Gross-Rosen concentration camp

Gross-Rosen concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Groß-Rosen) was a German network of Nazi concentration camps built and operated during World War II. The main camp was located in the German village of Gross-Rosen, now the modern-day Rogoźnica in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland;[2] directly on the rail-line between the towns of Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau).[1][3]

At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the territory of occupied Poland. The population of all Gross-Rosen camps at that time accounted for 11% of the total number of inmates incarcerated in the Nazi concentration camp system.[2]

Nazi concentration camp
Gross Rosen 3
Gross-Rosen entrance gate with the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei
Gross-Rosen concentration camp is located in present-day Poland
Gross-Rosen concentration camp is located in present-day Poland
Location of Gross-Rosen in present-day Poland
Coordinates50°59′57″N 16°16′40″E / 50.999281°N 16.277704°E
OperationalSummer of 1940 – 14 February 1945
Number of inmates125,000 (in estimated 100 subcamps)
Notable inmatesBoris Braun, Adam Dulęba, Franciszek Duszeńko, Heda Margolius Kovály, Władysław Ślebodziński, Simon Wiesenthal
Gross Rosen (b&w)
Model of the Gross-Rosen main camp,
from the Rogoźnica Museum [1]

The camp

KZ Gross-Rosen was set up in the summer of 1940 as a satellite camp of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp from Oranienburg. Initially, the slave labour was carried out in a huge stone quarry owned by the SS-Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH (SS German Earth and Stone Works).[3] In the fall of 1940 the use of labour in Upper Silesia was taken over by the new Organization Schmelt formed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler. It was named after its leader SS-Oberführer Albrecht Schmelt. The company was put in charge of employment from the camps with Jews intended to work for food only.

The Gross-Rosen location close to occupied Poland was of considerable advantage.[4] Prisoners were put to work in the construction of a system of subcamps for expelees from the annexed territories. Gross Rosen became an independent camp on 1 May 1941. As the complex grew, the majority of inmates were put to work in the new Nazi enterprises attached to these subcamps.[3]

In October 1941 the SS transferred about 3,000 Soviet POWs to Gross-Rosen for execution by shooting. Gross-Rosen was known for its brutal treatment of the so-called Nacht und Nebel prisoners vanishing without a trace from targeted communities. Most died in the granite quarry. The brutal treatment of the political and Jewish prisoners was not only in the hands of guards and German criminal prisoners brought in by the SS, but to a lesser extent also fuelled by the German administration of the stone quarry responsible for starvation rations and denial of medical help. In 1942, for political prisoners, the average survival time-span was less than two months.[3]

Map of Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland marked with black squares. Location of Gross-Rosen, extreme left (Niederschlesien)

Due to a change of policy in August 1942, prisoners were likely to survive longer because they were needed as slave workers in German war industries. Among the companies that benefited from the slave labour of the concentration camp inmates were German electronics manufacturers such as Blaupunkt, Siemens, as well as Krupp, IG Farben, and Daimler-Benz, among others.[5] Some prisoners who were not able to work but not yet dying were sent to the Dachau concentration camp in so-called invalid transports.

The largest population of inmates, however, were Jews, initially from the Dachau and Sachsenhausen camps, and later from Buchenwald. During the camp's existence, the Jewish inmate population came mainly from Poland and Hungary; others were from Belgium, France, Netherlands, Greece, Yugoslavia, Slovakia, and Italy.

Gross Rosen 6
Gross-Rosen memorial


At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps,[2] located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and occupied Poland. In its final stage, the population of the Gross-Rosen camps accounted for 11% of the total inmates in Nazi concentration camps at that time. A total of 125,000 inmates of various nationalities passed through the complex during its existence, of whom an estimated 40,000 died on site, on death marches and in evacuation transports. The camp was liberated on 14 February 1945 by the Red Army. A total of over 500 female camp guards were trained and served in the Gross-Rosen complex. Female SS staffed the women's subcamps of Brünnlitz, Graeben, Gruenberg, Gruschwitz Neusalz, Hundsfeld, Kratzau II, Oberaltstadt, Reichenbach, and Schlesiersee Schanzenbau.

