Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp


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Alongside the regular GULag camps there were also more loosely supervised labour colonies which housed exile ethnic groups, or peasants deemed to be hostile to agricultural reform, or criminals guilty of minor offences. It would be possible to find camps, mainly temporary and politically motivated, in other European states and in the European empires during the age of the two World Wars. There was nothing politically specific about a camp, though the totalitarian dictatorships operated permanent systems with a firm institutional base for longer than anywhere else.

Even in Britain in plans were made by the War Office to set up a network of 27 camps to hold aliens and political enemies, and although some were relinquished for other uses, the remainder held at the peak 27, interned aliens, as well as British Fascists. Some were the product of contingent pressures war, civil war , some were the consequence of ideological or racial prejudices. They housed a variety of excluded groups defined by security threat or social menace or political deviancy. It was possible for the same unfortunate European to be regarded as an enemy in different systems for different reasons.

German communists were to be found in Soviet camps and German camps; in some were returned from Soviet imprisonment to face execution or a camp in Germany. Arthur Koestler met prisoners for whom Le Vernet was their third camp in as many different countries. All of the camps were an expression of an institutionalized distrust, the product of a contemporary obsession with issues of identity, belonging and exclusion.

For all the differences, however, there are grounds for comparison. The next morning we were grouped into working squads. I was sent with about thirty others to dig up and level the uneven waste behind our double row of barracks. It was a stretch of ground about yards [ metres] long and yards [ metres] wide, inside the barbed wire enclosure of Section C.

There was a natural convergence between camp systems which derived partly from the physical landscape of camp architecture, partly from the quasi-military rhythms of life imposed on the inmates, partly from common patterns of behaviour between victims and perpetrators.

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The camp routines and the social structure of the camps were endlessly reproducible. Most camp accounts reveal not a homogeneous class of oppressed and dehumanized victims, but a flexible and dynamic social structure, with collusion between some prisoners and guards, corruption, victimization of some categories of prisoners by other prisoners, and hierarchies of advantage and disadvantage among the many different kinds of prisoner.

A convicted murderer in a Soviet camp had a very different experience from the university professor accused of Trotskyism. In German camps, Jews and homosexuals were penalized by other prisoners as well as by the guards. In almost all camps there was an absence of normative justice and legal redress; the right to punish physically and brutally was enjoyed by the guards, although in both the Soviet and the German system excessive sadism, brutality or corruption could lead to their transfer or even incarceration.

The principal difference between camps and camp systems lies in the variety of political motives that produced them. Most camps in the past century have been improvised or temporary, to meet a particular set of circumstances.

This was true of wartime camps for aliens and dissenters, for camps resulting from civil war, for camps in colonial conflicts and counter-insurgency projects; it was even true for National Socialist camps in the first year of the regime, when it was not yet clear whether they would be retained or on what scale. Many of those incarcerated were later released or transferred, as in the case of Spain, to the normative prison system. In the camps for aliens in Britain, or the camps set up for Japanese Americans during World War Two, it was possible for some of the prisoners to leave the camps to work for the war effort of the state that had interned them in the first place.

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The camp systems in these cases became permanent, institutionalized and dynamic. The camp in this broader sense could also be a site of inclusion as well as exclusion. The Soviet Komsomol youth movement held regular camps which instilled revolutionary discipline and a sense of community. The German and Soviet camp systems provided the means to define the nature of the social utopian project on which the two dictatorships embarked in the s.

These projects were predicated on the idea of a permanent state of war or civil war whose terms were defined by rigid ideological parameters. Since most of those incarcerated were guilty of little or nothing, both dictatorships created a culture of imagined or illusory conflict — against a Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy, or Trotskyite-imperialist counter-revolution. In neither case were these victims entirely fenced off from the normative justice system.

The camps were part of a wider structure of judicial and police terror and did not function just for themselves.

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In Germany, as Nikolaus Wachsmann has shown, political prisoners were tried in regular courts and held in regular prisons; in the Soviet Union in there were , in the regular prison system, some of them criminals, some political prisoners. In reality penalizing labour and routine punishment came to define the camps.

