Gross-Rosen concentration camp

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Nazi concentration camp
Gross Rosen 3.JPG
Gross-Rosen entrance gate with the phrase Arbeit Macht Frei
Relief Map of Poland.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Gross-Rosen in present-day Poland
Coordinates 50°59′57″N16°16′40″E / 50.999281°N 16.277704°E / 50.999281; 16.277704
OperationalSummer of 1940 – 14 February 1945
Number of inmates125,000 (in estimated 100 subcamps)
Notable inmates Boris Braun, Adam Dulęba, Franciszek Duszeńko, Heda Margolius Kovály, Władysław Ślebodziński, Simon Wiesenthal
Model of the Gross-Rosen main camp,
from the Rogoznica Museum Gross Rosen (b&w).jpg
Model of the Gross-Rosen main camp,
from the Rogoźnica Museum

Gross-Rosen concentration camp (German : Konzentrationslager Groß-Rosen) was a German network of Nazi concentration camps built and operated during World War II. The main camp was located in the German village of Gross-Rosen, now the modern-day Rogoźnica in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland; [2] directly on the rail-line between the towns of Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau). [1] [3]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Nazi concentration camps concentration camp operated by Nazi Germany

Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled before and during the Second World War. The first Nazi camps were erected in Germany in March 1933 immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control of the police by Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring. Used to hold and torture political opponents and union organizers, the camps initially held around 45,000 prisoners. In 1933–1939, before the onset of war, most prisoners consisted of German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of 'asocial' or socially 'deviant' behavior by the Germans.


At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the territory of occupied Poland. The population of all Gross-Rosen camps at that time accounted for 11% of the total number of inmates incarcerated in the Nazi concentration camp system. [2]

The camp

KZ Gross-Rosen was set up in the summer of 1940 as a satellite camp of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp from Oranienburg. Initially, the slave labour was carried out in a huge stone quarry owned by the SS-Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH (SS German Earth and Stone Works). [3] In the fall of 1940 the use of labour in Upper Silesia was taken over by the new Organization Schmelt formed on the orders of Heinrich Himmler. It was named after its leader SS-Oberführer Albrecht Schmelt. The company was put in charge of employment from the camps with Jews intended to work for food only.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany

Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950. The camp ground with the remaining buildings is now open to the public as a museum.

Forced labour under German rule during World War II slavery and force labor under Nazi rule

The use of forced labour and slavery in Nazi Germany and throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II took place on an unprecedented scale. It was a vital part of the German economic exploitation of conquered territories. It also contributed to the mass extermination of populations in German-occupied Europe. The Nazi Germans abducted approximately 12 million people from almost twenty European countries; about two thirds came from Central Europe and Eastern Europe. Many workers died as a result of their living conditions – mistreatment, malnutrition, and torture were the main causes of death. They became civilian casualties of shelling. At its peak the forced labourers comprised 20% of the German work force. Counting deaths and turnover, about 15 million men and women were forced labourers at one point during the war.

Heinrich Himmler High Nazi Germany official, head of the SS

Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel, and a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) of Germany. Himmler was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany and among those most directly responsible for the Holocaust.

The Gross-Rosen location close to occupied Poland was of considerable advantage. [4] Prisoners were put to work in the construction of a system of subcamps for expelees from the annexed territories. Gross Rosen became an independent camp on 1 May 1941. As the complex grew, the majority of inmates were put to work in the new Nazi enterprises attached to these subcamps. [3]

Expulsion of Poles by Nazi Germany

The Expulsion of Poles by Nazi Germany during World War II was a massive Nazi German operation consisting of the forced resettlement of over 1.7 million Poles from all territories of occupied Poland with the aim of their geopolitical Germanization between 1939–1944. The expulsions were justified by Nazi racial theory, which depicted Poles and other Slavs as racially inferior Untermenschen.

