Memorial
plaques

WARSAW CIVIL VICTIMS DURING GERMAN OCCUPATION

460 tables designed by  Karol Tchorek

In the late 1940s, over 460 commemorative plaques designed by Karol Tchorek were placed across Warsaw. They honored sites of mass executions in the whole city. Only 160 have survived to our times – some of them are neglected or obscured by new buildings. We often walk by the plaques without even remembering what they commemorate, and they bear testimony to the Germans' systematic plan to exterminate the residents of Warsaw and destroy the city. They bear testimony to the years when anyone could be caught and transported to a concentration camp or forced labor camp in Germany; when many were executed by firing squad in the streets; when Warsaw Jews were mercilessly killed; when the German army committed the Wola massacre.

On the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 2, is the start of a project initiated by the PGE Energia Ciepła Foundation called “Memory Plaques”. Near each surviving plaque designed by Karol Tchorek we place information in Polish and in English, to achieve three basic goals: to display and properly honor sites of remembrance – plaques and monuments – describing heroic and dramatic events from the period of World War 2; to disseminate information about historical facts for foreign tourists; to increase the prominence and recognition of sites of remembrance.

About the author of the plaques

Karol Tchorek was born on October 30, 1904. He fought as a volunteer in World War 1. He was a sculptor, art merchant and collector. In 1949, he won a competition organized by the Association of Polish Architects for the realization of plaques commemorating atrocities committed by the Germans in Warsaw during World War 2. He died on April 10, 1985.

Substantive support:

Wiktor Cygan – Historian, member of Józef Piłsudski Institute in Warsaw

Witold Rawski – Historian, expert in military science

First reprisals

Immediately after marching into Warsaw, the Germans used brutal terror against civilians living in the city. On October 8, 1939, they arrested 354 Warsaw-based Catholic priests and teachers, whom the occupying forces considered to be a “great threat”. A poster was placed on the walls of the city on November 3, 1939, announcing that Eugenia Włodarz – a widow – and Elżbieta Zahorska – a student – had been sentenced to death by court-martial for an “attack on a German soldier” and “sabotage and the tearing down of posters”. Elżbieta Zahorska was born on June 6, 1915. In 1939, she took up arms against the enemy. She was taken captive, but she soon escaped and a warrant for her arrest was issued. She was captured while tearing down a German propaganda poster which displayed a wounded Polish soldier pointing out his plundered homeland to the British Prime Minister. Zahorska was killed by firing squad in the Mokotów Fort. Before her execution, she shouted in German “Noch ist Polen nicht verloren” (“Poland hasn't died yet”).

Elżbieta Zahorska.

Elżbieta Zahorska.

An execution of Polish people in Wawer, a Warsaw district.

A fragment of the symbolic cemetery which was created in 1949 at the site of execution on December 27 St. in Wawer.

An announcement.

In a restaurant in Wawer on the evening of December 26, 1939, two soldiers from the 538 construction battalion were shot dead by two local bandits. In retaliation, the Germans conducted a pacifying action in the Warsaw districts of Wawer and Anin. Around 120 men were arrested.
The owner of the restaurant, Antoni Bartoszek, was heavily beaten and later murdered. All of those who were taken from their beds had no idea of what had happened in the restaurant (…). Their only fault was that they accidentally found themselves in the area where the manhunt was ordered.
By order of the improvised summary court led by Major Friedrich Wenzel, 114 men were sentenced to death. Ultimately, 106 people were killed by firing squad. The youngest victim was the 15-year-old Tadeusz Ryszka. Among them was also Daniel Gering.
When the Germans at the “court” wrote down the names of the “guilty”, they were surprised to find out that they had a man with the same name as the Marshal of the Reich. They were even more surprised that, although he didn't deny his German roots, he stressed the fact that he was Polish. (…) They explained to him (…) that he should say aloud that he was German to save himself. They asked him one last time at the execution site. His last words were: “I'm Polish”.
The crime in Wawer was one of the first mass executions in occupied Poland. Lieutenant Colonel Max Daume, who was responsible for the crime, was sentenced to death by the National Court of Justice and executed on March 7, 1949, in the Mokotów Prison in Warsaw and Major Wenzel was sentenced to death by the Regional Court in Warsaw in 1951.
Antoni Bartoszek, the owner of the restaurant in which the Germans were killed, beaten and executed by hangingin front of his own business.
A poster: “England! Your work”

In the period between December 7, 1939, and July 17, 1941, firing squads comprised of functionaries of SS units and the German Police executed over 1800 Polish citizens near the village of Palmiry on the verges of the Kampinos nature reserve. The victims were mainly of Jewish and Polish nationality, and most of them were transported from Warsaw prisons and jails. Among them were many representatives of the political or cultural elite, arrested in the so-called Action “AB”, directed against the intelligentsia. The operation was carried out by the General Government for the Occupied Polish Territories between May and June 1940, and its victims included more than 3,500 Polish people.

SS-Standartenführer Josef Meisinger, the Commander of the Secret Police and the Security Service, was responsible for completing the operation in the Warsaw area. He was sentenced to death by the National Court of Justice and executed on March 7, 1947, in the Mokotów Prison in Warsaw.

