Plaszow was originally a forced labour camp, and subsequently became a concentration camp. Its official designation was Zwangsarbeitslager Plaszow des SS- und Polizeiführers im Distrikt Krakau. The construction of the camp began in summer 1940. Its first prisoners were Poles. In 1941 the camp was extended and the first Jews were deported there. The site chosen compromised two Jewish cemeteries.
The camp was encircled by an electric double apron barbed wire fence, 4 km in length. Between the two fences there was a ditch filled with water. It was guarded by thirteen guard towers, close together and equipped with machine guns, telephones and revolving searchlights. The camp guards consisted of Ukrainians until it was restructured into a concentration camp, when 600 SS men from the SS-Totenkopfverbände took over.
The camp was divided into several sections: the German quarters, the factories and the camp itself, which was divided into men’s and women’s compounds, each with separate subsections for Poles and Jews. The main entrance to the camp was located on Jerozolimska Street. The area was not suitable for a camp, as it was situated mainly on rocky, hilly ground and malaria-infested marshland. However, it directly adjoined the local stone and lime quarries.
Many people lost their lives during the construction of the camp, including the Jewish architect Diana Reiter, who had previously worked for the Krakow district building department, and the owner of the Bonarka brick works, Ingber. Reiter was executed by SS man Hujar on commandant Amon Göth’s order, because a wall which was under her supervision collapsed. Ingber was killed by Göth himself as he was slow in allocating workers.
During the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, which was directed personally by SS-Sturmbannführer Willi Haase on 13 - 14 March 1943, most of the Jewish inhabitants were sent to Auschwitz, where they arrived on 16 March. Approximately 2,000 Jews were murdered in the streets, and buried in a mass grave in Plaszow. 8,000 Jews, being able for work, were interned in Plaszow.
In early July 1943 a separate camp was established for the "educational retraining" of Polish prisoners charged with disciplinary or political offences, commanded by SS-Oberscharführer Landsdorfer. Disciplinary prisoners were held there for several months, while political prisoners were given unlimited terms of "re-training". The Polish camp also contained several dozen Gypsy families, including small children.
The inmates worked in workshops. The working day was divided into two 12-hour shifts. The prisoners were undernourished, and the SS guards treated them with the utmost cruelty. Because of a lack of the usual striped camp uniforms, yellow paint stripes were daubed on prisoner’s civilian clothing in order to discourage attempted escapes.
The work in the two stone quarries was extremely hard. Even women were employed in this kind of work. A prolonged stay in the quarries usually resulted in death. The quarries were under the command of SS man Lehmer. The number of inmates held in Plaszow varied over the years. Prior to the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto it had 2,000 inmates. In March 1943, the average barracks contained 150 people in an area of about 80 square metres. By the second half of 1943, its population had risen to 12,000, and by May - June 1944 the number of prisoners had increased to 24,000, including 6,000 - 8,000 Jews from Hungary.
Plaszow also contained German criminals who were employed on various camp duties. The number of these permanent prisoners, who were given individual numbers, was estimated at 24,000, with an unknown number of temporary prisoners.
The daily food ration for each detainee was 200 grams of bread, 150 grams of cheese, 300 grams of coffee substitute and hot water soup. The rations were distributed once a week; occasionally one egg was added. Any Jewish labourers caught smuggling food in were executed.
The first commander of Plaszow was SS-Unterscharführer Horst Pilarzik, followed by SS-Oberscharführer Franz Müller. Göth took over from him from February 1943 until his arrest by the SS in September 1944. Other notable SS men, employed at Plaszow, were Hujar, John, Zdrojewski, Landesdorfer, Eckert and Glazar, who lived in the Graues Haus which was built before the war and incorporated into the camp.
