Krepiec forest is located 11 km from Lublin
close to the main road connecting Lublin
During the Nazi occupation it was one of the largest mass execution sites in the
. On 3 May 1940
the first execution
took place there. A group of Polish and Jewish hostages was executed in
Krepiec in revenge for the assassination of a functionary of the
SD, SS-Hauptsturmführer Loska
Another group of Polish and Jewish prisoners, taken from the Gestapo
prison "Castle" in
, was probably executed in Krepiec in 1941
After the war, witnesses from Krepiec village related that Catholic priests and
nuns were among the victims of some early executions in Krepiec forest.
The exact number of the victims of these first executions is not known and detailed
sources about these murders do not exist.
|Execution Site, in 1944 *
Better evidence is available concerning executions from 1942
and about the burning
of the bodies of prisoners from KZ Majdanek
who had either been gassed or died from other causes. The first and probably the
biggest mass execution in 1942
was organised by Lublin
SS and SD on 21-22 April 1942
, following the conclusion of the deportations from the
to the Belzec
. The Jews who survived the deportations had to move from the big ghetto on
to the small ghetto in the suburb of
, close to Majdanek
The last 7,000-8,000 Lublin Jews were confined in the
closed ghetto of Majdan Tatarski
. Among them was
a large group of people who did not have official permission to stay there – the
so-called "illegals". Only those who had a J-Ausweis
could officially stay in
. The Judenrat
for the preparation of a list of all Jews who had been resettled to the new ghetto and
because the deportations had been stopped, it was presumed that everybody on the
list would obtain permission to stay in Lublin
The day following the registration at Majdan Tatarski
the ghetto was surrounded by SS-men and "Hiwis" from Trawniki
with Hermann Worthoff
in command, the man responsible for the deportations from the
. A selection was organised in accordance
with the list already prepared by the Judenrat
. 2,500-3,000 Jews who did not
possess a J-Ausweis
were selected and taken to Majdanek
This entire group was imprisoned in two dirty barracks and the people then transported in
batches by truck to Krepiec. The SS-men told the victims that there was big manor
behind the forest where they could work in the fields. Many believed this until the moment when
they stood on the path to the forest and started to hear the shots and screams of the first victims.
250 - 300 young men from the group were selected at Majdanek
and they were registered in the camp as prisoners. These young men survived this massacre.
Apart from the selected young men, at very last moment a small group of women and children
was given permission to leave Majdanek
The president of the Lublin Judenrat
negotiated with Hermann Worthoff
who agreed to free several women together with their children. The women were mainly those
whose husbands were employed by the Judenrat
or who worked for the German administration.
Among them was Anna Bach
, the widow of a famous advocate from
, Aron Bach
a member of the Lublin Judenrat
who had died in 1940
. She returned to
together with her daughter Diana
. Knowing what had happened, they decided to escape
from the ghetto and both survived the war. They had spent two days in
. They had seen people being transported in
trucks from Majdanek
and how, after some time, the
trucks had returned to Majdanek
containing no people, but just their clothes.
|Inspection of Mass Graves at Krepiec Forest, after the War *
There were also witnesses of the mass execution of Lublin
Jews in April 1942
among the Poles who lived in the vicinity of the Krepiec forest.
Shortly after the liberation of the Lublin region
when the forest area was investigated by the Polish-Soviet Commission for the Investigation
of German Crimes at Majdanek
, several Polish inhabitants
from Krepiec and Kazimierzowka
described this mass execution. Others told about it during the investigations organised
. Andrzej Wojcik
who lived on the edge of the
Krepiec forest observed the executions for a whole day in April 1942
"On 22 April 1942 I was at home and suddenly I noticed that
six or seven trucks, full of
children between 2 and 14 years of age arrived at the forest. The children were driven down
to the pits and the Germans shot them. From the place of the murder the cries and
screams of the children could be heard. In all this lasted from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. The
Germans were in helmets and blue uniforms. It is difficult for me to say from which formation
they were. Visibility was difficult because at the beginning it was still dark. I observed the
massacre from a distance of about 50 m. I don't know how many children were killed.
They were transported by trucks, completely overcrowded.
About 8 a.m. nine trucks full of Jews arrived at the forest. The area was surrounded by
Lithuanian soldiers. I know this because people described them to me as Lithuanians.
The Jews were driven down from the trucks and they were led to the same place where the
children were murdered. Some of the Jews held their children in their arms. I observed the
massacre from a distance of about 150 m. but from a different direction than before.
Germans drove the Jews down to the pits. There were horrible screams. A group of six
SS officers and Lithuanians shot into the Jews who were already in the pits. I'm sure that
they were SS men because on their caps they had death's head insignia and on their
sleeves the signs of SS. The execution lasted from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. I observed these
murders the entire time. I heard from people that a Jewess escaped from the mountain
of bodies but that later, attempting to escape, she was shot in a field.
The next day I went to the place of the executions and I noticed that the pits were covered
partially by earth and partially by bushes. Legs, hands and heads stood out from the pits.
The earth around the pits was covered in blood. I was there about 20 minutes."
