Lublin Sportplatz Camp

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Lublin Sportplatz - Swimming Pool 2004 -(Chris Webb Private Archive)

Wieniawa is a suburb of the city of Lublin. Prior to the Second World War, most of its inhabitants were Jewish - approximately 75% of its population. It was an old Jewish community, established in the 17th Century, with its own synagogue and cemetery. During the First World War this community and the entire suburb were incorporated into the city of Lublin. Wieniawa although very close to the elegant centre of the city, was very poor. The dwellings consisted in the main of wooden houses, and the largest building was the synagogue erected in the 18th Century, which was situated exactly in the centre of the suburb.

When Lublin was captured by the Germans, Wieniawa located in the streets neighbouring the German administrative district, was incorporated within that district. The Germans looking to create a 'Jewish Free' district, resettled the entire Jewish population of Wieniawa were resettled in the Lublin Ghetto. From that time, groups of Jews from the Lublin Ghetto were led to Wieniawa in order to destroy Jewish housing. According to the plans drawn up by Odilo Globocnik, the SS and Police Leader for Lublin, the suburb was designated to be an area for the building of recreational facilities for the SS and the wider German population of Lublin.

The first construction work was undertaken during 1940-1941, the Jewish cemetery was totally destroyed and the tombstones were used for building material in the German district. Some of these tombstones were discovered in 1994, during renovation work on the courtyards of former German houses and these were transferred to the New Jewish Cemetery in Lublin. In 1941, the SS began to build a sports stadium and swimming pool on part of Wieniawa's Jewish Cemetery. The forced labourers were Jews from the Lublin Ghetto, and according to some testimonies, a group of French Prisoners of War, who were located in one barracks on Leszczynskiego Street. From its inception, the site of the work camp was called the SS Sportplatz (Sports Field) by both the Germans and the prisoners.

In the spring of 1942, with the commencement of Aktion Reinhardt - the mass murder programme of the Jewish Race, a regular work camp was established on Ogrodkowa Street, close to the Sportplatz. It is unclear whether, from inception, the prisoners of this camp consisted solely of Jewish prisoners, who were taken from the Lublin Concentration Camp, or if amongst them were also Jews who were selected from the Lublin Ghetto, during the time of the deportations to the Belzec death camp.

The main building of the camp was located in the former cosmetic factory, which had been confiscated from the Jews. The factory belonged to the engineer Roman Keindel, who before the Second World War was the owner of the well known cosmetic company Erika. During the occupation, Keindel, although removed as the factory owner, still worked there as the principal specialist. From the time of the camp's establishment he was the Lagerkapo at the Sportplatz camp.

The factory was the largest of the buildings and from the spring of 1942, it was surrounded by barbed wire. The prisoners worked and slept in the same building and the SS guards were also stationed there. Later, at the end of 1942, two or three barracks were built near the factory building. At the commencement of the camp's activities, some of the Jewish prisoners were led there every day from the Lublin Concentration Camp. It was only after the barracks were built that a permanent group of the prisoners lived there. The Sportplatz camp became a sub-camp of the Lublin Concentration Camp called the SS-Polizeifuhrerkommando Sportplatz.

In 1942, approximately 600 people were incarcerated in the camp. Because of a lack of survivor testimony, it is difficult to say if some of the prisoners also worked in the factory at that time, or if they were only employed in the construction works on the stadium. First hand accounts about the conditions of life in the camp do not exist, but according to some Polish testimonies, the prisoners who were at the Sportplatz had greater possibilities of contact with Poles, from whom they bought food. Groups of prisoners from the camp at Lipowa Street, were also brought to the Sportplatz every day and some fellow prisoners had the opportunity of exchanging information and food with them. The construction work on the SS stadium were not directly connected with Aktion Reinhardt,

However, the other part of the Sportplatz camp - the building of the cosmetic's factory - had a more immediate connection with Aktion Reinhardt. From the beginning of 1942, the normal production of cosmetics was abandoned. The building was converted into a special store for cosmetics, medication and surgical equipment. These had been confiscated either from Jewish deportation transports, during the liquidation of the ghetto's in the Generalgouvernement, or directly from the suitcases belonging to the victims of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka death camps, or from the Lublin Concentration Camp. Artificial limbs  were also gathered here, repaired and dispatched. According to the sole survivor of the Sportplatz camp, Dora Minc, it was a very large factory, in which all of these things were segregated and utilised. A part of them were transferred to German army hospitals in Lublin, the remainder was sent to the Reich.

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Sportplatz Stadium 2004 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

The commandant of the camp was SS-Standortarzt Sturmbannfuhrer Dr. Kurt Sickel, who Dora Minc considered to be a liberal person. In fact, the individual who played the main role in the camp was Mrs. Radischat, with whom Gobocnik had an affair and who was also the lover of Dr Sickel. She supervised the prisoners in the factory and also participated in the private plunder of Jewish property in Lublin. She was very cruel to the prisoners.

The Sportplatz camp existed until November 3, 1943, that is until the Aktion Erntefest mass execution. According to Dora Minc there was a resistance group among the prisoners in the factory. They were preparing for a mass escape from the camp at the moment of its liquidation. The leader of the group was Roman Keindel, who had connections with the Polish resistance. Due to his contacts with the Poles, he was able to organise hiding places in Lublin for the group of would-be escapees. However, the liquidation of the camp was planned by the Germans in secrecy, and nobody from the group had made preparations to escape when the time arrived. Early in the morning trucks arrived on the Sportplatz and all of the prisoners were loaded onto them. Only Dora Minc who worked outside the camp in the house of Mrs Radischat, escaped at the last moment. She saw how Roman Keindel committed suicide by taking poison.

After the Aktion Erntefest the camp was closed. The factory building remained standing until the late 1970's, at which time it was demolished and new apartment blocks were built on the former camp site. The old SS- stadium still exists today and is used as a sports complex for the Lublin sports club 'Lublinianka.' The stadium occupies part of the former Jewish cemetery. No memorial has been erected to indicate the existence of either the camp or the destroyed Jewish cemetery that once stood there.

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Sportplatz Site - KS Lublinianka - 2004 (Chris Webb Private Archive)

This article is dedicated to Robert Kuwalek.


Images - Chris Webb Private Archive

Holocaust Historical Society - September 22, 2020