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The German Labour Camp for Polish Children in Łódź (1942-1945)

“The longer we stayed there, the more discipline was tightened up, the easier it was to notice that everything was geared towards torturing and tormenting us,” recalled Stefan Marczewski, one of the camp’s teenage prisoners. Around 2,000 to 3,000 children aged up to 16 years old passed through the camp located next to the Łódź ghetto.

Łódź wasn’t chosen by accident. It was the most populous Polish city incorporated within the boundaries of the Third Reich and remained a key centre for deportation operations in the so-called Reichsgau Wartheland and for Germanization activities. The idea for the establishment of the camp had already emerged in the summer of 1941. It was modelled on the juvenile concentration camp in Moringen (Mohringen/Solling) in Lower Saxony. In June 1942, the Germans carved out a five-hectare plot of land from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto, in the quarter of today’s Górnicza, Emilii Plater, Bracka and Przemysłowa streets. The first prisoners were registered in December 1942. The Germans referred to the camp as the Preventive Camp of the Security Police for Polish Youth in Łódź (in German: Polen-Jugendverwahrlager der Sicherheitspolizei in Litzmannstadt). However, the camp did not serve any educational functions, nor was it a prevention centre or a site of protection. From 1943, it also had its agricultural branch, in Dzierżązna near Biała, not far from Łodź (German: Arbeitsbetrieb Dzierzazna über Biala in Litzmannstadt), where some of the female prisoners were sent. However, male prisoners, who accounted for as much as 75 per cent of the overall number of detainees, remained in the main camp.

The camp’s prisoners were subjected to very harsh rules, like in regular concentration camps. The children were starved and had to engage in excruciating forced labour. They worked under extreme pressure, in very bad conditions, and were often beaten and humiliated by the supervising personnel. On 18 January 1945, one day before the Red Army entered Łódź, the guards fled the camp, leaving the imprisoned children in locked barracks.

After the war, residential buildings were constructed in the area of the former camp, and in the nearby park a monument to the Martyrdom of Children was built. German bestiality towards the youngest citizens of the Polish state is evidenced by the fact that almost one hundred prisoners of the camp died or were murdered and buried in nameless graves at the Roman Catholic cemetery of St. Adalbert at 81 Kurczaki Street. Today we commemorate their martyrdom, paying tribute to all the defenceless victims of the Second World War.

The reverse of the coin depicts an image of a child symbolising the victims of the camp.

Artur Ossowski
Institute of National Remembrance, Branch in Łódź