Zamość under German Occupation 1939-1945

by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab
Polish American Journal (2010)

Table of Contents

I. Intro
II. Early History of the Zamosc Region
III. The Gestapo Arrive
IV. Rotunda and Aktion A-B
V. The future of Zamość takes shape
VI. The Early Expulsions
VII. Central Office for Migration
VIII. The First Expulsions
IX. The Zamość Camp
X. The Children of Zamość
XI. The Transports to Auschwitz
XII. The Tragedy at Sochy
XIII. The Partisans
XIV. Last days and Liberation

 

Part I. Introduction

Almost from the moment Hitler first came in to power, the leaders of the Third Reich and the Nationalist Socialist Party began to make preparations for the conquest of Europe and the creation of a Thousand year Reich. In their plans, territories to the east of Germany were to increase the living space (lebensraum) of the Nazi master race. The Nazi’s held to a racist policy whereby the German people were a race of super humans and had the right to displace, enslave or eliminate inferior beings. Plans for the future of Europe were being discussed by Hitler and his top officials even before the invasion of Poland in September 1939. “Poland shall be treated as a colony; the Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German world Empire. (Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Document EC-344)

The plans were worked on by members of Hitler’s Reich Security Office (RSHA), an agency whose task was to combat all enemies of Nazi Germany. At the beginning of 1940, there emerged what was called “The General Plan for the East” (Generalplan Ost).

General Plan East was a long term plan for the fate of the territories conquered by the Germans. The plan was to exterminate, enslave and/or expel most non-Aryans living in the conquered territories, and resettle the evacuated empty areas with Germans and people of German origin, called ethnic Germans. The Nazi’s also came up with a racial classification system that would decide who would be enslaved, exterminated, expelled or resettled. The territories involved included the occupied areas of Poland, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Belorussia and parts of Russia and the Ukraine in the provinces of Zhitomir.

In a secret decree signed by Hitler and his top officials, dated October 7, 1939, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler was entrusted with the task of executing the program.

The 1940 Edition of “Der Menscheneinsatz” a confidential publication issued by Himmler’s Office for the Consolidation of German Nationhood, contained the following statements:

“The removal of foreign races from the incorporated Eastern Territories is one of the most essential goals to be accomplished in the German East. This is the chief national political task, which has to be executed in the incorporated Eastern Territories by the Reichsfuehrer SS, Reich Commissioner for the strengthening of the national character of the German people.” ( Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression V.1)

Poland became the testing ground for the Nazi need for living space. It began in the area of Poland that was immediately annexed into the Third Reich in October of 1939 and called the incorporated Eastern Territories. It consisted of Silesia with its wealth of mining and industrial centers, Great Poland and its cities of Poznań and Lodz ( called Warthegau, or Warta by the Poles) and northern Poland (called Danzig-West Prussia-the Polish province of Pomorze). The Germans inaugurated a Racial Register – an elaborate classification of persons deemed to be of German blood and contained provisions for the rights, privileges and duties of the persons in each classification. Poles who refused to become Germanized were deported to work in Germany as slave laborers or were forcibly evicted overnight from their homes and property and shipped to the Government General. This was the remainder of German occupied Poland that extended to the rivers Bug and and San to the borders of Russian occupied Poland. It was to become a labor reservoir, a reserve of humans to do the bidding of the German occupiers.

In addition, Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler developed ideas for additional “German Island Settlements” in the productive farming areas of the General Government. Polish properties would be confiscated, the owners and their families would be transferred to Germany for employment as farm workers and would be replaced by Germans. It “is wished that at first a heavy colonization of Germans along the San and Bug be achieved so that the parts of Poland are encircled with alien populations.” (Nazi Conspiracy and Document PS-910). This was known as the Zamość region.

In 1946 the International Military Tribunal made indictments against the Nazi’s on numerous counts of systematic atrocities committed again mankind. It included the extermination of Jews, criminal medical experiments on concentration camp victims, the utilization of slave labor under brutal and inhumane conditions and the exploitation of property on a gigantic scale. It included the atrocities committed against the people of the Zamość region.

 

Part II. The early history of the Zamość region

Zamosc locationZamojszczyzna is the name given to the region that surrounds the city of Zamość in southeast Poland. It consists of the powiaty, (the administrative districts) of Zamość, Tomaszów, Biłgoraj and Hrubieszów.

The city and region is named after Jan Zamojski, commander -in-chief and chancellor to King Stefan Batory. One of the most skilled diplomats, politicians and statesman of his time, Jan Zamojski was granted a land charter —  a massive amount of property from the king that was backed by the Polish parliament. The property could not be sold, mortgaged or divided and was entailed, that is, it could only be inherited in full by a legitimate male heir . As was the custom of the times, in exchange for the estate, the owner was required to prepare and maintain an army that would come to the aid of the king at a moment's notice. He was also obliged to settle and develop the land. The new landowner had to make a vow within a church to uphold the requirements as outlined in the charter. Any questions or matters regarding the inheritance of the estate had to be settled by the parliament.

The town of Zamość was founded by Jan Zamoyski in 1580 on the trade route linking Lwów and Volhynia with Lublin and Warsaw. It became the seat of local government and soon became a multiethnic and multicultural town. In 1585, Zamoyski invited Armenians to Zamość as craftsmen. In 1588 he invited Sephardic Jews from Lwów as merchants and traders. The Jews were granted the same rights and privileges as other residents including being able to own property and having complete religious freedom. In 1589, Zamojski brought in Greeks from Kaffa. In 1595, he founded a school of higher education called Akademia Zamojska with instruction in Geek in Latin on philosophy, medicine and law. It was the fourth one of its kind in Poland.

By the outbreak of the Second World War Zamość had a population of about 25,000 with the Jews accounting for 43 per cent of the total population.

On September 16, 1939, sixteen days after Hitler invaded Poland, the first Germans entered Zamość. As part of the German-Soviet Union Non-Aggression Pact, Russia attacked Poland from the east on September 17, 1939. According to the initial communications regarding what would be the borders between Russia and Germany, the Zamość region was to belong to Russia. The Germans left the region on September 25th and Zamość was occupied by the Soviets from the east on September 27th. The concrete borders between Russian occupied Poland and German occupied Poland was finalized on September 28th and the Russians had to leave the Zamość region. The evacuation of the Soviets began on October 4th and 5th and was finalized on October 8th. Approximately a third of the Jews of Zamość left with the soldiers to live in the Russian zone of occupation.

