Report by the physician Heinz Esser about a Polish camp for the German population, which Polish authorities had set up in Lamsdorf (Upper Silesia) after the end of WW II

Lamsdorf, the internment camp for Germans, was located between Oppeln (Opole) and Neisse (Nysa).  In the history of Upper Silesia, it symbolizes a monumental tombstone under which thousands of people from Upper Silesia - men, women and children - lie buried, having died after harrowing experiences and painful suffering.  However, for Poland it is a stigma; the camp was established after the end of WW II, in July 1945, at a time when Germany's war criminals and those who had committed crimes against humanity, were being rounded up, tried and punished accordingly. 

Lamsdorf was an extermination camp.  Commander of the camp was Ceslaw Gimborski, who was cruel and given to sadistic excesses.  He was about twenty years old at the time and the leader of about 50 bloodthirsty militiamen. His reign of terror was the reason why the population called the camp "Camp of Blood" and also "Inferno of Lamsdorf".  Thousands of people from Upper Silesia entered this camp - after having been robbed and plundered - and they were never able to leave it again.  Mainly the villagers from the county of Falkenberg were brought here, regardless of age or sex, even the critically ill and the dying. The hardest hit were the villages of Bielitz (which was almost completely eradicated), Neuleipe, Ellguthammer, Steinaugrund, Lippen, Lamsdorf, Arnsdorf, Hilbersdorf, Goldmoor, Mangersdorf, Jakobsdorf, Gröditz, Kleuschneritz, Jatzdorf and others. 

During the night, people were - suddenly and unexpectedly - chased from their houses and dragged to Lamsdorf.  At the camp, the critically ill ones and the dying were placed in the road where they soon died; others were killed instantly.  In some cases, the medical orderlies had to carry them to the so-called "barracks-for-the-sick" where they soon expired, due to the lack of food, medical care and drugs.  These were not politically involved people, but mainly farmers and working-class families, sometimes businessmen, teachers, civil servants, clerks, etc. Politically involved people - about 45 men - were placed into one room.  But even these few, apart from five cases, were never investigated, whether they were actually members of the [Nazi] party. They had been denounced by informers, and - under pressure, the application of cruel torture and ill-treatment, and often in a state of mental impotence - had finally admitted membership of the Nazi party, contrary to the facts. These men were, in the course of time, all murdered, after having suffered unspeakable cruelties and tortures. 


Admission to the camp took place as follows: The villagers who had been robbed and driven out of their homes during the night were, with the rest of their belongings, hauled into the camp, where they had to stand the whole day, in all kinds of weather, in front of the office and wait for their registration.  After each and everyone had been robbed of absolutely everything - including coat, jacket, and shoes - he [or she] was beaten, prodded with rifle butts, beaten with lead cables, etc.  When these people were finally pushed away, their faces were completely unrecognizable; they were covered with blood and often had broken limbs and ribs.   Bloodcurdling screams reverberated from the office into the camp.  Many of the victims were beaten or shot to death; the survivors often died soon afterwards, as a result of the previous indescribable abuse.  They were beaten and killed simply because they were Germans.  These mass killings were committed either by thrashings to the skull with clubs or fence slats - for this ordeal the poor wretches had to kneel - or they received a blow to the neck artery, whereupon the victims collapsed and died.  Some were murdered by kicks to the body and to the throat.  A henchman named Jusek, a sixteen- year- old, was often used for these killings.  He was Ukrainian and a Polish spy.  Before the collapse [1945], he had spent years in institutions for juvenile delinquents and in prisons.   Despite his youth, he possessed all the features of the brutal murderer and criminal.   He murdered "to order" - anytime, day or night, until - finally - his own friends and clients, in a dispute after a bout of heavy drinking, fatally shot  him in the head. I examined the corpse of the juvenile criminal. It was a terrible sight.

The innkeeper Max H. from Tillowitz, for example, was falsely accused of belonging to the SS.   I saw how he was beaten with clubs and pieces of cable until he collapsed, covered in blood.  One last time he tried to sit up, and he yelled at his torturers, "I am telling the truth.  And even if you kill me, I will never lie just because I am in your power!" Then eight guards led him behind the barracks.  An hour later, I observed on his corpse: stab wounds - apparently from bayonets - in chest, abdomen, thighs and cheeks, 2 tracks of bullets in the head and the chest.

