An Executive Meeting in the Kohnstein Tunnel

In early March 1945, the armaments staff moved its offices to the bombproof tunnels in Kohnstein Mountain. There – blind to reality – they forged plans for the continued relocation of aircraft production to underground sites, whatever the cost. Karl-Otto Saur, a confidant of armaments minister Speer, was in charge of the operation.

On 14 March 1945, Saur summoned the aviation pioneer Willy Messerschmitt, the latter’s employee Ludwig Bölkow and others to his office for a meeting. The “Me 262” jet they had developed was to help reconquer the German airspace.

The Messerschmitt company unscrupulously profited from forced labour by concentration camp inmates at various sites. In the Kohnstein tunnel, Willy Messerschmitt, who was the chairman of the company’s board of directors, was primarily interested in the rocket assembly operations in the Mittelwerk. When asked in 1947 whether he had noticed any concentration camp inmates or barbed wire, he replied: “I can’t remember.”


(Michael Löffelsender)


Source: Interrogation no. 1420: Interrogation of Willy Emil Messerschmitt, 16 July 1947 (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München).

Reference: Jens-Christian Wagner, Produktion des Todes: Das KZ Mittelbau-Dora, 3rd edition, Göttingen 2015.