The occupation of the Zamość region by the Soviets lasted only 14 days but was filled with rape, murder and looting. The evacuation of the Soviets was finalized on October 8th. The almost 500 year old Polish city and surrounding region was now in the hands of the Nazis.

 

Part III. The Gestapo Arrive

The Zamoyski Academy located on ulica Akademicka (Academy Street) underwent many changes up until occupation by the Germans during World War II. The most changes occurred during the partitions of Poland under the rule of Austria Hungary and then under the Russians. It had acted as a military barracks during the time of the partitions and later, up until the beginning of World War II, the academy had been reduced to functioning as a grammar school. When the Germans arrived in Zamość in October the Academy had been turned into a hospital for wounded Polish soldiers. The wounded soldiers were transferred to Krakow and the building was occupied by the Schutzpolizie (German police). The German military commanders made their headquarters at the Town Hall (Ratusz).

When the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei-secret state police who followed the German armed forces into occupied territories and destroyed any element hostile to Nazi rule) arrived they established their headquarters in a brick building across from the Collegiate Church of the Resurrection of Christ and St. Thomas (now known as the Cathedral). Any person thought to be in opposition to the Hitler regime was taken into custody. The arrests, the interrogations, torturing and executions began. Anyone suspected of being a partisan- a member of the underground resistance movement was subject to interrogation. The Reverend Franciszek Zawisa, a priest at the Collegiate Church, witnessed the workings of the Gestapo firsthand:

"Our close proximity to the Gestapo gave us the opportunity to be eye witnesses to the arrival and leaving of the arrested and of the lynching's of which they made no secret. Through uncurtained windows you could see them torturing their victims. From the window of the vicarage you could see the executions in the field near the grammar school -the executions were done late in the evening or early in the morning. Eyewitness stated - I only heard the shots - how one young man being escorted from the jail to the corner of Academy Street near the Zoo, attacked one of the Gestapo near the gate to the park with the handcuffs on his wrists. The second Gestapo who was behind, pulled his pistol and shot him. Another time, two men escaped from the field across from the school where they were about to be shot. Shots were fired and in the melee a young girl student Radziszewska was accidentally shot."(Wojenne Wspomnienia Ks. Franciszka Zawiszy," www.eyewitnesstohistory.com).

The executions took place in the field across from the school because of existing trenches that had been dug to prevent the approach of tanks. After being shot the victims were thrown into the trenches into what became a mass grave. It is estimated by Polish authorities that over 2,000 individuals were murdered at this spot. When the pits were full and could no longer hold any more bodies, the corpses were covered with dirt and the killing field was moved to the nearby edifice called the Rotunda located about 500 meters outside the old city walls.

The Rotunda is an imposing edifice built in the 19th century (1825-31) as part of the fortifications to protect the city of Zamość against any foreign invasion from the south.

 It was built on a muddy clump of land and surrounded by a moat from the east, west and south. Beyond the moat was the river Łabunka which surrounded the Rotunda on three sides and added to its defense position. Built of thick brick and stone, the Rotunda was shaped in the form of a circle with only one outside access from the north which led to the town itself. The outer structure was composed of 20 identical interconnected cells. It had an inner courtyard 65 yards in diameter and could be accessed or exited through only one northern gate that faced the city of Zamość. If needed the defenders could retreat to the town and its fortifications. The town was surrounded by a moat, ramparts, and a high wall 32 feet thick. You could only enter the town through three city gates by lowering the drawbridges over the moat. During the 17th century the city had been able to withstand the invasions of the Cossacks and later on, the Swedes in 1656. The Rotunda added significantly to what was already known as the Zamość Fortress.

In 1866 the Czar of Russia who controlled Zamość during the partitions decided to liquidate the Rotunda and it began to be used as a place to store gunpowder and ammunition.

In 1916 a railway line was established connecting Zamość with Lublin and other parts of Poland. The railway ran between the town and the Rotunda. During the invasion of Poland, one of the cells in the Rotunda was hit and ruined by German aircraft, leaving 19 cells. In June of 1940, the Security Police (SiPo) began using the Rotunda as a jail and an interrogation center. The high brick walls, the seclusion away from the town and a railway line that brought people from all points of the surrounding area, made it an excellent location for executions.

 

Part IV. Rotunda and Aktion A-B

Zamość and the surrounding Lublin region is just one example amidst thousands where the Germans instituted Hitler's plan "to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language.( Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Document L-3)

Shortly after the invasion of Poland special action squads of SS and police were deployed to arrest and/or kill any civilians who showed any resistance to the Germans. Thousands of wealthy landowners, priests, and journalists were murdered in mass executions or sent to concentration camps. Sonderaktion Krakau was one of the many of these special actions. (This is depicted in Andrzej Wajda's film Katyn). The professors of the Jagellonian University in Kraków were summoned to attend a lecture that supposedly was to discuss German plans for Polish education. Instead, all the professors and students who were in the building at the time, were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Hans Frank, named governor of the Government General with headquarters in Kraków, declared that the Poles would be made "the slaves of the German Empire."

As early as October 7, 1939 Reichsfueher SS Himmler was given the following directives: (Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Document PS-686)

1. To bring back for final return into the Reich all German nationals, and racial Germans in the foreign countries

2. To eliminate the harmful influence of such alien parts of the population, which represent a danger to the Reich, and the German folk community

3. The forming of new German settlements by settling of the return of German citizens and racial Germans from abroad.

To eliminate "harmful influences" Hans Frank ordered the closing of all educational institutions, especially technical schools and colleges, in order to prevent the growth of a new Polish intellectuals. At the same time anyone who could possibly lead their communities in any kind of resistance against the Germans was to be arrested and eliminated.

In a speech to officers of the SS, Himmler tells the SS "to shoot thousands of leading Poles." (Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Document PS-1918)

On May 16, 1940 Hans Frank ordered the beginning of Aktion AB.

Aktion A-B (Ausserordenliche Befriedungsaktion; Extraordinary Pacification Operation) was the code name for a campaign by the Germans to exterminate any intellectual person within the General Government who would be able to organize the Polish people to resist the Germans. The lists included teachers, priests, political activists and anyone in leadership government positions or suspected of potential anti-Nazi activity. The most well known arrests and executions occurred outside of Warsaw in the Kampinos forest near Palmiry. Executions began in the forest meadow in December 1939 and continued until July 1941. Over 2,000 people, regarded by the Germans as belonging to the Polish elite, were murdered here as part of Aktion AB. In the following weeks, the German police, the Gestapo and SD (Sicherheitsdienst) arrested and imprisoned roughly 30,000 Poles in major cities throughout Poland.

