The historic and educational exposition at the Mountain of Death was established in 2012 in the area of the former German military training ground the Waffen SS “Truppenübungsplatz Heidelager” in Pustków. Our Exposition shows the history and functioning of forced labor camps as well as the military training ground in the context of the history of the entire Dębica county and its residents in the period of World War II. Based on the preserved documents, it is estimated that in the period of functioning of the camp in 1940-1944, as a result of biological destruction, executions and death by shooting more than 15,000 people were killed there (i.e. 7,500 Jews, 5,000 Soviet prisoners and 2,500 Poles).
The headquarters of the Exposition consist of buildings which have been historically reconstructed: guardhouse, guard towers, barbed-
wire fence as well as a barrack for soldiers and a barrack for prisoners. In the barracks for soldiers and prisoners permanent exhibitions were established. Inside the barracks you can see original equipment and hundreds of exhibits and documents related to the history of the areas of the Dębica Municipality in the period of German occupation. Models of the main buildings of the military training ground and labor camps constitute an important element of the exhibition. Artistic arrangements dedicated to extermination of prisoners, “Spoken History” and educational multimedia presentations are particularly significant parts of the Exposition. The presented exhibits and documents come from collections of various institutions, i.e. the Regional Museum in Dębica, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as private individuals.
The objective of the Exposition is to commemorate the martyrdom and recall the fate of thousands of victims imprisoned in the forced labor camps in Pustków. It has been created not only to pass on knowledge about what happened here, but mainly to impact the awareness of young people, teach tolerance and respect for life of another human being. It is supposed to carry a message:
No more war!
Tuesday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 00.30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
*Last visitors enter half an hour before closing time
Phone: +48 887 628 900
European Center of Remembrance and Reconciliation
at the Center of Culture and Libraries of the Dębica Commune
During World War II within the “Waffen SS Truppenübungsplatz Heidelager” military training ground the Germans decided to establish three forced labor camps: for Jews, Soviet prisoners of war and Poles. Labor camps played a double role: they provided the invader with free work force, and simultaneously they were used for biological destruction of people imprisoned there. It is estimated that more than 15,000 people died there – 7,500 Jews, 5,000 Soviet prisoners and 2,500 Poles.
CAMP FOR JEWS
Forced labour camp for Jews in Pustków was the first of the three to be founded. Created in 1940, it existed, changing its form, until the end of German occupation. In November 8th, 1940 Jewish labourers did not return to their homes. They were imprisoned within on of the halls of the “Lignoza” factory. In August 7th, 1941 the camp for Jews was moved again from Ring I into ten shacks built on Ring V. In summer 1942 the camp for Jews was again moved from Ring V to the area of former camp for Soviet prisoners. Jews were brought to Pustków from Dębica, Jasło, Kraków, Rzeszów, Mielec, Wieliczka, Żywiec. In July 24th, 1944, due to incoming Soviet troops the rest of the Jewish prisoners were loaded onto a train. The transport departed to Auschwitz. It was decided that all should be gassed. However, they were actually moved to various factories in Upper Silesia, branches of Auschwitz's camp. From there, in January 1945 they were evacuated into Mauthausen, and, two weeks later, to Gusen. It is estimated, that the number of fatalities at the forced labour camp for Jews reached 7,500.
CAMP FOR SOVIET PRISONERS OF WAR
In autumn 1941 a camp for Soviet prisoners of war was founded. It was located at the foot of a hill “Królowa Góra”. The first transport of Soviet POWs, about 3 thousand soldiers, arrived in October 8th, 1941. Because of terrible hygiene the camp for Soviet prisoners of war was
plagued by typhoid fever and dysentery. There was no medicine and no doctors available. The sick died in large numbers. At first, the remains of deceased and murdered prisoners were buried in simple graves covered with lime. In November 1941 fearing that the camp's
epidemic would spread on the top of Królowa Góra hill a makeshift crematory was organised.
In just about four months, namely from October 8th, 1941 until first weeks of February 1942, when the camp was no longer operational, about five thousand of Soviet POWs died in Pustków.
CAMP FOR POLES
In September 1942, a labour camp for Poles began to operate. The first transport of prisoners, of about 1100 people, arrived in September 16th, 1942 from Lubelskie Viovodeship. Polish prisoners, just like Jewish prisoners and Soviet POWs, worked on construction of military facilities at the training grounds. They were subjected to harassment, repressions and beating by the camp's sentry guards. On July 27, it ended its activities and the prisoners were evacuated to the camps in Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg and Ravensbrück. In total, there were almost 5000 prisoners in the camp. It is estimated that about 2500 people died or were murdered. The aid for the prisoners was organized by the Polish Welfare Committee RGO (Main Council) under the leadership of Princess Helena Jabłonowska, who organized food parcels and tried to influence the command of the training camp to improve the lives of the prisoners. Thanks to her persistence and courage, she obtained a relative improvement in the conditions in the camp. The prisoners repaid her name, Our Mother.