Potulice concentration camp

Last updated
Potulice concentration camp
UZW Potulice-Potulitz 1941-1945 (mapa).jpg
Map of UWZ Lebrechtsdorf-Potulitz after expansion. The Hansen Schneidemuehl works to the left, separated by the barbed-wire fence with six barracks where the wings of warplanes Bf 109 and Bf 110 were being reconditioned (Potulice Museum)
UZW Potulice-Potulitz 1941-1945.jpg
Nazi concentration camp Potulice in occupied Poland. Work brigade, pictured
Period1 February 1941 – 21 January 1945 [1]
PrisonersExpelees from Pomerania, forced labour: 11,188 prisoners as of 21 January 1945 officially

The Potulice concentration camp (German : UWZ Lager Lebrechtsdorf– Potulitz) was established by Nazi Germany during World War II in Potulice near Nakło in the territory of occupied Poland. Until the spring of 1941 it was a subcamp of Stutthoff. [1] In January 1942 Potulice became fully independent. It is estimated that a total of 25,000 prisoners went through the camp during its operation before the end of 1944. It became notable also as a detention centre for Polish children that underwent the Nazi experiment in forced Germanisation. [1]



Initially the Potulice camp was one of numerous transit points for Poles expelled by the German authorities from territories of western Poland annexed into the newly created Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia . [2] The forcible displacement of Polish nationals known as Lebensraum ; was meant to create space for German colonists (the Volksdeutsche ) brought in Heim ins Reich from across Eastern Europe. The facility quickly expanded to include a slave-labor subcamp of the Stutthof concentration camp nearby, supplying a free workforce for the Hansen Schneidemühl machine shop set up on the premises. [1] [3]

The camp served as a place for detention of Polish children; of the 1,296 people who died there, 767 victims were minors. In 1943 a special unit in the camp was created especially for children and the name „Ostjugendbewahrlager Potulitz” or „Lebrechtsdorf” started to appear in German documentation. Racist theories and a policy of Germanisation that sought to Germanise children who were tested for racial purity of the supposed Aryan race traits led to organised kidnappings by German officials in occupied Poland. The children from the camp were placed there as a result of this policy. If the tests were positive and it was believed the child had lost emotional contact with their parents, then it could be sent to German families for Germanisation. This operation was organised by the SS Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt RuSHA (SS Office of Race and Settlement).

Formally designated a labour camp, the camp was not controlled by concentration camp authorities. However, the conditions in it were comparable to those at the Stutthof concentration camp.

Slave work and punishment

Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland (death factories marked with skulls). Potulice, extreme upper-left WW2-Holocaust-Poland.PNG
Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland (death factories marked with skulls). Potulice, extreme upper-left

As part of camp life the children were forced to perform slave work. Children who reached thirteen years old were sent to work outside the camp, even working night shifts. Under the supervision of kapo they usually were used to carry building materials or stones, or used to load coal, wood, and potatoes at the railway station. Children over six years old were forced to work inside the camp. Failure to work as ordered or even minor acts of disobedience were faced with brutal punishments. For example, when the under-fed children were sent to pick up berries, after work they had to show their mouths. If any child had signs of eating the berries, they would be quickly beaten with a heavy whip used for bulls. Other punishments, like standing in the rain or on pine cones, were also commonplace. Regardless of the season of the year, all the children were forced to stand for hours in roll calls (Appells) in their underwear and often without shoes.

One child recalled his ordeal in the camp: "Out of hunger I together with my six-year-old friend decided to take two or three potatoes, which we wanted to roast in an oven. This was seen by some German out of the guardhouse, who ran after us. After taking the potatoes from us, we were taken to the guardhouse and there Germans had beaten us severely. We were hit with leather whips, and during this beating I fainted. I regained consciousness as a result of an enormous pain I felt. I realized that Germans are holding me in place and one of them is burrowing a hole in my leg with a heated iron rod. I started to scream and fainted again."

Children were also beaten in the face with canes, imprisoned in a bunker that was filled with water up to their knees, or denied food for days. The sight of dying prisoners who couldn't fend off rats attacking them was also a traumatic experience for many. German guards also engaged in psychological torture; for example, the starving children were placed near tables on which bread, cabbage, and cereals were put and the guards would take photographs of the scene, after which the food was taken away from the children. The camp was used also for involuntary blood donations from the young children. There were children born in the camp. These infants faced a harsh fate as their exhausted mothers weren't able to feed them and the food rations were always in short supply. As a result, infants born in the camp usually weighed around 1 kilo and died after a few weeks.

