Arbeitseinsatz II – Forced Labour at Sigla in Poland

In August 2012 Landmark Scout received an email from a descended of a survivor of forced labour in the Second World War. Like my grandfather, this victim was also send to the Sigla glass factory in Kunzendorf near Sorau in Poland.

The Sigla Glass Plant

The Sigla plant made safety glass for planes and prism’s. Sigla is short for Sichterheitsglass which means safety glass. After the war the names of cities and villages are changed back to the Polish names, so Kunzendorf or Groß Kunzendorf, became Kunice Żarskie, and Sorau become Żary again.

The person had some photographs from the barracks at Sigla and thought he recognized my granddad among the labourers.
Unfortunately this was not the case, but I was still utterly exited to receive new information and to speak with someone about the Sigla glass plant. The question for privacy arose, there is no doubt that Landmarkscout will honor this request so we will not state any names here.

The barrack site near the Sigla glass plant in Kunzendorf
Forced Labourers in front of the barracks site in Sigla, Kunzendorf – today Zary, Poland

Letters to home

From two surviving letters send back in the days by the victim we learn that he had to work at the glass plant from 25 June 1943 until 25 June 1945. His job consisted of fabricating windshields for the Stuka, Junkers Ju87 Dive bomber and prisms for the panzers, the viewing devices in the German Tanks.

Fortunately the two letters give us a marvellous insight of the daily live in the barracks.
Here is the story is short;

We lived in a barrack with only one open space which we shared with 15 to 20 young men. We slept on bunk beds, with sacks filled with straw as mattresses.  There was no privacy at all. The toilets are located in an other barrack, it’s just a board with some holes in it. Washing and showering was done in the glass factory itself.

The factory grounds are surrounded by fences, we are not supposed to leave the compound, but the labourers leave it anyway.
There are no means for relaxation, exercise or sports in the compound. The food is scarce, meagre and most of the time it is cabbage soup..
Hygiene  in the barracks is poor. The Group of “foreign labourers” has to be gassed out to get rid of lice and bedbugs on a regular basis.

Not a pretty place to make a living.

Another photo from the labourers in front of the barack at the Sigla plant in Kunzendorf. The writing on the picture states: “Barracks Germany 194ac3”

Unknown Note

On the passport of the victim are some stamps and notes referring to a residence permit valid until 24 September1944 in Kunzendorf together with the note “Gessh.=3:LAIII”.
This last remark leaves us clueless, if you know the meaning of this abbreviation leave a email at: It would be a great help to us and the descendent.

The plant housed Russian forced labourers as well, with no means of communication the western labourers learned to say; “Nipodimaïs Rusci”. Meaning, I don’t understand Russian of course.

The forced labourers did their best to sabotage and slow down the production of the materials.
The prisms or lenses for the tank periscopes were scratched by metal part of the inmate’s belt and had to be cut and polished all over again. He wasn’t the only one to put up some form of resistance, other labourers joined in and helped to disrupt the process on every way possible.

Before the war the glass plant mostly produced crystal glasses.
One of the labourers came across some of the crystal glasses and sends them home in a box with the factory stamps on it and using the regular German post. The family had a good laugh over this nice cheeky act in wartime.

Pictures from the way home after leaving Sigla and Kunzendorf

Release from the Camp

By the time the Russian army closed in on the plant the labourers left the compound. On the way west, back home, they met some American soldiers as shown on the photo above.
The journey home was mostly done by foot, probably they got a ride once in a while but he told mostly of walking home for the bigger part of the trip.
On one of the surviving documents is a visa, a leave home pass. It was valid from the 4th of January 1945 until 15 January 1945, by the looks of the stamps on this document it has been used. One last stamp on the victim’s documents is from the Royal Dutch government; the government commissioner for repatriation.

After the War

When he got home he carried a food platter from the glass factory, and carried the famous “sabotage” belt which, of course, kept his pants up. In later life the victim showed signs of trauma from the period as forced labourer. He died in 2005.

Sigla The frontside of the plate
Sigla The backside of the plate

Landmark Scout shows their gratitude towards the decedents of the forced labourer, for sharing the story and giving us permission to publish it on our site for all who want to read.
If you have questions or would like more information, you can contact us.

Related stories: Forced Labour, the search for my grandfather

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