The concentration camp in Warsaw was established on the initiative of SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop, the "SS- and Police Leader for the Warsaw District" who finally liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto.
In his report of 16 May 1943, he wrote that the prisoners of this camp could be used to clear away the ruins and buildings on the territory of the ghetto, so as to re-use the bricks, iron and other materials needed by industry. Heinrich Himmler accepted this proposal, and by 19 July 1943 Oswald Pohl, who was responsible for the concentration camps in the "Third Reich", was able to report to Himmler that "KZ Warschau" was already established. The camp commandant was SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Goecke.
The Warsaw concentration camp was one of three main concentration camps of the General Government, the other two were Majdanek and Plaszow, but it never played a vital part within the Nazi terror and extermination policy. Neither a memorial nor a monument to commemorate the former camp can be found in central Warsaw. Even in Poland, the Warsaw concentration camp is largely unknown. Yet its story of the German occupation with the two most studied events, namely the Ghetto Uprising in spring 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising in the summer of the following year, it is closely connected. [The Płaszów or Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp was a Nazi German labour and concentration camp built by the SS in Płaszów, a southern suburb of Kraków (now part of Podgórze district), soon after the German invasion of Poland and the subsequent creation of the General Government. The Płaszów camp, originally intended as a forced labour camp, was constructed on the grounds of two former Jewish cemeteries in the summer of 1942 during Nazi German occupation of Poland, with deportations of the Jews from the Kraków Ghetto beginning October 28, 1942. In 1943 the camp was expanded and turned into one of many KL concentration camps.sic]
|Jewish workers constructing the ghetto walls in 1940|
FROM GHETTO TO CONCENTRATION CAMP
The plans to build a concentration camp in Warsaw , reached back to the autumn of 1941.They are connected with the closure of some ghettos and the establishment of other SS-owned enterprises within the General Government.. But the camp was not built until the summer of 1943 in the wake of a renewed spurt of growth of the concentration camp system. This camp founded in Warsaw and the Baltic states emerged from the previously closed ghettos and were connected with local key personnel of the SS and the civil administration. The entire structure that of the prisoner society, governance, and the guards of the camp in the East differed clearly and was vastly unlike from the main concentration camps that were still linked to the ones in the Reich..
Within Warsaw, there was the largest ghetto in German-occupied Europe . It was in October 1940, earlier than in other cities of the General Government, that the civil administration in the north of the town district of Muranov established this one and walled it in, which completely closed this part of the city off from the outside world. In the "Jewish quarter", as the German occupiers of the ghetto called it officially, there lived in an area of 403 hectares, during January of 1941 more than 410,000 people . The German Ghetto Administration as part of their policy did deliberately target a policy of starvation, hunger and disease that led to an extreme increase in the mortality of the Jewish population. The Governor General Hans Frank in the early 1941's in his decision to strengthen the economic power of the ghetto, to allow its self-sufficiency, improved the conditions slightly since the fall of 1941. The person responsible for the ghetto economy and the Labor input, the "Commissioner for Jewish Residential District" Heinz Auerswald recruited specifically companies that processed in the ghetto on their own account with Jewish Labor for the German military command of the Wehrmacht, textile, fur and leather goods. When it seemed to have calmed the situation in the ghetto, slowly, and more and more Jews found work in factories and decreased the mortality rate, the Warsaw ghetto was disbanded.
|A young Jew is interrogated by the SS in Warsaw- [note all members are Wehrmacht officers ,sic] |
Since March 1942, the SS liquidated the ghettos in the General Government gradually. The Jews were shot on location or deported into one of the extermination camp facilities of "Aktion Reinhardt". The Ghetto closure was managed by the staff of the SS and Police Leader (SSPF) [SS und Polizeiführer,sic] in Lublin, SS General Odilo Globocnik, who was commissioned by Himmler with the liquidation of the Jews in the General Government. Since it had led to conflicts from the closure by Managers who took advantage of the exploitation of Jewish workers interested in Armed Forces Contracts, the Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF), [Höherer SS-und Polizeiführer,sic] SS Obergruppenführer Friedfrich Wilhelm Krüger agreed, with the Arms inspection Department on July 17,1942 about the Jewish employees of firms whose production was seen as vital to the war effort, that they, with their families were initially exempted from deportation to extermination camps.
