Memoirs from the Budzyn Labor Camp!
Selected Extracts from the Memoirs of Samuel Jarniewski
A Jewish Prisoner of War
SS Labour Camp Budzyn
On the evening of Thursday the fifteenth October 1942, we entered the camp, which had been prepared for our arrival. In the camp, we were received by the Jewish leadership, which consisted of prisoners of war from Lublin that had been chosen by Hanke and transferred for this purpose.
They received us quite kindly and on their intervention, our bags were not seized. After coming to an understanding with us, two of our comrades, Kaplan and Stockman were attached to the camp leadership. Hanke announced to us that from this day on, ghettos did not exist anymore and that all able-bodied workers were to be put in camps under SS guard.
In the camp we met several hundred women from the surrounding area, many of them from the nearby towns such as Krasnik Oshendow. We also met about fifty to sixty workers from Krasnik, who had already been employed at Heinkel and were subsequently placed in Budzyn.
Here we heard of the horrors of the resettlement actions in Krasnik and other places. We also came to know of the cruel realities of what happened in the concentration camp of Maidanek near Lublin and in other extermination camps.
The managers of the Heinkel airplane works told us that we would all be employed in the airplane factory and that we would be treated well. About 5,000 prisoners would be employed in the factory and we would all live in the camp. Soon enough, several transports arrived, mostly from Krasnik Oshendow.
The living conditions were very poor, as we were put in horse stables. The beds were four storeys high and not very pleasant. Six men had to share a bed, and that wasn’t the worst. The civilian Jews received a 20-centimeter red cross on their clothing and after a few days we were separated for work.
There were two working details; one was in the factory and one was in the living settlement near the camp in which workers were housed in several living blocks. In the beginning I was employed in the settlement blocks painting rooms. We were a group of twenty men and received some respite as the work was still in the preparatory stages.
After several days the German painting Meister Jaeger called me in to paint letters. This was good work for me because it was easy and was in a warm building. After a few days, Jaeger ordered me to work with the other painters as a supervisor in order to regulate the work. He also told me that soon I would not fear him, as he also was only a man. If I made sure that all of the work was as it should be, the other painters and I would be all right. I understood at once the great trust that he had in me by giving me this job. I agreed and began to lead the detail.
Hanke had brought an SS man as an assistant and soon the both of them began to show their brutal murderous behaviour. In the first five days they shot five of our ill comrades. Hanke himself hanged a fifteen-year old lad with his own murderous hands for buying some bread and sausage from a Polish worker.
At every step, these men would display their sadism. After a few weeks, we heard that Hanke and his assistant were leaving and that an even worse Oberscharfuher was to replace him, a man for whom the life of a prisoner was of no more value than a fly’s. His assistant was to be Unterscharfuhrer Stoshek, a middle aged man who spoke quietly, but whose Browning spoke often and without declaration. He shot anybody that he fancied to.
When they both took over the camp’s leadership, all of the prisoners were ordered to the area where roll calls were taken. Stoshek shot a man with the declaration that he had money and did not want to hand it over. Anyone of us who had money, gold watches, fountain pens or any other valuables had to hand them over at once; anyone who did not comply with this order would be shot at once.
Most of the camp’s inhabitants handed over everything to him and his helpers. A few days before, I had hidden the little money, which I had saved from work. The little pocket money that I had I threw away.
The second order was to dig a 25-metre wide grave, after which they made the first selection, which cost the lives of more than 120 people, mostly old men and children. Our spirits were crushed and everyone searched for a way to save himself through escape.
The outdoor world however was very dangerous for us at this time. Through other Poles, I learned that the Polish fascist parties had made up their minds to search with all of their power for any Jews that had escaped the camp. At this time there weren’t any regular partisan groups in the area surrounding Lublin, there were only Polish National partisans. Their chief aim was to find Jews and in many cases they succeeded.
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012