Maciej Rataj was born on February 19, 1884, in Chłopy. He was a rural activist, journalist and politician. Minister of Religious Affairs and Public Education (1920-1921) and Speaker of the Polish Parliament (1922-1928). Leader of the Polish People's Party (1936-1937, 1938-1939). He took part in the defense of Warsaw in September 1939, and then fought in the resistance. He was active in the Service for Poland's Victory, and helped in the creation of its Major Political Council. From February 1940, he was President of the People's Party “Roch”. Arrested by the Germans in 1940. Murdered on June 20 or 21, 1940, in Palmiry.

Janusz Tadeusz Kusociński was born on January 15, 1907, in Warsaw. A sportsman, teacher of physical education, coach and journalist. Olympic gold medalist in Los Angeles at the distance of 10 km (1932), silver medalist at the first European Championships at the distance of 5 km (1934). He took part in the defense of Warsaw in September 1939 and was wounded. A member of the resistance military organization “Wilki”. Arrested by the Germans on March 26, 1940, in Warsaw. Murdered on June 20 or 21, 1940 in Palmiry.

Women brought over to be executed are blindfolded.

Prisoners on the road through the woods before their execution.

Prisoners blindfolded before their execution.

Helena Maria Jaroszewicz was born on November 17, 1892, on the estate of Dziewanowo. She was an independence activist during World War 1; imprisoned by Russian authorities. Vice-President of the Civil Labor Union for Women in independent Poland, member of parliament (1930-1935), senator (1935-1938). After 1939, in the Underground Service for Poland's Victory (later the Union for Armed Struggle). Arrested by the Germans on April 15, 1940, in Warsaw. Murdered on June 20 or 21, 1940 in Palmiry.

Leon Fortunat Skuba-Pękosławski i was born on May 31, 1868 in Warsaw. A medical doctor and Orientalist. After World War 1, the Vice-President of the Polish Red Cross; activist in the Underground Cadre of Independent Poland, nom de guerre “Leon”. Arrested by the Germans in January 1942 in Warsaw.

Józef Walicki i was born on May 27, 1903. An officer of the Polish Army. Heavily wounded in the Battle of Bzura in September 1939. Later, he fought in the guerilla unit of Henryk Dobrzański “Hubal”, nom de guerre “Walbach”. He was promoted to the rank of Cavalry Officer. Finally, he joined the Union for Armed Struggle. Arrested by the Germans in Warsaw. Killed by firing squad on May 28, 1942.

Early in the morning of May 28, 1942, German SS soldiers killed 223 people, including 22 women, in a mass execution in the Sękocin Forest near the village of Magdalenka. The victims were prisoners from the Warsaw Pawiak Prison, mostly members of the resistance or representatives of the intelligentsia. In 1946, their remains were exhumed and buried in the cemetery in the nearby village of Łazy.

This was probably not the only execution to have been carried out by the Germans in this place. It has been proven that small groups of Poles (up to 10 people) were also murdered here. However, information obtained by the Home Army intelligence concerning the execution of 200 prisoners from the Mokotów Prison has not been verified. This incident was supposed to have taken place in the spring of 1942.

Responsibility for this crime must be attributed to the following 3 people: the General Governor of the Warsaw District, Ludwig Fischer, the SS and Police Commander in this district SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenneg (a member of the German Reichstag, he died on September 20, 1944, fighting Yugoslavian guerrillas near Banja Luka), and SS-Standartenführer, Ludwig Hahn, the Commander of the Secret Police and the Security Service in Warsaw (in 1973, he was sentenced to 12-years of imprisonment which was commuted to a life sentence in 1975; he died a free man on November 10, 1986 in Hamburg).

The building at 25 Szucha Alley, which had been the location for the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Public Education before September of 1939, was taken over by the German secret services (it was the center of the so-called police district). Part of the building was occupied by the largest department of the Security Police, the Gestapo. The Sicherheitspolizei (security police) and Sicherheitsdienst (intelligence agency) for Warsaw and the Warsaw district also had their offices there. The building was a point of destination for prisoners from the Pawiak Prison (usually transported twice a day), as well as from other prisons of the Warsaw district, and newly arrested people. It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of victims put to death at 25 Szucha Alley. The scale of crimes committed there has been revealed by the extensive number of human remains and bones found in the cellars of the building, which have a total weight of 5.5 tons.

During World War II, the Pawiak Prison (Dzielna St.) was the largest German political prison in the territory of occupied Poland. Between October 1939 and August 1944, the prison received 100 thousand people, of whom approximately 37 thousand were murdered and 60 thousand were transported in 95 shipments to concentration camps. The Pawiak Prison was a place of permanent residence for about 3,000 prisoners, of whom 2,200 were kept in the men's jail and 800 in the women's jail (the so-called Serbia). In November 1940, the prison was taken over by the Gestapo. The mass executions in the Pawiak prison shocked the city of Warsaw. On the walls of the buildings, as well as on bulletin boards and pavements, graffiti appeared: „Pawiak pomścimy” [“We will revenge Pawiak”].

