Sztutowo (German: Stutthof) is a small (about 3,000 inhabitants) village outside Gdansk in Poland. Once it was famous only as the birthplace of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, but unfortunately that was to change. Today it is known as the site of the Nazi Stutthof concentration camp, the first concentration camp to be built outside Germany.
Sztutowo is 52 kilometers from Gdansk and the trip takes about an hour in jam-free traffic. Hourly buses to Krynica Morska go from platform 2 at the Gdansk bus terminal and stop at Sztutowo. You buy the ticket on the bus, the fare is about 10 zł. Sit close to the driver if you feel uncertain about where to get off.
The Stutthof concentration camp is the reason to go here, and it is the closest destination for visitors to the Gdansk area who wish to experience a concentration camp. You will have to backtrack about a kilometer from the bus stop to get to the museum, which is marked with a large sign. During high season, May-September, it is open 8AM to 6PM, in low season it closes at 3PM. On Mondays there are no guided tours, also there are no films shown. Children under 13 years of age are not allowed.
The very peaceful and quiet setting of the camp makes it hard at first to comprehend the horrors that took place here, despite the barbed wire and the watchtowers. However, as you enter the barracks and see the pile of shoes from the victims and the exhibitions describing the efficiency and brutality of the Nazi killers, it all starts getting under your skin.
Construction of the camp began in 1939, before the war started. It was then a civilian internment camp for Poles from the Free City of Danzig (which was under Nazi government). The camp grew during the war, from housing 3,500 prisoners to 57,000. In 1942 it was turned into an international concentration camp, and in June 1944 it was incorporated into the ultimate evil of Hitler's "Final Solution". From then on, Stutthof was a pure extermination camp.
The walk through the camp area ends by the gas chamber and the crematory which were added in 1943. Mobile gas wagons were also used when extra killing capacity was needed. The nightmare in Stutthof claimed somewhere between 65,000 and 85,000 lives before the Red Army liberated the camp in May 1945.
When you arrive in Sztutowo from Gdansk, the bus stop for the return trip is on the other side of the road. Do yourself a favor and check when the buses go back before you go to the concentration camp.