On This Day: Nazis liquidate Janowska concentration camp, 6,000 Jews killed

The exact number of victims in the camp is unclear, with some numbers ranging from 35,000 to over 310,000.

 Detail of Memorial to Janowska Death Camp - Near Piaski Ravine - Lviv - Ukraine (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Detail of Memorial to Janowska Death Camp - Near Piaski Ravine - Lviv - Ukraine
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

November 19 marks 78 years since the liquidation of the Janowska concentration camp, which saw a failed uprising and the murder of 6,000 Jews.

The Janowska camp was situated near Lviv, then-Poland and currently in western Ukraine. The city itself was very multicultural, and before World War II, Jews made up around 32% of the population. By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the number of Jews grew due to refugees from Poland and now numbered well over 150,000. 

However, the city was soon occupied by the Nazis, and pogroms soon spread. 

A concentration camp was set up in September 1941, used for slave labor and as a transit camp for Jews before they were deported to killing centers.

The camp had a selection process similar to Auschwitz, where those who were chosen to remain were made to work and those unfit to work were either sent to be killed at Belzec or Sobibor or simply shot in the Piaski ravine.

 Human remains at the Janowska concentration camp. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Human remains at the Janowska concentration camp. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In March 1942, the camp was expanded into a proper concentration camp as more and more Jews arrived.

Some had heard in advance that there were plans to liquidate the camp. One of these people was inmate Simon Wiesenthal, who was able to escape on October 2, though he was eventually recaptured after the liquidation and sent to another camp before finally being liberated from Mauthausen and becoming a prolific Nazi hunter, and whose legacy led to the foundation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

 Inmates orchestra of Janowska Nazi concentration camp in Lviv, west Ukraine. 1941-1943. The orchestra played when the inmates departed for work and on their return. The orchestra was established by the Germans who amused themselves by mocking and humiliating the inmates. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Inmates orchestra of Janowska Nazi concentration camp in Lviv, west Ukraine. 1941-1943. The orchestra played when the inmates departed for work and on their return. The orchestra was established by the Germans who amused themselves by mocking and humiliating the inmates. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The camp was also infamous for the Jewish orchestra being forced to play the "Tango of Death." 

By November 1943, the Nazis had begun evacuating the camp and attempted to conceal the traces of mass murder, which saw the Jewish inmates forced to dig up graves and burn corpses.

A mass revolt and escape was held by the prisoners forced to burn the corpses, but while some managed to escape the vast majority were caught and killed.

In total, an estimated 6,000 Jews were killed during the liquidation, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

The exact number of victims is unclear, with some numbers ranging from 35,000 to over 310,000.

Tens of thousands of others were sent to death camps on trains at the camp as well.