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Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp

Plaszow, Poland, Female inmates at forced labor.

This image is of female imates doing forced labor at the Kraków-Płaszów Concentration Camp pulling the carts filled with tons of rocks up the SS-Strasse on the Mannschaftzug railroad. ( courtesy of Yad Vashem

( Discretion: We can not confirm this is a labor camp that Erika was an inmate of even though it is in her diary. We are currently pending confirmation that Erika was in a labor camp in the Reichscommissariat Ostland during this time instead. ) 

In October 1942, the concentration camp of Płaszów was built over two cemeteries[1]in the district of Podgorze in Krakow, Poland. It was initially designed to accomadate between 2,000 to 4,000 inmates. These inmates ended up being predominately Jewish and deported from the Krakow Ghetto due to its close proximity. The inmates that were sent on the second deportation on October 28,1942 came to be known as the Barrackenbau deportees that were used to construct the camp. They would either be escorted back and forth to the ghetto after work or be forced to stay the night in Liban.[2] The desecration of the cemeteries was one of the initial stages of building the camp. The inmates would have to take the buried bodies and relocate them to a mass grave and then take the headstones to use as material for the pavement of property owned by the officers. Another job worth noting was the duty of pulling the carts filled with tons of rocks up the SS-Strasse on the Mannschaftzug railroad. In order to pull it up, thirty-five inmates were harnessed to the cart by rope and had fifty-five minutes to complete each trip with twelve trips assigned per day. Eventually, the camp had to be extended even further to support the amount of inmates being brought in from the east[3] and ghettos being liquidated near Krakow. During the camp’s prime it had the capacity to hold it’s close to 25,000 inmates with 180 barracks and an estimated 197 acres of land.

    A major component of this camp was the industrial workshops that produced goods such as textiles and armaments for the Reich. One mogul from Vienna was Julius Madritsch who opened sewing workshops in the camp for his textile company during March of 1943. Oskar Schindler was the second mogul, who had a factory[4] called Emalia already running in October of 1939 that was overseen by his Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. About 370 Jews and 430 Poles were employed in his factory in 1942, and, in 1943 after a deal Schindler made with colleague officer Amon Göth, about 900 inmates from Płaszów. [5] All of these inmates were placed in barracks behind the factory in November 1943 and in October of 1944 the factory switched to producing armaments in Brunnlitz and Sudetenland. Schindler’s factories and ties with the officials in the camps gave him the ability to save close to 1,100 Jews from the terrors of Auschwitz. Göth was the camp’s third commandment in 1943 and was notorious for his ruthless administration.

    In 1944, the camp received the label as a concentration camp and plans to build crematoriums with accompanying gas chambers were drawn out. However, this never came to fruition due to financial costs. Aktions[6] began in May of 1944[7] in order to make room for deportees from other ghettos or camps. The inmates would go through a process examinations and psychical tests for their endurance and health on the Appellplatz of the camp and be selected for either elimination at another camp or labor.[8] Another group of people that should be noted are the political and criminal prisoners from Krakow who were sent to Płaszów to be executed. An estimated 8,000 prisoners were murdered on the campgrounds. The bodies of all who were murdered in the camp were exhumed and cremated during 1944. Göth had been put under investigation and arrest in September of 1944 by the SS -und Polizeigericht Vl and was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. Krakow was liberated by the Russians on January 15,1945 and on the day before the last of the inmates which were 178 women and 3 boys of the Płaszów perished in Auschwitz. It is estimated that 150,000[9] inmates were held at Płaszów.



[1]One of these cemeteries was a Jewish while the other belonged to the Krakow community. Plaszow- Krakow Forced Labour Camp.SJ H.E.A.R.T. 2007. www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/plaszow/plaszow.html (accessed 2012).

 

[2]Liban was an old limestone factory behind the Plaszow concentration camp that eventually turned into a prison. The barracks were not finished and had no source of hygiene. Ibid.

 

[3]Hungary and Slovakia were the predominant deportees to the camp as ghettos started closing and selections were made in their respective locations. Ibid.
 
 
[4]A Jewish family on Lipowa Street previously owned this factory that produced enamels. Plaszow- Krakow Forced Labour Camp.SJ H.E.A.R.T. 2007. www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/plaszow/plaszow.html (accessed 2012).
 
 
[5]These 900 inmates were selected after the Krakow ghetto liquidation for forced labor. The liquidation sent the Jews in the ghetto to either Plaszow, Auschwitz, or they were murdered in the ghetto. Ibid

 

[6] Aktions were the actions ordered by the SS for selections of a selected group in order to help carry out the final solution and make lebensraum. Ibid 
 
[7]During the first selection on May 14th an estimated 1,400 Jews were deported to Auschwitz and perished in the gas chambers. Ibid.
 
 
[8]Those that were selected for deportation went to camps including Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenburg, and Mauthausen.
 
 
[9]This is just an approximation. Estimations are subject to documentation and inmates that were not accounted for.