Aktion AB arrived to the Lublin and Zamosc region in June of 1940. The Rotunda in Zamość served as a transit camp for those who were to be sent on to Lublin and then on to the Nazi concentration camps of nearby Majdanek, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen or Dachau. In his book, Diary from the years of Occupation 1939-1944, (Klukowski, Zygmunt. Diary from the years of Occupation 1939-1944. Translated from the Polish by George Klukowski. University of Illinois Press 1993) Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski wrote of his imprisonment at the Rotunda. On his release he detailed the events of his arrest on June 19th and subsequent imprisonment.

Gate entrance to Rotunda. Photo by Edward Knab.Gate entrance to Rotunda.
Photo by Edward Knab.

"we were taken through a gate. Above the gate a sign read, "Temporary Internment Camp for Political Prisoners." ... I was assigned to cell no.8..high ceilings, brick walls and no floor. The floor was compressed dirt. There was one small window ... in the door there was an opening a little above head height..along the wall some straw was laid down to be use as beds."

When they arrived to the Rotunda, the Germans — for their own amusement and to debase their prisoners — made the prisoners run laps on a track that existed in the courtyard while holding their bags with their possessions. Anyone who was too slow or faltered in their run, were beaten.

"Those that moved slowly were beaten with wooden sticks. I was told by witnesses that Count Alexander Szeptycki from Labun, who was seventy years old, was forced to run; after three laps he was ordered to keep going, and a few yards later he fell dead of a heart attack. Then the Gestapo called a horse-drawn wagon and took the man to the city morgue…one young man who refused to answer questions during the interrogation was forced to run while singing the Polish national anthem. After three laps he was given a block of ice. With ice held against his chest he ran eight times around the training ground. I found out later that his name was Sozanski and he was a member of the Polish Olympic team."

On his release (his position as hospital superintendant was needed by the Germans), Dr. Klukowski made notes of who else had been arrested:

" friends, such as school superintendent Szczepaniec, notary Rosinski, lawyers Bajkowski, Czernicki, Sikorski, and Legiec; engineers Bielawski and Klimer; county physician Dr.Tyczkowski; presiding judge of the appeals court Cybulski,;Judge Laparewicz,; Professor Fenc,; school principal Przybolowicz, a few teachers, former students of mine, and many others I knew by sight only."

Similar arrests were made throughout the region including Chełm, Janów Lubelskie, Puławy. The majority were transported to the Rotunda or the palace in Lublin which had been turned into a prison by the Gestapo and from there to concentration camps. Those who found themselves on the German black list were summarily executed. From June 29 to August 15, 1940 in a small town of Rury Jezuickie just 3.5 kilometers outside of Lublin there were five major executions. Exhumations conducted in Poland after the war by the Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes identified that "the corpses had their hands tied behind their backs with rope[...] there were blindfolds across the eyes.[...] and many skulls had indentations from assault with a blunt instrument."

The report continued:

"Five graves were excavated. They were troughs 2 meters deep and 17 meters long. At the bottom of each grave the bodies were lying perpendicular to the axis of the ditch [...]In some places the bodies were lying on top of each other two to three deep[...] Clearly recognizable were the remains of a navy blue uniform of a Polish policeman and the uniform of a prison guard. Two corpses in cassock with clerical collar suggests they were Catholic priests.A few dresses and coats with fur on the remains of women. The rest of the corpses were generally in jackets, vests and pants[...] On the Commission's count it was decided that in the first grave there were 70 bodies; the second contained 20 bodies; the third, about 80;the 4th grave contained 130 and the 5th grave, 50 bodies.( Gałan, Alina. Akcja AB na Lubelszczyżnie . Biuletyn Instytutu Pamienci Narodowej), Issue:12-1/2003-2004, pages 50-54)

Aktion AB continued in the Lublin region long after the June 15th, 1940 deadline specified by Hans Frank.

 

Part V. The future of Zamość takes shape

In July 1941, SS chief Heinrich Himmler made a visit to Lublin and orders SS Major General Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district, to construct a concentration camp in Lublin for 25 to 50 thousand prisoners who will be utilized on construction projects in the interests of the SS and police. Following the choice of a site on the east/southeast side of town, near the suburb of Majdan-Tatarski, construction on the camp began in early October with the arrival of around 2,000 Soviet POWs. The concentration camp was called Majdanek.

During that same visit Himmler also issued another major directive. He writes “the action of searching for German blood will widen throughout the General Government and near the German colonies in the region of Zamość, a large new region of new settlements will be opened.”

The “searching for German blood” was based on the fact that over the centuries many Germans had migrated and settled throughout central and eastern Europe. Large populations of ethnic Germans could be found in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Russia, the Balkans, and in Poland as well. The Germans came to Poland during the partitions of Poland during the 18th century by Russia, Prussia and Austria. Empress Maria Theresa of the Austro Hungarian Empire received the southeastern portion of Poland which was called Galicia during the partitions. This region included the Zamość district. In 1784, Emperor Josef II, son of Maria Theresa, encouraged the immigration and settlement of Germans into Galicia. Thousands of families emigrated into Galicia, mostly out of the Palatinate (now called Rheinland-Pfalz) and from the Alsace Lorraine region and settled in newly-founded German communities or in the cities as craftsmen and artisans. The rich and powerful Zamoyski family who owned large tracts of land and numerous villages allowed Germans to settle in the Zamość region.

Following the invasion and occupation of Poland, Himmler, as head of the Office for the Consolidation of German Nationhood and entrusted with the task of executing the General Plan East (exterminating, enslaving or expelling non-Aryans living in their conquered territories and resettling the evacuated areas with Germans and people of German origins) took an interest in the Zamośc region.

Knowing of the existence of settlements with German roots in the Zamośc region, the Germans searched and studied archival documents in Austria to determine how many individuals and in which villages the Germans had settled back in 1784. The archives listed 151 families with 732 individuals. They found that in the villages located in the north of the Zamośc, the German language had died out completely. Many with German names were completely assimilated as Poles. In the villages to the south, however, near Tomaszów, a Palatinate dialect was still spoken by some of the elderly and German traditions were sporadic but present.

