Kommandos

 

Any prisoner below the rank of Corporal who was not otherwise employed in the camp was usually sent to a place of work, known as a Kommando, which was attached to and was reasonably close to the camp. The following Kommandos were a part of Stalag VIIIA:

 

No.

Town

District

Employment

Men Employed

10001

Ruckenwaldau

Bunzlow

Railway

45

10003

Siegersdorf

Bunzlow

Brickworks

33

10301

Kohlfurt

Görlitz

Coalmine

40

10503

Weltende

Herschberg

Building

80

10504

Weltende

Herschberg

Textile factory

29

11101

Greiffenberg

Lauban

Basalt works

30

11102

Kerzdorf

Lauban

Building

62

11201

Rabishau

Lowenberg

Stone mill

37

11351

Weigelsdorf

Reichenbach

Metal factory

26

11501

Weissewasser

Rothenburg

Aircraft factory

31

11502

Weissewasser

Rothenburg

Aircraft factory

44

11503

Sproitz

Rothenburg

Building

54

11504

Frunke

Rothenburg

Sawmill

64

11505

Neisky

Rothenburg

Clay pit

16

11506

Zinzendorf

Rothenburg

Clay pit

9

11507

Neisky

Rothenburg

Stone quarry

28

11508

Kalbwasser

Rothenburg

Stone quarry

20

11801

Willmausdorf

Janer

Iron foundry

15

11803

Geppersdorf

Strehlen

Brickworks

30

12001

Weizenrodau

Schweidnits

Sugar factory

28

12401

Waldenburg

Waldenburg

Glass factory

131

12402

Weisstein

Waldenburg

Coalmine

136

12403

Fellhammer

Waldenburg

Coalmine

173

12404

Wabag

Waldenburg

Coalmine

103

12701

Glatz

Glatz

Gas works

41

12702

Glatz

Glatz

Town administration

-

12703

Konigswalde

Glatz

Quarry (straf)

19

13001

Langeau

Habelschwerdt

-

23

E13252

Wartha-Frakenberg

Frakenstein

Paper factory

59

13253

Munsterberg

Frakenstein

Paper factory

40

13254

Ziegelei

Frakenstein

-

15

14502

Bodisch

Braunau

Railway

-

14503

Unter-Wekelsdorf

Frakenstein

Flax mill

73

14504

Wekelsdorf

Frakenstein

Town administration

16

14651

Mastig

Hohenelbe

Forestry

15

14652

Ober Langau

Hohenelbe

Stone work

15

14653

Hohenelbe

Hohenelbe

-

20

14654

Hackelsdorf

Hohenelbe

Building

23

14801

Gabersdorf

Trantenau

Flax factory

26

14802

Jungbuch

Trantenau

Flax factory

27

14803

Johannesbad

Trantenau

Sawmill

25

14804

Konigshau

Trantenau

Railway

69

14805

Marschendorf

Trantenau

Paper factory

75

14806

Marschendorf

Trantenau

Paper factory

59

14807

Oberaltstadt

Trantenau

-

28

14808

Oberaltstadt

Trantenau

Textile factory

57

 

The work that prisoners carried out at the Kommandos was largely of the heavy manual variety, typically with shifts of 8 to 10 hours per day, Sunday being a day of rest, though in the latter half of 1944 some Kommandos worked 12 hours a day and only every one in two Sundays was marked as a day off. Of all the types of work the coalmines were the most dangerous, however the overall risk of accident or injury was very low.

 

The coalminers of Kommando 12403

 

In the Summer of 1944 the prisoners received the following diet per day; 433g bread, 24g margarine, 35g potatoes, 39g meat, 40g white flour, and 50g sugar. Though there were a few exceptions, the living conditions for these men was not so bad, in spite of the poor sanitary arrangements, and for the most part they were clean and spacious, well ventilated in summer, warm in the winter, and the lockers allowed plenty of room for personal possessions and clothing, courtesy of the Red Cross.

