Warsaw concentration camp

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Warsaw concentration camp (German Konzetrazionslager Warschau, short KL Warschau) was the German concentration camp in Warsaw, in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. It was operational between autumn 1942 and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The first commander of the camp was Wilhelm Goecke, former Mauthausen Concentration Camp commander. According to various estimates some 200,000 people were killed there by the Germans during the war.

Date controversy

The exact date of its creation is unknown. Some historians (Polish Institute of National Remembrance among them) argue that it was created following the orders of general Oswald Pohl on June 11, 1943. However, others (among them historian and IPN judge Maria Trzcińska) claim that it must've been already operational prior to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The factual basis of this claim is that on October 9, 1942 Heinrich Himmler issued an order in which he stated:

I've issued orders and requested that all the so-called arms factories workers working only as tailors, furriers or bootmakers be grouped in the nearest concentration camps, that is in Warsaw and Lublin.


The lager was composed of five parts located in different parts of Warsaw. Among them there was a SS slave labour camp in Koło area, two camps near the Warszawa Zachodnia train station, former Polish prison on Pawia street (so-called Pawiak), former polish prison for women on Gęsia street (so-called Gęsiówka) and a sub-camp for Jews on Nowolipie street. The overall area was 120 hectares, with 119 barracks for between 35 000 and 40 000 prisoners.

Methodology of the crime

According to German plans, Warsaw was to be turned into a fully German city. To ensure this, the population of the city was to drop from well over a million to less than 500 000 inhabitants. To accomplish this goal all Jews were grouped in the Warsaw Ghetto and then exterminated.

Gentile population of Warsaw was initially a target of the lapanka policy, in which the forces of SS, Wehrmacht and police rounded up civilians on a street and took all of them as prisoners. Most of them were either shot on the spot or transported to various concentration and death camps. According to various estimates between 1942 and 1944 there were approximately 400 victims daily. Many of the caught were first transferred to the KL Warschau complex.

Among those grouped in Warsaw the majority was either shot to death or gassed in a provisional gas chambers located in a railway tunnel near the Warszawa Zachodnia train station.

Liquidation and liberation

On July 20, 1944 Wilhelm Koppe ordered the complex to be liquidated. Most prisoners were killed or transferred to other concentration camps (mostly to Dachau, Gross-Rosen and Ravensbrück). Between July 28 and July 31 four major railway transports left Warsaw. A small group of approximately 360 inmates (mostly Jews from various European countries) was left in Pawiak and Gesiówka to help in destruction of the evidence. The files of the camp were burnt, the railway tunnel in which the prisoners were gassed to death blown up and the prisons were mined.

On August 5, 1944 the Armia Krajowa liberated the camp located in the former Warsaw Ghetto and set free the remaining 360 men and women. Most of them joined the struggle and fought in the Warsaw Uprising.

See also: