Fort VII Colomb

It is one of 18 forts of what is called a Stronghold-Poznań, constructed in the years 1876-1880, and later modernized between 1887 and 1888. Initially, it was simply referred to as Fort VII, but in 1902 this 14-hectar fortification was named Fort Colomb. Until 1918 it served an important function in Prussian plans regarding the defence of both the city and the eastern border of the 2nd Reich. In the period between the World Wars, it was used as a warehouse.

The Nazi occupation was the turning point in the history of the fortification. The Nazi authorities decided that the building would become the first concentration camp in the territory of Poland. The factors that prevailed while choosing Fort VII as the site for such a camp included its location - far away from settlements, surrounded by dirt walls and camouflaging vegetation, quite typical of forts, it was also within easy reach from the centre of Poznań. After the expulsion of Polish citizens from the surroundings of Fort VII and populating this area with families of camp officers and Gestapo staff, the site became strictly isolated from other parts of the city.
It is no longer possible to determine when the camp began to operate. On 10th October 1939, the Security Police officially assumed the control of the area, which had been previously used by the Wehrmacht. Fort VII came under the jurisdiction of SS-Oberführer Erich Neumann, head of the Einsatzgruppe VI. Its first commandant was SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Lange. By 25th April 1944, a total of ca. 18 thousand people had been imprisoned in Fort VII; usually between 2 and 2.5 thousand at a time, while the number of the SS guards reached 400.

Officially, Fort VII was a prison and a temporary camp for civilians, but in reality, it was predominantly an extermination camp.

After the 2nd World War ended, the fort belonged to the Polish People's Army and was mainly used as an army warehouse, and therefore access was denied to the whole area of the camp. In 1963, owing to the perseverance of the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBOWiD) a National Remembrance Chamber was created in Fort VII, which was opened in November for All Saints' Day, and for a few days in April, which is the Month of National Remembrance in Poland. In 1976, the decision was made to create a Museum for Wielkopolska Martyrs, which would operate under the auspices of Marcin Kasprzak Museum of Workers' Movement History (today - the Museum of Fight for Independence of Wielkopolska in Poznań). The official opening took place on 31st August 1979 in a specially assigned part of Fort VII. Under the Act of 2001, former prisoners of Fort VII have the same status as prisoners of concentration camps.

Currently, this place houses the Museum for Wielkopolska Martyrs - Fort VII. The museum is in charge of documents describing the martyrdom of people living in Wielkopolska during the Nazi occupation. It collects all kinds of exhibits dating back to that period. This collection includes a rich volume of letters written in the camp, drawings, photos, prisoners' personal documents, documents issued by the German occupying authorities, and various objects that the prisoners used every day, e.g. medallions made of bread, wallets, dictionaries, and rosaries. The museum also keeps archives of prisoners' accounts, and collects personal files describing the lives of people who found themselves in Fort VII. The records, now containing ca. 5000 files, mostly with photographs of prisoners, are a source of significant historical information. These can be utilised by researchers and the Institute of National Remembrance.

The text after: L. Szumiło, Museum of Fight for Independence of Wielkopolska.

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