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Kraków-P?aszów Concentration Camp

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Introduction

The P?aszów (Polish pronunciation: [?pwa?uf]) or Kraków-P?aszów concentration camp was a Nazi German labourand concentration camp built by the SS in P?aszów, 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 P?aszów camp, originally intended as a forced labour camp, was constructed on the grounds of two former Jewish cemeteries (see, New Jewish Cemetery) 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.

Camp operation

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. Göth would never sit down to a breakfast without shooting at least one victim. 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 HeiseLuise DanzAlice 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. P?aszów camp became particularly infamous for both individual and mass shootings carried out there. UsingHujowa 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.

Amon Göth's house in P?aszów (2008); from this balcony, he would shoot at prisoners from the camp, working below.

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.

P?aszów Memorial The sign at the entrance to the P?aszów camp memorial area

During July and August 1944 a number of transports of prisoners left KL Plaszow for AuschwitzStutthof,FlossenbürgMauthausen 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.

The area which held the camp now consists of sparsely wooded hills and fields with one large memorial marking where the camp once stood, with an additional small plaque located near the opposite end of the site. The camp is featured in the movie Schindler's List about the life of Oskar Schindler.

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Amon Göth

 

Amon Leopold Göth 

(11 December 1908 – 13 September 1946

 pronounced [??ø?t]) was an Austrian Nazi and the commandant of the Nazi concentration camp atP?aszówGeneral Government (a German-occupied area of Poland). AHauptsturmführer (Captain) of the SS, he was tried as a war criminal after the war.

After the war, the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Kraków found Göth guilty of murdering tens of thousands of people. He was executed by hanging on 13 September 1946, age 37, not far from the former site of the P?aszów camp.

 

 

Göth was born in Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a family in the book publishing industry. Göth joined a Nazi youth group at the age of 17, moved to a nationalist paramilitary group at the age of 19, and at the age of 22, became a member of the Austrian branch of the Nazi Party. In September 1930, he was assigned the Party Number 510764. Göth simultaneously joined the Austrian SS and was appointed an SS-Mann with the SS Number 43673.

Göth's early activities are little known, largely because the Austrian SS was an illegal and underground organization until the Anschluss of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938. Between 1932 and 1936, Göth was a member of an Allgemeine-SS company in Vienna and, by 1937, had risen to the rank of SS-Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant). Between 1938 and 1941, he was a member of 11th SS-Standarteoperating from Vienna and was commissioned an SS-Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) on 14 July 1941.

P?aszów

On 11 August 1942, Göth departed from his current position to join the staff of SS-Brigadeführer Odilo Globo?nik, the SS and Police Leader of the Kraków area. He was appointed as a regular SS officer of the Concentration Camp service, and on 11 February 1943 was assigned to construct and command a forced labour camp at P?aszów. The camp took one month to construct using slave labour and, on 13 March 1943, the Jewish ghetto of Kraków was closed down (liquidated) with the surviving inhabitants imprisoned in the new slave labor camp. Approximately 2,000 people died during the evacuation. At his later war crimes trial, it was revealed that Göth had personally killed a little over 500 slave laborers during the P?aszów camp's time in operation.

On 3 September 1943, Göth was given the further task of shutting down the ghetto at Tarnów, where an unknown number of people were killed on the spot. On 3 February 1944, Göth closed down the concentration camp at Szebnie by ordering the inmates to be murdered on the spot or deported to other camps, again resulting in several thousand deaths.

The balcony of Amon Göth's house in P?aszów – 2008

By April 1944, Göth had been promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain), having received a double promotion and thus skipping the rank of SS-Obersturmführer (First Lieutenant). He was also appointed a reserve officer of the Waffen-SS. His assignment as Commandant of the P?aszów Labour Camp continued, now under the direct authority of the SS Economics and Administration Office.

Göth believed that the Jews themselves should pay for their own executions, so on 11 May 1942, in the small town of Szczebrzeszyn, the Gestapo ordered the Jewish council to pay 2,000 z?otyand 3 kilograms of coffee to cover the expenses for the ammunition used to kill the Jews.

