• Menu

  • Shop

  • Languages

  • Accessibility
Visiting Info
Opening Hours:

Sunday to Thursday: ‬09:00-17:00

Fridays and Holiday eves: ‬09:00-14:00

Yad Vashem is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish Holidays.

Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of 10. Babies in strollers or carriers will not be permitted to enter.

Drive to Yad Vashem:
For more Visiting Information

Destruction Through Work: Lodz Jews in the Büssing Truck Factory in Braunschweig, 1944-1945

Karl Liedke

  1. Testimony of WVHA employee, Karl Sommer, October 4, 1946, before the Allied investigating officer, quoted in Fritz Blaich, Wirtschaft und Rüstung im “Dritten Reich” (Düsseldorf: Schwann, 1987), p. 116. However, exploitation of concentration-camp prisoners in the German private sector economy began earlier.
  2. Karl Liedke, Gesichter der Zwangsarbeit – Polen in Braunschweig 1939-1945 (Braunschweig: Arbeitskreis Andere Geschichte, 1997), p. 63.
  3. Ibid., p. 108.
  4. Georges Salan, Prisons de France et bagnes allemandes (Nîmes: Impremerie L’Ouvriére, 1946), p. 131. This book was the first indication that French prisoners were at Schillstrasse, since no pertinent documents had been preserved.
  5. Four of them are known by name: Edwin Franz (German Gypsy), Rudolf Knabke, Hermann Giesen (former boxer), and Hans Wittling. See statement of former prisoner Michał Guminer, December 7, 1945, before the police in Braunschweig, Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel (Nds. StA Wf), 62 Nds Fb2, no. 445. Michał Guminer, born 1920, worked in the ghetto post office. His fluency in German enabled him to observe camp life at Schillstrasse closely.
  6. Nds. StA Wf, 131, N Fb2, Nr. 13086, 13103.
  7. Max Kirstein was born on November 7, 1890, in Bernburg/Saale. The son of a railroad messenger, he spent eight years in elementary school, then three years learning the merchant trade. He worked as a salesman and decorator. He was drafted in 1912, was involved in an accident in 1913, as a result of which he was declared unfit for army service. He volunteered for service in World War I, and was decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd class for participation in battles on the western front. He married in 1921, and became an independent farmer; he lived with wife and child in Meklemburg. On May 1, 1937, he joined the NSDAP, and the Waffen-SS on August 31, 1939. He was promoted to SS-Scharführer on November 1, 1939, and to SS-Hauptscharführer on July 1, 1943; Berlin Document Center (at present Bundesarchiv Berlin), SS-Stammakte “Kirstein Max.”
  8. Public Record Office (PRO), Kew/Richmond, WO 309/375, no. 55638, list of German war criminals imprisoned in 1946-1948, in camp 101.C.I.C. Esterwegen.
  9. Testimony of the director of the firm “Gebr. Koch,” Hugo Probst, before German police in 1946. The firm was located near the camp. On Probst’s request and with Kirstein’s approval, prisoners helped with transportation work in the firm from time to time. See Nds. StA Wf, 62, Nds, Fb2 No. 445.
  10. Findings of the police clerk, Knigge in Vechelde, ibid.
  11. A different opinion was voiced by a former prisoner in the Schillstrasse camp, Adolf Diamant (a German Jew from Chemnitz who was deported to the Lodz ghetto, and subsequently to Auschwitz). On September 21, 1999, the Frankfurter Rundschau published his letter, in which Diamant wrote that the Jews in the employ of the Büssing firm were “firstclass specialists,” who worked mostly in the Lodz ghetto departments of metal machining.
  12. Recollections of Bolesław Ołomucki, to the author, Ashkelon, May 24, 1999.
  13. Mordechai Folman, conversation with the author, Haifa, May 28, 1999.
  14. Zvi Bergman, conversation with the author, May 25, 1999, Jerusalem.
  15. Roman Bojmelgrin (lives in Canada), letter to the author, September 13, 1999. Sara Zyskind writes extensively on selection under the bar in: Światło w dolinie łez (Lodz: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1994), pp. 166-169. The book is a biography of her husband, Eliezer Zyskind, who was a prisoner in the camp at Schillstrasse. In a conversation with the author, Mr. Zyskind confirmed the veracity of his wife’s account of the selections.
  16. David Brin, conversation with the author, Tel Aviv, May 30, 1999. Brin, too, escaped the bar selection.
  17. Karol Fuks, conversation with the author, Haifa, May 29, 1999.
  18. Hirsch Hecht, conversation with the author, Tel Aviv, May 31, 1999.
  19. Izydor Huberman, conversation with the author, Tel Aviv, June 2, 1999. Hersz Singer, then fourteen, got himself on the transport in a similar fashion; he said his name was Henryk Wagner; interview with Hersz Singer (undated) [1945?], Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, 301/325.
  20. Abraham Selig, conversation with the author, Jerusalem, May 25, 1999.
