About Belzec Memorial
Belzec Memorial is a branch of the State Museum at Majdanek, with the aim of documenting and commemorating the victims of the Belzec Extermination Camp.
Belzec Memorial History
The German Death Camp in Bełżec was a centre of extermination for Jewish people. From March to December 1942 about 450,000 people were murdered here, most of whom were Polish Jews as well as Jewish citizens from Germany, Austria, Czechia and Slovakia.
The date of the first deportations to Bełżec, 17 March 1942, corresponds to the beginning of Operation Reinhardt, whose aim was the extermination of Jews from the General Government and plunder of their property. The camp in Bełżec was the first of the three centres of this kind. It was a place where the Nazis carried out different experiments with the aim of murdering thousands of Jews.
The decision to start Operation Reinhardt, and build the camp at the same time, was most probably taken during the conference of October 13, 1941 in Hitler’s headquarters called Wolf’s Lair near Kętrzyn in East Prussia.Apart from Heinrich Himmler, SS and Police commanding officers in the General Government took part in it. One of them was the commander of SS and Police in the Lublin district Odilo Globocnik, who was to supervise the Bełżec camp.
The death camp in Bełżec was the first place, where stationary gas chambers were used to kill Jewish people. It was managed by the commanding officer supported by the SS crew, which consisted of no more than 37 people.
The camp stopped functioning in December of 1942. The most probable reason was lack of space for more mass graves. The action of burning corpses and covering the tracks of camp’s activity lasted by the spring of 1943. All the buildings and equipment were dismantled by June of 1943. The members of the last Sonderkommando who took part in the liquidation of the camp were taken to the death camp in Sobibor and murdered there.
Belzec Memorial today
It was not until 1961 that the Polish authorities decided to clean up the site of the former death camp and erect a monument to the memory of the victims. This work was completed and the area of remembrance and memorial officially opened on the 1 December 1963. The monument showed two emaciated figures, and a number of concrete plinths that marked the supposed mass graves.
Today, the complex consists of a memorial to the victims of the camp and a museum in which is presented an exhibition about the history of the Belzec death camp.
The museum currently maintains educational and research programmes, entrance to the museum is free, but is closed on notable state and religious holidays.
Getting to Belzec Memorial
Belzec Memorial is located in the most south-eastern corner of Poland, near the Ukrainian border on the road to L’viv, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Zamosc, or 100 miles (160 km) south-east of Lublin.
Unless you’re on an organized tour, it can be difficult to reach this remote corner of Poland without a private vehicle (or taxi).
There is a train station in the village of Belzec however there are not many connections. Bus connections are unlikely to be of much more help either. A small parking fee of 5 zloty is now levied.