When starting from the central railway station, the shortest way would be to follow the rails, but it is not possible, one has to make a large detour towards the right side of the map. The dirt road leads between run-down small Soviet workers’ estates to the Yanivske cemetery, on whose entrance large bronze letters announce that there lie the Ukrainian martyrs of the Soviet occupation of 1939-41. The Polish and Jewish martyrs of the German occupation of 1941-44 are not discussed.
L’ham de foc: Los caminos de Sirkeci (The roads of Sirkeci). From the album Amán Amán. Música i cants sefardís d’Orient i Occident.
Where the Google map shows a small dead end street above the Yavorivska street, the small pocket map of Lviv bought here indicates as if an alley called Morinetska started obliquely upwards. But Google is right. The road leads into a factory site. It seems to also lead out of it, and the loud cry of the old gatekeeper lady calls me back already from the other side. “Where are you going? Stop! Where?” “I want to get out to Tatarbunarska street”, I show on the map. “Oh, but this road is already closed. Go back to the large street, and on the next corner there will be a small square, Tatarbunarska starts from there upwards. Багато здоровичка, much sweet health to you, my dear!” she strokes my arm in relief.
On the corner my heart leaps. A single, long disused railway track, coming from the station, starts up the street toward the former vehicle repair. On a hundred meters it leads along the decaying houses of a former, Polish-period workers’ colony, and then suddenly the walls of the camp are revealed, with the guard tower at the corner.
I see motion in the tower, and indeed, as I get beside it, I am surprised to see that even today a guard armed with machine gun is watching over the tranquility of the camp. I do not dare to continue to take photos. In Iran I was made to delete an entire card for photographing a similar object, and I must be happy if I can get away with this few. Although the best part comes just now: the road goes along buildings which have not been repaired for seventy years, and multiple barbed wire fences for another two hundred meters.
A woman from the nearby workers’ colony pours the leftover food to stray dogs at the foot of the wall. “Tell me, the Jewish labor camp was somewhere here around?” “Yeah, right there, where now the prison!” she points at the barbed wire. “Andryusha, you know more about it”, she calls a man cycling there. “Yes, it was here. Not only at this side of the Tatarbunarska, but also further on, and on the other side, where now the bus repair yard works. But this was the center, where the Jews lived, and this was converted into a prison”, he explains.
Continuing along the rails, the prison is gradually left behind, and there comes the former German military vehicle repairer, which – surprise, surprise – is still a vehicle repairer, with the loess walls, the “Sand” (Piaski) towering behind it, where the Germans executed the old people after sorting. Between the rails some young mothers with small children from the nearby workers’ estate enjoy the tranquility of nature.
Before the gate of the vehicle repairer still there is the reinforced concrete framework of the outside protective sluice gate with a concrete cistern in front of it.
Climbing up the enbankment on the right, I look down on the other side of Tatarbunarska, the other part of the German military vehicle repairer converted into a bus repair yard.
On the way back the lights of the prison are already lit, and a wolfhound watches on the corner: it smells me but lets me go. Another day ended in the Janowska, the last German labor camp which still works in the same buildings and with the same function on the outskirts of Lwów.
The Janowska labor camp was founded by the German army in September 1941 as “Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke” – “German Armament Works” under the supervision of the SS, where Jewish forced laborers worked under inhuman conditions. The forced laborers were chosen from the city’s Jewish population by the Judenrat founded in the ghetto in June 1941, whose first leader, the lawyer Josef Parnes was executed by the Gestapo in November 1941 precisely because he refused to turn over Jews for forced labor. From October 1942 the camp was also used to collect the Jews of Galicia to be deported from the Kleparów railway station to the Belżec extermination camp. Finally, after June 1943, the beginning of the retreat of the German army from the Soviet Union a large-scale track-covering project started in the camp: a 126 strong Jewish Sonderkommando exhumed all over the city and burned here the rests of more than a hundred thousand Jews killed during the two years. It was here that a “bone mill” was developed to accelerate the job, which then was very quickly adopted from Janowska for similar purposes in other camps as well.
The prototype of the bone mill in the camp of Janowska. Its operators are the members of the Jewish Sonderkommando 1005: Heinrich Chamaides, David Manuschewitz and Moische Korn
The prisoners orchestra of the camp composed of the Lwów Philharmonics, led by the renowned conductors Stricts and Mund. It was used to cover the noise of the tortures and executions, with a “Death Tango” composed for this purpose. Shortly before the camp was liquidated, the Germans shot all the members of the orchestra.
The Soviet army occupied the camp on 26 July 1944, and immediately converted it into the prison number 30. Here they collected the Polish and Ukrainian anti-Soviet elements before being deported to Soviet labor camps from the Kleparów station. The victims killed in Janowska or brought from here to Belżec are remembered by a memorial stone in the nearby destroyed Jewish cemetery and by a plaque on the station wall: both were permitted only a few years ago. I will try to take photos of both of them while I am here. Check back.