John L. was already beaten bloody in front of the office because of his beard. Then he was called an SA-leader, although he could present documents which proved that he was not politically involved. But they chased him into the workshop, yelling and screaming and calling him "Judas". At the workshop, they jammed his beard into a vise and tortured him. Examining his corpse two hours later, I observed: Multiple skull fractures, beard separated and burned, burns on the face, fingernails torn out, fractured right clavicle, both forearms fractured in two and three places. 

The remaining ones, those who had not been killed during registration and those who had not quite been killed, were taken to the barracks, where - under more threats and beatings - they were forced to hand over their underwear and any hidden money.  Unfortunately, German "aides" played a vile role in these crimes.  They found things in the most improbable hiding places and stole them from the unfortunate newcomers, only to hand them over to their superiors and maybe earn their praise or special concessions.  B.L., for example, robbed numerous men who never belonged to the party [NSDAP], accused them of being Nazis, and delivered them to the Polish henchmen.  B. L.'s idol was the so-called "German Camp Leader” Fuhrmann. [Jan Fuhrmann, originally a Polish corporal, gained German citizenship, later became Polish again.  In 1977, when Dr. Esser wrote this report, Fuhrmann lived in Oppeln.]  He was known to grab babies from the arms of their abused mothers and beat them to death.  Every German was scared to death of him.  Sometimes women came to the camp - often walking 50 km or more - in order to bring their imprisoned husbands small gifts which they usually had obtained under beatings and other sufferings.  B.L. took those things and kept them for himself; occasionally he shared them with his favorites.  He asked women whose husbands had been murdered long ago, to come again and again and bring gifts, making them believe that the men were still alive and even received preferential treatment from him.  In order to impress his Polish clients, he organized the so-called "Night Exercise" which no Lamsdorf inmate was ever able to forget: 25 men were completely disfigured, and 15 were killed.  This was his "achievement", and he often boasted of it during meetings with the Polish camp militia. 

           The villagers were brought - en masse and without any reason - to the camp, in order to be destroyed there.  However, the treatment of openly accused or slyly denounced individuals - daily occurrences - was as follows:  Day or night, and always unexpectedly, these people were picked up at home or at their place of work, taken to the Secret Police and initially placed into dark, clammy underground rooms which were filthy and vermin-infested.  Here they became witnesses to the abuse their companions suffered in the adjacent cells.  Day and night, there were screams of fear and pain.  Then the interrogations started.  The prisoners were tied up, kicked and beaten, suspended upside down and beaten again, until they were bleeding from numerous wounds and under this torture confessed to crimes they had never committed.  Sometimes the henchmen stepped on their victims' toes, or crushed their thumbs, or beat the bare soles of their feet with steel springs.  En route to such interrogations, the prisoners were dragged through the villages while being dealt numerous blows all over their bodies.  After the interrogations and tortures, which often lasted several days and nights, the victims joined the other people at the camp, and the second phase of their ordeal started.  In order to be recognizable immediately as criminals, the prisoners had to display the letter "W" [wiezien] on their tattered clothes.

            Life at the camp was as follows:  The prisoners had to get up at 5 a.m. and participate in the so-called morning-sports.  During these exercises - from which no male was exempted, regardless of age (not even those in their eighties or nineties), sickness or infirmity - the men were again beaten and kicked.  The reason for this abuse was, in most cases, the fact that the commands were given in the Polish language which most of the men did not understand at all, or because the men were forced to count in the Polish language which, of course, they were unable to do.  This led to abuse beyond description and usually ended with several people being dead.  The old men who were unable to perform any of the exercises were - almost to a man - killed in the most barbaric manner.  During the first four months, about 10 corpses a day had to be hauled from the field at the end of the morning- sports.  Some victims were not dead yet, but they were thrown into the mass grave, all the same.  The other guards watched these killings and - just like their commander Gimborski - laughed and jeered.

