Polish heroes liberate the concentration camp in Holýšov

Little-known Polish heroes liberated the concentration camp in Holýšov and fought side by side with General Patton’s 3rd Army during the liberation of western Bohemia. Right after the liberation of this concentration camp, the Polish soldiers moved onward to their positions in Všekary, Kvíčovice, Štichov, and Neuměř. One day later, on May 6, they reconnoitered with a patrol of the advancing 3rd US Army led by General George Patton and became part of the US Army.

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Event description

One significant branch of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp was the camp in Holýšov. It was located about one kilometer from the village’s northern edge, in a homestead that had belonged until 1939 to V. Pičman, a farmer of Czech nationality, who was expelled from it. This camp, assigned to the local munitions factory under the administration of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, had only come into existence in April 1944. Until September 1944 it was formally under the administration of Ravensbrück CC. A total of 1,091 women passed through this camp; they included 402 Hungarian Jews, 385 Frenchwomen, 173 Poles, and 115 Russians. There were also 250 men imprisoned here. The camp was liberated on May 5, 1945. Eleven prisoners died here and are said to have been buried (along with those who died at other camps in Holýšov) at the local cemetery.

Homes stand in the front portion of the former concentration camp today, while the fenced-in site of a private company is located in the rear portion. A memorial plaque in eight languages has been installed next to the access route to this building. A plaque commemorating the concentration camp’s liberation has been placed alongside this memorial, as well as a commemorative aluminum plaque brought in from France and, since 2010, a marble stone from Flossenbürg as a reminder of these prisoners’ hard labor.

Holýšov was also home to a men’s concentration camp (from December 1939 to April 26, 1945) and a women’s camp (from April 1941 to April 26, 1945), as well as a POW camp for French prisoners (from July 1940 to April 28, 1945).

Liberation of the women’s camp

Soldiers from the Holy Cross Mountains Brigade liberated Holýšov’s Holleischen German concentration camp—a branch of the Flossenbürg concentration camp—on May 5. The Germans had interred 400 Frenchwomen here, 280 Jews, and 167 Poles, and Czech women as well.

The brigade’s soldiers attacked the camp, liberated the prisoners, and captured 200 overseers and SS men. “We didn’t even know a concentration camp was here. It was disclosed by a German we had captured. There was no time to wait. We attacked the camp the very next day. It all took place without conflict; the Germans surrendered,” recalls Edmund Poniewierski.

On that day, the Poles saved the lives of nearly 1,000 imprisoned women. The German command had planned to destroy this camp before the Allied armies’ arrival. Flammable materials had been readied next to the buildings, and all that was left was to receive the command to burn the buildings—including the prisoners.

“Even though the women were in a very poor state of health, the euphoria from their newfound freedom was enormous,” Poniewierski added, noting that although the prisoners were quite weak, they still settled matters with the overseers, giving them a taste of the torment the prisoners had suffered.

Location: Holýšov
Date of events: May 6, 1945

Army unit: 2nd US ID / 38th IR, Polish Holy Cross Mountains Brigade
1 - Memorial site:
Memorial plaque at the town hall – dík za osvobození armádě USA 6.5.1945 (“our thanks to the US Army for liberation, May 6, 1945”).
GPS: 49°35'35.071"N, 13°5'48.936"E
Date of installation: not listed

2 – Memorial site: factory grounds
Memorial plaque at the factory. On the grounds of the SVA Holýšov factory—at the address Holýšov č.p. 108—there is this memorial plaque on the wall, within the plaster, depicting three figures’ silhouettes with the text “LIDÉ NEZAPOMEŇTE NIKDY – CO ZNAMENÁ FAŠISMUS!” (“PEOPLE, NEVER FORGET – WHAT FASCISM MEANS!”).
GPS: 49°35'39.250"N, 13°5'59.050"E
Date of installation: not listed

3 - Memorial site:
Monument by the concentration camp
GPS: 49°36'21.805"N, 13°5'55.309"E
Date of installation: not listed