THE CLEARING OF THE GHETTO
In the months proceeding the mass deportations increasing unease was felt, under the impact of growing reports and rumours about the deportations from other ghettos and places of Jewish habitation in occupied Poland.
After the expulsion, unrest and panic were created and grave doubts were raised among the ghetto population by the night raids undertaken by the German police and security forces. These raids were carried out according to prepared lists. The persons on the lists were seized in their homes, taken out and shot at a nearby location. The most murderous raid took place on 18 April 1942, when 52 persons were killed that night. This night became known as the "Night of Blood" or the "Bartholomew’s Night".
v. Sammern [the "v." stands for "von" and in German in most cases it means, "He" or "She" of aristocratic descent, sic] Immediately after completion of Treblinka the Große Umsiedlungsaktion ("Great Resettlement Action") started on 22 July 1942.
Responsible leaders of the "Great Action" were SS- und Polizeiführer Warschau Ferdinand v. Sammern-Frankenegg, Commandeer der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes in Warschau, Dr Ludwig Hahn and SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle who acted as representative of Odilo Globocnik (SS- und Polizeiführer Lublin).
Executive bodies: The Warsaw Order Police, a small unit of the Warsaw Security Police, a special unit of Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) and the Jewish Order Service. Later SS-men from the forced labour camp in Trawniki played the main part in the ghetto liquidation.
The Jewish Order Service (Police) played an important role during the early stages of the "Great Action". The Jewish Police commander Josef Szerynski had been arrested by the Germans on 1 May 1942, on charges of smuggling furs from the ghetto to the Aryan side of the city. Jakob Lejkin, his deputy, took over the command and exactly carried out the German orders, saying that it is better not to leave it to the cruel Germans.
The 2,000 - 2,500 Jewish policemen and their families were promised immunity by the Germans for their co-operation. As the "action" progressed they began to understand that they were not more than a tool of the Germans and their future like ordinary Jews was clouded in doubt. Therefore they began to desert in droves. The German's response: each policeman was personally ordered to bring in five heads per day for deportation. Those who did not fulfil this order were threatened with having their relatives transported to make up the difference.
The SS directed the deportations from two centres in the ghetto. The Aktion Reinhard command, which consisted of a dozen SS officers, sergeants and soldiers set up its headquarters at 103 Zelazna Street (ul. Zelazna), after having evicted the Jews from the building.
Ber Warman, a Jewish policeman, who guarded 103 Zelazna Street, wrote at the end of August / early September 1942 that SS men started to live there. Before the end of August 1942 the Befehlsstelle ( Central order HQ) was on 17 Ogrodowa Street, at the Jewish police headquarters. At the door to one of the rooms was a plaque that read Gastzimmer des SS-Sonderkommandos Treblinka ("Guestroom of the SS Special Command Treblinka").
The HQ on Ogrodowa Street was mainly manned with SS and Gestapo-men who had been stationed in Warsaw for some time. The most prominent members of this group were Hohmann, Witosek, Jesuiter and Stabenow. The tempo and character of the "resettlement" actions were dominated by Karl-Georg Brandt and Gerhard Mende.
Announcement #1 At 10 a.m. on 22 July 1942 Höfle, Michalsen, Worthoff and other officers of Aktion Reinhard visited the Judenrat. Höfle dictated to the Judenrat the German conditions for the "resettlement to the east".
In this way the Judenrat was forced to help "cleaning" the ghetto. The main orders were:
All Jews will be resettled to the east, regardless of age and sex.
With the exception of:
Jews working for German institutions or companies
Jews working for the Judenrat
Jewish hospitals' staff
Members of the Jewish Order Service
Wifes and children of above-mentioned persons
Patients of a Jewish hospital on the day of resettlement.
Each person which will be resettled is allowed taking along 15 kg luggage and all valuables: Gold, jewellery, money etc.
Provisions for three days is necessary.
The resettlement will start on 22 July 1942, 11 o'clock (11 a.m.).
The Judenrat is responsible for delivery of 6,000 persons daily until 4 p.m.. Assembly point is the Jewish hospital at Stawki Street.
On 22 July 1942, the Jewish hospital at Stawki Street has to be emptied so that the building can be used for the people being resettled.
The Judenrat has to announce the German orders. ["Judenrat" is the German expression for the committe of Jewish representatives of the Ghetto population, sic]
|German soldiers search the Judenrat building|
Each Jew who is leaving the ghetto during the resettlement action will be shot.
