Gesia (Goose) Street Concentration Camp, aka KZ Warschau
One of the problematic areas of Holocaust historiography is the claim the non-registered prisoners or departures from camp (Abgaenge) meant gassing. Given the establishment of the camp memorial archives was usually in the hands of elements hostile to the Nazis it can be difficult to disprove.What is clear is reading across newspaper and memoir accounts there are constantly descriptions of Western European Jews in places where it is difficult to account for them aside from being transferred onwards from the large reception camps like Auschwitz. The camp in Gesia (Goose) street in Warsaw often known as KZ Warschau is one such example. It is dealt with in Warsaw Death Ring 1939-1944 by Wladyslaw Bartoszewski (pages 171 – 173) and he seems largely be drawing on Dr Felicjan Loth “Bylem lekarzem na Pawisku” (I was a Doctor in the Pawiak) in Pamietniki lekarzy (Doctors’Memoirs), Warsaw 1964 page 357
A stone’s throw from the Pawiak, in the compound of an old army prison on the corner of Gesia and Zamenhof Streets, which had been used until the summer of 1942 for Jewish detainees, a labour camp was set up in early 1943 with the official designation of Arbeitserziehungslager der Sicherheitspolizei Warschau [administered by Department I/II of the Warsaw District SIPO and SD]. To it were committed men and women arrested on petty charges like smuggling food, being without “labour cards” and so on. To start with, there were never more than several hundred prisoners in the camp. After eight weeks’ detention thez were usually transferred to the Arbeitsamt on Skaryszewska Street, from where they were dispatched to the Reich for forced labour.
Under an order issued by Himmler on 11 June 1943, the labour camp was transformed in the summer into a new concentration camp for Jews, under the command of SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Goecke who was posted to Warsaw from Mauthausen. On 19 July, the first group of 300 prisoners, mainly German criminals, was brought from Buchenwald and put to work extending the area of the camp [Report of Pohl to Himmler 23 August 1943, JHI Warsaw file 35 A] within the rectangle of Zamenhof Street (east), Gesia (south), Okopowa (west), and Gliniana and Wolynaska Streets (north). The first hust went up along Gesia Street and were soon filled with 3,000 Jews from Greece. They were employed as manual labourers on demolition work and rubble clearance in the Ghetto.
Dr Loth relates:
Conditions in the concentration camp on Gesia Street were appalling. The camp was totally unequipped to accommodate so large a number of prisoners. Hygienic and sanitary facilities were non-existent. In the huts there were no bunks, mattresses, blankets, mess tins, nothing at all. The kitchen was quite inadequate and had no storage space. In these absolutely primitive conditions, the Greeks, accustomed as they were to a gentle southern climate, bullied by brutalized Kapos who were the old lags of the first Buchenwald transport, all of them Germans and criminals or degenerates to boot, were soon dying by the hundreds [of pneumonia and diarrhoea] …After only a few days of hard labour, their hands were worn to the flesh, their elbows and knees bruised by rubble, their backs and heads – a mass of weals.
In the second half of 1943 (probably in September or October), the labour camp for Poles, still housed in the old prison compound alongside the concentration camp, was moved to Litweska Street, to the premises of what had been the Bauman orphanage. The prisoners confined here were usually employed in small groups in various German workshops and garages; their clothing was marked with the letters AEL (Arbeitserziehungsager), the camp warders were Ukrainians from auxiliary police units; above them stood the Sicherheitspolizei officers; the Litewska Street camp commandant was SS-Oberscharfuehrer Dohne.
Meanwhile as the Gesia Street camp grew, new shipments of Jews from Belgium, Holland and France streamed in, brought there after being told that they were being settled in the East with their families. The women and children were segregated en route, just outside Warsaw, the men turned out on the goods yard on Stawki Street. Soon there were more than 10,000 prisoners in the concentration camp on Gesia Street.
After the final suppression of the rising in the Ghetto, these prisoners were used mainy for demolition work in the area of the Ghetto. This continued right up to the outbreak of the Warsaw Rising.
The steepling death rate in the camp made frequent replenishments of labour essential. It is recorded that four large transports of Jews were dispatched there from Auschwitz-Birkenau; on August 31, 1943, 500 men were shipped to Warsaw, 1151 – on October 7, 1032 – on October 8, and 1000 – November 27.
The transports from Auschwitz are recorded in the Kalendarium, but it is difficult to be sure if a transfer to Greek Jews is anywhere recorded. Greek Jews were transported to either Auschwitz (a portion registered, the remainder allegedly gassed) or Treblinka (all allegedly gassed). Presumably these initial 3000 Greek Jews must have originally arrived at either of these two points. Equally Warsaw does not figure as a destination point for any family transports from France, Holland or Belgium
For example, for Dutch Jews the destinations in the latter half of 1943 are either Auschwitz or Sobibor, Belgium is exclusively Auschwitz as is France. If family transports of these Western European Jews were arriving and being segregated just outside Warsaw, it can only be via Auschwitz and possibly Sobibor.