Starachowice

Borough of Starachowice , Starachowicki District, Świętokrzyskie Voivodship

Type of place

A forest

Information about the crime

The subject of Jewish labour camps in Starachowice came to the Foundation’s attention in mid-2022 when human remains were discovered during the construction of the town’s ring road. In the course of an archival research of the resources of the Institute of National Remembrance, we obtained a considerable number of historical documents on three forced labour centres for Jewish worker, both women and men, working mainly in the ammunition factory. The construction of the road was planned near a camp located close to a shooting range. The course of one of the exits from the bypass road was changed thanks to the efforts of the Rabbinical Commission for Cemeteries, the Świętokrzyskie Regional Roads Authority and the local government. This prevented the further exposure of human remains and possibly disturbing the graves of the camp victims. Their location and quantity are still unknown. Determining their location and subsequently securing them will be one of the Foundation’s tasks for 2023.

Christopher Browning details the fate of the victims and survivors of the Starachowice camps in his moving 2010 book Remembering survival: inside a Nazi slave-labor camp (Polish edition: Pamięć przetrwania. Nazistowski obóz pracy oczami więźniów, Wołowiec 2012). The following text is primarily intended to gather as much information as possible on the number and location of the burials of the victims of the camp near shooting range in particular.

“In December 1939, the munitions factory of the Starachowice Mining Company was taken over by the Hermann Goering Werke concern. From the summer of 1942, around 900 Jews began to be forced to work there. They were led to the camp daily from the ghetto in Starachowice-Wierzbnik. Jews wanted to be employed in the plant, seeing it as a rescue from death. In September 1942, the camp management ordered the construction of two camps consisting of wooden barracks, each surrounded by barbed wire. One camp was located in so-called Majówka, in the area of the shooting range. On 12 October 1942, Jews coming from the ghetto to work in the factory were placed permanently in the Majówka camp. On 27 October 1942, young and professional Jews were selected during the liquidation of the ghetto in Starachowice-Wierzbnik. Some were directed to Majówka and others to the shooting range. About 4,000 people were incarcerated in the camps, 2,000 in each. The Werkschutze took charge of the camps. […] In December 1942, 250 people were shot, and on 2 February 1943 50 people were killed “to make them less numerous”. In March 1943, 320 people were killed and in November 1943, 180 people died, not including individual killings. In June 1943, the population of the camps was halved. On 28 June 1943, the camp at the shooting range was liquidated and all prisoners were placed in Majówka. At the same time, Jews from Radom, Warsaw and also from Austria were brought there. At the turn of 1943-1944, the Majówka camp was liquidated, and the prisoners were transferred to a newly established camp inside the plant. More than 2,000 people of the approximately 6,000 Jews who passed through the Starachowice plant still remained there. On the night of 25 July 1944, a large group of prisoners cut the wires and escaped. Another escape attempt made the next day ended in the massacre of the escapees. On 28 July 1944, about 2,000 people were loaded into 15 freight wagons and taken to the Auschwitz camp”. (IPN Ki 53/85)

The information about the executions coincides with Browning’s report: “The slave labour camp complex at Starachowice operated for twenty-one months (27 October 1942-28 July 1944), but most of the Jews who died there were murdered by or on the orders of Willie Althoff over a three-month period, from December 1942 to March 1943.” (Browning, 2012)  

From the investigative materials of The Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Radom, which was in charge of case against SS General Herbert Bottcher, former SS and police commander of the former radomskie district, we learn the following sequence of events, the order as in the document:

“Forest near Iłżecka Street and near the road to Iłża 1940-1944 – Gestapo and military policemen shot about 30 Poles and Jews.

Plant in Starachowice, July 1944 – 61 people were shot for attempting to escape before and during the liquidation of a camp located on the premises of the plant. The execution was carried out by military policemen, SS and Gestapo.

Majówka camp 1943-1944. – Gestapo and Ukrainians shot around 58 Jews, for fun, sport or for trivial offences.

Starachowice shooting range 1943-1944. – establishment of a camp for Jews, liquidation of the camp, individual and mass shootings committed by Germans and Ukrainians.

Majówka, in the area of Starachowice, second camp, from summer 1943 to 1944 – establishment of a camp for Jews, liquidation of the camp, executions of Jews committed by Germans and Ukrainians for trivial offences and for sport”. (IPN Gk 179/78)

A survey of The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland of October 29, 1945 mentions the murder of some 58 people in the camp at Majowka. The victims were buried on a so-called rock. After the war, the bodies were moved to the Jewish cemetery in Starachowice. Two people were identified during the exhumation: a man named Kogut, who was reportedly a policeman living in Wierzbnik at 21 Kościelna street, and a woman, Szuchowa, the wife of a hairdresser from Wierzbnik. (IPN Bu 2448/378)

A survey of the murder of 61 people in the camp at the shooting range in July 1944 also dates from 1945. Among the victims were: Jankiel Szuch, Abram Gimbel Rubinsztajn, Goldberg from Radom, Jankiel Kunowski, Mania Brombergier. Initially, the victims were buried in individual and mass graves in the woods behind the main office of the Starachowice plant. (IPN Gk 163/4) After the war, the victims were moved to the parish cemetery on Bem’s street in Starachowice.