 

In the main the attitude of the guards towards their prisoners was wholly satisfactory, but in the early days the French and Belgians had not had such luck. After 1942, perhaps with a sense of which way the war was heading, the Germans became much more reasonable in their behaviour, though they still reserved their contempt for the Russian workers who were given wholly insufficient nourishment and next to nothing besides.

 

As with those at the main camp, the Red Cross supplied the means necessary for sport and recreation to the Kommandos. Football, Volleyball and sometimes Cricket were played out of doors, while under a roof chess and cards were the order of the day, and at weekends all of the Kommandos had some form of Variety performance to look forward too.

 

No.10301 / 12402 / 12403 / 12404

 

I am unsure specifically which of the above coalmines this description refers to, if you can help let me know - webmaster@extraplan.demon.co.uk

 

'Our camp was on the side of a hill some two miles from the mine itself which lay down in the valley. Our barracks fortunately were new and the camp itself modern, with an excellent view of the surrounding countryside and plenty of fresh air. For the morning shift we were roused at 4.15 a.m. and left the camp at five o'clock, marching in summer and in winter scrambling through four or five feet of snow to the pit head. Changing into our working clothes we descended in the cage, some to the fourth level and some to the fifth. On the fourth level there was a walk of one and a half miles to the face, but a train ran the length of the working at the lower level where I got off, two thousand feet below, and went down another very wet shaft in another cage to the sixth level. Half a mile away was the coal face in a vertical shaft with a seam twelve inches to eight feet in width. At first the German miners drilled coal which we shovelled, but later we did our own drilling and timbering, as well as odd jobs everywhere - turning empty trucks for the return trip or watching conveyor belts as they ran.'

 

'Work finished, we returned to the lift shaft and rose to the surface at 2.45 p.m., handed in our electric lamps which weighed about eighteen pounds, had a shower and finally reached the camp at four o'clock. We had one day free every two weeks, or three weeks for surface workers, who also worked a ten-hour day and drew less bread. At first the conditions proved very depressing, but that did not last long; our own concert party was soon in action under the expressive title "The Moles".'

 

'Naturally no one ever wanted to work at all and frequently a foreman who discovered everyone sitting down would harangue us at some length with much gesticulation, provoking hilarious laughter from the culprits. This sometimes caused a free fight, and it was interesting to notice the change in the attitude of the German miners who later barracked hard on the sideline, cheering on the prisoners! Indeed, they followed go-slow tactics themselves, calling the foreman's bluff and abusing him to his face.'

 

'The snack at half-time in each shift was always an occasion for spreading what propaganda we could. The German worker's lunch invariably consisted on rye bread with a smear of margarine; ours was the same rye bread with butter and cheese, meat or fish, which did not pass unnoticed. For two small squares of chocolate a German would take over part of a shift. Once I saw a miner offered one small square of chocolate; he hesitated with it in his hand, then carefully wrapped it in a piece of paper and put it in his pocket for his children.'

 

'Our request for the twenty-four hours' weekly rest provided by the Convention met with a blank refusal. "We are quite aware that we are breaking the Geneva Convention and will take all responsibility." And then there was a Scots parachutist who had been reported by his German mate for refusing to work. "Why have you refused to work?", asked the foreman. "I hardly refused to work," came the reply in perfect German, "but merely took time off to state that it gave me the greatest displeasure to work alongside a German."'

 

'Being miners by compulsion, we had to carry the thing a step further and start a private enterprise. A tunnel was begun under the floor of our hut and reached out beneath the surrounding wire; propped and panelled with Red Cross parcel crates, and fitted with electric light, it was a beautiful job. A search for wireless sets in the compound led to its discovery -  just a few days too soon. We expected an eruption, but it was inspected by officials from near and far, whose only comment was, "You've made an excellent job of it and had a good try to get away, but you were just unfortunate. That's all, but don't do it again!"'