Reichsautobahnlager Geppersdorf (Upper Silesia), 1940–1942

Hermann F. Weiss
Original title: Reichsautobahnlager Geppersdorf (Rzędziwojowice k. Niemodlina), 1940-1942
Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka 2012
Abstract

Very few of the numerous forced labor camps for Jews in Silesia, which were not part of the concentration camp system, have been investigated in detail. This article is the first to focus completely on one of the thirteen Reichsautobahnlager (RAB camps) for Jews in western Upper Silesia, a group of camps under the jurisdiction of Oberste Bauleitungen Reichsautobahnen Breslau, the RAB regional construction management office. Starting in late 1940, this agency rented Jews from Organisation Schmelt, which was headed by SS-Oberführer Albrecht Schmelt (1899-1945). He forced the Zentrale Ältestenrat (Central Council of Jewish Elders) in Sosnowiec, which was led by Moniek Merin (1904-1943), to supply the required number of workers from eastern Upper Silesia, which was annexed by Germany in 1939. Because very few Nazi documents concerning the Geppersdorf camp exist, this paper had to rely largely on post-war evidence, including records from the International Tracing Service (Arolsen) and a considerable number of videotaped survivor testimonials. Ann Kirschner’s book, Sala’s Gift (2006) contains both her mother’s memories of Geppersdorf from its opening on October 28, 1940, to its closure in June, 1942, and documents written during her stay there, such as letters and postcards sent to her. While researchers on the Holocaust in Silesia have almost never contacted Germans expelled after 1945, recent interviews with many former inhabitants of the small village of Geppersdorf have been integrated into this paper. The increasingly harsh living conditions at Geppersdorf are described in detail, including the physically exhausting work at the RAB construction site, the constant malnourishment, the attitude of the German camp personnel, and acts of kindness by some of the villagers. The Jewish sub-hierarchy and the experiences of a small number of Jewish women, most of whom worked in the kitchen, are also discussed. While many acts of brutality occurred, mortality at Geppersdorf was relatively low. Only one of the SA guards was apprehended after the war and was sentenced to death before a Polish court because of atrocities he had committed at Geppersdorf and Auschwitz. As opposed to Gross Sarne and some other RAB camps, Geppersdorf was closed in June, 1945, instead of being transformed into a Schmelt camp. The inmates were dispersed to several Schmelt camps, including Blechhammer (Blachownia Śląska) and Gross Sarne (Sarny Wielkie).

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