Reichsfuhrer SS Himmler toured the villages himself and under the slogan of “recovery of German blood” issued directives to his henchman Odilo Globocnik, to continue searching ethnic Germans — Polish speaking Germans and Poles of German descent —  and make every effort made to have them re-Germanized. The Nazi government termed such ethnic Germans volksdeutche, regardless of how long they had been residents of other countries.

The future of the Zamośc region was looking grim. Polish properties would be confiscated, the owners and their families would be expelled from their homes and sent to the newly constructed concentration camp called Majdanek or further away to Auschwitz to work or to die, be transferred to Germany for employment as farm workers or industrial laborers, have their children be snatched away from their parents to be Germanized if deemed racially valuable or would die of cold and starvation in transit camps. Zamośc would be replaced by Germans and become a pure German region.

 

Part VI. The Early Expulsions

Early expulsionPhoto: Google images

In early November of 1941, SS Brigadefuehrer Odilo Globocnik held a practice attempt of expelling the Poles from their villages. The individuals were initially taken to what had previously been a POW camp for Soviets that could hold up to 12,000 people. The plan was to then transport the people somewhere outside the region to make way for the German settlers and make the Zamość region a new German colony. It would no longer be called Zamość but Himmlerstadt, after the person who was behind the entire plan, Heinrich Himmler.

In a report submitted to its main office dated November 13, 1941, the local Zamość branch of Polskiego Komitetu Opiekuńczy ((Polish Care Committee) gives an account of its activities and the events of those first expulsions.

"On November 6th, 1941, 700 individuals from the villages of Huszczka Mała, Dulnik, Huszczka Duża, were expelled. After obtaining permission of the (German) authorities the PKO began feeding the expelled. On November 6th for supper we distributed 160 liters of coffee sweetened with condensed milk and 150 kilograms of bread. On November 7th at 5:30 in the morning we distributed breakfast consisting of coffee sweetened with condensed milk and 70 kilograms of bread because PKO didn't have more than that. That transport was sent off at 7 a.m. in the morning. On that same day the village of Wysokie was expelled and about 600 individuals arrived at the camp. Feeding this transport consisted of 160 liters of coffee on the evening and 160 liters on the morning of November the 8th. Additionally, 30 cans of condensed milk were distributed for the children....that transport left on November the 8th at 6:30 in the morning...On November 8th, 1941 in the afternoon hours, the villages of Boratycze and Białobrzegi was brought in. The people from Boratycze consisted chiefly of Ukrainians, and in the absence of any other aid, were taken care of along with the Polish people. This transport remains in the camp up to this time. Feeding consists of a mid-day meal (barley, sauerkraut made with meat), white coffee with sugar for supper and breakfast.. .On the morning of November 12, coffee was distributed and the guards stopped us and forbade the PKO further access to the expelled. All the work of preparing and distributing provisions was executed by the personnel of PKO."

In a strictly confidential memo dated November 20, 1941 from the German mayor Weihenmaier of the district of Zamosc to the German governor of the district of Lublin, E. Zörner, on the matter of the first expulsions of Zamość and the fate of the expelled Polish people:

"...the action of expulsions was completed on Sunday, the 9th of November. The transporting of the expelled individuals has been stopped because the authority in this matter, the German commissioner in Wołyn has not given permission for their acceptance. That is why some of the convoys are still at the border or behind in various camps. In the event that settling them in the Wołyn region becomes impossible, the land administrator (councilor Oeser) has received instruction to settle them in the district..."

The continued fate of these first individuals expelled from the Zamość region was documented in an underground Polish newspaper dated December 8, 1941:

"In the Hrubiesów and surrounding region are those expelled from Zamość...They are supposed to be moved further to the east, only there are difficulties with transports at this time. The expelled remain in very difficult conditions-sick, weak and poorly dressed, a portion have already expired. The anxieties of the expelled is enormous, there are rumors that (the expulsions) are to encompass the entire district of Hrubiesów and Zamość as well as the regions of Jasło and Gorlice."

Utilizing the combined forces of local German police and the SS, the Germans expelled the inhabitants of seven villages in the Zamość region as part of their initial experiment. These were the villages of: Huszczka Mała, Dulnik, Huszczka Duża, Wysokie, Białobrzegi , Bortatycze and Zawada totaling 2,098 individuals. The ease with which the expulsions had taken place was encouraging and further fueled the plans to make Zamość the first German colony in the General Government. (All quotes from Zamojszczyzna: Sonderlaboratorium SS. Zbior dokumentow polskich i niemieckich z okresu okupacji hitlerowskiej, Czeslaw Madajczyk, Volume I.)

 

Part VII. Central Office for Migration

In 1939 after the Germans occupied Poland and had annexed the whole west Poland into the Third Reich, an office was established by the Germans called Umwandererzentralstelle (Central Office for Migration). The main office was located in Poznań with many branches subsequently opening up throughout Poland. The main role of this office was to organize and control the deportation of Poles out of the annexed territories into the General Government.

In spring 1940, a German by the name of Hermann Krumey was appointed head of a branch office in Łódż of Umwandererzentralstelle (Central Office for Migration). Krumey was enlisted by Odilo Globocnik to bring his considerable expertise on expulsions and deportations to Zamość which was soon to begin mass expulsions of the Polish people to make way for the new German colony. He became head of the Zamość branch of the Central Migration Office.

In November 21, 1942 in preparation for the mass expulsion which the Germans were going to perpetrate on the Polish people, the Zamość branch of the Central Migration office published guidelines for the police and military personnel who would be involved in the expulsions.

Confidential! For official use only!
Instructions pertaining to the expulsions of Polish farm owners

1. Each expulsion takes place on the orders of the Central Migration Office-Zamość branch. Its execution belongs within the domain of designated security police (schutzpolizei), military police and assistive personnel.

2. The evacuation basically effects all the inhabitants of the village; they are to be assembled at some designated spot. Of those who are to be exempt from the evacuation and remain in the village is decided by the representative of the Central Migration Office.

From the assembly point, Poles, with the exception of those who are remaining in the village, will be transported by the shortest route to the collection point in Zamość, Lublin Street, number 47. For the purposes of transporting, horses and wagons should punctually arrive on time.

3. Exceptions: Ukrainians who have appropriate personal documentation from the Main Ukrainian Committee or from one of the Ukrainian assistance committees or are determined to be Ukrainian by one of the representatives of the Main Ukrainian Committee require special handling and it is not permissible to treat them like Poles.

