The establishment of the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp in Fallersleben (today Wolfsburg) on the grounds of the Volkswagen plant was a pilot project for armaments production. Arbeitsdorf was not officially a satellite camp but rather an independent concentration camp. The camp was initially under the control of Martin Weiß, who was simultaneously the commandant of Neuengamme concentration camp. In early April 1942, the first 500 of a total of 800 prisoners from Neuengamme main camp were transferred to Arbeitsdorf. They were joined by other prisoners from Sachsenhausen concentration camp on 26 April 1942 and from Buchenwald concentration camp on 23 June. Most of these prisoners were trained construction workers. Because the majority of the levelling, pipe-laying and paving work was carried out manually, numerous accidents occurred. At least six prisoners died, with their causes of death listed as "heart and circulatory failure", "accident" or "suicide". The men were fed somewhat better than they had been in their previous camps, and they slept in air-raid shelters on wooden pallets.
In mid-July 1942, the camp was taken over by Wilhelm Schitli, the officer formerly in charge of the prisoners' barracks (Schutzhaftlagerführer) at Neuengamme concentration camp. The Arbeitsdorf camp was disbanded in the first half of October 1942 because the Ministry of Armaments and Munitions had not approved Volkswagen’s plans for operating an aluminium foundry at the site. The building that had been constructed to contain the foundry was used later for other purposes. Nonetheless, as regards the SS plan to use concentration camp prisoners for armaments production, the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp proved to be an important experiment in the systematic exploitation of concentration camp prisoners for industrial purposes.
Early April 1942 to 1 October 1942
800 Male Prisoners
Documentation on the Victims of National-Socialist Tyranny: Stadtmuseum Schloss Wolfsburg, Schlossremise, Schlossstraße 8, 38448 Wolfsburg, Germany (from the central bus station on Porschestraße, take bus 1 to the "Schloss" stop).
Memorial to Forced Labour: VW "Autostadt" on the Mittellandkanal (extensively signposted).
An exhibition entitled "Documentation on the Victims of National-Socialist Tyranny" opened in the Stadtmuseum Schloss Wolfsburg in 1990 and was extensively reworked in 2000. One section of the exhibition on the second floor is dedicated to the history of prisoner labour at Volkswagen. This part of the exhibition focuses on labour at the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp as well as everyday life in the men's and women's satellite camps at Fallersleben in 1944/45.
When the history of forced labour at Volkswagen became a topic of discussion in Wolfsburg in the mid-1980s, Volkswagen AG began to confront its own history by commissioning a research paper on slave labourers at VW and providing funds for humanitarian projects and reparations, among other things. In December 1999, Volkswagen AG set up a "Memorial to Forced Labour" in a former bunker on its factory grounds. The part of the memorial dealing with concentration camp prisoners documents the history of the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp.
Memorial to Forced Labour: The exhibition can be visited after registering at the VW company archive.
Stadtmuseum Schloss Wolfsburg
Tel.: +49 (0) 5361 – 8 28 54 0 (register for memorial workshops on tel. +49 (0) 5361 – 2 75 73 9)
Brieffach 19 74
Tel.: +49 (0) 5361 – 9 75 66 7
Fax: +49 (0) 5361 – 9 76 95 7