|Ghetto and Killing Sites
Przemysl is situated on the
River, in the former
district of eastern
Galicia. Today it is part of Podkarpackie voivodship
. Before WW2 about 24,000
Jews lived in the town.
The war reached Przemysl on 7 September 1939
, when the
struck the city.
The bombing of the town on 8 September
set fire to the shopping centre
. Many people, Jews and non-Jews, escaped from the city to the East.
entered the town
for the first time on
15 September 1939
. Repressions and
, aimed at the Jewish population, started almost immediately.
Around 20,000 Jews still lived in Przemysl at that time, including
refugees from western Poland. The Germans started to arrest members of the Jewish intelligentsia: physicians,
lawyers, industrialists and merchants, refugees from the West and Jewish political activists. People were removed
from their houses
by members of an Einsatzkommando
of the Sipo
), or were seized
on the streets, and were then driven together to be shot in the woods surrounding Przemysl.
The corpses were buried in communal graves.
|1st Mountain Division*
First mass executions of Jews took place between 16 and 19 September 1939
, at several
places in the city outskirts: Lipowica, Pralkowce, Pikulice
, near the
Wiar river and near the Jewish cemetery at Slowackiego Street
. According to some
estimates as many as 600 Jews
were killed at that time. Half of them were refugees from western Poland. Not all execution sites are known
and only 102 victims were identified.
Units involved in these killings (the so-called Aktion Tannenberg
) were Einsatzkommando
I/1 and I/3.
Units of the 1st Mountain Division and groups of the HJ
) also took an active part in
round-ups for forced labour and executions.
"Several days after the arrival of the Germans I was driving along
Mickiewicza Street, one of the main thoroughfares in
Przemysl, when I saw a ragged line of people running down the middle of the street, all
with their hands clasped behind their necks. I pulled over to one side and stopped my truck.
Around a hundred people ran past, and as they did I saw that they were Jews. They were
half naked and crying out as they ran, "Juden sind Schweine" ("Jews are swines").
Along the line, revolvers in hand, German soldiers were running, young boys about eighteen
years old, dressed in dark
uniforms with swastikas on the sleeves, with light blond hair and rosy faces. When someone fell
behind or broke pace, they beat the victim with the butts
of their revolvers or with whips, or simply kicked him. Poles gathered on the sidewalks,
incredulous, some crossing themselves at this monstrous sight. The faces of the old Jews
were contorted with pain, and the young boys were crying, but the Germans ran along the
street almost joyfully, drunk with power. As I later found out, the soldiers had fallen on the
Jewish section of town that morning and had driven all the men and boys out of their
houses with blows and kicks. They made them do calisthenics for several hours in the street,
and now they were driving them toward the railway station and on, until they crossed the city limits.
I returned home, shaken. Only in the afternoon, when I had calmed down somewhat, did I
go out again to return my truck to the power station. Now a new horror met my eyes: distraught,
weeping women were running toward the
cemetery, for they had heard that all the Jews taken
in the morning had been shot in Pikulice, the
first village outside town. I put a load of these wailing women in my truck and headed for
Pikulice. Right at the edge of the village,
beside a small hill, a swarm of people had gathered. I drove up and stopped. What I saw
surpassed all belief; it was a scene out of Dante's hell. All the men driven through the
streets in the morning lay there dead. Some men from the nearby houses told me what had
happened. The Jews had been driven up to the side of the hill and ordered to turn around.
A truck was already standing there. A canvas had been lifted off a heavy machine gun,
and several bursts of fire rang out, sweeping back and forth. Then a few more shots were fired
into the few bodies that were still writhing. All was still. The soldiers climbed into the truck,
and drove away. I went quietly up to the little hill. The corpses were lying on their backs or
sides in the most contorted positions, some on top of others, with their arms outstretched,
their heads shattered by the bullets. Here were pools of blood; there the earth was rust-colored
with blood; the grass glistened with blood; blood was drying on the corpses. Women with
bloodied hands were hunting through the pile of bodies for their fathers, husbands, sons.
A sickish sweet smell pervaded the air. I felt something inside me die, as though my heart
had turned to stone. I was choking from the smell, from the sight, from the cries filling the air.
I saw everything, but I could not grasp what I saw. Before my eyes I had an image of the
laughing young Germans, the proud representatives of Hitler's New Order.
