CLOSURE OF THE GHETTO
The method of a gradual "resettlement" for Göth was too slow. On 13 March 1943, he was accompanied by two Gestapo officers, William Kunde and Willi Haase, to command the final closure of the ghetto. Between 1200 and 1500 Hours the whole ghetto, part "A" was to move to Plaszow [These were working Jews.sic] All residents had to assemble as listed according to their working category on the Zgody Square. By 1500 Hours the first trucks drove them to Plaszow. Jews without working permits as well as children and young people who did not at least looked like 14-year-olds, were separated.
|A Polish policeman supervises a deportation action in the Krakow ghetto|
|Zgody Sqare Krakow|
|A Jewish woman and her two young children await deportation from the Krakow ghetto|
|SS-man Albert Hujar|
The sight of the Plaszow camp presented to the 6000-8000 displaced people from the ghetto, when they arrived, a dull and hopeless picture: At the cemetery, barracks were without roofs, equipped with bunks, usually without straw mats, cold and bleak. During the first few days the prisoners were only registered, they did not go to work. First, on their pants and jackets, the prisoner's number was painted with oil paint. Those that were used on German jobs, received a yellow diamond, who worked in the camp or during ghetto clearance work, received a red diamond. Despite the fact that prisoners had brought goods and provisions with them during the transfer from the ghetto the living conditions in these first months were indescribably bad.
|Plaszow-Inside the camp|
The work never ended at Plaszow. They built a new guard barracks, new bathrooms, a disinfection facility, the New Kaommandantur and on the acquired "new terrain" more industrial buildings. The continuous construction largely determined the life in the camp, as most prisoners were involved on building sites, others were often after they had completed their "usual" work taken to help out. In 1944 the neighbouring streets of the district of Wola Duchaka were incorporated into the camp, including the Panska Street that later on was renamed the, "Herren Gasse",(Master Lane) whose houses were to be SS-flats for the Elite. Also taken over into the camp ground were four brick buildings of the Jewish cemetery.
|Inmates at work at Plaszow Concentration Camp|
The initials OD stand for the German word Ordnungs Dienst
Jewish Ghetto Police (German: Jüdische Ghetto-Polizei, Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst), also known as the Jewish Police Service and referred to by the Jews as the hated Jewish Police, were the auxiliary police units organised in the Jewish ghettos of Europe by local Judenrat councils under orders of occupying Germans. Armbands were worn by them for identification. Members of the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst did not have any official uniforms, often wearing just an identifying armband and a badge, and were not allowed to carry firearms. They were used by the Germans primarily for securing the deportation of other Jews to the concentration camps. The Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst were Jews who usually had little prior association with the communities, they oversaw (especially after the round-ups and deportations to extermination camps began), and who could be relied upon to follow German orders. The first commander of the Warsaw ghetto was Józef Szerynski, a Polish-Jewish police colonel. He changed his name from Szenkman and developed an anti-Semitic attitude. Szerynski survived an assassination attempt carried out by a member of the Jewish police, Yisrael Kanal, who was working on behalf of the underground Jewish Combat Organization. In ghettos where the Judenrat was resistant to German orders, the Jewish police were often used (as reportedly in Lutsk) to control or replace the council. One of the largest police units was to be found in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jüdischer Ordnungsdienst numbered about 2500. The Lódz Ghetto had about 1200, and the Lviv (Lemberg) Ghetto 500. They were active in almost all concentration camps in one capacity or other. According to David Crowe's book, Wilek Chilowicz was the head of the OD, the Jewish police at Plaszow.