           Afterwards, men and women were appointed into work groups.  On September 15, 1945, sixteen men were tied to a cart and - while being beaten continuously with clubs - ordered to fetch heavy iron parts from a neighboring village.  They were barely able to stand because of weakness and hunger.  When they came to a forest, the guards organized a shooting match, the sixteen men being their targets.  Under fire, about eight of the wretches were chased into a pond and drowned.  The others, among them the still living [in 1977] Erhard Sch., returned to the camp. They were covered with blood and hardly able to move.  Three of them had, as a result of this atrocious experience, lost the power of speech.  One of them shrieked with pain because of four deep stab wounds made by bayonets.  However, he was not allowed to go to the sick-room or receive medical treatment.  He hanged himself during that very night, next to the sleeping-place of a companion.
            The work that had to be carried out - with a daily intake of only 200 - 300 calories, and under beatings, whippings, and other torturous abuse - was worse than slave labor.  In all kinds of weather, men and women, regardless of their poor nutrition, failing strength and various illnesses, had to perform heavy labor for 12 hours and longer, dressed in flimsy, torn clothing.  Covered with vermin and festering wounds - which were not allowed to be treated - they were required to carry out their work, even when it rained or it was bitterly cold, until they collapsed.  Groups of 10 - 12 men and women had to pull a plow or a harrow, or wagons overloaded with potatoes, or vats with liquid manure.  Women, even the fragile and sick ones, had to participate in building more huts.  Together with the men, without protection from rain and cold, they had to carry inhumanly heavy loads, until they collapsed, exhausted and covered with blood from the beatings.  With their bare hands, they had to dig up hundreds of putrefying corpses, and for hours they were exposed to the penetrating smell of decay.  It is almost beyond belief, but sometimes they had to - under threats - touch decaying parts of corpses with their mouths, or they were forced to eat feces!


          Among those who stayed at the camp during the day, terror and murder were also raging.   Sometimes men were killed at random in their rooms.  High school teacher Kr. from Neustadt entered his assigned room, but after five minutes his corpse was already carried out.  He had been killed because he was wearing glasses and looked like an "egghead".  Mayor F. from Buchelsdorf was murdered because he was exactly as tall as an SS-man.  [To be accepted in the SS, a man had to be of a certain height.]  Many others were killed for equally absurd reasons. 
           F. had come with me from Neisse, where we had been acquitted of any guilt.  The poor man had been denounced by Fuhrmann and especially recommended to the chief murderer Ignaz, who promptly demanded F.'s death.  The white-haired former mayor, popular and liked by everyone, had to kneel and take a beating.  Then, the henchman Jusek took a slat and, in short intervals, hit the poor man on the skull which started to bleed immediately.  Because of the pain, F. pleaded for mercy, his raised hands folded in prayer.  When his head touched the ground, they forced me - as a physician - to determine whether he was still alive.  Agitated and outraged, I requested the immediate end of this torture and asked for permission to take the man, who was close to death, to the sick-room, in order to alleviate his pain and make his death an easier one.  They chased me from the field and fired several shots at me.  Glancing back, I saw F. being beaten with the slat until he was dead.

           During the day, the Poles shot at people who were on their way to the latrine or on an errand, as if they were targets at a shooting gallery. There was a new guard, 15 years old, who had just received his first uniform and some rudimentary shooting instructions.  An old man who happened to walk by, was forced to serve as a target for the young guard, until - finally - he was fatally hit and collapsed.  Some men were put into the infamous bunker, where they were kicked until they were dead or almost dead.  Unfortunately, this was another occasion where certain Germans - camp leader Fuhrmann and his cronies - were involved.  The German camp official, Herbert Pawlik, a minion of the Polish commander, a dreaded spy and schemer, who was drunk most of the time and led a life of excess, bragged in front of me: "I have now sent off 25 Germans into the hereafter!"  Some people were put into a totally dark underground- room which was filled with foul-smelling water.  The poor wretches stood there, almost totally immersed for several days and nights, suffering excruciating agonies, until death took them. At night, their wailing and moaning penetrated into the barracks, where the survivors huddled, afraid and trembling. They prayed, because they knew that they might be the next ones to die.  During the night, drunken death squads walked through the rooms, drove people out of their beds, beat them - men had to kneel for this - jammed rifle butts into their bodies, and tortured many until they were dead.  The corpses were quickly buried by the so-called funeral-squads, led by the prisoner Th. from G.  Some people were buried although their death had not been established.  Sometimes men were shot at with machine guns.  They were chased and forced to climb trees, until they reached the tops. Other men had to saw off the trees, while the guards - laughing and jeering - watched how the crashing men broke their necks.