From: "A private war" by Bruno Shatyn
|Demarcation Line in Zasanie
|Burning Temple Synagogue*
On 22 September 1939
an official communiqué was issued which defined the
San River as a demarcation line between German and Soviet troops. On 26 September
Red Army entered the city.
On 27 September
the Germans appointed new town
authorities in the district of Zasanie
According to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact the Germans left the part of Przemysl on the
east bank of the river San on 28 September 1939
. Before their withdrawal the Germans
burned down the Old Synagogue, the Klois (hassidic prayer house), the
(progressive synagogue) on Jagiellonska
and a part of the Jewish quarter.
|Russian Border in 1941
On 26 September
, Jewish inhabitants
and villages on the German side of the San River were ordered
to move to the Russian occupied section of Przemysl. There was a sudden announcement that the
Jews must leave Zasanie
within 24 hours. Any Jew found there after that time would
be killed immediately. Since the bridge over the San had been bombed before the
Germans had arrived, one could get to the eastern part of the city only
via the railway bridge
Later this passage was prohibited for all civilians, especially Jews.
The border was set along the River San, with the left bank - Zasanie
and the right bank under Soviet control. Many families were
by this border.
Under Soviet rule, in April and May 1940
, approximately 7,000 Jews were deported
from Soviet occupied Przemysl to the Soviet interior, mostly refugees from the West.
The living conditions of the Jewish population of the town deteriorated rapidly.
Jewish community institutions, factories and shops (only 10% of which were owned
by non-Jews) ceased to operate, and their assets were nationalized.
All raw materials and merchandise were seized by the new government.
Artisans were forced to "voluntarily" enter cooperatives. All privately owned houses
were transferred to the city administration.
Prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union the Jewish population of Przemysl had been
almost completely impoverished.
|Forced Labour in Zasanie*
|Forced Jewish Pupils
At the same time the smaller town area of Zasanie
, situated west of the San,
stayed in German hands. In this area only a few Jews were left after the division. The
66 mostly women, elderly and sick Jews who
remained in Zasanie
were later placed in two buildings on 11/13 Dolinskiego Street
. Around the
turn of the year 1939/1940
- Frontier Police Authority) Przemysl was set up by smaller units of the task forces
and 10-15 Gestapo
members, plus some clerks, drivers and 2-4 interpreters.
On 27 June 1940 Deutsch-Przemysl
was officially established. It included the areas of
Zasanie, Ostrow, Kunkowce, Buszkowce, Buszkowiczki, Zurawica, Walawa,
, and parts of Ujkowice
. In spring 1940
. This was probably the only Judenrat in occupied Poland
headed by a woman, Anna Feingold
Once more the Jews were rounded up for forced labour and restrictions were introduced as elsewhere
in the Generalgouvernement
, including the wearing of the white armlet with
the Star of David, a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., etc. The Zasanie synagogue was
turned into a power plant
|Dr Ignatz Duldig
|Early Occupation, forced Jews
on Franciszkanska Street
By breaking the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact German forces
the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941
When the Germans
Przemysl on 28 June 1941
some 16,500 Jews (25% of the population) lived there.
On their own initiative, the Jews established a committee to represent themselves,
headed by Dr Ignatz Duldig
. Within a few days the Gestapo
arrived and enforced anti-Jewish measures. All restrictions were also extended to Galicia and
East-Przemysl, followed by registration of all Jews and the establishment of a Jewish
) under Duldig
The Nazis immediately began rounding up Jews for forced labour. Jewish high school pupils
were forced to clean the streets, load garbage onto carts and pull them
through the streets. Everywhere posters appeared describing the Jews as germs and lice.
In August 1941
, Galicia with its capital Lwow
into the Generalgouvernement
. The divided town of Przemysl was administratively
reunited under its former name. Jointly with the surrounding municipalities it now formed
(main district) Przemysl" in the district of
Przemysl was the headquarters of the district chief and thereby became the administrative centre.
The district chief was Dr Heinisch
until the summer
He was succeeded by a lawyer, Paul
Their deputy was Dr Herbig
Przemysl attained special significance as an important supply base for the "German Army Group South",
with a number of army enterprises, and
important railway junction
. The following police units were stationed in the town:
(GPK) Przemysl, a department of the security police
(Sicherheitspolizei - Sipo
) and a detective police department under the SS-Untersturmführer
. The premises of these three departments were
separated from each other, but were under the unified command of the commander of the security
police and the SD in Krakow
. Furthermore Przemysl became headquarters
of the gendarmerie
) under captain Haasler
with one platoon commanded by the gendarmerie district leader, 2nd lieutenant
, as well as that of a police squad
under 1st lieutenant Schaller
of the security police.
