First deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

German occupation of Poland (1939-1945) was a time of terror and oppression of the Polish people. The terror was firstly focused on the leadership of the Polish people: prewar political and social activists, Polish intelligentsia, clergy, and the individuals deemed capable of organizing and leading the anti-Nazi resistance. Soon after the invasion of Poland by the German Wehrmacht, special operations groups called Einsatzgruppen followed. These special operations groups consisted of Nazi Security Police and Security Service whose task was to carry out mass arrests according to the blueprint made even before the war, as well as executing those arrested. With the main goal of paralyzing Polish people of any action and resistance. Actions performed by the Einsatzgruppen continued throughout the occupation in service of Hitler’s plan to transform Poland into a place populated only by Germans and integration of the occupied territories as part of the German state.

Soon after the first wave of mass arrests of Polish people it was clear that existing prisons were not capable of holding all the prisoners being admitted to them. German police had three main prisons at the time dedicated to political prisoners and all those deemed a threat to the German occupation of Poland before Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim was created in 1940 as a solution for overcrowding of existing prisons.

Prison in Tarnów had a special role in the General Government. It served as a jail for Tarnów and the surrounding area as well as a collection point of various prisons and detention centers in southern Poland before the deportation of inmates to Auschwitz concentration camps. First prisoners 728 of them deported from Tarnów to Auschwitz on June 14, 1940, were mainly students and soldiers arrested in 1939 and early 1940.

The prison in Wiśnicz Nowy was created to relieve other prisons and served mainly as a prison for political and intellectual prisoners. The first prisoners sent there were university professors, high school teachers, lawyers, scientists, and artists who were deported from Montelupich prison in Krakow. Later prisoners from Tarnów were also deported there as well as engineers arrested in Mościce for refusing to work in a local nitrogen compounds factory. The second group of 313 deported to Auschwitz was on June 20, 1940, and consisted mainly of Krakow intellectual community (high school teachers, lawyers, students, priests, monks, and clerics).

Montelupich prison in Krakow was a Gestapo-operated prison and as such without a doubt one of the worst and most brutal prisons in occupied Poland. During the occupation years (1939-1945) tens of thousands of men and women passed through its walls. Most political prisoners were held there as well as those arrested in the round-ups on the streets of Krakow and the surrounding area. On July 18, 1940 a group of 65 prisoners were transported to Auschwitz from Montelupich.

With constant and growing arrests and deportations of prisoners to Auschwitz camp in Sosnowiec was founded on March 29, 1940, to serve as a transit camp for the Silesian area under SS command. First Silesian deportation to Auschwitz was organized in the form of six transports going on June 22, 24, 25, 26, and July 6 carrying 270 prisoners total among them many were members of Polish Insurgent Organization and Polish Armed Forces arrested in the spring of 1940.

Our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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