The Gabersdorf labour camp had been part of a network of forced labor camps for Jewish prisoners that had operated under Organization Schmelt since 1941. The spinning mill where the female Jewish prisoners worked had been "Aryanized" in 1939 by a Vienna-based company called Vereinigte Textilwerke K. H. Barthel & Co. The prisoners also worked in factories operated by the companies Aloys Haase and J. A. Kluge und Etrich. By 18 March 1944 Gabersdorf had become a subcamp of Gross-Rosen.[6]

One subcamp of Gross-Rosen was the Brünnlitz labor camp, situated in the Czechoslovakian town of Brněnec, where Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler were interned.

The Brieg subcamp, located near the village of Pampitz, had originally been the location of a Jewish forced labor camp until August 1944, when the Jewish prisoners were replaced by the first transport of prisoners from the Gross-Rosen main camp. The camp was mostly staffed by soldiers from the Luftwaffe and a few SS members. Most of the prisoners were Polish, with smaller numbers of Russian and Czech prisoners. Most of the Poles had been evacuated from the Pawiak prison in Warsaw; others had been arrested within the territory controlled by the Reich or had been transported from Kraków and Radom.[6]

Brieg's camp kitchen was run by Czech prisoners. The three daily meals included 1 pint of mehlzupa (a soup made from water and meal),[7] 150 grams of bread, 1 quart of soup made with rutabaga, beets, cabbage, kale or sometimes nettles, 1 pint of black "coffee" and a spoonful of molasses. Sometimes "hard workers" called zulaga would be rewarded with a piece of blood sausage or raw horsemeat sausage, jam and margarine. Prisoners also received 1 cup of Knorr soup per week.[6]

Camp commandants

During the Gross-Rosen initial period of operation as a formal subcamp of Sachsenhausen, the following two SS Lagerführer officers served as the camp commandants, the SS-Untersturmführer Anton Thumann, and SS-Untersturmführer Georg Gussregen. From May 1941 until liberation, the following officials served as commandants of a fully independent concentration camp at Gross-Rosen:

  1. SS-Obersturmbannführer Arthur Rödl, May 1941 – September 1942
  2. SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Gideon, September 1942 – October 1943
  3. SS-Sturmbannführer Johannes Hassebroek, October 1943 until evacuation

War crimes trial

On 12 August 1948 the trial of three Gross Rosen camp officials, Johannes Hasselbröck, Helmut Eschner and Eduard Drazdauskas, began before a Soviet Military Court. On 7 October 1948 all were found guilty of war crimes. Eschner and Drazdauskas were sentenced to life imprisonment and Hasselbröck was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted also to life imprisonment. [8]

List of Gross-Rosen camps with location

The most far-reaching expansion of the Gross-Rosen system of labour camps took place in 1944 due to accelerated demand for support behind the advancing front. The character and purpose of new camps shifted toward defense infrastructure. In some cities, as in Wrocław (Breslau) camps were established in every other district. It is estimated that their total number reached 100 at that point according to list of their official destinations. The biggest sub-camps included AL Fünfteichen in Jelcz-Laskowice, four camps in Wrocław, Dyhernfurth in Brzeg Dolny, Landeshut in Kamienna Góra, and the entire Project Riese along the Owl Mountains.[9]

Notable inmates

  • Boris Braun, Croatian University professor
  • Simon Wiesenthal, Nazi hunter. He provides the following information about the camp in his 1967 book The Murderers Among Us:
"...healthy looking prisoners were selected to break in new shoes for soldiers on daily twenty mile marches. Few prisoners survived this ordeal for more than two weeks."

