ARC Main Page Lublin Headquarters

Sportplatz Camp

Last Update 6 July 2006


Wieniawa was a suburb of the city of Lublin. Immediately before WW2, most inhabitants of Wieniawa were Jewish (about 75% of the population). It was an old Jewish community, established in the 17th century, with its own synagogue and cemetery. During WW1 this community and the entire suburb were incorporated into the city of Lublin. Wieniawa, although very close to the elegant centre of the city, was very poor. The dwellings consisted in the main of wooden houses. The largest building was the synagogue erected in the 18th Century, which was situated exactly in the centre of the suburb.

When Lublin was captured by the German Army, Wieniawa, located in the streets neighbouring the German administration district, was incorporated within that district. There was no longer any space for the Jews. In March 1940, the entire Jewish population of Wieniawa was resettled in the Lublin Ghetto. From that time, groups of Jews from Lublin were led to Wieniawa in order to destroy Jewish housing. According to the plans drawn up by Odilo Globocnik, the suburb was designated to be an area for the building of recreational facilities for the SS and the general German population of Lublin.

Former Swimming Pool
Former Swimming Pool
The first construction work was undertaken in 1940-1941. The Jewish cemetery was totally destroyed and the tombstones were used for building material in the German district (some of these tombstones were discovered in 1994 during renovation work on the courtyards of former German houses and were replaced in the New Jewish Cemetery in Lublin).
In 1941, the SS began to build a sports stadium and swimming pool on part of Wieniawa`s Jewish cemetery. The forced labourers were Jews from the Lublin Ghetto and, according some testimonies, a group of French prisoners of war who were located in one barrack on Leszczynskiego Street. From inception, the site of the work camp was called SS-Sportplatz (sports field) by both the Germans and the prisoners.

In spring 1942, with the commencement of Aktion Reinhard, a regular work camp was established on Ogrodkowa Street, close to the Sportplatz. It is unclear whether, from inception, the prisoners of this camp consisted solely of Jewish prisoners who were taken from the Majdanek concentration camp, or if amongst them were also Jews who were selected from the Lublin Ghetto during the time of the deportations to the Belzec death camp.

The main building of the camp was located in the former cosmetic factory, which had been confiscated as Jewish property. The factory belonged to engineer Roman Keindel, who before the war was the owner of the famous Lublin cosmetic company Erika. During the war, Keindel, although removed as the owner of the factory, still worked there as the principal specialist. From the time of the establishment of the camp, he was a kind of Lagerkapo at the Sportplatz camp.

The big Stadium
The big Stadium
The factory was in the largest of the buildings, and from spring 1942 it was surrounded by barbed wire. The prisoners slept and worked in the same building, and SS guards were also stationed there. Later, at the end of 1942, two or three barracks were built near the factory building. At the commencement of the camp's activities, some of the Jewish prisoners were led there every day from Majdanek concentration camp. It was only after the barracks were built that a permanent group of the prisoners lived there. The Sportplatz became a subcamp of Majdanek, called SS-Polizeiführerkommando Sportplatz.
In 1942, the prisoners numbered about 600 people in total. Because of the lack of survivors' testimony, it is difficult to say if some of the prisoners also worked in the factory at that time, or if they were only employed in the construction works on the stadium. First hand sources about the conditions of life in the camp do not exist, but according to some testimonies, the prisoners who were at the Sportplatz (among them Jews from Lublin) had greater possibilities of contact with Poles, from whom they bought food. Groups of Jewish prisoners of war from the Lipowa Street Camp were also brought to the Sportplatz every day and some fellow prisoners had the opportunity of exchanging information and food with them. The construction works on the SS-stadium were not directly connected with Aktion Reinhard, but the fact that Jewish prisoners from Majdanek were utilised there meant that the building activities effectively became a part of Aktion Reinhard.

The other part of the Sportplatz camp - the building of the cosmetic factory - had a more immediate connection with Aktion Reinhard. From the beginning of 1942, the normal production of cosmetics was abandoned. Rather, the building was converted into a special store for cosmetics, medication and surgical equipment. These had been confiscated either from Jewish deportation transports, during the liquidation of the ghettos in the Generalgouvernement, or directly from the suitcases belonging to the victims of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek camps. Artificial limbs were also gathered here, repaired and dispatched. According the sole survivor of the Sportplatz camp, Dora Minc (Julia Celinska), it was a very large "factory" in which all of these things were segregated and utilised. A part of them was transferred to German army hospitals in Lublin; the remainder was sent to the Reich.

The commandant of the camp was SS-Standortarzt Sturmbannführer Dr Kurt Sickel, who Dora Minc considered to be a liberal person. In fact, the individual who played the main role in the camp was Mrs Radischat, with whom Globocnik had an affair and who was also the lover of Dr Sickel. She supervised the prisoners in the factory and also participated in the private plunder of Jewish property in Lublin. She was very cruel to the prisoners.

The Sportplatz camp existed until 3 November 1943, that is, until the Erntefest mass execution. In May 1943, the number of Jewish prisoners from Majdanek who worked there was reduced to 149 people. Because of the lack of documentation, it is not known if this was the total number prisoners working in the entire camp or only represents the group which built the SS-stadium. It is probable that the prisoners who worked in the cosmetic factory were excluded from the documentation of Majdanek concentration camp and were registered as special work prisoners of Aktion Reinhard.

The Sportplatz today
The Sportplatz today
According to Dora Minc, there was a kind of resistance group among the prisoners in the factory. They were preparing for a mass escape from the camp at the moment of its liquidation. The leader of this group was Roman Keindel, who had connections with the Polish resistance. Due to his contacts with the Poles, he was able to organize hiding places in Lublin for the group of would-be escapers. However, the liquidation of the camp was planned by the Germans in secrecy, and nobody from the group had made preparations to escape when the time arrived. Early in the morning, trucks arrived on the Sportplatz and all of the prisoners were loaded onto them. Only Dora Minc, who worked outside the camp in the house of Mrs Radischat, escaped at the last moment. She saw how Keindel commited suicide by taking poison.

After the Aktion Erntefest the camp was closed. The factory building remained standing until the late 1970's, at which time it was demolished and new apartment blocks were built on the camp site. The old SS-stadium still exists today and is used as a sports complex for the Lublin sports club "Lublinianka". The stadium occupies part of the former Jewish cemetery. No memorial has been erected to indicate the existence of either the camp or the destroyed cemetery that once stood there.

Archive of the Majdanek State Museum, The Jewish Memoirs
Archive of the Regional Commission for the Investigations of the Nazi Crimes in Lublin, Investigation about the Camp on Leszczynskiego street
Majdanek 1941-1944, Red. By T. Mencel, Lublin 1991
T. Radzik: Lubelska dzielnica zamknieta, Lublin 1999

© ARC 2005