The Blue Skies Project | Arbeitsdorf

The Arbeitsdorf concentration camp was located on the premises of the Volkswagen corporation's main factory at Wolfsburg. It was technically an independent camp under the SS-Business Administration Main Office (WVHA), but it never became a fully operational main camp. It always remained semi-dependent on the nearby Neuengamme main camp in Hamburg. 

The SS began putting in to action the idea of leasing slave labourers to German industry, to keep control over the concentration camp system. Ferdinand Porsche, the leading personality in the Volkswagen triumvirate, belonged to Hitler's inner circle and was in desperate need of labour for his ever expanding company, and approached Himmler for privileged access to this so called "new pool of manpower" (being the concentration camp inmates). For Himmler it was also a model to test SS cooperation with the German industry.

Volkswagen and the subcontracting companies had a common interest in facilitating the project by providing tolerable living and working conditions for the inmates, while the SS wanted this camp to give private companies a taste of exploiting concentration camp slave labour, so that they would enter into similar arrangements in the future. In this way, Arbeitsdorf can be seen as a "model camp" of sorts. 

The leasing of slave labourers allowed economic goals to co-exist with the destructive practices of the concentration camps, and Arbeitsdorf, even if it never arrived at its full operational potential, provided the SS with experience how to deal with slave labor in a modern profit-oriented production process.

source: USHMM Encyclopedia of camps and ghettos, 1933-1945; Indiana Press


Arbeitsdorf is part of a series of journeys that I'm undertaking to photograph the blue skies precisely above the (last known) location of every single one of the 1,075 concentration camps that have ever existed, as part of an photography/book/installation project called The Blue Skies Project. The project has proven quite immense and almost impossible to hold on to single-handedly – with staggering logistics to match – but I'm hanging in there.