AdampolBorough of Wyryki, Włodawa District, Lubelskie Voivodship
Type of placeA forest
Information about the crime
Between 1941-43 a German labour camp for Jews existed in Adampol. Its prisoners were slaves on a farmland. The number of people imprisoned in Adampol was estimated at 600 men, women and children but it could be higher (IPN LU 1/13/72). Bodies of the victims were buried in individual and mass graves. In the spring of 1944 a special unit supervised by Sicherheitsdienst officers arrived to Adampol to conceal German crimes. Human remains were dragged out of their graves and burned on a custom fire grate (IPN GK 175/169.)
In the early 1970s witnesses testified in front of the Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Lublin.
Piotr J.: “The bodies were buried on site, by the barn. Later the bodies were dug out and burned.” – a protocol of a hearing from 7 June 1971, the Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Lublin (sygn. Akt. OKL/Ds 49/70/Wł.)
Jan G.: “Later on, people from Adampol had to dig ditches behind the pigsty and the bodies were buried there.” – a protocol of a hearing from 7 June 1971, the Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Lublin (sygn. Akt. OKL/Ds 49/70/Wł.)
Bolesław B.: “Initially, the bodies were buried next to the barn. Later on, they were dug out and burned.” – a report by Franciszek Głouszek, a District Court judge from Lublin, 24 March 1972.
After the war, the place where the fire grate had been located was commemorated with a monument for the victims of Nazi crimes.
In 2014-16 Caroline Sturdy Colls, PhD, an expert in the non-invasive archaeology of the Holocaust, conducted a series of non-invasive research in Adampol. She wrote her conclusions in a report which became the first monograph of the Adampol camp. Below we are quoting extensively from this report, presenting fragments in which the researcher reconstructed the layout of the buildings and attempted to locate graves of the victims:
4.2. THE CAMP LAYOUT
The layout of the camp in Adampol did not conform to the traditional models of the concentration camps elsewhere in Poland/Germany; it had the former palace as its administration building and did not have custom built barracks like many of other labour camps constructed during the Holocaust. Initially at least it did not have marked boundaries or fences, making it possible to workers to leave without a huge amount of difficulty. Thus it was more like an open ghetto or work site than a camp. Over time however, it became almost impossible to leave the grounds owing to armed patrols in the woods and blockades here and on the surrounding roads.27 Only a few Jewish Partisans managed to cross the boundaries into the camp in order to report on an impending round up or to assist people wanting to escape.28 Zev Velvele Litwack, a member of the Grynszpan Partisan group, recalls one such action:
“One night I invaded in the first barrack of the camp Adampol. The Jews were already sleeping and I woke them taking along with me more than 30 people, ordering them to pass the fence while I jumped after them. All this was accomplished so silently that nobody noticed what happened… Another day we made an assembly and decided to take all the Jews from Adampol, as we had learned that the last action was going to take place. It was determined that five men with arms should enter the camp hiding the arms and organizing the Jews to be prepared to leave the camp for the forest.”
Such actions came at a great risk to all involved but undoubtedly they saved the lives of many held in the camp.
The camp inmates were housed in the existing buildings in Adampol. The majority were made to sleep in the barns, stables and other agricultural buildings belonging to the landed estate. Witnesses pinpoint the living areas to two main zones, both of which were located opposite the palace. On occasion, inmates also slept in two other areas near to the palace. As a result, living conditions were poor. In the winter, some camp inmates reportedly slept outside under the snow since it was warmer than sleeping on top of it, whilst in the summer some slept in the woods.30 Some inmates, mainly women and children, lived in the houses of the local Polish Catholics for whom they often worked. Hannah Lewis, who was six years old when she was sent to Adampol, reported how she lived in a pink house with an elderly couple whilst she was suffering from suspected typhoid.
Most of the buildings used to house inmates have now been demolished, though it is possible to determine their locations by comparing modern and historic aerial images. According to the map drawn by Willy Seeliger , this building was a barn in which inmates slept. The building itself has been demolished but its outline is still visible on aerial photographs as vegetation change. The significance of this barn in terms of the mass killings that occurred in Adampol is discussed further in section 4.3 below.