During his tenure as commander of P?aszów, Göth tortured and murdered prisoners on a daily basis. Göth is believed to have personally killed more than 500 imprisoned Jews and sent thousands more to be executed on Hujowa Górka, a large hill that was used for mass killings along P?aszów's grounds. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindler Jews, said, "When you saw Göth, you saw death." According to P?aszów survivor Helen Jonas,

As a survivor I can tell you that we are all traumatized people. Never would I, never, believe that any human being would be capable of such horror, of such atrocities. When we saw him from a distance, everybody was hiding, in latrines, wherever they could hide. I can't tell you how people feared him.

Göth spared the life of a Jewish prisoner Natalia Hubler, later famous as Natalia Karp, after hearing her play a nocturne by Chopin on the piano the day after she arrived at the P?aszów camp.

Dismissal and capture

On 13 September 1944, Göth was relieved of his position as Commandant of P?aszów and was assigned to the SS Office of Economics and Administration. Shortly thereafter, in Vienna around November 1944, Göth was charged with theft of Jewish property (which, according to Nazi legislation, belonged to the State), and was arrested by the Gestapo. He was scheduled for an appearance before SS judge Georg Konrad Morgen, but due to the progress of World War II, and Germany's looming defeat, a court martial was never assembled and the charges against him were summarily dismissed.

Mug shot of Göth in 1945.

He was next assigned to Bad Tölz, Germany, where he was quickly diagnosed by SS doctors as suffering from mental illness and diabetes. He was committed to a mental institution. He remained there until he was arrested by the United States military in May 1945. At the time of his arrest, Göth claimed to have been recently promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer and, during later interrogations, several documents listed him as "SS-Major Göth". Rudolf Höss was also of the opinion that Göth had been promoted and, when called to give testimony at Göth's trial, indicated that Göth was an SS-Major in the Concentration Camp service.

Göth's service record, however, does not support the claim of a late war promotion and he is listed in most texts as having held the rank of only SS-Hauptsturmführer, equivalent to Captain.

Execution Amon Göth in 1946, shortly before his execution

After the war, the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland in Kraków found Göth guilty of murdering tens of thousands of people. He was hanged on 13 September 1946, at the age of 37, not far from the former site of the P?aszów camp. At his execution, Göth's hands were tied behind his back. The executioner twice miscalculated the length of rope necessary to hang Göth, and it was only on the third attempt that the execution was successful.

Family

Göth was married and divorced twice. His first marriage was to Olga Janauschek in January 1934. They were divorced in July 1936. His second marriage was to Anny Geiger in October 1938; this ended in 1944. Soon after his second marriage ended, Göth was engaged to Ruth Irene Kalder, (nicknamed "Majola" in the P?aszów camp during her stay in Göth's "Red Villa"), who had taken Göth's name shortly after his death. Through these relationships, Göth had two sons and two daughters. Göth's first child, a boy named Peter, died seven months after his birth from a diphtheria infection. Göth had two more children with Anny Geiger, a daughter named Ingeborg and a son named Werner. Göth's last child was a daughter named Monika (chosen mainly from Göth's childhood nickname, "Mony") whom he had by Ruth Irene Kalder. Monika was born on 23 October 1945.

Amon Goeth, commandant of the Plaszow camp. Plaszow, Poland, between February 1943 and September 1944.

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Hujowa Górk

(sometimes Chujowa Górka) is a place near Kraków-P?aszów concentration camp, where in April 1944 the Nazis exhumed and burnt the bodies of around ten thousand previously killed Jews. The place takes its name from the surname of Unterscharführer Albert Hujar, who is portrayed by Norbert Weisser in Schindler's List and who ordered the original executions. It is also a mockery of Hujar's surname, meaning "Prick's Hill" in Polish.

 

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Luise Danz

Luise Danz 

(born December 11, 1917)

is a former concentration camp guard. She was born in Walldorf (Werra)Thuringia.

On January 24, 1943 at the age of 26, Luise Danz was conscripted as an Aufseherin within the Naziconcentration camp system. She served as guard in several camps, such as Kraków-P?aszów,MajdanekAuschwitz-Birkenau and Malchow. In 1943 she received an award from the Nazis for her camp service. She became Oberaufseherin in Malchow in January 1945 when she arrived.