Each Jew who is acting against the resettlement will be shot.
Each Jew who doesn't belong to the above-mentioned persons and who will be discovered in Warsaw after the resettlement action will be shot.
The first contingents put together by the Judenrat consisted of refugee assembly institutions, prisons and old people's homes.
If these orders will not be carried out, a corresponding number of hostages will be shot.
Announcement #2: When SS-Hauptsturmführer Worthoff ordered to provide 10,000 Jews for the 24 July 1942, including children of a children's transport, the Judenrat leader Adam Czerniakow committed suicide.
His successor became Marek Lichtenbaum.
The Jewish order service took over the control. It was responsible for hanging up posters on 29 July, announcing that each person who will volunteer for resettlement will get 3 kg bread and 1 kg marmalade.(i,e. Jam)
Because of starvation many Jews followed that announcement. The Germans provided 180,000 kg bread and 36,000 kg marmalade.
On 23 July 1942, the Jewish underground organisations met. Its leaders refused organising resistance. Only the organisation of the young Zionists, Hashomer Hatzair, organised a propaganda action in the ghetto, informing on handbills that the deportees will be sent to a death camp and not to work. The Jews in the ghetto supposed that it was just a German provocation.
The assembly point (Umschlagplatz) was formerly used by the Transferstelle [point of transfer, sic] as a corridor for transports to and from the ghetto. In the adjoining yard, which was surrounded by a high fence, was the abandoned Jewish hospital, into which the victims were crowded until the freight trains arrived. The Germans organised a Dulag (Durchgangslager - [transit camp, sic] on Leszno Street. From there after a selection on the Umschlagplatz Jews being able to work were sent to different work camps, including the KZ Majdanek.
In July 1942, 64,606 Jews were deported to Treblinka. This number doesn't include the people who were shot on the streets and in the houses in the course of "cleaning" the buildings. Until 29 July 1942, the round ups were organised only by the Jewish police in the ghetto. Afterwards the "actions" were carried out by members of Aktion Reinhard.
In August 1942, the deportations continued with the same relentless efficiency. During the first week in August the Janusz Korczak orphanage was closed. 200 children marched through the ghetto to the Umschlagplatz, accompanied by the old doctor and his long-time assistant Stefania Wilczynska. This incident became a legend.
Janusz Korczak, between 19 and 21 August 1942, the Warsaw Ghetto saw a break in the Aktion: During these days the Jews from the towns near Warsaw were deported to Treblinka: Otwock, Falenica, Miedzeszyn, Minsk and Mazowiecki. In fact the number of deportees to Treblinka in August could be estimated at around 135,000 people.
On 23 August 1942, Jankiel Wiernik was deported to Treblinka. He was one of a few Treblinka survivors, who participated in the Treblinka revolt. Read his story about his deportation!
From 28 August until 3 September 1942, there was another break in the deportations.This fact could be connected with the backlog at Treblinka, where Eberl (the commandant) had allowed more transports to arrive than the camp could manage. The inadequate gassing facilities at Treblinka led to a complete breakdown of the camp's operation. Irmfried Eberl was relieved of his command and Christian Wirth was ordered by Odilo Globocnik to dispose of the mass of corpses. All transports were suspended whilst order was restored.
In August 1942, the underground organisation of "Bund" in the Warsaw Ghetto sent their activist Zalman Friedrich to discover what had happened to the transports from the ghetto. In Sokolów Podlaski near Treblinka he was informed by Polish railway workers that every day a freight trains (with people on board) passed the town to Treblinka. After several hours these trains returned empty. There were no food supplies to the camp...
On Sokolów Podlaski market Friedrich met two naked Jews who had escaped from Treblinka. They described what had happened to the deportees. The information about Treblinka and the fate of the transports from Warsaw Ghetto were confirmed by Dawid Nowodworski who could escape from Treblinka. He returned to the Warsaw Ghetto in late August 1942.
On 14 August 1942, from the Warsaw Ghetto Dulag 1,260 Jews were sent to Lublin. About 1,000 of them were sent to the concentration camp Majdanek, others to the work camp on Lipowa Street 7 in Lublin.
The last phase of the "Great Action" opened on 6 September 1942. Its main feature was a comprehensive selection that went on until 10 September 1942.