           If the women's latrine was fully occupied, a guard in our area would fire at it with his machine pistol.  All women suffered severe wounds in the abdomen and chest and, covered with blood, were brought to the sick-area.  Medic Hubert W. and Nurse Lucie W. wanted to help them; however, they were forcibly prevented to do so, and the severely wounded ones - except for one who later died of starvation - were summarily placed into a mass grave, in order to destroy all traces of this bloodbath.
           Even people who were severely ill or dying had to submit to robbery, abuse, and murder.  Behind the barracks for the sick which had been designated by the Red Cross, terrible atrocities occurred, and the medics G., Sch., and R., among others, were witnesses. The most cruel and infamous roles in all those murders and killings were played by these greatly feared Poles:  Ignaz, the "Murderling", Antek, and the "Nine-Fingered- One".  When they appeared, men and women trembled, and children screamed.  When their names were mentioned everyone shuddered.  On several occasions, they wanted to drag all the sick inmates out of their barracks and shoot them, to make room for the inhabitants of a new village which was to be occupied by newly immigrated Poles.

           There were special tortures for teachers, civil servants, merchants and members of the clergy, and nearly always the tortured victims died.  The abusers came up with the cruelest methods.  For example, the Polish militia forced long needles under the toenails of their victims, gagged them and - while beating them - poured feces and urine over them (according to Alois St. from Proskau).  Women and men had to undress and - while being beaten - were forced to commit sexual and sadistic acts; sometimes they were also forced to eat human feces (acc. to engineer Sch. from Berlin).   Bank notes were soaked in petroleum and pushed into the genitals of nude young girls; then the bank notes were set on fire, afflicting the victims with terrible burns.  Of course, there were no bandages or treatments which later could have alleviated the pain (siblings H. from Lamsdorf, and others.) 
           Father D. from Neisse, a well-known, highly esteemed clergyman, was not only forced to participate in the physical exercises while wearing his clerical habit, but also to spread liquid manure, in the same priestly attire.  None of the abuse and blasphemy from those Polish brutes penetrated the noble and patient attitude of this honorable and dignified clergyman. His heroic endurance, his kind charity and exemplary comradeship had an encouraging effect on all camp inmates.  The severely ill and the dying were not allowed any spiritual assistance, although there was a Catholic priest at the camp.  The priest was not allowed to say Mass, with the exception of one Holy Day.  However, on that day, the inmates were neither given food nor water, only more hard work and beatings. In 1946, in the month of May, prayer sessions to the Virgin Mary were being held in the barracks for the sick, but they were immediately stopped by the commander of the camp.  A new level of human bestiality and depravity was reached when the Polish guards - bellowing and blaspheming - would not allow the severely ill and the dying to say their last prayers. It was deeply moving to see these heroic and patient people die and to hear them say their last Our Father.

           The new Polish priest in Lamsdorf felt only indifference towards our terrible conditions and psychological problems.  He refused to give the holy sacraments and any other spiritual assistance to the sick and the dying, and he rigorously rejected all inmates who approached him for help.  By contrast, I would like to mention at this point, the exemplary engagement of two teachers (Miss M. and Miss A.)  in matters of spiritual care, charity and nursing.  


           Both, men and women, had to suffer the sadistic cruelties of the camp guards.  It happened fairly often that women and mothers, even the seriously ill, were beaten and raped.  On the evening of September 2, 1945, around 100 women, soaked to the skin by the heavy rain, returned to the camp from a work detail. They had to sing Nazi-songs, while marching on the exercise-field.  A stool was placed in the middle of the field; each woman in turn had to bend over the stool and received 25 to 30 blows - administered with heavy clubs - on the buttocks. The women's skin and muscles were literally hanging in shreds after these beatings, and the victims were admitted to the sick-room only because of my intervention.  Whimpering, they lay there without bandages - the camp commander would not allow any - on dirty straw mats, while hundreds of flies sat in their festering wounds. After a time of painful suffering, they finally died.  Men with severe gunshot wounds in their arms had to remain without treatment, including those two whose lower arms were attached to their upper arms only by a few tendons and muscles.  Even those Germans, who had already opted for the Polish government, received - as new Polish citizens - no better treatment than the rest of the inmates.