4.3. EXECUTIONS AND MASS GRAVES
Despite the perceived safety of being housed in Adampol, compared to other camps in the region, approximately 600 people are believed to have been killed during systematic round ups and ad hoc shootings in the terrain of the camp.32 Very little information was previously available about these killings since there had never been a full review of archival material relating to them. Whilst something was known concerning some of the Aktions that took place in 1943, little or nothing was known of the others that emerged during the review undertaken as part of this project. From the outset of this review, it was anticipated that a small number of graves would exist. However, as the review below demonstrates, a large number of separate massacre sites existed in and around the terrain of the camp which remain unmarked.
4.3.1. Spring/Early Summer 1943
The first large-scale massacres that are documented in Adampol took place in the spring/early summer of 1943. In his testimony delivered to the Okręgowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Lublinie (the Country Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Lublin), Piotr stated that, in the Spring of 1943, the Gendarmerie arrived in Adampol and rounded up the Jews. From his hiding place in the barn, he personally witnessed how one man was ordered to lie on the ground before being shot in the back of the head. His body was then buried near to the barn. Stefan also witnessed this and reported that more than 100 people were killed in this action and their bodies were buried ‘in the orchard, about 200m from the barn’.34 Similarly, Jan gave the following account of these round ups:
“in May 1943 SS men arrived in cars, from where I don’t know. They surrounded Adampol, began rounding up Jews from where they lived and dragged them into the fields. In some moments the Jews began to diverge, and the SS men shot them with automatic weapons. The Jews lay down on the ground, and the SS men shot after them. I saw that a small girl aged 10 years old, got up and ran to the woods. Next people from Adampol had to dig trenches for the piggery and the bodies were buried in the trenches. I don’t know the names of the murdered people. There were several of these actions in Adampol.”
According to a report by the Central Office of the Judicial Authorities of the Federal States for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes:
“in May 1943 Selinger took a group of 15 Jews to an area behind the vegetable garden and then shot them and returned alone. At the end of May about 300 Jews were shot in the estate close to Gajowka. One week during another action Selinger killed 15 Jews who were identified in various hiding places. In June 1943 he participated in the killing of about 20 Jews in Good Adampol. Mr Lederman was a witness to this. A witness also claimed that Selinger shot a young boy named Rosenschein.”
Witness Tuwia Ekmann also reports seeing 300-400 Jews being rounded up in May 1943.
In his testimony given before his trial, Seeliger confirmed the murder of 15 people in May 1943, though not his involvement in it:
“I also remember events that unfolded in spring 1943 in the adjacent forest at the estate Adampol, where about 15 people were shot. I think a transportation of Jews to Sobibor was underway. I only found that a Jewish man was trying to take away the gun of a SS‐officer, which had led to the shooting of 15 people. I cannot name anyone, but there were no police present. I found out about this action through the SS people, but do not know any details.”
The exact locations of these killings are difficult to determine from the testimonies alone but some possible locations can be identified when comparisons are made with sketches of the site. Using the map created by Willy Seeliger at his trial, it is possible to identify two barns to which the witnesses Piotr and Stefan may be referring. The first is located to the south-west of the palace, the second the west. Each is located near to a garden, either of which may have contained the orchard to which Stefan refers . In the testimony of Jan regarding the killings in May 1943, it is claimed that the bodies were buried in trenches near to the piggery.The piggery was located immediately to the west of the south-westerly barn . Therefore, it seems more likely that the execution site and burial location for this Aktion is located somewhere in this part of the camp, as opposed to near to the other barn. […]
4.3.2. Late Summer/Fall 1943
A number of large-scale Aktions appear to have taken place in August 1943. According to several sources, on the 13th August 1943, a joint force consisting of the police and Gendarmerie surrounded Adampol and massacred 475 people.41 This is sometimes referred to as the final liquidation of the camp but other sources suggest this was not the case. A daily report between the Wehrkomiskommando and the Oberkommando in the General Government, dated the 14th August 1943, stated that an action was carried out in Adampol, resulting in the arrest of 350 “Jews and bandits”. It also states that those who escaped were “destroyed”. On the 15th August 1943, a letter written by a young girl named Halina (surname unknown) to a friend outside the camp read:
“Dear Marylka! Forgive me for sending you these greetings so late, but I didn’t have anyone to deliver this. Don’t be angry that I didn’t deliver this personally. Surely you’ll understand that these days, I couldn’t do it. As I’m writing at this moment, they’re shooting here. (I’ll bet you can hear it.) Isn’t this a terrible thing? Always, your friend Halina. Adampol, August 15, 1943. P.S. They killed 20 people just now”.
