Lichtewerden

Name of the camp
Lichtewerden
Commandant of the camp
Hans Reek (or Reggen or Reeg)
Number of SS Guards
At least 16 SS guards plus the commandant, deputy, cook and 4 SS-Aufseherinnen.
Work type
Textile Mills: Labouring in a textile mill.
Employer
Gustav Adolf  Buhl und Sohn.
Sub camp buildings
Originally an Organisation Schmelt forced labour camp for Jews.
Number of prisoners
Approximately 300 female prisoners. 30 December 1944 321 prisoners.
Nationality of prisoners
Mostly Polish Jews from Krakow, but also Czechs, Slovaks, and Hungarians
Period of camp existence
11 November 1944 – May, 8 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
The sub camp was liberated on May, 8 1945.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
September 2005
Memorialisation
No known memorial.
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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 Textile Mill in Světlá Hora

On August 26, 1864, Johann Schleser & Co. founded a flax spinning mill in what is today Světlá Hora in the Czech Republic. In 1866 the company operated as the “Vereinigte Flachsspinnereien Lichtewerden, Messendorf und Würbenthal in Lichtewerden” owned by the company Brandhuber und Primavesi, Olmütz.

After the First World War and the break-up of Austria-Hungary, what is today Světlá Hora became part of Czechoslovakia. [1]

In 1924 the textile mill was sold to the firm Pinkus & Fränkel from Neustadt / Upper Silesia.[2] In 1931, the mill was first sold to Norbert Langer und Sohn, Deutsch-Liebau and then to the Brüder Buhl in Mährisch-Altstadt. They remained the owners of the “Vereinte Flachsspinnereien und Textilwerke G.A. Buhl Sohn, Mährisch-Altstadt, Spinnerei Lichtewerden” until the defeat of Germany in 1945.[3]

As with the Freudenthal sub camp, the history of the Lichtewerden sub camp has not been fully determined due to a lack of source documents and testimonies of former prisoners.

The history of the Freudenthal sub camp is closely linked to the Schmelt Organization, which established a forced labour camp for Jews in 1943 in Lichtewerden within the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Around 200 Jewish women from Sosnowiec were transferred to this forced labour camp. They were employed at the textile mill owned by Gustav Adolf Buhl und Sohn. [4] This mill was located in the southern part of the village and near the mill was the small train stop where Jewish forced labourers were unloaded. The Schmelt forced labour camp was located in the centre of Světla, 200 meters from the mill. A local resident Aloisia Irmsler began work in the Adolf Buhl und Sohn plant in the summer of 1943. She remembered that Jewish prisoners had already been working there when she started and, “It was in approximately early 1944, the exact date I cannot remember, the prisoners were no longer active in the factory and the camp was empty….It was then that the factory sought new prisoners, and the management requested four young women who would have oversight of these requested prisoners.” [5]


[1] Světlá Hora was founded in 1960 after the merger of the two communities Světlá (German: Lichtewerden) und Andělská Hora (Engelsberg). The population of both communities was almost entirely ethnic German.
[2] Pinkus & Fränkel also owned the linen fabric company in Prudnik (Neustadt O/S until 1945). The company was taken into “Aryan” hands after 1938. A sub camp of Auschwitz was set up at the linen fabric company in Prudnik in September 1944.
[3] Gottwald, Adolf : Lichtewerden. Zur Geschichte eines sudetendeutschen Dorfes. Verlag Punkt-Werbung, Bamberg 1969.
Gottwald, Adolf  and Rössler, Helmut: Freudenthal und seine Kreisgemeinden. Dokumentation eines Landkreises im Ostsudetenland. Bruno Langer Verlag, Esslingen/N. 1990.
[4]  Piper,Franciszek, Zatrudnienie więźniów KL Auschwitz…, p.269, Der Ort des Terrors. Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. Band 5 – Hinzert, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Edit. Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel, p. 274.
[5] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570 testimony of Aloisia Irmsler of 5 September 1972.
Literature:
Kubica, Helena, Lichtewerden sub camp  in Auschwitz Studies Nr 26 [ 2012], p 151-158.