          Children experienced similar atrocities.  Because of petty transgressions and often because of deliberately false accusations by a Polish guard, boys between the ages of 12 and 14 were whipped until they collapsed.  Small children were cruelly separated from their mothers who were being dragged off to somewhere in Poland.  They never saw each other again.  The pleading and crying mothers and children were beaten, kicked and shot at.   Nursing mothers were separated from their babies, who soon starved to death, while their mothers were being chased and beaten with sticks, like cattle.

          The naked corpses were loaded on carts and thrown into the mass grave.  At first, the Poles did not even bother having graves dug, but simply threw the dead into the zigzag-shaped ditches between the barracks and covered them with ca. 20 cm of soil.  Any decoration on a grave (a flower or a cross) was prohibited.  Once, several women and children from one hut went to the final resting place of their murdered husbands and fathers and threw some flowers on it. Shots were fired at them, and the cruel decision was made to shoot all women from that particular hut.  Due to the unexpected visit of a group of inspectors, the killing was prevented at the last minute. 

           The men from the funeral unit were busy day and night, often endangering their own lives.  One evening, during roll-call, several men had been beaten to death, and the six members of the funeral detail had to tend to the corpses.  After they had finished their sad work, the six men were shot to death and thrown on top of the other corpses.  Ignaz, the infamous right-hand man of the camp commander, cursed and threatened when the daily death rate did not continue to rise or - even worse - had gone down slightly.  In the latter case, a few people were randomly shot, in order to keep the death rate at least equal.


          While these atrocities and murders killed people relatively quickly, there was also systematic killing on a large scale, by starvation.   An inmate's daily ration consisted of 3-4 potatoes, and nothing else.  Every now and then, those who had to perform exceptionally hard work were given, in addition, 1 or 2 slices of bread.   In general, the daily intake per capita consisted of 200 -250 calories.  The best day was probably June 8, 1945, when the number of inmates was down to 334.  On that day, 15 loaves of bread, 5 kg [ca.11 lbs.] of flour, and 50 kg [ca.110 lbs] of potatoes were distributed, which amounted to 530 calories for each person.  From these daily numbers of calories, it can easily be calculated how long most inmates - on the average - were able to live, until they began to suffer from nutritional edema and, soon after, died.
           In addition to malnutrition, there were more factors that contributed to the mass dying. There was a lack of everything, even the simplest sanitary facilities, washrooms, clothing and drugs.  The latter - as mentioned before - could not be obtained under any circumstances.  The climax was reached when epidemic diseases, such as typhoid fever and typhus broke out and killed 95 % of the camp population. The starvation plan had terrible consequences, especially among the children.  Being continuously hungry, they cried and whimpered day and night. Many of them went through the camp and begged for food at every window - in vain; nobody had any food to give away.  The children walked with tired, shuffling steps, emaciated, looking like skeletons, eyes deep in their sockets.  Barefoot they walked, in ice and snow, wearing only shreds of clothing, hands imploringly stretched out. Some of them wore around their necks the skapulier of their dead or murdered parents, others wore a rosary. And so they staggered on, until - in front of a window or on the road - they collapsed, quietly whimpering, and breathed their last - their young tortured lives finally ended. 

           There were 828 children at the camp of whom about 100 were "released", in random time-intervals. However, it was later established that roughly 60 to 70 % of those 100 died from disease, hunger and cold, in the casemates at Neisse.  Of the more than 700 who remained at the camp, 218 also died of hunger and infectious diseases for which no drugs were made available.  Through medical efforts and contacts with members of the clergy outside of the camp, 78 of the surviving children were later released as orphans to foster-parents; the rest was otherwise released.

          Children above the age of 10 were required to perform heavy work that often went beyond their strength.  


         My "office" was a room without instruments, drugs and dressing materials.  Next to it was a sick-room with 8 bed frames and straw-mats. My staff consisted of a medic, Hubert W. from Bielitz, and a nurse, Lucie W., also from Bielitz.  The medic was an inmate, a student who - especially in the beginning - helped me greatly in setting up the facility.  Lucie W. had been formerly employed by the Caritas.  It was absolutely prohibited to help the injured and the wounded.  We could only help them when we were not being watched.  In the beginning, we secretly "rustled up" - at the risk of our lives - drugs and dressing material, later even a syringe and an old knife for surgical purposes.  The drugs supplied by UNRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration] or brought by relatives as gifts, were destroyed immediately by the guards.

