Krasnik lies 31 miles south- southwest of Lublin and in 1939 and in August 1939, its 16747 inhabitants included 5,132 Jews. The Germans occupied Krasnik on 15 September 1939. With the appointment a month later on 10 October 1939 of Otto Stössenreuther as Kreishauptmann of Janow Lubelski, the task of establishing a civilian administration for Krasnik was almost complete. In August 1940, Stössenreuther was succeeded by Henning von Winterfeld, then in October 1940, by Hans-Adolf Asbach; and finally in August 1941 by Kurt Lenk. In December 1939, the Germans ordered a 12 –member Jewish Council (Judenrat) to be established. Its chairman in the spring of 1942, was Jankiel Wajsbrot. A unit of Jewish Order Police was also created. Hundreds of Jews displaced by the German invasion and occupation resettled in Krasnik. In December 1939, some 1,230 Jewish refugees arrived from Lodz. By January 1941, approximately 6,300 Jews were residing in Krasnik. Plans to concentrate German troops in Krasnik, for the June 1941invasion of the Soviet Union, saw Asbach reduce the Jewish population. On 23 January 1941, the Kreishauptmann ordered 1,000 Jews to Radomysl, whose 350 strong Jewish community already had increased to 550 in September and October 1939 with the arrival of those expelled from towns near the San River, such as Tarnobzeg, Rozwaldow, and Nisko.
Between 1 February to the 10 February 1941, Polish (Blue) Police transferred 700 Krasnik Jews to Radomysl. Most of those expelled originally came from Lodz. Conditions were dire, for example some 600 of those deported slept in the synagogue, on wooden bunks built one atop of another. During the final 20 February transport, several hundred deportees fled, and the police arrived with fewer than 50 people. Upon becoming Kreishauptmann, Lenk demanded the police close 66 private Jewish enterprises and insisted German firms utilise Jewish labour directly. The orders and the decision to transfer the Kreis administration from Janow to Krasnik translated into a plan for the Schmitt & Junk construction firm to harness Jewish labour to build and refurbish buildings required for the move. By the late autumn 1941, the Heinkel Company employed additional Jews to convert a pre-war munitions factory in Dabrowa – Bor, just north of Krasnik, into an airplane repair facility. Other Jews built forestry service barracks and stables in the woods by Dabrowa. When in the summer of 1942,
Odilo Globocnik the SS and Police Chief of the Lublin District, decided to transform the site into the Budzyn forced labour camp. Jews from Krasnik were employed in the building of this camp. Probably because Lenk wanted to create residential living space for officials destined to be transferred to Krasnik, the Jewish community was the first in the Kreis impacted by the planned deportations. In early April 1942, the Arbeitsamt (Labour Office) ordered Jews employed by German firms to have their work employment certificates re-stamped. On 12 April 1942, the Gestapo, led by Gestapo chief Erich Augustin, and Gendarmes, assisted by Sonderdienst and Polish (Blue) Police units, forced the Jews to assemble at the market square. Approximately 2,500 Jews, without the re-stamped employment certificates – mainly the elderly, children and mothers with dependent children – were marched to the railway station and sent to be gassed at the Belzec death camp. Another 500 Jews were shot on the spot in Krasnik, whilst some 2,671 Jews survived the deportation ‘Aktion.’ In late May 1942, Schmitt & Junk established the first closed labour camp in the Kreis at several buildings near the synagogue. The camp’s 180 inmates, all artisans, were selected from throughout the Kreis to build furniture for the new offices of the Kreis administration. By July 1942, 250 craftsmen were interned at the camp. In late September 1942, Schmitt & Junk opened another closed labour camp, for 300 Jews mainly from Krasnik. The inmates built fuel storage tanks near the railway station. In late September 1942, the SS transformed the artisan’s camp into a ghetto. It was triangular in size, the ghetto included Boznicza, Szkolna, Strazacka, Ogrodowa, and Gesia Streets. To secure the area, a unit of Ukrainian –SS auxiliaries took over a building on Olejna Street, opposite the ghetto. The artisans for whom the camp was constructed lived for most of September and October outside the ghetto, in private homes. The ghetto was first used to consolidate Jews from other parts of the Kreis Janow Lubelski. The first Jews to arrive in late September 1942, were the residents of the expanded wartime Radomysl and Sanem municipality. Though Radomysl was located much closer to a similar ‘collection ghetto’ established in Zaklikow, the Radomysl Jews probably were ordered to Krasnik because of the 400 Krasnik expellees still residing there. The Gestapo also may have treated the municipality differently, as Lenk had used it from the spring of 1941 to resettle Jewish deportees to the Kreis, including in November 1942, some 384 expellees from Krakow, ordered to live in Radomysl, Antoniow, and Chwalowice. Almost all the remaining Jews consolidated in the ghetto came from the northern half of the Kreis, defined roughly by an axis running east from Annopol to Batorz. In Annopol, a Jewish community numbering 1,814 in August 1941, some 200 men were retained for work at the Janiszow and Goscieradow labour camps before the 15 October 1942, expulsion.