Increased brutality in the camp

As the war went on, conditions in camp became even more brutal and harsh, and penalties such as standing on broken glass were introduced. In 1943 a transport of 543 children from the regions of Smolensk and Vitebsk arrived. Some of the children were treated as normal prisoners, even when they were as young as two years old. As the children were ill from Typhoid fever, the Germans placed them in separate, primitive-condition barracks that were separated by barbed wire. In 1944 the conditions in the camp reached their most brutal phase. Children were regularly called "children of bandits", were beaten and kicked by camp personnel, and were forced to dig trenches. Most of the children had fallen ill, and many died from exhaustion, maltreatment, hunger or disease. Infants were cared for by the older children. There are also witness statements about the deliberate murder of children by camp personnel. One witness described in detail how he had seen three children approximately 7 years old being drowned by Germans near the camp. According to him, Germans first threw the children into a water canal and then threw bricks at them, looking satisfied.


Out of acts listed as genocide by The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948, almost all were implemented in the Potulice camp; the sole exception was the act regarding preventing births among members of the group being subjected to genocide. The number of children kidnapped by German authorities during their occupation of Poland in World War II in order to be Germanised [4] ranges from over 20,000 (Heinemann) to 200,000 (Polish government). [5] [6] It's estimated that at least 10,000 of them were murdered as captives, and only 10-15% returned to their families after the war. [7] Although the Camp was formally listed as a transit camp, after the war, at the request of its victims, in the 1990s it was re-classified as a concentration camp, with the Polish Institute of National Remembrance taking the position that conditions there didn't differ from those in regular concentration camps. [8] The decision was important for the status of compensation paid by post-war Germany towards victims of German repression in World War II.

The use of the camp after 1945

Following World War II, the site of the camp was used as a detention centre by Polish Communist authorities, [9] mainly for "ethnic Germans" from the Volksliste (DVL) including settlers and some 180 prisoners-of-war, as well as the anti-communist Poles from the Home Army and the National Armed Forces. Renamed as the Central Labour Camp in Potulice under the management of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security, the camp managed workshops and farms with the total area of 1,174.60 ha. According to records of the MBP Department of Corrections, some 2,915 Germans died there before the end of 1949, mainly as a result of the typhus and dysentery epidemics. [10] [11] According to German sources, about 3,500 ethnic Germans died in the camp in the years 1945 to 1950. [12] [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i lang="de" title="German language text">Lebensraum</i> German "living space" ideas of settler colonialism (1890s–1940s)

The German concept of Lebensraum comprises policies and practices of settler colonialism which proliferated in Germany from the 1890s to the 1940s. First popularized around 1901, Lebensraum became a geopolitical goal of Imperial Germany in World War I (1914–1918) originally, as the core element of the Septemberprogramm of territorial expansion. The most extreme form of this ideology was supported by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and Nazi Germany until the end of World War II.

Stutthof concentration camp

Stutthof was a Nazi concentration camp established by Nazi Germany in a secluded, marshy, and wooded area near the small town of Sztutowo 34 km (21 mi) east of the city of Danzig in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig. The camp was set up around existing structures after the invasion of Poland in World War II and initially used for the imprisonment of Polish leaders and intelligentsia. The actual barracks were built the following year by prisoners.

Female guards in Nazi concentration camps

Aufseherin[ˈaʊ̯fˌzeːəʁɪn] was the position title for female guards in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. Of the 55,000 guards who served in Nazi concentration camps, about 3,700 were women. In 1942, the first female guards arrived at Auschwitz and Majdanek from Ravensbrück. The year after, the Nazis began conscripting women because of a shortage of male guards. The German title for this position, Aufseherin means (female) overseer or attendant. Later female guards were dispersed to Bolzano (1944–1945), Kaiserwald-Riga (1943–44), Mauthausen, Stutthof (1942–1945), Vaivara (1943–1944), Vught (1943–1944), and at other Nazi concentration camps, subcamps, work camps, detention camps, etc.

