Poniatowa | Lublin Voivodeship

/ Czeslaw F., born in 1930:” It was in November. My father was requisitioned to bring potatoes on his cart to the camp. We came there and saw two pyres of bodies at the camp’s territory. It was about 20 meters long in two directions.”  © Christian Monterros Territory of the labor camp in Poniatowa where up to 20,000 prisoners, according to historical sources, were confined.  © Christian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum Yahad-In Unum team interviewing a witness in Poniatowa.  © Christian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Poniatowa

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Territory of the camp
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
About 14,000-15,000

Witness interview

Czeslaw F., born in 1930, says:” It was in November. My father was requisitioned to bring potatoes on his cart to the camp. We came there and saw two piles of bodies at the camp’s territory. It was about 20 meters long in two directions. There was a lot of smoke and it was impossible to breathe. After the war, people were coming to sift through the ashes hoping to find gold.” (Testimony n°769, interviewed in Poniatowa, on October 14, 2017).

German archives

“I also participated in a big operation conducted against the Jews. It lasted three days. […] It was a closed camp for the Jews. On the north-east end of the camp, there was a field forming sort of a hill with trenches in a zigzag form. It had to be dug by the Jews. Every trench was 2 m wide and 2 m deep. […]
The distance between the barracks and the pits was about 75-100 m. […] The Jews (men, women, and children) had to undress in a barrack. […] They marched to the pit through a corridor [of the Germans]. They lay down inside the pit. They were shot by the SD members who fired from above. The next victims were ordered to lie down over the dead bodies and then were killed.” [Deposition of Fritz B., Police Battalion 101 member, Hambourg, Germany, on February 5, 1963, B162-5912 p.68].

Polish Archives

“In Poniatowa near Lublin, the Germans brought the Jews and told them to undress. The Jews were escorted to the place where machine guns were waiting for the Jews. The villagers who did not manage to escape were also murdered and buried at the execution site…” [AZIH 301/7186 Reel #68]

Historical note

Poniatowa is a town located about 50 km west of Lublin. Very little is known about Jews who lived in the town before the war.  According to the local witness interviewed by Yahad, there were no Jews in Poniatowa.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The region of Lublin was occupied in September 1939.  In September 1941, a camp for Soviet POWs, known as stalag 359 Poniatowa, was established in a former factory in Poniatowa. It existed until mid-1942, when approximately 20,000 prisoners were killed. Many died of hunger and diseases. In October 1942, it was transformed into a labor camp for Jews where the first detainees, mostly the Jews from Wien and Slovakia, were brought from the Opole ghetto. By early 1943, approximately 1,500 were detained in the camp. In April-May 1943, another 15,000 Jews were brought the Warsaw ghetto during the Uprising.  About 3,000 Jews were brought to the Poniatowa camp from Austria and Czechoslovakia. Other detainees, mainly specialists and workers,  were transferred here from Treblinka, Belzyce and Staszow Ghetto. The majority of inmates worked at the Toebbens company producing the textiles and leather clothes for the German army, while others were subjected to cleaning streets, or repairing the roads. Several executions took place during the roadworks. Despite some the creation of the Jewish Fighting organization by the resistance fighters transferred from the Warsaw ghetto, the resistance couldn’t start the uprising due to lack of weapons. However, some Jews managed to escape the camp thanks to the fake documents obtained by the resistance. The camp was liquidated on November 4, 1943. This Aktion is known under the name of Aktion Erntefest (“Harvest Festival Operation”).  On this day approximately 14,000-15,000 Jews were shot in numerous mass executions conducted by the SS and the police. According to the German archives, the victims were shot in groups inside the pit in the nape of the neck.  Before the execution they were forced to undress inside the barracks.  Among victims there were men, women and children. According to Yahad’s witness and historical sources, Operation 1005 was carried out shortly after that. Hundreds of corpses were burned in order to hide the traces of the crime over  two weeks in November 1943.

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