Various testimonies exist which indicate the locations of massacres in the late Summer and early Fall of 1943, though they do not mention exact dates, making it difficult to determine if they are referring to the above incidents or additional Aktions. A number of witnesses describe how the Jews were rounded up in August 1943 and taken to a fountain to be shot. Chana Senesz Jazur reported that the inmates of the camp were told they could not work on that day and they were then taken to a large barn. They were then transported to the fountain, which was 20m away from the barn, in groups of 10, where they were shot. None of the maps of Adampol drawn by witnesses indicate the presence of a fountain so the location of this massacre is difficult to determine. Pesach Soroka does indicate the presence of a water pump in his sketch and, during fieldwork in June 2015, local residents indicated the presence of the water pump in the vicinity he indicated. Wells are mentioned by several other witnesses in their testimonies in relation to the round up Aktions.
During the archaeological fieldwork, a well was identified near to the location of barn southwest of the palace.
Andreas Lochner, a member of 3rd Police Rider Department, 2nd squadron described a shooting Aktion involving 100 people in the late summer of 1943. This may well be the same Aktion referred to above since he too speaks of Jews being taken to a building near to the court and being ordered to lie on the ground. A map drawn by Lochner indicates the configuration of the killing site but provides few reference points. In his testimony he is also not clear about exactly where the killings took place. However, once again a barn and well are mentioned and indicated in his drawing. The indication of the forest in the distance also matches the layout shown in his drawing. When his map is viewed in the context of that drawn by Willy Seeliger, only this same area matches the configuration shown in Lochner’s map.
Luitpold Fuhrmann, leader of the Gendarmerie in Włodawa stated “there was a path leading to the estate between Włodawa and Lublin, which led to part of the estate. Right of the path there were gardens, and left a barn of some sort. In the court there were bodies, it could have been up to 100 bodies”.
When the map drawn by Willy Seeliger and the 1944 aerial photograph of the camp are consulted, several possibilities for the location of the garden, barn and court present themselves. It is possible that Fuhrmann is referring to the barn and adjacent courtyard which are located to the west of the palace, since a garden would be on the right and the barn on the left when walking on both the main road through Adampol and if walking to the north of the barn on an east-west pathway. However, it is also possible that the witness is talking about the southern pathway which ran on an east-west alignment to the south of the pigsty, hen house and barn since there is also a garden on the right here when walking east.
A report by Central Office of the Judicial Authorities of the Federal States for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes documents a number of incidents around this time in which the Camp Commandant Seeliger was personally involved:
“In the summer of 1943, Selinger was involved in the shooting of 30‐40 Jews in Good Natalin. The female witness was an eyewitness to this action. At the end of summer 1943, Selinger participated in an action against hundreds of Jews in Good Natalin and only a few managed to escape as this was a total action. He also killed two Jews in December 1943 – he reportedly followed them and then shot them. Witnesses report that Sellinger was a sadist… In December 1943 officially there were no Jews in Adampol but Sellinger found 4. He killed two of them on the spot and tied cord around the necks of the other two before transporting them to a stable where he kept them. They were made to work day and night. Eventually they escaped with the help of Polish people in 1944/45.”
