ID: 2605
Sites of mass murder of Jews near Janowska camp during the Nazi occupation.


Behind the Zwangsarbeitslager-Lemberg (ZAL-L) or Janowska camp complex there are series of ravines and draws leading into the hilly ground that surrounded the camp. These hills and valleys became known to prisoners as "Piaski" or "The Sands/The Dunes" due to the sandy soil. In the context of the camp, however, they acquired a more sinister meaning, for the The Sands were sites of continual mass murder almost from the beginning of the camp’s existence as the DAW. As a result, they also acquired the nickname "Valley of Death." (StAL: EL 317 III, Bü 1720, 81; BA-ZS: B162/29309, 30) The meaning of this place was no secret. Jews in Lviv warned each other that "You’ll end up in the Dunes." (Yones, 2004, 170)

The ravines and the soil made it easy for the digging of multiple execution sites which dotted the area surrounding the northern edge of the camp. Typically, trenches would be dug and prisoners would be shot into them in various manners. Sometimes, they would have to stand on a plank and then be shot. One survivor described one of these killing sites. He was tasked with loading the clothes of the murdered Jews onto trucks to be returned to the camp. He saw "three large trenches had been dug which were full to the brim with bodies." His whole detail was murdered to avoid witnesses and he only survived by hiding in the clothes in the truck. (StAL: EL 317 III, Bü 1498, 370-93)

There was a back gate from the camp that led into the Piaski as well as a vehicle entrance. Often prisoners were taken there by foot from the camp for execution or by truck if there were many. These various sites functioned continuously for both individual shootings and large-scale killings, particularly after the Bełzec extermination center ceased operations. For example, a group of twenty Jewish prisoners of war were shot there. (BA-ZS: B162/29309, 197)  Another group consisted of prisoners from the Lonckiego Prison in the city. (BA-ZS: B162/29309, 191) In 1943, a group of 80 female Jews were taken by SS-man Kolonko and Ukrainian police from the German railway repair shops (Ostbahnausbesserungswerke) murdered in the hills behind the camp. (StAL: EL 48/2, Bü 397, 20) (while Ukrainian police were not usually employed as guards for the camp, they did often assist in executions, round-ups, etc which brought them to the camp)

The Sands also were the site of massive executions, particularly during the liquidation of the Lviv ghetto. Between 4,000 and 8,000 of the remaining Jews in the ghetto/JULAG were brought to the Janowska camp complex and murdered in The Sands. (StAL: EL 317 III, Bü 1523, 123; StAL: EL 317 III, Bü 1523, 53) A survivor recalled that after the "W and R Aktion in January XXXX 16,000 Jews were shot behind the camp." (StAL: EL 317 III, Bü 1505, 345) Other Jews were brought from the surrounding region including, for example, 300 Jews from Proskurow murdered there in July or August 1943. (BA-ZS: B162/29309, 76)

Finally, the Sands became the work site for the Sonderkommando 1005, a group of Jewish prisoners forced by SS men to unearth, burn, and destroy the bodies of those thousands of people who had already been shot there. This "Death Brigade" had some of the most terrible work in the camp. Prisoners had to exhume bodies, burn them, and grind any remaining bones to dust, often while standing in blood. (BA-ZS: B162/29309, 355-56; Wells, 1963, 141) Even during this period, new victims were brought to the site and murdered to be burned with the rest.

Upon the Soviet liberation of Lviv in July 1944, Soviet authorities began investigating the crimes of the Nazis, including those at the Janowska camp. This involved excavations at the Piaski sands. Despite the best efforts of the SK 1005, Soviet investigators reported finding ribs, feet, long women’s hair as well as combs, brushes, and eyeglasses. (BA-ZS: B162/29309, 30).

Today, the ravines still exist behind the camp and relatively unmarked with the exception of one killing area west of the camp.

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Deutscheausrüstungswerke (DAW)

Sites of mass murder of Jews near Janowska camp.

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The Zwangsarbeitslager-Lemberg (ZAL-L) or The Janowska Camp

Sites of mass murder of Jews near Janowska camp.

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The Kleparów Station

Sites of mass murder of Jews near the Janowska camp.

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Adolf Kolonko — one of the SS-men organizing murders in the Piaski ravine, was involved in camp and ghetto liquidations in other cities of the surrounding region. 


  1. Bundesarchiv Zentralle Stelle zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen (BA-ZS) B162/29309, 30 —"Record of Soviet Commission for the Discovery and Investigation of German-Fascist Crimes in the City of Lemberg, 1-6 November 1944";
  2. BA-ZS, B162/29309, 76 — "Record of Soviet Military Court of the Carpathian Military Region against Prichodjko et. al, 14 December 1966";
  3. BA-ZS, B162/29309, 191 — "Czerniecki, Franz Statement, 12 September 1944";
  4. BA-ZS, B162/29309, 197 —"Edel, Heinrich Statement, 14 September 1944";
  5. BA-ZS, B162/29309, 355-356 — "Wells (Welizcker), Leon Statement, 22 September 1944"; 
  6. StAL, EL 48/2, Bü 397, 20 — "Haftbefehl für Roman Schönbach, 5 February 1962";
  7. StAL, EL 317 III, Bü 1498, 370-93 — "Kruszewski, Emil Statement, 3 January 1962";
  8. StAL, EL 317 III, Bü 1505, 345 — "Chyrowski, Jerzy Statement, 31 January 1961";
  9. StAL, EL 317 III, Bü 1523, 53 — "Thürhaus, David Statement, 15 October 1963";
  10. StAL, EL 317 III, Bü 1523, 123 — "Katz, Aron Statement, 11 March 1961"; 
  11. StAL, EL 317 III, Bü 1720, 81 — "Translation of Szkola Okrucienstwa by Stanislawa Gogolowska, Wydanictwo Lubelskie, 1964";
  12. Leon Wells (Weliczker), The Janowska Road, (New York: MacMillan Company, 1963), 141;
  13. Eliyahu Yones, Smoke in the Sand: The Jews of Lvov in the War Years, 1939-1944, (Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House, 2004), 170.

Author  Waitman Wade Beorn
Editing — Andriy Usach, Taras Nazaruk