  21. Chaim Tyller, conversation with the author, Haifa, May 28, 1999. After the war Tyller met with this member of the selection commission. The man was a Pole, but Tyller could not recall his name. Nor could he explain his presence at the selection.
  22. Record of interrogation by German police in 1946, in Nds. StA WF, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445. Not one of the witnesses interviewed by the author recalls “Jewish physician Menzel.” According to the Ravensbrück transport list (see footnote 25), Felix Menzel was a Hungarian Jew, born in 1900, in Budapest. Deported to Auschwitz on June 29, 1944, he arrived in Braunschweig in the third transport in early November 1944, prisoner number 66079.
  23. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  24. This list (KL Ravensbrück list) was compiled on April 14, 1945, in KL Ravensbrück, following the arrival of the evacuation train from Watenstedt near Braunschweig. Among some 1,600 prisoners aboard the train were Jews from KL-Aussenlager Schillstrasse. The list contains the following information: prisoner number in Neuengamme (“Alte-no.”); prisoner number in Ravensbrück (“Neue-no.”); nationality and prisoner category (for example, political, Jew, etc.); first and last name; date and place of birth; date of first registration (in most cases Auschwitz). The original list is to be found in the Archives of the Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, syg. 52, k.79-92, 94-98, 100-108, 110-112, 116-118, 120-125, 128-139, 143, 150, 152-156. The list is not complete. Until now it has not been the subject of any serious study.
  25. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  26. KL Ravensbrück list.
  27. Recollections of Bolesław Ołomucki to the author.
  28. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445; KL Ravensbrück list.
  29. Recollections of Bolesław Ołomucki to the author.
  30. Stadt Braunschweig, Friedhofsamt, list of July 30, 1997.
  31. Stadt Salzgitter, Friedhof “Jammertal,” Gräberliste für öffentlich gepflegte Gräber, March 25, 1971.
  32. Information supplied by former prisoners Josef Neuhaus of Givatayim, Israel, concerning his father Hirsch; and by Abraham Selig, in a conversation with the author, Jerusalem, May 25, 1999, concerning his brother David.
  33. Gemeinde Wöbbelin. Mahn- und Gedenkstätten (Bearb.): Totenverzeichnis aller Häftlinge, die nachweislich im KL Wöbbelin oder nach der Befreiung an den Folgen der Inhaftierung in den umliegenden Krankenhäusern verstarben, Januar 2000.
  34. PRO Kew/London, WO 309/425; WO 309/1698 – No. 1 War Investigation Team.
  35. National Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (Washington: American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in cooperation with United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1993), pp.53-54; Benjamin and Vladka Meed, Registry of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (Washington: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1996), p. 85.
  36. Yad Vashem Archives (YVA), 039.33.33, 03.5278.
  37. Together with this article, the author deposited in the Yad Vashem Archives the list entitled “Liste der jüdischen Häftlinge im KZ-Aussenlager Schillstrasse, Stammlager KZ Neuengamme [Forschungsstand: 15.März 2000], ” YVA, Registry Number 15528.
  38. While in Israel the author spoke with two persons, Zvi Bergman and Karol Fuks, whose names do not appear on the preserved section of the list (see footnotes 15 and 18). Names of other surviving prisoners, which do not appear on the list, were given to the author by other prisoners, either through correspondence or during interviews.
  39. See below on the evacuation of the camp.
  40. The list of graves in this cemetery notes numbers 2051-2974 as unbekannt (unknown) instead of names. See below on transporting corpses from the camp at Schillstrasse to Watenstedt.
  41. KL Ravensbrück list. Josef Schönfeld arrived in Braunschweig in the third transport, together with his father Abraham, a dentist by profession (born 1903, he died in Braunschweig, November 28, 1944), and his brother, who died during the evacuation shortly before liberation. Josef Schönfeld died in New York in 1998.
  42. According to foreman Leberkuhn (Vechelde plant), prisoners worked 11.5 hours a day from Monday to Friday and 6 hours on Saturdays; in Amtsgericht Braunschweig, Gesch.-No. 13 C 566/64.
  43. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  44. Testimony of former prisoner Benno Fränkel before the German police in 1945, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  45. Most former prisoners recall that the distance was 7 km., or that it took one hour to walk.