The Jews having permission for work (35,000 permissions have been handed out by the Germans) were concentrated in a "cauldron" in the David quarters ("Cauldron" means "Kesl" in Yiddish, "Kociol" in Polish). During this selection 35,885 Jews were deported, according to the Judenrat lists (published in 1988, Warsaw State Archive). 2,648 were shot on the spot and 60 committed suicide.
After this selection approximately 60,000 Jews remained in the ghetto.
On 15 September 1942, 2,100 Jews from Warsaw (among them 150 Jewish policeman) were sent to Lublin. 600 of them were sent to the work camp on 7 Lipowa Street, 60 to the Flugplatz Camp, and others to KZ Majdanek. Their names are partially available at the archive of the State Museum Majdanek in Lublin.
On 24 September 1942, SS-Untersturmführer Karl Brandt proclaimed the end of the resettlement action in the Warsaw Ghetto.
According to German sources 253,742 Jews were deported. According to Jewish sources 270,120 were sent to Treblinka, 10,300 died in the ghetto, 11,580 were sent to Dulag (among them more than 3,500 were deported to Lublin) and 8,000 escaped from the ghetto.
Exact figures about the Warsaw Ghetto drama are partially available but they differ. Jews were deported to the ghetto, escaped from it, were sent to forced labour camps, died by starvation and epidemics, perished somewhere in hidden places or lost their life's in the struggle against the Germans. Last but not least too many notes got lost and witnesses died before they could tell about their observations.
THE STROOP REPORT
Stroop joined both the SS and the NSDAP in 1932. During the German election campaign of 1932 Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Göring became aware of him. In 1933, he was appointed leader of the state Hilfspolizei (auxiliary police) in the German state of Lippe. One year later, he was promoted from the rank of SS-Oberscharführer to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer. Subsequently he worked for the SS-administration in Münster and Hamburg. In autumn 1938, he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer.
After the invasion of Poland, he served as commander of the SS-section in Gniezno (today Poland). In May 1941, he changed his name from Josef to Jürgen for ideological reasons and in remembrence of his late son.
In April 1943, Himmler replaced the chief of the SS and police in the Warsaw district, SS-Obergruppenführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg, with Stroop (as SSPF Warschau). A veteran of WW 1, Stroop had more recently been involved in operations against Soviet partisans in the Ukraine and was familiar with the latest techniques in counterguerrilla warfare.
Stroop was responsible for crushing the rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto (19 April - 16 May 1943). The operation commenced at 06:00 hrs on 19 April; Stroop assumed command at 08:00 hrs on the same day. As the German forces were forced back by heavy Jewish resistance, he ordered the entire ghetto burned down. Afterwards, in his famous report to his superior, SS-Obergruppenführer F.W. Krüger, and Himmler, Stroop boasted that "the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is no more".
For leading the German troops in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Stroop was decorated with the Iron Cross 1st class. His report was done in triplicate: one for Himmler, one for Krüger, and one for himself. It contained a summary about the Aktion, the sent telexes, and a collection of photos which have been taken in the ghetto during the fights.
After the war one report was confiscated by U.S. troops. Later it played a major role in the Nürnberg Trials. Stroop never denied the authenticity of the found version.
From September - November 1943, Stroop was SS- and Police Chief in Greece, then served in the Rhein (Rhine) area until end of war. U.S. troops captured him on 8 May 1945. A U.S. military tribunal in Dachau sentenced him to death on 21 March 1947. The sentence was not executed and Stroop was extradited to Poland. There he was sentenced to death again on 23 July 1951. Stroop was hanged on 6 March 1952 in Warsaw.