Feliks Gruszczynski, a labourer in Adampol, reported the following regarding a day in the Fall of 1943:
“On that day, a group of Germans surrounded the Adampol estate. A couple of Germans were walking from house to house and they cast out Jews onto the courtyard. The Germans told Polaks to stay home and to tell Jews who lived with them to come out to courtyard. When all the Jews gathered, they lined them up in fours and they began to lead them in the direction of the field, when they strolled nearby the barn they stopped the column, they took one four and brought them behind the barn, in a short time shots were heard. The Jews that remained, standing in the road, heard gunshots and ran in all directions. But they did not manage to run far away, because the escorts who surrounded them opened fire on them from machines guns. Most Jews were gunned down on the spot. Those who managed to run away farther were killed by members of the cordon that surrounded the whole property. Jews who were lying on the ground but still gave signs of life were finished with single gunshots. In total, more than 100 Jews were killed. I did not see Sellinger during the killing of Jews ‐ he arrived later. He examined the crime scene and instructed us to bury corpses. Their bodies were buried in two pits. Among the dead were men, woman and children of all ages. Jews came from Włodawa, from the surrounding villages and the various provinces. They were all Polish Jews. At later time, I learned that the Germans who committed the murders as described above came from Różanki. At this time in Rozanka, the German mounted police were stationed. I don’t know the names of those Germans.”
In his own testimony, Selinger reported:
“I can remember an action against Jews during the crop of 1943. The mounted police had heard that there were Jews hiding and assembling, and holding guns, and would practice shooting. I cannot tell much to the number of the officers, but I know that the Jews were shot, because guns were found. I cannot say how many Jews were killed during this action, probably around 30, because there was no place for more than that. These Jewish people were working in adjacent areas, and were only sleeping in these houses. I noticed this incident because of the shots I heard, and found out the reason from the police officer. I am telling this to indicate that Jewish people were also holding guns, and were practicing shooting. The incident is identical to what has been told by witness Rozanka from Tel Aviv with my account I indicate here. There were definitely not 100 or 150 people, or 200. There were the most 30 Jewish people, who could be in that spot. I would like to emphasize again that this action was conducted, because the officers had found weapons.”
He goes on to state:
“it must have been late fall 1943, when further actions happened in Adampol, or other estates belonging to Adampol. During this action, I was put under house arrest for collaborating with the Jews. I could see from my window. The Jews were killed behind the horse barn, I was only allowed to leave the house after the units left. I cannot say who or where the bodies were buried. I cannot say who participated in the shooting, whether police officers were part of it.”
Whether or not Seeliger was involved in this Aktion (thus the above testimony is false), the reference points he provides in his testimony are still of use for locating the massacre site described.
Jack Pomeranc reported that there was also a round up Aktion around the 6th September 1943 during which the Germans arrived at 5am to surround the barracks where the Jews were living.51 Having heard about it via the Partisans, some people managed to escape in advance. Others, like Mr Pomeranc, escaped during the Aktion. However, 70-90 people, including several members of Mr Pomeranc’s family, were shot and buried in a mass grave. The location of this grave is not known.
4.3.3. Other Accounts of Persecution
In addition to the mass round ups, Hannah Lewis reported that ad hoc executions were common: “people got gun happy and shot them [the Jewish workers]”. These were not limited to instances involving only men and women, but children were also vulnerable:
“out of the blue one day another set of Gestapo that I certainly hadn’t seen before arrived and there was a sort of like panic and everybody ran for cover. I remember being in the barn, running into the barn, and hiding amongst the hay. And my little cousin hid behind the door…And they came and it flew open and they just grabbed him…The poor child didn’t even have a voice to protest and he was taken off and I never saw him again.”
She also confirmed that the bodies of those killed in the Aktions were not always buried straight away; in fact she and her mother found the body of her grandfather and were able to bury it in the forest. Later, in the last winter of the Second World War, Hannah was still in Adampol with her mother and experienced the following:
“maybe one hundred yards from the house was a well and my mother was by this well with some other women and as I stood there they started…they started to machine gun them down…and I saw my mother fall…and I remember seeing blood on the snow.”
After the war, Hannah went back to Adampol and was shown the locations of the two wells in the village; the first one next to the petrol pump and the second, the one where her mother was killed, next to the house where she used to live (which was now painted pink). It is likely that these wells are those referred to in the discussion in section 4.3.2 above.
