German concentration and death camps in the land of Poland
World War II was one of the cruelest periods in history. Dozens of milions of people were killed, and most of the victims were civilians. However, people died not only in the battlefield, but also in death camps and concentration camps. In this article, you will read about some of the most ruthless German concentration camps ever.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau was a complex of German Nazi concentration and death camps, which was operating between 1940 and 1945 in the Polish town of Oswiecim. It is considered the symbol of the Holocaust, also known as the „Death Factory”. It is the only German concentration camp to be included the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The idea of creating the concentration camp in Oswiecim first appeared in Wroclaw. In late 1939, SS-Oberfuhrer Arpad Wigand introduced a proposition to create a new camp, due to the fact, that the prisons in the Upper Silesia were overcrowded. He pointed to Oswiecim as a place suitable for adapting in the area of the Wehrmacht captive camp, which has xisted there since the autumn of 1939.
Ausschwitz I, which was the main camp of the complex and its management center, was existing in the area of abandoned of Austrian, and later Polish artilery barracks, in 22 brick-made building and eight, two-storey blocks built with the forces of the prisoners.
The Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof was a German Nazi death camp, established in the annexed area of the Free City of Gdansk. It was functioning from September 2nd 1939 and May 9th 1945.
Stutthof was the first and longest-lasting camp of its type in the areas, which are currently part of Poland. During that period, approximately 110.000 prisoners from 28 countries were kept in this concentration camp. It is estimated, that nearly 65.000 prisoners died because of diseases, hard work, physical maltreatment and malnutrition.
Since the early days of the existence of the camp, the living conditions were extremely rough. The seaside climate with frequent rainfall and winds, which was characteristic for this area, was the cause of increased morbidity. Apart from that, the temperatures could drop to -20 Celsius degrees, so prisoners had to sleep close to each other to stay at least a bit warm.
They were not allowed to cover themselves with straw, under the threat of being beaten. They also weren’t allowed to burn in the stove, so it was almost impossible for them to warm up.
The death camp in Treblinka
The death camp in Treblinka was a German Nazi concentration camp, which was functioning from July of 1942 to November of 1943, in the area of the Kosow community, by the Siedlce – Sokolow Podlaski – Malkinia railway, not far from the village of Treblinka.
In the late summer of 1941, the German occupation authorities established a labor camp for Polish and Jewish people at the distance of 6 kilometers away from the Treblinka railway station.
Probably in the autumn of 1941, the highest grade of Hitler’s regime came up with a plan of the „ultimate resolution of the issue with the Jews”. They wanted to establish a concentration camp, assuming that this was the best way to end the problems of economic and sanitary nature that the country was dealing with.
The extermination zone had the dimensions of 200×250 meters and was located on a small elevation, in the south-east part of the camp. It was also known as „the camp of the dead”.
The Majdanek concentration camp
Majdanek was a Nazi concentration camp in Lublin, which was functioning between 1941 and 1944.
The actual name of the camp was KL Lubli, and it was officially used until 1943. The common name „Majdanek” originated from the district of Lublin known as Majdan Tatarski.
In the beginning, there were plans to construct a small fragment of a death camp, which could hold 5000-6000 prisoners. However, in the autumn of 1941, the government gave the order to immediately establish a captive camp, which could hold 50.000 captives. The camp was constructed by Jews, who were the prisoners of the German Army from 1939.
However, in the winter of 1942, a decision was made to expand the camp, so it could hold 150.000 more prisoners.
There were plans to create a camp complex able to fit a total of approximately 250.000 people.
But because of the wartime difficulties, especially the problems with the further exploitation of the single-track railway line, only one fifth of those plans was fulfilled.
The Kulmhof concentration camp
The Kulmhof concentration camp was located in the village of Chelmno nad Nerem. It was functioning from the autumn of 1941 to April of 1943 and briefly in 1944 .
Kulmhof was primarily a place of extermination of the Jewish people from the so-called „Country of Warta”, which was included in the territory of the Third Reich.
Kulmhof was established before the conference in Wannsee (January 20th 1942), during which a group of German prominents under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich made a formal decision to exterminate the Jewish people.
Similar to the extermination camps in Belzec or Treblinka, the place was decisive for the camp’s location: it needed to have the proper transport infrastructure and be distant enough from larger gatherings of people. The camp was established really fast, and the first prisoners wre brought here in December of 1941.