The Full Wiki

More info on German camps in occupied Poland during World War II

German camps in occupied Poland during World War II: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland (marked with black squares)

The German camps in occupied Poland during World War II were built by Nazi Germany during its Occupation of Poland (1939–1945). A system of camps of various kinds was established across the entire country, including extermination camps, concentration camps, labour, and POW camps.

German occupied Poland was a prison-like territory. It contained more than 430 camp complexes. Some of the major ones, such as Stutthof and Auschwitz, consisted of dozens subsidiary camps.

The racist policies against Slavs and other ethnic groups and various "undesirables" filled the labor and concentration camps from the first days of the occupation, and continued throughout the war, amounting to ethnic cleansing. The concerted effort to destroy the Polish Jews including those of other European nationalities led to the creation of six death camps constructed for the sheer purpose of their mass extermination, between 1941-42. None of the death camps lasted more than eighteen months. It was only after the majority of Jews from all Polish ghettos were exterminated that the gas chambers and crematoria were blown up to conceal the evidence. Nazi Germans turned the Auschwitz labor camp into a major death camp by expanding its extermination facilities.[1]


Extermination camps

The Nazi controlled German government established six extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) in Poland (see: The Holocaust in Poland #Ghettos and the extermination program).

These camps were as follows:

The primary intention of these camps was the extermination of the Jews from all the countries occupied by the Germans, except the Soviet Union (Soviet Jews were generally killed on the spot). Many non-Jewish Poles and other prisoners were also killed in these camps; an estimated 75,000 non-Jewish Poles died at Auschwitz-Birkenau and up to 200,000 at Warschau. There were also concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka and Warsaw, distinct from the adjoining extermination camps.

Concentration camps

A concentration camp (Konzentrationslager, KL or KZ) was a camp which was designed to exploit the labor of prisoners, rather than to exterminate them, although the majority of prisoners eventually died from execution, starvation, disease or exhaustion. In Germany before 1939, concentration camps mainly housed Jews and political enemies of the Nazi regime.

There were a number of concentration camps in Poland. They housed Jews, partly as transit points to the extermination camps, and partly so that the Jews could be worked to death. This policy was called Vernichtung durch Arbeit (annihilation through work). Large numbers of non-Jewish Poles were also imprisoned in these camps, as were various prisoners from other countries.Stuthoff was a camp at the beginning designed for extermination of Polish elites.

The major concentration camps in Poland were:

Another camp, Stutthof was in Gdańsk. Another camp, Gross-Rosen (now Rogoźnica) was in German Silesia (now part of Poland), with a number of satellite camps (Aussenlager) to which prisoners were sent to work on various projects. There were also concentration camps at: Budzyń, Janowska, Poniatowa, Skarżysko-Kamienna, Starachowice, and Trawniki.

Labour camps

The Germans pressed large numbers of Poles into forced labour. These labourers were confined in camps known in German as Polenlager, such as Gorzyce and Gorzyczki, both in Germany and in Poland. One estimate is that there were about 440 of these camps, where at least 1.5 million Poles were set to hard labour. Many of these camps were transient in nature, being opened and closed according to the labour needs of the occupiers.

Many of the 400,000 Polish prisoners of war captured by Germans during the 1939 invasion of Poland were also confined in these camps, although many of them were also sent as forced labourers in Germany.

Several types of labor camps were distinguished by German bureaucracy.

  • Arbeitslager was general-purpose term for labor camps in the direct sense.
  • Gemeinschaftslager was a work camp for civilians.
  • Arbeitserziehungslager were training labor camps, where the inmates were held for several weeks.
  • Strafarbeitslager were punitive labor camps, originally created as such, as well as based on prisons.
  • The term Zwangsarbeitslager is translated as forced labor camp.

Prisoner of war camps

The Germans established several camps for prisoners of war (POWs) from the western Allied countries in territory which before 1939 had been part of Poland. There was a major POW camp at Toruń (Thorn) and another at Łódź, plus a number of smaller ones. Many prisoners of war from the Soviet Union were also brought to Poland, where most of them died in labor camps. The Germans did not recognise Soviets as POWs and several million of them died in German hands.

Relief for victims

The Polish government has issued a number of decrees, periodically updated providing for the surviving Polish victims of wartime (and post-war) repression, and has produced lists of the various camps where Poles (defined both as citizens of Poland regardless of ethnicity, and persons of Polish ethnicity of other citizenship) were detained either by the Nazis or by the Soviets.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. German Crimes in Poland. (1946). New York: Howard Fertig, 1982. PDF version available on-line: compiled by Dr. S. D. Stein ( at:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address