The Polish-Jewish historian and the Warsaw Ghetto archivist Emanuel Ringelblum has described the cruelty of the ghetto police as "at times greater than that of the Germans, the Ukrainians and the Latvia's".sic]
|Jewish Ghetto Police in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland May 1941-Jakub Lejkin, second in command of Jewish Order Service in front|
|Armband worn by the Jewish Ghetto Police in the Warsaw Ghetto|
Ing. Wohlfeiler was a specialist in water supply and sewerage systems and always confronted with the dramatic situation in the supply of water. There were always problems with the drains, the main cause was the inconvenient location of Plaszows, which was also being constantly upgraded and expanded. Already in May 1943 it was found that the availability of water was not sufficient. Attempts to dig a well, were delayed without results after 30 meters. The camp continued to grow, new barracks were built for industrial use, additional latrines, and a second laundry facility, another barrack with wash basins, this meant as from spring 1944 that the water consumption needed to be regulated. Since the daily kitchen usage was most important, the washrooms were open only at night. The latrines were cleaned at the same time. The situation came to a head that even in the German part of the camp, the water was shut off by the hour. Not withstanding, in desperation they started to dig on the disbanded well again. At a depth of 39 meters water was encountered but was heavily mineralised and containing sulphur. It was suitable only as hot water after boiling, but not for human consumption. During May and July 1944 transports brought thousands of Hungarian Jews to Plaszow and increased the number of inmates to about 20 000, the water shortage became severe. The construction management at Plaszow decided after discussions with the city water works in Krakow for the laying of a new water pipe along the Wielicka Straße, although on the part of the waterworks and the Ingeneur Wohlfeiler doubts about the benefits of such a measure were raised. After five to six weeks the work was completed, however, it brought little improvement.
In the winter of 1943/44, began the construction of a railway siding into the Plaszow camp, which went right in front of the Kommangantur. On the planned route was the former funeral parlour of the new cemetery, a sacred building in Byzantine style, which was already used as a water pumping station. This hall was demolished in the summer of 1944. One rather dismal fact was, that on these camp-owned railway tracks, transports left for Auschwitz as from May 1944 and continued as required.
|Plaszow Camp map|
The conversion to a concentration camp for prisoners brought significant changes. They were re-registered, the camp elder was given the number 101, and received other prison clothing. Most important was that the absolute despotism of the Kommandant had an end, and now the general rules of the concentration camps had to be adhered to, as distinct to a commander of a Forced Labour Camp (Zwangsarbeitslager) who was not obliged to stick to any requirements, he could and would make up his own rules . As a direct consequence of the introduction of standard regulations [these were comprehensive and set out as a Manual by Theodor Eicke in Dachau. sic] the indiscriminate killings stopped. Killings and physical punishment had to be approved by Berlin (Oranienberg). Normally a prisoner was penalised with a transfer to a criminal command or by reduction of food rations. The newly appointed prison security leader (Schutzhaftlagerführer) Phillip Grimm forbade physical abuse, and raised objection against other inhuman practice that of the "train crew" (Mannschaftszügen) where 75 women had to pull rail road lorries on a rope uphill, by informing the WVHA about it. To control the economic activities, auditors now came frequently for inspections. From the reports of the former prisoner Mietek Pemper, who was in the camp working as a stenographer and interpreter, it appears that the prisoners were well aware that due to the conversion of Plaszow into a concentration camp, that their chances of survival had increased, only because the governing rules and treatment of prisoners had changed. [Mietek P. 'There was a time of hard legality', in ibid, AR Z 600/67, Vol 3, page 619. [After the war, Philip Grimm was arrested and charged with 30 other defendants during the Dachau trials in the Buchenwald main process. Grimm was accused of having mistreated Allied prisoners and also created a list of names of disabled prisoners for the purpose of killing. On August 14, 1947, Grimm was sentenced to death by hanging. The judgment was later converted into life imprisonment. Grimm was released from the Landsberg prison on February 12, 1954 and died after an uneventful life in April 1984 in Bayreuth.sic]
STRUCTURE OF THE CAMP
The camp was divided into three areas, living areas, the administration with the guard block barracks, the industrial area, including (Das Neue Gelände) also called the "New Site". All areas were separated by fences and trenches. The living area was further divided into zones, the men's barracks were separated from the women's, a kitchen with the magazine and the bakery and the quarantine part was also fenced. The infirmary was isolated.
Between all areas, there were guarded gates. In addition, around the entire camp ran a double barbed wire fence, the interior one, was electrified in January 1944.
On the outskirts of the camp had magazines containing the "special funds"(Sondervermögen) that had been taken from the Jews, called in camp jargon "Balb-Magazines". Next to it was a barrack holding the Torah Scrolls and valuable books stored here after the evacuation of the ghetto.
The administration in Plaszow had three departments, construction management, shop management and administration of the residential camp. In the administration of the camp all the positions were occupied by Jews, from the office to the chefs. Poles worked in the yard, and Außenkammandos (Outside Work Teams) in the quarry and in the SS kitchen. The administration was initially located in the "Gray House" , then in the Kommandantur and later in a especially purpose-built barrack.
