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Messerschmitt card for concentration camp prisoners

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1 969/IaAlbin Georg24196Koch28.1.192011847A131.45Pole60/9Leerer Bereich unten

This is what is known as a Messerschmitt card for concentration camp prisoners. These cards were created for prisoners who were forced to work in two satellite camps for the Messerschmitt aircraft company. The cards are all structured in the same way and are therefore very similar. However, the date on which the prisoner was transferred back to the main camp is noted or stamped on some cards. On account of the quality of the microfilm, some of these cards are very hard to read.

This is what is known as a Messerschmitt card for concentration camp prisoners. These cards were created for prisoners who were forced to work in two satellite camps for the Messerschmitt aircraft company. The cards are all structured in the same way and are therefore very similar. However, the date on which the prisoner was transferred back to the main camp is noted or stamped on some cards. On account of the quality of the microfilm, some of these cards are very hard to read.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    The so-called “Messerschmitt cards” were created for concentration camp prisoners and foreign forced laborers who had to work in the Augsburg-Pfersee and Leonberg satellite camps for the Messerschmitt aircraft company. The company used prisoners to construct fighter planes, an armaments project that was considered critical to the war. Each of the two production sites was assigned to a main camp: Augsburg-Pfersee was under the administration of Dachau concentration camp, and Leonberg was a satellite camp of Natzweiler concentration camp. To manage everyone working in the plants – including concentration camp prisoners and forced laborers – the responsible Messerschmitt employees created their own registration card file, which they updated themselves. In 1944, 35 percent of the people working for Messerschmitt were concentration camp prisoners.

  • When was the document used?

    These cards were created for concentration camp prisoners who were forced to work for Messerschmitt in Augsburg-Pfersee or Leonberg in the last two years of the war, 1944 and 1945. Other cards for civilian forced laborers, which can also be found in the ITS archive, come from the year 1942, before Messerschmitt began using concentration camp prisoners.

  • What was the document used for?

    Starting in 1942, the German armaments industry strove to use more concentration camp prisoners as laborers. Companies could either provide their own food and accommodation for the prisoners, or they could establish production sites right inside the concentration camps. In this case, they would supply the necessary materials and skilled workers to train the prisoners, and they would pay the concentration camp administration for the prisoners’ labor as well as their food and accommodation in the camp. Messerschmitt did both: The company moved some of its aircraft production to the Mauthausen-Gusen, Flossenbürg and Dachau concentration camps, but satellite camps were also set up in Augsburg-Pfersee and Leonberg, for example, to which concentration camp prisoners were transferred.

    The Augsburg-Pfersee satellite camp opened in the spring of 1944 and existed until April 1945. With 1,500 to 2,000 male prisoners, it was one of the larger satellite camps of Dachau. With subordinate satellite camps in Bäumenheim and Horgau, the Augsburg-Pfersee satellite camp was responsible for a total of over 6,400 prisoners, all of whom worked for Messerschmitt. If prisoners fell ill or their supervisors were no longer satisfied with their work, they could be transported back to Dachau. An exchange also took place with the Leonberg satellite camp, which existed from April 1944 to April 1945. In this camp, around 3,000 concentration camp prisoners from over twenty countries were forced to construct wings for the Me262 aircraft in a disused highway tunnel that had been converted into a two-story production facility. The shifts in the “Presswerk Leonberg” (the code name for the facility) lasted 12 hours, and Sundays were the only day that the prisoners did not have to work. Many of the Leonberg prisoners had previously been imprisoned in Dachau or directly in the Augsburg-Pfersee satellite camp. When they were no longer “able to work,” they were also sent back to Dachau.

    Before concentration camp prisoners were used for labor, many civilian forced laborers had worked in the Messerschmitt production plants. For administrative purposes, Messerschmitt created card files for all “employees,” which included German civilians as well as forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners. Since there were different basic conditions for the different groups, their cards were also different. The cards for concentration camp prisoners can be identified by the two multi-digit numbers found on them: the employee number at Messerschmitt on the second line on the left, and the prisoner number from the concentration camp on the right, next to the prisoner’s date of birth. For civilian forced laborers, on the other hand, social security contributions had to be paid; these were listed on their cards. The cards therefore bore all of the important information required internally by the company. If prisoners were transferred back to a camp, this could also be noted on the cards.

    The Messerschmitt cards were produced on ADREMA machines (short for addressing machines). This system, which was used very widely in Germany, involved stamping various individual pieces of information about a person into metal plates. When the plates were inserted in the machine, the operator could decide which information should be printed.

  • How common is the document?

    In April 1974, the company Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm GmbH gave its card file from the 1940s to the ITS. The ITS made microfilm copies of the cards. These black-and-white scans were added to the digital collection of Dachau concentration camp. The ITS also still has the original cards.

    Most of these cards have writing on both sides. This is because they were first created for forced laborers or German civilians. When these people stopped working for Messerschmitt, the information on the front of the card was crossed out and the back was used for a concentration camp prisoner. The 4,607 cards therefore actually have information about almost twice as many forced laborers, concentration camp prisoners and even a few German civilian employees. However, by far not all of the cards for the concentration camp prisoners forced to work for Messerschmitt have been preserved.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    The cards preserved by the ITS cover only some of the concentration camp prisoners who were forced to work for Messerschmitt. From the spring of 1943, Messerschmitt increasingly moved its production from Regensburg to Flossenbürg and Mauthausen-Gusen. One year later, there were already over 3,000 prisoners working in aircraft construction in the Flossenbürg main camp. Flossenbürg also had numerous external labor details, including Altenhammer, where around 560 prisoners were forced to work for Messerschmitt at the end of 1944 and start of 1945. Their cards have not come down to the ITS. The ITS only has card files that were created for prisoners from Dachau (the Augsburg-Pfersee detail) and Natzweiler (the Leonberg detail). However, the cards do not directly indicate which of the two camps a prisoner was assigned to. This must be determined on a case-by-case basis by comparing the prisoner numbers.

    Unlike the cards for forced laborers and German employees, the cards for concentration camp prisoners do not indicate when the prisoners started working for Messerschmitt. To find out more precise information about their path of persecution, it is necessary to consult other sources, such as the registry office cards from Dachau concentration camp. However, when the archive of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial compared these cards, it found that the information on the Messerschmitt cards did not always match the other sources, which means they might be inaccurate. It is also important to note that there might be multiple cards for many prisoners.

    If you have any additional information about this document or any other documents described in the e-Guide, we would appreciate it very much if you could send your feedback to eguide(at)its-arolsen.org. The document descriptions are updated regularly – and the best way for us to do this is by incorporating the knowledge you share with us.

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