Muna Lubberstedt, ammunition factory
(Satellite camp of Neuengamme concentration camp)
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.
Friday 4 May is the day I had been waiting for. We were to go on a private tour
of Muna Lubberstedt. This was the culmination of almost 2 years or research.
When I started this investigation I never imagined it would result in this family
pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to such an unholy destination.
We all had breakfast together in the Holiday Inn, Mindu, Nicola, Alex, David
and myself. It was Mindu's 89th birthday. She was to celebrate by
visiting the ammunition factory that she was imprisoned in for 8 months, 73
years ago -it was a celebration of her survival. At 9.30 a.m. a mini bus came to
collect us with Barbara Lorber and her grandsons already on board. We also
travelled with the two minders and a cameraman all from the Neuengamme
Memorial. It is about a 2-hour drive to Lubberstedt from the centre of
Survivors talk to German school children at the Community House in Axstedt
During the bus ride to Muna Lubberstedt there was much chatting and
excitement between the various offspring, the 2 survivors and minders.
However, the atmosphere became more sombre when we reached the
Community House in Axstedt, which is 5 minutes’ drive from Muna
Lubberstedt. About 20 School children around the age of 15 soon arrived via
train with their teacher, to hear both Barbara and Mindu talk about their
experiences in Auschwitz and the satellite camp. You could hear a pin drop as
the two women spoke. As Barbara speaks German fluently she did most of the
talking. Both survivors cried at times. Some of the students cried too. It was an
impressive, authentic history lesson.
Photo Barbara Lorber and Mindu Hornick talking to school children in Axstedt Community
Hartmut Oberstech, who I had met at the Baseler Hof Hotel, was also at the
Community House, as he was to conduct our tour of Muna Lubberstedt. He
had taken the day off work especially for this event. He also went out of his
way to bring us lunch after the talk ,a delicious soup in a large cauldron . We
ate in the Community House with school teachers and other members of the
voluntary association, “MUNA Lübberstedt “including Barbara Hillman, Erdwig
Kramer , Rudy Kahrs, and Ilsabe and Ulrich Tienken. We greatly appreciated
their hospitality. Finally, we were driven to the former ammunition factory.
Lunch at the Community House of Axstedt
Private tour of Lubberstedt
Our tour of Muna Lubberstedt was a private tour. The group consisted of 8
family members, several volunteers from the Muna association ,2 minders, 1
cameraman and 1 journalist.
We arrived at a home that was built on part of the ammunition factory ruins.
The property had been sold to the family in the 1950s before its historical
significance was understood. On this private property stands the remains
of one of the air raid shelters used by prisoners and SS when the RAF were
bombing the area .The owners of the land are forbidden to tear this shelter
down. . This was the last time the owners would give permission for any tour
to enter the former factory grounds via their home, so we were lucky to gain
entrance to see this.
We walked around the outside of their home and garden area and
then over green fields, to an air raid shelter. It was over grown with shrubs
and dilapidated. The survivors did not recognise it. They recounted how
towards the end of the war, they were crammed inside the shelter at night and
had to sit on concrete until the air raid was over. They were exhausted from
working and wanted to lie down and sleep in their barrack. Barbara said one
time she did not go to the bomb shelter, even though her mother begged her
to. She remained in her barrack, exhausted and was lying in her bed when an
SS female guard came to check and started to beat Barbara with a truncheon.
Luckily, another SS guard came in, one who favoured Barbara, as she was a
good singer for the morning march to work, so the beating stopped. I recalled
that my aunt Elizabeth Just also told me she once hid in a cupboard in her
barrack to avoid going to the shelter. She was also discovered by a female SS
guard who beat her on the back with a truncheon. Unfortunately for my
aunt, no- one interrupted this beating.
Mindu Hornick standing in front of the air raid shelter she hated to enter
Part of our group outside the
air raid shelter
We stood in the fields surrounded by forest just as my mother said. I realized
how the forest provided protection against aerial reconnaissance. Once again
it was perfect weather, with blue skies and shining sun. Hartmut explained
where the other buildings would have been. Everything apart from this bomb
shelter is gone-the prisoner barracks, the kitchen, the wash facilities, the roll
call area, the bomb production area, all gone. The production facilities were
blown up at the end of the war by the Wehrmacht to hide their crimes.
Other buildings had fallen into disrepair and were torn down before their
significance was appreciated. Just green fields that merged into surrounding
forest remain, now preserved and not to be touched. At first I was upset
there were no buildings to see but then I felt it was perfect this way. What
mattered is that I had finally arrived and I was fortunate enough to do so with
My son, David Eldar standing in the field where his great grandmother, grandmother, great
aunt and other family members had worked as slave labourers for the Nazi regime.
