Facts about Lipowa:
In the heart of Lublin, on Lipowa Street #7, opposite the Christian cemetery, stood a large sports field, the Lublin Academic Sports Organization. The character of the sports field completely changed as a result of the completion of the German occupation.
On December 2, 1939, a census of all Jewish men in Lublin took place in the sports field. The census was conducted by the SS for many long hours with cruelty and intentional humiliation of the Jews. At the completion of the census, 200 Jews were detained to begin building the first barracks of Lipowa Camp.
The camp was constructed according to the orders of Odilio Globocnik the SS and Police Leader of Lublin. Lipowa Camp commanders were: SS- Strumbannfuhrer Hermann Dolp, SS-Unterstrumfuhrere Horst Riedel and SS- Unterstrumfuhrer Wolfgang Mohwinkel.
At first the camp served as a work and transit camp. In 1940, Jewish Polish army Prisoners of War (POWs), were sent to Lipowa camp from POW camps in Germany.
Functions of Lipowa Camp
-Lipowa Camp served as a gathering place of Jewish slave laborers from Lublin.
-Initial assembly place of Jews deported from the West.
-Camp for Jewish Polish soldiers POWs whose hometowns were under Russian occupation.
-Slave labor camp.
-Transit station for slave laborers from other provinces and the POWs whose hometowns were in the General Government.
-DAW (Deutsche Ausrustungswerke), German Equipment Works.
Lipowa Camp as a Work Camp
On the orders of Hans Frank, Governor of the Gerneralgouvernment, on October 26, 1939 and under the authority of the SS, the first slave labor camp was established in Lublin.
The Lublin Judenrat was required to provide workers to the police for the purpose of serving as slave laborers in Lipowa. In addition, the Judenrat was forced to supply the raw materials for the various industries at Lipowa.
The first group of workers in the workshops of Lipowa were craftsmen from Lublin. The workers would arrive to work at Lipowa in the early morning and return home in the evening. The slave laborers were required to bring their own tools.
The Judenrat was required to supply the meager meals for the workers. Later on, craftsmen from Warsaw and other towns arrived at Lipowa, these slave laborers lived in the camp.
Between December 1940 and January 1941, 2,500 Jewish POWs were sent from POW camps in Germany to Lipowa in Lublin.
In December 1940, Lipowa workshops were taken over by DAW, which was an SS company. DAW expanded its operations, employing Jewish POWs as cobblers, carpenters, construction workers, tailors, printers, saddlers, tanners and more. The prisoners at Lipowa worked also in other factories owned by the German SS.
In the fall of 1941, several hundred Lipowa prisoners were sent to Majdanek to build the camp.
DAW developed quickly into tar-paper manufacturing at the pre-war site of the Plage-Laskiewicz: Flugplaz (the former Lublin Aircraft Factory). At this location enterprises were established for the production of shoe soles, shoe repair and munitions production.
The Jewish Prisoners of War
The Jewish Polish soldiers who were captured by the Germans were sent to POW camps in Germany. Those POWs whose towns of origin were in German occupied areas were sent back to their hometowns and became civilians. The POWs who were from Eastern Poland, an area annexed by the Soviet Union, remained in the camp. The German and the Soviets negotiated over the fate of those POWs, no decision was made. The question of what to do with the POWs remained. The German government had the solution: deprive the prisoners of their POW status, since they were Jews and transport them to Lipowa Camp in Lublin.
Three groups of POWs were transported to Lipowa- Beginning in 1940, the first group of 627 Jewish prisoners were transferred to Lipowa. The Jewish community in Lublin was unable to take in the prisoners. As a result, they were taken on a death march through Lubartow, Parcew and Biala-Podalska, a distance of 120 kilometers. Their wooden shoes fell apart, in temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius and a snowstorm, the group was forced to march accompanied by SS guards on horseback. Those who could not keep up, were shot. Most of the prisoners died as a result of shootings and harsh weather. Finally, only 287 prisoners remained. On page________of this issue you will find the testimony of Avraham Buchman regarding the “Death March”.
The second group of 3,200 prisoners arrived at Lipowa in the months of February thru May 1940. This group of POW were originally from towns in German occupied Poland. They were freed after the Judenrat presented to the Germans proof of the prisoners town of origin.