Security police and gendarmerie, which were under the command of the regular police (Ordnungspolizei - Orpo
utilized Polish and Ukrainian helpers. At times, members of the German regular police were also stationed
in Przemysl, i.e. in summer 1942
, one company of Police Battalion 307.
After the occupation of the entire town in June 1941
, the GPK Przemysl
department was still
housed in a multi-storey private house on the west bank of the San, near the river.
In charge of this GPK Przemysl
department were, until May 1941
, the detective
, then until autumn 1942
SS-Untersturmführer Adolf Benthin
who was replaced in turn by SS-Sturmscharführer Rudolf Heinrich Bennewitz
(who earlier served in Zakopane
He remained head of the department until early 1944
He was followed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Weichelt
who kept this position until the dissolution of the department in July 1944
. The deputy
of the department
head (under Adolf Benthin
) was Walter Stegemann
Within the department three sections existed: the so-called "general" or "political"
section (III A), the "resistance" section (Widerstandsbekämpfung
- III B) and the
"counterintelligence" section (Spionageabwehr
- III C). Since from summer 1941
the political section had
to deal with all "political matters" in connection with the Jewish population in Przemysl, in
colloquial language it was called Judenreferat
(Jews section). The GPK
was the competent authority for
the surveillance of the Jews in Przemysl, whereas the economic administration of the Jews was still in the
hands of the district authority (Kreishauptmannschaft
). In addition, the Jewish section at the GPK
(in particular under SS-Sturmscharführer Richard Timme
was also responsible for Jewish matters. Due to the haphazard distribution of affairs, members of other sections
were also occupied with these tasks.
|Not Allowed Using a Bridge
The conditions for the Jews deteriorated abruptly in July/August 1941
after a civil
administration under town commander Giesselmann
and the GPK
started "the shadowing of the Jews" ("Beschattung der Juden"
In late autumn 1941
, the town quarter of Garbarze
was proclaimed as a Jewish
residential area. It was bordered in the west, north and east by the bend of the San River and in the south
by the railway route Lwow - Krakow
The establishment of this Jewish quarter took until the summer 1942
. Up to this time,
Jews were allowed to walk
freely through the streets, but with their armbands on. Only the passage to
via the provisional bridge was prohibited for the Jews.
In winter, the Jews were forced to hand over their valuables and various
household goods. Those who did not comply with the Nazi decrees were
beaten and imprisoned. On 26 December 1941 Schutzpolizei (Schupo)
, along with
(ethnic Germans) and Polish policemen, entered Jewish
homes and seized furs and other clothing. Schupo
officers started to remove any furs
and fur collars from the coats of all Jewish men and women they came across in the streets. They also
removed winter boots, mainly from women, and left people barefoot in the street. Jews had to
most of their property.
|Kazimierzowska 15 July 1942*
In the course of time, Jews were not allowed to shop at the market place, except from dawn until 8 a.m. and in
the evening from 6 p.m. onwards. Of course, no food was available at this time at the market.
The Germans, including the local Germans (Volksdeutsche
), entered Jewish houses
and removed furniture, pianos, carpets, silverware and china. Jews sold
their belongings because they knew that they would otherwise be forced to hand over everything
without compensation. The German response to any kind of "transgression" by a Jew was
extremely severe. For example, for wearing the armband on the right arm instead
of the left, or visiting the market during prohibited hours, Jews were severely beaten and imprisoned for
lengthy periods or were sent to the central prison at Rokitnianska Street
where they were killed.
From spring 1942
, consecutive shootings of groups of Jews at the Jewish cemetery at
began. These shootings were carried out by Gestapo
officials in charge of Jewish affairs (Judensachbearbeiter
), but also by members of the GPK
Finally all Jews were
forced to move
into the ghetto. In addition, Jews from villages in the vicinity of Przemysl continuously
poured into the ghetto. By the summer of 1942
, around 5,000 Jews from
had been brought to Przemysl.
In summer 1942
, in Przemysl as in all of the larger towns in the
the systematic extermination of Jews began. The "evacuations" (Aussiedlungen
) were supervised
by Polizeiführer Julian Scherner
was responsible solely to the Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer Ost
's deputy in the Generalgouvernement
had absolute authority to issue directives to the
Przemysl regarding the "evacuations". The local supervision and execution of the deportation
actions in Przemysl was in the hands of this department.