The Post War History of the Textile Mill in Světlá Hora

The spinning mill has survived almost intact. The plant has been expanded, but the buildings from the German occupation period have survived.

The History of the Sub Camp Lichtewerden

In 1944, the Zwangsarbeiterlager in Lichtewerden came under the control of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Around June 1944 four young, single female workers selected from the Gustav Adolf Buhl und Sohn mill in Světlá Hora were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp for training as female SS-Aufseherinnen. This was obviously with a view to the opening of the sub camp of Lichtewerden.[1]

On 11 November 1944 [2] a transport of 300 women mostly Polish Jews from Krakow, from Czechoslovakia [3], Slovakia, and Hungary were selected in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, to be transferred to the Lichtewerden sub camp. One of the former prisoners remembered the selection for the transport: “(…) an SS man came to Auschwitz where I was, and who turned out to be the head of the Lichtewerden camp…..He was simply looking for workers suitable for his purposes. I was chosen!”[4]

The selected Jewish women were transported by rail to Světlá Hora in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The train stopped about 200 m west of the spinning mill buildings. Former prisoner Lola Gimpel recalled: “Straight from Auschwitz they took us to Lichtewerden (…). At four in the morning, it was cold, we arrived….. A lot of SS men were waiting for us. They introduced a mood of panic as if they were about to shoot us. There were SS men, and Schupo who led us to the camp. All of the camp staff were waiting for us. The panic was great. We entered this camp. You can’t imagine how beautiful the location was – in the mountains. The feeling was amazing when we realized that they had not led us to our destruction, but to our accommodation.” [5]

The sub camp in Lichtewerden was surrounded by electrified barbed wire fencing and there were four guard towers in the corners. Within the sub camp there were 2 prisoner barracks, each of which was divided into 5 rooms. One of the barracks was used for the infirmary (Krankenstube). Two other barracks housed the kitchen and washroom and the smallest barrack served as a latrine. The residential barracks were painted green outside and the shutters painted pink.[6]

In each living room were: from 14 to 16 bunk beds, 2 tables, 4 to 5 wardrobes. Each of the prisoners was provided with a straw mattress, pillow and blanket.[7]

The living conditions in Lichtewerden were reasonable compared to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Former prisoner Halina Trofina recalled: “The housing conditions were good. After 3 months of Auschwitz, it seemed like luxury. There was hot water for washing; and only 30 women per room.”[8]

Despite the reasonable living conditions, the prisoners complained about the lack of food. Former prisoner Borenstein-Affenkraut recalled: “Bread, at the beginning was 3 kg for 6 people, after 3 months less and less for 7,8,9 people. Soup – potatoes and dill (…). A pound of margarine for 20 people (daily) or a tablespoon of marmalade per person. The marmalade was mixed with flour and water. Several times we got a tablespoon of canned horsemeat. According to the factory director, our (food) allowances were large and good, but the Lagerführer and his deputy, stole it. The girls were constantly hungry. The pieces of bread were cut into small pieces to make them look more and the decision was made to keep a few for breakfast (bread for the next day was served in the evening), but there was almost never enough will power and we went to work without having eaten.”[9]

Lichtewerden was one of the few sub camps where no infectious diseases were reported. This can be explained by the relatively tolerable living and hygienic conditions of the prisoners. Despite this, the prisoners often fainted from exhaustion and their increasing lack of food.[10] There were also one or more selections during the operation of the sub camp. Presumably these prisoners were sent back to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be murdered. In some cases ill prisoners from the hospital were shot. [11]

The prisoners were divided into work groups, the smallest group worked in the sub camp itself; these women were employed in the kitchen, cleaning, as well as in the office and hospital. The majority of the prisoners were employed in the Gustav Adolf Buhl und Sohn spinning mill. Work in the mill mainly involved moving and weighing cotton bales. A single bale weighed about 50 kg, which was an indescribable burden for the malnourished women.

