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Owinska Mental Home and Poznan Fort VII

Last Update 9 September 2006


Owinska Mental Home
Owinska Mental Home
Owinska is a town near Poznan (about 10 km north of Poznan). Its Mental Home was the oldest hospital for mental ill people in the Wielkopolska region.
The German army occupied Owinska in mid-September 1939. The mental home was taken over by the Gau-Selbstverwaltung of Poznan. A Nazi commissioner was put in charge of the mental home. The new chief demanded a list of all Owinska patients and forbid discharging anyone from the hospital. The staff was told that Owinska mental home should be closed and all patients transferred to other hospitals.
The SS Sonderkommando Lange was ordered to Owinska for exterminating all patients.

In the second half of October 1939, the first patients were picked up by military trucks, under surveillance of SS men. 1-3 trucks left Owinska Mental Home every day. The staff of the hospital didn't know where they went and why.
At first all men were deported, followed by the women, finally 78 children were sent to death on 11 November 1939. Until 30 November 1939 the Owinska Mental Home was empty, apart from a few persons for economic affairs.

Order from 18th August 1939
Entrance to Fort VII
Gas Chamber
Gas Chamber
A lot of the patients were killed in a primitive gas chamber at Fort VII in Poznan. Later mobile gas chambers (gas vans) drove the people to Murowana Goslina. During the drive all victims were killed by exhaust fumes.

Each incoming truck at Fort VII held around 25 persons. After their arrival they were brought into a gas chamber which was installed in a bunker in the court of Fort VII. The closed door was sealed with clay. The prisoners had to stay in the gaschamber when the SS installed gas cylinders with (probably) carbon monoxide besides the entrance. When all victims were dead, a special group of regular prisoners were forced to open the door and to remove the killed persons. The corpses were loaded onto trucks and driven away.

The names of the victims are still unknown because all documents have been destroyed obviously. The names of the Fort VII staff you can read here. The commanders were: SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Lange (10-16 October 1939), SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Weibrecht (16 October 1939 until June or July 1940), SS-Hauptsturmführer Kühndel (summer 1940 until 1941) and SS-Obersturmführer Hans Walter (1943 until 1944). Between 1941 and 1943, the camp was led by these men (commanders or deputies): Langes, Mollendorf, Wagner and Werner.

Order from 18th August 1939
Main Corridor
Order from 18th August 1939
A Staff Member
During the war Owinska Mental Home was converted into barracks for SS men. In course of the German army's retreat the building was burned down partially in the summer of 1944. The hospital never has been reactivated.
For many prisoners Fort VII was a temporary prison. Later they were brought to other concentration camps, mainly to Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbrück and Groß-Rosen. The last remaining prisoners were sent to the Zabikowo camp.

Most probably the Nazis killed around 10,000–15,000 persons at Fort VII by torture, executions and gassing. Only 479 victims can be proved. Today Fort VII is a memorial of martyrdom.

See Fort VII Ground Plan.


Marian Olszewski: “Fort VII in Poznan”
Prof. Zdzislaw Jaroszewski publications
Artur Hojan

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