Grafenort concentration camp

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Grafenort
Nazi concentration camp
Picture of Grafenort Castle as seen in September 2012
View of Grafenort Castle (2012)
former location of the Grafenort concentration camp
Contour map of Poland with an indicator pointing to the location of Grafenort
Contour map of Poland with an indicator pointing to the location of Grafenort
Location of Grafenort in present-day Poland
Coordinates 50°21′3″N 16°37′0″E / 50.35083°N 16.61667°E / 50.35083; 16.61667Coordinates: 50°21′3″N 16°37′0″E / 50.35083°N 16.61667°E / 50.35083; 16.61667
Other names
  • AL Grafenort
  • Arbeitslager Grafenort
  • FAL Grafenort
  • Frauenarbeitslager Grafenort
  • Gr-R/Graf
  • Lager Grafenort
Known for Construction of fortifications
Location
Operated by Flag Schutzstaffel.svg German Schutzstaffel
Original use
First built March 1944
Operational 1 March 1945 – 8 May 1945
(as an all-female subcamp of Gross-Rosen)
Number of gas chambers none
Inmates Women of Jewish ethnicity (deportees from Poland)
Number of inmates 250–400
Killed unknown
Liberated by Red Army of the Soviet Union
Notable inmates
Notable books
Website Gross-Rosen Museum

The Grafenort concentration camp — as treated in the present article — is a conventional name for three separate Nazi concentration camps that functioned in the village of Grafenort on the territory of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.[1]

  • The first of them (not in chronological order) is the all-female Arbeitslager or slave-labour that functioned only in 1945 as a subcamp of Gross-Rosen, whose detainees were exclusively Jewish women deported from Poland (regardless of nationality).
  • The second is[2]

Overview[edit]

Located in an expropriated Renaissance castle, the concentration camp was operational throughout the War, but for 68 days (2 months and a week) was formally run as an all-female subcamp (Frauenarbeitslager) of Gross-Rosen between 1 March 1945 and 8 May 1945 (the latter being the date of its liberation by the Soviets) in the aftermath of the strategic liquidation of the Mit­tel­steine concentration camp in the latter weeks of the War — a move which the Nazis initiated owing to the advancing Eastern Front.[3] In the course of liquidating Mittel­steine, the Nazis transferred between 250 and 300 female prisoners from Mittelsteine to Grafenort.[4] Some sources put the documented number of prisoners evacuated from Mittelsteine to Grafenort in April 1945 at 400.[5] All of the prisoners in the transfer were women of Jewish ethnicity originally deported from the region of Łódź.[6] The distance between the Mittelsteine and Grafenort concentration camps is about 21 kilometres (13 miles) as the crow flies or 28 km (17 mi) by road. The reasons behind the liquidation of the Mittelsteine concentration camp and the transfer of its inmates to two other camps — one of them being Grafenort — have not been fully understood by historians.[7] (See also the history of the Mittelsteine concentration camp.)

The Grafenort concentration camp was one of the Krkonoše group of thirteen subcamps of Gross-Rosen located in the Riesengebirge — the so-called Riese group — which were concentrated primarily in the region of the Owl Mountains. The group of camps held collectively over 13,000 prisoners of whom approximately 40 percent perished from hunger and exhaustion brought about by slave labour.[8]

Location[edit]

The camp was situated in the locality called since the latter part of the 17th century Grafenort (renamed Gorzanów after 1945) in what was at the time of the camp's existence the territory of the Third Reich, about 10½ kilometres to the north of Bystrzyca Kłodzka (Ger., Habelschwerdt), the nearest larger town — within the region of Lower Silesia that was awarded to Poland after the War.

The regional metropolis of Wrocław (Ger., Breslau) is 103 kilometres (64 miles) to the north-east, while Prague in the Czech Republic is 203 km (126 mi) away in the opposite direction.

