Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

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Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:46 pm

What was Bereza Kartuzka? It was a detention center established in Poland in the 1930's. It now sits in Belarus.

I found out about this camp while reading "Revolutionary Yiddishland." The authors interviewed a few of the Jewish inmates, they described the conditions and it struck me how closely they mirrored those of Nazi Concentration Camps and the Soviet Gulags. I googled the name, there is some information on it. Wikipedia did have an entry on it:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bereza_Kartuska_prison

Per Wikipedia, the President of Poland, Ignacy Mościcki, signed an order establishing the camp on June 17th, 1934 with the approval of Józef Piłsudski. Pilsudski opened the camp after the OUN, or the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, assassinated the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs Bronisław Pieracki on June 15, 1934. The camp opened on July 12th, 1934. It was not part of the regular penitentiary system and regular policemen staffed the camp (it was a punishment duty). Prisoners could be detained for up to three months and stays were generally longer.

Camp inmates included the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Polish Communist Party (KPP) and National Radical Camp (ONR), as well as members of the People's Party (SL) and Polish Socialist Party (PPS). The ONR Party was actually a right-wing party, the SL was a peasant party. Starting in 1937 the Poles also incarcerated habitual criminals and white-collar criminals there. Wikipedia shows a list of some of the prominent inmates.

Conditions were brutal. David Szarfharc, a Communist from Lodz detained there, endured the welcoming ceremony called "the music." Guards forced the arriving inmates to run between two ranks of guards while the guards beat them with clubs. This continued until the guards tired out. The guards forced new inmates to stand in a hall where the inmates stood against the wall. The guards allowed no bathroom breaks, they told the inmates to "do it in your pants." Prisoners slept on cold concrete floors with no covers and could only turn over when the guards gave a signal. This lasted for the first two weeks.

After the first two weeks the guards allowed the inmates into the regular routine. The inmates slept in cells crammed with 30 or more men in a cell. The inmates were forbidden to talk. The guards forced the inmates to exercise everyday for hours while also forcing them to work. Inmates built roads and dug ditches with their hands. The guards also forced inmates to do pointless work like picking up stones and placing them in a different area, then back again. The diet was poor and made men sick, the inmates could not receive packages from the outside. The authorities allowed the men to write home once a month...to say they were all right.
(Above from Revolutionary Yiddishland by Alain Brossat and Silvie Klingberg)

Per Wikipedia the camp closed the 17th and 18th of September, 1939 after the prison officials received word that the USSR invaded Poland.

I wanted to share this with you, it's an interesting fact of history that I didn't know about. Maybe some of you have. If you have more information feel free to share. The 1930's and 1940's really were the "Time of the Camps."

Picture of the camp building:


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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeff_36 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:49 pm

The place seems to be more of a gitmo style jail than a literal concentration camp. There did not exist the same kind of systematic "extermination by labor" effort that was underway in German KL's. That being said, It was by all accounts a dreadful place and I suspect that the death toll was higher by an order of magnitude than what is reported. I have no sympathy for the OUN and the ONR, who were both fascistic parties, nor the KPP for obvious reasons. However, the PPS and the SL did not deserve to be lumped in with them - their fate is a tragedy.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:04 pm

Jeff_36 wrote:The place seems to be more of a gitmo style jail than a literal concentration camp. There did not exist the same kind of systematic "extermination by labor" effort that was underway in German KL's. That being said, It was by all accounts a dreadful place and I suspect that the death toll was higher by an order of magnitude than what is reported. I have no sympathy for the OUN and the ONR, who were both fascistic parties, nor the KPP for obvious reasons. However, the PPS and the SL did not deserve to be lumped in with them - their fate is a tragedy.


I think this is in line more with what German Concentration Camps were in the 1930's than what they morphed into, Jeff. The work, the bad diet, the mistreatment, it all struck me as very similar to what happened to German inmates during the 1930's. Even the amount of time spent in incarceration is similar.

