The setting up of work camps for Jews from the Generalgouvernement
in Belzec in 1940
was undertaken for several reasons:
According to the Nazi plans, the first idea of building work camps in
district was connected with the plan to resettle all Jews
from Germany and its annexed territories to the Lublin
Another reason was
's idea to use the Jews for building border fortifications
between the Generalgouvernement
and the Soviet Union.
The Jews were to be resettled from the Warthegau
and other Polish
territories annexed by the "3rd Reich
". The decision of using the
Jews for these works was supported by SS-Gruppenführer
, the SS and Police commander of the
From end of May until August 1940
|Labour Camp Entrance *
approximately 10,000 Jews from
were sent to Belzec
Many of them didn't know the conditions there. They came as volunteers, especially the men from
ghetto because there was no work for them.
A big group of Jewish workers came to Belzec during three days in
. In the beginning they had to lodge in primitive conditions
because of lack of space for them. After several days they were sent to
20 different subcamps which were established in Belzec and its surroundings.
Their main duty was building fortifications at the Soviet Union border:
a rampart of 140 km between the rivers Bug and San. In fact, until October
the "Eastern Rampart" was only 40 km long (between Belzec and Dzików
village), 2.5 m deep and 7.5 m wide.
The prisoners of the Belzec work camps built a 6 km long part. This work
was connected with the bigger plan of fortifications building, called
("Case Otto") or "Otto Line".
|Labour Camp No. 1
|Labour Camp No. 2
In Belzec Jewish prisoners lived at three sites: The manor
(500) and in the
(1,500). Outside Belzec the prisoners lived and worked in
(1,250) and other locations. A part of the prisoners at
were finally sent to
The Jews worked not only for building the "Otto Line" fortifications
but also had to regulate rivers and to build streets.
35 forced labour camps were established along the "Otto Line",
mainly set up in abandoned synagogues, warehouses, granaries and barns.
|Belzec: Jews marching to
a Labour Camp #2
|Belzec: Jews marching to
a Labour Camp #1
When the first group of Lublin
Jews came to Belzec, they already met
resettled from Germany (among them
Romany from Hamburg
), Czechoslowakia and Poland. At the same time
mentioned that Belzec shall be the
central camp for Romany. Their camp was on a farm at Belzec manor. The Romany had to dig
ditches in Belzec village. Among the Jews deported from the Reich
were veterans of WW1 and
even members of the Nazi party NSDAP
A group of Polish prisoners (farmers from villages near Tomaszow Lubelski
were arrested also. They were hostages, accused of having not paid the contingent for the Germans.
The conditions in the camps were horrible: The prisoners were tortured,
beaten and starved. Often mothers decided to kill their babies because
they had no food for them. Every day they got socalled black coffee without
sugar and 300 grams of bread for breakfast. The "soup": water with smelly
vegetables and old meat. For the physically hard working prisoners that was
not enough of course. Only during a visit of the Swiss Red Cross the food
was better for two days. When the delegation left Belzec for visiting
Forced Labour Camp (near Belzec),
the commander SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Dolp
ordered that the inmates had to get the same awful food like before.
Many Romany died because of typhus and dysentery. They were forced to work also.
The number of Romany victims is not known. Their graves are located in
Belzec near the railway and the road to Jaroslaw
When the first Jewish prisoners came to Belzec, more than 1,000 Romany were
transferred to Krychow
Work Camp near Sobibor
(before the war a work camp
for Polish criminal prisoners was in Krychow
). There is no clear information
available about the fate of these Romany. Probably a part of them was sent
ghetto and from there to Treblinka
|Shot on the Latrine
Commander of the camps was Hermann Dolp
his delegation to Belzec he was camp commander of the Lublin
Forced Labour Camp 7 Lipowa Street
. In Belzec he was assisted by
SS-Hauptsturmführer Franz Bartetzko
who was commander of the
Forced Labour Camp Trawniki
. Both were very cruel and killed a lot of prisoners.
The most infamous example about Dolp
's cruelty: He ordered the
Jews to go to the toilets only at a special time. Those who were found on the toilets before
or after this time, were killed by him. Especially many prisoners having
diarrhoea became his victims.
was known also as the most corrupt SS man in Belzec.
The prisoners who worked in the workshops had to produce clothes, shoes etc. only on
's private request. Though the camps were controlled by the SS, the
supply with food and clothes and the administration was managed by the Judenrat
. In Belzec the
Germans established a socalled Jewish Gremium
, responsible for the
organisation of the camps. All costs connected with the existence of the
prisoners should be paid by the Judenräte
of the towns from where
the prisoners came. The Gremium
decided how to share the food among
After August 1940 Gremium
was changed into "Central Camp's Council",
led by Leon Zylberajch
members of the "Camp's Council"
were released from work. About corruption among them a lot of informations
is contained in the reports written by Lublin
closing of the camps: The "Camp's Council" members pressed the prisoners
to pay when they had to go to the hospital, the prisoners had to pay for
better places at work etc. Finally the "Council" members plundered the
food parcels sent by inmates' families.
The work in Belzec and other camps was very hard. The prisoners started
working at 4 or 6 a.m. Because of tortures, hunger
and primitive conditions (no blankets in the buildings, no possibility
to change the clothes), many of them looked like skeletons after a
short time. Dr Janusz Peter
, chief of the
hospital, who still had contact with his former patients, described them as "spectres
in rags". In his memoirs one can read that Germans took photos of these people
as "examples of the sub-human Jewish culture in Poland".
|Envelope, posted on 13 June 1940
The number of victims can be estimated on 300, only in Belzec village.
The work camps in Belzec and nearby villages were abandoned in October
. Before the liquidation of the camps, a part of the Jews had to be
released because they were not able to work any more. Some of them died
after release. The last transport of released people was sent to
in late October 1940
Until today not many people know that the Belzec work camps have been the
biggest work camp complex in the Generalgouvernement
. Close to
the former death camp's site fragments of the "Otto Line" rampart, built by
the prisoners, are still visible.
According to Polish witnesses around 200 victims are buried in an old
park near the manor. Many others in the forest "near Jan Woloszyn's house"
(the exact location is still unknown, probably the forest opposite to the
death camp, behind the furniture factory and Wirth
Other victims were buried on the Jewish cemetery in Tomaszow Lubelski
State Archive Lublin: Collection of Judenrat in Lublin 1939-1942
Dokumenty i materialy. Vol. 1, Obozy. Red. N. Blumental, Lodz 1946
E. Dziadosz, J. Marszalek: Wiezjenia i obozy pracy w dystrykcie lubelskim w
latach 1939-1944. "Zeszyty Majdanka", vol. 3 (1969)
J. Peter: W Belzcu podczas okupacji. (in) Tomaszowskie za okupacji. Red. J. Peter,
Tomaszow Lubelski 1991
T. Radzik: Lubelska dzielnica zamknieta. Lublin 1999
© ARC 2005