See also


  1. ^ a b The Gross-Rosen Museum in Rogoźnica. Homepage.
  2. ^ a b c "Historia KL Gross-Rosen". Gross-Rosen Museum. 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Alfred Konieczny (pl), Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust. NY: Macmillan 1990, vol. 2, pp. 623–626.
  4. ^ Dr Tomasz Andrzejewski, Dyrektor Muzeum Miejskiego w Nowej Soli (8 January 2010), "Organizacja Schmelt" Marsz śmierci z Neusalz. Skradziona pamięć! Tygodnik Krąg. (in Polish)
  5. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia (2014), Gross-Rosen. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  6. ^ a b c Megargee, Geoffrey P. (2009). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945: pt. A. The early National Socialist concentration camps. Introduction to the early camps. Indiana University Press. pp. 717–731. ISBN 978-0-253-35429-7.
  7. ^ Marszałk, Józef (1986). Majdanek: The concentration camp in Lublin. Interpress. ISBN 978-83-223-2138-6.
  8. ^ "Nazi War Crimes Trials: Gross Rosen Trial (August 12 - October 7, 1948)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  9. ^ "Filie obozu Gross-Rosen" [Subcamps of Gross-Rosen, interactive]. Gross-Rosen Museum (Muzeum Gross Rosen w Rogoźnicy). Retrieved 16 October 2014.


  • Harthoorn, W.L. (2007). Verboden te sterven: Oranjehotel, Kamp Amersfoort, Buchenwald, Grosz-Rozen, Dachau, Natzweiler. ISBN 978-90-75879-37-7.
  • Willem Lodewijk Harthoorn (nl), an inmate from the end of April to mid-August 1942: Verboden te sterven (in Dutch: Forbidden to Die), Pegasus, Amsterdam.
  • Teunissen, Johannes (2002). Mijn belevenissen in de duitse concentratiekampen. ISBN 978-90-435-0367-9.
  • collection of photographs from the KZ Gross-Rosen World War II field trip.

External links

Abraham Bankier

Abraham Bankier (May 5, 1895 – 1956) was a Polish Jewish businessman and Holocaust survivor who assisted Oskar Schindler in his rescue activities and worked as his factory manager.

Adolphe Rabinovitch

Adolphe Rabinovitch (27 May 1918 – 1944), also known as Alec Rabinovitch, was a Special Operations Executive officer in France during the Second World War. He rose to the rank of captain.

Anton Thumann

Anton Thumann (31 October 1912 – 8 October 1946) was a member of the SS of Nazi Germany who served in various Nazi concentration camps during World War II. After the war, Thumann was arrested by British occupation forces and charged with crimes against humanity. At the Neuengamme Camp Case No. 1 in 1946 he was found guilty, sentenced to death and executed at Hamelin prison.

Brünnlitz labor camp

The Brünnlitz labor camp (Arbeitslager Brünnlitz) was a concentration camp of Nazi Germany which was established in 1944 just outside the town of Brněnec (Brünnlitz in German), Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, solely as a site for an armaments factory run by German industrialist Oskar Schindler, which was in actuality a front for a safe haven for Schindlerjuden.

Eddie Willner

Major Eddie Hellmuth Willner (August 15, 1926 – March 30, 2008) was a German Jew, a US Army Major, and a survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Edith Bruck

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Florian Marciniak

Florian Marciniak (codenames: Jerzy Nowak, Nowak, J.Krzemień, Szary, Flo; born 4 May 1915, Gorzyce, Kościan County – died 20/21 February 1944, Gross-Rosen) was a Polish scoutmaster (harcmistrz), and the first Naczelnik (Chief Scout) of the paramilitary scouting resistance organization, the Szare Szeregi, during the Second World War.

Marciniak was a graduate of St. John Cantius High School in Poznań. He was arrested by the Gestapo on 6 May 1943 and murdered in February 1944 at the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.

Friedrich Entress

Friedrich Karl Hermann Entress (8 December 1914 – 28 May 1947) was a German-Polish camp doctor in various concentration and extermination camps during the Second World War. He conducted human medical experimentation at Auschwitz and introduced the procedure there of injecting lethal doses of phenol directly into the hearts of prisoners. He was captured by the Allies in 1945, sentenced to death at the Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials, and executed in 1947.