That being said, there is no comparison to a single camp and the empire of camps the Germans set up.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeff_36 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:50 pm

Jeffk 1970 wrote:
I think this is in line more with what German Concentration Camps were in the 1930's than what they morphed into, Jeff. The work, the bad diet, the mistreatment, it all struck me as very similar to what happened to German inmates during the 1930's. Even the amount of time spent in incarceration is similar.

That being said, there is no comparison to a single camp and the empire of camps the Germans set up.


IIRC there were a few cases of continuous detention in the KL's in the 30's. A Train in Winter mentions that some German prisoners were held for as long as 10 or 11 years.

Something that you mentioned in the OP was bang on: The 30's as the "Time of the Camps". Francoist Spain set up a network of concentration camps as well. It really was pervasive.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 10:40 pm

I thought about the Spanish camps when I read about the Polish camp.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Balsamo » Thu Aug 10, 2017 11:09 pm

Hi Jeffk,

This specific camp is only one example. You might have wanted to call this thread, "non-nazi concentration camps", as, as a matter of fact, the Nazi did not invent the concept.

As i said before, the level of barbarity of the Nazi policies - among them of course - the Holocaust, allowed some States to white wash their dirty hands, to bury their own criminal policies. It is not that those policies are not known, but but there are unknown for the general public. People just do not know that France, for example (well the subject i know the best) was full of Concentration camps, renamed after the war "camps d'internements" (or internment camps") but the distinction is quite futile in reality.

For example, we all know the criminal Nazi policy toward the "Romanies", but who knows that during world war I, the French republic ordered all Gypsies (Tziganes, Manouches) especially from Alsace-Lorraine to be "placed at Residence" - funny as of course they did not have any residences, so France created camps. Those Gypsies would be released by 1939, but the decision to arrest them would be taken once more in September 1939.

During the Spanish civil war, additional camps were created to "lodge" the Spanish refugees.
Those will be used as Labor (Slave ?).

By September 39, 20.000 Germans and Austrians, mainly Jews and anti-nazis who fled sometimes in 1933 were rounded up and put in camps.

And let's not start with the concentration camps in the colonial empire...
You see quite a huge topic.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 12:10 am

Balsamo wrote:Hi Jeffk,

This specific camp is only one example. You might have wanted to call this thread, "non-nazi concentration camps", as, as a matter of fact, the Nazi did not invent the concept.

As i said before, the level of barbarity of the Nazi policies - among them of course - the Holocaust, allowed some States to white wash their dirty hands, to bury their own criminal policies. It is not that those policies are not known, but but there are unknown for the general public. People just do not know that France, for example (well the subject i know the best) was full of Concentration camps, renamed after the war "camps d'internements" (or internment camps") but the distinction is quite futile in reality.

For example, we all know the criminal Nazi policy toward the "Romanies", but who knows that during world war I, the French republic ordered all Gypsies (Tziganes, Manouches) especially from Alsace-Lorraine to be "placed at Residence" - funny as of course they did not have any residences, so France created camps. Those Gypsies would be released by 1939, but the decision to arrest them would be taken once more in September 1939.

During the Spanish civil war, additional camps were created to "lodge" the Spanish refugees.
Those will be used as Labor (Slave ?).

By September 39, 20.000 Germans and Austrians, mainly Jews and anti-nazis who fled sometimes in 1933 were rounded up and put in camps.

And let's not start with the concentration camps in the colonial empire...
You see quite a huge topic.


True. I've heard of all the ones you talked about, this was one I hadn't. I wanted to bring it up as something interesting but it certainly isn't an anomaly. I mentioned that the 1930's and 1940's were the "Time of the Camps."

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:18 am

Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.
. . . I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. - John Keats, 1817

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeff_36 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:30 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.


Now now........ We can recognize our faults* but let's not inch towards Been-There territory.........

I agree re Japanese internment. Canada did it too. Shameful.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:34 am

Jeff_36 wrote:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.


Now now........ We can recognize our faults* but let's not inch towards Been-There territory.........