4. The time for evacuating the Poles should not exceed one hour.

5. After throwing out the evacuees, the farm should be guarded by the special assistants (Sonderdeist-paramilitary group consisting of ethnic Germans called volksdeutch) up to the time of arrival of the new owners.

6. The police and assistants are responsible in the event of setting fire, explosions or other destruction of the farms initiated by the expelled or other individuals, must be immediately averted. Because of the above possibilities, it is imperative that the division responsible for the evacuation must not be weaker than 1:1. In the face of opposition, it is necessary to use firearms. For escaping individuals, one can fire on the command of the police.

7. Security Police should make sure that every person evacuated takes, as far as possible:

a) provisions for 8 days

b) as much warm clothing as is possible

c) every person — for themselves a wool blanket, coverlet and feather ticks for the small children up to 6 years of age and for the sick, elderly individuals

d) utensils for eating, drinking, documents and certificates of all the members of the family. The baggage of adults cannot exceed 30 kg. Each bag must be clearly marked with the name of the owner.

e) taking of live inventory is unconditionally forbidden

(Translated from Polish from: Klukowski, Z. “Zbrodnie Niemieckie na Zamojszczyznie.” Biuletyn Glownej Komisji i Badan Zbrodnie Niemieckich w Polsce Volume 2, 1947.)

At the time this memo began circulating among the Germans, the expulsions were only a few days away.

A year had passed since the last villages had been expelled. There were rumors circulating among the about further expulsions but no one really had any hard facts. Impossible to believe that they would be removed from their homes and from the land that had been in their possession for generations. Impossible that some stranger with German blood from some strange place would be given their ancestral home. Besides, it was late in November, freezing winter temperatures were already gripping the land. Kick people out of their homes at such a time? Where would they go? How would they live? Many believed that the expulsions were only that — a rumor. It seemed unbelievable.

 

Part VIII. The First Expulsions

The German plan was to begin the expulsions somewhere around the 21st of December and the entire action was to have been completed in three weeks so that by Christmas all the new German settlers could find themselves settled in their new homes. The expulsions started in the very early morning hours of November 28, 1942. Caught completely by surprise was the village of Skierbiesów, followed by the village of Sady.

Zygmunt Węcławik was a boy the day he, his family and all the inhabitants of the village of Skierbieszow was expelled. He survived the war and recounted his experience:

"The collection point was the school yard … it was still dark ... half a thousand people standing in the snow. We waited for what was to come. All around there is a cordon of SS. Another ring surrounded the settlement ... the Germans were clutching their lists, calling names ... the cold was making itself felt (The temperatures in the winter of 1942 -1943 was 30° and less : Instytut Pamięci Narodowe Biuletyn #5 May 2004) ... people were striking their palms, stamping their feet trying to warm themselves. Cold and hungry children were crying. The adults waited calmly. They awaited their fate with dignity. Some secretly wiped away tears. No need to cry. They calmed down. We will survive the worse. We won't allow the Huns to see our tears.

Frozen to the bone, they start loading us into wagons ... we can hardly wait to get going. The SS didn't hurry.

Finally we are on the road. On every wagon there is an SS man. The women begin to become unglued. All around there is quiet sobbing. Everyone's eyes are looking at the retreating village. They have left their entire life's work, land and livelihood. They were heading into exile, homeless towards the unknown.

Instead of heading on the main road, the convoy heads towards [the village of] Huszczki. Later we find out why. Another convoy from Zamość was on the main road heading for Skierbieszów. The German colonists from Besarabia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia were to take over our still warm homes.

Near Zrębia we rode through the woods. Suddenly we see a wretched wooden barrack. About twenty Jews were digging, more accurately — hacking away at the frozen ground. They were digging for themselves. They were ragged, emaciated, listless. Mere specters of people. They will stop living when the trench is deep. They didn't hurry, but dug slowly, in silence. The SS men have laid down straw. Set up the machine gun. When the trench is ready, one of the SS men will lie down on the straw. They will go down in the movement of the ammunition belt.

The convoy moves slowly in the direction of Zamość. In one of the wagons a woman cries out loudly. Her child had died. More accurately, frozen to death. Not every infant can withstand an entire day in freezing temperatures. It was awful. The terrible keening of the unfortunate mother generated panic throughout the entire convoy. It was the first offering of the expulsion.

We start arriving in Zamość. The day is ending. The first day of our homelessness. Finally, a gate. We pass through. They unload us to the ground. Now it is completely dark. An entire day without a spoon of hot soup. By the electric light we look at the dismal barracks. A double wall of barbed wire. The same barracks that the Germans used to eliminate thousands of POWs ... the barbed wire gate closes behind us. For many, forever."

(Translated from: Wysiedlenie Skierbieszowa in Zamojszczyzna w okresie okupacji Hitlerowskiej by Alina Glinska)

Young Zygmunt and the village of Skierbiesów was not alone in their misery. That same day the village of Sady was also emptied.

On November 29 the villages of Majdan Skierbiesów, Iłowiec, Hajowniki, Cieszyn, Zawada, Szorcówka and Lipina Nowa were expelled.

On November 30, The Germans expelled the villages of Udrycze-wies, Udrycze-Kolonia and Wisłowiec.

On December 1, the people of the villages of Złojec and Zarudzie lost their homes forever as well.

Everyone was forced “za druty,” meaning behind wire, a term used by Poles to denote the transit camp surrounded by barbed wire.

 

Part IX. The Zamość Camp

The camp layoutThe transit camp where Zygmunt Węclawik and his family were taken (see Part X) on the night that his village of Skierbiesów was expelled was officially called Umwandererzentralle (abbreviated UWZ) Lager Zamość, a branch of the main Central Migration Office in Poznan. Initially, the camp and barracks had been an internment camp for Soviet prisoners of war after the Germans invaded Russia. In 1942, the compound was designated as the temporary holding place during the systematic expulsions of the people of the Zamość region.