Władysław Karaś was born on August 31, 1893, in Kielce. During World War 1, he fought in the Polish Legions. After 1918, he served in the Polish Army, receiving the rank of Captain. A sportsman, he participated in the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936. He won bronze medal in shooting. During World War 2, a member of the Union for Armed Struggle/Home Army, nom de guerre “Pankracy”. He served in the Revenge Units (Związek Odwetu). He was arrested by the Germans on April 23, 1942. Killed by firing squad on May 28, 1942. Posthumously promoted to the rank of Major.

Franciszek Kwieciński was born on September 13, 1884 in Głuszyn, near Nieszawa. A political activist. After World War 1, one of the most prominent activists of the National Workers Party, and one of the founders of the Labor Party. During World War 2, a representative of the Labor Party on the Main Committee for Political Consensus Agreement at the Union for Armed Struggle. Arrested by the Germans on January 19, 1942. Killed by firing squad on May 28, 1942.

German officers in front of the building at Szucha Alley 25.
The Pawiak Prison building before 1939.

An announcement from December 1943, with information about an execution of 100 prisoners.

An inscription on one of Warsaw's streets.

Pawiak in 1945 r.

On the night between October 7 and 8, 1942, seven patrols of the Home Army soldiers under the command of Captain Zbigniew Lewandowski, nom de guerre “Szyna”, performed an action of sabotage on the Warsaw railway junction (operation “Wieniec”). Without incurring any casualties, they tore the rails from the railroads all around Warsaw, derailing several trains. This paralyzed German railway traffic to the eastern front – including transport to Stalingrad – for a couple of days.

In retaliation, being unable to identify the perpetrators, the German occupying authorities decided to organize public executions in Warsaw for the first time. At dawn on October 16, 50 prisoners from Pawiak were hanged on five gallows located in different parts of the city: 10 on each gallows. The gallows were located:
– in the Wola district, near the grade crossing at Mszczonowska St.
– near railway tracks in the Szczęśliwice neighborhood,
– at the corner of Toruńska St. and Wysockiego St., in the Pelcowizna neighborhood,
– in the Rembertów district at the railway station,
– in the town of Marki, near the tracks of the suburban railway.

An announcement about an execution of 50 prisoners from the Pawiak Prison on October 16, 1942.

Victims executed by hanging in Szczęśliwice.

Victims executed by hanging in Wola district.

Victims executed by hanging in Szczęśliwice.

Stanisław Henryk Święcicki was born on February 28, 1897. An attorney, Deputy Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association. In September 1939, the chief of security at the Civil Defense Committee of the Praga district. Later, he was active in the Union for Armed Struggle. He participated in the work of the Polish government-in-exile. Arrested by Germans on May 11, 1942, in Warsaw. Executed on October 16, 1942.

Mieczysław Szawalewski was born on October 19, 1887, in Krosno. He defended Lwów in 1918. A lawyer, diplomat, Vice-Consul at the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York. Later, an academic teacher at the School of Political Sciences in Warsaw, member of parliament (1930-1935). During World War 2 he joined the Union for Armed Struggle. He worked for the Polish government-in-exile. He was arrested by the Germans on the night of June 3, 1942, in Warsaw. He was executed on October 16, 1942.

Jewish ghetto

The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German authorities on October 2, 1940, and it was closed and isolated from the rest of the city a month and a half later, on November 16, 1940. It was the largest of the ghettos in all German-occupied Europe.

Jews were imprisoned within the Ghetto, which was a closed and walled district located in the north-western part of the Warsaw city center. 460 thousand people were confined within its borders until March, 1941. The enormous overcrowding, which resulted from deportations of people to the Ghetto, resulted in terrible sanitary conditions, starvation, and epidemics of infectious diseases. During the period between November 1940 and July 1942, approximately 100 thousand residents of the Ghetto died of starvation and illness.

Plan of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Plan of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Residents of the Ghetto.

Jewish children in the Ghetto.

An announcement from April 23, 1943, forbidding Polish people under threat of the death penalty to enter the former Jewishm residential district.

Construction of the wall of the Ghetto.

Adam Czerniaków was born on November 30, 1880 in Warsaw. A chemical engineer. On October 4, 1939, he became the leader of the Judenrat. Following the closure of the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940, he co-organized social aid and helped in creating the underground ghetto archive. He was in touch with resistance activists, and against the idea of the military action in the ghetto. On July 22, 1942, when the liquidation of the ghetto started, he refused to sign the announcement concerning the compulsory displacement of Jewish people from Warsaw. He committed suicide on the following day.

Jürgen Stroop was born on September 26, 1895 in Detmold. He received only primary education. He was a member of NSDAP and SS from 1932, attaining the rank of SS-Gruppenführer. During World War II, he participated in the murder of Polish and Jewish people in the region of Wielkopolska from October 1939. Stroop was police commissioner in the Galicia district, and participated in the extermination of Jews. From April 19 to May 16 he oversaw the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, and he was responsible for the crimes committed when the Ghetto Uprising was suppressed. On May 8, 1945, he was arrested by Americans and turned over to the Polish government. He was sentenced to death by the Regional Court in Warsaw and executed on March 6, 1952, in the Mokotów prison in Warsaw.