4.3.4. Post‐war Investigations
The crimes perpetrated in Adampol were not subject to detailed investigation after the Second World War or in the years since. In 1945, questionnaires were provided to community leaders in order to document the existence of mass graves and other body disposal sites across Poland. The purpose of these questionnaires was to create a database of massacre sites but they were not accompanied by any form of detailed in-field investigation nor were they a guarantee that the sites would be acknowledged or protected in the future. Two questionnaires were completed for Adampol, both of which document executions by the SS and indicate the presence of mass graves.
- The first questionnaire describes two mass graves, the first measuring 8m x 8m and containing the bodies of 50 people, the second measuring 9m x 10m and containing the bodies of 150 people. The first grave is reported as relating to executions that took place in May 1943 and the other to a round up in August 1943. The grave locations are given as “in the forest next to the palace, in the forest next to the telephone lines”. A later version of this report states that one of the graves was located next to the palace stables. As these reference points are so vague, further in-field and desk-based investigation is required to help identify the possible locations of these graves.
- The second report describes the murder of 342 Jewish people and four additional graves relating to round ups in August 1943. The graves reportedly measured 8m x 11m (containing the bodies of 135 people), 8m x 8m (containing the bodies of 100 people), 8m x 8m (containing the bodies of 100 people) and 15m x 7m (containing the bodies of 7 people). The graves were reportedly located “in the meadow in Olsztyn next to Adampol, in the Borek forest”.
A further document which gives an inventory of killing sites throughout the region confirms the presence of these graves:
“forest region of Adampol, gm. Wykyki, pow. Włodowa. In the forest opposite the palace stables = grave of 50 Jews/shot in 1943. In the forest next to the telephone line = grave of 150 Jews/shot there in August 1943/Bodies were dug up and burnt” and “grange, g.m. Wyriki, pow. Włodawa. Execution site of about 350 Jews in August 1943. Grave in the meadow, grave in Olszyn near the farm Borek opposite the grange/graves were dug up and burnt.”
Additional Scouting Reports (contained with the IPN archives) provide further information concerning the execution site mentioned in the second questionnaire discussed above. These reports document the murder of around 300 Jews and seven partisans in Aktions undertaken in 1943 and are accompanied by maps indicating the positions of mass graves (Figures 21 and 22). Figures 21 and 22 highlight the locations of two graves: the first which reportedly contained the bodies of seven Partisans, located south-west of the palace (modern sanatorium) and the second, containing the bodies of around 300 Jews killed during one of the round up Aktions, located in the north-north-west of the town. The report suggests that, whilst the grave of the seven partisans was fenced off and orderly, the grave containing the bodies of Jewish victims was neglected. Comparisons with maps and aerial photographs demonstrated that the partisan graves were located in the vicinity of the memorial which commemorates them, whilst the location of the unmarked Jewish grave is a farmer’s field to the north of the main town of Adampol. As the report suggests that the grave was exhumed and the bodies cremated, further investigation is required to determine whether any trace of the grave survives in the modern landscape. The archaeological investigations undertaken in this area are discussed further in section 5.
The second version of this report and map also documents a ‘valiant place’ in the forest to the west of the town but no further details are provided concerning what this might represent (Figure 22). As this area is now located in dense forest, further investigation using forensic archaeological methods will be necessary to determine the nature of this feature.
4.4. ATTEMPTS TO HIDE THE CRIMES
A number of documents and witness testimonies indicate that at least some of the mass graves in Adampol were exhumed and the bodies cremated as a means of hiding the crimes perpetrated there. The cremations were undertaken in 1944 by special civilian working groups/Sonderkommando under the control of the SD. Stefan [redacted] stated in his testimony to the Okręgowa Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Lublinie that ‘the bodies of Jews were dug up and burnt in the place where there is now a sanitorium’. Feliks Gruszczynski reported that:
“sometime later another branch of the German administration came to Adampol, they cordoned graves with fences so the local population could not watch what was happening behind fence and, using prisoners who came with them, they dug the corpses of the murdered Jews, transported them by car to the field near the current sanatorium in Adampol and they burned them at the stake. To commemorate this place, there now stands a monument there.”
