:] Zeszyty Oświęcimskie [1965] Nr 9, p. 55-69.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Lagischa

At the time of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum site visit in 1964, the sub camp buildings were virtually intact. They were used for housing.

The site visits of Tiergratenstrasse4Association between 2005 and 2008 revealed the surviving buildings were still being used as low quality communal flats.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Lagischa

The remains of the Lagischa sub camp are located at ul. Energetyczna in Łagisza, the industrial district of Będzin. The sub camp was more or less in front of the power station.

It is not entirely clear whether it was on the north or south side of ul Energetyczna. From the eight photos taken by employees of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 1964, the sub camp buildings were on the north side and the original sub camp was virtually intact.

On the Tiergartenstrasse4Association site visits between 2005 and 2008 there were three one-story, stone barracks, covered with a gable roof, used as poor quality communal flats existing at the same site. These barracks had probably housed the Auschwitz prisoners. Their location and external appearance coincide with photographic documentation from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. In this area, we also found several concrete posts with preserved insulators and a small underground bunker that could have served as a punishment cell for prisoners.

It is worth noting, however, that the inhabitants of Łagisza indicate a completely different location of the former sub camp, which according to them was on the opposite side of ul. Energetyczna.

One part of the current power plant definitely built by the prisoners of the Lagischa sub camp is the railway siding that runs from ul Podleśna, then turns south, crossing ul Dąbrowska and entering the Łagisza Power Plant. Tiergatenstrasse4Association failed to determine other parts of the Łagisza Power Plant built by prisoners of the Auschwitz sub camp.

Memorialisation

A stone obelisk commemorating those murdered in the Łagisza sub camp stands in front of the main gate leading to the Łagisza Power Plant. The inscription in Polish: “PAMIĘCI WIĘXNIÓW PODOBOZU OŚWIĘCIMSKIEGO W ŁAGISZY, ZAMORDOWANYCH W LATACH 1941-1945; SPOŁECZEŃSTWO DZIELNICY ŁAGISZA.” (MEMORIAL TO THE PRISONERS OF THE AUSCHWITZ SUB CAMP IN ŁAGISZA, MURDERED IN THE YEARS 1941-1945; SOCIETY OF THE ŁAGISZA DISTRICT.)

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

It is not absolutely clear whether the sub camp was located on the north or south side of ul Energetyczna. From the eight photos taken by employees of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 1964, the sub camp buildings were on the north side and the original sub camp was virtually intact at the time of their site visit. The photographs are not captioned but show:

  1. The camp entrance gates (photograph reference 21418-9),
  2. Four brick barracks and what looks like the main sub camp street (photograph reference 21418-5),
  3. A concrete camp post (photograph reference 21418-8),
  4. An underground brick made bunker (photograph reference 21418-6).

Topography of the Sub Camp Lagischa

Location of the Sub Camp Lagischa

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Photographs

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

SS Contemporary Photographs

Lagerführer SS-Unterscharführer Horst Czerwinski APMAB 19504
SS-Unterscharführer Hans Nierzwicki APMAB 20917 14

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Sub Camp Documents