T. Berenstein: Zydzi warszawscy w hitlerowskich obozach pracy przymusowej. Biuletyn ZIH, No.67 (1968)
B. Engelking, J. Leociak: Getto warszawskie. Przewodnik po nieistniejacym miescie. Warszawa 2001
Tak bylo... Sprawozdania z warszawskiego getta 1939-1943. (Wybór). Oprac. J. Adamska, J. Kazmierska, R. Sakowska. Warszawa 1988
Archive of the State Museum Majdanek
Encylopedia of the Holocaust
Yisrael Gutman: The Jews of Warsaw,1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
The Diary of Adam Czneriakow
Stanislaw Adler: In the Warsaw Ghetto
|Jewish police at a barricaded entrance to the Warsaw ghetto. Poland, February 1941 |
|Jewish policeman & German guard|
On 22 July 1942, three days after Krüger received the order from Himmler, to complete the extermination of the Jews in the General Government of the Warsaw Ghetto by the end of the year, the SS took over the civil administration and the rule of the "Jewish quarter". The Jews were rounded up and taken into the recently completed facility at Treblinka extermination camp, north-east of Warsaw. At the same time the SSPF SS-Oberführer Dr. Ferdinand von Sammern Frankenegg tried to regain the control over the ghetto factories.[Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg was an SS-Oberführer (senior Colonel) and the SS and Police Leader of the Warsaw area from 1941. He was in charge of the first offensive operation in the suppression of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on April 19, 1943. After the failed offensive, von Sammern-Frankenegg was replaced by Jürgen Stroop, court-martialed on April 24, 1943, and found guilty of "defending Jews". He was subsequently transferred to Croatia where in September he was killed in a Yugoslav partisan ambush near the city of Klasznic,, sic].
|Jews during a deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto |
Contrary to the agreements between the SS and Wehrmacht, Globocnik's staff, which was supported by members of the Warsaw Security Police, the Jewish Order Service and auxiliary police units, the so-called Trawniki-men, in the compilation of the transports, did this, with no regard to economic interests. The work managers intervened then, because of the deportation of their workforce, to the military command of the Wehrmacht in Warsaw, urging von Sammern-Frankenegg to comply with the arrangements for the continuance of employment for their workers and not to jeopardise the output nor the closure of factories.(6) The HSSPF reiterated to the Arms Inspection Department in reconsidering the competence in using the Jewish workers. The remaining plants in Warsaw should be "combined in a special armaments Ghetto" (7). On this basis, at the beginning of September 1942 von Sammern-Frankenegg with plant managers signed contracts with the SSPF in which the number of its workers, whose hours and wages, which had now to be at a uniform rate and made commitments in consultation with the Judenrat(committe of Jews). In addition, the companies had to undertake to accommodate their Jewish employees in closed residential blocks in the workplace. The ghetto was now receiving the character of a labour camp. On 14 September1942 Globocnik's staff rescinded the deportations temporarily. Up to then, approximately 241 000 Jews had been deported from Warsaw to Treblinka and most likely exterminated.
Nearly a week later, General Curt Ludwig v. Gienanth the Military District Commander of the General Government, complained to the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) over the "immediate removal of the Jews." (9) The deportations had led to a loss of production in the war factories. Basically, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the General Government had no objection to the killing of Jews. However, Jews should be spared from deportations and should be employed in the war economy, until such time that corresponding Polish and Ukrainians had been trained as skilled workers and could be used as replacements. This intervention of the Armed Forces, made Himmler very angry, that he pushed for the replacement and removal of Gienanth. In his reply the Reich Leader SS urged early October 1942, that the Warsaw ghetto factories shall immediately merge(an Ort und Stelle) to a "spot" into a concentration camp. (10) The control of the companies would then be directed by the local SSPF, the Office Group D in the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office (WVHA ), the central administrative authority of the concentration camps. With the resources and manpower of the ghetto, the SS were planning to move the entire enterprises further east towards Lublin as soon as possible and build a "Closed Manufacturing Concentration Camp" and to run on their own account Armed Forces Orders to their bidding. The plants should be grouped in an SS-owned company, which was founded in early 1943 as Ostindutrie GmbH (OSTI) (11) The Warsaw Ghetto played in the plans of OSTI in their plans as far as resources and manpower were concerned a central role. (12)
Ref: 6-BARC / MArch, RW 23/19. The conflicts between the companies, the Armed Forces of the SS in Warsaw and documented in the war diary of the armament command of the Wehrmacht in Warsaw.
Ref :7-Protocol armament HSSPF and inspection, 08.15.1942, in BArch / MArch, RH 53-23/87, page 47-50
Ref :8-One of these contracts as a facsimile in: Helga Grabitz, last traces Ghetto Warsaw, the SS Labor Camp Trawniki, harvest festival, photos and documents about the victims of the Final Solution, Berlin 1993, pages 172f
Ref :9-Letter v. Gienanth to the OKW, 09/18/1942, in BArch / MArch, RH 53-23/87, page 116ff.
Ref :10 -Letter Himmler, 09.10.1942, in: Nbg. Doc No-1611. Because of its lack of cooperation with the SS offices, General v. Gienanth was retired from the Army.