On 3 June 1942
, the Germans murdered all Jewish residents of the
at Dolinskiego Street
: 45 people (60 according to some sources) were taken by
trucks to the former Austrian Fort VIII Letownia
suburb and shot.
Between the beginning of June and early July 1942
, more and more rumours spread
riots in Tarnow, Rzeszow
and other places. It was difficult to confirm these
rumours, and the Judenrat
tried to find out the truth, from the Gestapo
. The Gestapo
the rumours and promised to preserve the Przemysl Jews from this harsh fate if they "behaved well".
Asked by the Judenrat
how they could do this, they were told by Gestapo
, that if the Judenrat
provided him with 1,000 young
people for work at the
camp in Lviv (Lwow)
, they would be safe.
So on 18 June 1942
1,000 young and strong Jewish men were sent to
(later a group of these prisoners was deported from Janowska
death camp). On this day the Gestapo
many of the young men's relatives, who had come to bid them farewell, as well as men who allegedly tried to
evade the deportation. Later the Gestapo
demanded a large sum for transportation costs...
|Official Closing of the Ghetto
The establishment of a sealed ghetto was announced on 14 July
. All Jews had until
the following day to enter the ghetto.
By the time of the closure of the district on 15 July 1942
, 22,000-24,000 Jews
lived in the ghetto
(See the memoires of Aleksandra Mandel)
Only the members of the Jewish council and their families were allowed to remain in their flats outside the
residential area until the first deportation in July/August 1942
On 20 July
the Germans demanded 1,300,000 zloty, saying that payment of this sum
would guarantee peace and quiet. The same day the "resettlement operation", planned for
27 July 1942
, was discussed
in the Gestapo
headquarters. The participating officers were the county administrator
), the municipal administrator, representatives of the order police, the security police,
and the head of the Przemysl labour office.
On 23 July 1942
, the Gestapo
notified the Judenrat
there would be an "action" (German: Aktion
) which would include most of the ghetto residents.
|Life Extension GPK Seal #1
|Life Extension GPK Seal #2
Those who were employed in essential positions and a few others to be given a Gestapo
stamp on their work
cards, would not be "resettled". Duldig
only received 5,000 work permits
from the Gestapo
. On 24 July
collected all work cards
and handed them over to the Gestapo
. On 26 July
, those cards, which had been
marked with a
, were returned.
were unable to manage the Aktion
without help from other units:
gendarmerie, one company of the regular German Police Battalion 307, "foreign Ethnic German" police
), Estonian units of 287th and 288th Police Battalion
(recruited from Omakaitse members), SS-units, civilian workers of several departments
(especially the district authority), Polish and Ukrainian police and members of the Polish
and Ukrainian Baudienst
These units, as assistants of the Gestapo
, took an active part in the round-ups,
as well as the guarding of the Jews, and their mass murder. SS-Hauptsturmführer
of the SSPF (SS- und Polizeiführer)
office in Krakow
was responsible for this operation.
was carried out on three days: 27 July, 31 July and 3 August 1942
units, together with their henchmen, surrounded the ghetto on the first day. 6,500 Jews were
deported to Belzec
deputy were shot.
The elderly and handicapped, the sick, and some children (approximately 2,500 people in total) were taken in trucks
and other places on the outskirts of the city.
There they were shot and buried in mass graves.
On the second day, 3,000 Jews were also
deported to Belzec
, to be followed on the final day by a further 3,000.
At the end of the Aktion
, the Jews were forced to hand over a sum of money to the
, to pay the transportation costs (train fees and provisions for the deportees).
The ghetto was
reduced in size
and the new barbed wire fences around the ghetto borders
also had to be paid for by the Jews. By end of August
another 100 Jews in Przemysl.
During the first day of the Aktion
an extraordinary rescue took place:
Lt. Dr Albert Battel
, adjutant to the local military
commander Major Max Liedtke
(responsible for the Jewish workforce) requested of the Gestapo
who worked for the German Wehrmacht
should be excluded from the deportations, whether they
had work permits or not. When his request was not granted, Wehrmacht
forces took control of the
bridges that connected the two parts of the city and blocked all transports.
After calling the SS- und Polizeiführer Julian Scherner
, the Gestapo
accepted the request
's presence on the third day of the Aktion
connected with this conflict). For this, Battel and Liedtke
were later named
a "Righteous Among the Nations", by Yad Vashem.
