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Development of Synthetic Leather for Army Boots

Hubert Eiccheim has been researching for his book “End Moraine – Memories of a Homeland 1938-1949” at the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen. For two days he has looked at the material about his hometown of Türkheim in Bavaria that is kept in the ITS archives. “It is especially about the Salamander shoe factory, which was also located in Türkheim,” said Eichheim. “As there is no record of forced labor there, I became curious and began to gather information about it.”

Behind the Alpine river Wertach, on the outskirts of Türkheim, there was a shoemaking factory. What took place there during the Nazi regime was previously only insufficiently known to the inhabitants, said the author. During his research he came across the book “The Shoe under National Socialism” by Anne Sudrow, where he was able to learn the first details. “The German Wehrmacht needed around 36 million boots. Since leather from animal skin was not enough for such a mass, an alternative had to be found,” reported the 79-year-old. “The factory in Türkheim developed synthetic leather as a substitute. The boots were tested in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by prisoners who had to march on a specially built test track for hours under brutal conditions.”

At the ITS, Eiccheim discovered a company register. “Angelo Tolazzi is one of 27 Italian forced laborers who were appointed there. I have finally found a record of the use of forced labor at Salamander,” said the author. The workers’ job was to disassemble the shoes that came out of the camps and served as the basis for the substitute. “It is striking that workers were only used there until 1944.” Due to a letter from the factory management, Eichheim suspected that the work was done elsewhere after 1944 and only the usable material was delivered.