In October 1941 the SS transferred about 3,000 Soviet POWs to Gross-Rosen for execution by shooting. Gross-Rosen was known for its brutal treatment of the so-called Nacht und Nebel prisoners vanishing without a trace from targeted communities. Most died in the granite quarry. The brutal treatment of the political and Jewish prisoners was not only in the hands of guards and German criminal prisoners brought in by the SS, but to a lesser extent also fuelled by the German administration of the stone quarry responsible for starvation rations and denial of medical help. In 1942, for political prisoners, the average survival time-span was less than two months. [3]

Nacht und Nebel Directive issued by Adolf Hitler on 7 December 1941

Nacht und Nebel was a directive issued by Adolf Hitler on 7 December 1941 targeting political activists and resistance "helpers" in World War II to be imprisoned or killed, while the family and the population remained uncertain as to the fate or whereabouts of the Nazi state's alleged offender. Victims who disappeared in these "Night and Fog" actions were never heard from again.

Granite A common type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock with granular structure

Granite is a common type of felsic intrusive igneous rock that is granular and phaneritic in texture. Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. The word "granite" comes from the Latin granum, a grain, in reference to the coarse-grained structure of such a holocrystalline rock. Strictly speaking, granite is an igneous rock with between 20% and 60% quartz by volume, and at least 35% of the total feldspar consisting of alkali feldspar, although commonly the term "granite" is used to refer to a wider range of coarse-grained igneous rocks containing quartz and feldspar.

Map of Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland marked with black squares. Location of Gross-Rosen, extreme left (Niederschlesien) WW2-Holocaust-Poland.PNG
Map of Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland marked with black squares. Location of Gross-Rosen, extreme left (Niederschlesien)

Due to a change of policy in August 1942, prisoners were likely to survive longer because they were needed as slave workers in German war industries. Among the companies that benefited from the slave labour of the concentration camp inmates were German electronics manufacturers such as Blaupunkt, Siemens, as well as Krupp, IG Farben, and Daimler-Benz, among others. [5] Some prisoners who were not able to work but not yet dying were sent to the Dachau concentration camp in so-called invalid transports.

Blaupunkt  GmbH is a German manufacturer of electronics equipment, noted for its home and car audio equipment. It was a 100% subsidiary of Robert Bosch GmbH until 1 March 2009, when its Aftermarket and Accessories branch including the brand name were sold to Aurelius AG of Germany for an undisclosed amount. After a troublesome past and several changes in ownership and reorganizations it filed for bankruptcy in late 2015 with liquidation proceedings completed in early 2016.

Siemens AG (Aktiengesellschaft) is a German conglomerate company headquartered in Berlin and Munich and the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe with branch offices abroad.

Krupp German family dynasty

The Krupp family, a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, is famous for their production of steel, artillery, ammunition and other armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG, was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, and was important to weapons development and production in both world wars. One of the most powerful dynasties in European history, Krupp flourished for 400 years as the premier weapons manufacturer of Germany. From the Thirty Years' War until the end of the Second World War, it produced battleships, U-boats, tanks, howitzers, guns, utilities, and hundreds of other commodities.

The largest population of inmates, however, were Jews, initially from the Dachau and Sachsenhausen camps, and later from Buchenwald. During the camp's existence, the Jewish inmate population came mainly from Poland and Hungary; others were from Belgium, France, Netherlands, Greece, Yugoslavia, Slovakia, and Italy.

Gross-Rosen memorial Gross Rosen 6.JPG
Gross-Rosen memorial


At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps, [2] located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and occupied Poland. In its final stage, the population of the Gross-Rosen camps accounted for 11% of the total inmates in Nazi concentration camps at that time. A total of 125,000 inmates of various nationalities passed through the complex during its existence, of whom an estimated 40,000 died on site, on death marches and in evacuation transports. The camp was liberated on 14 February 1945 by the Red Army. A total of over 500 female camp guards were trained and served in the Gross-Rosen complex. Female SS staffed the women's subcamps of Brünnlitz, Graeben, Gruenberg, Gruschwitz Neusalz, Hundsfeld, Kratzau II, Oberaltstadt, Reichenbach, and Schlesiersee Schanzenbau.

The Gabersdorf labour camp had been part of a network of forced labor camps for Jewish prisoners that had operated under Organization Schmelt since 1941. The spinning mill where the female Jewish prisoners worked had been "Aryanized" in 1939 by a Vienna-based company called Vereinigte Textilwerke K. H. Barthel & Co. The prisoners also worked in factories operated by the companies Aloys Haase and J. A. Kluge und Etrich. By 18 March 1944 Gabersdorf had become a subcamp of Gross-Rosen. [6]

One subcamp of Gross-Rosen was the Brünnlitz labor camp, situated in the Czechoslovakian town of Brněnec, where Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler were interned.