At the end of the war in 1945, Luise tried to quietly slip into obscurity, but was later discovered and put on trial in the 1946 Auschwitz Trial by Poland for crimes that she had committed while on duty in the vast camp system. At her trial she was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was then released early in 1956.

In 1996, Luise Danz was tried in a German court for allegedly stomping a young girl to death at the Malchow concentration camp. The doctor overseeing the trial told the court that the proceedings were too much for the elderly woman and all charges were dropped. As of 2010 Danz is still alive at the age of 92.

 

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Alice Orlowski

Alice Orlowski 

(born September 30, 1903, Berlin, Germany – died 1976)

was a high-ranking SSofficial at many of the Nazi German camps in occupied Poland during World War II.

Born as Alice Minna Elisabeth Elling in Berlin in 1903, she began her guard training at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany in 1941. In October 1942 she was selected as one of the SS Aufseherin to be posted at the Majdanek camp near LublinPoland where she, and Hermine Braunsteiner, came to be regarded as two of the most brutal overseers. They regularly loaded trucks of women destined for the gas chambers. When a child was left over, the two would throw him or her on the top of the adults like luggage, and bolt the door shut. Orlowski often awaited the arrivals of new transports of women. She would then whip the prisoners especially across the eyes. In Majdanek, Orlowski was promoted to the rank of Kommandoführerin (Work Detail Overseer) in the sorting sheds.

As the SS Aufseherin, Orlowski had over 100 women under her supervision, who sorted through stolen items from gassed prisoners: watches, furs, coats, gold, jewellery, money, toys, glasses, etc. When the camp was evacuated, the Germans sent Orlowski to the notorious Kraków-P?aszów concentration camp near Kraków, Poland.

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 andsadistic, 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.

 

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HELEN JONAS Holocaust Survivor

As a survivor I can tell you that we are all traumatized people. Never would I, never, believe that any human being would be capable of such horror, of such atrocities. When we saw him from a distance, everybody was hiding, in latrines, wherever they could hide. I can't tell you how people feared him. 


ALEISA FISHMAN: 
When Helen Jonas speaks of SS officer Amon Goeth, her voice still bears traces of the horrors she witnessed as his house servant at the concentration camp in Plaszow, Poland. Goeth was commandant of the camp, which was portrayed in the movie Schindler's List. And it was Oskar Schindler himself who eventually saved Jonas from Plaszow. After the war, Goeth was hanged by Polish authorities. Sixty years later, Jonas met with Goeth's daughter Monika, a meeting recorded for the documentary film Inheritance. 

HELEN JONAS: 
When I arrived in Camp Plaszow, I was assigned to clean barracks. At the third day, a tall SS walked in the room, and he was Amon Goeth. At the time, I didn't know who he was. But he looked around and he said to the woman that was in charge of us to send me to his house. And I really didn't know what a brutal man he is, but he was a madman.

He was a madman. He always, from the balcony he watched the camp, and he's standing with the little machine gun through the window. He said, "You see those dumb heads? They're standing, doing nothing." He says, "I'm going to shoot." And you could hear shooting like hell. And I could hear him whistling a happy tune, like he did so well. And this face…with such satisfaction! I can't forget that. The dreams after so many years…he's chasing me, I'm hiding. Because I lived in constant fear, constant fear, just looking at him. He was barbaric. 

Monika was the daughter of Amon Goeth, and I received a letter from her. And it was a very sensitive letter. She explained that she was a little girl when they hung him and she wants to meet with me. She would appreciate. And at the very end, she said, "Helen, I know it's very hard for you, but it's also hard for me, but we have to do it for the murdered people." And that touched me. And at the same time, I feared, you know, walking the walk of my past and remembering and relating to those brutalities and atrocities. But I felt that otherwise, it's going to be forgotten. 

Monika, she accepted the fact that her father was a killer, but she still wanted to defend him. She said to me that, "They all were doing it." I said, "But he was the one that gave all the orders." So, it's just like she still protected…"They all were doing it." It just, like, annoyed me, you know? It's hard for me to be with her because she reminds me a lot of, you know…she's tall, she has certain features. And I hated him so.

But she is a victim. And I think it's important because she is willing to tell the story in Germany. She told me people don't want to know, they want to go on with their lives. And I think it's very important because there's a lot of children of perpetrators, and I think she's a brave person to go on talking about it, because it's difficult. 

