Płaszów (Polish pronunciation: [ˈpwaʂuf]) or Kraków-Płaszów (German: Konzentrationslager Plaszow) 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 semi-colonial General Government district across occupied south-central Poland.
Kraków-Płaszów in 1942
Location of Kraków-Płaszów within Poland
|Operated by||Nazi Germany|
|Commandant||Amon Göth (until September 1944)|
Arnold Büscher (September 1944-January 1945)
|Operational||28 October 1942-January 1945|
|Number of inmates||Mostly Polish Jews|
|Liberated by||Red Army, 20 January 1945|
Originally intended as a forced labour camp, the Płaszów concentration camp was constructed on the grounds of two former Jewish cemeteries (including the New Jewish Cemetery). It was populated with prisoners during the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto, which took place on 13–14 March 1943 with the first deportations of the Barrackenbau Jews from the Ghetto beginning 28 October 1942. In 1943 the camp was expanded and turned into one of many KL concentration camps.
The Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp was divided into multiple sections. There was a separate area for camp personnel, work facilities, male prisoners, female prisoners, and a further subdivision between Jews and non-Jews. Although separated, men and women still managed to have contact with one another. There was also a private barracks for the camp's Jewish police and their families. While the primary function of the camp was forced labor, the camp was also the site of mass murder of inmates as well as prisoners brought in from the outside. The main targets were the elderly and the sick. There were no gas chambers or crematoria, so mass murder was carried out by shootings.
Under Arnold Büscher the camp's second commandant, prisoners did not experience any shootings or hangings. However, by 1943, the camp was notorious for its terrors. Amon Göth, an SS commandant from Vienna, was the camp commandant at this point. He was sadistic in his treatment and killing of prisoners. "Witnesses say he would never start his breakfast without shooting at least one person." On Göth's first day as camp commandant, he killed two Jewish policemen and made every camp inmate watch. On 13 March 1943, he oversaw the liquidation of the nearby Kraków Ghetto, forcing those 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. People were told to leave their children behind and that they would be cared for. In reality, they were all put in an orphanage and killed. Others snuck their children into the camp. If a prisoner tried to escape the camp, Göth shot 10 prisoners as a punishment. Göth would also release his great danes on prisoners if he did not like their expressions. He oversaw a staff that was mostly non-German. It consisted of 206 Ukrainian SS personnel from the Trawniki, 600 Germans of the SS-Totenkopfverbände (1943–1944), and a few SS women, including Gertrud Heise, Luise Danz and Alice Orlowski.
The female guards treated the prisoners as brutally as the men: "When we were loaded on the train in Płaszów, an SS woman hit me on the head. They were so vicious and brutal and sadistic, more than men. I think because some of them were women and you expect kindness, it was shocking. But of course, some were fat and big and ugly."
Jewish police were recruited by the camp personnel. They were provided with double rations of thick soup, as opposed to the standard watery soup, and a full loaf of uncontaminated bread. However, the benefits came with cost of having to whip inmates with the whips that the Nazis provided.
On 13 September 1944, Göth was relieved of his position and charged by the SS with theft of Jewish property (which belonged to the state, according to Nazi legislation), failure to provide adequate food to the prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and allowing unauthorised access to camp personnel records by prisoners and non-commissioned officers. Camp administration was assumed by SS-Obersturmführer Arnold Büscher. He improved the inmates' diets by allowing eggs, sugar and powdered milk.
The camp was an Arbeitslager ("labour camp"), supplying forced labour to several armament factories and to a stone quarry. Most of the prisoners were Polish Jews. There were also high numbers of women and children compared with other camps. A large degree of the Hungarian prisoners were women. The death rate in the camp was very high. Many prisoners died of typhus, starvation, and from executions. Because the work facilities were designed for men, the women had a lower chance of survival. Płaszów camp became particularly infamous for both the individual and the mass shootings carried out at 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 three to four times weekly. The covered lorries from Kraków would arrive in the morning. The condemned were walked into a trench of the Hujowa Górka hillside, ordered to strip down and stand naked, and then were finally shot. Their bodies were then covered with dirt, layer upon layer. During these mass shootings, all other inmates were forced to watch. In early 1944, all corpses were exhumed and burned on a pyre to obliterate the evidence of the mass murder. Witnesses later testified that 17 truckloads of human ashes were removed from the burning site and scattered over the area.
