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[Page 26]

Chapter 3

The Sipo SD School and Gestapo Interrogation Centre, Zakopane

 

gal014.jpg
Figure 14: 'The Palace' Hotel Stammery Gestapo Headquarters 1940-1944

 

Security Services[54]

During the first months after the occupation of Poland, the Commander-in-Chief of the Security Police (BdS) SS-Brigadier-Fuehrer the Slovak border in Zakopane, a winter resort at the bottom of the high Tatra. The purpose of the School was to train selected candidates of Sipo-SD, Ukrainian Nazi sympathisers, Polish Police Officers[55] and other Sipo-SD personnel ('V'-Agents) under the leadership of the Commandant, Hans Krueger. These agents were employed by the SD to collect information, and were known as V-men. These confidence men were unpaid and acted from unselfish motives and only in the interests of the State. Their work was not particularly secret and their existence was known to the whole nation. They did, however, use 'cover names'. They were drawn from all walks of life and some of the people recruited were those who took a critical attitude towards National Socialism. This was because the SD wished to get the reactions of the whole population and not

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merely of party members. It would appear that at the end of the war about fifty per cent of these confidence men were regularly employed and paid and the remainder were volunteers. They were not allowed to resign. The main curriculum at the School at this time was as follows: lecturer and course co-ordinator, Sipo-SD, Robert Weissmann – Criminal Law and Procedure in respect of those laws applicable to German Reich Law; Emergency laws and decrees drafted and initiated RSHA, Berlin.

Zakopane was turned into an entertainment centre for senior officers of the SS/Sipo-SD and the German army. All Jews were supposed to have been removed from the district by the end of November, 1939, but two years later (according to the Ben-Ami report on the activities of the Zakopane Judenrat) 47 Jews were still in the area.[56] The Nazis had set them to work uncovering hidden Jewish 'treasures' in the town.[57] Some 200 documents relating to the three years of the activity of the Judenrat in Zakopane have survived.[58] Immediately after the Nazi take-over, Zakopane's largest hotel, the Palace, was converted into the headquarters of the Gestapo. Part of it served as the 'labour bureau', where Jews were sent to register for forced labour. The cellar at the hotel served as an interrogation centre and prison for Jews accused of disobeying Nazi laws. According to a number of Jewish witnesses who survived the war, as many as 300 Jews were murdered at this centre, many of them women and children. The head of the Gestapo was Robert Weissmann, and his deputy, Richard Samish.[59] The main hall on the first floor was reserved for dances and entertainment for the Nazi officers. The hotel was known to the local population as 'Death's Head Resort'[60].

In late 1939, on the outskirts Zakopane the Sipo-SD School, alongside the Gestapo headquarters, was established in the hotel 'Stamary'.

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gal015.jpg
Figure 15: SS-Oberscharfuehrer Wilhelm
Rosenbaum Police School Secretary 1940

 

On the 20th April, 1940 Rosenbaum was appointed Police secretary at the School, and deputy to the Commandant (Hans Kruger). His duties were more of a matronly nature, arranging board and lodging, salaries, welfare of conscripts and general administrative duties. Among other permanent staff were the brothers, Oberscharfuehrers Wilhelm and Johann Mauer. The brothers, once officers in the Polish army and who spoke Ukrainian, were enlisted to train and instruct the Ukrainian personnel.[61] Their sister, Lisa Schumacher, nee Kaufmann, did the office work. The kitchen and feeding arrangements were organised by local Polish personnel.

 

Nowy Targ

Closely associated to the happenings in Zakopane, and before Rabka, was the town of Nowy Targ, situated half way between Rabka and Zakopane. Like most Jews in Poland, those in Nowy Targ refused to believe that Hitler would dare attack Poland, in view of guarantees given to the latter by France and Great Britain. The Jews preferred to believe General Ridj-Shmigli, the Polish Chief of Staff, when he boasted that the prowess of the Polish Army would halt the Nazis in their tracks.[62]

Nowy Targ was in a precarious position because, only six months earlier (March, 1939), Slovakia had proclaimed its independence, under the aegis of Nazi

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Germany. Nowy Targ's proximity the border made it a prime and vulnerable target. And, indeed, the Germans entered Nowy Targ on the first day of the war. The Polish troops retreated in disorder, commandeering all the vehicles in the area and leaving the population stranded to face the German forces.