And I feel for Monika. I am a mother, I have children. And she is affected by the fact that her father was a perpetrator. But my children are also affected by it. And that's why we both came here. The world has to know, to prevent something like to happen again. 

 

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David (Dudi) Bergman Born: 1931, Velikiye-Bychkov, Czechoslovakia

The Germans occupied David's town, previously annexed by Hungary, in 1944. David was deported to Auschwitz and, with his father, transported to Plaszow. David was sent to the Gross-Rosen camp and to Reichenbach. He was then among three of 150 in a cattle car who survived transportation to Dachau. He was liberated after a death march from Innsbruck toward the front line of combat between U.S. and German troops.

Plaszow was a combination of work camp and extermination camp. A lot of the Gypsies were brought in for extermination in that camp. And one of the things that I was told is survival means the ability to work. If you could work, there was hope for survival. If you couldn't work, you were done.

So mentally I had to psyche myself out that I'm adult and I could do the work, and I wanted to survive. And so, when we got there, I was still with my father. And, one of the first thing they did, is they asked for...they wanted to have people who had trades.

First thing...they selected first the work groups. And then they were...uh with all others, if they couldn't fit into work, then it was back to the extermination camp. So then my father was fall...fell out of the group as a tailor.

And then they said, "Bricklayers. Who's a bricklayer?" I raised my hand. "I'm a bricklayer." I never laid a brick or a stone in my life. I never even touched one. But as I was in the camp, I saw how people laid the bricks and the stones, how they mixed the cement, so I figured, "Well, I could do that." They said, "Okay. Fall in line." And they put me in the work group. And I...in the eye...their eyes, I was a professional bricklayer.

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Kalman Goldberg Born: Tarnow, Poland May 25, 1923

Kalman was one of seven children born to religious Jewish parents in the town of Tarnow. He attended public school in the morning and religious school in the afternoon. Kalman's father owned a factory that manufactured kosher soap, sabbath candles and candles for church altars. The Goldbergs lived above their factory, which was located in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

1933-39: The Germans occupied Tarnow on September 8, 1939. The next day, they burned the synagogues. One synagogue, built of stone from Palestine, was blown up with dynamite. Our factory remained open; at that point, the raw materials we needed were still available. We were ordered to make soap for the German army, and we supplied the orphanage and hospitals. Once a month we distributed soap to the public. They came right to the factory for their ration.

1940-45: In 1942 I was deported to the Plaszow labor camp where I worked as a mechanic. When the electrical system on a truck we'd repaired broke down, the mechanics were accused of sabotage and sentenced to death by firing squad.

We were taken to the camp prison, where we prayed and waited to die. Our foreman, Mr. Warenhaupt, appealed to the camp authorities, arguing that our skills were needed for the camp to function. Our death sentence was repealed. Instead, we were each whipped 100 times on our backs and buttocks.

Kalman was deported to two other camps before the end of the war, and survived. The foreman who saved his life joined the partisans and was killed. Kalman emigrated to the United States in 1946.

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1943-1944.

Prisoner forced laborers crowd around containers of food. Plaszow labor camp, Poland, 1943-1944.

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A group of women prisoners in the Plaszow camp. Plaszow, Poland, 1943-1944.

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Timeline

SEPTEMBER 1939
The German army occupies Krakow.

OCTOBER 26, 1939
German-occupied Poland, with the exception of the provinces directly annexed to the so-called Greater German Reich, is placed under civilian rule and becomes known as theGeneralgouvernement. Hans Frank becomes Governor General. Krakow becomes both the administrative capital of the Generalgouvernement and of District Krakow within the Generalgouvernement.

German authorities issue a decree requiring Jews and Poles residing in the Generalgouvernement to perform forced labor.

DECEMBER 1, 1939
German authorities require Jews residing in the Generalgouvernement to wear white armbands with blue Stars of David for purposes of identification.

JANUARY-MARCH 1940
German authorities require Jews residing in the Generalgouvernement to register all property and assets.

MAY, DECEMBER 1940
German authorities expel some 55,000 Krakow Jews out of the city into the surrounding countryside.

