This morning’s destination: the grounds of the Plaszow Concentration Camp.
Thanks to the bike I was able to use at my hotel, I set off South along the river bike trail. The river made a 90 degree curve and I continued along there until I saw the Kladka Bernatka bridge which is a bike/pedestrian bridge. I crossed the river via the bridge and headed down Kazimierza Brodzinskiego Road. I came upon the stunning Church of St. Joseph. I decided to enjoy the slowness of the morning, and sat on a bench in the square in front of the church and pulled out my Google Maps app. I googled nearby ATMs and of course, there was a PKO Bank Polski just across the square with an ATM. I walked over there and was easily able to get some zloty. I then decided to follow Wielicka Road until I would turn right on Abrahama Road. Wielicka Road was kind of busy at that time in the morning. It was difficult riding on the sidewalk because it was quite uneven, and sometimes I couldn’t tell if I should stay on the sidewalk so I would ride on the road. I was thankful once I go to Abrahama Road, but I wish I had turned right earlier on Jerozolimska Road.
Once you arrive to the entrance of Plaszow, you will find that there is no visitor center, just memorials throughout an overgrown park. Having a bike was really nice so I could ride from memorial to memorial.
The construction of the camp began in Summer 1940. It was first used for Poles, then in 1941, the camp’s first Jews were deported here. Two Jewish cemeteries stood on the site: the new Jewish cemetery on Abraham Road, and the old Jewish cemetery on Jerozolimska Road. The camp expanded to about 200 acres by 1944. This wasn’t the best location for a camp since it was pretty marshy and on rocky, hilly ground, but its proximity to the Liban Quarry was important.
Prior to the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, the camp had 2,000 inmates. By Summer 1944, the number of inmates was at about 24,000. Once the Russian army was approaching in Summer 1944, the Nazis began to liquidate the camp. Prisoners were transported from Plaszow to Auschwitz, Stutthof, Flossenburg, Mauthausen, and other camps. To hide their crimes at Plaszow, the Nazis also began to exhume and burn the corpses that were in the mass graves.
The link below is a really good guide on the history of Plaszow. I could not find any books specifically on Plaszow in Krakow. A Historical Guide to the German Camp in Plaszow by Ryszard Kotarba
If you have seen the movie Schindler’s List, the concentration camp portrayed in that movie was Plaszow. A large portion of the movie was filmed on a set that was created to look like Plaszow camp in the Liban Quarry.
Below is a map that I created of the sites found at the old grounds of Plaszow. I wish I could have found such a map before I went so hopefully someone will find this useful.
Entrance to Camp Sign
This sign is at the corner of Jerozolimska Road and Abrahama Road, across from the Grey House.
The sign sets the tone: “Dear Visitors: You are entering the site of the former Nazi German Concentration Camp “Plaszow”. Please respect the grievous history of the site.”
Jerozolimska Road was the main road to the camp entrance, then Abrahama Road was the main road through the camp.
There is also an entrance sign on the opposite side of the camp on Swoszowicka Road.
Guard House Remnant
I’m not sure if this is a Guard House or a part of the Railroad Station. It is the first building structure from the camp that you will pass when walking down Jerozolimska Road.
The Grey House
When I happened upon this house, I was thinking, “Wow, this is a cute house” since this area does have some residential houses nearby, but then I realized what house this actually was and it gave me the chills. I saw people walking in and out of the house so people do currently live there.
Before the war, this was the funeral home for the cemetery here, but as war began, this became the camp’s SS officer’s lodging. The basement had a torture chamber. In Schindler’s List, this house was the set of Amon Goeth’s house.
The Podgorze Jewish Cemetery lay on the grounds of Plaszow camp before the war. There was a beautiful pre-burial hall built here in 1932. It was used as a stable during the war, but then was detonated at one point during the war, then dismantled at the end of the war.
Symbolic Tombstone of Sarah Schenirer
This monument attributes to the cemetery that was here before the camp. The tombstone was to replace that of Sarah Schenirer who was buried at the Jewish cemetery here in 1935. She founded the Beth Jacob School, the first religious school for girls in Krakow which became a model for Jewish Schools.
Memorial to the 13 Poles Murdered
In 1984, this memorial was erected in memory of 13 Poles murdered in a mass execution here in Sept 1939. This was the first mass execution of WWII in Krakow.
Amon Goeth’s Villa at 22 Heltmana Street
Heltmana Street was known as SS street during the war since this was where the Nazi officers lived. Goeth’s villa was known as the Red House. Apparently Amon Goeth’s house was recently bought. He had remained in disrepair for so long. It obviously is now being worked on. Whomever bought the house is brave. I would not be comfortable to live in a house with such a history.
The tall cross with a crown of thorns marks one of the two mass execution sites in Plaznow. The Nazis also exhumed 10,000 bodies here, then burned them to hide their crimes.
The outline of the camp’s parade grounds can still be deciphered in the clearing. The parade grounds are located to the right when you are walking West on Abrahama Rd from the Grey House. When walking along Abrahama Rd, it is hard to see the outline because of the overgrowth of weeds, but it is visible when you are looking from above, like in the picture below.
Remnants of Old Jewish Cemetery
The remain of the Podgorze Jewish Cemetery are just West of the Pre-Burial hall remains or just North of the parade grounds. You can see quite a few stone foundations of old tombstones, but only one tombstone remained intact. It is said that the headstones were used to pave roads in the camp.
Plaque for ALL the Jewish Victims of the camp
This plaque was donated by the Jewish community of Krakow and honors all the victims of Plaszow. The words of the plaque are profound: “Here, on this spot, in the years 1943-45, thousands of Jews brought here from Poland and Hungary were tortured, murdered and incinerated. We do not know their names, but let us replace them with one: the Jews. Here in this place, one of the most severe crimes was committed. Human language knows no words to describe its atrocity, its unspeakable bestiality, its ruthlessness or its cruelty. Let us replace them with one word: Nazism. The Jews who survived the Nazi program pay homage to the memory of those murdered whose final scream of despair is the silence of this Płaszów graveyard.”
Plaque for Hungarian Jewish Women
This plaque was dedicated in 2000 for the Hungarian jewish women woh were deported from Plaszow to Auschwitz and murdered there.
Memorial for Polish Resistance Members
This is a memorial on behalf of 40 Polish police officers who were members of the Polish resistance Movement (the Home Army or AK) who were arrested by the Germans in 1943-44, and executed in Plaszow camp. Some of the officers are those named on the stone.
The Memorial to the Victims of German Terror Murdered in Plaszow
This memorial is also known as the “Memorial of Torn-Out Hearts”. I think this is such a striking memorial. It is quite moving up close and at several different angles. It was designed by Witold Ceckiewicz in 1964. On the backside in big letters, it reads: “In homage to the martyrs murdered by the Nazi perpetrators of genocide in the years 1943-45.” The crack across their hearts symbolizes the lives that were cut short and the hearts that were torn out.
The Kamieniolom Liban was an old limestone quarry started in 1873 by two Jewish families from Podgorze. Once the war began, the Jewish families had no control over the quarry and the Nazis used it as a penal camp. Inmates worked in horrible conditions. It is now abandoned and overgrown. It has become a nature sanctuary for many birds. The old towers in the picture below are old lime kilns. This photo was taken near Krakus Mound.
The Krakus Mound is a prehistoric mound that overlooks the city, just North of the Liban Quarry. This is a nice, little hike.