  46. The author has not encountered this method of supervising camp prisoners in the literature. This particular information was provided by a former prisoner of the camp at Schillstrasse, Jerzy Herszberg, now living in London, in his forty-three page manuscript, “A Survival Story of 1939-1945 War,” that he wrote in 1986, for the Imperial War Museum in London, no. 86/89/1. In 1999, Herszberg sent the author a corrected version of his account. This method of prisoner control was confirmed by Izydor Huberman, conversation with the author.
  47. Testimony of the director of the department, engineer Walter P., before German police in 1946, in Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb2, no. 445.
  48. Testimony of the foreman of this department, Albert Esch, before German police; ibid.
  49. Chaim Tyller conversation with the author; Hirsch Hecht conversation with the author. Most Hungarian Jews appear to have worked in this division. One of them, Tibor Hirsch, born in 1928, lived in New York after the war; he intended to make a documentary film about the camp at Schillstrasse. The actual outcome is not known to the author.
  50. Testimony of Engineer Heinrich K. before German police in 1946, in Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb2., no. 445.
  51. Mordechai Folman conversation with the author; Karol Fuks conversation with the author.
  52. Former prisoner Eliezer Zyskind turned over to the author the original coupon with the overprint “Prämienschein über RM -50. Konzentrationslager Neuengamme.” It was stamped: “Prämienkonto K.L. Neuengamme.” The overprint on the lower edge of the coupon indicates it was printed in August 1944, edition of 500,000.
  53. Albert Esch, testimony, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  54. Testimony of lathe operator Karl D. before German police in December 1945, ibid.
  55. Testimony of foreman Willi B., ibid.
  56. Benno Fränkel, testimony, ibid.
  57. Their names are known: Hermann Fricke (foreman of prisoner Mordechai Folman), Albert Esche (foreman of prisoner Bolesław Ołomucki), Weber (foreman of prisoner Izydor Huberman), Hammer (foreman of prisoner Karol Fuks), and Basse (foreman of prisoner Benno Fränkel).
  58. Testimony of Karl D., Nds. StA WF, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  59. Testimony of the German cook, Walter S., before German police in December 1945, ibid.
  60. Testimony of Benno Fränkel, ibid.
  61. The arrival of thirty German prisoners with a “green triangle” to the camp at Schillstrasse is corroborated by Dr. Georges Salan in Prisons, p. 144.
  62. One of them was Nathan J. Jerzy Herszberg and another former prisoner, Abraham Selig, claim that Nathan J. “was willing to beat up a prisoner for an extra bowl of soup,” something which he did quite often. Another former prisoner, however, Izydor Huberman, claims that Nathan J. hit fellow Jewish prisoners in order to protect them from beatings by German kapos, in which case they would have been killed. British documents indicate that Nathan J. was suspected of brutal treatment of Hungarian Jews. After liberation, a number of Schillstrasse survivors ended up in the DP-camp in Bergen-Belsen, including Hungarian Jews and several dozen Lodz Jews. Hungarian Jews told the British command of the DP-camp that Nathan J. was there. An investigation was launched, but no documents exist about its conclusion; PRO Kew, WO 309/425, XC 6178. In 1969, the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg received a letter from Marian Pollan in the USA, which contained the following information: Nathan J., born in 1915, in Wieluń, Poland, was a Jewish policeman in the Wieluń ghetto, and was responsible for deporting many Jews to extermination camps. In September 1942, following the liquidation of the Wieluń ghetto, he was deported to the Lodz ghetto, and, in the summer of 1944, to Auschwitz, where he worked as a kapo. Nathan J. went on to KL-Aussenlager at Schillstrasse in Braunschweig. He was recognized in the DP-camp in Bergen-Belsen, put on trial, and served a prison sentence in England. In 1949, he left for the United States. Pollan’s letter lists names of thirty-four Jews residing in the United States, who, according to him, could authenticate the facts as presented in the letter. A copy of the letter is in Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445. This author could not discover any documents either corroborating or disproving the facts as presented in Pollan’s letter.
  63. Jerzy Herszberg, “A Survival Story.” Herszberg was evacuated in January 1945, from the camp at Schillstrasse to Watenstedt.
  64. See Heinrich K. testimony, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  65. This is confirmed by an investigation conducted after the war: the police succeeded in uncovering receipts for parcels of between 10 and 20 kilograms that were mailed from Vechelde by SS men; ibid.
  66. All former prisoners have confirmed this in conversations with this author.