MARCH 21, 1941
German authorities establish a ghetto in which they require the remaining Jews living in the city to reside. Located in the Podgorze section of Krakow, the ghetto houses between 15,000 and 20,000 Jews.

JUNE 1941 
The SS and Police Leader for Krakow establishes a forced-labor camp for Jews in Krakow-Plaszow. During the next year, the SS and police establish eight other forced-labor camps for Jews in Plaszow, with the central camp on Jerozolimska Street. Among these camps is the forced-labor camp for Jews deployed in the German Enamel Products firm owned by Oskar Schindler.

MARCH 23-24, 1942
The Gestapo (German secret state police) arrests 50 Jewish intellectuals residing in the Krakow ghetto and deports them toAuschwitz, where all of them are registered as prisoners.

MARCH 1942
The SS and police deport 1,500 Jews from the Krakow ghetto via Plaszow to the Belzec killing center.

JUNE 1 AND 6, 1942
The SS and Police deport up to 7,000 Jews from the Krakow ghetto via Plaszow to the Belzec killing center. The Plaszow camp staff kills nearly 1,000 of these Jews before the train resumes its journey to Belzec.

OCTOBER 28, 1942
The SS and Police deport approximately 6,000 Jews to Plaszow. They kill at least 600 during the operation in the ghetto, 300 of them children. After a selection to determine individuals suited for labor, the SS sends the overwhelming majority of Jews on this transport to the Belzec killing center.

DECEMBER 23, 1942
Members of the Jewish Fighting Organization, the underground resistance group in the ghetto, and partisans from the Communist People's Army attack the Café Cyganeria, an establishment catering to German military personnel, and kill several Germans.

MARCH 13-16, 1943
SS and police authorities liquidate the Krakow ghetto. During the operation the SS kill approximately 2,000 Jews in the ghetto and transfer another 2,000 Jews, the members and families of the Jewish council, and the Krakow ghetto police force to Plaszow. The SS and Police transport approximately 3,000 more Krakow Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the camp authorities select 499 men and 50 women for forced labor. The rest, approximately 2,450 people, are murdered in the gas chambers.

SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER 1943
The camp authorities and guards at the Plaszow forced-labor camp for Jews murder virtually all of the Jewish prisoners in a series of mass shootings.

JANUARY 1944
The SS Economic and Administration Main Office takes over the Plaszow camp and converts it into the Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp. The SS liquidates the remaining forced-labor camps for Jews in the Krakow and Radom Districts of the Generalgouvernement and concentrates the Jewish forced laborers in Krakow-Plaszow. In spring 1944, the SS also transports Hungarian Jews to Krakow-Plaszow.

JANUARY 14, 1945
The SS guards evacuate the last 636 Jews from Krakow-Plaszow in the direction of Auschwitz.

JANUARY 17, 1945
Hans Frank and his administration flee Krakow.

JANUARY 19, 1945
Soviet troops enter Krakow.

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Plaszow – Krakow Forced Labour Camp

This page is dedicated to the memory of Joseph & Cyla Bau 

The construction of the camp commenced in the Podgorze area immediately after the deportations from the Krakow ghetto on 28 October 1942. There were two Jewish cemeteries on the chosen territory located next to each other. The first, established in 1887, belonged to the community of Podgorze; the other was a newly established cemetery belonging to the Jewish community of Krakow.

The entrance to the Podgorze cemetery was from Jerozolimska Street. The cemetery for the Krakow community was established in 1932, when there were no further burial places available in the cemetery at Miodowa Street. Its entrance was from Abraham Street, where there stood a beautiful Ohel (a pre- funeral home), built in the Byzantine style, designed by the architect Siodmak and opened in the same year, 1932.

Plaszow Main Entrance

The building site of the camp included both cemeteries and was approximately 25 acres in size. Originally the camp was planned for 2,000-4,000 prisoners, mostly Jews from the Krakow ghetto. The terrain was very uneven, hilly, filled with stones, and for a large part marshy. Construction of the camp required the enormous task of relocating many cubic yards of dirt and demanded significant engineering ingenuity. The area required many barracks for living quarters and industrial activities, as well as roads, and water and sewer services, all of which had to be operational in order to house the rapidly increasing number of prisoners.

