Hermann F. Weiss

From Reichsautobahnlager to Schmelt Camp:
Brande, a Forgotten Holocaust Site in Western Upper Silesia, 1940–1943


Almost none of the numerous smaller forced labor camps for Jews in pre-invasion Silesia, which existed outside of the concentration camp system, have been studied in detail. Brande in Upper Silesia, one of the most notorious camps among them, started out as a Reichsautobahnlager (RAB camp) in 1940 and was taken over by Organisation Schmelt in 1942, initially functioning as a Durchgangslager and Krankenlager and, from January to its closure in August 1943, as a Krankenlager. This Holocaust site was selected for the present paper because of its complex history, its increasingly prominent position among the Silesian forced labor camps, and because of its notoriety. Because very few Nazi documents pertaining to Brande exist, many postwar records have been utilized. These include documents from Yad Vashem (Jerusalem), the International Tracing Service (Arolsen), as well as a large number of videotaped survivors’ testimonials. Numerous recent interviews with former German residents of the area demonstrate that this camp did not exist in isolation from the surrounding population. In 2008 the connections between them led to the identification of Kurt Pompe (1899–1961), the German official most responsible for the many atrocities committed at Brande and who managed to elude prosecution after the war.