Dziemiany Village in Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Dziemianypronounced [ d͡ʑeˈmjanɨ ] is a village in Kościerzyna County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland. It is the seat of the gmina called Gmina Dziemiany. It lies approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) south-west of Kościerzyna and 70 km (43 mi) south-west of the regional capital Gdańsk. It was the location of the Nazi concentration camp Dzimianen - Sophienwalde, a subcamp of the concentration camp Stutthof. Here the SS-Truppenübungsplatz Westpreußen was located during the occupation of Poland in World War II.


Nawitz is the German name of the town of Nawcz in northern Poland. During the occupation of Poland by the Third Reich in World War II the forced-labour camp Nawitz was set up as one of 40 subcamps of the notorious Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp near Gdańsk.

German camps in occupied Poland during World War II

The German camps in occupied Poland during World War II were built by the Nazis between 1939 and 1945 throughout the territory of the Polish Republic, both in the areas annexed in 1939, and in the General Government formed by Nazi Germany in the central part of the country (see map). After the 1941 German attack on the Soviet Union, a much greater system of camps was established, including the world's only industrial extermination camps constructed specifically to carry out the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question".

Gross-Rosen concentration camp Concentration camp in Poland

Gross-Rosen was a network of Nazi concentration camps built and operated by Nazi Germany 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; directly on the rail-line between the towns of Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau).

Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language, people and culture. It was a central plank of German conservative thought in the 19th and the 20th centuries, when conservatism and ethnic nationalism went hand in hand. In linguistics, Germanisation also occurs when a word from the German language is adopted into a foreign language.

Nazi concentration camps Concentration camps operated by Nazi Germany

From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany operated more than a thousand concentration camps on its own territory and in parts of German-occupied Europe.

Albert Forster Gauleiter of Danzig during WW2 executed for war crimes.

Albert Maria Forster was a Nazi German politician, member of the SS and war criminal. Under his administration as the Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Danzig-West Prussia during the Second World War, the local non-German population of Poles and Jews was classified as sub-human and subjected to extermination campaign involving ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and in case of some Poles with German ancestry, forceful Germanisation. Forster was directly responsible for the extermination of non-Germans and was a strong supporter of Polish genocide, which he had advocated for before the war. Forster was tried, convicted and hanged in Warsaw for his crimes, after Germany was defeated.

Solec Kujawski Place in Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Solec Kujawski is a town with 15,505 inhabitants and an area of 176 km², situated 14 kilometres southeast of Bydgoszcz in Poland at 53°4′N18°14′E. Solec Kujawski belongs to the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. The town features Saint Stanislaus in its coat of arms. It is located within the historic region of Kuyavia.


A kapo or prisoner functionary was a prisoner in a Nazi camp who was assigned by the SS guards to supervise forced labor or carry out administrative tasks.

The Jaworzno concentration camp was a concentration camp in WW2 German-occupied Poland and later in Communist Poland. It was first established by the Nazis in 1943 during the Second World War and was later used from 1945 to 1956 by the Soviet NKVD and then by the Ministry of Public Security and other agencies of the Polish communist regime. Today the site is an apartment complex and also houses a memorial to the camp's victims.

Zgoda labour camp

Zgoda was a Polish labour camp , set up in February 1945 in Zgoda district of Świętochłowice, Silesia, replacing a Nazi concentration camp at the same location. It was controlled by the communist secret police until its closure by the Stalinist authorities of Poland in November of the same year.

After the end of World War II, the Central Labour Camp in Potulice became a detention centre for Germans and anti-communist Poles. It was set up by the Soviet and Polish Communist authorities in Potulice in place of the former Nazi German Potulice concentration camp, the subcamp of Stutthof built in 1941. Following liberation by the Red Army, the camp was controlled by the Soviet NKVD Department of Prisoners and Internees until June 1945. Repopulated, it remained in operation until 1949 under the management of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security of Poland.

Deutsche Volksliste

The Deutsche Volksliste, a Nazi Party institution, aimed to classify inhabitants of Nazi-occupied territories (1939-1945) into categories of desirability according to criteria systematised by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The institution originated in occupied western Poland. Similar schemes subsequently developed in Occupied France (1940-1944) and in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (1941-1944).