Organised Nazi activity began with the arrival of the newly organised 'Einsatzgruppe'. This 2,700-man unit, commanded by Gruppenfuehrer Bruno Steckelbach, set about with their prepared lists to round up the Polish intelligentsia and dispatch them immediately to forced labour and open graves. Having overcome all resistance, Nowy Targ was assigned to the Third Company, commanded by Dr E. Hasselberger. The main force of this Einsatzgruppe moved on to Jaroslav.[63]

Anti-Jewish measures were then set in place. All Jewish enterprises were taken over and handed over to the Volksdeutsch (German-speaking Poles). The other businesses were liquidated and their merchandise sent to Germany; all Jewish assets, business and personal, had to be declared; every Jew above the age of 10 had to wear the Jewish Star on an armband on the left sleeve; every Jew and Jewess had the name 'Israel' or 'Sarah' added in the town registry; Jews were forbidden to walk on the main streets and only allowed to shop at certain hours; the men were to cut off their beards and earlocks; Polish shops were closed to the Jews who were forced to bargain with the local Polish population for food; Jews were forced to sell all their belongings at a fraction of their worth. On the 12th November, 1939, all Jews were placed under the supervision of the Gestapo.[64]

The Germans wanted to clear the Podhala district of all its Jewish population, and Nowy Targ was selected as the site to which all Jews would be sent. Because Nowy Targ had no closed ghetto, no Jewish police force (Ordnungsdienst) was set up.[65]

The Jewish suffering was heightened by the behaviour of the Poles, who brought up fictitious accusations against any Jew they wanted out of the way. Their accusations were sufficient for the Gestapo to send the Jews to the Palace Hotel, Zakopane, where they were brutally tortured and murdered. While there were no organised roundups of Jews in Nowy Targ until 1942, the SS had the right to kill on the spot. As in Rabka, which I will refer to later, if you were a Jew and had the same name as the German commander (Rosenbaum), this was an added disadvantage, and your life was forfeited immediately.[66] The unfortunate Jew

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named Weissmann and his family were shot because they bore the same name as the Chief of the Gestapo in Zakopane, Robert Weissmann.[67] The curriculum and training at the School underwent a number changes according to the progress of the war. Selective recruitment of German Sipo-SD, Ukrainian and Polish candidates were selected and trained in intelligence and counterintelligence activities.[68]

In Zakopane, through the intermediary of the Jewish Council, Oberscharfuehrer Rosenbaum took male and female workers from the Jewish population for maintenance and cleaning work, care of the garden and all other rough work. The Jew, Paul Beck, was appointed overseer of the Jewish workers. With his experience in practical things and a good portion of deceitfulness, Beck who spoke a number of languages[69] knew how to conduct himself and mediate between the 'Jew workers' and the SD. Rosenbaum always addressed himself to Beck, who knew his way around, whenever he wanted foodstuffs or other 'particular' goods. When, in July, 1940, the School and its permanent staff were about to be moved from Zakopane to Bad Rabka, [70] a number of Jewish workers (including Beck) were selected.

Bad Rabka was a small health resort located on both sides of the Raba River and halfway between Krakow and Zakopane. At the outbreak of war there were approximately 7,000 inhabitants in town. The Jewish population was about 1500, which increased during the early part of the war. Relatives and friends of the local Jews moved from the larger towns to the area less exposed to persecution elsewhere. This was an age-old custom of the Jews who sought protection and comfort in numbers in times of stress.

Institutions and offices of the Reich and Wehrmacht as well as other organisations established themselves in Bad Rabka. Apart from the local Commander's office and the government departments, there was a military convalescent home, children's homes and a German guest house. Bad Rabka had all the trappings of a small town, served well by both road and rail. The adjoining railway station of Chabowka, a central junction for the larger towns in Poland, also served Bad Rabka.

The School initially occupied premises of a requisitioned Jewish religious institution for children, situated near the Chabowka railway station. In the late autumn the School moved to new and much larger premises to the 'Theresianeum' – also called 'Thereska', a high School for girls. The four-story

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building was located in the northern part of the town called Slonna, on a tree-covered slope alongside the Slonna River which flowed into the Raba River.

Hans Kruger remained at the School until July, 1940, when he was recalled to Krakow to take up the duties of deputy to Dr Schoengarth. For a short period SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Rudolf Voigtlander took over, but within a few weeks Wilhelm Rosenbaum was appointed Commandant of the School, where he remained until April, 1941, when he was also recalled to Schoengarth's office for preparatory work for the implementation of 'Barbarossa'.[71] The School activities were suspended but retained a small staff to caretake the premises. The Sipo-SD School did not recommence activities until November, 1941, when both Rosenbaum and Schoengarth returned from Lvov.[72]

 

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