Wirtschaftshof Plawy

Name of the camp
Wirtschaftshof Plawy
Commandant of the camp
Oberscharführer ?

SS-Erstaufseherin Florentina (Flora) Cichoń
Number of SS Guards
Unknown. Estimated 20 SS guards from the Landswirtschaftskompanie of the SS-T.-Sturmbann Auschwitz. Probably Germans and Volksdeutsche.
Work type
Agriculture: Agricultural labour on an SS farm.
Employer
Auschwitz concentration camp until February 1942
Landwirtschaft des Auschwitz O/S from February 1942
SS-WVHA/Amt W V; Land-, Forst- und Fischwirtschaft from February 1942
Sub camp buildings
Wooden barracks were erected by prisoners of Auschwitz.
Number of prisoners
Approximately 200 female prisoners.
138 male prisoners on 17 January 1945.
Nationality of prisoners
Male prisoners: Poles, Jews, Soviets.
Female prisoners: mainly Soviets
Period of camp existence
December 1944 – 18 January 1945
Dissolution / Evacuation of the sub camp
On January 18, 1945, the prisoners from the sub camp of Pławy joined a group of Auschwitz prisoners on foot on the death march to Wodzisław Śląski, from where they were transported deep into the Alt-Reich.
Dates of site visits by Tiergartenstrasse4 Association
October 2006, November 2006 November 2007
Memorialisation
There is no memorial to the prisoners of the Plawy sub camp in the village or at the location of the sub camp. There is an information board at the entrance to Auschwitz II-Birkenau erected by the Polish population of the former Interessengebiet in April 2001.
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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 Landwirtschaft des Auschwitz O/S

The development of the agricultural economy in the vicinity of the Auschwitz camp, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler himself had prioritized. He was a farmer by profession, and even before the war had ordered the establishment of concentration camp farms (for example, in Dachau the plantation farming of herbs and also gardening). In November 1940, the Auschwitz camp commandant, Rudolf Höss gave Himmler a verbal report on the development of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He presented all of the difficulties encountered during the establishment of the camp and the further development of the camp. The meeting was also attended by the head of the office, III D (Agriculture, Forestry, Handicrafts), SS-Sturmbannführer Heinrich Vogel. [1] It was known that Himmler did not like to listen to the complaints of his subordinates; Höss mentions in his diary: “Interest by him (Himmler) was increased when I started talking about the entire area and explained the plans. Changed immediately. He was greatly interested in the plan and gave instructions one after another and noted down everything that was to be built on the land. Auschwitz is to be the agricultural experimental station for the East. There are opportunities which we have not had yet in Germany. … Every agricultural discipline needed to be there. They are to create branches of the great laboratories for plant breeding. Breeding cattle of all breeds and types is required. Vogel is to immediately source experts. Clean ponds, recover land, build embankments along the Vistula River (…). In the near future he wants to see everything in Auschwitz. They further discussed their plans for the agricultural area to the smallest detail, until the adjutant on duty told them there were important people, he was to meet who had been waiting for a long time.” [2]

Implementation of these plans gained momentum after the first visit by Himmler to Oświęcim on March 1, 1941. During the visit and inspection of the Auschwitz camp Heinrich Himmler was accompanied by SS officers from the camp but also Gauleiter of Upper Silesia SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Bracht, Obergruppenführer Ernst Schmauser, SS-Oberführer Glücks, leaders from the district and leading representatives of IG Farben. After the visit to the camp and its surrounding Interest Area (Interessengebiet) Himmler ordered Höss as follows: a) expand the Auschwitz camp to a capacity of 30,000 prisoners, b) build in the village of Brzezinka, a second camp for 100,000 prisoners of war, c) support the planned construction of industrial plants on land provided for IG Farben at Dwory near Oświęcim, and provide about 10,000 prisoners, d) develop the whole Interessengebiet, especially for agriculture and livestock.[3]

This area was large, covering about 40 square kilometres and before the war had been partly farmed by Poles. Adverse soil and climatic conditions, made the area ideal for experimenting on improvements in farming techniques that could be used in ecologically fragile areas in the East. A huge advantage of undertaking such a large agricultural experiment in the Auschwitz Interessengebiet was the availability of male and female prisoners from the Auschwitz concentration camp.[4]

In February 1942 a new department named the Landwirtschaft des Auschwitz O/S was created headed by SS-Obersturmbandführer Joachim Caesar.[5] Dr Caesar reported to the head of the newly created SS-WVHA/Amt W V; Land-, Forst- und Fischwirtschaft, SS-Sturmbannführer Heinrich Vogel. Certain day to day administration functions of the farming camps remained with Auschwitz. With the administrative changes in Auschwitz in the Autumn of 1943 the day to day administration of the Interessengebiet came under the authority of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. [6]