Gruszeczka [ɡruˈʂɛt͡ʂka] (German: Birnbäumel) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Milicz, within Milicz County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in south-western Poland. Prior to 1945 it was in Germany.

It lies approximately 11 kilometres (7 mi) south-west of Milicz, and 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of the regional capital Wrocław.

Heinrich Schmidt (SS doctor)

Ernst Heinrich Schmidt (March 27, 1912 – November 28, 2000) was a German physician and member of the SS, who practised Nazi medicine in a variety of German concentration camps during World War II. He was tried in 1947 and 1975 for complicity in war crimes, but was acquitted both times.

Itzhak Stern

Itzhak Stern (25 January 1901 – 1969) was a Polish-Israeli Jewish Holocaust survivor who worked for Sudeten-German industrialist Oskar Schindler and assisted him in his rescue activities during the Holocaust.

Jane Bernigau

Gerda "Jane" Bernigau (born 5 October 1908, Sagan, Germany — † 23 March 1992, Musum) was an SS Oberaufseherin in Nazi concentration camps before and during World War II.

Johannes Hassebroek

Johannes Hassebroek (11 July 1910 in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt – 17 April 1977 in Westerstede) was a German SS commander during the Nazi era. He served as a commandant of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp and its sub-camps from October 1943 till the end of the war. Hassebroek was tried for his crimes by the British occupational authorities, convicted to life imprisonment, and released in 1954. The later prosecution by the West German authorities proved unsuccessful.

Joseph Bau

Joseph Bau (Hebrew: יוסף באו‎; 13 June 1920 – May 24 2002) was a Polish-Israeli artist, philosopher, inventor, animator, comedian, commercial creator, copy-writer, poet, and survivor of the Płaszów concentration camp.

Karl Kahr

Karl Kahr (born September 11, 1914) was an Austrian SS-Hauptsturmführer and physician. During World War II he was Chief Medical Officer of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp between January, 1944 and February, 1945.

Karl Mache

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Rose Warfman

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Salomon Isacovici

Salomon Isacovici (1924 in Sighetu Marmaţiei, Romania – 1998) was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who became a writer and businessman in Ecuador. Born in Romania, he moved to Ecuador following World War II, and co-authored with Juan Manuel Rodriguez the book Man of Ashes.

Wilhelm Gideon

Wilhelm Gideon (15 November 1898, in Oldenburg – 23 February 1977) was a Schutzstaffel officer and Nazi concentration camp commandant.

A native of Oldenburg in the state of Lower Saxony, Gideon began work as a trainee engineer but had his studied ended by the outbreak of World War I when he volunteered for service in the German Imperial Army.Gideon enlisted in the SS in 1933 (member number 88,657) and the Nazi Party in 1937 (member 4,432,258). He had various posts in the SS, initially being stationed with the 9th SS-Reiterstandarte (cavalry) from 1934 to 1939. Following this he was moved to the 3rd SS Division Totenkopf until 1942, after which he was briefly attached to the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt. He also served for a short period at Neuengamme concentration camp and as administrator of the 88th SS-Standarte in Hamburg.Gideon had been identified by Oswald Pohl as a reliable SS officer and was promoted to Hauptsturmführer by the concentration camp chief. He was appointed commandant of Gross-Rosen concentration camp on 16 September 1942 in succession to Arthur Rödl and held the post until 10 October 1943 when Johannes Hassebroek succeeded him. His final post was on staff of the SS and Police Leader in occupied Denmark until the surrender in 1945.Gideon was found in 1975 when Israeli historian Tom Segev interviewed him for his book Soldiers of Evil, a study of the concentration camp commandants. However, after initially cooperating with Segev, Gideon terminated the interview when he suddenly claimed that he was a different person who happened to be named Wilhelm Gideon rather than the former commandant of Gross-Rosen.

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