This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria” .
Retracing my uncle Jan’s footsteps from Dachau, where he might have been buried, to the location where the last registration of his name has been discovered, we arrive at Saal an der Donau. Saal, as it is often referred to, lies along the Danube riverbanks, just over a hundred kilometres from Flossenbürg main-camp. As explained in an earlier post, at Dachau I found out some of the intricacies of the Nazi penal system. One of the eye-openers proved to be the existence of countless satellite camps related to the main concentration camps. In Saal an der Donau there was such a site.
The subcamp itself was part of a top-secret Nazi war strategy to assemble fighter planes subterraneously. Aircrafts were built in the Bavarian city of Regensburg by the company Messerschmitt. Bombing by the Allies was however causing serious damage to the production facilities in 1944. Production shifted to places spread out in the larger Regensburg area. One of the locations marked as ideal for this project was the Ringberg at Saal an der Donau near Kelheim.
Twenty five kilometres southwest from Regensburg lies a chalk hill, the Ringberg. This location was chosen to be the place where Me 262, the first Messerschmitt jet plane, was to be manufactured. Ringberg Messerschmitt, shortened to Ring-Me became the code name for this, soon to be hellish, location. Building preparations were started in June 1944 by local companies commanded by the Nazis. These included building firms which had many forced labourers working for them. Later this workforce was supplemented with concentration camp prisoners.
Starting in November 1944 prisoners from the main-camp Flossenbürg were transported to Saal, and a number of transports followed, including the one on the15th of February 1945 which brought Jan van Boeckel. An administrative list from 1945 (ITS) shows that at the end of February there were 671 prisoners at the camp, most of them from Poland, Russia and Czechoslovakia. 107 of these prisoners were Jewish, some were prisoners of war and many were former forced labourers or political prisoners. From the end of February to the end of March, within one month, 13% of these prisoners had already died there. Benz (2007) states that there were 73 SS-guards, which means that at the end of February there was one guard to nine prisoners.
Want to know more? Read the novel about the Quest for Jan van Boeckel.