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In 1939-1945, a large armaments factory working for the military needs of the Third Reich was opened in the Bydgoszcz area. The complex involved in secret production of gunpowder and ammunition, built by forced labor, was part of Dynamit-AktienGesellschaft (DAG) company, which origins date back to the 1860s.
In that time, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and smokeless powder, founder of famous Nobel Prize opened a company, which over time had become one of the biggest manufacturers of explosives in Germany. The company was booming in particular during the Nazi regime.
As early as 1939, shortly after the capture of Bydgoszcz, Germans started construction of a fence in nearby Łęgnowo, which surrounded an area of 23 square kilometers – acreage of the future factory. Until the end of 1944, over a thousand buildings had been built, 400 km of roads and 40 km of railroad tracks. A comprehensive construction program included production buildings, facilities of electrical, heating, water and sewage infrastructure, laboratories, workshops, fire department buildings, medical units, administrative and utility buildings, guardhouses, and surveillance buildings.
The company was divided into two parts, separated by an exterritorial railroad line Silesia – Baltic Ports, running longitudinally. The western part – Bauleitung I, known also as DAG Kaltwasser, i.e. Cold Waters – was divided into NC-Betrieb (nitrocellulose production sector), POL-Betrieb (smokeless powder, so-called POL) with a site for ballistic testing, and NGL-Betrieb (nitroglycerin). The eastern zone – Bauleitung II or DAGBrahnau, i.e. Łęgnowo – consisted of TRI-Betrieb, DI-B-Betrieb (trinitrotoluene and dinitrobenzene, used in V1 bullets) and Füllstelle (ammunition elaboration, m.in. air bombs, artillery shells and gunpowder fuses).
Adolf Kämpf, an experienced chemist, graduate of the Stuttgart Polytechnic was appointed head of the company. According to assumptions, DAG Bromberg was supposed to be the biggest DAG plant. Mass gunpowder production was undertaken in July 1942, being systematically increased; in 1944, a total of 13,700 tons of this material had been produced. Nitrocellulose production was launched only in 1943. Production of trinitrotoluene started as late as January 1945; later, nitroglycerin production was also launched in the NGL zone.
The spatial character of the plant resulted from reduction of explosion risk and impact. Individual stages of production processes were divided to separate, usually small buildings, which were technologically connected using a system of tunnels. In this way, production lines were established. Buildings were situated at various distances from one another, construction of row houses was avoided, and entrance doors had never been across from each other. It was supposed to prevent chain reactions and damaging of the entire line in case of explosion. In addition, production lines were doubled in order to increase an opportunity for maintaining production continuity during breakdowns and accidents caused by production failures, sabotage or warfare.
Production and warehouse buildings were usually constructed in timber frame technology, consisting of reinforced concrete posts covered by a big, flat roof. Explosion protection walls – light wood-glass structures – were built in facilities with a high explosion risk. Their task was to absorb shock wave in case of explosion. Escape routes in tunnels, with several turns, ending with a shelter were prepared for workers. Roofs of all facilities in the factory were covered with a several-centimeter thick layer of soil, where plants, shrubs and coniferous trees with short roots were planted. Façades of buildings as well as routes and tracks were painted in green or khaki. Efforts had been made to use as much as possible the existing, winding forest paths in street and road construction. The goal was clear – the factory was supposed to be invisible for reconnaissance aircraft of the enemy. Building of a model of a fake factory 2-3 km away from the actual plant in the first half of 1944 was an unprecedented procedure. It consisted of about a hundred wooden boards imitating production facilities.
In addition to concealing procedures, a number of other activities were undertaken in relation to protection and safety of the factory. They included company regulations, specifying in the finest details the code of conduct on the premises of the factory. The acreage of the factory was divided into zones with access only for workers sent to them. Knowledge of workers about the company was supposed to be limited exclusively to their work stations – nobody was able to find out the size and layout of the factory. Only a few people were able to travel throughout its premises. The factory was surrounded by a fence with gates protected day and night; one was able to enter the premises only by showing business identity card. Every worker had such identity card or badge specifying workplace (sector). There was an absolute ban on bringing cigarettes, matches, rings, and metal accessories to the plant, which was frequently combined with a body search. In addition, detailed regulations were in force for every facility. They were usually mounted by the door. It resulted from specificity of every building. Some of these regulations also applied to the allowable amount of warehoused material, maximum number of people, etc. Protection of the company, law and order, inspection of workers and fire protection service were tasks of the company guards (Werkschutz). Their competencies included not only enforcement of company regulations, but also general regulations, such as relations between Germans and foreign workers.