The farming camp of Auschwitz had their own guard unit named the Landswirtschaftskompanie of the SS-T.-Sturmbann Auschwitz. The SS guards were assigned from the Landswirtschaftskompanie of the SS-T.-Sturmbann Auschwitz to each individual farm for guard duty. The Landswirtschaftskompanie was made up of men from the 9/ SS-T.-Sturmbann Auschwitz and later the 2.Stabskompanie/ SS-T.-Sturmbann Auschwitz. The first head of the Landswirtschaftskompanie was SS Hauptsturmführer Thomsen. His successor was Hauptsturmführer Ziemssen. Thomsen was the deputy and adjutant to the chief of the Landwirtschaft des Auschwitz O/S, Dr Caeasar. The Spiess of the Landswirtschaftskompanie was SS Hauptsturmführer Becker. The company headquarters of the Landswirtschaftskompanie was at the experimental station in Rajsko. Later it was moved to the SS barracks in Auschwitz I. By the Autumn of 1944 there were approximately 300 men in the Landswirtschaftskompanie. [7]

Reinhard Thomsen described the creation of Landwirtschaft des Auschwitz O/S and Landswirtschaftskompanie in post war testimony, “ As I came to Auschwitz in May 1940 the camp was still being built up. My task from the beginning and thereafter was to build up the agricultural department and subsequently get the Auschwitz ariculture operational. This seemed necessary in particular because the Poles in the immediate vicinity of the camp were to be resettled and the fields would therefore lie fallow. The idea for setting up a special Landwirtschaftbetriebe of the camp could have come from the commandant Höss, as he was strongly interested in agricultural matters. The workforce for agricultural work I first sought from the Wachkompanien. At the beginning under my leadership were only SS. After, sometime, in the spring or summer of 1941 my department was given prisoners for use as workers. The entire area was split up into departments:

  1. Poultry farm (Harmense)
  2. Fish Farming (also in Harmense)
  3. A forest department
  4. A sheep farm (but after a short time this was closed as it did not pay)
  5. A nursery (Rajsko)
  6. A tree nursery
  7. Three agricultural areas (Budy, Broszkowitz)[8]
  8. A plant research station (in Rajsko. This was set up as a kind of secret department under Dr Caesar)

The prisoners that worked for the different agricultural departments were at first brought from the Auschwitz main camp to their workplace and in the evening brought back. When in early 1942 Dr. Caesar came to Auschwitz and took over the leadership of the agricultural department the prisoners assigned to agricultural work were withdrawn and were brought to barracks at their workplace.” [9]

From the 7th April 1941 to 12th April 1941 (and in the case of Pławy 8 March 1941) the Germans resettled the population from the villages in the Interessengebiet that were to be used as farms: Babice (in German Babitz), Brzezinka (in German Birkenau), Harmęże (in German Harmense), Rajsko (In German Raisko) and Pławy (In German Plawy).[10]

In February 1941, a German commission came to Pławy, which made a list of real estate and inventory in this agricultural village. As Józef Świadek recalls: “The population only guessed that their belongings would be taken away from them, nobody believed that they would be thrown out of their own home.”[11] It happened differently. On March 8, 1941, trucks arrived in Pławy, from which SS men got off, and then surrounded the entire village. A group of SS men with lists of names circumnavigated the houses, ordering residents to leave them within 20 minutes. The houses were locked up and the keys were given to the SS men. Residents with small bundles gathered in front of the inn in the centre of the village. In the early afternoon, all those gathered were taken to Oświęcim and placed in the “Prague” factory hall. These events took place on a Saturday. As Józef Świadek recalled, “They stayed in the factory until Monday. Then, freight wagons were brought to the siding, which they were ordered to board, and then taken to the General Government. Only those who worked in the Brzeszcze and Jukajowice mines were left in the village. After a few days, they were ordered to move to Brzeszcze. This exception was due to the fact that they were simply needed to work in the mine.”[12] Only Paweł Śniegoń and a few residents of Pławy working on his estate remained in Pławy. [13]