These deportations were met with the armed resistance of Jewish military organizations. On April 19, 1943, the Uprising broke out in response to the decision to finally liquidate the Ghetto.

The insurgent units consisted of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 poorly armed fighters. The uprising lasted until mid-May, 1943, and ended with the defeat and final destruction of the Ghetto. While putting down the Uprising, the Nazis committed many cruelties and crimes on residents and conducted mass executions.

It is estimated that the victims in the Warsaw Ghetto numbered around 400 thousand people, of whom roughly 92 thousand were killed or died in Warsaw (due to starvation and diseases), and almost 300 thousand in the Treblinka extermination camp (who were sent there in two acts of mass deportation).

Systematic destruction of the ghetto by the German storm troops.

Captured Jews on Zamenhofa St., on their way to Umschlagplatz.

Jürgen Stroop (standing in the middle) during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Public executions

In the Fall of 1943, Germans intensified their efforts to break down the Polish resistance movement which was increasing in strength. On October 2, 1943, Hans Frank, the Head of the General Government, signed a decree on ghting attacks on the German work of reconstruction in territory subordinate to the General Government. The decree legitimized the occupants' law of collective responsibility. Amongst its clauses, it predicted that instigators and assistants are liable to the same punishment as the perpetrator, and that an attempted act is as punishable as an accomplished act. In practice, on this basis, people who had no connection to an incident were killed by firing squad. The first executions took place on the streets of Warsaw in mid- October 1943, shortly a er SS-Brigadeführer Franza Kutschera became the Commander-in-Chief of the SS and the Police for the Warsaw district. During his time in office, roughly 5,000 Poles were murdered in Warsaw (including 1,200 killed directly on the streets of the city).

An announcement from January 14, 1944, with information of a street execution of 200 Polish citizens in retaliation for an unsuccessful military action of the Home Army against the Governor of the Warsaw District, Ludwig Fisher, and the Commander of the Secret Police and the Security Service in Warsaw, Ludwig Hahn

An announcement from January 14, 1944, with information of a street execution of 200 Polish citizens in retaliation for an unsuccessful military action of the Home Army against the Governor of the Warsaw District, Ludwig Fisher, and the Commander of the Secret Police and the Security Service in Warsaw, Ludwig Hahn

An execution of Pawiak prisoners.

An execution of 27 Pawiak prisoners, executed by hanging from the balcony of a house on Leszno St. 27, on February 11, 1944.

Tchorek's plaque at Solidarności Alley 84.

Removing bodies after a street execution.

Franz Kutschera was born on February 22, 1904 in Oberwaltersdorf. He was a gardener by profession. In 1938, he became a member of the Reichstag, and in 1939, an honorary lay judge in the People’s Court. As SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Polizei, he was SS and Police Leader for the Warsaw district from September 1943. He introduced the use of mass terror and public executions against the civilian residents of Warsaw. He earned the nickname “the butcher of Warsaw”. He was sentenced to death by the Supreme Command of the Home Army and shot dead on February 1, 1944 in Warsaw. After his death, in mid-February 1944, the Germans gave up public executions in the city.

The underground weekly Biuletyn Informacyjny announces the assassination of the “butcher of Warsaw”.

It was August Emil Fieldorf “Nil”, the Commander of the Kedyw sabotage forces, who issued a sentence of death against SS-Brigadeführer Franz Kutschera. Kutschera, the Commander-in-Chief of the SS and the Police for the Warsaw district, was abhorred by the people of Warsaw. The action was entrusted to the “Agat” unit (later “Parasol”), and took place on February 1, 1944, with 12 participants. Pulling into the SS Headquarters, the assassins blocked Kutschera’s car with their own. The “Agat” unit soldiers opened fire, wounding Kutschera. The cover team then appeared, and it was one of the soldiers from this group who finally killed Kutschera. Under the heavy German cannonade, the participants of the action returned to their cars and left the assassination site. As a result of the action, four soldiers of the “Agat” unit were killed, while the Germans lost five soldiers and nine more were wounded.

In retaliation for the assassination of Kutschera, the Germans imposed a 100 million zlotys tribute on the city of Warsaw. On February 2, 1944, at 21, Ujazdowskie Alley close to the place where the action had taken place, 100 hostages were killed by firing squad. This was one of the last public executions before the outbreak of the Warsaw uprising.

An announcement concerning the execution of hostages following the assassination of SS-Brigadeführer Franz Kutschera.

SS-Brigadeführer Franz Kutschera's assassins.

The place of SS-Brigadeführer Franz Kutschera’s assassination – the corner of Ujazdowskie Alley and Chopin St.

In mid-February of 1944, the phase of German terror, which had seen public executions conducted on the streets of the city, came to an end. From that moment, a large number of executions took place out of sight, usually in the ruins of the Ghetto. In one swoop, from a dozen to several hundred people fell victim to the Germans. Warsaw residents were deported to concentration camps more frequently than before. It was there that so many of the people of Warsaw found death.

