Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: Polska
Also available in: en

2. Excerpt from the Polish Film Chronicle, 1945 – liquidation and liberation of the prison in Radogost

Source: PKF (the Polish Film Chronicle) 04/1945, Wytwornia Filmow Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych (Documentary and Feature Film Production Company), Poland.


From the first days of occupation of Lodz (Poland) by Nazis, a former textile factory in Radogost was changed by them into a prison. The building served as a place of arrest and murder of prisoners of various nationalities, mainly Poles until the liberation of the city in January 1945. To erase all traces of the criminal practices before the entrance of the Red Army, the commander of the prison (responsible for the deaths of several thousand victims in Radogost) gave the order to eliminate the prisoners that were still inside and burn the prison complex. On January 16, 1945 (three days before the liberation of the city) the Nazis began mass execution. Then the building was set on fire. Prisoners that were trying to escape were killed by the Nazis. Only a few from nearly 2000 lived to see freedom.


  1. How did the Nazis closed down the prison in Radogost?
  2. How did the Polish society react to the crime of the Nazis?

Display teacher's view to find the answers.

Description and Analysis

  1. How did the Nazis closed down the prison in Radogost?
    The Nazis set the prison on fire along with the people kept inside just before the entrance to the Red Army soldiers to Lodz. Those who tried to escape were shot. Then, the Nazis poured gasoline over the gathered bodies and burned them to cover all traces of their crimes.
  2. How did the Polish society react to the crime of the Nazis?
    The population of Lodz was initially in shock after such brutal and meaningless murder. Many citizens of Lodz were looking for their loved ones among the corpses. Later, a march was organized in order to commemorate the victims of the Nazis. But the citizens of Lodz also demanded a trial and revenge on the perpetrators of the Nazi crime.

Geographical/Historical Context

After the defeat of the September Campaign (aka Invasion of Poland), Hitler and Stalin agreed to make a new division of Polish territories. Lodz was in the areas directly incorporated into the German Reich. Since the beginning, a campaign was launched aiming to evict Polish population and replace it with German settlers and colonizers from so-called Reichsgau Wartheland. At the same time the Nazis’ goal was to exterminate Jewish population which was very large there. Organized in early 1940, Litzmannstadt Ghetto was one of the largest in Europe. From 200,000 Jews that went through the ghetto, only 900 people survived after the liquidation that was carried until August 1944.

The Nazis created a prison in Radogost in the former factory of Michael Glazer already in autumn 1939. In addition to the severe nature of the prison, Radogost had also attributes of a transit camp. Polish population was transported from here to places of mass execution (e.g. Lucmierz forest near Lodz). During the period of occupation approximately 11,000 people were exterminated. Elite of Polish society was kept in the prison in Radogost. To the eyes of the Nazis they were a threat, thus they had to be eliminated. Here Germans were murdered on suspicion of anti-fascist activities. Also the inhabitants of the city that had German origins but refused to sign Volksliste were killed.

Radogost prisoners lived in very poor conditions. They were constantly subjected to torture and killed under any excuse. From July 1940 until the time of liquidation, Walter Pelzhausen (police lieutenant from Frankfurt) was the commander of the prison. He is responsible for the death of several thousand victims of Radogost. He also took the decision in January 1945 to liquidate the prison before the city was liberated by the approaching Red Army.

Since the beginning of January, Germany frantically evacuated its population (together with all property that could be transported) to the West. It became clear that within a few days the Soviet troops by means of a fast offensive, most likely without major losses, would occupy the city. Walter Pelzhausen, in fear of consequences of the crimes committed in the prison run by him, decided to remove all traces and witnesses of the criminal activities. In the morning 17 January 1945, the planned extermination of prisoners of Radogost began. Most of them were shot, while the rest were gathered in the prison building in order to burn alive. The whole area was watched by SS troops who fired on everyone who was desperately trying to flee from the burning building. For several consecutive hours, the Nazis were hunting for survivors of the massacre. The bodies of the murdered were gathered in the courtyard of a former factory and burned. The Nazis left Radogost just before approaching Russians. Just a few prisoners miraculously survived the liquidation of the prison. Nearly two thousand were killed two days before the liberation. Pelzhausen answered for his crimes and in 1948 was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out.


http://www.lodzjews.org/root/form/pl/getto/index.asp – website dedicated to the extermination of the Jews in Lodz.

http://www.muzeumtradycji.pl/page/index.php?str=109 –webpage of the museum of the Radogost prison.

http://www.lodzgetto.pl – website dedicated to extermination of the Jews of Lodz.

http://www.toya.net.pl/~jubeka/fotolodz/www%20foto/gal%2044.html – photo gallery of the Radogost museum.