Little is known about the life of Willi Kochannek (also known as Willy Kochanek). He was born on 28 September 1907 in Hecklingen, in the district of Bernburg (Anhalt). The reasons for him moving to Berlin can no longer be traced. As he could not provide proof of a permanent residence, the Nazi authorities categorized him as “workshy”.
For this reason, he was admitted to the Rummelsburg workhouse. Set up under the Kaiser, the mortality rates in this institution, where inmates were exploited as forced labour, rose sharply during the Nazi period.
For unknown reasons, Willi Kochannek was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin in August 1942, where he was given the prisoner number 45638. He was assigned to the Klinkerwerk sub-camp, where he had to work in the brick factory. This part of the camp complex was notorious among the prisoners for being a “death camp” where conditions were so bad that some died every day – partly of injuries directly caused by the guards. Willi Kochannek died after just a few days here, on 20 August 1942. The SS noted that he had been “shot while attempting to escape”. This was a set phrase often used by the SS running the concentration camp to gloss over the actual circumstances of prisoners’ violent deaths.