According to a survey of The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland (IPN Bu 2448/377), 1,200 people including 600 men, 500 women and 100 children, from Starachowice, Tomaszow, Slupia, Opatów, Ostrowiec, Kunów, were murdered in the Jewish labor camp in 1942-1945. 

In the investigative file on Walter Becker and other German police officers operating in Starachowice between 1939 and 1945, there is a 1973 letter written by Tadeusz P., a resident of Warsaw, addressed to the Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland:

“I am writing to you because I read in the newspaper that in Bavaria there is a trial against an officer of the Majówka camp in Starachowice. I lived in Starachowice in 1946-47. When I was walking in the forest near Starachowice, I came across two large mass graves from the war. The victims resting in these graves are people of Jewish origin. These graves are still intact today. If this is of interest to the Commission, this is my address…”. (Ds 109/69)

The Bugaj forest was one of the places where the murdered prisoners were buried: “Not all the killings took place within the camp. There was a Bugaj forest at the back of the shooting range, which was a convenient place to carry out executions and dig mass graves. A significant number of prisoners were trucked there and executed on more than one occasion”. (Browning, 2012)

Contact and cooperation

We are still looking for information on the identity of the victims and the location of Jewish graves in Starachowice. If you know something more, write to us at the following address: fundacjazapomniane@gmail.com.

Bibliography

IPN Ki 53/85 Jan Franecki. Hitlerowskie obozy pracy na Kielecczyźnie (German labor camps in the Kielce region) – title page, pp. 14-15, 29;

IPN Ki 53/4493 Surveys of places and facts of German crimes committed in 1939-1945 on the territory of the Starachowice district – pp. 77-78;

IPN Ki 53/4533 German camps in Poland in 1939-1945 – labor camps – kieleckie province – title page, pp. 28-29;

IPN BU 2448/376 Surveys of the The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland and The Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Warsaw, collected in 1968-1972. Surveys concerning the kieleckie province – V. City of Starachowice: surveys – p. 7;

IPN BU 2448/377 Surveys of The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland and The Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Warsaw, collected in 1968-1972. Surveys concerning the kieleckie Province – V. City of Starachowice: encyclopedic notes – pp. 2, 66-67, 114, 116-120, 122-123, 184-185, 188, 190, 195, 199, 201, 203, 205, 207-208, 212-213, 216-217;

IPN BU 2448/378 Surveys of The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland and The Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Warsaw, collected in 1968-1972. Surveys concerning the Kielce province-V. Starachowice district: surveys – pages 5-8, 53-56, 77-78, 95-96, 98-101, 107-108, 111-112;

IPN GK 163/4 Questionnaires on executions and mass graves in kieleckie province, witness interview protocols, correspondence. Volume one – Czestochowa, Iłża and Jędrzejów districts. Detailed list of cities – pp. 252-255;

IPN GK 179/78 Investigative materials of the The Regional Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Radom on the crimes committed in the Iłża district during the German occupation. Witness interview protocols, lists, questionnaires, correspondence pp. 18-20, 23;

Archival resource of the former The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland – a card from the Survey of Municipal Courts – Executions – kieleckie voivodeship, Iłża district;

Bulletin of The Chief Commission for the Examination of German Crimes in Poland, vol VIII, Warsaw 1956. – title page, pp. 158-159;

The Register of Killing Sites and Crimes committed by the Germans in Poland between 1939 and 1945, kieleckie voivodeship, Warsaw 1980 – title page, p. 259;

Ds 109/69 (Sn 5/2/68) Crimes of Nazi police officers on the territory of the city of Starachowice in 1939-1945 (Walter Becker and others). T. 1-9 [1969-1974] 

Ds 110/69 (Sn 5/19/68) Crimes committed by the Germans on in Starachowice Plants and plant camps in 1939-1945. vol. 1-9 [1969-1977].

Christopher Browning Pamięć Przetrwania (Remembering Survial) Wołowiec 2012.


We have collected the materials about this village thanks to the funding provided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as part of the project “The rural Holocaust. Collecting and safeguarding the never recorded testimonies 100 forgotten Jewish graves 2021-2022”. The materials for this website were developed, digitized and made available as part of the project “Development of a digital archive of Jewish war graves outside the extermination camps and educational use of archive resources” thanks to funding from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage from the Cultural Promotion Fund.