Heaven or Hell? The Two Faces of the HASAG-Kielce Camp
The article looks at a forced labor camp for Jews established by the Granat munitions firm in Kielce, Poland, in November 1942 and lasting until June 1944. This was one of six labor camps established by the German HASAG concern (Hugo Schneider A.G. Leipzig) alongside its factories. This camp had approximately 500 Jewish men and women. The article describes the prisoners’ struggle for survival, their socio-demographic make-up, mutual aid, types of labor, the attitudes of the German overseers, selections, relations with Polish laborers, and more. The article focuses on two issues. First, why there are two opposing assessments of the camp and its commandant, Axel Schlicht – very negative and fraught with starvation and oppression, according to the testimonies of Polish laborers; and “heaven” in Jewish testimonies, where even poor prisoners did not go hungry, and Schlicht himself is referred to as “the father of the Jews.” The second issue relates to the role of the prisoners’ internal administration (Lagerverwaltung) in camp life and the degree of responsibility of camp elder Haim Rosenzweig. Did he, indeed, merely follow German orders, or did he display initiative in trying to help the prisoners. The article concludes with an attempt to try to resolve the issues of which authority (SS, the German factory administration, the German camp commandant) had the greatest influence on how the prisoners lived in labor camps, and how did the relations between the local German command and the internal prisoner administration affect camp life in general.