In a document dated November 21, 1942 titled “Guidelines from SS Obersturmfuhrer H .Krumey in the matter of the classifications of the expelled in the camp in Zamość”

1. Poles will be deported to the collection camp by horse drawn wagons or trucks

2. Here there will be a division of the Poles according to the following criteria:

    a. Poles designated to Group I and II will be sent - after being sent to the Race and Resettlement Office in Łodz — to Germany for the purpose of regermanization

    b. Among the families and individuals designated to Group III - those suitable for work- will be picked out(meaning, separated from members of their family that may be unsuitable for work, such as children and elderly) and will be sent to Berlin in special trains

    c. Families who have a good reputation and ran excellent farms should be separated and held for filling various positions.

    d. Individuals in Group III who are unfit for work, all children up to age 14 and all individuals above 60 will be transported via special transports to retendorfer (specially designated villages in the General Government)

    e. Families and individuals considered to be Group IV will be sent to Birkenau (Auschwitz) for work (From: Obozy Hitlerowskie na Ziemiach Polskich 1935-1945)

To accomplish this task, the Poles brought into UWZ were segregated into various barracks and acted upon accordingly.

The plan of the barracks:

Barrack #2- Registration

Barrack #3- Race Selection

Barrack #5- Transit barrack

Barrack #6 -Work in Germany

Barrack #7 Children for Germanization

Barrack #8 Tradesmen/Craftsmen. Barracks 7 and 8 had windows with glass, bunk beds and floors

Barrack #9 Hospital

Barracks #9a, 9b, 16 and 17 were called the “horse barracks, which had previously been used to stable horses, without bunk beds and having dirt floors

Barracks #12 sent to concentrations camps, Auschwitz and held for interrogation

Barracks #13 holding “bandits “(partisans) for interrogation

In the brief time period from November 28th to December 3rd, 1942, 9,771 individuals from 60 different villages passed through the barbed wire gates. From November 1942 to March 1943, 41,080 individuals from 116 villages were brought to Zamoś camp, separated according to their “suitability” for becoming Germans, for their ability to work for the German Reich or considered useless and sent away to be beggars in other villages outside of Zamość or sent to various concentration camps. Families were separated. Infants and children were sent to be Germanized and would never know who they really were. Children and elderly were locked into trains during freezing temperatures and died before they could reach the villages where they were to live out the rest of their lives, alone and without means of support. Poles were sent to concentration camps where they either managed to survive or were sent to the ovens.

 

Part X. The Children of Zamość

German doctors examining Polish childrenGerman doctors examining Polish children for Aryan features. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Google images.

One of the most tragic episodes in history of the Zamość region during the events of World War II was the fate of the children. Each family brought into the Zamość camp underwent racial examination. Children and infants who met the criteria of racially valuable were forcibly separated from their parents by the Gestapo and lost their identities forever by being sent to Germany to be raised as Germans. The parents of these children were often sent to other parts Germany for forced labor and in the confusion and disorder of war lost track of the fate of their children forever. Children and infants who were determined to be neither appropriate for Germanization or unfit for work (too young to work in Germany) were sent to specially designated barracks in the camp where they often perished as a result of the hardships of living in barracks without care, without heat and without food or died when they were shipped via special trains in cattle cars in freezing temperatures to some unknown village in the General Government under the care of elderly strangers.

In years after the war Julia Rodzik wrote of her experience as a child of Zamość.

After the selections we were taken to Barrack #16. In previous years, it had served as a stable for horses. After passing through a large wooden door we found ourselves among masses of people on a muddy path that led through the whole barracks. Even though the temperature outside was in the teens, it was muddy under our feet — the hoar frost on the walls were melting from the warmth of all the people and drops of water were falling on the ground ... [ ] On both sides we noticed wooden bunk beds filled to the rafters with children and the elderly who were taking care of the orphans. On the boards of the bunk beds you could only see the vestiges of straw, now mashed down to chaff. One good woman found us some room on her bunk. We could sit down and set aside our meager bags... [ ] Morning and night we received a portion of clay-like bread and coffee and at mid-day a bowl of rutabaga soup. Some of the prisoners didn’t have any dishes, so the hot liquid was poured into their dirty hats ... [  ] The lack of food was felt most by little Krzyś (6 month old brother). Mother was losing her breast milk so that he was dying little by little.

Horse drawn wagons were brought to the front of the camp. We were taken to the station and loaded into overcrowded cars. The train moved towards some unknown destination. Tucked beneath my mother’s arm, I started falling asleep. Then I heard the quiet cry of little Krzyś who was breathing hard in my mother’s arms. Frightened, I watched his every breath. I couldn’t calm down. I shouted and started crying. After a while, he stopped breathing ... wrapped in a blanket, mother gave the body to the railway staff at the station in Mordy. Krzyś was to be buried with the others that died on the journey.”

The fate of the Zamość children and their deaths on the transports ran through Poland like wildfire and the Polish nation, even under the threat of being shot on the spot for any interference, responded. With the secret assistance of Polish railway workers, attempts were made to save the children.

Maria Piskorska wrote of her attempt to help:

“It was January 1943, for sure the 6th of January, the feast of the Three Kings, scoutmaster Ludwig Berger, agitated, told me that a transport of children from Zamość had arrived as the west railway station and the women were rushing there to take them. I quickly dressed in an old coat, threw on a wool scarf and stepped out with Ludwig.

The street is dark and I quickly run over the Kierbiedza bridge to Targowa to Brzeska. Here near the fence, women are standing in complete silence, practically invisible in the dark. A cold and nasty wind was blowing, unfurling the scarves on their heads or backs. The women were moving slowly towards the gap in the fencing and only the closest standing next to the opening slipped away into the darkened street, carrying small bundles.

Moving along towards the gap in the fence, I finally found myself on the other side. Beyond the fence were a few side tracks and on one of them stood a freight car. In the dark and blowing snow I saw railway men pulling children out of the window and one by one giving it to the nearest woman, who gave it to the next, who passed the child again, so that the child made its way to the woman by the fence who then carried the child away into the street.

The darkness, the snow storm, the complete silence, the wind tugging at our clothes, the speed of the entire action and the tension, bewildered me. They were, for the most part small children, some were a few years older but no more than 2 or 3 years old. In the freight car you could hear crying and urgency. “Take this one, take that child.” “Take my brother, he’s dying, my sister, she’s so sick.” You could hear the whispers and the multitude of calls, “Mama, I’m afraid.”

Suddenly a major confusion. “Railway police!” Everyone disperses into the darkness. Many of us, who were unable to take a child, returned home in tears.”