The camp[edit]

The camp was located on the premises of Grafenort Castle (Schloß Grafenort) in the village of Grafenort.[9] Grafenort Castle had been used for the quartering of military gar­ri­sons (as large as 200 strong) in earlier times.[10] Some works of reference indicate simply a preexisting "masonry building" (mu­ro­wa­ny bu­dy­nek) lying on the periphery of the village as the site of the camp.[11] Sara Zyskind, a survivor, recalls that the truck in which the female prisoners were deported from Mittel­steine to Grafen­ort pulled up in front of one of the mansions of which the village of Grafenort was full, but one "much larger than the others and situated somewhat apart" — which is consistent with the description of Grafenort Castle.[12] Another famous survivor, Sara Selver-Urbach, writes about the prisoners' delusions indulged in for the sake of mutual moral support and survival:

     Already in Mittelsteine, we heard about the princely palaces in which we would be housed [at the new camp in Grafenort — explanation added], about the regal, mag­nif­i­cent beds that would be ours, about the gold plate off which we would be served meat and every other delicacy. Scornfully, we'd tell each other those tales with cynical disbelief.
     But the joke was of another kind altogether. The old building of the new camp had indeed been a regal palace previously, but its looks and accommodations have been transformed thoroughly for the purpose of housing us. The first impression was a shock: all the windows were boarded and barred with barbed wire, ex­act­ly like the Gypsy compound adjoining the Lodz Ghetto. Our second impression, when we entered the "Palatial Hall", was even more horrifying: the place was not divided into "rooms" and contained no bunks whatsoever, not even our former tiered shelves. All the inmates lay sprawled on the floor, all of them together in that one single hall which, to us, looked suddenly like a morgue, filthy blankets, bulging pallets almost glued to one another all over the floor.[13]

However, the physical description of the camp in the report of Ruth Minsky Sender, another survivor, differs markedly, suggesting more than one facility associated with the Grafenort concentration camp. Sender, in her book The Cage, speaks about "many barracks spread about a large field" with "rows and rows of wooden bunks reach[ing] to the ceiling".[14] Clearly, the Grafenort concentration camp consisted of at least two parts where the prisoners were held.

The slave labour consisted in building fortifications (anti-tank trenches) against the advancing Eastern Front of the Allies, and the camp was perhaps the most notorious among all Nazi female concentration camps for the brutality of the treatment of prisoners. Bella Gutterman, the director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, singles out Grafenort as the only camp where women prisoners were employed exactly like men in gruelling excavation work.[15]

Liberation[edit]

The Grafenort concentration camp was liberated, according to best sources, on 8 May 1945. Some sources indicate the date of the liberation of the camp as 7 May 1945[16][17] or 9 May 1945.[18] According to the information collected by the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team and other researchers, no Gross-Rosen subcamp was liberated on 7 May — all of the Gross-Rosen subcamps were liberated between 8 and 9 May 1945.[19][20][21] The first Soviet soldier to enter Grafenort, a Russian Jew, was overcome with emotion when he realized that there were still some survivors left at the camp.[16]