The Jewish residents of the neighbouring Goscieradow and Kosin municipalities probably were ordered to the ghetto at the same time. In the Zakzowek municipality, approximately 1,100 Jews, mainly living in Zakrzowek, Bystrzyca, Studzianki and Rudnik, learned on 13 October 1942, that they were to report to the ghetto by 15 October 1942. Adam Ulrich, the Polish technical director and site manager of the water melioration camp in Zakrzowek reminded Arbeitsamt officials in Krasnik of paperwork filed to retain the Jews for labour, the officials claimed they had never received it. Ulrich left for Lublin to procure the authorization. The Jews opted to wait, rather than report to the ghetto as ordered. As several dozen people crowded together in a single room in the ghetto, the Security Police began using the not-yet-opened Budzyn forced labour camp as a second collection ghetto for the Jews living in settlements north of Krasnik, including in the Urzedow and the Dzierzkowice municipality. At Budzyn men destined to be the first inmates at the camp, and a few women resided in the stables. The remaining Jews, slated for deportation, lived at a heavily guarded family camp established in another set of barracks. The SS began sending the Jews consolidated in the Krasnik ghetto to their deaths in the Belzec death camp around 15 October 1942. Immediately after the deportation, the Dzierzkowice and Urzedow Jews, imprisoned in the family camp in Budzyn were brought on truck and by foot to the Krasnik ghetto and the next day they were sent to the Belzec death camp. The Zakrzowek Jews were forcibly transferred to Krasnik on 16 October 1942. Upon returning the next day, Ulrich discovered the 250 Jews that Lublin officials had promised would be retained at the Zakrzowek camp had been imprisoned instead at Budzyn. The remaining Jews had been sent to the Krasnik ghetto. Kazimierz Cieslicki, a Polish Christian, recalled the SS executed all the Zakrzowek Jews for defying orders and arriving in the ghetto late. After the execution, Krasnik Jews, living at work sites and in other places in the town were ordered to reside permanently in the ghetto.
On 1 November 1942, Lenk invited 300 Jews, mainly the artisan camp inmates, to meet at a local school. The invitees were held captive for 24 hours while German Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police or SIPO), under the leadership of Otto Hantke, organized the final deportation. Hantke ordered the remaining ghetto inmates, mainly the wives and children of the school captives, to report to the mikveh (ritual Jewish bath) for showers and inoculations. The German police drove their half-naked victims from the building and forced them onto peasant’s carts waiting on the other side. They were transported first to Zaklikow, then the Jews were sent several days later to be gassed at Belzec death camp. Some 3,000 Jews lost their lives in this ‘Aktion.’ As part of the expulsions, SS- Unterscharführer Otto Hantke, commandant of the Budzyn forced labour camp, chose about 150 Jewish men to be incarcerated at the camp, but then sent 50 back to be expelled to Zaklikow. He shot dead others, such as teenager Baruch Krumholz. Some 30 women, mainly the daughters and wives of Judenrat members and Jewish policemen, probably were also transferred to Budzyn at this time. They were removed from Budzyn by truck several weeks later, the women were sent to the Lublin airfield camp (Alter Flugplatz). In Krasnik, Hantke announced that unemployed Jews defying orders to report to Zaklikow would be shot. The Germans and Ukrainian-SS rounded up Jews, including 6 women employed at the Spolem food wholesaler, and executed them at the Jewish cemetery. Hundreds tried to escape, and those caught were imprisoned in the synagogue.
On 4 November 1942, some 120 prisoners, including 25 female servants of German officials added to the group, also were shot at the Jewish cemetery. Lenk required construction workers in Krasnik to complete the German police and trade association building on Pilsudski Street. On 15 November 1942, Hantke ordered the workers and ghetto-clearing squad to be assembled at the square. Some 500 men were ordered to march to Budzyn. The remaining 230 Jews, imprisoned at the synagogue, were shot the next day at the Jewish cemetery. By late November 1942, 300 Jews officially remained in Krasnik, including approximately 200 artisans confined to the former ghetto. On 23 November 1942, the SS in Lublin assumed control of the ghetto, which officially became a forced labour camp. In late June 1944, the 295 surviving Jews in Krasnik’s two labour camps were sent to the Plaszow labour camp, in Krakow. Of the approximately 7,500 Jews who passed through the Krasnik ghetto, only 400 -500 survived and almost all of these were native or wartime residents of Krasnik. A West German court convicted Otto Hantke of many crimes, including murders committed during the deportations of Jews in Krasnik, and in 1974, he received a life sentence.
Sources:The Encyclopaedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945, USHMM, Indiana University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 2012
Y. Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka – The Aktion Reinhard Death Camps, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1987 Photograph – Chris Webb Archive
© Holocaust Historical Society 2014