A group named Barrackenbau was created after 28 October 1942, which marked the second deportation action in the Krakow ghetto. Jews in this working group left the ghetto every morning under armed guard and returned to the ghetto in the evening. From the beginning their situation was desperate. The prisoners were often kept overnight in the unfinished barracks, without light or sanitary facilities. This group was located in Liban, an abandoned limestone quarry in proximity to the camp, where a prison was established some time later.

One of the first tasks assigned to the prisoners was the levelling of the cemeteries. The headstones from the graves were removed and used as paving in front of the offices and residences belonging to German officers. Bodies uncovered during the destruction of the cemetery were removed and thrown into mass graves. Most of the work had to be performed very quickly; prisoners ran, whilst the SS shouted, screamed orders, and threatened to shoot them.

Map of the Camp

The camp was constantly being enlarged – the population continually grew as prisoners were brought to Plaszow from the closed ghettos in smaller towns and cities around Krakow. Later transports arrived from the eastern region of Malopolska, Slovakia and Hungary. The number of barracks also increased. Ultimately the territory of the camp covered roughly 197 acres, with about 180 barracks for living quarters and industrial activities. At its height the camp’s population was approximately 25,000 prisoners. The enlarged area of the camp was surrounded by Szwoszowicka Street to the west, Wielicka Street to the east, and Panska Street to the south. The barbed wire fencing was in two rows, was 4km long, and between the rows of double fencing was a 5 metre-wide corridor for the guards to patrol.

Sections of the camp were separated from each other – living quarters for men, living quarters for women, industrial, storage sections, living quarters for the guards, the camp’s headquarters and others. The prisoners were only permitted in their allocated section, or in those for which they had passes. The northwest parts of the site housed the sanitary facilities. Baths, latrines, the delousing station and other structures were built on top of the levelled cemetery and headstone remnants. Further to the south were the living quarters for women and men. They were situated around a wide plateau, which was used as a roll-call square. At the beginning of 1944 several barracks were designated for Polish prisoners, and later these were also fenced with barbed wire.

At the intersection of SS-Strasse and Bergstrasse, which was the main road of the camp, was a small quarry, where construction stone was processed. This was also the starting point of a small railroad. This particular place, near the Grey House and close to the Camp commandant’s villa, was a site which saw many deaths and much suffering. This was the place where female Jewish and Polish prisoners pulled extremely heavy carts filled with rocks uphill on SS- Strasse by rope. The railroad was called Mannschaftzug. There were 35 women harnessed on each side of the cart. The allotted time was 55 minutes for each trip, and they had to make 12 trips in the 12 hour workday.

Jewish women pulling carts filled with rocks

Male prisoners performing the same task

In the industrial part of the camp there were craft and production shops working for the needs of the German army and various other German organisations in Krakow. Beside clothing manufacture – producing army uniforms - the industrial part of the camp included workshops such as locksmiths, carpentry, upholstery, car repair, electrical, furrier, tailoring, cobblers, papermaking and a print-shop.

 At the industrial enterprises in Plaszow, the print-shop often printed secret orders for the German authorities and documents of the SS by night. Occasionally the printers were shot after completing their work.  Julius Madritsch from Vienna and Oskar Schindler from Zwittau, were two factory owners, who had a crucial part to play in the history of Plaszow forced labour camp [Schindler will be the subject of a separate page.]

Oskar Schindler

Because of his organisational talents, after being drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1940, Madritsch was invited to become a purchasing agent for the Wehrmacht in the General –Government. He was also appointed a ‘Trust Administrator’ of two textile plants in Krakow.

New edicts were being announced with monotonous regularity. Jews were only allowed to work in armament industries and even this was intended merely to be for the short term. The Jews were to be replaced by ‘Aryan’ workers in due course. It was this edict that brought Schindler and Madritsch together to a conference with theJudenrat labour office to discuss the situation. Since from around the beginning of 1942, the demand for manpower from any source was overwhelming, no German company had to be coerced into taking on labour.

On the contrary, the firms had to use their influence and persuasion to get all the help they felt they needed. The private companies were to pour millions of marks into the coffers of the SS for the privilege of using the camp inmates. An elaborate accounting system was created to ensure that companies paid the SS for every hour of skilled and unskilled labour and that deductions for food provided by the companies did not exceed the maximum permitted. The inmates of course received nothing – they remained under the control of the SS, but under the immediate supervision of the companies that utilised them.

