The Jankowski Family – Ruhr Poles in Herne

The Jankowski, parents with children, 1936 in Herne
The Jankowski, parents with children, 1936 in Herne, from left to right, top: Luzie (later Ikemann), Irene, Władysława (née Hałas), Johann, Marian; bottom, from left to right: Alfons and Josef. Photographer unknown.

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[1], 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:


[1] 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.

Hardly any documents or photos of the Jankowski family have been preserved. One exception is a photo of the family from 1936, which still hangs in Luzie Ikemann’s apartment in Herne today.

The Jankowski parents with their five children can be seen in the photo (from left to right. top):

  • Luzie Ikemann (née Jankowski), born in Herne on 24/5/1922
  • Irene Jankowski (was a Franciscan nun in Olpe), born on 26/20/1913, died on 15/10/1954
  • Władysława Jankowski (née Hałas), born on 18/12/1890, died on 14/2/1978 (married Johann Jankowski in Herne on 27/9/1910)
  • Johann Jankowski, born on 16/12/1895, died on 13/1/1940
  • Marian Jankowski (was a doctor in Bochum), born on 14/9/1919, died on 17/10/2009

bottom (from left to right):

  • Alfons Jankowski (worked as a chemist in Liechtenstein and in Essen), born on 26/4/1931, lived in Witten-Herdecke
  • Josef Jankowski (worked for the diocese of Paderborn as an advisor for adult education), born on 16/2/1928, died 2015

It is astonishing that today nobody from the Ruhr-Polish Jankowski family speaks Polish. Luzie Ikemann recalls the Polish lessons from the 1930s that were held at weekends around the St. Boniface Church in Herne. School lessons were held exclusively in German. During the period between 1945 and 1955, there were numerous encounters with Bishop Hengsbach in St. Boniface Church, who looked after the Poles and people of Polish descent in Northern Germany within the framework of the pastoral care provided by the German Bishops’ Conference.

Jacek Barski, March 2018


All information is based on two conversations with Luzie Ikemann (née Jankowski on 24/5/1922 in Herne) on 19/9/2017 and 28/2/2018 in Herne and on information from the  Brandenburg Memorials Foundation / Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.


Media library
  • Information about Johann Jankowski from the Sachsenhausen database

    Information about Johann Jankowski from the Sachsenhausen database
  • The Jankowski Family – Ruhr Poles in Herne 1936

    The Jankowski, parents with children, 1936 in Herne
  • Extract from the Book of the Dead

    Section from the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation / Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum