Can prisoners make weapons from lights

Weapons for the Wehrmacht Forced labor in the armaments industry: HASAG - Leipzig's forgotten armory

NS model company

The decisive man for the rise of the Leipzig company to an armaments company is Paul Budin from Magdeburg. The ardent National Socialist and anti-Semite is converting the company into a NS model company. Budin - General Director of HASAG from 1935 - is a high-ranking SS man and party member, ambitious and with excellent connections to Albert Speer, who later became Minister of Armaments.

Budin stands for the unrestrained will to expand and the unconditional support of the regime. And the management level of the company is also being restructured: the executive board, supervisory board and managerial positions are being filled with members of the party and the SS.

In the mid-thirties, Edmund Heckler, a member of the NSDAP since 1933, was hired by HASAG. It is the man who, after the end of the war, was able to build up the Heckler & Koch weapons company in western Germany almost unmolested.

Edmund Heckler was also an engineer at HASAG, he worked here from 1935. Heckler was plant manager in Taucha and Altenburg and then took over these plants as director towards the end of the war.

Anne Friebel

Wilhelm Renner is also a party member and part of the management. In 1934 he brings his wife Irene and daughter Hannelore with him to Leipzig. Many years later she would become the wife of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Massive use of forced labor

September 1939: the attack on Poland. The advance of the Wehrmacht also increased German armaments factories' hunger for expansion. In a very short time, HASAG takes over Polish machine and ammunition factories in Skarżysko-Kamienna, Kielce and Częstochowa (Czestochowa).

However, with the increasing number of German workers being called up to the front, the Central German HASAG plants are short of more and more workers. The Leipzig company tries to close these gaps through the massive use of forced labor. Above all, Polish forced laborers are employed by HASAG.

In the HASAG plants in occupied Poland, the exploitation of employees is particularly unrestrained. From autumn 1942, Jews from the surrounding ghettos who were arrested during raids on the street were deported to the factory's own concentration camps. Quite a few hoped to escape the gas chamber through forced labor.

Life expectancy in Skarżysko-Kamienna, in Plant C, was three months. If you came there as a slave laborer, people died in no time because the handling of this picric acid and these other highly toxic substances immediately attacked the body.

Anne Friebel

From the summer of 1944, Jewish concentration camp prisoners - mainly from Poland - were also deployed in the central German HASAG plants. The writer Danuta Brzosko-Mędryk, who helps refugees in Warsaw after the German occupation, is one of them.

Until I came to Leipzig, we thought we'd survive. We survived Majdanek and Ravensbrück. But at HASAG I gave up all hope of surviving.

Danuta Brzosko-Mędryk (writer, former forced laborer HASAG)