The third group of POWs numbered about 2,500, prisoners who were transferred to Lipowa from German stalags, from December 194o to January 1941. These POWs were Jewish soldiers whose towns of origin were in East Poland, an area that was Soviet- occupied. They stayed in Lipowa for two years.
Living Conditions in the Camp
The number of prisoners in the camp changed periodically. At most there were 3000 prisoners, including 2500 POWs. The first barracks were built in 1939. The camp consisted of workshops, auto repair shops, barracks for the guards, offices and huts for the prisoners, each hut contained 3 tiered sleeping bunks. Living conditions were difficult, spread of disease caused by overcrowding resulted in a Typhus epidemic. The Jewish Hospital in Lublin was full beyond capacity, the sick were transferred to the Talmud Torah building on Jateczna Street, behind the Maharshal Synagogue. Jewish doctors from Lublin, Drs. Zygelwaks and Kurlander cared for the patients. Bodies of the dead were moved to the crematorium at Majdanek.
Treatment of the prisoners, especially the civilians, was brutal. In the winter of 1940-1941, a group of POWs escaped from Lipowa camp. At night, Globocnik and his helpers arrived at the camp, took the prisoners outside, the temperature was 20 degrees Celsius below zero, naked and beaten, the prisoners were forced to stand in the snow for three hours. As a result of this punishment, ten prisoners died from pneumonia. Prisoners were also falsely accused of theft then shot or hanged. A prisoner by the name of Zylbereich tried to escape, was caught, beaten and shot by Shram from the SS. Afterwards, Shram kissed his pistol and renamed it “Zylbereich”.
On August 17, 1942 , several hundred prisoners who were to be transferred to Majdanek decided to resist. The shoemakers among them used knives to attack the German guards, wounding and killing several. The SS shot some of the prisoners and sent the rest to Majdanek.
The Anomaly of the Camp
The prisoners worked for the Wehrmacht and benefit of the German economy, but the total responsibility of caring for the prisoners food , medical needs and salaries fell on the Lublin Judenrat. The Judenrat was responsible for supplying bread for all the prisoners at Lipowa, a difficult task for an impoverished Judenrat in an impoverished Lublin.
The Revolt That Wasn’t
The prisoners at Lipowa organized a revolt hoping of being able to join the partisans in the forests. Contact was established with the Polish Underground. The leader of the revolt was Romek Fiszer. Pinchas Zyskind, one of the prisoners, would leave Lipowa each day to work outside the camp. Zyskind worked as a roofer, he redesigned the bottom of a tar bucket he carried, with a false bottom. Each day he would carry out gold hidden in the bucket’s false bottom and return with 2 guns, eventually succeeded in purchasing a total of 34 guns from the Polish Underground. In addition, Zyskind and fellow prisoners also succeeded in purchasing 80 grenades and 3,500 bullets. The revolt did not succeed, information about what exactly happened was not forthcoming from survivors of the attempted revolt, presently all none are still alive.
There were additional attempts at escape, about 400 prisoners managed to escape Lipowa in the winter of 1942-43. Most were caught and shot. About 150 Lipowa prisoners managed to escape to the forests and joined groups of Jewish partisans.
The end of Lipowa came on November 3, 1943. On this day a mass murder with the code name of Aktion Erntfest-Action Harvest Festival, took place. On th morning of November 3, 2500 Lipowa prisoners were taken on a march to Majdanek dressed in Polish army uniforms. Some tried to escape and were shot. The rest arrived at Majdanek, were marched to open trenches and were shot along with Jews from other camps in the Lublin area. A total of 18,400 human being were murdered in a one day killing orgy.
Nachman Blumental, Documents from Lublin Ghetto, Jerusalem 1967.
Nachman Blumental and Meir Korzen (eds.), Encyclopedia of Jewish Diaspora: Lublin (vol. 5), Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv 1957.
Haim Harpaz, "From Slavery to Annihilation: The Jews in Majdanek 1941-1944," Voice of Lublin 27 (1991).
David Silberklang, “Only the Gates of Tears Were not Locked: The Holocaust in Lublin District of Poland”, Yad Vashem: Institute News (June 2005).
Yad Vashem Archive: Witnesses of Josef Reznik, Roman Fischer, Pinchas Ziskind, Abraham Lewinson, Abraham Buchman, Mietek Gruber.
http://www.deathcamps.org/lublin/lipowa.html (ARC: Action Reinhard Camps) http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/lublinlabourcamps.html
Translated to English by Esther Minars, USA