In mid November 1942
, the Jews feared that another Aktion
They started building
bunkers. When the second Aktion
took place on 18 November
decree of 17 November
), more than 8,000 Jews without work
permits were earmarked for deportation. About 1,500 workers were to be exempted. However, only 3,500 people
showed up at the assembly point; the rest of the Jews hid in bunkers. On this day some 500 of the hidden
Jews were found and added to the transports destined for Belzec
After the second Aktion
the ghetto was divided into two sections: Section A (with 800 and later
around 1,300 Jews) was reserved primarily for workers. Section B was for the remaining Jews,
primarily non-workers. In February 1943 SS-Unterscharführer
(who had earlier liquidated the
) took over Section A, which was officially declared a
There was no massive armed resistance in Przemysl. In mid-April 1943
12 young men escaped
from the ghetto and tried to join the partisans. They were intercepted by Ukrainians not far
from the city and all but one were murdered. The survivor, known only by his surname of
, was hanged in public shortly thereafter, along
with Meir Krebs
, who on 10 May 1943
stabbed a Gestapo
-man, Karl Friedrich Reisner
The liquidation of Section B began on 2-3 September 1943
. During this Aktion
(called Aktion Judenrein
- cleared of Jews) 3,500 Jews, most of them still hiding in bunkers, were rounded up and deported to
. In addition 600 Jews were sent to
and subsequently also deported to
One week after the start of the final Aktion
the commander of the GPK
, said that all Jews who reported
voluntarily could go to a work camp. So 1,580 Jews gave themselves up.
On 11 September 1943
, after they had handed over their valuables and undressed
themselves, they were
shot in the yard of the Judenrat
building, in groups of 50. Their corpses were burned during the
following days at the same place. This so-called
(Gymnasium action) was carried out in
the centre of the city, 200 meters away from the busy Przemysl railway station.
From September 1943 until April 1944
further deportations to
During this entire period the Germans continued to seek Jews in hiding.
On 28 October 1943
, the SS sent 100 people from the Przemysl ghetto to
Between 11 September 1943 and the end of April 1944
, 1,000 people, still
hiding out in "bunkers",
were killed by Gestapo
, SS, and the camp commander SS-Unterscharführer
The camp was destroyed at the end of February 1944
, which meant that in theory
there should not
have been any Jews remaining in Przemysl. But in fact there were still some remaining "bunkers"
in the town andits surroundings containing around 120 hidden Jews. From March to June
, three or four "bunkers",
housing 40-50 Jews, were destroyed. The last hiding place was discovered in May
near Przemysl where 27 Jews were shot. The
family, who helped them, were executed in
In early July 1944
, the front was rapidly approaching Przemysl. On
, the town was bombed by Russian
airplanes. On 27 July 1944
, the Russians captured the town, on the exact
anniversary of the first Aktion
two years earlier.
Immediately after the liberation of Przemysl, the few survivors left their hiding places.
At first there were some 100 people in all, but during the next days the number of survivors
grew to a maximum of 250. It is estimated that only 400 Przemysl Jews survived the Holocaust in Przemysl
itself, Russia, Poland and in other countries.
After escaping to Argentina at the war's end, Schwammberger
was extradited to
Germany in 1990
, where he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He died in prison hospital on 4 December 2004
, the last Nazi war criminal to be
tried in Germany.
Bennewitz, Rudolf Heinrich
: Proceeding suspended because defendant’s ill health -
died 8 years later;
: 6½ years - Hamburg
, BGH 1983
: 7 years - Kiel
, Flensburg 1963
Reisner, Karl Friedrich
: Life imprisonment -
: Death sentence -
: Acquittal - Hamburg
Stegemann, Walter Ludwig
: Acquittal - Hamburg
1969; re-indicted and convicted to 6 years imprisonment (proceeding suspended),
Hamburg 1980, 1981
, BGH 1983
: Life imprisonment -
The Przemysl Album
1. Sefer Przemysl
, Tel Aviv 1964;
2. Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust
3. Relacje collection from Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw;
4. Indictment against Stegemann, Benesch, Brand and Schröder at the Hamburg Provincial Court, 1979;
5. Aaron Freiwald and Martin Mendelsohn: The Last Nazi
, W.W.Norton & Co., New York 1994.
Yad Vashem *
Muzeum Ziemi Przemyskiej *
© ARC (http://www.deathcamps.org) 2005