The social mix reflected a range of priorities beside the desire to reform. Regular prisoners and gangsters urki in the GULag camps served their term and persecuted the other prisoners. Political prisoners were given occasional propaganda talks, but most accounts suggest that the guards and criminals regarded them as permanently tainted, rather than capable of improvement. The German camps held communists and social-democrats from working class and educated backgrounds, neither of whom had much in common with each other nor with the Catholic activists who were punished for their conscientious rejection of National Socialism.


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Both the Soviet and the German camp system also became sources of labour power. On 11 July the Soviet government adopted a resolution specifying the use of prisoner labour to help the forced pace of industrial and infrastructure development under the first of the Five Year Plans.

Prison labour was used for major construction projects and for producing timber or mining for precious minerals in inhospitable areas of the union. Unfree and free labour often worked side-by-side, with living conditions not very different between them. By around one tenth of Soviet gross industrial production was generated by the camps. Prisoners were hired out by the GULag chiefs to major production sectors, resulting in the development of a large circle of sub-camps around the main camp, where conditions could often be worse and the violence unsupervised.

These prisoner populations were hired out to local businesses or used for the major construction projects of the Organisation Todt, or for the programme of underground dispersal adopted in The use of prison labour, as in the Soviet Union, resulted in thousands of sub-camps across Germany and occupied Europe where conditions varied widely according to the behaviour of local supervisors.

Camp prisoners were evidently less productive in the Soviet Union it was estimated postwar at 50 per cent of free labour and they also suffered from excess rates of mortality. In the German case this made camp labour a declining resource and provoked some pressure to improve local conditions of employment.

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Mortality was lower in the Soviet labour camps, since extracting economic value from prisoners was a central purpose of the system. What is known about SS plans for remodeling the economy and social structure of central and Eastern Europe after a German victory suggests that labour camps would have become a permanent feature of the postwar system of punishment and exploitation. The wide geographical and chronological parameters of the camp phenomenon raises an important question about the place that camps played in the wider political culture and society that gave rise to them.

Only of them survived[[ref: Zegenhagen E. Dean, Bloomington, eds. From August , there was the largest factory-affiliated labour camp in the General Government. From August to mid, Jews from nearby areas were forced to work. At that time, there were about 8—9 thousand Jews. For many Jews, the possibility to work in the factory seemed to be a chance for survival.

Some of them bribed German authorities to get there, also due to the fact that the workers were even paid low wages and they were allowed to exchange letters with their families [ref: Zegenhagen E. The factory was divided into three plants werken : A, B and C.

Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp

Most Jewish prisoners worked in werke C, where the conditions of work were the hardest. Bullets and naval mines were filled with explosive substances in a very primitive manner. Due to lack of any protective measures, the Jews working for 12 hours were exposed to the activity of TNT and picric acid. The murderous work and lack of proper diet and hygienic condition resulted in quick emaciation of even young organisms. In September , Jewish workers who were no longer fit to work were shot. Other people were shot a month later[[ref: Zegenhagen E.

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However, they left after the Poles had murdered 5 Jews. It was not until the spring of , however, that formal shows of this kind became a part of camp life. At that time, a large group of women arrived from Majdanek ; among them were some performers who wanted to set up a performing troupe. They sang in Yiddish and Polish and performed recitations. Bodies were dragged to the forest and burned in mass graves.

The group was also forced to sing Hebrew and Yiddish songs. In July , large-scale selections began. A small group planned an escape, but hundreds of other prisoners saw the hole that they had cut in the camp fence and stormed it. The scene ended as a gruesome mass slaughter in the forest.


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The few survivors were deported to Buchenwald and several smaller camps. Karay, F. Janowska Kaiserwald Invitation to a children's ball written in colour pencil. It took place at the apartment of her rescuer, Janina Sycz.

Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp
Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp Death Comes in Yellow: Skarzysko-Kamienna Slave Labor Camp

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