General view of the camp
The camp of Plaszow
was originally designed to be a work camp. However, like many other
Nazi camps, shortages of food
existed, prisoners starved or were worked to death, or summarily shot
for no reason. The camp had been opened in December 1942. More than
150,000 civilians were held prisoner in Plaszow.
One use of slave
labor was to obliterate all trace of earlier mass murders. At Himmler's
instigation, a series of special units, known collectively as Unit 10051,
were forced to dig up the putrefied corpses of those slain, to burn
them, and scatter the ashes. This work took nearly two years and involved
exhuming more than two million corpses.At Plaszow, in January 1945 a
Unit 10051 was forced to exhume 9,000 bodies from 11 mass graves.
Other units, working at different times at the murder sites,
were themselves murdered once their work was done. The SS
wanted no trace to survive either of their crimes, or of the slave laborers
who were being forced to hide them.
The conditions of life in this camp
were made dreadful by the SS commander of the camp Amon Goeth. A
prisoner in Plaszow was very lucky if he could survive in this camp
more than four weeks. After the liberation, commander Amon Goeth had
been turned over to the Polish officials, tried, sentenced to death
and hanged. The camp shown in Spielberg's film "Schindler's List" is
the exact description of Plaszow [see Oskar Schindler]. Life for the inmates was usually
short and miserable.
As the Russian forces advanced further and further
westward, the Germans began the systematic evacuation of the slave labor
camps in their path. From the camp at Plaszlow, many hundreds were sent
to Auschwitz, others westward
to Mauthausen and Flossenburg
on January 18th, 1945, the camp was evacuated by death marches, during
which thousands of prisoners died from starvation, disease or were shot
if they were too weak to walk. The last prisoners were transferred to
Germany on January 16, 1945.
Source: The Forgotten Camps