We walked from the air raid shelter, towards the bomb production area, a
walk the prisoners did 6 days a week, singing in German, for 8 months, from
summer August 1944, through winter, until Spring, April 1945. I walked beside
Barbara our arms linked. One of her grandsons was on her other side. Ahead of
us were Mindu with her daughter and grandson. My son David was further
ahead. We were surrounded by forest. It was still. We walked in
freedom, safe. Our walk was recorded on camera.
The prisoners’ routine was daily roll call at 5 am, followed by breakfast
consisting of a brownish broth called “coffee" and 4 slices of bread per day.
Later as the war progressed and supplies diminished it was 4 slices of bread
per week. The prisoners then walked to work in step, singing in German,
guarded by SS female guards. The walk to the production area was 1.5
kilometres, and to bunker storage area was 5 kilometres. The walk during
winter was difficult especially for those women who only had wooden clogs for
shoes. Lunch was a soup at the factory. The work shifts were 10 to 12 hrs and
the prisoners worked day and night shifts too. After their return to the
barracks in the evening, there was another roll call followed by dinner of bread
and maybe some sausage or quark. My grandmother Berta Ruttner, had a job
as cook for the SS in the kitchen, so she supplemented her family’s meals by
stealing potatoes to help them survive. She did this risking her own life.
Luftwaffe paid 2 Marks a day for each unskilled labourer and the SS received
The work of the women involved filling, assembling, packing and loading
bombs for Luftwaffe, which resulted in serious damage to their health. The
chemical fumes turned their hair red, and many of the women were struggling
with lung problems.
My aunt, alive in Melbourne today had the job of pouring toxic bomb fluid into
bombs without protective clothing. After Liberation she had surgery in Prague
in the Bulovka hospital for a perforated lung. She then spent approximately 2
years in the Tatra mountains recovering, in a private clinic called “Villa Dr.
Szontagh” all paid for by her uncle Joseph Slyomovic.
Mindu also spent 6 months in a clinic with lung issues post- war.
MIndu and Barbara commented that although they were still afraid and
exhausted from their hard-physical labour, starved, beaten and humiliated,
the selection for work from Auschwitz had saved their lives. The ammunition
factory was not an extermination camp, and the air did not reek from the
stench of burning flesh and bones. The camp had, at times, a human face they
said, as some of the SS female guards were kind and tried to help the 500
Jewish female prisoners
We returned to the mini- bus and were then driven all around the periphery
of Muna Lubberstedt . The 420-hectare complex had comprised, at one
stage of 22 filling buildings (that is where the bombs were filled with fluid)
and 102 bunkers for storing ammunition, two 26-meter-deep wells for water
supply, 30 kilometers of road and 7.6 kilometers of railway network. In the
parachute house huge parachutes were packed for the up to 1,000 kg heavy
mines, In the powder mill explosives were recycled from faulty ammunition.
We drove through the main gate where the public tour enters and stopped
at the bunker area where the bombs were stored, once again hidden from
aerial view by the forest. Towards the end of the war, when no fuel was
available to drive the larger wagons full with bombs to these bunkers, the slave
labourers had to push the wagons. Two female prisoners pulled a wagon and
two pushed it, heavy with huge bombs that they had loaded onto the wagons.
Later they had to unload the bombs into the bunkers. Prisoner Ethel
Jerkewitz was beaten because she was too slow and then, due to the beating,
she was unable to work anymore. That evening the prisoners bought her
body back to the barracks where she died.
A bunker where the bombs where stored-it is very large and dark inside like a concrete cave.
There were 102 bunkers covered with earth.
5 women are recorded to have died in Lubberstedt ,3 of them from
beatings and 2 from “illness” .
In my mother’s DEGOB statement she notes”: The camp Commander
changed every three months; the third one was very bad. Two
women, who were sick and stayed in the room before roll call were
beaten to death by him. We heard them screaming and whining; they
died that evening…”
In the early 1970s there were preliminary investigations by Germany
into war crimes that were committed by the 3 Commanders and
various SS female guards of Lubberstedt. The Prosecutor stated that
war crimes were committed in Lubberstedt but they were not given
enough information by the survivors to identify the perpetrators .
There was a stay of proceedings by the Prosecution on 3rd October
The Bitter End
Of the 500 women transported to Muna Lubberstedt from Auschwitz , about
380 survived the war. 5 had died in the factory camp and about 60 had been
transported to Bergen Belsen of whom maybe 10 survived. Some died from
starvation and illness on the evacuating train . Approximlately 60 died when
the train was bombed twice by the RAF in the last days of the war. The
bombings occured in Eutin on the 2nd May 1945 and again near Plon on 3rd
May 1945 .The RAF mistakenly thought the train held only fleeing Nazis.
Many prisoners were injured by these bombings, including some with leg or
arm amputations and head injureis .
Liberation by the Britsh army occured in Plon on the 8 May 1945 .
Map of Germany showing the journey of my family from Tacova ( Tesco) to Auschwitz -Birkenau
concentration camp ,then to Lubberstedt ammunition factory and finally Liberation in Plon.