The last execution took place on August 1, 1944, in the Wola district, a few hours before the Warsaw Uprising broke out, when eight random passers-by were killed. The Germans murdered them after a fight with a group of Home Army soldiers.

Emanuel Ringelblum was born on November 21, 1900 in Buczacz. He was a professor of history and worked as a teacher. Ringelblum was a member of the Association of Jewish Teachers and Jewish Writers and an activist of the lay Union of Jewish Schools. He was a supporter of the left-wing Jewish party “Poalej Syjon-Lewica”. During World War 2, he lived on the premises of the Warsaw Ghetto. He worked on the Jewish Social Self-Help Committee and was a member of the Jewish Combat Organization. He was the creator of the ghetto’s archive (“Ringelblum Archive”), which has been on the UNESCO list “Memory of the World” from 1999. He left the ghetto at the end of February, 1943. He was captured by the Germans on March 7, 1944. He was killed by firing squad on March 10, 1944 in the ruins of the ghetto.

Wanda Józefa Maria Kirchmayer was born on November 9, 1901, in Majdan Górny. She was a farming engineer. During World War 2, she was a member of the Secret Military Organization T.O.W. and later, the Home Army. She was arrested by the Germans in Warsaw, at the turn of February 1944. Tortured in the investigation, she didn’t betray the secrets of the organization. Killed by firing squad in the ruins of the ghetto on March 29, 1944.

An announcement giving information about death sentences for 50 arrested people, among whom were soldiers of the Home Army, including Edward Branicki, Marian Dukalski i Roman Antoni Polkowski; they were killed by the Germans immediately.

Tchorek’s plaque from the Wola district (Sowińskiego St. 28), commemorating the site of the last German crime before the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising.

Konstanty Abłamowicz was born on April 17, 1884 in Niehorełe. A soldier of the Polish Legions and, from 1918, of the Polish Army; he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Later, he was a manager of the Scheibler-Grohmann company in Łódź. During World War 2, he was a member of the Fighting Poland Camp, supporting the ideas of the First Marshal of Poland, Józef Piłsudski. Arrested by the Germans on April 12, 1944. Killed by firing squad on May 22, 1944.

The Wola Massacre

During the Warsaw Uprising, between August 1 and 4, soldiers of the 1st Fallschirm-Panzer-Division “Hermann Göring” fighting in the Wola District murdered about 400 captive insurgents; many of whom were wounded. Polish civilians were systematically driven from their houses, murdered, robbed, and raped by their German oppressors. The German units fighting in the Wola district regularly used Polish civilians as living shields in order to secure against attacks on infantry and tanks. Between August 5 and 7, under the command of Heinrich Reinefarth and Oskar Dirlewanger, the SS units and the German police massacred inhabitants of Wola: 59 thousand people were murdered. This was probably the largest single massacre of civilians committed during World War 2. Altogether, the Germans killed over 65 thousand Poles in the Wola district. 41 places of mass executions committed by German units have been identified in this area.

The bodies of Poles murdered in the Wola district.

The bodies of Poles murdered in the Wola district.

Women and children forced towards St. Wojciech Church. As lieut. Hans Thieme recollected, a column of displaced Warsaw residents walked along Wolska St. It was a picture of misery, which made us cry. Herr Reinefahrt said to my commander: “Just look, this is our most dificult problem: we don’t have enough ammunition to kill them all”. The Germans turned St. Wojciech’s Church into a transition camp.
German soldiers in front of the “Ursus” factory building during the Warsaw Uprising.

Tchorek’s plaque from Górczewska St. 5/7/9.

Heinrich Friedrich Reinefahrt was born on December 26, 1903, in Gniezno. An attorney and notary public. He received the rank of SS-Gruppenführer. After the Warsaw Uprising had broken out, he formed a police unit and led it to Warsaw. From August 5, 1944 he took part in the Wola massacre. He fought in the Old Town, the Powiśle and the Czerniaków districts. Altogether, the soldiers he commanded killed about 100,000 people, including civilians, the wounded and soldiers captured from the Home Army. After World War 2, he was mayor of the town of Westerland (1951-1967); from 1958, he was a member for Landtag in Schleswig-Holstein; from 1967, he worked as a lawyer. He died on May 7, 1979, in Westerland.

Murders in Ochota

During the Warsaw Uprising, German soldiers and the eastern formations of the SS committed more crimes against civilians in the district of Ochota (located next to Wola) than anywhere else. Most atrocities were perpetrated in hospitals, on the premises of the Radium Institute and in the Staszic colony. Particularly ill-famed was the transit camp organized on the grounds of the so-called Zieleniak (on the corner of Grójecka St. and Opaczewska St.). Approximately, 1000 Poles were killed there. The soldiers of the S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. displayed particular brutality towards the residents of Warsaw. Its commander, Waffen SS-Brigadeführer Bronisław Kamiński, received detailed instructions from Heinrich Himmler:

1. Kill captured insurgents, regardless of whether or not they fight in accordance with the Hague Convention;
2. Non-fighting residents, women, and children are also to be killed;
3. The whole city is to be leveled to the ground: that is all houses and infrastructure.

