Blechhammer was established in April 1942 near Kozle, a town 18.5 miles (30 km) west of Gliwice, Poland. Blechhammer was initally a labor camp for Jews. The original 350 prisoners built a synthetic gasoline plant.for the Oberschlesische Hydriewerke (Upper Silesia Hydrogenation Works). When 120 prisoners contracted typhus, they were transferred to Auschwitz, where they were killed. That June the remaining prisoners were transferred to a new and larger camp that had been built nearby.
The camp was populated primarily by Jews from Upper Silesia, however, among the 5,500 prisoners were people from 15 different countries. They were housed in wooden barracks under appalling conditions, with no toilet or washing facilities. Some 200 female Jewish prisoners were put into a separate section of the camp. Hunger and disease were rife, especially diarrhea and tuberculosis. A crematorium was built, in which were cremated the bodies of 1,500 prisoners who had died from "natural" causes or had been killed.
List of the industries established in Blechhammer
- Camp no. 2: Beton- + Monierbau
- Camp no. 6 Fa. (firm) Krause
- Camp no. 9 Fa. Uhde
- Camp no. 14 Isolierbetrieb
- Camp no. 15 Fa. Roesner
- Camp no. 21 Kraftwerk
- Camp no. 22 Fa. Niederdruck
- Camp no. 24 Schwelerei
- Camp no. 25 AEG Gleiwitz
- Camp no. 28 Betriebskontrolle
- Camp no. 30 OHW Holzlagerung
- Camp no. 36 Fa. Dyckerhoff + Widmann
- Camp no. 40 Fa. Peters
- Camp no. 49 Fa. Pook + Gruen
*The firms Uhde, AEG, Dyckerhoff + Widmann are widely known and still in existence.
On April 1, 1944, administration of the camp was transferred to Auschwitz, and it became the satellite camp Auschwitz IV. Hauptsturmfuhrer Otto Brossmann was the camp commandant until November 1944, when he was replaced by Untersturmfuhrer Kurt Klipp.
The first 3,056 male prisoners of Blechhammer had tattoos from Auschwitz — numbers 176,512-179,567 — and 132 female prisoners — numbers 76,330-76,461. Prisoners declared “unable to work” were sent by the camp administration to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) to be murdered, other “healthy” workers were sent from Auschwitz to Blechhammer instead.
On September 9, 1944, American bombers destroyed large parts of the plants of the "Oberschlesische Hydrierwerke AG" in Blechhammer and of the oil refinery in nearby Trzebinia.
On January 21, 1945, 4,000 prisoners, including 150 women, were taken out of the camp and put on a death march lasting 13 days. Several dozen prisoners who tried to hide in Blechhammer during the evacuation were discovered and killed on the spot.
The prisoners each got 800 grams of bread, a small portion of margarine, and artificial honey for their march. Some 800 prisoners were killed en route. On February 2, the survivors reached the Gross-Rosen camp, where they remained for five days before being put on a train to Buchenwald. The prisoners stayed in Gross-Rosen for 5 days. Then they boarded a train to Buchenwald (Feb. 6 or 7). On the way the train, was attacked several times by Allied planes, which caused many deaths.
The total number of forced laborers working in all camps at Blechhammer (not only the sub-camp of Auschwitz III) and surroundings reached abou 48,000 people. This included 2,000 British Prisoners of war.