I agree re Japanese internment. Canada did it too. Shameful.

Yeah, slavery and segregation were just little hiccoughs. American Indians were just in the way. Slavery, pretty much ok, yeah. No biggies.
. . . I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. - John Keats, 1817

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:45 am

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR,


Ah, see, you misspelled it. It's actually spelled Goulash.

This is an actual picture, those poor inmates:


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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Statistical Mechanic » Fri Aug 11, 2017 2:48 am

LOL
. . . I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. - John Keats, 1817

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeff_36 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:02 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:
Jeff_36 wrote:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.


Now now........ We can recognize our faults* but let's not inch towards Been-There territory.........

I agree re Japanese internment. Canada did it too. Shameful.

Yeah, slavery and segregation were just little hiccoughs. American Indians were just in the way. Slavery, pretty much ok, yeah. No biggies.


Is there a separate forum to discuss 19th century abominations like slavery? Because it was just that, an abomination.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Jeffk 1970 » Fri Aug 11, 2017 4:38 pm

Jeff_36 wrote:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:
Jeff_36 wrote:
Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.


Now now........ We can recognize our faults* but let's not inch towards Been-There territory.........

I agree re Japanese internment. Canada did it too. Shameful.

Yeah, slavery and segregation were just little hiccoughs. American Indians were just in the way. Slavery, pretty much ok, yeah. No biggies.


Is there a separate forum to discuss 19th century abominations like slavery? Because it was just that, an abomination.


Well, you can start one in the history section here but I don't know of any specific forums.

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Re: Bereza Kartuzka-A Polish Concentration Camp

Postby Balsamo » Fri Aug 11, 2017 9:07 pm

Statistical Mechanic wrote:Ya know, I hear that there was something called the Goolog or whatever in the USSR, and segregation in the US, too, and during the war camps for Japanese-Americans, but I've never believed it. Someone once told me that American Indians lost some of their land in the US. But I had thought Germany was the fount of all evil. I will look into all this.


Indeed, everything you mention are well known. There is an abundant literature on Gulag, segregations, etc.
But the link on Bereza Kartuzka shared by Jeffk is the only one in English that appears in the first 5 or 6 google page. So i guess one must be quite lucky to find it by chance.
People usually assimilate Concentration Camps with Nazi Germany and the USSR, and more globally with totalitarian Regimes. When it comes to Democracies (even moderate and nationalist ones like pre-war Poland), camps are only thought through the perspective of war: like those Internment camps for Japanese (including some with US citizenship), they existed but it was war.

The point here was not to kind of put Nazi crimes and concentration camps system into perspectives, but it is interesting to see how some "pasts" can be buried - again not the well known "goolog" or segregation - and the whole point being that it is the Nazi crimes that allowed the putting of those dirty pasts into perspective.
Who knows and cares about Cameroon in the 1950's under the French, concentration camps (however they cynically called them) in Algeria, etc? Some camps i know do not even have an internet "match"!
I am pretty sure that 95% of the French population would say that the "well known camp" (that is a couple among hundreds), mostly known for having deported the Jews were set up by Vichy or the German, and would not assimilate them with the Republic.

The Infamous camp of Westerbork in the Netherland was also built by the Dutch in 39, ironically for the Refugees from Germany, mostly Jews of course.

I have read the Wiki article on the "Bagnes de Cayenne" (Guyana) - the english version, you call them "Devil's island". And it is indeed interesting how the subject is presented as some anecdote from the past. The illustrations are all from the XIX century, there is of course no mention of the actual death rates, or any statistic on how many people died there - actually they would fit with the definition of "death camp" given that life expectancy was about 4 years - so in fine the feeling is that it is more like reading the wiki page dedicated to the Movie "Papillon" starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman...
Actually the worst time there was during the second world war, and the fact that Guyana joined de Gaulle in 1943 did not change anything.

@Jeffk: how dare you put pasta in a gulash???

@Jeff: mentioning penitentiary systems contemporary to the ones of the Nazis is not like mentioning Slavery.


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