Most prisoners performed hard manual labour. By 1944, many worked on “relocation projects”. To protect German war production from Allied bombs, Nazi leaders relocated it partly underground. Prisoners were forced to build tunnels and shelters for arms factories and fuel refineries, housed in satellite camps nearby. These camps included several around Kaufering (attached to Dachau), where prisoners helped to build massive bunkers for aircraft factories. Around half of the 30,000 prisoners (mostly Jewish men) taken to Kaufering in 1944–5 lost their lives. One survivor was Ladislaus Ervin-Deutsch, a young Jew, who had been deported from Hungary to Auschwitz in summer 1944, and later to Kaufering.

046 – The Jewish survivor Ladislaus Ervin-Deutsch on night shifts in a Kaufering satellite camp

We reached our work place at seven in the evening; it was a huge building site in the forest. We couldn’t work out what it was for or how big it was. We never did find out. Although we worked there for two months this construction site was not completed. Roads, embankments for narrow-gauge railways, small locomotives, countless wagons, piles of rails, […] huge warehouses, thousands and thousands of sacks of cement, boards, beams and iron girders […].

Prisoners at the Kaufering building site (1944/5)

KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau

During the first night I was assigned to lay concrete […]. There was a terrible noise and huge confusion all around us. The light railway rattled, a small group worked laying rails, large concrete mixers thundered and two or three diggers furiously ripped out the roots of the trees that had been felled and piled them up in a heap. In all this noise there was also a confusion of different languages, as at the building of the Tower of Babel. […]

Deaths no longer aroused much interest

The days and weeks passed by. […] People dragged themselves to work and back, stumbled and sometimes somebody fell down. During the work people’s movements became uncertain, some people dropped their tools – in our group such things were punished with a blow with a rifle butt. There were also those who fell off the scaffolding, stumbled over the rails […] and fell under the wheels of trains. The sickness rate went up as well as the number of accidents. Deaths no longer aroused much interest or any sympathy unless they involved a close friend. Sickness, accidents, death – they were daily occurrences to which we had become accustomed, as with the roll calls and the work. The continual exhaustion made people indifferent.

Source: Dachauer Hefte, vol. 2 (Munich 1993), pp. 104–11

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes