The Jankowski Family – Ruhr Poles in Herne
Today, Luzie Ikemann (née Jankowski on 24/5/1922 in Herne) still well remembers her father Johann Jankowski (1885-1949) being arrested at the beginning of September 1939 in Herne. Despite the warnings from friends and acquaintances that he should immediately destroy any documents that could reveal his Polish heritage, as an active member of the Union of Poles in Germany (Związek Polaków w Niemczech spod znaku Rodła) Johann Jankowski remained true to his convictions and to his Polish heritage. The consequences were fatal. During a search of the Polish House (Dom Polski) at Bochumer Klosterstraße 6 (today: Am Kortländer 6), which housed the directorate of District III of the Union of Poles in Germany, the State Police clearly found indisputable evidence of Jankowski’s activities and he, like most active members of the Rodło, was immediately taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Arriving in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on 28 September 1939 as prisoner No. 2877, he was placed on a special list, which presumably included those people who were particularly suspected of political activity. On 13 January 1940, Johann Jankowski, according to the entry in his prisoner file, died “of physical weakness”. Because he was a citizen of the Reich(!), the family had the right to identify the deceased and – after making an advance payment of 3 Reichsmark – were allowed to take the urn containing his mortal remains home. Jankowski’s son Marian (1919-2009) was tasked with identifying the body. However, as Luzie Ikemann recalled in 2018, after a strenuous journey and an eight-hour wait in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Marian barely recognised his emaciated father. The urn arrived in Herne four weeks later once the formalities had been completed. At first, it was interred on its own in the North Cemetery in Herne, but was later relocated to the Jankowski family grave.
The entry relating to Johann Jankowski can also be found in the famous Book of the Dead for Sachsenhausen concentration camp on the website of the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation / Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum: www.stiftung-bg.de/totenbuch/
 In spring 1945, almost all the files of the garrison headquarters of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, including the prisoner records and nearly all the prisoner files had been destroyed by the SS before the camp was liberated. The few incomplete files that remained can be found in various archives in the Russian Federation. Today, the references to the special list with the entry “Johann Jankowski” can be found in the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow, Signature: 1367/1/24, sheet 174.