The chief of the “C" office in the Economic Headquarters was SS General Dr. Engineer Kammler.
In 1941 Kammler was appointed to the Economic Headquarters to take over all SS construction projects. He was an old-time Nazi Party member and SS soldier. He had fought in the Free Corps and was later in an army cavalry regiment. He later studied the building industry and became director of construction with the air force when it was being formed. Himmler sent for him because he knew him from the old days. Kammler came with Gdring’s approval to the Army Supply Headquarters. At that point the SS construction industry was split into many separate projects and was restrained because it fell into many jurisdictions. Although Pohl was the director of the Office of Building and Maintenance, he lacked a qualified expert. He found what he needed in Kammler.
By nature Kammler was open-minded and overflowing with great ideas, but in the air force he became even more liberal. Pohl really liked him and gave him a free hand, but reserved the final decisions to himself. At that time the SS was at full strength: barracks training areas, research institutes, rebuilding of the terrible old offices and finally the concentration camps, which had become very run down. Kammler appeared at Auschwitz with urgent orders from Himmler to build up the camp. My construction chief at the time was Schlachter, who, even though he was a nice enough fellow, was nonetheless a very narrow-minded person. He was one of a kind. In peace time Schlachter had been an architect in Wiirttemberg in a farm area. He lacked bold ideas. Kammler recognized this immediately and promised me a suitable man from the air force, who turned out to be Bischoff He arrived October 1, 1941.
Kammler began setting up the major building plan for Auschwitz-Birkenau following Himmler’s improvement order of March 1, 1941. It was decidedly generous. Kammler took into consideration all my experience in this field and also laid out the sequence of the projected construction. He had a complete understanding of the important questions, namely irrigation and water drainage, which had to be done quickly. He brought along a water specialist precisely for that purpose. Kammler also put urgent allotments at my disposal. He did everything to help me, but the effects of the war were already being felt. Despite the top-priority designation, the most-needed construction materials just could not be obtained in the quantities needed. Construction in Auschwitz was always sheer torture. Each time it looked like progress was being made, it had to stop because no supplies were available. And it was always the most needed that was missing. Kammler helped by taking materials from other construction sites to push Auschwitz ahead. But it was like a drop of water on a hot stove; there just was never enough. The effects of the war were too much.
Kammler also saw the miserable condition of the camp during the later years. He improvised, improved, and imported skilled workers and experts in construction. But all his efforts were useless because he could not keep up with the flood of prisoners sent to Auschv/itz, much less plan for them. Kammler did his best and took every opportunity to improve the construction problems in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He understood everything and helped where he could, but in the end he was as powerless as I was.
Kammler also helped in the other concentration camps as well as he could. He diverted a considerable amount of construction material needed for the war. This can be told today. But then? Had Himmler found out, he would have brought Kammler before the SS court. Kammler knew quite well that only healthy prisoners would do well for the war factories. Tliey had to be fully useful physically and able to perform the job. Besides that, he needed them for the backbreaking daytime work. Kammler often discussed with me questions concerning the prisoners. He also spoke several times with Himmler when the right occasion arose. But Himmler just shrugged it off saying it was not his concern, even after Kammler told him that half-dead prisoners could not produce a single SS weapon.
Kammler was supposed to build, build, build for the war production, for the troops, for the police whose projects Kammler had to take over also, for the concentration camps, and for the special jobs Himmler gave him, and then again for the war production, and then when he had to move the shafts in the mines. As far as the numbers of workers are concerned, there weren’t many available from the minister of labor, Sauckel, but prisoners—there were an abundance of them; but in what condition! With them Kammler was supposed to achieve the impossible—“Something that has never been done before,” as demanded by Himmler. According to Himmler the V rockets were to be produced in large quantities by prisoners! Kammler wasn’t easy to bring to his knees but through such demanding orders he often lost courage. He produced and produced; he used up countless construction chiefs and coworkers. It wasn’t easy to work for him. He
Demanded too much work from a man.
Kammler had incredible powers over the mining operation. He had his own police force with special courts which proceeded rigorously and without mercy against any delay. It made no difference if the delay was caused by saboteurs, directors, engineers, construction chiefs, skilled German workers, foreign workers, or prisoners.
Himmler demanded the completion dates be strictly adhered to since he had told Hitler that the projects would be completed on that date. Kammler was often in very tight situations as far as time was concerned, but thanks to an incredibly tough will and his powers of creativity, he was able to keep up the mining operation, even though almost two years had been lost. By then the air raids, had started, just when the mining production had barely begun. The air raids made all attempts to work just an illusion. Kammler had remarkable achievements in the production of the V-1 and the V-2 rockets, and received orders to deploy these weapons. Kammler took soldiers and officers from all branches of the armed forces and created the V-1 Division. They launched as many rockets as could be manufactured. This number decreased, however, from day to day because either the factories that made the parts were under air attack or the transportation routes were being bombed. In the area of Mittelbau where most of the V weapons were produced there were thousands of completed or half-finished V rockets lying around. This just plugged up everything. Of the finished rockets only a small number reached the launch sites because the railroads were under daily air attacks from enemy bombers.
On Kammler’s orders, railroad brigades were formed. These consisted of 500 prisoners each and were transported in specially equipped freight trains to the bombed areas, where they quickly began to repair the damage. These work details had special tools and made remarkable achievements. The prisoners were carefully selected and lived on these trains, which were much better than living in the camps. But they also were in constant danger because of the bombing, and they suffered very high casualties. The same thing happened to the troops guarding them. The war had truly become total! The construction brigades also had to thank Kammler for their fate. These prisoners were in Kommandos of up to 1200 men strong and were deployed in larger cities in the West and in Berlin. They had to clear away the bomb damage at vital sites as quickly as possible. They also had to clear the mountains of rubble from the transportation lanes.
In the beginning of 1944 Kammler received orders to build a headquarters for Hitler in the rocks on the maneuver grounds in Ohrdorf in Thuringia, The construction deadline was so short that there was hardly time to finish planning it. Himmler had ordered that for this project only prisoners be used for reasons of secrecy. There were supposed to be thirty thousand prisoners
Used for this project. It was possible to get that number by using mostly Jews from Austria who had “backed up” there. Most of them arrived in a completely rundown condition. And it worsened by living in tents, dugouts, provisional barracks, wearing their totally ragged clothing and not getting enough to eat. After working hard for a few days or a few weeks they died.
The deployment of prisoners ordered and repeatedly inspected by Himmler caused thousands and even more thousands to die without accomplishing anything useful. The construction project was never finished.
Kammler was saddled with this mess, and he did all he could to alleviate the worst of the conditions. The blame for all this lies fully on Himmler’s head because if his promises to Hitler, which could never have been carried out, and also his “I don’t want to see anything” attitude toward the problems. Kammler was tireless when it came to work. He had many good ideas; he was firmly planted in reality and was able to assess the damages well. He was able to see through all his coworkers and, of course, demanded every last thing from them. He hoped to achieve the impossible by force and finally had to admit that the war was stronger than he was. He lived a very simple, humble personal life and had a good family.