           Gradually we succeeded in keeping the guards out of the so-called infirmary.  Only now and then they forced their way in during the night, but sometimes also during the day, in order to play their cruel games: to abuse and rape the nurses and the patients, to steal the shoes from under the bed of the dying patients or rob them of their torn shirts.  

           Most of the sick were doomed to die, some from the consequences of starvation, some from the lack of drugs and other medical supplies, others because of the severity of their disease and their lack of defense or resistance, and, of course, there were the terrible consequences of the unimaginable injuries from abuse and torture.  Proper medical treatment at the hospital in Friedland - which was located only 3 km from Lamsdorf - was prohibited.  The hospital in Friedland, where Silesian nuns worked, often sent - secretly, of course - small gifts for the patients.  Most of the time, however, those gifts were kept by the guards, or they were stolen by the infamous Fuhrmann. Again and again, I asked the Polish commander for permission to send especially urgent cases, in need of immediate surgical or gynecological help, to the hospital - under guard, if necessary.  But my pleas were - very harshly - rejected, each and every time.  In cases of appendicitis, incarcerated hernia, bowel obstruction, sepsis, uncontrollable bleeding after childbirth, retained placenta, diphtheria with respiratory distress, for example, where lives could have been saved with medical intervention and proper treatment, permission for a stay at the hospital was denied - the negative answer being accompanied by a sneering grin.  However, a guard who had suffered a minor injury was taken to the hospital immediately and he stayed there for several weeks.

           As mentioned before, the cruelty went so far as to refuse the dying any comfort and assistance.  Members of the Catholic and Protestant clergy tried again and again to persuade the camp commander, to grant them access to the sick and dying inmates.  Archpriest O., risking his own life, bravely tried to negotiate with higher Polish authorities, such as the President of the District of Falkenberg, and also with the camp commander Gimborski, but unfortunately without success.  They only laughed at him, chased him away, and fired several shots at him.  Not even Father D., a Catholic clergyman who had also been carried off to the camp, was allowed to visit the sick and the dying, apart from one single exception.  The Polish clergy - whom I secretly contacted in numerous letters - ignored us totally and showed no sympathy for us.  How could they show understanding for such needs in our great human destitution, as they themselves were often infected by demoralization!  The guards told me more than once that the new Polish pastor of Lamsdorf - the German pastor T., liked and respected by all, had been forced out - drank heavily every night and staggered into the church the next morning, being late every day.  I saw with my own eyes how the Polish pastor from Falkenberg - dressed in full array - was led away from the Corpus Christi procession.  He was supported by two members of the military, because he was completely drunk and had lost his balance.
           Only with indignation, but powerless to do anything about it, I found out that the blankets of the critically ill - who, in the icy cold winter months, slept with open windows and under a leaking roof - had been ripped from their bodies and pocketed as loot.  Full of despair, we had to watch how the fever-stricken and the dying were beaten with whips, or how even critically-ill women and fourteen-year-old girls were brutally and sadistically raped, especially since I knew for certain that these beasts all had venereal  diseases. After one of these inhuman abuses, I witnessed how 5000 sulfonamide tablets, which had been delivered to the commander by UNRA, were trampled into powder by the jeering and laughing guards. 

           These acts of violation and rape climaxed because of the following order by the commander, Gimborski, in collaboration with Fuhrmann.  Beginning in October 1945, all women and girls between the ages of 15 and 40 were supposed to be examined by me for venereal diseases.  This order was absurd because there was no equipment to perform these tests.  With all the guards present - who grinned and sneered as usual - the women and girls were led in and told to undress in front of the drunken men.  When I protested and refused to carry out the examinations, I was immediately threatened with a pistol.  A group of the women was brutally raped. 