Göth was personally responsible for the brutal treatment of Jewish prisoners. Here is one example amongst hundreds, from the testimony of Henryk Bloch:
"It was a beautiful hot day, June or July. The German found some bread and other bits of food. He ordered us to wait, as he had to report this to his chief. He duly reported to his chief and Göth came towards us. A thorough search of all began, we were ordered to place everything we had in front of us.
We did this, in the meantime throwing away what we could, so that as little as possible should be there for him to see. The Ukrainian camp guards surrounded us. Göth ordered whips to be brought there from his home, and the beating commenced. It was carried out by Göth himself, using whips with long leather strands and also a heavier type whip, like a rhino whip.
Göth was unarmed, wearing a silk shirt, and a sort of blouse over his shoulder; he did not have a military belt on either. He promised he would have the whole group of 30 shot if we did not disclose where the money for the food items came from, where they were bought, and what methods were used to make contact with the population outside the camp. Beating at random, he took a rifle from Kunde, reloaded, and without taking aim started shooting at us from a distance of 1 - 2 steps.
He ordered us into 3 rows of 10, and started shooting. I was standing in the first row of ten. The first shot went right through my hand, the bullet then struck and penetrated the head of the man standing next to me, and then into the neck of a third man. He repeated this, and fired a second time, aiming somewhat better and this time killing one of the 30. He then beat us with the rifle butt as he had run out of ammunition for that weapon. He then threw the rifle aside, and ordered his deputy to start beating us."
On 14 May 1944 a so-called "health appel" was conducted, under the supervision of Göth and the camp's SS doctor Blancke. As a result approximately 1,400 persons they considered unfit for work were sent to Auschwitz, where the whole transport was gassed on arrival on 24 May in Birkenau. This "action" was conducted on the initiative of Göth, in order to make room for transports of Hungarian Jews.
Approximately 8,000 people (among them inmates of the Montelupich prison in Krakow) are estimated to have been murdered at three killing sites within the camp: Chujowa Gorka (south-western part), Cipowy Dolek (south-eastern part) and the northern part of the old cemetery. The approach of the Russian Army in the summer of 1944 signalled the liquidation of the camp, which was preceded by the exhumation and burning of all corpses at Chujowa Gorka. During July and August 1944 transports of prisoners left Plaszow for Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, and other KZs.
On 13 September 1944 Göth was arrested by the SS-und Polizeigericht VI in Krakow. He was accused of misappropriating valuables and property from the victims of the camp and from Krakow and the Tarnow Ghetto Jews. Göth did in fact conduct frequent searches and confiscations. He was also accused of stealing furniture and property during the ghetto liquidations. His assistant, the Lagerälteste (camp elder) Chilowicz, had helped him amass stolen valuables and other property. Chilowicz was the director of the Jewish Ordnungsdienst and had full charge of the camp, with Göth’s entire backing. However, as the liquidation of the camp drew near, Göth arranged for Chilowicz and his family to escape, but ordered that during the escape Chilowicz and all his family should be shot, thus ridding himself of a key witness.
On 14 January 1945, one day before the liberation of Krakow by the Red Army, the last prisoners - 178 women and 2 boys - were sent to Auschwitz.
- Müller, Franz-Joseph - life sentence
- (Haftstättenpersonal ZAL Plaszow, Haftstättenpersonal ZAL Prokocim, Haftstättenpersonal ZAL Biezanow)
- Crimes commited in HS ZAL Plaszow, HS ZAL Prokocim, HS ZAL Biezanow, in June 1942 - November 1943. Individual shootings of a number of Jewish forced laborers for different reasons. Mass shooting of 37 Jewish women, who had been lodged illegally in a labor camp by a German company; of 10 ill Jews from the sick-bay of the Plaszow camp, of 11 Jews from a labor column, because they allegedly did not march in the appropriate tight order, of at least 11 members of an Einsatzkommando of forced labor camp Prokocim, who had attempted to provide themselves with food along the way, as well as of 6 ill or wounded prisoners at the time of the liquidation of ZAL Prokocim in March 1943.