Earlier this week, following several delays due to the recent unpredictable central European weather, I embarked on a trip to the north of the Czech Republic to visit four former Gross-Rosen Aussenlager sites. The weather started out rather fine, and we set off in bright sunshine and a temperature of 27c. As the day went on, we encountered a thunderstorm, heavy rainfall, hailstorm - amid a drop to 14c, and eventual return to more sun and 26c. All in all, a rather eventful backdrop to what was an interesting trip. Now that the weather report is over, on with the sites...
First site - Aussenlager-Reichenau
Located approximately 10km southeast of Reichenberg (Liberec, Cz), the camp was created near to the workshops of GETEWENT in Reichenau (Rychnov u Jablonce nad Nisou, Cz) in spring 1944. Initially, the prisoners were housed in a two floor brick building located within the factory complex. Inmates worked producing and assembling radios and transmitters for armoured vehicles and aircraft. In addition, another Kommando (work group) repaired the damaged railway tracks nearby. Later, parts for radar, U-Boats and V-weapons were also produced at the site. A large, intact tunnel complex was also constructed by the prisoners, stretching beyond the borders of the concentration camp. Following the evacuation of KZ-Gross-Rosen in early February 1945, the administration of the former camp transferred to Reichenau, as did many of the former Gross-Rosen staff including Kommandant Johannes Hassebroeck and the infamous Josef Mengele, who had earlier fled from Auschwitz. Earlier, the camp had a staff of approximately 100 Ukrainian SS guards, led by Kommandoführer Braun. The first transport arrived in deep snow, with almost 200 prisoners being driven into their new accommodation by the overzealous guards. Later transports arrived from Auschwitz, Buchenwald and several other sub-camps. Hundreds of prisoners died due to abuse, poor rations, disease and exhaustion. The camp was evacuated in early May, with the SS staff managing to mingle with retreating Wehrmacht forces, leaving only a limited guard staff to watch over the remaining prisoners. Armed Czech patriots freed 381 emancipated prisoners on the 8th May, two days before the arrival of Soviet forces.
1) GETEWENT FABRIK - view of the former factory buildings.
2) Period perimeter fence posts, GETEWENT complex.
3) Tunnel entrance.
4) Memorial located at the factory site.
5) Memorial located at the site of the former Häftlingslager (prisoners camp).