           At noon, on October 4, 1945 - the day which turned out to be last one for many men and women - a fire broke out in hut #12.  It was never fully established what had caused that blaze.  It suddenly started, while orgies with plenty of Vodka were celebrated in the guard room.  Among the revelers was an expert on arson, an officer of a Polish fire brigade, by the name of Nowack. Commander Gimborski and his men were at the scene of fire, before the prisoners even sensed what had happened.  The camp was alerted.  Agitation, unjustified accusations and allegations, as well as swearing, beating and pushing people around, caused an unimaginable panic among the men and women who already lived in constant terror. Everybody was supposed to put out the fire; the question was, how and with what!

           About thirty armed guards ran after the perplexed people who were looking for fire-extinguishing materials. They formed a circle around the site of the fire, their rifles and machine guns cocked, ready for action.  Almost immediately the first shot was heard, the signal for the start of a horrific massacre. The guards fired continuously and indiscriminately on anyone who - driven back by the heat - came close to their circle.  Almost all the shots were fired leisurely and cruelly, carefully aimed at the victims' heads, often from a distance of only 1 - 3 meters.  Others were driven into the flames alive.  The guards encouraged each other and competed for the highest number of killings. 

           After the hut had burned down, the manhunt at the camp continued, and so did the shooting.  The next day, corpses were everywhere, even far from the site of the fire. Anyone who happened to meet a sentry lost his life.  The medic F. who wore the Red Cross armlet clearly visible on his left arm, on his way to take a bit of soup to a sick child, was fatally shot in the neck by the infamous Ignaz.  An old woman who happened to be with me, waiting to be taken to the sick-room, suffered a similar fate.   Ignaz took her from my office and shot her to death at the edge of a mass grave.
           The German "room-leader" L., known among his comrades because of his rigorous behavior and among the Poles because of his denunciations, asked Ignaz to shoot a certain man in his room who allegedly was mentally ill, and the killing was carried out immediately. The victim was the German M., father of six children, who had suffered a nervous breakdown during the episode of the fire at shack # 12.

           The teacher O. from Moschen and an unknown white-haired principal from the school at Mangersdorf were each killed by a shot in the forehead.  It happened in the street, and nobody lost a word about it.

           The numbers of the people who lost their lives during the fire of hut # 12 have been accurately recorded.  I was forced at gun point, by commander Giborski, to watch the brutal mass murder and have the dead dragged off in three different directions, so the survivors would not be able to correctly estimate the number of the victims.  An official commando was charged with counting the dead.  I have also counted them, as they were hurriedly buried by panic-stricken men and women. 

There were:
36 men and 11 women (these were shot).

25 men and 15 women (these were burned in the flames and identified by me as charred corpses).

285 men and women (these were forcibly removed from the sick-room and thrown into the mass grave. Some were fatally shot in the neck; others were unconscious from blows with rifle-butts and thrown into the grave while still alive).

209 men and women (these died a few hours later or on the next day, from bullet wounds or other injuries suffered during the disaster).
           The reason that this mass murder to date has found no atonement, can probably be found in the fact, that all later investigations were tinged with a certain superficiality and therefore had to be fruitless and unsuccessful, especially since still-living witnesses to that fire were forced into silence.  After the fire, there were several visits from representatives of the administrative district; however, on the day before, the frightened camp inmates were given exact instructions by Fuhrmann, how to answer possible questions. Intimidated by the terrible threats, nobody dared to tell the truth, for fear of an agonizing death.  The same happened whenever representatives of a higher Polish or an Allied department came and asked the men how they were treated or how the food was. The truth was never told.   

          No one can deny that the Polish or Allied authorities knew of the monstrous atrocities and the high death rates at the camp in Lamsdorf.  One day, the murderous commander Giborski was relieved of his duties, and the few Germans who were still alive were supposed to take consolation in the fact that he had been found guilty and would be condemned to death or would be incarcerated for at least 10 years.  Soon, however, we learned the truth; Giborski was free again, and he even got promoted!  He was also acquitted of murdering his mistress whom he had fatally shot, under the influence of alcohol, at the camp in 1945.

           It was prohibited to keep records or lists of the dead.  It was equally prohibited to deliver any information to anywhere or anyone, including one's relatives, outside the camp.  Indeed, any correspondence with the outside world was forbidden, as well as conversations with people outside the camp. As a physician, though, I kept an accurate list of the dead, including diagnosis and cause of death, and - keeping a copy - I handed it to nurse Lucie W., when I was detached to a different assignment.