Apart from the murders, the soldiers pacifying the district committed rapes and robberies on a regular basis. In the period between August 4 and August 25, 10 thousand civilians were murdered in the Ochota district.

Zbigniew Rakowiecki was born on June 14, 1913. He was a film and theatrical actor, working – among other places – in the Atheneum Theater in Warsaw. He was a soldier during the campaign of 1939 and, later, in the resistance. During the Warsaw Uprising, he served in the 403rd platoon of the Home Army, in the Ochota district. He was murdered on August 5, 1944 by the soldiers of SS Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A., at Radomska St. 14.

Rev. Jan Salamucha was born on June 10, 1903. He took part in the Polish-Soviet war in 1920. In 1925, he was ordained to the priesthood. He was a member of the National-Radical Camp. Salamucha was a Christian philosopher, logician and professor of the Jagiellonian University. During World War 2 on November 6, 1939 he was arrested by the Germans at the University and became a prisoner of concentration camps in Sachsenhausen and Dachau. In 1941, he was set free. Chaplain of the National Armed Forces and the Home Army. Murdered on August 11, 1944, during the suppression of the Ochota district.

Tchorek's plaque from Grójecka St. 95.

Bronisław Kamiński was born on June 16, 1899. A chemical engineer. A member of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. In prison between 1937 and 1941. From 1941, he collaborated with the Germans and, in 1942, he was the leader of the militia later named the Russian Liberation National Army (R.O.N.A.) and finally Waffen-Sturm-Brigade R.O.N.A. As Waffen SS-Brigadeführer he led an assault regiment, suppressing the Warsaw Uprising. At that time, his soldiers committed around 70 war crimes: murdering, raping, and robbing the Ochota district residents. He was executed by Germans for insubordination on August 19 or October 4, 1944 in Łódź. As the historian of the Warsaw Uprising Jerzy Kirchmayer wrote, “He was a political adventurer, delivering political propaganda speeches to his subordinates about a great fascist Russia, of which he wanted to be Führer. (…) Women and alcohol were the essence of his life.(…)The notion of property was alien to him, he hated no other nation as much as the Polish people(…).

Mokotów running with blood

The Germans committed numerous crimes on Home Army soldiers and civilians in the Mokotów district during the Warsaw Uprising. Most murders took place between August 2 and 5, and the victims included several hundred residents of the district. This was not the end of the German soldiers’ criminal activity. A further wave of murders took place in September – after the fall of the Sadyba district and following the capitulation of the insurgent units on September 27, 1944. 2,000 Polish people fell prey to the crimes committed by the German soldiers. Among them were between 100 to 200 residents of the Mokotów district, murdered by the use of grenades in the building at Olesińska St. no. 5. Furthermore, 119 soldiers of the Home Army Regiment “Baszta” were killed on Dworkowa St., including some civilians. This event took place after the capitulation of the insurgent units. Nor did the Germans spare the Ujazdowski Hospital at Chełmska St. Several bombings caused the deaths of 240-300 wounded soldiers and hospital personnel.

Jerzy Kryński was born on August 15, 1929. During the Warsaw Uprising, he served in the rank of private in the K-1 company of the Home Army regiment “Baszta”. Heavily wounded on September 27, 1944 he was ultimately killed by German soldiers on Dolna St. In the Uprising, his sister Irena was killed, a soldier of the unit “Kryska”.

Tchorek’s plaque from Rakowiecka St. 61.

Erich von dem Bach was born on March 1, 1899 in Lębork. He rose to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer and was a member of the Reichstag. During World War 2, he provided the initial impetus for creating the concentration camp in Auschwitz. He was in command of anti-partisan units in occupied Europe and was responsible for killing about 230,000 people in the countries of the Baltic, Belarus and eastern Poland. During the Warsaw Uprising he was a commander of Korpsgruppe von dem Bach, suppressing Polish resistance soldiers. He was responsible for the war crimes committed by his units on civilians and insurgents. He succeeded in mitigating the order of extermination issued by Adolf Hitler against the residents of Warsaw. Arrested in 1945, he testified in the Nuremberg Trials and the trial of Ludwig Fisher in Warsaw. He was set free in 1949; in 1951, the Munich Denazification Chamber sentenced him to 10 years in a labor camp. In 1961, he was arrested for crimes committed in 1930s Germany and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died on March 8, 1972 in a prison hospital in Munich.

One of the insurgents, coming out of the canal at Dworkowa St. he was probably murdered soon afterwards.

The Jesuit Monastery at Rakowiecka St. The site of crimes committed against about 40 people, including a dozen monks.

