Forced labourer camp of the Henkel-Persil-Werke Genthin and Düsseldorf.
The shareholders of the Henkel-Persil-Werke, Genthin branch, established a forced labour camp during the early months of 1940. As documented by correspondence with the Trade Supervisory Office, more than 1000 male and female forced labourers from many European nations were employed there between 1940 and 1945 and including Polish children, aged between six and fourteen years old. In 1944 approximately 30 Polish children between six and twelve years fell ill with phlegmon and similar inflammations, because these children were mainly used in the acid department of the company—the department most hazardous to health. In a letter, dated 15 March 1944, the management of the Genthin works requested more Polish children for use in their factories - the letter was addressed to the Nazi Reichskommissar for labour procurement, the infamous NS-Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel in Thuringia. On 8 April 1944, female prisoners of KZ Ravensbrück were also commandeered for labour, as had been requested by the Genthin NS-managers.
The Silva-Metallwerke GmbH (Metal Works Ltd), Genthin works in the Liesenwald
Silva-Metallwerke GmbH was the front company for an ammunition factory manufacturing infantry and artillery projectiles. The German army had also stationed its pyrotechnical specialists of all ranks in this factory. The shareholders of the company established a camp for forced labourers as early as 30 May 1940. To start with, 198 Croatians, 136 Poles, 40 Ukrainians were held and exploited. During the following years, the system of exploiting forced labour was intensified, on 2 March 1940, apart from the German civil and shift workers, there were 206 Polish, 127 Croatian, 46 Czech, 3 Belgian and 102 French nationals doing shift work as forced labour.
Above: Map of Silva-Metallwerke GmbH / KZ Außenlager Genthin
Between 1943 and April 1945 about 700 KZ Ravensbrück prisoners at a time worked in Silva-Metallwerke. Female concentration camp inmates were the cheapest source of labour that could be procured from the SS excluding Jewish slave labourers. There is no record of Jewish slave labourers working at the Silva-Metallwerke factory site or at KZ Genthin.
The 700 female prisoners had to survive the most physically hard labour having to carry and load the ammunition baskets, weighing between 40 and 50kg at a time day in day out without respite. They were also given a minimal amount of food. The average life expectancy for women carrying out this kind of work was estimated at 9 months, which means that the turnover of female prisoners was three times during the two years of the factories existence with few surviving the entire period.
Official Report on use of Silva-Metallwerke GmbH Genthin Prisoners for the Aircraft Industry for the month of January 1944
Number of Prisoners Used
Number of Prisoners Planned
Production of AA Ammunition
Production result Jan:
518 200 2-cm shells,
927 500 2-cm shells (various styles),
965 000 13-mm shells
The Reich Minister for Armament and War Production
TAE-No. 475/44 top secret
Berlin, Pariser Platz 3, 17 April 1944.
Phone: 11 00 52
Below: List of inmates from KZ Ravensbrück transported to KZ Sachsenhausen and subamp KZ Außenlager Genthin-Wald on 29 October 1944. The list includes my grandmother. Source USHMM archive.
Below: Memorial to the prisoners of KZ Außenlager Genthin-Wald
In May 1944 Ravensbrück prisoners were also transported to work at:
- Eberswalde, Ardelt-Werke (800)
- Finow, Geschoss-Fabrik (150)
- Fuerstenhagen, Munitionsfabrik (3.000)
- Genthin, "Silvia" GmbH ( 2.000)
- Grueneberg, Munitionsfabrik (1.800)
- Lippstadt, Metall- und Eisenwerke (750)
- Malchow, Sprengstoff-Chemie (4.000)
- Neubrandenburg, Mech. Werkstaetten (6.000)
- Oranienburg, Auer-Werke AG (1.200)
- Peenemuende, Raketenversuchsstation (300)
- Rechlin, Flugplatz (1.500)
- Schlieben, HASAG Hugo Schneider AG (1.000)