Although food was scarce, inmates that possessed any number of zlotys could buy extra food. A food for food trading system also developed. For example, two portions of soup was equal to a half loaf of bread.
When Göth received notice of a new shipment of inmates, he would set up deportations for Auschwitz. On May 14, 1944, Göth ordered all children to be sent to the "kindergarten". This turned out only to be a precursor to deportation to Auschwitz on May 15th where the children were all gassed.
Göth entrusted documents pertaining to the mass killings and executions 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. Orlowski was known for her whippings, especially of young women across their eyes. At roll call she would walk through the lines of women and whip them.
Prisoners could also rely on outside help to some degree. The Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle, a support group that the Germans tolerated, would provide the inmates with food and medical assistance. The Zehnerschaft was a group of women that also supported the inmates. The Polish Welfare Organization sent food to Polish prisoners and some of them shared with the Jewish inmates. There were also individuals such as Stanislaw Dobrowolski, the head of the Kraków branch of the Council for Aid to Jews (Żegota), and Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a famous pharmacist, also aided the prisoners.
Göth and the other camp personnel punished inmates for a variety of actions. Any action perceived as sabotage, such as smuggling items into the camp, disobeying orders, or carrying an extra piece of food in one's clothes was an offense punishable by death. Prisoners were warned that if they tried to escape, every member of their family and even innocent strangers would be killed. In terms of methods for killing, death by hanging was a favored method of Göth's. For a standard punishment, twenty-five lashings were dealt to the guilty inmate's buttocks.
While prisoners' daily lives were dominated by fear and starvation, there were some outlets for hope of survival. Rumors involving the Russian advancement that would lead to the camp's liberation always circulated. Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi Party that saved the 1200 Schindlerjuden was also a key figure. While prisoners always feared a transport to Auschwitz, one that was always sought after was a transport to Brünnlitz labor camp in Czechoslovakia. This is where Oskar Schindler's enamel factory was located. Schindler was known for being compassionate towards Jews. He never hit anyone, was always kind, and smiled frequently around the workers. Having relatives and friends that worked for Schindler gave one a better chance at being put on the list for transport.
During July and August 1944, a number of transports of prisoners left KL Płaszow for Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenburg, 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. Several female SS guards were part of the group that accompanied them. Many of those who survived the march were killed upon arrival. When the Nazis realized the Soviets were approaching Kraków, they completely dismantled the camp, leaving only an empty field. All bodies that had been previously buried in various mass graves were exhumed and burned on site. On 20 January 1945, the Red Army arrived and found only a patch of barren land.
Most of the numbers, including the number of inmates and killings, rely on estimation. The prisoner card index was destroyed during the camp's destruction. In terms of postwar trials, crimes committed at the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp were the subject of few. West German prosecutors took until the late 1950s to investigate these crimes. One of them was Göth's trial and sentence to death.
The area which held the camp now consists of sparsely wooded hills and fields, with one large memorial to all the victims and two smaller monuments (one to the Jewish victims generally, and another to the Hungarian Jewish victims) at one perimeter of where the camp once stood. The Jewish cemetery, where the Nazis removed all but one of the tombstones, stands on the side of the hill at the eastern end of the camp, near the Grey house. Amon Göth's villa remains there. Another small monument, located near the opposite end of the site, stands in memory of the first execution of (non-Jewish) Polish prisoners in 1939.
A version of the camp is featured in the movie Schindler's List (1993), about the life of Oskar Schindler. As the Płaszów area is now a nature preserve, the director Steven Spielberg built a camp replica in the Liban Quarry, some hundred meters away.
Each year, it is the finishing point of the March of Remembrance taking part in mid-March to manifest the respect to the victims of the Holocaust.
Heise, sentenced to 15 years for war crimes by the British judiciary, was last reported alive in Hamburg in 1970.