Ref: 11 - Jan Erik Schulte, forced labor for Jews in Eastern Industries GmbH, Munich 2000, pages 43-74.
Ref: 12 -Himmler and Pohl gad reached an understanding "Regarding to materials and Equipment" from the Warsaw Ghetto during December 1942. Published by: Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Berlin 1961, page 408.
Despite Himmler's instructions, the ghetto factories first continued to work as before on their own, furthermore v. Sammern Frankenegg undertook no further steps towards its relocation. It was the surprise visit of the Reichsführer SS to Warsaw on January 9, 1943 that sparked new Initiatives. Himmler appeared angry, and furious that his instructions were not followed dated October 1942, and demanded the "immediate elimination of the private companies." For the relocation of businesses and their workers to Lublin he sat v. Sammern-Frankenegg a period of six weeks. All Jews that were not employed with Defence Contractors were to be brought to Treblinka.
With the resumption of deportations, the SS met on January 18, 1943 for the first time an armed resistance, and also outside the ghetto, the security of the occupying forces deteriorated due to Himmlers arranged mass arrests, (15) The timely relocation of the eight ghetto factories with a total of 20,000 workers was under these conditions impossible to achieve.
Himmler had, meanwhile, on February 16, 1943, issued orders to set up a concentration camp in the Warsaw Ghetto. Its inmates were after re-location of the factories to tear down the residential area, and with the associated tasks provide sufficient building materials for other projects and then create a park on the site. The arguments Himmler put forward for the demolition were of "political-security" reasons within the ghetto and the planned reduction in size of the city of Warsaw.
For the SS, the shifting of the ghetto factories were more difficult than expected. The staff did not trust the assurances of the managers, that production facilities in the district of Lublin would be rebuilt. They agitated openly against the re-location during the summer of 1942 and formed the Jewish resistance movement against the resettlement plans. Trying as he may, v. Sammern-Frankeneggs plans to clear the ghetto by force, had the effect that violence broke out unexpectedly on 19 April 1943 with fierce resistance that could only be struck down with the use of SS, Police and Wehrmacht units after several weeks. In the Warsaw ghetto uprising, thousands of Jews were killed and a number of machines were destroyed together with raw material, by systematically setting them on fire. The SS destroyed, so that even a large part of the proposed equipment for the Eastern Industries did no longer exist (19)
Ref :19-This led to conflicts between Stroop and Globocnik, who came to Warsaw to inspect the relocation of the businesses and workers, in BStU ZUV 15, Vol 19, Vol. 88 Franz Konrad's report, 01/08/1946, Globocnik's report on the conclusion of "Operation Reinhardt", 18/01/1944, in: Nbg. Doc. No-057.
|SS - men search Jews for weapons. Warsaw|
In his report addressed to Himmler and Krüger of 16 May 1943 on the suppression of the insurrection SS Brigadefüfrer Jurgen Stroop proposed, that the police prison, which was on the ghetto area and during the fighting had remained intact to develop it into a concentration camp and use prisoners to remove usable building material out of the rubble of the Ghetto. Picking up on Stroops proposal, Himmler ordered on 11 June 1943 the Chief of Administrative Main Office, SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl, to secure the prison at ul Dzielna[street] and convert it into a concentration camp. Prisoners were to be used with the removal of usable building material of the destroyed parts in the ghetto, while ensuring all recyclable materials are kept for further use. After that a park will be created on the premises.
But not in the prison of the security police at the Dzielna-[Street] known in Poland under the name of the Pawiak, but in the former military prison at ul Gesia (then known as Gänse-Strasse today ul Anielewicza) was the Warsaw concentration camp established in July 1943. The building complex on the east-west axis of Muranow held up to 1939 storage facilities and a prison for the Polish Army. From June 1941 to January 1943 arrest cells for the Central Jewish Order Service were housed there and since January 1942, the Jewish Council' (Judenraat) had its office in the building aswell..