Excerpted and translated from. Wojenne Losy Dzieci Zamojszczyzny (The Wartime Fate of the Children of Zamość): Rodzik, Julia, editor. Zamość. 2007

 

Part XI. The Transports to Auschwitz

The camp at Zamość was meant to be a transit camp, a temporary holding place until the fate of each individual would be decided by the Germans. Those who were deemed capable were sent to work as forced laborers to Germany. Children who met certain racial characteristics were sent to Germany to become Germans. Some elderly and children were sent to live among strangers in the General Government and some were sent to the concentration camps of Majdanek and Auschwitz. From the collection of German documents gathered by Poland after the war we read the following:

Report on the transport of 644 Poles to the work camp in Auschwitz on December 10, 1942

The transport was dispatched from Zamość on December 10th at 1600 hours. The arrival in Auschwitz took place December 12 at 2300 hours. From among the 644 Poles, 14 escaped. Three individuals, specifically,

Biała, Karolina, nee Batzdorf, born December 14, 1900
Biały, Czesław, son, born February 17th, 1926
Sędzimirska, Michalina, born February 19, 1922

escaped on route during the stop near the distribution station in Kraków with the help of Polish railway workers who opened the locked door of the wagon. The escape was made possible by the darkness and occurred at a time when the guards were at the other end of the train. An immediate search produced no results. The other 11 people — the number accounted for in Zamość during the loading was accurate — apparently jumped out the top window of the freight car. It would be directed that in the future the unsealed top window be secured with barbed wire.

Admittance to Auschwitz took place on December 13, 1942; the list of names was not read.

The transport arrived as planned with the exception of the 14 individuals who skipped out and (the transport) was definitely late.

In the matter of capability to work SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Haumeir made it clear that arrivals to the camp should be Poles capable of work in order to avoid unnecessary overloading of the camp as well as modes of transportation. A certain number of individuals, idiots, cripples and sick people must be in the quickest manner be removed from the camp by liquidation to prevent overload. (Document #80 Zamojszczyzna-Sonderlaboratorium ss. Zbior documentow Polskich i niemieckich w okresu okupacji hitlerowski Tom 1)

Wacława Kędzierska, with her parents, sister Stanisława and grandmother Agnieszka were expelled from their village of Skierbieszowa on November 27, 1942. Her sister and her grandmother were sent to the horse barracks to be transported somewhere in the General Government but she, along with her mother and her father were on that transport to Auschwitz.

We were in the Zamość camp from November 28 to December 10th, 1942. On that day they crammed us into a cattle car in which we stood, thirsty and hungry, exhausted beyond all endurance, riding for three days. Our physiological needs we took care of on the wooden floor of the car. The stench was unbearable. A small loaf of bread, received in Zamość, protected us from starvation. On December 13 we arrived in Auschwitz. They separated the men and women.

The SS woman from the office told us to line up alphabetically. Each of us received an Auschwitz number; mine, still visible to this day has the numbers 26934 ... all the women, completely naked were pushed into the baths ... the camp staff cut our hair, then after the baths, handed out camp uniforms-undershirt, shoes striped dress, a short overcoat and three cornered scarf. In the barracks we received coffee but because we didn't have any dishes, we drank it from a piece of straw obtained from our mattresses.

On Christmas Day they drove us out to the apel (parade grounds) where — under the Christmas tree with electric lights — some of the weakened prisoners died. That was our camp Christmas. Constantly in my thoughts were the words of a German woman who said to us at the beginning of our stay in the camp, “You came here to be soap. It'll be very good soap.”

At the beginning of her stay in Auschwitz her work was to separate items brought in to the warehouse from the crematorium. Then, together with other young girls, was selected by Dr. Mengele for his pseudo experiments to receive injections of the germs of typhus and malaria. Her entire body became covered in sores. From Auschwitz, Wacława was transferred to Ravensbruck where they worked for the notorious Siemens factory. From there they were transferred to Sachsenhausen. As the war drew to an end the prisoners were herded on a death march. She writes:

“For three weeks we were without food and water. During rest periods in the woods, to try and save ourselves from starvation we ate grass, roots and the buds of trees. The best were birch and linden trees. I was so exhausted, physically and emotionally, that I didn't want to go any further. And yet, I forced myself. Mother and a neighbor took me under the arms ... in the town of Schwerin we lived to see freedom. The Americans liberated us on May 3, 1945. (Excerpted and translated from: Wojenne Losy Dzieci Zamojszczyzny (The Wartime Fate of the Children of Zamość): Rodzik, Julia, editor. Zamość. 2007

Part XII. The Tragedy at Sochy

The summer of 1943 was a brutal time for the people of the Zamosc region.  It marks a major transition whereby the Germans began evacuating the Polish people from their homes and sending them off to transit camps and concentration camps to that of burning and murdering entire villages on the spot. The tragedy of the village of Sochy in the district of Zwierzyniec took place on June 1st 1943. At 5 in the morning, while people were still sleeping, detachments of Sonderkommando, Schutzpolice and Ukrainians in service with the Germans, circled the entire village and began their destruction.

 “It's impossible to describe,” said a survivor of the event, “it was like something out of Sodom and Gomorrah. The village consisted of 250 buildings and only two cottages, a cow shed and a barn remained, everything went up in smoke.” [...]The Germans went from house to house, shooting the inhabitants and then setting the place on fire, killing 364 people; only 14 men survived and everyone else that survived were women and children. Of those who survived, 7 men and 8 women were injured [...] We ran into the fields and hid in the wheat [...] while hiding there we saw 9 planes approaching overhead that were dropping bombs and shooting their machine guns. We thought our last hour had come — the heavens were falling and the earth was shaking. “

At 8 a.m. the planes left. The village of Sochy was in flames, burnt animals were bleating and mooing, the wounded crying and screaming.

“Skora (one of the villagers) seeing the murder of all the defenseless people, ran up to one of the Germans, tore the gun out of his hands and smashed it against a tree. Another German ran up to him and shot him. He fell like an oak and the soil of his forefathers soaked up his blood. Szczepan Oprzyński, Jan Gwizda, Michał Skóra and Stanisław Oprzyński were heavily wounded. The Germans threw them into the fire still alive and they burned to death. Helena Żoldak was a cripple and at a critical moment grabbed her grandchild and tried to find rescue but the criminals reached her, shot the both of them and threw them into the fire. When Michał and Katarzyna Szawar were shot, their eight year old daughter was crying near their bodies and didn't want to leave them. The Germans tried to chase her away but when she wouldn't leave, they shot her too. [...]The Germans shot three times at Janina Szawar; once inside the house where he wounded her in the leg but she escaped and hid in the rye; he caught up to her and shot her again; the third time he shot her in the eye, which she lost, but lived. When they were done with their murders, the barbarians retreated into the woods in the direction of Zwierzyniec.”