Dworkowa St. – a site of execution of soldiers from the Home Army regiment “Baszta” on September 27, 1944

The Warsaw Uprising

During the Warsaw Uprising, the German soldiers committed numerous war crimes. On August 3 and 4, 1944, the Wehrmacht soldiers led an attack from the vicinities of the National Museum. Warsaw residents who had been taken from their homes were used as “living shields”: forced to walk in the middle of the German column in front of the tanks. Several dozen hostages were killed in the crossfire as a result. The grenadiers perpetrated many further atrocities, which included the killing by firing squad of about 100 residents from Jerozolimskie Alley and Bracka St. 19 insurgents who had been taken captive were killed by firing squad under the viaduct of the Poniatowski Bridge. Almost 4 thousand civilians were driven down into the cellars of the National Museum edifice and treated as hostages by the German command. On August 3, in the yard of a house at Marszałkowska St., about 30-44 Polish civilians were killed by firing squad. On the same day, in what was later called the Professors’ House at Nowy Zjazd St. 5, the German soldiers killed about 15 men – including professors of the University of Warsaw.

Eugeniusz Wajgiel was born on November 19, 1873, in Kołomyja. He was a Polish medical doctor and veterinarian, professor of animal surgery and ophthalmology at the University of Warsaw, the Deputy Chair of the State Medical Board, and later its member. On August 3, 1944, he was killed by firing squad in the so-called Professors’ House.

Tchorek's plaque from Marszałkowska St. 27/35.

The victims of German crimes at Marszałkowska St., 1944.

The orphanage – the site of the crime committed by the Germans.

The victims of German crimes in the Czerniaków district.

Ujazdowskie Alley.

Pacification of the Marymont district took place during the Warsaw Uprising between September 14 and 15, 1944, as well as at other times. The Wehrmacht units (25th Panzer-Division) committed numerous crimes, including murders, arson, robberies, and rapes, in which they were aided by collaborating volunteers from eastern units. On September 13, the Germans murdered at least 363 residents of the district, including 25 children between the ages of 3 months and 14 years. The cellars in which the civilians had taken shelter were pelted with grenades by the Germans. Wounded soldiers and prisoners of war were also killed. On September 15, 300 residents of the Żoliborz district were killed, including women and children. In many cases, after their houses had been searched and their valuables plundered, Polish people were driven to the edifice of the Central Institute of Physical Education in the Bielany district. It was here that selection of the captured took place. Some of them were killed by firing squad on the spot; the rest were transported to a transit camp in Pruszków.

Traces of German crimes in the Żoliborz during the Warsaw Uprising. Tchorek’s plaques commemorate murders of Warsaw residents.

Tchorek’s plaque from Lutosławskiego St. 9.

Traces of German crimes in the Żoliborz during the Warsaw Uprising. Tchorek’s plaques commemorate murders of Warsaw residents.

A German tank during fights in the Żoliborz district.

German criminals

The German terror machine was one of the first agencies which was already functioning in Warsaw by October 1939. Police power rested formally in the hands of the appointed police commissioner SS-Oberführer Claassen until the beginning of November. Later, SS-Standartenführer Josef Meisinger was Commander of the Secret Police and the Security Service in the Warsaw area. His successors were SS-Obersturmbannführer Johannes Müller and SS-Obersturmbannführer Ludwig Hahn respectively (September 1941 – December 1944). The highest police commissioner in the Warsaw district was Ludwig Fischer, who was chief of the local SS and commander of the police. He was, at the same time, a subordinate of the Higher SS and the police commander in Kraków. The following war criminals served in turn as commanders of the SS and police in the Warsaw district:

– SS-Gruppenführer Paul Moder (1940-1941: died on the Russian front in 1942);
– SS-Standartenführer Arpad Wigand (1941-1942: served a prison sentence in Poland until 1956);
– SS-Oberführer Ferdinand von Sammer Frankenegg (1942-1943: died in Yugoslavia in 1944);
– SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop (1943: executed in Poland in 1952);
– SS-Brigadeführer Franz Kutschera (1943-1944: assassinated by the Home Army);
– SS-Oberführer Herbert Böttcher (1944: executed in Poland in 1950);
– SS-Brigadeführer Paul Otto Geibel (1944-1945: died in prison in Poland in 1966).

The Commanders of the Secret Police, the Security Service and the Order Police OrPo were subordinate to the SS and the police commanders in the district.

Paul Otto Geibel was born on June 10 1898, in Dortmund. Policeman of profession. He attained a grade of SS-Brigadeführer and General Major of police. From 3 March 1944 he was the SS and police leader for the Warsaw district, becoming responsible for murdering, until 22 May, 991 Poles in the city of Warsaw. During the Warsaw Uprising he commanded defense of the police district. At that time his troops committed a number of crimes upon civil population in the neighborhood of Szucha Alley. Following the defeat of the Uprising he supervised demolition of Poland’s capital city, preceded by the expelling of its residents. Arrested after the war and handed over to Polish authorities, he was sentenced to life in prison by the Province Court for the Capital City of Warsaw. On 12 November 1966 he committed suicide in the Mokotów prison in Warsaw.