THE DEMOLITION OF THE GHETTO
For the demolition of the Warsaw ghetto and the development of the concentration camp was the responsibility of the Central Building Inspection WVHA (Official C-5). As an intermediary authority served the Central Construction Office (ZBL) of the Waffen SS in Warsaw, which in turn was subordinate to the SS economist at HSSPF and coordinated the construction site. The Central Building Office was responsible for all construction projects for the SS in the Warsaw district. Head of Service was an architect, SS lieutenant William Lübeck. For the demolition of the ghetto and the construction of the camp was that of the Zentralbauleitumg (Central Building Department), which had about ten to twelve qualified staff such as architects, civil engineers, draughtsman and auditors employed, and increased its personnel from time to time and formed a special Unit of the Special Task Force. Demanded by Himmler as "The Master Plan", the Chief of the Office Group C in the WVHA, SS Brigadier General Dr. Ing Hans Kammler, submitted on 29 October 1943 his assessment . The area of the ghetto, he estimated at 320 hectares, of which 120 hectares had already been released back into the civil administration.
|Aerial photography of the Warschau Ghetto, probably taken Novemnber 1944. The yellow line indicates the location of the Concentration Camp on the ul Gesia-[street] |
The entering of the ghetto centre remained even after the suppression of the rebellion closed to the public. It was controlled by the Third Police Battalion of the SS of the 23rd Police Regiment that was from May 1943 to July 1944 stationed in Warsaw. The tasks of the unit was to patrol part of the ghetto wall, but also looking for Jews who had hidden after the end of the rebellion in the ruins of the ghetto. The police battalion was also used for the executions of Poles. Since the fall of 1943 the German occupation forces exacerbated the terror against the Polish population. The commander of the security police or the SSPF arranged executions which were often held in the immediate vicinity of the concentration camp in the ghetto area and therefore out of the public eye. The III-SS and Police Regiment shot and killed an estimated 3,000 people in Warsaw. The Polish underground were fully aware of the events in the Ghetto. In their reports of the underground government, the executions, but also the demolition work is regularly mentioned.
|Jewish resistance women, among them Malka Zdrojewicz (right), who survived Majdanek extermination camp. Stroop Report original caption: "Hehalutz women captured with weapons".|
The value of the salvaged material, several hundreds of millions of tons of brick and metals such as iron and copper, Kammler estimated at five million Reichsmarks, the cost of demolition and the construction of the camp to 150 million Reichsmarks. The value of the materials used was again less than four percent of the demolition costs. But even taking this amount into consideration the WVHA could not count on it. The materials needed for "consideration due to the particular conditions in the Warsaw area", and the Wehrmacht had to provide several companies material and services free of charge.
THE BUILDING OF THE CAMP
The concentration camp was built in Warsaw out of and from the ruins of the ghetto. The lack of the necessary infrastructure for a camp suitable to house thousands of prisoners were missing at first. Neither accommodation nor water connections for sanitary facilities were available. The prisoners were forced to salvage out of the ruins of the ghetto, building materials such as wood and bricks needed for the construction of a camp. Initially some wooden barracks at ul. Gesia, between ul. Lubeckiego and ul. Smocza were built. The wall of the central ghetto, which was at ul. Gesia limited the expansion of the camp to the south. The Headquarters moved into the Quarters of the former Polish military prison. The guard detachment was placed outside the camp grounds.
When the first transport of prisoners from the Auschwitz concentration camp arrived in Warsaw during September 1943, the camp was far from being completed. Still, there was a lack of sanitary facilities, and even a hospital, called a Revier, was not available. Kammler already changed the plans to extend the camp in early February 1944. Instead of the originally planned 10,000 prisoners the camp could have accepted, only 5,000 were now projected. The construction of the third portion of the facilities were to be omitted. The first section which the prisoners called the "altes Lager"(the old camp) and the SS designated as "Camp I", at that time it was fully completed and the new part to 60 percent. This one was located almost next to "Camp I" and stretched from the ul. Smocza to the ul. Okopowa on the western edge of the former ghetto. With a thorough fare both camps were thereby connected. In "camp II" no wooden barracks were erected but basic, primitive single-storey accommodation blocks from reclaimed bricks had been built. On the 10th June 1944, seven weeks before the scheduled end of the ghetto demolition , Kammler reported, the Warsaw concentration camp was now "ready" and could be "occupied to its full capacity." Based on this information additional prisoners arrived from Auschwitz and were accommodated in the new camp. Gradually further Transports were directed by the SS-Administration to Warsaw.