  67. Lazy, insolent, fat; Herszberg, conversation with the author, Braunschweig, May 6, 2000. Another former prisoner, Hirsch Hecht, recalls that Camp Commandant Kirstein spoke about “4F” when describing Jews: “Wenn ein Jude zu viel frisst, dann wird er fett und faul und schliesslich auch frech” (“When the Jew swallows too much food, he becomes fat, lazy and, in the end, brazen”); Hecht conversation with the author.
  68. Salan, Prisons, p. 148.
  69. Ibid., p. 146. Salan claims that Camp Commandant Kirstein was a sadist and a criminal.
  70. Michał Guminer Statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  71. Testimonies before the German police in 1946, ibid.
  72. Benno Fränkel, testimony, ibid.
  73. Salan, Prisons, pp. 160, 167.
  74. Their names were provided by former prisoners Izydor Huberman and Eliezer Zyskind.
  75. Salan, Prisons, pp. 160, 167.
  76. Ibid., p. 136.
  77. Ibid.
  78. Ibid., p. 166.
  79. Testimony of a driver of the Büssing firm, Erich Meyer, who transported corpses, before German police in 1946, in Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445. They were buried at the Jammertal cemetery. Information supplied by former prisoners Josef Neuhaus of Givataim concerning his father Hirsch, and by Abraham Selig, conversation with the author, Jerusalem, May 25, 1999, concerning his brother David.
  80. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445. Dr. Maurycy Mittelstedt from Poland, former KL Auschwitz prisoner, was one of the physicians in Krankenrevier Watenstedt. Resident physician, Dr. Erich Junge, claimed after the war that, thanks to his efforts, 200 prisoners were taken off work and removed to another location for rest. He did not know, however, to which location they were brought; ibid.
  81. Their ashes were interned in the Jewish cemetery in Braunschweig.
  82. See the map appended to the text, where the evacuation route is shown.
  83. Herszberg, “A Survival Story”; Zvi Koplowitz, testimony, YVA, 03.5278; Jacob Londner, testimony, ibid., M-1.E.2524.
  84. Salan, Prisons, pp. 185-187.
  85. Recollections of Bolesław Ołomucki to the author.
  86. Salan, Prisons, p. 188.
  87. A number of former prisoners mentioned this fact to the author.
  88. Salan, Prisons, p.191. This is corroborated by a note written in Uchtspringe, April 9, 1945, by Dr. Behncke, a medical service official. The note reads as follows: “On Sunday, April 8, at 10 p.m., a train from the labor camp at Watenstedt pulled up at the local station. It stayed there for a long time. There were 66 corpses on the train. The transport commander, SS-Rottenführer Winkler and Dr. Mittelstedt, a Polish physician no. 3506, asked for permission to bury the corpses to prevent putrefaction. The terminal point of the transport remained unknown. The internment of the bodies took place on Monday, April 9, in a mass grave near Uchtspringe, at the so-called Kiesberg.” The note was signed also by Winkler, senior inspector Müller, and town mayor Borchert; in Archives of the Uchtspringe Community. After the liberation the Americans ordered exhumation of the bodies. Since no name markers were found, the bodies could not be identified. According to Salan (ibid.), SS-Rottenführer Winkler took the name markers with him. At present the graves – the bodies were since buried in individual graves – are tended by the Uchtspringe Communal Council; in letter of October 4, 1999, from the Uchtspringe mayor to the author.
  89. Michał Guminer statement, Nds. StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  90. Salan (Prisons, p. 208) writes that fifty-eight Jews died, noting sarcastically: “Apparently there are various methods to murder people: gas chambers and Red Cross parcels.”
  91. Ibid., p. 210-213.
  92. Nds, StA Wf, 62 Nds Fb 2, no. 445.
  93. Ibid. No documents explaining this ruling have been preserved. In the opinion of this author, one of the reasons could have been purely “practical.” Rudolf Egger was an excellent organizer whose skills were sorely needed in rebuilding the factory and restarting production. Shortly after the war some 3,500 workers worked in the Büssing plant; together with their families, this group numbered over 10,000 people. In other words, providing them with work and income helped to prevent potential social conflict in the town, and made the work of administration easier for the British. Another director-general, Prof. Solms Wittig, met a different fate. Prof. Wittig ran the firm Steinöl GmbH (conversion of bituminous slates into propulsive materials); from the spring of 1944 until the end of March 1945, this firm employed other prisoners from KL Neuengamme. Two hundred (out of 800) prisoners died due to dreadful work and camp conditions. In contrast to Rudolf Egger, Prof. Wittig’s services were not needed, since the firm Steinöl GmbH ceased to exist after the war. In 1947, the British court in Braunschweig tried Wittig and other defendants; Wittig was sentenced to death. Records of this trial are to be found in PRO Kew, WO 235/283-289, and 309/398-399.
  94. Liedke, Gesichter, p. 175.