THE HISTORIC AND EDUCATIONAL EXPOSITION AT THE MOUNTAIN OF DEATH
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!
From November 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024
The exhibition will be excluded from individual visits.
Sightseeing will be available during this period
for organized groups,
after prior telephone and e-mail reservation.
We apologize for inconveniences
Tuesday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.
Saturday: 00.30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
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.
MOUNTAIN OF DEATH
History of the Mountain of Death is inseparably linked with the history of occupation of the Dębica land. It is a hill where ashes of thousands of prisoners who were killed in forced labor camps in Pustków in 1940-1944 are spread.
In 1941 due to the concern that the epidemic of typhus and dysentery in the camp will spread, a cremation furnace was built at the top of the Mountain of Death. It was used to burn bodies of murdered prisoners. Also a basement was built there to store bodies intended for cremation. From the outside, bodies were thrown into through two openings, while on one side there was an entry with iron doors. It was used to take bodies stored there out. Ashes were buried in the ground, next to the furnace. The cremation furnace was operated as long as the camp.
In order to celebrate memory of all the victims of the forced labor camps in Pustków, a monument was built there is 1964. Each year candles and bunches of flowers are brought there. In honor of the murdered, there is also “Road of Suffering” leading to the Mountain of Death on which 14 sculptures were placed in the form of human hands. On one hand, these hands symbolize three largest ethnic groups of prisoners who were killed there. On the other- they represent pain, helplessness and a cry for help. The memory and care for this place are extremely important and should be continued for the next generations.
THE PRINCESS HELENA JABLONOWSKA EUROPEAN CENTRE OF REMEMBRANCE AND RECONCILIATION
The Princess Helena Jablonowska European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation through remembrance and education about the past aims to build a platform of reconciliation of nations and communities so tolerance, openness, ability to dialogue could be move into the world of practical action. The European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation was created as part of the joint project “Historical Park Blizna and Pustków – the road of memory and reconciliation", conducted by Dębica District and Ostrów District. The project was cofinanced by the European Fund of the Regional Development within the Regional Operational Programme of the Subcarpathian Viovodeship 2007-2013.
The Princess Helena Jablonowska European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation (ECPiP) is a subordinate unit of the Cultural and Library Center of Dębica district. It completes projects related to Memory and Education, regarding the Second World War issues, its impact on the fate and history, both our country and whole Europe. In its actions, it also emphasizes the contemporary cultural and nationalistic problems of European countries. ECPiP activity is mainly focused on cooperation with schools and all educational institutions, although it also implements projects for local residents.
An integral part of the European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation is the historical and didactic Exhibition located near the Mountain of Death.
The primary objective of the Exhibition is to use it in classes and lectures conducted by the European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation. Of course, it is also available to individual visitors. They are often family members or relatives of former prisoners of the labour camps coming both from Poland or abroad. The permanent Exhibition is complemented by temporary exhibitions organized gradually. They correspond in terms of discussed issues to topics presented in the main halls.
In the educational programme implemented by the European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation, the Educational offer adjusted for age and specific audience, prepared by highly qualified and experienced staff is particularly important.
It consists of historical lessons, educational and creative workshops, dissemination meetings and many other events. New methods to transmit the memory to younger generation are searched in a creative and innovative way. The subjects of meetings of different cultures and nationalities, the tragic history of the region during the Nazi occupation 1939 - 1945, regional cultural traditions, the history of communities of other faiths and nationalities living in the area over the years are undertaken as part of the classes. The intention of teaching activities is to sensitize young people to all forms of intolerance - religious, social or national - in the modern world and develop the attitude of respect and understanding towards the "otherness" of others. For this purpose the joint meetings of young people from Poland and abroad are also implemented, which is an opportunity to share ideas, get to know each other and overcome prejudices and stereotypes. As part of all these educational activities Prayerful - Educational Youth Meeting at the Mount of Death is conducted annually in September to commemorate the victims of the 1939 September campaign.
“OUR MOTHER” PROJECT
In collaboration with the Museum of the History of Polish, historical and educational project "Our Mother. Princess Helena Jabłonowska in reports and memories” was carried out from May to November 2012 in close conjunction with the educational programme. The aim of the project was to spread the knowledge about the work of ECPiP patroness, the Princess Helena Jabłonowska - social activist, member of Home Army, president of the Central Welfare Council in the Dębica region, helping during the Nazi occupation the local Jewish community, as well as prisoners of the labour camps in Pustków.
A short documentary film about the Princess was made. It was based on “Oral History” reports of her family members, former employees of her estate, former prisoners of the labour camps in Pustków and on the basis of collected photographs and memorabilia. Based on the film educational workshops linked thematically with the biography of Helen and her activities during the Occupation were conducted. Local schools were invited to participate in the workshops. As the result of the project one hundred copies of the film were given to schools in Dębica and its region.
“WITNESSES TO THE HISTORY” PROGRAMME
People's memory is an important and often imperceptible part of the cultural heritage. To preserve these memories for future generations the European Centre of Remembrance and Reconciliation has been conducting from the beginning the long-term programme "Witnesses to History" - as “Oral History” reports. It involves recording of oral stories about particular historical events from the Dębica region. There are reports of the labour camps prisoners, older residents of the region or members of the old noble families, who had their estates here. They show the events taking place in this area since the beginning of the twentieth century. It is a valuable source of knowledge, both historical as well as social and moral, from which emerges the old.
“MEETING WITH HISTORY”
A variety of topics related to national and local history and culture are brought up as part of “Meeting of History”. Their main objective is to popularize the national history. The lectures are addressed not only to students, but to anyone interested in the past.