In the Kommandantur were the Construction Management and the Office of the Commander. From 1944 the Statistics Department, Labor and the Political Section were included. In the Construction Management only Jewish Engineers worked there and employed up to 20 people: "After the crazy instructions and the shortest deadlines of the Kommandant, they carried out projects that were not feasible, they provided work, a normal-thinking builder would not be able to perform, they toiled day and night at fever pitch, racing during days to double and multiple standards, to do the "urgent" orders on time. "[ comment by Joseph Bau.sic] the management of the workshops in 1944 were taken over by the German equipment Works (DAW).
The first SS doctor at Plaszow was Dr. Willi Jäger, he was replaced in the spring of 1944 by Dr. Maximilian Blanke, who had been working until then at the concentration camp at Lublin-Majdanek. His mistress Else Ehrlich, who had been a warden there accompanied him. SS Sergeant Herman Büttner, who before the war, was an employee of a health insurance company, led the infirmary as an administrator. He behaved very decently against the detainees. In the clinic itself Jewish doctors examined and treated the sick and injured. As a leading senior Jewish doctor, Dr. Leon Gross was appointed. He was young, inexperienced and completely submissive to Göth's instructions. Gross took advantage of the leeway of this position, but not in favour of the prisoners. He hired his friends into the hospital that had no medical knowledge and dismissed many older doctors who were in many cases transferred to other camps, were they lost their lives. After the war he (Dr.Gross) was sentenced to death in Krakow and executed. [The names of the eliminated Krakow doctors are listed in: Biberstein, "Zaglada" on page 25. sic]
When Plaszow was still a forced labour camp (Zwangsarbeitslager) the Clinic for Camp Guards came under Dr. Gross practice, even though it contradicted the German regulations. He also treated Göth, who was a diabetic. The infirmary was fairly functional with the help of prisoners who worked in a variety of workshops on the industrial estate. It consisted of three barracks, each with seven rooms, an office that was simultaneously the Reception and patient rooms, each with 45 beds. The Epidemic Department was managed by Dr. Gross, the Department of Internal Diseases under Dr. Mathilda Löw. There was also an isolation ward and the surgical department. The inventory, including mattresses, clothes, medical bags, had been brought on horse-drawn carriages from the former ghetto hospitals to Camp Plaszow.
Two or three times a week the Jewish Support Unit delivered for the sick, a high-calorie soup. The number of 'friends' who came to 'visit' after work the different departments, often exceeded four times the number of patients who were in a ward. This figure was particularly high at days when the soup from the Jewish Support Unit arrived at the site. To the extent possible these people were fed as well. "With the support from all outside Civil Health Services, it was possible to arrange for the sick a better medical care and clean beds". The Jewish Support Unit also officially brought drugs into the camp. To visit the infirmary there was always after working hours a big rush. Prisoners tried to get into the hospital or infirmary, by a multi-day leave of absence from work to recover, reported Alexander Biberstein, the doctor on the isolation ward of the hospital.[ibid, page 2373, sic]
SS doctor Blanke visited the infirmary very rarely, instead SS medical orderly Alfred Kahlfuß, who arrived at the end of 1943 at Plaszow came for inspections almost daily. His presence was a constant threat, particularly for the elderly or chronically ill patients who had to fear, to be selected and murdered. "Kahlfuß appeared in the areas at different times of the day and even at night. He always was looking for something and sniffed around in all corners. "We were aware that his presence was not for our benefit. In general, the stay of the patients in the Revier was not more than one to two weeks. A longer stay could be dangerous". Jewish doctors were trying to protect patients: "If someone had a chronic disease, we tried to interrupt the patient's stay, he or she would disappear for a few days out of the ward and returned after some time". They were moved and shifted around to other beds, so they did not attracted attention. In the internal medicine department were young girls with tuberculosis who were reported as having a bad cold. The doctors then secretly administered the right medicine. These pretty young women were placed near the entrance because Kahlfuß was very receptive to their presence. In the back corners were the elderly and the infirm. On 14 May, the most severely ill were deported to Auschwitz for extermination. According to an inmate, several times the very sick were shot: "There were minor actions like that, after the old and worse-looking had been selected and shot within the camp". [Testimony of Dr. Izydor E. 16/01/1964 in: ibid B 162/1112, page 79s, sic] in the surgical ward abortions were performed, especially prior to transfers into other camps. [An exception was a transport to Auschwitz in October 1944, which included two pregnant women. Both gave birth after the war. [Dr. Martylda L. report in AZIH zesp 308/844. sic] The few babies who came in the surgical department into the world were either poisoned, according to a Jewish doctor, or the umbilical cord was not tied off and they bled to death.
