Warsaw concentration camp

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Warsaw concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Warschau, short KL Warschau) was a group of German prisons, concentration and extermination camps in occupied Warsaw. The earliest known official mention of "KL Warschau" comes from June 19, 1943 to refer to concentration camp in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, however it is often used to describe all such camps including those that existed earlier. It is estimated that KL Warschau was operated between autumn 1942 and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The first commander of the camp was Wilhelm Goecke, former Mauthausen Concentration Camp commander. IPN estimates number of victims to be "tens of thousands" (mostly Gentile Poles), but refrains from making more precise estimates due to scant evidence. Some other estimates place the number of victims as high as 200,000 people.

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 have 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 camp was composed of five parts located in different parts of Warsaw:

The overall area was 1.2 km², with 119 barracks for between 35,000 and 40,000 prisoners.

Methodology of the crime

According to German plans before the Warsaw Uprising, 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. The next step was exterminating Gentile population.

Gentile population of Warsaw was initially a target of the łapanka 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. Between 1942 and 1944 there were approximately 400 victims of łapanka in Warsaw daily. Many of the caught were first transferred to the KL Warschau complex.

According to IPN, most people died due to shoting, physical exhaustion and typhus epidemic. Some were also gassed in gas chambers at Gęsia Street. After the war, considerable amount of Zyklon B was found there.

A very controversial point is existance of a gas chamber in a tunnel near the Warszawa Zachodnia train station. This is based on testimony of a single witness given in April 4, 1989 and some secondary evidence. Gas chambers were typically very small, and using huge tunnel as a gas chamber would be highly atypical and inefficient. Also no evidence of such gas chamber was found during the war or during investigation directly after the war. For those reasons most historians and also Polish and German authorities doubt that such a gas chamber existed.

Liquidation and liberation

On July 20, 1944 Wilhelm Koppe ordered the complex to be liquidated. Most of the 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 Gęsiówka 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.

According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website, Warsaw Concentration Camp was liberated in January 1945 by the Soviet Troops


  1. Template:Pl icon Maria Trzcińska, Obóz zagłady w centrum Warszawy, Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, Radom 2002, ISBN 8388822160
  2. Template:Pl icon Informacja o ustaleniach dotyczących Konzentrationslager Warschau - Institute of National Remembrance, June 2002
  3. Template:Pl icon Informacja o śledztwie w sprawie KL Warschau - Institute of National Remembrance, May 2003

See also: