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The Central Labour Camp in Jaworzno has a double history. Originally, it was a German Nazi concentration camp called SS-Lager Dachsgrube a.k.a Arbeitslager Neu-Dachs established during World War II by the Third Reich on the territory of occupied Poland in Jaworzno, Upper Silesia. The camp operated continuously from 1943 under the German administration until the end of war. However, after the liberation and the communist takeover the camp was reinstated and run by the Soviet Union with the People's Republic of Poland till 1956; as the Centralny Obóz Pracy w Jaworznie (COP Jaworzno). There were also two subcamps located at Chrustydisambiguation needed and Libiąż.[1]

Labor Camp Neu-Dachs memorial, 2006

German occupation of Poland[edit | edit source]

The Nazi concentration camp at Jaworzno in Gau Oberschlesien was opened on June 15, 1943, as one of many subcamps of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The SS-Arbeitslager Neu-Dachs (often also called SS-Lager Dachsgrube) provided forced labor for the German war industry. Inmates were primarily employed in coal mining in Jaworzno, and in the construction of the "Wilhelm" power plant (later renamed "Jaworzno I") for Albert Speer's company EnergieVersorgung Oberschlesien AG (EVO). Among the builders of the camp were British prisoners-of-war from the Stalag VIII-B at Lamsdorf (Łambinowice). The SS unit (of about 200 to 300 guards) was composed of the ethnic German Volksdeutsche from occupied Poland and other countries, and led by the camp commandant, Bruno Pfütze and his deputy Paul Weissman. There were up to 5,000 inmates at a time in the camp, of various nationalities, including European Jews (about 80% of all inmates),[2] Poles, Germans and others, as well as Soviet prisoners of war. There were 14 reported successful escapes, among them several Soviet POWs, (who then joined the local Polish communist partisans). The camp's survival rate was low because of its lethal conditions, including starvation, disease, hard labor and wanton brutality. In effect, about 2,000 people lost their lives in the Jaworzno camp; some of them were murdered by German civilian employees of the coal mine (mostly members of the SA), who had been tasked with overseeing the prisoners at work. In addition, every month about 200 inmates who were unable to work anymore were taken by truck from Jaworzno to the gas chambers at KL Birkenau, resulting in several thousand more deaths.

On the night of January 15, 1945, the camp was bombed by the Soviet Air Force as the front approached. The camp was evacuated two days later on January 17. At the last roll-call, the number of inmates was established at 3,664.[3] The SS executed about 40 prisoners who were unfit for transportation (400 others were left there alive) and some 3,200 were marched away westward. Hundreds of them died on the way to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Lower Silesia, including about 300 shot dead in a massacre which occurred on the second night of this death march (in all, about 9,000 to 15,000 Auschwitz system prisoners died during the marches).[4] The abandoned camp was liberated on January 19, 1945, by the local unit of the Polish resistance organization Armia Krajowa (AK). Some 350 former prisoners were still alive when the Soviet Red Army forces arrived there a week later.

The Stalin era[edit | edit source]

Central Labour Camp Jaworzno memorial.

Since February 1945 the camp had served the Soviet NKVD and then the Ministry of Public Security of Poland as a prison camp for the so-called "enemies of the nation" (Polish: wrogowie narodu). Some of them were German POWs (separately members of the Waffen-SS) and the Nazi collaborators from all over Poland. Others were local German Volksdeutsche and Silesian civilians from Jaworzno, nearby Chrzanów, and elsewhere; they included women and children. There were also Poles who were arrested for their opposition to Stalinism, including members of the Polish non-communist resistance organizations AK and BCh, and later the anti-communist organization WiN.