Madritsch was authorised to move his factories to Plaszow on 14 September 1942, but it was only when the Krakow ghetto was liquidated on 13 – 14 March 1943 that Madritsch and his right-hand man, Raimund Titsch, achieved this. Madritsch and Titsch were able to establish sewing workshops in five barracks within Plaszow forced labour camp, and to open two further factories in Tarnow and Bochnia.

Madritch Factory in Plaszow

In October 1939, Oskar Schindler established his own factory in a run-down former Jewish enamel works at 4 Lipowa Street, assisted by Itzhak Stern, a clever Jewish accountant. In 1942, 370 Jews were employed along with 430 Polish workers. When the Krakow ghetto was liquidated in March 1943, Jews were either sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, to Plaszow, or were killed on the spot. Schindler took advantage of his good relations with Amon Göth, one of the liquidators of the ghetto in Krakow, and the commandant of Plaszow forced labour camp, to arrange for workers from Plaszow to work in his factory. There he employed around 900 workers, most of them Jewish, who had no previous experience of this type of work.

Heavy Labour

When the ghetto was liquidated and the inhabitants were forced into Plaszow labour camp, the Jews who worked at Emalia every day had to march the four kilometres from Plaszow to the factory, and then back again at night. Schindler had the idea to build barracks at the back of his factory, which he did, and in November 1943 was allowed to move his workers from Plaszow to the Emalia barracks. In October 1944 with the approach of Russian forces, Schindler was granted permission to re-establish his firm as an armaments production company in Brunnlitz, in the then Sudetenland. He was able to save approximately 1,100 Jews from almost certain death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

The first commandant of Plaszow was SS-Unterscarführer Horst Pilarzik, followed by SS-Oberscharführer Franz Müller. Amon Leopold Göth (who before his transfer to Plaszow was one of the SS officers in Globocniks`s headquarters in Lublin) took over from Müller in February 1943, until Göth was arrested by the SS on 13 September 1944 for fraud. Other notable SS men employed in Plaszow were Kunde, Hujar, John, Zdrojewski, Landesdorfer, Eckert and Glazar, who lived in the Grey House, near the commandant’s villa.

Amon Göth at Plaszow

Göth ruled the camp with a reign of terror- beatings and shootings were everyday occurrences. Here is one example of the brutal treatment prisoners suffered at the hands of Göth. Former prisoner Henryk Bloch testified at Göth’s trial in 1946

“Göth ordered his deputy to start beating us. He went away to have his lunch. We were then taken to the back, next to the house he lived in. Two tables were brought, also buckets of water and they started beating us directly on our naked flesh. Göth ordered that everyone should receive 100 strokes each, but everyone received more than 200 and even 300.

Every prisoner had to count each stroke loudly. If a mistake was made in the count by him, the beating started afresh from number one. We were not beaten by one person, they were taking turns, as one man would tire very quickly, having to hit someone 100 times with his full strength. The whip would be passed to another SS man there. It was impossible being hit so many times, to count properly, people were making mistakes, and the beatings were starting afresh. 

And so the beatings went on and on, the tables were covered in blood, as every hit meant a fresh cut in someone’s flesh. As anyone left the table, he was virtually one bloody mass of cut flesh. 

Everyone getting off the table was ordered to report, standing to attention:  `I report humbly that I have received my sentence.’ In the course of all this, one man screamed terribly. Göth shouted at him to calm down, to count. The man did not calm down. Göth approached him, picked up half a brick off the ground, went to the table on which the man was being beaten and from a very close distance struck him on the head with the brick, splitting his head. The beating of that man continued uninterrupted, then the pouring of water and beating again.

SS Guards at Plaszow

Covered in blood, with a split head, he went off the table, and approaching Göth, he reported he had received his penalty. He was ordered to go away, and as the man turned, Göth pulled out his revolver, firing it into the back of the man’s head.

The man who was killed in this fashion was a Mr Meitlis according to testimony from Henryk Mandel. 

