This page is dedicated to the memory of Joseph & Cyla Bau
The construction of the camp commenced in the Podgorze area immediately after the deportations from the Krakow ghetto on 28 October 1942. There were two Jewish cemeteries on the chosen territory located next to each other. The first, established in 1887, belonged to the community of Podgorze; the other was a newly established cemetery belonging to the Jewish community of Krakow. The entrance to the Podgorze cemetery was from Jerozolimska Street. The cemetery for the Krakow community was established in 1932, when there were no further burial places available in the cemetery at Miodowa Street. Its entrance was from Abraham Street, where there stood a beautiful Ohel (a pre- funeral home), built in the Byzantine style, designed by the architect Siodmak and opened in the same year, 1932.
The building site of the camp included both cemeteries and was approximately 25 acres in size. Originally the camp was planned for 2,000-4,000 prisoners, mostly Jews from the Krakow ghetto. The terrain was very uneven, hilly, filled with stones, and for a large part marshy. Construction of the camp required the enormous task of relocating many cubic yards of dirt and demanded significant engineering ingenuity. The area required many barracks for living quarters and industrial activities, as well as roads, and water and sewer services, all of which had to be operational in order to house the rapidly increasing number of prisoners.
A group named Barrackenbau was created after 28 October 1942, which marked the second deportation action in the Krakow ghetto. Jews in this working group left the ghetto every morning under armed guard and returned to the ghetto in the evening. From the beginning their situation was desperate. The prisoners were often kept overnight in the unfinished barracks, without light or sanitary facilities. This group was located in Liban, an abandoned limestone quarry in proximity to the camp, where a prison was established some time later.
One of the first tasks assigned to the prisoners was the levelling of the cemeteries. The headstones from the graves were removed and used as paving in front of the offices and residences belonging to German officers. Bodies uncovered during the destruction of the cemetery were removed and thrown into mass graves. Most of the work had to be performed very quickly; prisoners ran, whilst the SS shouted, screamed orders, and threatened to shoot them.
The camp was constantly being enlarged – the population continually grew as prisoners were brought to Plaszow from the closed ghettos in smaller towns and cities around Krakow. Later transports arrived from the eastern region of Malopolska, Slovakia and Hungary. The number of barracks also increased.
Ultimately the territory of the camp covered roughly 197 acres, with about 180 barracks for living quarters and industrial activities. At its height the camp’s population was approximately 25,000 prisoners. The enlarged area of the camp was surrounded by Szwoszowicka Street to the west, Wielicka Street to the east, and Panska Street to the south. The barbed wire fencing was in two rows, was 4km long, and between the rows of double fencing was a 5 metre-wide corridor for the guards to patrol.
Sections of the camp were separated from each other – living quarters for men, living quarters for women, industrial, storage sections, living quarters for the guards, the camp’s headquarters and others. The prisoners were only permitted in their allocated section, or in those for which they had passes.
The northwest parts of the site housed the sanitary facilities. Baths, latrines, the delousing station and other structures were built on top of the levelled cemetery and headstone remnants. Further to the south were the living quarters for women and men. They were situated around a wide plateau, which was used as a roll-call square. At the beginning of 1944 several barracks were designated for Polish prisoners, and later these were also fenced with barbed wire.
At the intersection of SS-Strasse and Bergstrasse, which was the main road of the camp, was a small quarry, where construction stone was processed. This was also the starting point of a small railroad. This particular place, near the Grey House and close to the Camp commandant’s villa, was a site which saw many deaths and much suffering. This was the place where female Jewish and Polish prisoners pulled extremely heavy carts filled with rocks uphill on SS- Strasse by rope. The railroad was called Mannschaftzug. There were 35 women harnessed on each side of the cart. The allotted time was 55 minutes for each trip, and they had to make 12 trips in the 12 hour workday.
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/plaszow/plaszow.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010