| "Watchtower of KZ Warschau on the corner of ul. Gesia and ul. Okopowa. Picture taken, during Spring of 1945, by Juliusz Bogdan Deczkowski, member of the Battalion "Zoska" of the Polish Home Army. |
Until the final closure of the camp, building work was carried out. They related mainly to accommodations, workshops, as well as a crematorium. When working in the ruins of the ghetto, inmates kept coming up against dead bodies of Jews who were murdered during the ghetto uprising. They were burned in the camp as well as the deceased prisoners on a temporary pyre in the ghetto area. The Police Regiment 23 of the III.SS maintained a work detail of their own for the disposal of the dead. It consisted of Jews kept interned in the basement of the property of the III SS and Police Regiment 23 at ul. Zelazna (then Eisenstrasse). In order to eliminate the numerous corpses, the Camp Administration built a Crematorium on the ul Gesia between the first Camp Section and the Main Administration Building in autumn 1943, but it was never completed before the closure of the Camp. A Polish Local Commission of inquiry found in 1946 charred human remains in the courtyards of the headquarters building at ul Gesia, although cans of Zyklon B were present, but there are no statements of former prisoners of the camp, indicating that in the camp area, a gas chamber was ever present.. Probably the Zyklon B was used for the disinfection of colthing to combat the spread of diseases.
|Warsaw KZ crematorium|
Plaszow Concentration Camp
Commanding the camp was Amon Göth, an SS commandant from Vienna who was known for being uncommonly sadistic in his treatment and killing of prisoners; "Witnesses say he would never start his breakfast without shooting at least one person."On March 13, 1943, he personally oversaw the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto nearby, forcing its Jewish inhabitants deemed capable of work into the KL Plaszow camp. Those who were declared unfit for work were either sent to Auschwitz or shot on the spot. Under him were his staff of Ukrainian SS personnel, followed by 600 Germans of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (1943–1944), and a few SS women, including Gertrud Heise, Luise Danz, Alice Orlowski and Anna Gerwing.
The camp was a slave Arbeitslager (English: Labor Camp), supplying manpower to several armament factories and a stone quarry. The death rate in the camp was very high. Many prisoners, including many children and women, died of typhus, starvation and executions. Plaszów camp became particularly infamous for both individual and mass shootings carried out there. Using Hujowa Górka, a large hill close to the camp commonly used for executions, some 8,000 deaths took place outside the camp’s fences with prisoners trucked in 3 to 4 times weekly. The covered lorries from Kraków used to arrive in the morning. The condemned were walked into a trench of the Hujowa Górka hillside and shot, bodies then covered with dirt, layer upon layer. In early 1944 all corpses were exhumed and burnt in a heap to hide the evidence. Witnesses later attested that 17 truckloads of human ashes were removed from the burning site, and scattered over the area.
All documents pertaining to the mass killings and executions were entrusted by commandant Göth to a high ranking female member of the SS, Kommandoführerin Alice Orlowski. She held these documents in her possession until the end of the war, then allegedly destroyed them. Alice Orlowski, a picture-perfect SS-woman, was known for her whippings especially of young women across their eyes. At roll call she would walk through the lines of women, and personally whip them.
During July and August 1944 a number of transports of prisoners left KL Plaszow for Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen and other camps. In January 1945, the last of the remaining inmates and camp staff, left the camp on a death march to Auschwitz, including several female SS guards. Many of those who survived the march were killed upon arrival. When the Nazis realized that the Soviets were already approaching Kraków, they completely dismantled the camp, leaving an empty field in its place. The bodies that were buried there earlier in various mass graves were all exhumed and burned on site. On January 20, 1945 the Red Army had reached only a tract of barren land.
In early January 1945, Orlowski was one of the SS women posted on the death march to Auschwitz-Birkenau and it was during this time that her behaviour, previously noted as being brutal and sadistic, became more humane. On the death march in mid-January 1945 from Auschwitz to Loslau, Orlowski gave comfort to the inmates, and even slept alongside them on the ground outside. She also brought water to those who were thirsty. It is unknown why her attitude changed, but some speculate that she sensed the war was almost over and she would soon be tried as a war criminal. Orlowski eventually ended up back at Ravensbrück as a guard.
After the war ended in May 1945, Orlowski was captured by Soviet forces and extradited to Poland to stand trial for war crimes. The "picture book SS woman" stood accused at the Auschwitz Trial in 1947. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in 1957 after serving only 10 years. In 1975, West Germany tracked Orlowski down, and placed her on trial in the Third Majdanek Trial. She died during the trial in 1976 at the age of 73.
Continued under Part 2