On the last Sunday in December 1943, a high-powered inspection team, led by SS-Obergruppenführer Krüger arrived at the camp. Together with Göth, the inspection team toured the camp. As the tour commenced there was a black-out, Oskar Schindler had arranged for the electricity to be cut, so as to mask any deficiencies in his workshops.

In January 1944 Plaszow was designated a ‘Konzentrationlager’ under the central authority of SS-Obergruppenführer Pohl’s Main Economic and Administrative Office, in Oranienburg. In March 1944, some of the SS staff from the concentration camp at Majdanek in Lublin were transferred to KL Plaszow, among them SS doctor Max Blancke (who had been very active during selections in KL Lublin), and some of the female overseers. Together with them a small group of Jewish prisoners who were deported to Majdanek after the “Erntefest” operation were also evacuated to Plaszow.

SS on Parade ground -Plaszow

At the beginning of 1944, building materials were brought to Plaszow for the construction of a crematorium and gas chambers. However, because of the costs involved and the proximity of the gas chambers in Auschwitz, the construction was probably deemed uneconomic and was never completed.

In order to accommodate several thousand Hungarian Jews, Göth requested that a cull needed to take place in Plaszow, and Glücks, SS-General and Inspector of Concentration Camps, agreed. Under the code name ‘Die Gesundheitaktion’ (the Health Action) Göth set about clearing space to make way for the anticipated 10,000 Hungarian Jews.

 The selections began on the morning of 7 May 1944. On the Appellplatz, row upon row of prisoners, in barrack formation, stood silent and bewildered. Block by block they were marched to the reception area. Ordered to strip naked, as each name was called out, the prisoner presented him or herself to the examining teams of doctors headed by the SS Dr Blancke.

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 levels of fitness – and therefore their right to survive. 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 cheeks to give them colour During the course of the ‘Aktion’ 286 children were rounded up and kept penned in a separate compound.

Parents seeing their children separated and confined began to wail and scream for their loved ones. There was panic and pandemonium everywhere. Whole families were separated in this selection, some to the left, and some to the right. Certain children, the urchins of the camp, had their hiding places already prepared; even so, when they dived for cover they would find that their hiding place had been taken by someone else, and they ran in frantic search of another sanctuary.

SS Zugsberger at Plaszow

On 14 May, everyone knew their fate; those selected for transport marched to the waiting wagons now standing on the spur line that ran into the camp. During the course of the ‘aktion’ dance tunes and lively music were broadcast over the loudspeakers, providing a musical background for the sick and young children, who were being sent to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

As they marched to the wagons, the radio technicians with their sense of Germanic humour could be heard singing the German lullaby ‘Goodnight Mama’. Approximately 1,400 Jews were sent to Auschwitz on 14 May and were gassed the same day. 

The camp also became a place of mass execution for political prisoners and civilians from Krakow. The condemned were brought in covered lorries, sometimes from the prison on Montelupich Street, or from the SS quarters on Pomorska Street. The approximate number of people executed is 8,000. The executions took place outside of the camp’s fences on two small hills, the remnants of old Austrian ramparts.

Lorries arrived 3-4 times weekly, generally early in the morning. Under orders from an SS officer, the condemned prisoners jumped out of the lorries, disrobed, walked into a trench and laid on the ground. Here they were shot and their bodies were covered with sand and earth. From the beginning of 1944, the bodies of the executed prisoners were exhumed and burnt at Hujowa Gorka, on wooden platforms.

Memorial at Plaszow

Witnesses claim that 17 truckloads of human ashes were removed from the cremation site, and that the ashes were probably scattered over the camp area. During July and August 1944 transports of prisoners left Plaszow for Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen and other concentration camps. 

On 13 September 1944 Göth was arrested by the SS-und Polizeigericht Vl in Krakow. He was accused of misappropriating valuables and property from Jews during ghetto liquidations. His assistant, the Camp Elder Chilowicz, was the director of the camp’s Jewish Order Service, and had helped him amass stolen valuables and property.

As the liquidation of the camp drew near Göth arranged for Chilowicz and his family to escape, but during the escape attempt, on Göth’s orders, the whole family was shot.

 On 14 January 1945, one day before the liberation of Krakow by the Russians, the last prisoners – 178 women and 2 boys - were sent to Auschwitz.

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/plaszow/plaszow.html


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