Expulsion of Poles by Germany

The Expulsion of Poles by Germany was a prolonged anti-Polish campaign of ethnic cleansing by violent and terror-inspiring means lasting nearly half a century. It began with the concept of Pan-Germanism developed in the early 19th century and culminated in the racial policy of Nazi Germany that asserted the superiority of the Aryan race. The removal of Poles by Germany stemmed from historic ideas of expansionist nationalism. It was implemented at different levels and different stages by successive German governments. It ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Przodkowo Village in Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland

Przodkowo is a village in Kartuzy County, Pomeranian Voivodeship, in northern Poland. It is the seat of the gmina called Gmina Przodkowo. It lies approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi) north-east of Kartuzy and 23 km (14 mi) west of the regional capital Gdańsk. It is located within the historic region of Pomerania.

Poniatowa concentration camp

Poniatowa concentration camp in the town of Poniatowa in occupied Poland, 36 kilometres (22 mi) west of Lublin, was established by the SS in the latter half of 1941 initially, to hold Soviet prisoners of war following Operation Barbarossa. By mid-1942, about 20,000 Soviet POWs had perished there from hunger, disease and executions. The camp was known at that time as the Stalag 359 Poniatowa. Afterwards, the Stammlager was redesigned an expanded as a concentration camp to provide slave labour supporting the German war effort, with workshops run by the SS Ostindustrie (Osti) on the grounds of the prewar Polish telecommunications equipment factory founded in the late 1930s. Poniatowa became part of the Majdanek concentration camp system of subcamps in the early autumn of 1943. The wholesale massacre of its mostly Jewish workforce took place during the Aktion Erntefest, thus concluding the Operation Reinhard in General Government.

Germanisation in Poland (1939–1945) was an intense process of Germanisation during World War II carried out by Nazi Germany in German-occupied Poland.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Potulice". Zabytki i ciekawe obiekty w Bydgoszczy i okolicy (in Polish). Bydgoskie Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Zabytków "BUNKIER". October 2008. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  2. Poles, Victims of the Nazi Era. Holocaust-TRC.org.
  3. Marian Trzebiatowski. "Wywózki do obozu w Potulicach" (in Polish). Fundacja NAJI GOCHE; Magazyn regionalny. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  4. Hitler's War; Hitler's Plans for Eastern Europe
  5. A. Dirk Moses, Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History
  6. A. Dirk Moses, Genocide and Settler Society (Google Print, p.260) Berghahn Books, 2004.
  7. "Dzieciństwo zabrała wojna > Newsroom - Roztocze Online - informacje regionalne - Zamość, Biłgoraj, Hrubieszów, Lubaczów,Tomaszów Lubelski, Lubaczów - Roztocze OnLine". Archived from the original on 2016-04-23. Retrieved 2006-03-16.
  8. "Byli więźniowie hitlerowskiego obozu Potulice nie mogą się starać o przyznanie im renty inwalidzkiej". Archived from the original on October 14, 2007. Retrieved 2012-07-26.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). PAP (Polska Agencja Prasowa).
  9. KentBio.html [ permanent dead link ]
  10. "Potulice". Miesięcznik Forum Penitencjarne (monthly) (in Polish). Centralny Zarząd Służby Więziennej, Ministerstwo Sprawiedliwości. 2009. Archived from the original (Wayback Machine capture) on June 23, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  11. G. Bekker, W. Stankowski (2009). "Centralny Obóz Pracy w Potulicach (1945 – 1949)" (PDF direct download, 942 KB) (in Polish). Urząd Marszałkowski Województwa Kujawsko-Pomorskiego / Departament Edukacji, Sportu i Turystyki. pp. 1 of 3. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  12. TRANSODRA 18: Polnische Beschäftigung mit den Lagern für Deutsche nach 1945
  13. Rache ist eine Krankheit: Im Lager Potulice litten zuerst Polen, nach 1945 Deutsche. Am 5. September wird zum erstenmal der deutschen Opfer gedacht. Das ist das Verdienst eines Deutschen - und eines Polen | Nachrichten auf ZEIT online


Coordinates: 53°07′30″N17°41′14″E / 53.1249379°N 17.68713°E / 53.1249379; 17.68713