One of Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg's many sub-camps, Kirchham, also known as Kirchham bei Pocking or Pocking-Waldstadt, was among the numerous hastily established concentration camps to be founded toward the end of WWII.
Located near the town of Pocking, at a site approximately 25km southwest of Passau, and a similar distance northeast of Hitler's birthplace Braunau am Inn, the sub-camp was established on 6th March 1945 when around 400 prisoners arrived.
The 400 men, most of whom were Jews from the Soviet Union and Poland, arrived - probably on foot, during early spring 1945. Other inmates came from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Yugoslavia, France and Hungary. Additional transports arrived later, during April 1945.
Under the direction of a Viennese construction company, the prisoners constructed a taxiway for the nearby military airport at Pocking. The barracks of the camp were also constructed by the inmates.
One or two enclosed wooden barracks were hastily erected to serve as the accommodation buildings for the prisoners at Kirchham. The inmates were forced to sleep on the bare floor and were not provided with any washing facilities - hence the rapid spread of lice and later, disease. Although the prisoners were reportedly fed by supplies originating from the kitchen of the nearby flight school, survivors stated that the SS and prisoner functionaries stole most of the rations, leaving a minimal amount for the prisoners. Typically, a twice daily serving of weak broth and a piece of bread was all that they received. Many former inmates who managed to survive the ordeal, later spoke of the poor conditions, even claiming that they were much better off at Auschwitz, from where many had arrived earlier. When the later transports arrived during April, conditions were already at an all time low.
THE VISITS OF LOCAL FARMERS AND FATHER MAGNUS HUBER
During the latter stages of the camp's existence, local farmers bribed the guards to permit them entrance into the camp, where they gave out food to some of the inmates. Witnesses report bread being among the produce donated. Sermons by a local priest led the farmers to act, in order to help the starving inmates nearby.
Another notable visitor during this time was Father Magnus Huber, an Austrian priest who had emigrated to Kirchham earlier. Huber visited the camp on a daily basis, praying with the Christians and smuggling pickled cabbage into the camp - to be distributed among those stricken by typhus. Father Huber later became infected with the virus himself, later passing away in May 1945.
Several SS-Unterführer were present, as were former Luftwaffe personnel - quite common in the latter part of the Konzentrationslager era. They were led by Kommandoführer Paul Landgräbe. The small detachment of SS guards treated the inmates poorly, far worse than their Luftwaffe counterparts.
Accurate figures are unavailable, with different sources claiming between 100 and 300 victims. Newspaper reports shortly after the war stated around 200 of the total prisoner population of the camp died - mostly of disease, exhaustion and malnutrition. Later, a further 100 were reported to have died in the aftermath of the resolution of the camp.
On 2nd May 1945, the surviving inmates of KZ-Aussenlager Kirchham were liberated by members of the 761st Tank Battalion of the US Third Army - an armoured unit comprised solely of African Americans.
POST WAR TRIAL OF KAPO FRIEBE
Ernst Friebe, a former prisoner functionary at AL-Kirchham, was among those able to escape during the confusion toward the end of the camp's existence. Friebe, who had even been beaten by his fellow Kapos due to his sheer brutality toward the inmates, was able to escape in civilian clothing. Later, in June 1945, he was found and arrested. Following internment at Moosbach, he was tried in 1947 when he received a sentence of four years in a labour camp for physically abusing prisoners at Kirchham.
THE SITE TODAY:
Today, the former site is marked by a large memorial plaque. Near the site, a memorial to Jewish children buried nearby is located in Pocking town centre.
1. The large commemorative plaque.
2. The Jewish memorial, located in Pocking.