The Ghetto at Stanislawow
The ghetto in Stanisławów (now known as Ivano-Frankivsk) was a Jewish ghetto established by the Germans during World War II.
Stanisławów was a city in southeastern Poland that was initially occupied by the Soviets as part of their co-operation with Nazi Germany to destroy Poland. The Soviet NKVD began the mass murder in the the city – killing 2,500 citizens (including women and children) before the German occupation after their attack in Operation Barbarossa – launched on 22nd June 1941.
Initially the city was occupied by Hungarian forces, allies of the Germans, who found 50,000 Jews in the area. The Hungarians were suspected by the Germans of being more accommodating to the Jewish and Polish citizens and often used them as translators and as forced labour. Nevertheless they issued the ‘Armband Decree’ on 15th July 1941. This meant that all Jews, or others who had any Jewish ancestry up to three generations back, had to wear a white armband with the Star of David. This marking out of the Jews immediately made them the victim of predation by Poles and Ukrainians who knew they could rob them with no consequences from the authorities.
The Hungarians were replaced by the German army after 26th July 1941 and the following day the Gestapo set up a ‘Judenrat’ (a group of Jews compelled by the Germans to form a organising body).
A day following the formation of the ‘Judenrat’ the Germans ordered that Poles and Jews who were educated to a higher level to report to the police station. Upon arrival the around 600 of the victims were transported to the nearby forest of Czarny Las were they were tortured and murdered – the families were not informed.
SS Captain Hans Krueger of the Gestapo was appointed Chief of the local office in the city on 1st August 1941. The following day, with the help of Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers, organised a further massacre and this followed a further wave of arrests who were also killed in Czarny Las on 15th August.
On 12th October 1941 Krueger organised thousands of Jews to be brought to the ‘Ringplatz Square’ for so called ‘selection’. Once assembled the Jews were beaten and driven to the Jewish Cemetary where mass graves had been prepared. The Germans were assisted in this process by their Ukrainian allies and Germans in the Order Police Battalion. At the grave site the Jews were forced to hand over their possessions and then to strip naked where they were gunned down by the police officers.
Approximately 12,000 men, women and children were killed in continuous gunfire. The killers relieving each other when the noise became too uncomfortable and the Germans had even set up a picnic of vodka and sandwiches for the killers for when they needed a break. The massacre, later known as ‘bloody Sunday’ began at noon and continued until night when, despite trying to carry on with artificial lights, the Germans had to quit for the day. Later that night the killers held a victory celebration at Gestapo headquarters. This event was the single largest murder of Jews by the Germans and their allies committed in the General Government area until Operation Reinhardt in 1942.
The ghetto in Stanisławów was established on 20th December 1941, and closed from the outside. It was initially home to around 20,000 Jews. Periodic mass murder was committed against the residents who were then replaced by newly deported people from other areas being moved in. This provided a pool of people for Krueger and his men to murder. The ghetto itself was located in the center of the city, in an area that had previously been home to a large Jewish community.
The conditions in the ghetto were extremely harsh, with overcrowding, disease, and malnutrition rampant. The inhabitants was plagued by shortages of food, water, and medical supplies, and many suffered from starvation and disease.
Over the winter of 1941 until July 1942 the Germans continued extra-judicial killings either at ‘Rudolf’s Mill’ or at Police (SiPo) head quarters.
In March 1942 the Ghetto was raided and reduced in size after the residents refused to comply with deportaton orders. Deportations were completed in April, September and November 1942 with thousands of Jews being sent to Belzec Extermination Camp.
On 22nd August 1942 the Germans launched a reprisal raid against the Ghetto after the alleged murder of a Ukrainian collaborator. In the ‘Aktion’ the head of the Jewish Council, Mordechai Goldstein and 20 members of the Jewish Ghetto Police were publicly hanged and mass rapes of women and girls were committed. 1000 Jews were rounded up and taken to the cemetary where they were murdered.
From August to October of 1942, the Germans also organised the shooting of several hundred people in the Police headquarters courtyard. The Ghetto was largely cleared by 15th October 1942 and by this date the Jewish community in the city had been largely destroyed. Several hundred Jews were however still alive and afforded some protection from death by being workers in factories or industrial concerns. However the end was near and in January 1943 1,000 people were shot who had no work permits and 2,000 others were deported to the Janowska Camp in Lvov. On 22nd February the ghetto was surrounded and all remaining occupants were arrested and killed with the exception of a few hundred who were retained for scrap reclamation work. By March 1943 German reports referred to the area as ‘the former ghetto area’.
Stanislawow was liberate by Soviet forces on 27th Jul 1944. By this time only 1,500 of the Jewish people from the area had survived the violence. Of this number only 100 were saved by being hidden by non-Jews.
SS Captain Hans Krueger was to survive the war, having been captured in Holland but released by the Dutch in 1948 due to a lack of evidence. He moved to West Germany where he worked as a salesman and later became had a political career as managing directorof the FVP Party for the Muenster district. He sough public office in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Assembly for the League of Eastern Expellees. Eventually he was questioned by German authorities in 1965 and put on trial in 1967 where he admitted to being the Gestapo chief in Stanislawow, having assumed incorrectly that no witnesses could have survived. During the trial live evidence was provided by Polish Countess Karolina Lanckoronska who had been tortured at his headquarters but released after a ransom had been paid and by William Tannenzaph, who was one 1,500 survivors. Krueger was found guilty of numerous crimes and sentenced to life.
The German authorities denied an extradition request to Poland for him to be tried there for other murders he committed arguing that he could not receive more than a life sentence. Krueger did not however die in prison – he was released in 1986 but died two years later.
Today, the Stanisławów ghetto is remembered as a symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust and as a call to remember the victims and honor their memory. The ghetto serves as a reminder of the devastating impact of Nazi policies on Jewish communities and the resilience of those who resisted and fought back.