The Brieg subcamp, located near the village of Pampitz, had originally been the location of a Jewish forced labor camp until August 1944, when the Jewish prisoners were replaced by the first transport of prisoners from the Gross-Rosen main camp. The camp was mostly staffed by soldiers from the Luftwaffe and a few SS members. Most of the prisoners were Polish, with smaller numbers of Russian and Czech prisoners. Most of the Poles had been evacuated from the Pawiak prison in Warsaw; others had been arrested within the territory controlled by the Reich or had been transported from Kraków and Radom. [6]

Brieg's camp kitchen was run by Czech prisoners. The three daily meals included 1 pint of mehlzupa (a soup made from water and meal), [7] 150 grams of bread, 1 quart of soup made with rutabaga, beets, cabbage, kale or sometimes nettles, 1 pint of black "coffee" and a spoonful of molasses. Sometimes "hard workers" called zulaga would be rewarded with a piece of blood sausage or raw horsemeat sausage, jam and margarine. Prisoners also received 1 cup of Knorr soup per week. [6]

Camp commandants

During the Gross-Rosen initial period of operation as a formal subcamp of Sachsenhausen, the following two SSLagerführer officers served as the camp commandants, the SS-Untersturmführer Anton Thumann, and SS-Untersturmführer Georg Gussregen. From May 1941 until liberation, the following officials served as commandants of a fully independent concentration camp at Gross-Rosen:

  1. SS-Obersturmbannführer Arthur Rödl, May 1941 – September 1942
  2. SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Gideon, September 1942 – October 1943
  3. SS-Sturmbannführer Johannes Hassebroek, October 1943 until evacuation

War crimes trial

On 12 August 1948 the trial of three Gross Rosen camp officials, Johannes Hasselbröck, Helmut Eschner and Eduard Drazdauskas, began before a Soviet Military Court. On 7 October 1948 all were found guilty of war crimes. Eschner and Drazdauskas were sentenced to life imprisonment and Hasselbröck was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted also to life imprisonment. [8]

List of Gross-Rosen camps with location

The most far-reaching expansion of the Gross-Rosen system of labour camps took place in 1944 due to accelerated demand for support behind the advancing front. The character and purpose of new camps shifted toward defense infrastructure. In some cities, as in Wrocław (Breslau) camps were established in every other district. It is estimated that their total number reached 100 at that point according to list of their official destinations. The biggest sub-camps included AL Fünfteichen in Jelcz-Laskowice, four camps in Wrocław, Dyhernfurth in Brzeg Dolny, Landeshut in Kamienna Góra, and the entire Project Riese along the Owl Mountains. [9]

Notable inmates

"...healthy looking prisoners were selected to break in new shoes for soldiers on daily twenty mile marches. Few prisoners survived this ordeal for more than two weeks."

See also


  1. 1 2 The Gross-Rosen Museum in Rogoźnica. Homepage.
  2. 1 2 3 "Historia KL Gross-Rosen". Gross-Rosen Museum. 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Alfred Konieczny (pl), Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust . NY: Macmillan 1990, vol. 2, pp. 623–626.
  4. Dr Tomasz Andrzejewski, Dyrektor Muzeum Miejskiego w Nowej Soli (8 January 2010), "Organizacja Schmelt" Marsz śmierci z Neusalz. Skradziona pamięć! Tygodnik Krąg.(in Polish)
  5. Holocaust Encyclopedia (2014), Gross-Rosen. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  6. 1 2 3 Megargee, Geoffrey P. (2009). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945: pt. A. The early National Socialist concentration camps. Introduction to the early camps. Indiana University Press. pp. 717–731. ISBN   978-0-253-35429-7.
  7. Marszałk, Józef (1986). Majdanek: The concentration camp in Lublin. Interpress. ISBN   978-83-223-2138-6.
  8. "Nazi War Crimes Trials: Gross Rosen Trial (August 12 - October 7, 1948)". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  9. "Filie obozu Gross-Rosen" [Subcamps of Gross-Rosen, interactive]. Gross-Rosen Museum (Muzeum Gross Rosen w Rogoźnicy). Retrieved 16 October 2014.

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