The camp was soon renamed as the "Central Labor Camp" (COP), and the prisoners mostly worked on the construction of Jaworzno power plant or in nearby factories and mines. All of them were interned in separate subcamps and were guarded by more than 300 soldiers from the Internal Security Corps. One of the commandants (since 1949), was a Polish Jew and communist called Solomon Morel, who had gained a reputation for cruelty in the Zgoda labour camp in Świętochłowice; the others included Stanisław Kwiatkowski, Ivan Mordasov and Teofil Hazelmajer. According to the (incomplete) official figures, about 1,535 people died at COP Jaworzno between 1945 and 1947 (972 of them of a typhus epidemic in the overcrowded camp), out of 6,140 who died during this period in all camps and prisons in Poland. Contemporary figures are much higher. According to research conducted by Polish historians including data released by the prison services in 1993, the list of prisoners who died at COP Jaworzno and its filias between 1944­ and 1956 consists of 6,987 names,[5] many more than in any other Polish detention centre (some 2,915 died at the second most-lethal Central Labour Camp in Potulice mainly from typhus and dysentery). Among the victims were mainly the German Volksdeutsche but also the Ukrainians imprisoned by the authorities in the course of Operation Vistula.[6]

Memorial plate in Ukrainian

A separate subcamp existed for the ethnic Lemko and Ukrainian prisoners. On April 23, 1947, by a decree of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Polish Workers' Party, COP Jaworzno was selected for the detention of civilians during the Operation Vistula deportation campaign. The first transportation of 17 prisoners from Sanok reached the special subcamp of Jaworzno on May 5 and the number of these prisoners eventually totalled almost 4,000 (including nearly 1,000 women and children); the vast majority of them arrived in 1947. Most of these inmates were people suspected of sympathy towards the "bandits" of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and those otherwise selected from the Operation Vistula transports (including more than 100 Lemko intelligentsia and 25 mostly Greek Catholic priests). The Lemko and Ukrainian prisoners were gradually released from the spring of 1948 until the spring of 1949, when the last of them left Jaworzno. Most of them were deported to the new places of settlement or freed and allowed to return to their homes, however, several hundred were sent to military prisons and at least 161 died in the camp.


Memorial to the adolescent political prisoners, 1951-1956

The camp continued to be used as a prison for Polish political prisoners. Between 1951 and 1956, it was turned into the Progressive Prison for Adolescents under the age of 21, of which some 15,000 passed through. The final closure happened during the wave of general post-Stalinist reforms, following a prison rebellion in 1955.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The former Jaworzno camp was then converted into an apartment complex, the brick barracks forming housing and educational buildings (a primary musical school and a kindergarten). A prominent memorial to the victims of the German camp was erected on the site of the January 1945 massacre of 40 prisoners by the SS. After the fall of communism in Poland, the monument was joined by a small commemorative plinth to the inmates of the political prison in the nearby grounds of the primary school. In 1998, Polish and Ukrainian Presidents Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Leonid Kuchma also erected a memorial dedicated to "the German, Polish, and Ukrainian victims of communist terror who perished in the Central Labour Camp", which was erected on the previously unmarked site of a mass grave of 162 persons in the forest outside the camp. In 1999, Polish authorities started an official investigation into the crimes committed in the camp against Polish citizens of Ukrainian ethnic descent.

See also[edit | edit source]

Literature[edit | edit source]

  • (Polish) Jerzy Zwiastowski and others, Jaworzno: Zarys Dziejów w Latach 1939-1990, Kraków 1996
  • (Polish) Kazimierz Miroszewski, Zygmunt Woźniczka, Obóz dwóch totalitaryzmów. Jaworzno 1943-1956, Jaworzno 2007

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Response by the State of Israel to the application for the extradition of Salomon Morel and a report by Dr. Adam Dziurok and Prosecutor Andrzej Majcher, Instytut Pamięci Narodowej
  2. Yisrael Gutman, Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz death camp, Part 805, citing Franciszek Piper
  3. Number of Prisoners in Auschwitz Camps (January 17, 1945), Jewish Virtual Library
  4. A New Guide to the Route of the Death Marches
  5. Marek Iwaniszyn (August 26, 2007), "Jaworznicki obóz dwóch totalitaryzmów." Review of book Obóz dwóch totalitaryzmów - Jaworzno 1943-1956 by various authors. Publisher: Muzeum Miasta Jaworzna. (Polish)
  6. Adam Dziurok (2001), Volksdeutsche w Centralnym Obozie Pracy w Jaworznie

External links[edit | edit source]

Roman Drozd, Явожно– трагічний символ акції «Вісла», Наше Слово, No. 18, 2004

Coordinates: 50°12′48″N 19°14′22″E / 50.21342°N 19.23936°E / 50.21342; 19.23936

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