Brünnlitz labor camp
The Brünnlitz labor camp (Arbeitslager Brünnlitz) was a forced labor camp of Nazi Germany which was established in 1944 just outside the town of Brněnec (Brünnlitz in German), Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, solely as a site for an armaments factory run by German industrialist Oskar Schindler, which was in actuality a front for a safe haven for Schindlerjuden. Administratively, it was a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp system.
|Nazi concentration camp|
The remains of the main factory at Brünnlitz in 2004
|Other names||Arbeitslager Brünnlitz|
|Known for||Schindler's List|
|Location||Brněnec, Czech Protectorate|
|Operated by||Nazi Germany and the Schutzstaffel|
|Original use||Armaments factory|
|Operational||October 1944 – January 1945|
|Number of inmates||1,200|
|Liberated by||Soviet Union, 9 May 1945|
|Notable inmates||Abraham Bankier, Joseph Bau, Moshe Bejski, Laura Hillman, Ryszard Horowitz, Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, Leon Leyson, Mietek Pemper, Poldek Pfefferberg, Leo Rosner, Itzhak Stern|
As of 2019, the factory site sits abandoned, however there are plans to turn it into a museum.
Command and control
The Brünnlitz labor camp was administratively a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp system. The camp was assigned an SS garrison consisting of about one hundred SS guards and female staff. The commander of the camp was SS-Obersturmführer Josef Leipold. From the very beginning, Schindler told the SS his factory would not operate as a typical camp, forbade guards to punish or harass the camp inmates, and barred any SS member from entering the operational part of the factory.
Brünnlitz labor camp was created in the fall of 1944, after Oskar Schindler learned that his work force of over one thousand Jews were to be killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. A large segment of Schindler's labor force were in fact unskilled workers, which Schindler had been protecting under the guise of essential labor, and Schindler knew they would not stand up to scrutiny at Auschwitz and would be exterminated per Nazi policy. Using the last of his considerable black market wealth, Schindler bribed SS and Nazi officials to transfer his entire workforce from his factory in Kraków to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The transport list, the famous "Schindler's List", was created through bribery with the SS charging a fee for each worker Schindler took with him to Brünnlitz.
The "concentration camp" at Brünnlitz was simply a factory complex, with an attached barracks for the workers, and no real external security to speak of. A token front gate and a perimeter fence were all the camp had in ways of preventing escape, however every Jew at the complex was grateful to be there and hoped to survive the war under Schindler's protection. The SS at the camp were left with little to do, to which Schindler took advantage by supplying alcohol and good food, in order to keep the SS away from his workers.
Between November 1944 and January 1945, the Brünnlitz labor camp was visited several times by former Płaszów commandant Amon Göth, who considered himself a friend to Schindler. The inmates at Brünnlitz, many of whom had suffered harshly under Göth, remarked that he was a physically changed man and looked feeble and pathetic compared to his early tenure when he was a figure who commanded absolute fear and terror.
Oskar Schindler went bankrupt keeping his factory running, mainly due to bribes to the SS and the purchase of armaments from other facilities, so that his factory would not contribute to the war effort and thus, in Schindler's mind, hasten its end. The Red Army liberated Brünnlitz on May 9, 1945. A few days prior, the SS guards had deserted and Schindler had escaped to American lines with the help of his Jewish workers, having been given a letter written by his workers attesting to his rescue activities.
As of October 2016, Jaroslav Novak and the Endowment Fund for the Memorial of the Shoah and Oskar Schindler has purchased the site where the camp was located and plans to convert it into a museum.
- 1840s: The Low-Beer Jewish family moved into the area. They set up the factory, making high-quality textiles.
- 1938: The Germans occupied Czechoslovakia. The Low-Beer family fled to Britain. Germans took over the factory.
- 1944: Oskar Schindler brought his Jews to Brněnec and started to work the factory.
- May 1945: Russians liberated Brněnec. Afterwards, the Communist government of Czechoslovakia nationalized the factory.
- 1989: Fall of Communism. The factory went into private hands. In its last years the factory made car seat covers and airline blankets. Its last general manager was František Olbert.
- 2010: The factory closed and was left abandoned. Afterwards, thieves stripped out much of its wood and metal.
- 2017: The local government of Brno invited the Low-Beers to come back to the area. František Olbert approached Daniel Low-Beer.
- Daniel Low-Beer works for the World Health Organization in Geneva and runs the Ark Foundation, which owns the factory. There is a plan to turn the derelict factory into a museum called Schindler's Ark.
- Snyder, T. "Encyclopedia of the Third Reich", Wordsworth Editions Ltd (1998)
- Crowe, David, Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List, Westview Press (2004)
- Tait, Robert (11 October 2016). "Fate of former Schindler's list factory is met with Czech ambivalence". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- Day, Matthew (24 February 2019). "British descendant of Schindler factory owner to turn derelict building into museum". The Sunday Telegraph. p. 13.