Destruction Through Work: Lodz Jews in the Büssing Truck Factory in Braunschweig, 1944-1945
In the summer of 1944, the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office (SS-Wirtschafts und Verwaltungshauptamt – WVHA) acceded to the request of the firm Büssing-Automobilwerke in Braunschweig for an allocation of Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz. Shortly after securing approval of the WVHA, two Büssing representatives traveled to Auschwitz to select metal workers fit for work. By November 10, 1944, some 1,200 Jews had been brought to Braunschweig in three transports. Most of these prisoners were from the Lodz ghetto, which had been liquidated in August 1944. A camp known as KL-Aussenlager Schillstrasse was built for them in Braunschweig as a subsidiary of the Neuengamme concentration camp; its Unterkommando was located in the nearby locality of Vechelde. The prisoners arrived ill and exhausted, mainly due to their long stay in the Lodz ghetto. Mortality in the Schillstrasse camp rose steadily as a result of malnutrition, lack of basic means of personal hygiene, lack of clothing suitable for winter or for the type of work they performed, brutal treatment by kapos and the SS, as well as a shortage of medicines. By late March 1945, when the evacuation of the camp began, only 700 prisoners were still alive. As a result of analysis of archival documents, and interviews conducted in 1999 in Israel, as well as correspondence with other former prisoners in various countries, the author has succeeded in establishing the names of 776 prisoners and collecting important information concerning selections for work in Auschwitz, as well as conditions of life and work in the Braunschweig camp.