Prisoners from Buchenwald awaiting execution in the forest near the camp, May 11, 1942.
On April 26, 1942, a Polish forced laborer, who worked at Bauern Schmidt’s couryard was beaten to the point of unconsciousness by a German policeman, Albin Gottwald. Two Poles took revenge on Gottwald and stabbed him to death on a forest path between Poppenhausen and Einoed. The two Poles then escaped. One of the two Poles, Jan Sowka (b. 10/19/22 in Thayngen, Switzerland) was apprehended shortly after his escape. On May 11, 1942, nineteen prisoners from Buchenwald were taken to the place in the woods where Gottwald’s body had been found. The Buchenwald SS built three gallows — two consisted of ten hooks each, and one was a single gallows. The nineteen Polish prisoners were positioned behind the gallows, and Jan Sowka stood on the opposite side. The executions began at 10:50 where the prisoners and Jan Sowka were hanged one after another on the single gallows. At the end, they were all hanged from the two group gallows. Hundreds of Polish forced laborers from the surrounding area were rounded up and forced to watch the executions.