To improve their food situation, the prisoners traded with the civilians working in the factory. Having access to thread and string, the prisoners dyed them and knitted sweaters, slippers, underwear and decorative items.[12]

The finished goods were smuggled out of the sub camp by one of the guards, who agreed that the prisoners could make these items for the civilian factory workers in return for food.[13]

Up until then, the civilian employees of the factory had not provided much assistance to the prisoners. Perhaps the reason was that just before the arrival of the transport of prisoners from Auschwitz II-Birkenau the civilians were warned that any contact and help given to the prisoners would result in they themselves being transported to Auschwitz.[14]

In the form of protest, the prisoners tried to sabotage their work. For example, they did not spool the material properly, which caused it to deteriorate. However, the sabotage was discovered.[15] The Lagerführer also beat the prisoners. Once upon a time he arranged a game called “coat beating” – “He gathered all the women in the yard of the camp, each was wearing her coat. He was standing with a stick and as we passed him-he was pounding….these coats, so that we had bruises on our bodies.” [16]

In late 1944 or early 1945 one of the prisoners Matla Nagielsztajn, had a baby in the sub camp hospital which was specifically forbidden for the prisoners. The baby was either stillborn or taken from the mother and probably killed on the orders of the Lagerführer. [17]

Former prisoners testified after the war that there were no attempts to escape. This was because the prisoners did not know the area or the country and they feared being betrayed by the locals.


[1] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570 testimony of Aloisia Irmsler of 5 September 1972.
[2] Rudorff, Andrea, Lichtewerden [in] Der Ort des Terrors. C.H Beck 2007, p. 275.
[3] BA Ludwigsburg B162/15333, p. 525.
[4] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Celiny Hochberger-Strauchen, Vol. 58, p. 23.
[5] Archiwum Yad Vashem, testimony of Loli Gimpel, 2593/192. Copy in the APMAB collection, Statements Collection, Vol. 58.2593/192.
[6] ŻIH. Statement of Survivors, reference number 301/178.
[7] ŻIH. Statement of Survivors, reference number 301/178.
[8] ŻIH. Testimony Haliny Trofiny, reference number. 1014/I, p. 3.
[9] ŻIH. Statement of Survivors, reference number 301/178.
[10] Yad Vashem Archives, Notes on the testimony of Lola Gimpel née Landman, 2593/192. Copy in the APMAB collection, Statements Collection, Vol. 58.
[11] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570 page 3. Crimes in Auschwitz sub camp Lichtewerden.
[12] ŻIH. Testimony Felicji Zandberg, Lb. 1564, p. 3.
[13] ŻIH, Testimony Henryki Strassberg, , L. 58, p. 3.
[14] ŻIH, Statement of former prisoner Borenstein-Affenkraut, file 301/178.
[15] ŻIH. Testimony Haliny Trofiny, reference number 1014/I, p. 3.
[16] APMAB. Statements, account of former prisoner Celina Hochberger-Strauchen, Vol. 58, p. 26.
[17] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570 page 3. Crimes in Auschwitz sub camp Lichtewerden.
Literature:
Kubica, Helena, Lichtewerden sub camp. in Auschwitz Studies [2012] Nr 26, p. 151-158.

The SS Guard Unit

Due to the small number of surviving documents about this sub camp and the scarcity of testimonies of prisoners, we know relatively little about the sub camp’s guards. The guard unit was made up of at least 16 SS guards and a cook. [9]

The Lagerführer was Hans Reek (or Reggen or Reeg)[1]. The prisoners called him “Schnauze”.[2] Additionally, the SS guards were assisted by Wehrmacht soldiers and Schupo officers. The Lagerführer’s deputy was SS-Unterscharführer Martin Spörlein. Prisoners remembered him as a fairly calm, grey sort of man.

