Stutthof concentration camp
In the north of Poland, just 30 kilometers from the gorgeous city of Gdańsk, there is a place of massive people holocaust, bringing tourists from all over the world, a giant tomb, a territory of hardly perceived human cruelty and cold-bloodedness that reflects and evidences events of that time.
The Stutthof concentration camp, a former concentration camp of the Nazi Germany, was built in a secluded woodland, next to the small town of Stutthof, 34 km east of Gdansk, in the former free Danzig city area. The concentration camp was founded on existing structures that were used by Polish intellectuals imprisoned after the German invasion of Poland during the World War II. The Stutthof concentration camp – the first one built outside the German territory and functioned since September the 2nd, 1939, until May the 9th, 1945. This is the last camp set free by allied forces. From 110,000 prisoners deported, 85,000 died in this German-made entanglement.
The original camp (so-called the old camp) was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and consisted of eight barracks for prisoners and “kommandantur” (for the guardians of the Soviet Union (hereinafter referred to as SS)), a total area of 120,000 m². In 1943, the camp was enlarged and encircled by an electrified fence, and thirty new barracks were built. In the same year, also a crematorium (for burning people’s bodies) and a gas chamber were built in the camp. These buildings were erected in order to start a massive holocaust of the Jews. According to the “Final Decision” (the “Final Decision” was the Jewish massive holocaust program developed by Nazi), Stutthof camp was included in the lists of massive destruction. Also, if necessary, mobile gas wagons were used to increase the efficiency of the gas chamber (about 150 people were killed during one execution).
Famous Lithuanian personalities were imprisoned in this concentration camp in 1943, books about their experiences in Stutthof are written by Balys Sruoga (“The Gods’ Forest”, written in 1945, published in 1957), Stasys Yla (“People and Beasts”) and Vladislovas Telksnys (“In the shadow of chimney”, 1990). Rapolas Mackonis has written a manuscript, which is kept in the Lithuanian Special Archives. Nowadays, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the Stutthof concentration camp, in the premises of the former crematorium, which perpetuates the memory of the Lithuanian prisoners. People in a concentration camp lived under brutal conditions, many prisoners died of an epidemic typhus, which arose twice in the camp – in winter 1942 and in 1944. The Nazis used the prisoners of Stutthof concentration camp for forced labour. Many prisoners have worked in SS-related businesses such as the DAW (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke), a highly protected munitions factory, which was established in the camp territory near the prisoners’ barracks. Other prisoners worked in local brickyards, private industrial factories, agriculture or worked in the concentration camp. In 1944, the strength of the prisoners performing forced labour has become very important for the munitions industry, as Focke-Wulfaircraft factory was built in the Stutthof concentration camp territory. Eventually the Stutthof concentration camp system has become a widespread network of forced labour camps. Based on the Holocaust Encyclopedia, 105 Stutthof concentration camp subdivisions were set up in the territory of northern and central Poland (other sources mention fewer). The largest Stutthof camp subdivisions were in Torun and Elbing. There is evidence that the Nazis were involved in the small-scale production of soap made from prisoners’ bodies.
The evacuation of prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp system in northern Poland has begun on January the 25th, 1945. In the beginning of the final evacuation, there were almost 50,000 prisoners in the Stutthof concentration camp, mostly Jews. About 5,000 prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp were marched to the shore of the Baltic Sea, forced into water and shot. The rest were sent to Lauenburg city in eastern Germany. After the Soviet soldiers blocked the way, the Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to the Stutthof concentration camp. Thousands died when walking on great distances in severe winter conditions and suffering from the brutal behavior of guards.
In April 1945 the remaining prisoners of the Stutthof camp were removed from the camp by the Baltic Sea, because the camp was surrounded by Soviet soldiers. Once more, hundreds of prisoners were forced into the sea and shot. About 4,000 prisoners were sent to Germany by a small boat. The part was sent to the Neuengamme concentration camp near the city of Hamburg, the other part to the concentration camps along the coast of the Baltic Sea. Many people drowned along the way. Soon, before the German surrender, some of the prisoners were moved to Malmö in Sweden and released in a neutral country. It is estimated that nearly 25,000 prisoners died during the evacuation of Stutthof concentration camps.
Currently, the Sztutovo Museum is established in this place, reminding us of 1939-1945 tragic events. Museum was founded thanks to former prisoners on March 12th, 1962; starting from the day of its foundation, millions of people came from all over the world to visit the museum.
Currently restored and remained: wooden barracks, commandant’s office building, crematorium, gas chamber, wagons; photographs and personal belongings of people are exhibited. Unfortunately, part of the camp was dismantled and destroyed after the end of the World War II.
The museum features short documentaries that are reminiscent of the reality of those times (the visitors can watch the film for an additional fee).
Address: Muzealna 6, Sztutowo, Poland
- Stutthof museum working hours: May the 1st – September the 30th: from 8:00 to 18:00; October the 1st – April the 30th: from 8:00 to 15:00;
- Entrance to the Stutthof Museum is free;
- There is a parking lot near the Stutthof Museum PLN 20/3 hours (free on holidays);
- Devote 2-3 hours to visit the museum;
- You can visit the nearby Krynica Morska town.
- Video of our trip to the Stutthof concentration camp.
- A great overnight stay in Sztutovo town Lazurowy Dwor