[1] Piper, Franciszek, Zatrudnienie więźniów KL Auschwitz, Oświęcim 1981, p. 188-189.
[2] Autobiografia Rudolfa Hössa, komendanta obozu oświęcimskiego, Warszawa 1989, p. 274.
[3] Czech, Danuta, Kalendarz wydarzeń w KL Auschwitz, Oświęcim 1992, p. 52.
[4] Lasik, Aleksander, Struktura organizacyjna obozu [in:] Auschwitz 1940-1945. Węzłowe zagadnienia z dziejów obozu, Vol. I: Założenie i organizacja obozu, Edit. Wacław Długoborski, Franciszek Piper, Oświęcim 1995, p. 213.
[5] Joachim Caesar, SS-Obersturmbannführer, born. May 30, 1901 in Boppard, Doctor of Agricultural Sciences, a member of the NSDAP from 1 September 1931 (No Party: 626,589) and the Allgemeine-SS from 27 June 1933 (Registration No: 74704), to 1 April 1937 was an officer of the Central Office Affairs of the SS Race and Settlement (SS-Rasse-und Siedlungshauptamt, R.u.SHA). From 2 August 1941, employed in the Training Department of the Waffen-SS (Schulungsamt der Waffen-SS), where he was seconded to the Office of Human Resources Recruitment Agency of the Waffen-SS (Ergänzungsamt der Waffen-SS). From 16 February 1942, he was an SS officer in the WVHA assigned as manager of the farms in Auschwitz. From: BDC, personal file of Joachim Caesar.
[6] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 881, p. 36 to 38
[7] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 881, p. 29
[8] Budy, Plawy and Birkenau
[9] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 885. Testimony of Reinhard Thomsen 15 March 1962.
[10] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 881, p. 26.
[11] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józef Świadek, Vol. 50, p. 152.
[12] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józef Świadek, Vol. 50, p. 152.
[13] This was probably because Śniegoń immediately after the German invasion signed the Volksliste. During the eviction of the inhabitants of Pławy, Śniegoń intervened with the German authorities to leave him a few workers for his estate. The estate was owned by the city of Oswiecim, and leased by Śniegoń before the war. One of the workers allowed to remain to work on the estate was Joseph Harmęże, who reported on the events that took place in Pławy during the war to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

The History of the Sub Camp Wirtschaftshof Plawy

Plawy sub camp was the second to last to be founded by Auschwitz in December 1944. Pławy is a small village that administratively is part of the Oświęcim commune. It is about 2 km west of the city of Oświęcim and is located in the immediate vicinity of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

In the spring of 1941, just after the displacement of the residents, Aussenkommandos of Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners began to arrive daily in Pławy. The first prisoners dug drainage ditches running from the Vistula River towards Rajsko. Józef Świadek recalled: “Over time, many prisoners came to Pławy. They demolished houses, demolished barns and farm buildings. They took the salvaged building materials to Oświęcim. In the summer, they mowed the meadows, cultivated fields, and harvested cereals left behind by displaced persons.”[1]

Even before the creation of the sub camp, there was an SS farm in Pławy. Prisoners from the Auschwtz-Birkenau women’s camp were marched to work every day in Pławy. For example, on October 18, 1944 on list of the employment of prisoners in agricultural Kommandos, there were three female Kommandos with a total of 631 prisoners in Pławy.[2] The Aussenkommandos leaving for work outside the camp were often named after their Kommandoführer. In the case of Plawy, these were the following SS men: Sinschkowski, Mokrus and Haseloch.

It is not known exactly who and when it was decided to create the small sub camp in Pławy. Perhaps the headquarters of Auschwitz II-Birkenau decided that it was inefficient for the prisoners to walk to work every day with the result that they were exhausted by the time they arrived there. At the beginning of December 1944, there were around 200 male prisoners (Poles, Jews and Russians) in Pławy. On 5 January 1945, approximately 200 female prisoners (mainly Russians) were brought to the camp. [3]

Of the 60 houses in Pławy before the deportation of their residents, only 19 buildings remained in 1944. The SS guards lived in them.

The sub camp in Pławy was located near the house of Józefa Paszek (map reference 1) which had not been demolished and covered an area of ​​about 3 ha. Several wooden barracks were erected in this area. The camp consisted of two sections: economic and residential. The economic section was located on the side of the main entrance to the camp, next to which stood a small barrack in which the camp office was located (map reference 4). Directly next to it were: a barrack for agricultural tools, a barn for cows (map reference 6), a barn, and stables for sheep (map reference 8) and horses (map reference 10). At the back behind the farm buildings stood two accomodation barracks for prisoners (map reference 13 and 14). The prisoner barracks were equipped with bunks with straw mattresses and field stoves for heating. The prisoners barracks were supported on top of wooden struts, approximately 80 cm above the ground. They were accessed via wooden stairs. At the entrances to the barracks, tin washing troughs and a water tank were installed. The male and female barracks were separated from each other by a barbed wire fence. Water was taken from a well bored by prisoners.

The camp was surrounded by two rows of barbed wire hung on concrete posts which was not connected to the electricity supply. The testimonies of surviving prisoners differ on whether there were guard towers at the four corners of the camp. [4]

Behind the fence of the camp were mounds in which sugar beet, fodder beetroot, potatoes and white carrot were stored. The surrounding fields were sown with wheat and vetch. There was also a large pile of fertilizer stored in the sub camp (map reference 12).