Four female guards were also assigned to the camp: [3]

  1. Elfriede Meisner
  2. Elfriede Seidl
  3. Maria Schreiber
  4. Aloisia Irmler

The prisoners knew the female SS guards as “Maria”, “Elsa”, “Friedl” and “Luise”. [4]

Maria Schreiber [5] was considered the most violent. The Aufseherinnen were employees of the spinning mill, who were sent for six-weeks training in Auschwitz concentration camp, and returned to Lichtewerden as female SS guards.[6]

Maria Schreiber left Czechoslovakia for West Germany on 7 July 1945. Elfriede Meiser was sentenced in Czechoslovakia to two years imprisonment and left in 1946 for West Germany. Elfriede Seidl was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in Czechoslovakia and upon release in 1955 left for West Germany. [7]

Aloisia Irmler was arrested by the Czech police on 18 October 1945 at her home in Lichtewerden and transported to a prison in Freudenthal. She was brought before a court in Troppau on 8 April 1946. She served her sentence in a work camp and was released in August 1946 and then left for West Germany with her mother and sister. [8]


[1] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2. Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden.
[2] Yad Vashem Archives, Testimony of former Prisoner Celina Hochberger-Strauchen. Copy in the collection of APMAB, Vol. 58. The pseudonym ‘Schnauze’ came from the fact that he often used the expression: ‘Du halt die Schnauze’.
[3] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2. Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden.
[4] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2. Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden.
[5] Der Ort des Terrors. Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. Band 5 – Hinzert, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Edit. Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel, München 2007, p. 275.
[6] ŻIH, Testimony of Borenstein-Affenkraut, file 301/178.
[7] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570, p. 2. Crimes in Auschwitz Nebelager Lichtewerden.
[8] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 48-2BA 2570. Testimony of Aloisia Irmsler of 5 September 1972.
[9] Kubica, Helena, Lichtewerden sub camp. in Auschwitz Studies [2012] Nr 26, p. 151-158.

The SS Guards

References:
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

The Evacuation of the Sub Camp Lichtewerden

At the end of December 1944, there were 300 prisoners in the Lichtewerden sub camp.[1]

The Lagerführer of the sub camp had no plans for evacuation. On May 6, 1945, he had decided to lead the prisoners into the forest and shoot them. However the local mayor, who was afraid that the Red Army would seek avenge for these murders, begged him not to do so.[2]

At 1:00 hrs on May 6 1945 the SS guards from the Freudenthal sub camp arrived in the Lichtewerden sub camp and informed the Lagerführer that they had decided to release all of the prisoners in their sub camp. Accordingly, the Lagerführer of the sub camp Lichtewerden took the same decision, and along with the rest of the guards he left the sub camp in civilian clothes.

The prisoners from Lichtewerden, fearing deception, did not attempt to leave the sub camp. Even when the spinning mill director appeared in the sub camp and told them that they were free and could go wherever they wanted they did not believe him.

The Red Army entered the Lichtewerden sub camp on May 8, 1945.


[1] APMAB, D-AuIII-3a / 78. Employment lists.
[2] ŻIH. Testimony of Gusty Affenkraut, Lb. 13, p. 3.
Literature:
Kubica, Helena, Lichtewerden sub camp. in Auschwitz Studies [2012] Nr 26, p. 151-158.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Lichtewerden

The immediate post war fate of the former sub camp is unknown. The sub camp was located where the town football stadium is today.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Lichtewerden

The remains of the former Lichtewerden sub camp are in the centre of the small town of Svétlá Hora in the Czech Republic. The sub camp was located where the town football stadium is today. On the outer areas of the football stadium small fragments of foundations of former barracks and fragments of the floors can be seen in the grass. Nothing more of the former Lichtewerden sub camp has survived. However, the buildings in which the SS guards of this sub camp lived have survived intact. They are two white, brick, multi-storey residential buildings located on road No. 452.

In addition, in the southern part of Svétlá Hora, the spinning mill has survived almost intact. The plant has been expanded, but the factory building from the German occupation period has survived. Behind this building there is the old unloading ramp, where trains with transports of prisoners were unloaded.

Memorialisation

There is no commemoration of the Auschwitz sub camp in Svétlá Hora.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Sub Camp Visit

As far as we are aware the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum had not visited the site of the former Lichtewerden sub camp.

Topography of the Sub Camp Lichtewerden

Map of the former Lichtewerden sub camp. T4
Location of the former Lichtewerden sub camp. T4

Location of the Sub Camp Lichtewerden

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Photographs

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

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits

Other Photographs and Postcards

Former G.A Buhl und Sohn factory. Probably from the 1960s.
Former G.A Buhl und Sohn factory. Probably from the 1960s.