            It was repeatedly alleged that in the area around Camp Lamsdorf   90 000 Poles had been shot by the Germans and that the corpses had been hurriedly buried in mass graves at the former Russian POW camp.  One day, a commission under the leadership of a high-ranking Russian officer and several well-known Allied officers showed up, in order to investigate the matter of these mass graves.  The inmates were immediately ordered to march, in formation, to those graves and start digging up the dead. As long as this work was carried out under the supervision of Russian troops, it progressed normally and under fairly humane conditions. Of course, the Russians did not know that the people did not get any food at the camp.  In some instances they found out and shared their bread with our inmates.  But at the graves that were located in a more remote area, abominable scenes happened. Our men and women were brutally beaten by the Polish guards and, with their bare hands, they had to dig out the decayed corpses, from morning to night.  Unimaginable bestialities occurred.  Women were ordered by the Polish militia to kiss the corpses and were forced to touch them in a shameless way.  The stench of decay penetrated their wet clothes and, in the evening, it pervaded all rooms, the whole camp. The terrible odor remained for weeks.

          After a few days, I was forced - under guard - to participate in the medical examination of the corpses. No signs of a violent death could be noted on any of them.  Except for a few Germans, recognizable by their identification tags, all the dead were Russians. In a few words, the Russian officer explained to us, quietly and objectively, that the examinations had not revealed anything that incriminated the Germans. I don't know the exact number of the dead; there may have been about 500.  (They were the victims of tuberculosis and typhoid fever epidemics.) 

           In the meantime, as so many of the inmates were dead already, the main terror in the camp was the sexual abuse of the women and girls by the drunken guards , who -as determined by medical observation - all suffered from venereal diseases. Although in March 1946, the new commander carried out interrogations and set up protocols to be forwarded to the Polish government agencies, these attempts, unfortunately, were not successful. The murderers and rapists continued to roam about uncontrolled.

            The main criminals from the camp at Lamsdorf are the former commander, Ceslaw Gimborski, his right-hand-man Ignaz, his accomplices Antek, the "Nine-Fingered-One", the "Murderling", Jan Fuhrmann, Fireman Nowack, and so many others not known by name. Ignaz once boasted to me, claiming he had killed 24 Germans with shots to the head.  After the removal of the murderer Gimborski, the mass killing in its direct form stopped, while the annihilation by starvation and epidemic disease went on.  Herbert Pawlik beat and abused women, as well as fourteen-year-old boys, or he delivered them to the murderers by denunciation.  Once, a fourteen-year-old came to my office; he had received 60 blows with the handle of a shovel from that beast and, as a result, suffered severe bruising and festering wounds.

            It was around December when an interrogation committee from Falkenberg showed up, headed by the Polish Lieutenant Kuczmerczyk, known and feared because of his brutality.  With him came the infamous Gimborski.  The inmates were going to be questioned again, concerning alleged hiding places of valuables, belonging to "emigrated" Germans.  Already two months earlier, L. had denounced his former countrymen and in this way had helped the Poles accumulate items of great value.  These interrogations were accompanied, as usual, by horrible abuse.  Every night, the screams of the tortured echoed through the camp. While banquets were held and vodka flowed freely, women were raped, sick people were robbed of their clothing, and there were nightly raids that included torture sessions, after which the dying were flung into pits.

          One of the UNRA Commissions had finally learned that a physician was being held at the camp.   Apparently, stories of several incidents had reached the general public.  Starting in June 1946, there were sudden dismissals.  Some of the survivors were quickly scheduled to be transported to West Germany.  I, too, was dismissed - at someone's command - and immediately given a leading job at a Polish hospital, as the Head of the Faculty of Internal Medicine.  But some of those Germans, among them women and children, who were said to have been sent by train to their homeland in June, were taken off that train, just before it departed.  They were put into different labor camps, and there they had to work as slaves again.  I was able to support many of them, medically and financially.  Polish physicians generally refused treatment, because the Germans had no means to pay them.  One notable exception was the Polish physician Dr. Olcha, in Falkenberg.  Germans continued to be considered fair game, and for a long time they were not permitted to return to their country.

           The chaotic conditions after the collapse had, in the two years of my imprisonment, not changed or improved anywhere. 

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