Potulice Concentration Camp

Potulice, Poland

The Potulice concentration camp was established by Nazi Germany during World War II. It is estimated that a total of 25,000 prisoners went through the camp during its operation before the end of 1944. It became notable also as a detention centre for Polish children that underwent the Nazi experiment in forced Germanisation.

Initially the Potulice camp was one of numerous transit points for Poles expelled by the German authorities from territories of western Poland annexed into the newly created Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreussen. The forcible displacement of Polish nationals known as Lebensraum; was meant to create space for German colonists (the Volksdeutsche) brought in Heim ins Reich from across Eastern Europe. The facility quickly expanded to include a slave-labor subcamp of the Stutthof concentration camp nearby, supplying free workforce for the Hansen Schneidemuehl machine shop set up on premises.

The camp served as place for detention of Polish children; of the 1,296 people who died there, 767 victims were minors. In 1943 a special unit in the camp was created especially for children and the name Ostjugendbewahrlager Potulitz or Lebrechtsdorf started to appear in German documentation. Racist theories and a policy of Germanisation that sought to Germanise children who tested for racial purity of the supposed Aryan race traits led to organised kidnappings by German officials in occupied Poland. The children from the camp were placed there as a result of this policy. If the tests were positive and it was believed the child had lost emotional contact with their parents, then it could be sent to German families for Germanisation.

Formally designated a labour camp, the camp was not controlled by concentration camp authorities. However, the conditions in it were comparable to those at the Stutthof concentration camp. As part of camp life the children were forced to perform slave work. Children who reached thirteen years old were sent to work outside the camp, even working night shifts. Under the supervision of kapo they usually were used to carry building materials or stones, or used to load coal, wood, and potatoes at the railway station.

As the war went on, conditions in camp became even more brutal and harsh, and penalties such as standing on broken glass were introduced. In 1943 a transport of 543 children from the regions of Smolensk and Vitebsk arrived. Some of the children were treated as normal prisoners, even when they were as young as two years old. As the children were ill from Typhoid fever, the Germans placed them in separate, primitive-condition barracks that were separated by barbed wire. In 1944 the conditions in the camp reached their most brutal phase. Children were regularly called 'children of bandits', were beaten and kicked by camp personnel, and were forced to dig trenches. Most of the children had fallen ill, and many died out of exhaustion, mistreatment, hunger or disease. Infants were cared for by the older children. There are also witness statements about the deliberate murder of children by camp personnel.

Out of acts listed as genocide by The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1948, almost all were implemented in Potulice camp; the sole exception was the act regarding preventing births among members of the group being subjected to genocide. The number of children kidnapped by German authorities during their occupation of Poland in World War II in order to be Germanised ranges from over 20,000 (Heinemann) to 200,000 (Polish government). It's estimated that at least 10,000 of them were murdered as captives, and only 10-15% returned to their families after the war.

Following World War II, the site of the camp was used as a detention centre by Polish Communist authorities, mainly for 'ethnic Germans' from the Volksliste including settlers and some 180 prisoners-of-war, as well as the anti-communist Poles from the Home Army and the National Armed Forces. Renamed as the Central Labour Camp in Potulice under the management of the Stalinist Ministry of Public Security, the camp managed workshops and farms with the total area of 1,174.60 ha. According to records of the MBP Department of Corrections, some 2,915 Germans died there before the end of 1949, mainly as a result of the typhus and dysentery epidemics. According to German sources, about 3,500 ethnic Germans died in the camp in the years 1945 to 1950.

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Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.