KZ-Außenlager Gross-Koschen and Vereinigte Aluminium-Werke AG (VAW)
The exact point in time when the Gross-Koschen subcamp was erected is not recorded in the documents. In the late summer of 1944, 200 prisoners from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp erected a barracks camp on the grounds of a former gravel pit at Gross-Koschen, in order to receive a still larger number of inmates. Both of the two large barracks blocks were built by Polish prisoners who had been sent to the concentration camp as prisoners from the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944. In Gross-Rosen they had been registered with numbers from the series 58000 to 59000.
The erection of the camp was in preparation for the transfer of the Aircraft Dismantling Work from Auschwitz to Gross-Koschen. Former German prisoner of Gross Koschen Friedrich Kuhn wrote: "The core crew of about three hundred prisoners from Auschwitz arrived in t he middle of the forest, underneath the Koschenberg, into an existing camp, where about two hundred prisoners from Gross-Rosen had already built a barracks and the cottage for the camp leader.”
This transport from Auschwitz on 11 November 1944, included 351 men who were registered with entry numbers from Gross-Rosen, to wh ich the newly erected subcamp belonged, between 86351 and 86701. A further transport on 1 January 1945, likewise from Auschwitz, brought 431 prisoners to Gross-Koschen, to whom the entry numbers 92002 to 92432 were issued.
According to statements by former prisoner Kühn, the maximum camp population can be estimated at 800 prisoners. Polish historian Mieczyslaw Moldawa speaks of 2,500 prisoners, a number that also appears in Kari-Heinz Gräfe and Hans-Jürgen Topfer.
The subcamp prisoners were, above all, Poles and Russians but also French, Italians, Croats, Czechs, and a few Germans, the last mostly as Kapos.
For the choice of location, the decisions of the corresponding main commissions and of the Armaments Ministry may have been decisive. Nearby existed the Lautawerk, one of the aluminum works of the Vereinigten Aluminium-Werke AG (VAW) Berlin.
In the Aircraft Dismantling Work* that was transferred from Auschwitz, defective aircraft that had either been shot down or were otherwise incapable of flight were dismantled. Valuable machinery, electrical components, motors and weapons went to the aircraft industry for repair or direct replacement. The other material—airframes, and wings went to be melted down in the VAW aluminium works.
(Above source document: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945 - Volume I: Early Camps, Youth Camps, and Concentration Camps and Subcamps under the SS-Business Administration Main Office [WVHA])
* Luftwaffe Zerlegebetriebe Ost (or Zerlegebetrieb fur Flugzeugwracks) was involved in dismantling and recycling metal and parts from downed aircraft, employing 2 shifts of 1350 workers; this was located just outside Lager Birkenau in a courtyard near the railway line.
From the Auschwitz Museum: A fragment of testimony given by Władysław Szmyt, a Polish-Roma and former prisoner, camp number 150321, who was deported to Auschwitz, but not imprisoned in the so-called Zigeunerlager, instead held in the men’s sector, BIId.
“On September 14, 1943, I was brought to Auschwitz on a transport from Radom. At the camp I received the prisoner number 150321, and in the camp, after writing down, my first and last name, date and place of birth; the above-mentioned number was tattooed on my left arm, which I to this day. For about two weeks I did not work, as it was said – I was in the camp, but I was in quarantine. Then we were taught how to line up in fives, remove and put our caps back on when ordered to do so, and sing German songs. I also had to very quickly learn my camp number in German, that which I had been marked with in the Camp. In the quarantine, the SS and Kapos tormented prisoners with hours of aerobic exercise, so-called sport. Many times I was badly beaten up. Next, I was transferred to the men’s camp, section BIId in Birkenau. Soon, I started work in a commando that dismantled wrecked aircraft (Zerlegebetriebe Komando). There, the work was relatively good and we were not punished with beatings very often. As I mentioned before, they put me into sector BIId, next to the Zigeunerlager. In it were many members of my family, such as, my sister, daughter, brother-in-law, and several of my male and female cousins. Often, I managed to talk with my sister or brother-in-law through the barbed wires. However, this did not last long. Soon, along with my other brothers, they were murdered in the gas chamber.”
Aircraft wing structure being disassembled by forced worker in a recycling unit probably not dissimilar to the Aircraft Dismantling Work at Gross-Koschen.