Courtesy of historian Karsten Dolger from his article “From Auschwitz to Plon” 3 November 2017
The tour of Muna Lubbertsedt was over and we were taken to Lubberstedt
In Lubberstedt cemetery we visited the communal grave of 4 of the
Jewish female prisoners who died in Lubberstedt . They are buried
together with 8 Russian Prisoners of War. Originally these 12 bodies
were in separate, unmarked graves but in 1989 the Axstedt local
authorities moved them to the current communal grave and marked
it with a Memorial stone. In 1997 the Lubberstedt voluntary group
added 2 headstones, listing the names of the deceased prisoners.
As we stood around this gravesite, Erdwig Kramer said a
At the end of August 1944, 500 Jewish women who came from
Auschwitz were discharged from cattle cars at Lübberstedt railway
station. They had to work hard in an ammunition factory. Here at
Lübberstedt cemetery 4 prisoners( Fani Pavel, Etel Jezkowitz, Sari
Katz and Rexfin Weiss) found their last rest. The grave of Babczu
Bistricer is unknown.
We want to remember the Holocaust victims who were persecuted
and murdered as a part of the European population. The Nazis
wanted to attack the God of the Jews and to annihilate His people.
We want to stand up to preserve the memory of those crimes. Just
like many of the survivors want this and as Elie Wiesel has demanded
it in his book “The Forgotten”.
We Germans must not forget either what humans are capable of in
certain situations. We must remember, do soul-searching and ask
ourselves which prejudices deep inside us lead to such inhuman acts
again. Anti-Semitism and racism are still present. We must not allow
that they humiliate and destroy human lives again in our country.
Let us remember the victims in silence.
The Memorial stone in Lubberstedt cemetery and two headstones with the names of twelve
forced laborers and their children who died in Lubberstedt. Four Jewish women are buried
Fani Pavel (1915 - 1944)
Rexfin Weiss (1910 - 1945)
Sari Katz (1920 - 1945)
Etel Jezkovits (1926 - 1945)
“Remember! Forced labourers, men, women and children lie here”
buried in the
Our return trip to Hamburg took 3 hours due to peak hour traffic.
MIndu’s daughter, Nicola and her grandson, Alex, immediately went
to the airport to return to the UK. Barbara Lorber and her family
were leaving for Israel very early the next morning.
That left Mindu, David and myself. It was still Mindu‘s birthday so we
went to a restaurant to celebrate in style , in stark contrast to the
day’s events. We ended the meal with a mini cake and sparklers. I
cannot imagine how Mindu was really feeling and how strange it
would be for her to re- visit this part of her past.
Mindu Hornick celebrating her 89th birthday with David and myself. 4th May, 2018,
The next day there was an article in the local newspaper Osterholzer
Kreisblatt” about our tour of Muna .In it the journalist quoted Mindu
who said “it is hard for us to come here and every thought of the
time tears open the scars again. “ . The article went on to say that
the women give the talks to warn that such a thing should not
happen again. Also, they wanted to show their families the place that
had done them harm but had been their salvation.
Arbeitskreis Muna Lubberstedt
The voluntary association “MUNA Lübberstedt” was formed in 1992.
It saved the former factory grounds from oblivion. Its aim is to raise
awareness of this aspect of Germany´s history so that such
devastating errors will not be repeated. I have great admiration for
this group whose members devote so much of their free time to this
Among its original members were Volrad Kluge, (now deceased)
Barbara Hillmann & Erdwig Kramer.. In 1996 they published the
book “Muna Lubberstedt” that documents all the events
surrounding this area during World War 11. The members travelled
to Israel, Warsaw and other countries, several times, to interview
former prisoners. Thorsten Gajewi and Rudiger Kahrs provided
valuable research for the book.
In 1997, the Association identified the names of the 12 forced
labourers buried in the communal grave in Lubberstedt cemetery. It
redesigned the grave and arranged for two headstones to be erected
and engraved with their names so they have their dignity again.
In 2010, the Association, led by Erdwig Kramer, obtained a permit,
after great effort, to do monthly tours of the factory grounds for the
public .The tours commenced in 2012
In 2016 the Association made a 30 minute documentary film about
the area that can be shown at schools as part of education about the
Over the years committed and historically aware Germans have
joined this voluntary group including Hartmut Oberstech who joined
in March 2017. Hartmut is now 2 nd in charge.
The Association plans to erect a Commemorative Plaque on the
grounds of the former factory site in the near future.
Since October 2017 a German Foundation for Nature Conservation
has taken over the care of the actual site. Its aim is the harmonious
protection of nature and the history of the area.
back row :left to right: Erdwig Kramer and Alex Foster
front row: Nicola Foster, Mindu Hornick, Barbara Hillman, Barbara Lorber ,Daniel
and Aviv Bar-On
left to right: Barbara Hillman, Barbara Lorber, Ilsabe Tienken (in wheelchair) and
left: Barbara Hillman and right Barbara Lorber