Camp Commandant Seeliger reported that the burnt bodies were buried ‘in the large garden on the estate of Adampol’. Once again, there are three possible gardens to which he could be referring, all of which need to be examined using archaeological methods. Other witnesses report the bodies being burnt in situ. Due to the large number of graves present in Adampol relating to the different round ups, it is unclear from the reports whether all of the mass graves were exhumed and whether the ashes of the victims were reinterred in the mass graves from which they came or whether some other form of disposal was employed for them. These actions need to be borne in mind however when carrying out in-field archaeological investigations.
4.5. SUMMARY OF HISTORICAL FINDINGS
- The archival research has revealed an abundance of new information concerning the layout of the labour camp in Adampol and the events that took place there. Previously unpublished documents and testimonies have been uncovered, and the first comprehensive review of the history of the camp can now be provided.
- Specifically, plans produced by Willy Seeliger, Jack Pomeranc, Pesach Soroka and Andreas Lochner, when compared to modern aerial images and other witness testimonies, allow us to gain a better understanding of the layout of the labour camp and to identify the locations of several key features relating to specific round-up Aktions e.g. barns, wells etc. The in-field archaeological investigation has allowed many of these structures to be located in the modern landscape. This in turn has provided the means to establish likely burial locations in the vicinity of the execution sites.
- The main living and working areas for those held in the camp have been identified as a result of the analysis of witness testimonies, maps and plans; to the west of the palace and to the north of the Włodawa-Wyryki road. Witness testimony and the analysis of cartographic sources and plans has shed new light on the appearance and function of the camp.
- The archival research has demonstrated that round-up Aktions were a regular occurrence throughout 1943. Large-scale Aktions occurred in May, June, August and September, and a number of other smaller-scale killings took place between spring and December. Witnesses allude to a number of different locations around the area of the camp where executions and burials took place. This research has demonstrated that there are likely to be far more graves located in the terrain of the camp than previously thought.
“Locating mass graves in Adampol, Poland, A forensic archeologial investigation”
Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, Profesor nadzwyczajny archeologii sądowej i centrum badań archeologicznych nad ludobójstwem, Staffordshire University
The place of the grave was marked with a wooden matzevah as part of the project “Reference points”. The project is an attempt to find a way to mark these places before they can be commemorated. The action was aimed as an intervention in the landscape of these places, which would remind about what remains invisible, even if present in the memory of local communities.Being only a temporary commemoration, wooden matzevot invite local communities to discuss and take action, to discover the places, and perhaps to start their own memory practice related to them or to permanently commemorate them.
You can read more about the project here (English below): https://zapomniane.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/MACEWY_punkty-odniesienia_folder.pdf
The project of marking graves with wooden matzevot has been carried out by the Zapomniane Foundation since 2017. in constant cooperation with The Matzevah Foundation.
IDENTIFICATION OF THE GRAVE BASED ON NON INVASIVE RESEARCH
Local visions carried out in Adampol between 2013 and 2017 enabled to locate the approximate places of the mass graves of the victims of the concentration camp. Between 2014 and 2016, Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls conducted non-invasive surveys of the site of the former labor camp in Adampol. The surveys indicated high probability of occurring mass grave and a place of cremation of human remains in two locations (GPS 1: N51°32’43.67″ E023°27’32.38″, 2. N 51°32′39.75″ E023°27’31.92″). Location of the mass grave was based on LIDAR survey, which resulted with very clearly recorded ground disturbance forming a collection of depressions. In addition, GPR survey helped to approximate the locations of mass graves and a place of cremation of the human corpses.
Report on non-invasive studies of the former labor camp in Adampol, dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls, 2015.
GK 195/VIII/20, regarding the execution of the Jewish population in the city of Adampol, Włodawa district, Lublin province.
OKL/DS.49/70/WŁ, Files of the Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Lublin in the case of the murder of 200 people in Adampol in 1943.
GK 175/169 title page: files on the mass grave of Jews in Adampol, Wyryki commune, włodawski district.
IPN Lu 1/13/72, the former Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Lublin, Survey of places and facts of German crimes, Włodawa district.