Media related to German Nazi concentration camp in Płaszów at Wikimedia CommonsAbraham 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.Alice Orlowski
Alice Orlowski (September 30, 1903 – 1976) was a German concentration camp guard at several of the Nazi German camps in occupied Poland during World War II.Amon Göth
"Göth" and "Goeth" redirect here; see Goeth (surname) for a discussion of this and related surnames.Amon Leopold Göth (pronounced [ˈɡøːt]; alternative spelling Goeth; 11 December 1908 – 13 September 1946; audio ) was an Austrian SS functionary during the Nazi era. He served as the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Płaszów in German-occupied Poland for most of the camp's existence during World War II.
Göth was tried after the war by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Kraków and was found guilty of personally ordering the imprisonment, torture, and extermination of individuals and groups of people. He was also convicted of homicide, the first such conviction at a war crimes trial, for "personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people."Göth was executed by hanging not far from the former site of the Płaszów camp. The 1993 film Schindler's List, where Göth is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, depicts his running of the Płaszów concentration camp.Arnold Büscher
Arnold Büscher (16 December 1899 – 2 August 1949) was a German SS officer. At the rank of SS-Obersturmführer, he was the second and last commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, succeeding Amon Göth, from September 1944 until about January 1945.Elsa Ehrich
Else Lieschen Frida "Elsa" Ehrich (8 March 1914 – 26 October 1948) was an SS guard at the Nazi concentration camps, including at Kraków-Płaszów and the Majdanek concentration camp during World War II. She was tried in Lublin, Poland at the Majdanek Trials and sentenced to death for war crimes. Ehrich was hanged on 26 October 1948.She was an Oberaufseherin at Majdanek, and took active part in all the major selections to the gas chambers and executions. She maltreated prisoners, not sparing even children. Her assistant was reportedly Hermine Braunsteiner, who was later denaturalized and deported from the United States back to Germany.Hauptsturmführer
Hauptsturmführer ([ˈhaʊ̯pt.ʃtʊʁm.fyːʀɐ], "head storm leader") was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was used in several Nazi organizations such as the SS, NSKK and the NSFK. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was a mid-level commander and had equivalent seniority to a captain (Hauptmann) in the German Army and also the equivalency of captain in foreign armies.The rank of Hauptsturmführer evolved from the older rank of Sturmhauptführer, created as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA). The SS used the rank of Sturmhauptführer from 1930 to 1934 at which time, following the Night of the Long Knives, the name of the rank was changed to Hauptsturmführer although the insignia remained the same. Sturmhauptführer remained an SA rank until 1945.Some of the most infamous SS members are known to have held the rank of Hauptsturmführer. Among them are Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor assigned to Auschwitz; Klaus Barbie, Gestapo Chief of Lyon; Joseph Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's assistant; and Amon Göth, who was sentenced to death and hanged for committing multiple waves of mass murder (liquidations of the ghettos at Tarnów and Kraków, the camp at Szebnie, the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, as portrayed in the film Schindler's List).
The insignia of Hauptsturmführer was three silver pips and two silver stripes on a black collar patch, worn opposite a unit insignia patch. On the field grey duty uniform, the shoulder boards of an army Hauptmann were also displayed. The rank of Hauptsturmführer was senior to the rank of Obersturmführer and junior to Sturmbannführer.Hujowa Górka
Hujowa Górka ([xuˈjɔ.va ˈɡurka]; sometimes Chujowa Górka) is a place near the site of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, where in April 1944 the Germans exhumed and incinerated the bodies of around ten thousand previously killed Jews, to hide the evidence of the crime before retreating from the area. The place took its name from the surname of Unterscharführer Albert Hujar (also Huyar) who committed and directed the executions. It is also a mockery of Hujar's surname, which is pronounced similarly to a vulgar Polish language expression for "penis" (its English equivalent is "dick"), hence the name is Polish for "Dick Hill".Albert Hujar, who served in the Schutzstaffel (SS) Concentration Camp service, is portrayed in the 1993 drama Schindler's List by Norbert Weisser.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.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.Julius Madritsch
Julius Madritsch (4 August 1906 – 11 June 1984) was a Viennese Austrian businessman who helped to save the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.Laura Hillman
Laura Hillman (born Hannelore Wolff; October 16, 1923) is a German-born American survivor of Holocaust concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. She is also a Schindlerjuden, who survived with the help of Oskar Schindler. She is also a writer and memoirist, as well as a lecturer on the Holocaust, and a former docent at the Long Beach Museum of Art. In 2005, she published a young adult book about her experiences during the Holocaust called i will plant you a lilac tree – a memoir of a Schindler's list survivor.List of subcamps of Kraków-Płaszów
List of subcamps of the Kraków-Płaszów complex of Nazi concentration camps located mostly in the vicinity of Kraków in the semi-colonial district of General Government in occupied Poland between 1942–1944.
