Concentration Camp Poniatowa

Poniatowa is located 30 km west of Lublin. Before 1939, Poland constructed an army factory in the forest near Poniatowa. After the German invasion of 1939, the German Wehrmacht used the factory as an army base up until 1941. In September 1941, it was decided to use the industrial complex as a POW camp. The factory was surrounded by 16 watch towers and barbed wire. Between September 1941 till December 1941, 24,000 Russian prisoners of war were deported to this camp. Of those 24,000 internees, 500 survived. Eventually the POW camp was liquidated to make room for a Jewish labour camp, that you can divide in three sections:

1. The factory buildings;
2. The administration;
3. Prisoner barracks.

The labour camp opened in October 1942. In April 1943, 15,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto where deported to Poniatowa. Till August 1943 the conditions in the labour camp can be described as 'bearable'. The internees did get food and there was even a 'camp elite' within the camp system. These Jews lived together with their families in the 'settlement' of Poniatowa. But after August 1943 Poniatowa (now a concentration camp) introduced drastic changes. Several people were killed daily. The bodies of the murdered internees were burned in a primitive crematorium. The 'real' crematorium was still under construction. On 4 November 1943 the camp was liquidated during Aktion Erntefest, that day more than 14,000 Jews were executed. In July 1944, the camp was liberated by the Red Army.

Nowadays, it is possible to visit remains of the camp in the nearby forest.
The kommandantur, some factory buildings and the original fence are still on their place. The ramp and a part of the rail-tracks have also survived the time. Although the village of Poniatowa has allot of war memorials, not a single one commemorates the liquidation of camp Poniatowa. One memorial is linked to the camp, it commemorates the perished Russian POW's in Poniatowa.

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  • Text: Kaj Metz

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