Awful atrocities were carried out at the Janowska concentration camp and surrounding Lvov(aka Lwow and Lviv) by the Nazis, Soviet troops and Ukrainian nationalists. To an extend it reminds me of the current situation in Aleppo where the population is being subjected by violence from all sides.
In September 1941, the Germans set up a factory on Janowska Street in the northwestern suburbs of Lvov, in southeastern Poland(today Lviv in Ukraine). This factory became part of a network of factories, the German Armament Works, owned and operated by the SS. Jews were used as forced laborers, mainly in carpentry and metalwork. In October 1941, the Germans established a camp housing the forced laborers next to the factory.
After the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II, the city of Lwów in the Second Polish Republic(now Lviv, Ukraine) was occupied in September 1939 by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.
At that time, there were over 330,000 Jews residing in Lwów, including over 90,000 Jewish children and infants. Over 150,000 of them were refugees from the German-occupied western part of the Poland. In June 1941, the German Army took over Lvov in the course of the initially successful attack on the Soviet positions in eastern Poland, known as Operation Barbarossa. Almost no Jews of Lvov were alive at the end of the war, many being horrifically tormented and tortured before they were murdered.
The retreating Soviets killed about 7,000 Polish and Ukrainian civilians in June during the NKVD prisoner massacres in Lvov.
The invading Germans blamed the NKVD massacre on the Soviet Jews in the NKVD ranks, and used the atrocity as propaganda tool to incite the first pogrom in which over 4,000 Polish Jews were killed between 30 June and 2 July 1941 by Ukrainian nationalists.
The arrival of the Nazis let loose a wave of antisemitic feelings. Encouraged by German forces, local Ukrainian nationalists murdered additional 5,500 Jews during the second Lviv pogrom in 25–27 July 1941. It was known as the “Petliura Days”, named for the nationalist leader Symon Petliura. For three straight days, Ukrainian militants went on a murderous rampage through the Jewish districts of Lwów. Groups of Jews were herded out to the Jewish cemetery and to the prison on Łąckiego street where they were killed. More than 2,000 Jews died and thousands more were injured.
In early November 1941, the Nazis closed-off northern portions of the city of Lwów thus forming a ghetto.German police shot and killed thousands of elderly and sick Jews as they crossed under the rail bridge on Pełtewna Street (which was called bridge of death by Jews), while they were on their way to the ghetto. In March 1942, the Nazis began to deport Jews from the ghetto to the Belzec extermination camp. By August 1942, more than 65,000 Jews had been deported from Lwów and killed. In early June 1943, the Germans destroyed and liquidated the ghetto
In addition to the Lwów ghetto, in September 1941, the Germans set up a D.A.W. (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke – the German Armament Works) workshop in prewar Steinhaus’ mill machines factory on 134 Janowska Street, in northwestern suburbs of Lwów (at that time in German-occupied southeastern Poland, now in western Ukraine). This factory became a part of a network of factories, owned and operated by the SS. The commandant of the camp was SS-Haupsturmführer Fritz Gebauer. Jews who worked at this factory were used as forced laborers, mainly working in carpentry and metalwork.
In October 1941, the Nazis established a concentration camp beside the factory, which housed the forced laborers along with the rest of the prisoners. Thousands of Jews from the Lwów ghetto were forced to work as slave laborers in this camp. When the Lwów ghetto was liquidated by the Nazis, the ghetto’s inhabitants who were fit for work were sent to the Janowska camp; the rest were deported to the Belzec for extermination. The concentration camp was guarded by a Sonderdienst battalion of the SS-trained Hiwi police guards known as “Trawniki men”.
In addition to being a forced-labor camp for Jews, Janowska was a transit camp during the mass deportations of Polish Jews to the killing centers in 1942. Jews underwent a selection process in Janowska camp similar to that used at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek extermination camps. Those classified as fit to work remained at Janowska for forced labor. The majority, rejected as unfit for work, were deported to Belzec and killed, or else were shot at the Piaski ravine, located just north of the camp. In the summer and fall of 1942, thousands of Jews (mainly from the Lwów ghetto) were deported to Janowska and killed in the Piaski ravine.
The Nazis occasionally allowed small groups of Jews to go to town for daylong leaves of absence. They would use this temporary freedom to dig up Torahs that had been hidden in Lwów’s Jewish cemetery.The Torahs were then cut into pieces which were hidden under their clothes and smuggled back into the camp. After the war the various pieces were assembled into a single scroll, the Yanov torah, which is currently in California.
Ahead of the Soviet advance, in November 1943 the new camp commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Friedrich Warzok was put in charge of the evacuation of the Janowska inmates to Przemyśl.
The Germans attempted to destroy the traces of mass murder during Sonderaktion 1005.
Prisoners were forced to open the mass graves in Lesienicki forest and burn the bodies. On November 19, 1943, the Sonderkommando inmates staged a revolt against the Nazis and attempted a mass escape. A few succeeded, but most were recaptured and killed. The SS and their local auxiliaries murdered at least 6,000 Jews who had survived the uprising killings at Janowska, as well as Jews in other forced labor camps in Galicia, at the time of the camps’ liquidation.
One of the inmates and a survivor of the Janowska Concentration camp was Simon Wiesenthal.
In late 1941, Wiesenthal and his wife were transferred to Janowska concentration camp and forced to work at the Eastern Railway Repair Works. He painted swastikas and other inscriptions on captured Soviet railway engines, and Cyla was put to work polishing the brass and nickel. In exchange for providing details about the railways, Wiesenthal obtained false identity papers for his wife from a member of the Armia Krajowa, a Polish underground organisation.
She travelled to Warsaw, where she was put to work in a German radio factory. She spent time in two different labour camps as well. Conditions were harsh and her health was permanently damaged, but she survived the war. The couple was reunited in 1945, and their daughter Paulinka was born the following year.