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Memory sites


Category: Places of memory

Setting up of the Monowitz sub-camp was influenced by the decision of authorities of IG Farbenindustrie A.G. Chemical works dated January 1941, about building near the town of Oświęcim, Dwory and Monowice village a factory of synthetic rubber and liquid fuel.

The coal was supposed to be supplied by local mines in Jawiszowice, Libiąż and Jaworzno, the water was assured by the Wisła river, calcium came from the mine in Krzeszowice, and the salt was transported from Wieliczka mine.

Already existing rail tracks allowed fast transport to and from the factory. A big asset was also the fact, that during the construction the whole area was out of range of Allied bombers.

The first step of the investment was resettlement and expropriation of the locals, then demolition of their homes on the land bought by IG. The authorities of the chemical works from the start had troubles with lack of manpower. The efforts about acquiring additional forced workers were very slow – going. Thus, the authorities of the IG Farbenindustrie A.G. Started negotiations with the headquarters of KL aushwitz about employment of prisoners. After the negotiations they made a treaty. In exchange for routing prisoners to work at the construction of the factory on preferential conditions, the IG chemical works was obliged to deliver KL Auschwitz any construction materials needed for development of camp infrastructure.

In the middle of April 1941 first commando's of workers were delivered to the construction site by trucks. In May, they came from the main camp, that was 7 kilometres away. Their route went throught the town of Oświęcim, what caused the local authorities to protest. This, and also the fact that the number of prisoners working at the site rose to more than 1 000, it was decided in June 1941 that they will be transported by rail from KL Auschwitz camp to the Dwory train station.

In 1942 the decision was made about placing the workers in the nearest neighbourhood of the construction site – in the Monowice village, in a barracks complex which primarily was constructed for civilian workers. The first prisoners came here at the end of october, at first there were 2,000 of them. Mostly, they were jews, there were also german criminals who had the roles of „Capo”, and some other nationalities, including Polish prisoners.

Due to rising need of workers, the camp infrastructure was being expanded, which continued to 1944.The number of prisoners rose quickly. At December of 1942 there were 3,500 of them, in the middle of 1943 more than 6,000, and at July of 1944 number of prisoners escalated to more than 11,000. Percentage of Jews at the fall of 1943 equaled about 70%, but in the spring of next year it was more than 90%.

Prisoners were employed for very hard, physical labor. They had to level the whole area, dig trenches, build roads and unload transport of building materials. They quickly became weak, and their effectivness faded, though they were severly beaten and forced to work. The authorities of IG tried to force an exchange of exhausted and ill prisoners, stating that it should be done on behalf of earlier agreements. They conducted constant selection of the workers. Those, who were not able to work anymore, were sent to the hospital in Auschwitz where their lives were ended by a phenol injection, or to the hospital in Birkenau, finally they could be sent straight to the gas chambers. The prisoner also died very often in the camp hospital or directly on the construction site.

The employees of the IG that oversaw the work still stated that the pace of the work was not satysfying. Due to that, they asked the camp headquarters to stricten the discipline of the workers. To realise that quest, the camp headquarters brought german criminals to the construction site, to serve as Capo's. This action has not met expectations, so the authorities of the concern proposed a type of contract labor. For efficient work, a prisoner could acquire vouchers for purchases at the camp cantine, or to use at the camp brothel. That system made no effect on the efficiency of the workers, so it was abandoned. Thanks to the change in war theatre at 1944 which was a disadvantego for the IIIrd Reich, the situation of the prisoners much improved. Time of the musters was systematically decreased, and some of the capo, SS soldiers and overseers also limited the beatings.

With the prisoners working at construction of the factory, there were also few other categories of prisoners. There were the ones whose imprisonment had educational purposes, british and italian POW's and forced workers. Although they were imprisoned, their situation was slightly different to other prisoners.

Total number of casualties For building the IG Farbenindustries A.G. Factory is estimated to more than 10,000.

The evacutaion of the camp took place on 18th of January 1945. Prisoners able to march were escorted To Gliwice from where they were sent to Matthausen and Buchenwald by rail, in open coal – carts.


Setkiewicz P., Wybrane problemy z historii IG Werk Auschwitz, Zeszyty Oświęcimskie nr 22, Oświęcim 1998.

Setkiewicz P., Budowa IG Werk Auschwitz jako „niezmierzony impuls” dla stworzenia w Oświęcimiu ośrodka zagłady Żydów?, Zeszyty Oświęcimskie nr 23, Oświęcim 2002