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Forced Labor in Concentration Camp Subcamps on the Territory of the Czech Republic

Expansion of Forced Labor

From the start, forced labor was a fundamental part of prisoner life in the concentration camps. While, after Hitlers rise to power, in the initial construction period of the concentration camps, they were mainly used to correct, punish and spread terror, from 1937 economic aspects increasingly came into the picture and inmates were initially used in SS-owned businesses as slave laborers.

The territory of the Czech Republic was considered fairly safe from bombings during the Nazi regime. Especially in the final stages of World War II, this lead the concentration camps of  Auschwitz,  Flossenbürg (eastern Bavaria) und  Groß-Rosen (Lower Silesia) to establish an extensive system of subcamps for armament production in the Sudetengau, the border areas which had been annexed by the German Reich in 1938, and in the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia.

These subcamps were first established in armament factories which set up shop in the vicinity of the main camps. Another use the prisoner labor was put to until 1941/42 was in the Baukommandos, the construction units. The first subcamp on Czech territory was opened in August 1942 to prepare for the exploitation of a mineral water spring for the SS-owned bottling company Sudetenquell GmbH in the West Bohemian town of Korunní.

Subcamps of KZ Flossenbürg

Map:  KZ-Gedenkstätte Flossenbürg (Memorial Flossenbürg)

In 1942 the SS improved the organisational conditions of the concentration camp labor program by centralizing the various administrative tasks in the newly created Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungshauptamt (SS-WVHA, Economic and Administrative Head Office). The forced laborers were to be lent to private companies. Corporations could register requests for prisoners to the SS-WVHA and in case of a positive decision, the relevant concentration camp was instructed to erect a subcamp and organize guards. In other cases, prisoners were offered to companies by state authorities. Companies would pay a fee to the SS, according to gender and qualifications of the prisoner, and arrange for accommodation and provisions for prisoners and their guards.

Starting in mid 1944 and within a few months, the network of subcamps was expanded massively over the entire territory occupied by the Reich. While in April of 1944 there had been 20 main camps and 130 subcamps for the state and private economies, the number of theses subcamps had increased to about 1000 by the end of the war. 90 percent of the 40 camps on the territory of the Czech Republic in existence by the end of the war had been built in the last year of the war. Partly, these camps were set up in places of existing camps structures, such as the Schmelt camps (non-KZ Jewish slave labor) in the Giant Mountains, which were partly incorporated into the Groß-Rosen camp network. The majority of subcamps set up in Czech lands in 1944 were female camps.

Apart from companies from the Altreich (Germany in its pre-1938 borders), such as AEG, Auto-Union, Dynamit Nobel, Siemens, Telefunken and their subsidiaries, who moved production to the Sudetengau and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, local companies also made bids for armament contracts and the allocation of subcamps to their production facilities. Especially the north Bohemian textile manufacturing businesses, who were already experienced with the use of Jewish forced laborers, employed prisoners from Groß-Rosen on a grand scale. The SS employed prisoners, from Auschwitz and Flossenbürg, in their own companies, the porcelain factory Bohemia in Nová Role, or the north Moravian Freudenthaler Getränke GmbH.

The majority of these subcamps were situated in the Sudetenland border areas. Only few foreign workers and concentration camp prisoners were deployed to the protectorate, due to misgivings of Karl Hermann Frank, state minister for Bohemia and Moravia. Though the SS was able to establish four smaller construction camp detachments since the end of 1943, these were sent to work on the SS proving ground Beneschau in Hradištko (German: Hradischko) and Vrchotovy Janovice (Janowitz) south of Prague and some smaller camps in Panenské Břežany (Jungfernbreschan) and Brno (Brünn).

Subcamps of KZ Gross-Rosen

4. Bernsdorf (Bernartice)54. Mährisch Weißwasser (Bilá Voda)
14. Brünnlitz (Brněnec)57. Morchenstern (Smržovka)
23. Gablonz (Jablonec nad Nisou)62. Ober Altstadt (Hořejší Staré Město)
24. Gabersdorf (Libeč)63. Ober Hohenelbe (Hořejší Vrchlabí)
33. Grulich (Králíky) 64. Parschnitz (Poříčí)
37. Halbstadt (Meziměstí)68. Reichenau (Rychnov u Jablonce nad Nisou)
45. Kratzau I (Chrastava)72. Schatzler (Žacléř)
46. Kratzau II (Chrastava)75. Sankt Georgenthal (Jiřetín)

Project objectives

The 21 Flossenbürg, 18 Groß-Rosen and three Auschwitz subcamps on the territory of the Czech Republic known to historians, are today widely forgotten. This project intends to include completely distinct places of KZ forced labor into one research undertaking. One cannot compare the Kommando of 15 Jehovah's Witnesses who were deployed in the private household of Reinhard Heydrich's widow in Panenské Břežany (Jungfernbreschan), received sufficient rations and all survived the war to those in the Knochenmühle (bone mill) in Litoměřice (Leitmeritz). There, in the relocation underground of the production facilities of Auto-Union and Osram, due to an insufficient diet, catastrophic sanitation, disease, work accidents and excessive violence from the guards, thousands of prisoners died.

Apart from the basic questions about some subcamps that have thus far not been answered, we also propose to closely define the role of the economic as well as the governmental entities who collaborated in the, sometimes linear, sometimes parallel, construction of the system of labor camps for concentration camp prisoners and other forced laborers. Special emphasis shall be put on conditions in the concentration camp subcamps and the working conditions for concentration camp prisoners, as well as for non-KZ forced laborers often employed in the same places.


From September 1, 2008 to August 31, 2010, is the project sponsored as Erinnerungsaufgabe (Documenting forced labour - a task of remembrance ) within the framework of the research program Dokumentation der Zwangsarbeit als Erinnerungsaufgabe (documentation of forced labor as a duty of remembrance) conducted by the Stiftung Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft (EVZ) (Remembrance, Responsibility and Future).
Poslední změna: 14. 1. 2010