SUBCAMP RIESE (AUSSENLAGER RIESE)
The “AL Riese” of the KZ Groß-Rosen consisted of 4 major and 12 minor camps. They were run by the OT, as all prisoners kept there were assigned to the construction of “Komplex Riese.” It is estimated that between 1943 and 1945 a total of 13,300 prisoners were living in the camps, guarded by 853 men. These guards were under the command of seven Wehrmacht officers, who themselves were under the command of SS Head Storm Leader Karl Beblo. Head of administration was SS Senior Storm Leader Albert Lütkemeyer. The camp physician was Dr Heinrich Rindfleisch, to whom 63 physicians and 56 nurses from among the camp inmates were assigned. Starting in autumn 1944, he worked in the new central infirmary in Dörnau. It is known that 3648 prisoners died of disease and exhaustion, caused by bad living conditions in the camp, malnutrition, hard physical labour and abuse. The deportation of 857 exhausted prisoners to Auschwitz as well as 14 planned executions after failed escape attempts are also documented. Upon the impending arrival of the Red Army, the camp was evacuated. Up to 9,000 prisoners were taken via Trautenau to Flossenbürg, Bergen-Belsen and the Mauthausen subcamp Ebensee. Several thousands were left behind and freed by the Red Army. Even after the liberation many former inmates died from long-term consequences of their time in the camps; so when talking about Komplex Riese, a total number of 5,000 victims who lost their lives would probably be the most appropriate estimate.
Individual Camps of “AL Riese”
The first camp of “AL Riese” was in Wüstegiersdorf/Tannhausen. Up to 2,000 prisoners were kept in a three-storey factory building surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The inmates were guarded by 75 men. Most prisoners were used for the construction of tunnels and railways at Ramenberg and Säuferhöhen. They were also assigned to other work related to the construction of Komplex Riese. Some inmates of the camp were selected for deportation to Auschwitz by camp physician Rindfleisch. The factory building was again used for the manufacture of technical components after the war had ended.
In late 1943, another camp was set up in a factory building at Dörnau; in 1944, it had to be completely evacuated and re-established after an outbreak of typhoid fever. Up to 2,000 prisoners were kept in this camp. Starting in mid-1944, this camp was used as a central infirmary, located on the second floor of the building. Many patients died due to wilful neglect. The prisoners were used for street construction work, sewer work and underground construction work related to Komplex Riese. After the liberation of the remaining inmates the building was returned to its original purpose as a factory.
In November 1943, a camp with about 1,500 inmates was set up in a closed-down weaving mill in Wüstewaltersdorf. After the camp’s evacuation made necessary by an outbreak of typhoid fever in June 1944, a hospital with 600 beds for OT employees replaced the camp.
The camp in Oberwüstegiersdorf was also called “Schotterwerk” (“gravel mill”). The 400 to 500 prisoners kept there worked in a quarry supplying the construction sites at Säuferhöhen and Ramenberg. The ruins of the barracks can be seen even today.
Camp Wolfsberg – situated between Hausdorf und Wüstewaltersdorf – was the largest camp of AL Riese. According to historical sources, about 3,000 prisoners were kept there in November 1944. They had to do excavation work on the tunnels as well as other work related to construction and transport of supplies. Many of the inmates lived in tents, i.e., their living conditions were especially horrible in autumn and winter. 612 deaths due to work accidents, exhaustion, disease and planned execution are known to have occurred in Wolfsberg. The camp was evacuated as early as February 1945. Ruins of the camp can still be found in the forest. Moreover, there is a large number of petrified cement sacks – remains of the camp’s former storerooms.
In November 1944, a central infirmary was set up in Tannhausen; in contrast to the infirmary in Dörnhau it was reserved for patients with a good chance of recovery. The patients were housed in four brick barracks. Although the infirmary was officially closed in February 1945, it still remained in use until the end of the war. Three barracks are used today as residential homes and a kindergarten.
In June 1944, a camp for about 800 prisoners was set up in the Märzbach Valley near Wüstegiersdorf. The prisoners worked on the tunnel at Ramenberg. Here, Dr Rindfleisch performed selections as well, leading to the deportation of about 30 inmates to Auschwitz. In October 1944, the commander of “AL Riese”, Lütkemeyer, had all prisoners under the age of 16 brought to Märzbach Valley. These 301 minors were deported to Auschwitz. All over the local area, some remnants of the camp can still be seen today.
Between the camps at Märzbach Valley and Kaltwasser, Camp Lärche was set up. Although it was built rather late – in December 1944 –, up to 2,000 prisoners were kept there. They were used for construction work on the Ramenberg part of Komplex Riese. The gradual closing of this camp already began in January 1945. Up until today, remnants of buildings and streets remain visible.
Camp Säuferwasser was near Dörnhau. Set up in August 1944, about 500 prisoners were kept here. Their task was to work on the tunnels on the slope of the Säuferhöhen and the surrounding buildings.
Camp Fürstenstein was set up near the castle of the same name. Here, between 700 and 1,000 prisoners were kept, who were mainly used for excavation work underneath the castle. A memorial plaque points out the remaining ruins of the camp.
Camp Kaltwasser was located between Oberwüstegiersdorf and Kaltwasser. Starting in August 1944, up to 2,000 prisoners were kept there. The inmates were guarded by about a 100 members of the SS who – according to witnesses – did not refrain from violent acts. The camp was closed in December 1944. Up until today, the foundations of several buildings remain visible.
Camp Falkenberg was located between Ludwigsdorf and Falkenberg. Up to 1,500 prisoners were kept there who had to work on the local tunnel system. The camp was closed in February 1945. Ruins of the barracks can still be seen in the area.
Camp Erlenbusch was set up in May 1944 with a total capacity for up to 500 prisoners. They were responsible for supplying the tunnels at Wolfsberg and Hausdorf with construction materials. In May 1945, the SS fled from the Red Army, leaving the inmates behind. No visible remnants of this camp remain.