It is estimated that a total of 30,000-40,000 workers were employed in DAG Bromberg, including about 10,000 in direct production. Initially, local workforce was used, but the scale of construction works made that local reserves were depleted in a relatively short time. In that time, the factory started hiring out-of-town workers, including from abroad, sent to forced labor in Bydgoszcz by employment offices. In addition, a relatively big group of prisoners-of-war was used, breaking the resolutions of the Geneva Conventions. The majority of workers (over 50%) were Poles, followed by Germans (mainly skilled workers from the Reich), Russians, Czechs, Italians, Yugoslavs, Frenchmen and Englishmen, mostly prisoners-of-war, as well as members of RAD (Reichsarbeitsdienst) – a paramilitary youth organization and similar female associations. On July 15, 1944, a thousand of Jewish women were sent to the factory from KL Stutthof. They worked on ammunition elaboration and unloading works at the nearby Bydgoszcz-Wschód railway station. Camps, consisting of over a hundred wooden barracks, had been established to accommodate out-of-town workers in the area of Maxstrasse (Wojska Polskiego Avenue), Glinkerstrasse (Glinki Street), Hafenstrasse (Hutnicza Street). The RAD camp and Arbeitserziehungslager – penal labor camp were located on the premises of the factory. In the end of 1944, the company had eighteen camps, provided with cryptonyms, referring to names of plants, trees and flowers..
People who worked as managers in the company had their residences in the proximity of the barracks and the gate heading to the factory. In November 1941, a design for a housing estate of the company officials in the area of today’s Kliniczna Street was prepared. The complex was supposed to comprise detached homes for managers and duplexes for company engineers. In the same time, construction works started on a complex of residential buildings for officials, which now stand in the center of Łęgnowo.
Poles working in DAG Bromberg had been involved in large-scale underground and sabotage activities. In 1940, a district of the Union of Armed Struggle was established here under the management of Henryk Szymonowicz AKA “Marek.” Its main task was to gather intelligence, which was later transferred to the Main Headquarters. A team of Polish installation electricians (Leszek “Jakub” Biały, Bronisław “Zdzisław” Bruski, Zdzisław “Henryk” Nędzyński) developed a site map of the factory and acquired a number of confidential documents. In addition, a commander of one of the platoons, Jan Małek was supplying technological data. Radio technician Kazimierz Jankowski, who worked in the company, was making radio receivers and transmitters for Polish partisans. Intelligence was also provided by a Home Army unit in nearby Emilianowo, managed by Franciszek “Marcin” Wrembel.
Sabotage started to play an important role in activities of the resistance movement. One of them included blowing of thirty engines. Moreover, members of the Emilianowo organization, working on reloading, were involved in damaging locomotives and packaging, changing of information cards on railcars with transport designation. The great act of sabotage, most memorable in Pomerania, was the “Krem” mission, carried out on March 23, 1944. It led to an explosion killing German engineers who worked on expansion of the factory.
Production had continued practically until the liberation of Bydgoszcz. Only several days before the entry of the Soviet and Polish armies, the decision was made to evacuate German personnel. Germans were able to take or destroy technical documentation and get out from the city. One of the last managers who left the company was Director Kämpf, who in accordance with the assumed evacuation plan departed to DAG Malchow in Mecklenburg.
The Army of the 2nd Belarusian Front reached and captured Bydgoszcz between January 24 and 26, 1945. Wehrmacht reported fierce street fights taking place on January 25 and 26. Protection of factory equipment by an underground network within the “Deszcz” mission did not prevent disassembly. At the request of the Red Army Trophy Commission, Soviet troops took away all technical equipment to the USSR. After plundering and abandoning the factory by the Soviet Army, the facilities were transferred to the Polish authorities. Troops of the Internal Security Corps stationed here. Chemical plants, established during the 1950s, were transitioned in the “Organika-Zachem” Chemical Plant.
Some buildings have been left empty since the end of the war. Some facilities had been used as production facilities and warehouses. Until recently, due to strictly confidential production, it had not open to the public. These days, works continue on restructuring of the enterprise, one of the aspects of which was establishing of the “Bydgoszcz Industrial and Technological Park.”
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