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PLASZOW , forced labor camp (Zwangsarbeitslager Plaszow des SSund Polizeifuehrers im Distrikt Krakau) and, later, a Konzentrationslager (concentration camp). It was opened in late 1942 and built partially on the site of Cracow's two main Jewish cemeteries. Plaszow had only about 2,000 prisoners when it initially opened, though at its peak in the summer of 1944, it had about 25,000–30,000 prisoners, most of them Jews. But Plaszow was also an important transfer camp for Jews being sent to other camps, particularly nearby Auschwitz. Estimates are that 150,000 Jews passed through Plaszow, particularly during the summer of 1944 when Adolf *Eichmann was sending hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews to their death in Auschwitz. Estimates are that between 8,000 and 12,000 Jews died in Plaszow during the Holocaust.

Like most forced labor and concentration camps, Plaszow was laid out as a small city by the SS, meaning that it was a self-sustaining entity fully able to support its inmates and SS staff with the products it produced in its slave labor factories. During most of its history, Plaszow was commanded by Amon Goeth, a figure made famous by Steven Spielberg's film, Schindler's List. Goeth was a true monster who brutalized his Jewish work force. Goeth was also extremely corrupt and was removed as commandant in the fall of 1944 in the midst of an SS investigation into corruption in Plaszow and other concentration camps. Goeth was arrested at the end of the war and tried in Poland for war crimes. He was found guilty and hanged in Cracow in 1946.

Oskar *Schindler, a Sudeten-German businessman, operated a factory for Goeth, but not in the Plaszow camp. Schindler, who arrived in Cracow in the fall of 1939, ran, among other things, an enamelware factory, Emalia (Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik Oskar Schindler), about two miles from Plaszow. After Goeth brutally closed the Cracow ghetto in the spring of 1943, Schindler convinced Goeth to allow him to transform Emalia into a Plaszow subcamp, the Schindler Nebenlager. Schindler, who had begun using Jewish workers at Emalia in the fall of 1939, and relied heavily on a Jewish manager, Abraham Bankier, to run his enamelware factory, increased the number of Jewish workers substantially over the next four years. When Goeth ordered Schindler to shut down that portion of Emalia that employed Jewish workers in the summer of 1944, Schindler got permission to transfer a thousand Jews to a new factory in Bruennlitz in what is now the Czech Republic.

Unfortunately, most of the Jews who had worked for Schindler in Emaila never made it to Bruennlitz. After Schindler closed the Jewish portion of his Emalia factory, his Jewish workers were sent back to Plaszow and on to other camps. It was in Plaszow that the famed "Schindler's List" was written in the fall of 1944, though not by Schindler. Its architect was a Jewish orderly, Marcel Goldberg, who compiled two lists with the names of 700 men and 300 women. Those chosen from the remaining Jewish inmate population in Plaszow were then sent on separate transports to Bruennlitz via Auschwitz or Gross Rosen in October and early November 1944. Plaszow was finally shut down two months later after Soviet forces occupied Cracow.

Today, little remains of the former camp. Its grounds have been turned into a nature preserve, though a Soviet-style monument, the Polish Martyrs' Monument, rests at one corner of the former camp site. Nearby is a smaller monument to Plaszow's Jewish victims. The Jewish cemeteries are still part of the nature preserve, with open, desecrated graves. Poles live in the only buildings remaining from the camp, Amon Goeth's villa, and the "Grey House," the former camp prison.

A McDonald's stands at the site of the camp's storehouse for property stolen from the camp's Jewish inmates.


A. Bieberstein, Aleksander . Zagada ∫ydów w Krakowie (1985); D.M. Crowe, Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities, and the True Story Behind the List (2004); M. Kessler, "Ich muß doch meinen Vater lieben, oder?: Die Lebensgeschichte von Monika Gö, Tochter des kz-Kommandanten aus "Schindlers Liste" (2002); M. Pemper, Der rettende Weg. Schindlers ListeDie wahre Geschichte (2005); Proces Ludobójcy Amona Leopolda Goetha przed Najwy szym Trybuna em Narodowym (1947).

[David Crowe (2nd ed.)]