Stalag 318/VIII F (344) Lamsdorf

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The camp existed from July 1941 till March 1945, having been established in the place, where - during the First World War - Prisoners-of-War - soldiers of the Entente - had been detained (Lager V, Lager VI a). Later, in the years 1921-1924, the area hosted a camp designed for German immigrants from the lands annexed to Poland, that is from the provinces of Upper Silesia (Slask), Great Poland (Wielkopolska), Pomerania (Pomorze).

However, the most tragic moment in the history of the place came along with the Second World War. There existed here a camp meant to accommodate the Soviet POWs, who were the most numerous group - at the same time - receiving the harshest treatment from the Germans. For many of the POWs the camp turned out to be a place of extermination: out of 180-200 thousand interned during the years of the War, about 40 thousand died at Lamsdorf. The area to be occupied by the camp was marked out in the late spring of 1941, but construction works were not commenced then. Soldiers of the Red Army, who were brought here beginning in July, were left to live under the open sky. It was not until the fall that year that they started putting up huts. Since it was impossible to finish the construction before the onset of winter, the POWs were forced to seek shelter in makeshift pits they dug themselves in the ground. The basic part of the construction works was not finished until 1942.

During the four years of its existence, the camp went through various organizational changes. Up to the fall of 1941, it functioned as Stalag 318, then - Stalag VIII F Lamsdorf. In the middle of 1943, its independence was removed and the camp was subordinated to the nearby Stalag VIII B Lamsdorf, which - in turn - was renamed Stalag 344 Lamsdorf. Due to the presence of the large number of the Soviet POWs there, the camp was popularly called "Soviet camp" (Russenlager). Yet, beside the Soviet ones, there were also detained POWs of other nationalities there, such as: Italians, Yugoslavs, Greeks, as well as Poles, French and Romanian (the three last groups being smaller in numbers). In 1944, soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising (about 6 thousand) and the Slovakian Uprising (1.5 thousand) were brought here. The first group included, among others, poets and prose writers like Roman Bratny, Stanisław Ryszard Dobrowolski and Józefa Radzymińska, a historian Aleksander Gieysztor, and also Captain of Horse Witold Pilecki, known for his courageous revealing the truth of the KL Auschwitz in the time of the War.

The living conditions in the camp were much harder than those in the neighboring "British camp". The POWs detained here had to fight against hunger, cold, illnesses; they had to live over extremely crowded space, work hard, beyond their capacity, and suffer an exceptionally bad treatment from the camp authorities. Their cultural and educational activity and religious practices (performed by the Soviet POWs on a very limited scale, though) offered the only relief and helped survive the harsh reality.

Like the POWs of the "British camp", the ones detained in the Russenlager were evacuated in January 1945. Those able to walk were forced to go on foot; the sick, mostly the Soviet POWs, were left behind. The majority of the latter had died before, on 17 March, detachments of the Red Army reached the place.

At present, a material trace of the camp functioning here during the Second World War is the fenced area with a reconstructed watch tower and remains of huts. This is merely a small fraction of the real camp area of the past. Inside the reconstructed hut, there is being prepared an exhibition devoted to the Soviet POWs. Thanks to the efforts of the community of combatants - former soldiers of the Home Army - in 1997, the stay of Warsaw insurgents at the camp was commemorated: a huge granite obelisk, crowned with a massive cross, was erected on the premises. The design of the monument was made by Adam Zbiegieni, a sculptor from Opole.