- Muzealna 4, 82-110 Sztutowo, Pologne
The Stutthof camp was planned long before the war broke out. It was built as a regional prison camp, but during the war the Nazi’s enlarged Stutthof and incorporated it in their overall camp system. Finally, Stutthof became a concentration camp that contributed in the attempted extermination of all European Jews.
Long before the war broke out, the Nazi leadership in the Free City of Danzig developed the idea of establishing a camp for “undesirable Polish elements”. Since 1936, they closely watched Polish organizations and a special SS troop looked for sites to build detention camps. The Stutthof camp was established on 2 September 1939, only one day after the beginning of the war.
After Himmler’s visit in November 1941, the Nazi’s expanded Stutthof to an interregional camp. From June 1944 it became a tool for mass-extermination. At its largest extension, the camp measured 120 ha, stretching out over 39 subcamps. In total, 110.000 people were imprisoned here. Among them were Poles, Jews, Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Czechs, Slovaks, Finns, Norwegians, French, Danes, Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Austrians, English, Spanish, Italians, Yugoslavs, Hungarians and Roma (gypsies). They were exposed to forced labour, malnutrition, terrible sanitation, disease, mental and physical torture. 65.000 people died as a result of atrocious living conditions as well as executions by shooting, hanging, gassing, lethal injections, beatings and torture, and as a result of hardship and murder during evacuations by land and by sea.
Stutthof was finally liberated on 9 May 1945 by the 48th Army of the 3rd Belorussian front.
In the last year of the Second World War Jenny-Wanda Barkmann was a young SS-guard in the German concentration camp Stutthof. Nicknamed ‘Beautiful Spectre’, she was infamous for her brutal treatment of the prisoners. Apprehended after the war, she was sentenced and publicly hanged in Gdansk.
The story of Petronela Brywczyńska proves that no one was safe during the war. Petronela’s father, a Polish farmer, was captured while defending his country. After many wanderings, the Brywczyńska family ended up in the Stutthof concentration camp. Yet they were lucky: they suffered, but survived.
Stella Czajkowska is one of the relatively few Jews who survived the war, despite the ghetto, the gas chambers in Auschwitz, hunger and disease in Stutthof and a gruesome death march. Her story is symbolic of the horror in which the victims of Nazi regime had landed.
The Reifeisen family
The Reifeisen family was an ‘ordinary’ Jewish family, whose fate is exemplary for the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War. Ilse Reifeisen, the daughter, luckily survived, but her parents, Simon and Gertrud Anna Reifeisen, shared the fate of many other victims of ghettos and camps. Gertrud died in Stutthof whereas Simon’s death is unknown.
Liberation of Stutthof
The concentration camp in Stutthof was initially founded to eliminate and persecute Poles. Later in the war the role of Stutthof changed as it became an integral part of the planned extermination of European Jews. Before the Soviet Army could liberate Stutthof, the surviving prisoners were send on horrible “death marches”.