Both male and female prisoners worked with the farm animals (thoroughbred cows, horses, foals, sheep and pigs). They also worked in the surrounding fields. The farm in Pławy provided, amongst other produce, milk to the Auschwitz camp dairy. Some of the prisoners worked within the camp and others outside of the camp.

Even after the establishment of the Plawy sub camp Arbeitskommandos came daily to work at the farm in Pławy from Auschwitz II-Birkenau, including Kommando Schoninger. [5]

The prisoners in the Plawy sub camp both male and female were treated reasonably well, “ In the sub camp Plawy the male and female prisoners were not mistreated. Also killings did not occur.” [6]


[1] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józef Świadek, Vol. 50, p. 153.
[2] APMAB. Wykazy zatrudnienia, Vol. 1/8, p. 356b.
[3] BA Ludwigsburg B162/15414, p. 3. Testimony of Anna Tytoniak.
[4] Description of sub camp Plawy testimony of Józefa Paszek. APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, Vol. 50, p. 159-159a. BA Ludwigsburg BA 162/15414, p. 39. Testimony of Anna Tytoniak.
[5] StA Ludwigsburg StAL EL 317 VI_Bu 882, p. 301.
[6] BA Ludwigsburg BA 162/15414, p. 41.  Testimony of Anna Tytoniak.

The SS Guard Unit

Little is known of the guards of this sub camp, apart from the overseer of the female prisoners SS-Erstaufseherin Florentina (Flora) Cichoń. The guards were mostly older former soldiers of the Wehrmacht. The Lagerführer was an SS-Unteroffizier.[1]


[1] BA Ludwigsburg BA 162/15414, p.40. Testimony of Anna Tytoniak.

The SS Guards

References:
Rudorff, Andrea, Pławy in Des Ort des Terrors Band 5, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager. C.H.Beck 2007, p. 293.
BA Ludwigsburg B162/2680 and B162/2679.
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 Wirtschaftshof Plawy

On January 18, 1945, the prisoners from Pławy joined a group of Auschwitz prisoners on foot on the  death march to Wodzisław Śląski, from where they were transported deep into the Altreich. Before the prisoners departed from the sub camp Plawy on 18 January two female prisoners too ill to march were shot by the Lagerführer in the accommodation barracks. [1]


[1] BA Ludwigsburg BA 162/15414, p.41.  Testimony of Anna Tytoniak.

The Post War History of the Former Sub Camp Wirtschaftshof Plawy

Józef Paszek explained what happened to the camp after the war: “After the liberation of Oświęcim, the population had no reason to return to the village. Those who returned earlier lived in the barracks left behind. The wealthier gradually built houses, the others dismantled the barracks and moved them to their plots.” [1]


[1] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józefa Paszek, Vol. 50, p. 159.

The Preservation Status of the Former Sub Camp Wirtschaftshof Plawy

Wirtschaftshof Plawy is one of the sub camps of Auschwitz concentration camp, of which virtually no elements of the camp have survived. In addition, finding the right location of this small sub camp turned out to be complicated, as the the vast majority of the residents of Pławy are post war immigrants with little knowledge of the pre-war and war period of the area.

Józef Paszek explained what happened to the camp after the war: “After the liberation of Auschwitz, the population had no reason to return to the village. Those who returned earlier lived in the barracks left behind. The wealthier gradually built houses, the others dismantled the barracks and moved them to their plots.”[1]

Currently, in the village of Pławy you can find the house (rebuilt) of the Paszków family, which was adjacent to the southern corner of the camp, and several concrete fence posts used by the residents for economic purposes. Meadows and fields are now in the place where the camp buildings stood.


[1] APMAB. Zespół Oświadczenia, testimony of Józefa Paszek, vol. 50, p. 159.

Memorialisation

There is no memorial to the prisoners of the Plawy sub camp in the village or at the location of the sub camp. There is an information board at the entrance to Auschwitz II-Birkenau erected by the Polish population of the former Interessengebiet in April 2001.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Site Visit

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum visited the former Plawy sub camp on 22nd March 1993 and took one photograph of the area and a surviving concrete post (photo reference 21 745).

Topography of the Sub Camp Wirtschaftshof Plawy

Location of the Sub Camp Wirtschaftshof Plawy

TitleCategoryAddressDescriptionLink

Photographs

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

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Photographs from Site Visits

Posts of the sub camp Plawy. 1993 APMAB 21745

Tiergartenstrasse4Association Photographs from Site Visits