Notable inmates[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rolf O. Becker, Niederschlesien 1945: die Flucht — die Besetzung, 6th ed., Munich, Aufstieg-Verlag, 1990, p. 317. ISBN 3761201168.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. I. Gutman, vol. 1, New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1995, p. 625. ISBN 0028960904.
  3. ^ Edward Basałygo, 900 lat Jeleniej Góry: Tędy przeszła historia: Kalendarium wydarzeń w Kotlinie Jeleniogórskiej i jej okolicach, Jelenia Góra, 2010, p. 239. Basałygo cites the official records of the German Ministry of Justice for the dates of the camp's existence (1 March 1945–8 May 1945). (See Bibliography for online link.)
  4. ^ Frauen-Arbeitslager Mährisch Weißwasser 1944/45: Zwangsarbeit für TELEFUNKEN; eine Überlebensstation auf dem Weg von Auschwitz nach Palästina mit der EXODUS; Erinnerungen, Daten, Bilder und Dokumente, ed. K. C. Kasper, Bonn-Oberkassel, Verlag Klaus Christian Kasper, 2002, pp. 64–65. ISBN 393056727X.
  5. ^ Das nationalsozialistische Lagersystem: (CCP), ed. M. Weinmann, et al., 4th ed., Frankfurt am Main, Zweitausendeins, 2001, p. 641. ISBN 3861502615.
  6. ^ Filie obozu koncentracyjnego Gross-Rosen: informator, Wałbrzych, Muzeum Gross-Rosen, 2008, p. 35. ISBN 9788389824073. This source puts the total number of prisoners transferred from Mittelsteine to Grafenort ("in late March or early April 1945") at 200.
  7. ^ Cf. Bella Gutterman, A Narrow Bridge to Life: Jewish Forced Labor and Survival in the Gross-Rosen Camp System, 1940–1945, tr. IBRT, New York, Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 206. ISBN 9781845452063, ISBN 1845452062.
  8. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki, The Deportation of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto to KL Auschwitz and Their Extermination: A Description of the Events and the Presentation of Historical Sources, tr. W. Kościa-Zbirohowski, Oświęcim, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2006, p. 97. ISBN 8360210187.
  9. ^ Waldemar Brygier, Tomasz Dudziak, et al., Ziemia Kłodzka: przewodnik dla prawdziwego turysty, Piastów, Oficyna Wydawnicza Rewasz, 2010, p. 329. ISBN 9788389188953.
  10. ^ Allgemeine Encyclopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste..., ed. J. S. Ersch & J. G. Gruber, vol. 2 (H–N), Leipzig, Gleditsch, 1830, p. 200, col. 1 (s.v. "Hessen, Adolph von").
  11. ^ Filie obozu koncentracyjnego Gross-Rosen: informator, Wałbrzych, Muzeum Gross-Rosen, 2008, p. 35. ISBN 9788389824073.
  12. ^ Sara Zyskind, Stolen Years, New York, New American Library, 1983, p. 201. ISBN 0451120116. (1st English-language ed., 1981.)
  13. ^ Sara Selver-Urbach, Through the Window of My Home: Recollections from the Lodz Ghetto, tr. (from Hebrew) S. Bodansky, 3rd ed., Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 1986, p. 172.
  14. ^ Ruth Minsky Sender, The Cage, New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986, p. 233. ISBN 0027818306.
  15. ^ Bella Gutterman, A Narrow Bridge to Life: Jewish Forced Labor and Survival in the Gross-Rosen Camp System, 1940–1945, tr. IBRT, New York, Berghahn Books, 2008, p. 163. ISBN 9781845452063, ISBN 1845452062.
  16. ^ a b Judy Galens, Experiencing the Holocaust: Novels, Nonfiction Books, Short Stories, Poems, Plays, Films & Music, ed. S. Hermsen, vol. 1 (Novels, Nonfiction Books), Detroit, UXL, 2003, p. 150. ISBN 0787654159.
  17. ^ World War II: Primary Sources, comp. B. C. Bigelow, ed. C. Slovey, Detroit, UXL, 2000, p. 112. ISBN 078763896X. Both sources citing the 7 May 1945 date come from the same publisher.
  18. ^ Das nationalsozialistische Lagersystem: (CCP), ed. M. Weinmann, et al., 4th ed., Frankfurt am Main, Zweitausendeins, 2001, p. 642. ISBN 3861502615.
  19. ^ Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team (Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp).
  20. ^ Isabell Sprenger, "Das KZ Groß-Rosen in der letzten Kriegsphase"; in: Die national­sozialistischen Konzentra­tions­lager: Entwicklung und Struktur, ed. U. Herbert, et al., vol. 1, Göttingen, Wallstein Verlag, 1998, p. 1124. ISBN 3892442894.
  21. ^ Andrzej Strzelecki, The Deportation of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto to KL Auschwitz and Their Extermination: A Description of the Events and the Presentation of Historical Sources, tr. W. Kościa-Zbirohowski, Oświęcim, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2006, p. 96. ISBN 8360210187.