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Preservation and Heritage Protection of the Archaeological Remains of Prison and Forced Labour Camps from the Period of Nazi Occupation and the Communist Era in West Bohemia

Pavel Vařeka

Cite this as: Vařeka, P. 2024 Preservation and Heritage Protection of the Archaeological Remains of Prison and Forced Labour Camps from the Period of Nazi Occupation and the Communist Era in West Bohemia, Internet Archaeology 66. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.66.17

Summary

Jachymov - Nikolaj forced labour and penal labour camp
Jáchymov - Nikolaj forced labour and penal labour camp

This article presents research on the material remains of Nazi and post-war communist prison and forced labour camps in West Bohemia (1939-1945 and 1949-1961). The location of a sample of 35 camps was carried out using historical evidence and aerial images from the 1940s and 1950s. Non-invasive surveys and small-scale excavations of selected camps revealed the preservation of the archaeological record and its attributes, which are closely linked to the subsequent use of the sites. The spatial context showed an interconnection of the camp system with WWII as well as Cold War armament production. The heritage protection of these sites, the current state of memorials and the contemporary utilisation of the camp areas has also been examined. Research has shown the potential of neglected archaeological evidence of places of mass repressions, where crimes against humanity were committed by totalitarian regimes in the former Czechoslovakia. It has also revealed the disturbing fact that these sites have been disappearing at an alarming rate without any documentation, as a result of development and construction activities.

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  • Keywords: dark heritage, campscape, archaeology of totalitarianism, Holocaust archaeologies, POW camp, forced labour camp, concentration camp
  • Accepted: 31 Oct 2023. Published: 21 March 2024
  • Funding: The publication of this article is funded by the European Archaeological Council.
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Corresponding author: Pavel Vařeka
vareka@kar.zcu.cz
Department of Archaeology, University of West Bohemia

Full text

Figure 1: Prison and forced labour camps in West Bohemia. A: WWII Nazi camps; red - concentration camps, green - POW camps, blue - forced labour camps, white - compulsory work camps; 1-2 - Cheb, 3 - Kraslice, 4 - Rolava, 5 - Svatava, 6 - Nová Role, 7 - Ostrov, 8-13 - Holýšov, 14-15 - Plzeň Karlov, 16 - Mirošov, 17 - Kolvín. B: Post-war communist penal and forced labour camps (1949-1961); 1-14 - Jáchymov, 15-18- Horní Slavkov (for detail see Figures 7 and 12; map by P. Vařeka)

Figure 2: Holýšov WWII campscape. A: Ammunition factory and camps seen on the 1946 aerial photograph. B: Former ammunition factory and camps on contemporary orthophoto-map. 1 - concentration camp (women prisoners), 2 - concentration camp (male prisoners), 3 - ammunition factory (Metallwerke Holleischen GmbH - Werk II), 4 - test shooting-range, 5 - cableway, 6 - Deutsches Mädchenlager, 7 - ammunition factory (Werk II), 8 - Deutsche Arbeitsfrontlager, 9 - Tschechisches Frauenlager, 10 - Italian POW camp, 11 - French and Soviet POW camp (aerial photographs - Military Geographical and Hydrometeorological Office of the Czech Armed Forces, recent orthophotomap - ArcGIS on ags.cuzk.cz; P. Vařeka)

Figure 3: Holýšov-Nový Dvůr. Aerial view of the manor-farm, which was used as a concentration camp in 1944-1945. A - the women's camp section, B - the men's camp section, C - the area of the ammunition factory where the internees were forced to work (Werk II). Original buildings that housed women prisoners (1 - granary, 2 - stables, 3 - barns, 4 - byres), male prisoners (6 - sheepfold) and which were used by the SS unit (5 - the dwelling house; photo by D. Rieger)

Figure 4: Svatava concentration camp memorial with a sculpture of a woman prisoner by D. Vinopalová is situated in the eastern section of the former camp (photo by P. Vařeka)

Figure 5: Svatava. Playground of the local kindergarten covers a large section of the former concentration camp area; A - original sewer shaft, B - remains of the underground air-raid shelter which was also used to punish prisoners (photo by P. Vařeka)

Figure 6: Holýšov - Italian POW camp. Geophysical survey - interpretation of results (plan by M. Vágner)

Figure 7: Jáchymov 'Uranium Gulag' (1949-1961). Red - penal and forced labour camps, orange - fenced mines and uranium ore-processing facilities; 1 - Vršek, 2 - Eliáš I, 3 - Eliáš II, 4 - Nikolaj, 5 - Rovnost, 6 - Svornost, 7 - Ústřední I, 8 - Bratrství, 9 - Mariánská I, 10 - Mariánská II, 11 - Plavno, 12 - Vykmanov I, 13 - Vykmanov II, 14 - the so called 'Red Tower of Death' (uranium ore-processing plant). (Map ArcGIS on¬†ags.cuzk.cz and P. Vařeka)

Figure 8: Jáchymov - Nikolaj forced labour (1950-1951) and penal labour camp (1951-1958). A: Aerial photograph from 1952; 1 - camp, 2 - mine, 3 - National Security Corps barracks, 4 - football pitch for the guards, 5 - tailings heap. B: 3D terrain model of the site based on LiDAR data with projected results of the topographic survey of relief formations; 1 - former camp area, 2 - former mine, 3 - remains of a kitchen barrack with dining room, 4 - concrete foundation of the northern long wall of the 'house of culture', 5 - remains of a barrack for sick prisoners, 6 - surface remains of fencing, 7 - tailings heap, 8 - traces of football pitch (aerial photo by the Military Geographical and Hydrometeorological Office of the Czech Armed Forces; P. Vařeka)

Figure 9: Jáchymov - Nikolaj camp (1950-1958). Archaeological remains of one of the prisoners' barracks (destroyed foundations) and a neighbouring 'bunker' for punishment of prisoners (demolished massive walls; photo by P. Vařeka)

Figure 10: Jáchymov - Rovnost mine. 1: Remains of a canteen for civilian employees, model castle and 'cáchovna/Zechenhaus'; A - concrete foundations and floor of the canteen, B - model castle, C - 'cáchovna/Zechenhaus' where the prisoner miners registered. 2: Detail of the model castle (A) and a little pool with fountain (B) which may have been built by prisoners on the orders of the Rovnost camp commander (photo by P. Vařeka)

Figure 11: Vykmanov. A: The so-called 'Red Tower of Death' and adjacent preserved buildings of the uranium ore-processing plant where political prisoners had to work. B: Former Vykmanov II camp area (photo by K. Boubín)

Figure 12: Horní Slavkov 'Uranium Gulag' (1949-1955). Red - penal labour camps, orange - fenced mines; 1 - Camp No. XII, 2 - Prokop, 3 - Ležnice, 4 - Svatopluk (ArcGIS on ags.cuzk.cz and P. Vařeka)

Figure 13: Horní Slavkov - Camp No. XII. Remains of the original fencing of the camp, the area of which is currently used as a town park (photo by P. Vařeka)

Table 1: Nazi camps in West Bohemia

Table 2: Post-war POW, forced labour and penal labour camps in West Bohemia

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Interviews

Interview 1: 17 August 2022, Jáchymov-Rovnost. Non-structured interview with local resident. Interview P. Vareka. Transcription deposited at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of West Bohemia. Pilsen.

Interview 2: 1 September 2022, Jáchymov-Rovnost. Non-structured interview with local resident. Interview P. Vareka. Transcription deposited at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, University of West Bohemia. Pilsen.

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