Younger children including orphans, that had survived the liquidation of the ghetto because they had been smuggled into the camp, were initially hidden in the barracks. The older children went with the adults into the Industrial Buildings to work. For example, 50 boys and 30 girls were working in the Bürsterei (Brush-making). Children of the OD-men and members of the Jewish Council came legally on March 13, 1943 to Plaszow. The camp leader William Chilowicz negotiated successfully that all children within the camp should be tolerated. For the little ones a special barrack was built, euphemistically referred to as "children's home" (Kinderheim), as well as their own workshop that employed those over ten years old. One survivor recalled: "For a time he[the boy,sic] lived with his mother in the residential barracks (it was not official, and sometimes we did hide him), then he had to return for the night to the" children's home "and by day go to work". Gradually, many of the older children were tracked down, usually at the entrance to the residential part of the camp on their return from work, and from then on all had to sleep in their own barrack. The greater chance of survival had those who were already physically further developed and looked older than they actually were, like the eleven year old nephew of Anna P.: "He was very well developed and we reported him, that he was 13 years old." [Biberstein, Zaglada, page 159, sic] The children were given extra food and help from the JUS, and the "wealthier" prisoners who helped the little ones by giving them secretly extra food. Early in 1944 there were 294 children in the camp's orphanage(Lagerkinderheim). Nearly all of them were deported on 14 May 1944 to Auschwitz, [I could not find or trace their eventual fate,sic] However room had to be made for 10,000 Hungarian Jews due to arrive and Göth (also spelled Goeth) had been busy and under the code name Die Gesundheitaktion (the Health Action) he set about the partial liquidation of KL Plaszow. Space for 10,000 had to be made in the camp. Auschwitz was working over capacity, but would be able to take these Hungarian prisoners in a matter of weeks when the pressure of the crematoria had subsided. The selections at KL Plaszow began on the morning of May 7, 1944. On the Appellplatz, row upon row of prisoners, in barrack formation, stood silent. They knew it was their last chance. Block by block they were marched to the reception area. Ordered to strip naked, as each name was called out the prisoner presented himself or herself to the examining teams of doctors headed by the SS Dr. Blancke. Also assisting in this selection was the collaborating Dr. Leon Gross. The women had to line up and walk forward, one by one, and jump over a series of large holes that had been especially dug to test their level of fitness and, therefore, their right to survival. Prisoners were made to run up and down in front of the examiners. Some women who were suffering from chronic diarrhoea rubbed red cabbage leaves into their face to give them colour.
During the course of the SS Aktion, Goeth turned his eye to the 280 children housed in the separate compound (the Kinderheim), where working parents could bring their children up to the age of 14. Cared for by experienced personnel, the children were kept busy and safe. Now was time to deal with the children. Sensing trouble, Goeth sought reinforcements from Krakow. Parents seeing their children separated and confined without the opportunity of proving their worth began to wail and scream for their loved ones. There was panic and pandemonium everywhere. Whole families were separated in the selection, some to the left, some to the right. No one knew, for sure, whether they were on the good or the bad side. To the experienced prisoner it was not difficult to guess; looking at the group which contained the elderly, the sick, and the disabled was a sad realisation.
Some children, the urchins of the camp, had their hiding places already prepared. Even so, when they dived for cover they would find that their space had been taken by someone else, and they ran in frantic search for another sanctuary. To the inexperienced child, it would be complete panic: they would stand in the open and believe themselves invisible.
On May 14 all became clear. The day everyone knew their fate, standing to attention on the Appellplatz. There was an air of sad resignation around those selected for transport. Those Jews not selected for deportation were distressed and saddened seeing their parents, grandparents, children, and friends marched off to the waiting wagons destined for Auschwitz. It wasn't uncommon for mothers, in order to protect their teenage daughters, to change coats and join the column marching out to the transports. The individual camp number sewn in the breast of their coats was sufficient identity when being checked by the guards.
As of September 30th 1944, only 16 children were listed in the population register of camp inmates.
continued under Part 3