Kraków Prokocim (Julag II), established in March 1943 at the former "Kabel" plant in Kraków, at 75 Prokocimska street.
Kraków Bieżanów (Julag III, short for Juden-Lager III)
Kraków Zabłocie, Oskar Schindler's "Deutsche Emaillewarenfabrik", former "Rekord" plant, at 4 Lipowa street in central Kraków, with 1,200 slave workers.
Kraków Liban, a stone quarry ("Liban & Ehrenpreis"), close to Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp
Mielec in former Polish airplane factory, set up for Heinkel (Luftwaffe) in 1939, with 2,000 slave workers including 300 (preyed upon) kitchen and maintenance women.
Wieliczka (1944), underground airplane parts factory located at the site of the Wieliczka Salt Mine with 1,700 slave workers.
Zakopane (1942–1943), stone quarry "Stuag" with 1,000 slave workers.Luise Danz
Luise Danz (born December 11, 1917) was a Nazi German concentration camp guard in World War II. She was born in Walldorf (Werra) in Thuringia. Danz was captured in 1945 and put on trial for crimes against humanity at the Auschwitz trial in Kraków, Poland. She was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1947, but released due to general amnesty on August 20, 1957.Mietek Pemper
Mieczysław "Mietek" Pemper (24 March 1920 – 7 June 2011) was a Polish-born German Jew and a Holocaust survivor. Pemper helped compile and type Oskar Schindler's now-famous list, which saved 1,200 people from being killed in the Holocaust during World War II.Mike Staner
Mieczyslaw (Mike) Staner (1924 in Krakow – August 29, 2003 in Krakow), was a Holocaust survivor and an author.
Mieczyslaw Staner was born in the Kraków suburb of Podgórze, and was educated first in a state Primary School and later in a Hebrew Gymnasium on Podbrzezie street in Kazimierz, the oldest Jewish Quarter in Kraków, which was founded by the late Dr. Hilfstein.
He survived the Second World War, after having lived in Kraków Ghetto and been deported to the Nazi concentration camps of Kraków-Płaszów and Mauthausen, near Linz.
After the war he completed his education and got a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He left Poland in 1954 and spent over 4 years in Israel, Canada and Australia, working as a professional Automotive Engineer with several technical engineering publications to his credit.
He retired to take care of his sickening wife and under her inspiration he became a professional writer and an international lecturer promoting his book "The Eyewitness", which was based on his own experiences of the Holocaust.
After his wife's death he returned to Poland where he devoted his energy and time to charity work.Miriam Akavia
Miriam Akavia also Matylda Weinfeld (1927 – 16 January 2015) was a Polish-born Israeli writer and translator, a Holocaust survivor, and the president of the Platform for Jewish-Polish Dialogue.Natalia Karp
Natalia Karp (née Weissman; b. 27 February 1911 – d. 9 July 2007, aged 96) was a Polish concert pianist and Holocaust survivor.Poldek Pfefferberg
Leopold "Poldek" Pfefferberg (March 20, 1913 – March 9, 2001), also known as Leopold Page, was a Polish-American Holocaust survivor who inspired the Australian writer Thomas Keneally to write the Booker prize-winning novel Schindler's Ark, which in turn was the basis for Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed 1993 film Schindler's List.Płaszów
Płaszów is a suburb of Kraków, Poland, now part of Podgórze district. Formerly a separate village; it became a part of the Greater Kraków in 1911 under the Austrian Partition of Poland as the 21st cadastral district of the city. During World War II it was the location of Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp for Jews deported from the Kraków Ghetto as well as other prisoners from across occupied Poland.