Radegast Prison

When the Germans occupied Lodz (german Litzmannstadt) on 8 september 1939, the germans took over a factory in the district Radogoszcz (german Radegast). Initially, the Germans used the factory premises as a relocation camp for Poles to be deported to the General government. The factory had, among other things, a four-storey building that was well suited for the purpose. But already in November 1939, the nazis began to imprison poles belonging to the intelligentsia and until January 1940, about 2000 people were imprisoned, of about 500 were sentenced to death by summary trials and shot. The factory was never intended to house people, so local charities were allowed to set up primitive kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and dormitories. In July 1940, after all the prisoners who were to be relocated were deported, the factory became an official police prison (Polizeigefängnis) and was the largest of all prisons in the region.

Only male prisoners were imprisoned and several of them were deported to other prisons but also concentration camps such as Mauthausen, Dachau and Gross Rosen. The commander of the prison was Walther Pelzhausen. Until January 1945, when the prison was evacuated, a total of about 40,000 people had gone through the camp. Shortly before the prison was evacuated, the Nazis began to murder the remaining prisoners in disorder, but as it spread what was going on, the prisoners began to resist. The Nazis then locked the prisoners and set fire to the prison. About 1,500 prisoners died that day. How many died during the prison’s existence as a result of starvation, beatings or firing is unknown. But thousands of prisoners were executed in a forest area called Zgierz just ten kilometres north of the prison.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished with museum (2012).

Address: ul. Zgierska 147, 91-490 Lodz.

Get there: Tram.

My comment:

The prison museum is very well maintained with a perfect mix of text (english), photographs and other objects. Compared to the much more famous Pawiak in Warsaw, my opinion is that this prison is more worth a visit. In addition, you can combine the visit with the station Radegast and the Jewish cemetery, the extermination camp Chelmno is also within the appropriate driving distance. But Lodz is not a city that attracts tourists, it has a reputation (partially deserved, it is, partly undeserved) about being an ugly city but for the historically interested it is well worth a visit as the museums are of good quality.

Follow up in books: Höhne, Heinz: The Order of the Death’s Head: The story of Hitler’s SS (1969).