Also at that time, another inhabitant of Krepiec village, Adam Czupryn
saw how the transports of Jews in trucks were stopped at the edge of the forest:
"(...) The transports consisted of 3-5 trucks. From every truck, maybe 30, maybe 50
people were unloaded. Among the prisoners were men, women and children of different
age and even babies. I did not speak with these people. I heard only the fragments of
conversations in Yiddish. The transports of these people and their unloading lasted
several days. As I mentioned, these people were taken to the forest and they never
they returned from the forest. The shots from machine guns and explosions from the
grenades resounded, as well as the screams of the people. About 20 minutes elapsed
between the taking of the group from the highway until the moment that the execution began.
Those who were waiting at the entrance to the forest could hear the sound of the shots
and the screams of the victims. These people were surrounded on all sides by soldiers
in black uniforms. How many people were killed, I don`t know. Entry to Krepiec forest
was forbidden. Several people who wanted to see the place of the massacre were shot."
Two or three days after the execution, Soviet POWs and several Slovakian Jews – prisoners
of the Sonderkommando
were taken to the forest to bury the bodies of the murdered Lublin Jews. The belongings,
clothes, money and valuables of the victims were transferred to
. Lublin Jews who were still in the small
ghetto very quickly learned about the fate of their relatives and neighbours. Polish
peasants, witnesses to the executions, informed the people in the ghetto what had
happened in Krepiec. During the burying of the bodies in the forest, several members
of the Sonderkommando
had organised a revolt. A number of Soviet POWs
attacked drunken Lithuanian guardsmen and several prisoners escaped. Their further fate is not known.
The next wave of executions in the Krepiec forest took place in the late summer and autumn
. A typhus epidemic broke out at that time in Majdanek
The SS doctors in the camp organised a general selection of prisoners who were sick
or unable to work. It is difficult to say how many were selected. Most were Slovakian, Polish,
Czech and German Jews. The selections took place at the end of August
. Because there were not yet gas chambers at
(they were still under construction), the selected
prisoners were loaded onto trucks and transported to Krepiec forest where SS-men executed them.
It is not known how many people were killed in these executions but a minimal number could be
estimated of several hundreds.
The executions in Krepiec ceased in October 1942
after the gas chambers were completed at
. But by the beginning of 1943
the next terrible
incidents were already taking place in the forest. Because the crematorium at
was too small, the Germans decided to use the
forest as a place for the burning of the bodies of gassed Jews from the concentration camp.
Primitive pyres were constructed from railroad tracks and virtually every day from January
1943 until the summer of that year, early each morning trucks containing corpses arrived in
the forest. The whole terrain around Krepiec forest was full of the horrible stench of burning
bodies and the fire and smoke rose above the trees, becoming visible from a great distance.
Together with the bodies of the gassed people, the bodies of the victims executed in 1942
were also cremated. The prisoners from Majdanek
exhumed the bodies from the mass graves and collected them
on the pyres. One of the witnesses of the burning of the bodies was
, at that time a young woman from Krepiec:
"I remember also how I travelled to Lublin,
in 1942 and 1943 and I saw maybe 12 trucks
carrying human bodies covered by sheets. There was snow and wind that tore the sheets
off and we saw the naked bodies, one on top of the other. There was much blood, fresh, red
blood which was proof that these people had to have been alive not long before.
The bodies transported to the forest in Krepiec were burned by the Germans on pyres
specially prepared from railways. My uncle who was a forester,
Adam Nowak, lived in Krepiec and guarded the forest in which Germans burned the
bodies. He told me one time "Come, so you will see what the Germans have done there
and how they burn the bodies." I went once with my uncle and I saw rail tracks at a
distance about 0.5 m. from each other. The railways comprised something like a grate.
Under each grate the traces of burning were visible with a lot of ashes and fragments of
hands and legs that had not been totally burnt. I did not look at it in great detail because I
was frightened of this place and I did not want to see it any more."
The burning of the bodies of the Majdanek
victims lasted until autumn 1943
when a new, bigger crematorium was built in the camp.
The sites of the executions and cremations were not totally destroyed. Even in 1946
remained visible in the forest. In 1970
a memorial was built in the Krepiec forest. On the
memorial is the statement that there were about 30,000 people killed or burned there,
but in fact nobody knows for certain how many victims were murdered or cremated in
the forest's mass graves.
Photos: Majdanek Archive *
Institute of National Rememberance in Lublin, Collection of the Regional Commission for the
Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Lublin: Investigation about the Crimes in Krepiec forest 1966-1967
Archive of Majdanek State Museum in Lublin: Documents of the Polish-Soviet Commission for
the Investigation of German Crimes at Majdanek, 1944
, collection of testimonies and memoirs by survivors.
Dobrowolski W.: Piec lat na muszce. Wspomnienia wieznia Majdanka
. Lublin 1994.
Kuwalek R.: Zbrodnie w lesie krepieckim w swietle zeznan swiadkow
(Crimes in Krepiec
Forest in the Light of Statement by Witnesses). "Zeszyty Majdanka”, Vol. XXI (2001).
Listy z Majdanka (Letters from Majdanek). Red. Z. Wójcikowska. Lublin 1962.
© ARC 2005