28 paź 2015

The pre-war history of the P.O.W. camp(s) site in Szubin

Many sources, in a rather abridged and sometimes even incorrect way, recount the history of the camp site and institution during World War II, noting that it was transformed into a prisonerof war camp for allied officers and noncoms. There had been no Polish women’s college previously, but stating that it originally was a school for boys is also not enough.  Let me give you a brief pre-war history of the place where Stalag XXIB, Oflag XXIB and finally Oflag 64 were.

1. The gate of the the minor edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre
(In German: die Erziehungsanstalt)
in Schubin, circa 1910.

2. The minor edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre in Schubin, circa 1910.
For POWs this building was known as the camp hospital.

This history is closely linked with the history of the city of Szubin and dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Outside the city on the road to Kcynia (Exin), the county infirmary was built on the premises and was put into use on June 3rd, 1880. The so-called Kreislazaret (in German) was only active for 8 years. In 1888 the building and surrounding grounds were bought from the city for the use of the Provincial Educational Institute and significantly expanded. The former hospital, which still exists, was preserved to a certain extent as the central part of the building known to the POWs as The White House.

3. The main edifice of the Provincial Protective-Educational Centre, Schubin, circa 1910.
For POWs t
his building was known as 'The White House'.

4. The so-called 'White House', circa 1910.

5. The postcard showing the residential buildings for the staff, the minor (Hospital) and main (White House) residences of the Reform School, circa 1917.

The Provincial Department of Compulsory Education was established in Szubin on 3rd August 1888 and at the beginning it was named the Provincial Evangelical Department of Preventive Education. The pupils were boys aged 10-12, mostly of Polish origin (i.e. Catholic). During the years 1888-1898 the premises expanded considerably and consisted of: the dormitory, four barred prison cells, residential buildings for staff, including a separate building for the principal, and a chapel, as well as economic facilities like a pigsty, barn, stables and workshops which could be used by a smithy and a cartwright.

6. This photograph was taken from the location of the pond across the street, circa 1928 – the pond was used by American POWs for skating during the winter.

During  the Prussian annexation, learning in the school took place in German.  Alumni were Germanized, forced to be subordinate to the occupying authorities (the term Germanization refers to the the forceful imposition of German culture and language upon Poles on territories partitioned by Prussia). The main method of resocialization was a requirement for absolute obedience, the lack of which would result in corporal punishment used together with meager food rations and hard physical work, mainly in farming. The situation improved after 1900 when by legislation the juvenile prison was transformed into a preventive education facility, in German called – Erziehungsanstalt – an institution to which youthful offenders were sent as an alternative to prison; a reform school.

7. This photograph showing the boys gathered beyond the fence was taken from across the street circa 1928.

8. Pupils in the front of the school building, circa 1928.

During World War I, between the years 1914-1918, the facility was abandoned and in its place the field hospital (Lazaret) was established. After Poland regained its independence, the correctional facility was reopened as a Polish institution under the name National Educational Institute. New methods of resocialization were introduced when an orchestra, choir, and theater group were founded. In 1928 the Military Training Regiment, KS Polonia football club, and a scout troop were founded. In the following year a squad of volunteer fire fighters was created. The Reform School had a library of several hundred volumes.

9. This is a 1928 photo of the “White House”, which was a dormitory for boys.

10. The chapel, circa 1920s.

11. Pupils and teachers of the Reform School in front of the chapel, circa 1928.

Workshops for apprenticeships were built in 1934-35. The school offered vocational training to achieve qualifications in the following occupations: blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, cobbler, tailor, bookbinding, printing, baker and boot-maker. Between 1934-1939, students published their own newspaper called "Our Bulletin". The Air and Anti-aircraft Defense League was set up and also established were secular and ecclesiastical choirs, theater and oratorical groups, a sports club, and a brass band which was widely known in the region. A 3-year vocational training school specializing in agriculture and horticulture was introduced.

12. Students of the vocational school practicing horticulture, circa 1930s – the garden and the greenhouse were also effectively used by American POWs.

13. Workshops for apprenticeships of the vocational school offering training to achieve qualifications in the following occupations: blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, cobbler, tailor, bookbinding, printing, baker and boot-maker supposedly this building was used by American POWs as a tailor shop, shoemaker's workshop, carpenter shop, supply house - quartermaster's building, etc.
The successful development of the institution (having about 230 pupils) was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The juveniles were to be transported to Volyn.  However, at Kutno their train was bombed and employees, seeing the futility of further travel, decided to disband the group. During the German occupation of Szubin, the Forced Labor Camp for Polish citizens of Szubin County was established on the premises of the Reform School. Thereafter it became a Prisoner of War Camp.

14. National Educational Institute, shortly before the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

 Sources and acknowledgments:
  • Photos: 1-5 and 14 © Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej, used with permission, thanks to Mrs. Kamila Czechowska, the head of the Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej.
  • Photos: 6-13 © MOAS, found in the pre-war chronicles of the Reform School, used with permission, thanks to Mr. Wiesław Guziński, the head of the MOAS (Młodzieżowy Ośrodek Adaptacji Społecznej) – the Home and School for At-Risk Youth in Szubin. 
  • "Spacer z historią w tle" by Kamila Czechowska, Urząd Miejski w Szubinie, Szubin, 2015.
  • "W kręgu Eskulapa" by Mieczysław Boguszyński, Pejzaż, Bydgoszcz, 2014
  • "Zakład dla nieletnich w Szubinie w latach 1988-1989" by Jacek Andruszkiewicz, in: "Duch i Czas", Muzeum Ziemi Szubińskiej, 2007, pp. 7-22.
  • History of MOAS available at: http://www.zpszubin.pl/index.php/historia

© Mariusz Winiecki

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