The village was burnt to the ground and its inhabitants massacred because the Germans believed they were aiding and abetting the Polish underground resistance.

 

Part XIII. The Partisans

The Rotunda in Zamość, the place of mass executions during World War II by the Germans, was converted into a museum shortly after the war. In the center of one of the cells (it had originally been a jail), there stands a dedication to those who fought the fight against the Germans and the atrocities they committed against the Polish people. There is a pedestal crowned by an eagle. The pedestal bears the inscription:

“In honor of the fallen partisans
Who fought for freedom, independence
And democracy against the Nazi occupant
On Zamość soil.”

Memorial to Zamosc partisans
Photo by Edward J. Knab

 

Next to the monument are two life-sized figures of Polish soldiers. The plaque reads “Bog, Honor, Ojczyzna (God, Honor and Homeland) and honors the members of the underground resistance fighters of Bataliony Chłopskie who died trying to defend and retaliate against what was being done to the people of Zamość. Between the time of the first evacuations in 1941 and the intensive, brutal evacuations between November 1942 and March 1943, thousands upon thousands of Poles were forcibly removed from their homes with only their bags and either sent to concentration camps or forced labor in Germany; children were separated from their families and sent to be Germanized; children starved and/or froze to death in cattle cars while being evacuated to distant parts of the General Government; people were being executed for failing to deliver the required amounts of milk, wheat or potatoes that fed the German army. Death and destruction prevailed all in the name of colonizing the region with Germans. As soon as a village was evacuated of Poles, ethnic Germans from all parts of Eastern Europe were brought in to take up farming in the homesteads. Zamość was to be the new German colony. Lodged in the massive forests of the region and aided and abetted by locals, a very active and determined resistance movement sprang up against the occupying forces and the new German colonists.

The Bataliony Chlopskie was not the only organized group to act against the Germans. Early on in the war there were many individuals who escaped to the forests and began to help the local people and later, to retaliate against the atrocities being committed. Different underground groups that worked ceaselessly in the region included: Armia Krajowa(AK); Bataliony Chlopskie(BCh); Gwardia Ludowa and Narodowej Organizacji i Wojskowej (NOW). The partisans liquidated traitors and confidants of the Germans and issued death warrants against German administrators. The partisans took action against the new German colonists by setting fire to those living in former Polish farms.

The murder of the people of Sochy was avenged. On the night of June 5th, 1943 detachment of the Polish underground retaliated by attacking and killing the new German settlement in the village of Sieldliska. One hundred and forty farms were set on fire; 60 Germans were killed.

An article in Biuletyn Informacyjny, the underground newspaper of the Armia Krajowa (People's Army) describes the partisan action taken earlier that spring on the village of Huszczka, evacuated of all Poles and settled by ethnic Germans:

“The last kilometer of forest and rain. The last stage after a long, difficult march. The impenetrable gloom of the April night hides the nearby village of Huszczka — seat of old and new German colonists, the nest of informers, spies, turncoats and renegades; a hotbed of hitlerites for whom the villages of Poland burn, where thousands of defenseless people die, robbery and plunder widening and an injustice without boundaries.

The waiting lengthens. The safety patrols are moving. The telephone line has been cut. Midnight passes.

The platoon, divided into squads, advance in the increasing rain, moving slowly towards the village [...]the red brilliance of a rocket lights up the darkness. The signal [...] The night bursts with shafts of bright light. The missiles hit the buildings of the village...and die in the roofs of soaked straw {...} so we use grenades. The houses begin to burn. Amid the fire of guns you can hear screaming, the lowing of animals, individual rifles [...in the growing fire, house after house, is ablaze. There is still the occasional grenade. The fire from the machine gun pins down any resistance [...] in the light of the burning buildings, Germans are fleeing to the woods and undergrowth. They are felled by the machine gun and rounds of RKM [...] On the other side of the village there is return fire. In two brick buildings the local Selbstuschutz (self defense units among the ethnic Germans). But a few rounds shot into the window, a few grenades and the resistance is over {...} Then quiet, the sound of rain, the crackle of the fire and the hiss of the blaze.”

(Zamojszczyzna-Sonderlaboratorium SS: Zbiór documentów polskich i niemieckich w okesu okupacji hitlerowskiej; Czeslawa Madjczyk Tom IIp.92-93)

 

Part XIV. Last days and Liberation

The year 1944 brought major changes to the Zamość region.

On January 12, 1944 a German communication indicated that the Soviet Army was east of the River San. The towns in the Wołyn region were in full evacuation. On February 27th the Germans gave notice that certain Soviet detachments had penetrated the rear of the German army. Tanks and artillery were heading west. There was chaos and disorganization among the German authorities and vehicles belonging to the military personnel as well as civilians began to pass through the Zamość region.

On the 12th of March, special permits were issued so that the volksdeutche (German colonists) could evacuate. They were to be relocated to a camp in Łódz. In a communiqué to authorities in Kraków on the issue of the evacuation of the German colonists it was noted: "SS Obergruppenfuhrer Koppe instructed me to notigy as to the evacuation of the Zamość region there is the evacuation of the families (German colonists). The men will stay on the farms and the families-with the agreement of Gautleiter Greiser (chief authority in Łódż) will be transported to the camp in Łódż."

 On the 19th of March, the women and children of the German colonists were loaded on horse-drawn wagons and left. The Zamość city administrative offices were closed. The trains were crammed with everyone heading west across Poland towards Germany. Evacuation was in full force.

The Germans began to hide the evidence of their atrocities. The Rotunda was full of smoke. The Germans were digging out the mass graves of those murdered there and began to set the bodies on fire. The smell of burning flesh dispersed over the entire city.

On the 18th of July, the German received the order to evacuate. It turned into a panicked flight. On July 19th the higher administration officials left. The post office was liquidated. On July 20th, 150 prisoners being held in the Rotunda were shot. On July 22 of July the Germans blew up the roundhouse, railway ramp and the railroad tracks. There were fires everywhere. The electric plant ceased functioning. The Poles who remained alive hid in basements. On July 22nd the German police left.

On July 23rd at 11:15 in the morning, the Red Army and a detachment of Polish underground partisans entered the beleaguered city of Zamość. The joy in the city was beyond words. For them, the war was over.

 

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