Ludwig Fischer was born on June 10 1898, in Dortmund. Policeman of profession. He attained a grade of SS-Brigadeführer and General Major of police. From 3 March 1944 he was the SS and police leader for the Warsaw district, becoming responsible for murdering, until 22 May, 991 Poles in the city of Warsaw. During the Warsaw Uprising he commanded defense of the police district. At that time his troops committed a number of crimes upon civil population in the neighborhood of Szucha Alley. Following the defeat of the Uprising he supervised demolition of Poland’s capital city, preceded by the expelling of its residents. Arrested after the war and handed over to Polish authorities, he was sentenced to life in prison by the Province Court for the Capital City of Warsaw. On 12 November 1966 he committed suicide in the Mokotów prison in Warsaw.

Victims

The material presented at the exhibition represents only a limited view of the victims of the German crimes. These were people who came from different generations, and had a vast range of life experiences, as well as various educational backgrounds. The one thing they had in common was the fact that they were Polish citizens, and therefore potentially enemies of the Third Reich. This was the reason why they were exterminated. Let these few biographies be a symbolic tribute to the hundreds of thousands Warsaw residents who were victims of German brutality.

Tchorek’s plaque from Nowy Świat St. 49.

Andrzej Trzebiński was born on January 27, 1922. He was a poet, dramaturge, literary critic and journalist connected with the underground organization the Confederation of the Nation. He was editor-in-chief of the monthly “Sztuka i Naród” from 1943. Trzebiński was arrested by the Germans and killed by firing squad on November 12, 1943 as a hostage in a street execution on the corner of Warecka St. and Nowy Świat St.

Tytus Wincenty Czaki was born on January 4, 1888. He was an independence activist, and soldier of the Polish Legions during World War 1. In 1922, he started a political party called the National-State Union. He was Mayor of Brześć on the river Bug and Włocławek (as government commissioner). During World War 2 he served in the resistance. Czaki was arrested on January 5, 1944 and imprisoned in Pawiak. He was killed by firing squad in the ruins of the Warsaw ghetto on January 24, 1944.

Sławomir Maciej Bittner was born on July 23, 1923. He was a scout and during World War 2, an underground activist, a member of the “Szare Szeregi” and the Home Army. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant. He took part in Operation Arsenal (March 23, 1944), Operation “Góral” (August 12, 1943), and “Wilanów” (September 23, 1943). Bittner was commander of the Home Army 1st Company of the “Zośka” Battalion. He was arrested by the Germans on February 18, 1944 in Warsaw and soon after killed by firing squad in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Mieczysław Krygier was born on March 24, 1888. He was a Catholic priest and in 1920, a military chaplain. Krygier was a member of the Warsaw City Council and from 1934, Curate of the St. Wawrzyniec Parish in the Wola district. He took part in the campaign of 1939 and was later the President of the Catholic Association “Caritas” in the Warsaw Archdiocese and the chaplain of the Home Army. During the Wola massacre on August 5, 1944, he was mortally wounded in the Church of St. Wawrzyniec.

Maria Herburtówna was born on April 26, 1890. She had been an independence activist during World War 1. After the war, she became an office worker in the chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. During World War 2, she was a member of the Service for Poland’s Victory, the Union of Armed Struggle and the Home Army. She worked as a secretary and coder for the Information-Intelligence Division of the Supreme Command of the Home Army. Herburtówna was arrested by the Germans on December 23, 1943, and kept in the Pawiak prison. She was killed by firing squad on August 13, 1944 in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Maria Cetys was born on September 14, 1914. She worked in the revenue office. During World War 2, she joined the resistance and the Home Army. During the Warsaw Uprising, she was a messenger for the “Kryska” unit. On September 20, 1944, she was captured by the Germans in the Czerniaków district. When asked Bist du Banditin? (Are you one of the bandits?) She answered I’m a soldier of the Home Army, and was immediately shot dead.

Destruction

Two months of furious fighting during the Uprising inflicted enormous material losses on the city of Warsaw. 25% of buildings on the left bank of the city were destroyed, along with almost 100% of the Old Town. During the period of the Uprising, devastation resulted not only from artillery fire and air raids, but also from deliberate acts of arson and the explosion of buildings by the German units, for whom burning out whole districts was a legitimate method of warfare. However, many of those calculated acts of devastation could by no means be justified by the necessities of war. On October 12, 1944, a conference was organized by Himmler at his headquarters during which he declared: “This city is to be erased from the surface of the earth and serve only as a reloading point for the Wehrmacht transport. The city must be completely demolished. All buildings are to be torn down to their foundations. Only technical equipment and railway buildings are to survive”. After this, the three-and-a-half-month period of planned destruction of the city began, which was stopped only by the Soviet offensive in 1945. As a result of the deliberate and systematic demolition of the city, over 30% of the infrastructure of the Warsaw left-bank was destroyed. When we add to this the losses from August and September, 1944, and the damages inflicted during the siege of the city in the September of 1939, together with the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, we have to conclude that the war destroyed 84% of the left-bank of Warsaw. In 2004, a Committee appointed by the Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczyński, estimated the war losses of the city at over 180 billion zlotys. This amount did not cover the costs of offices, hospitals, research institutions, and libraries. Neither did it cover any spending connected with the saving of human lives.

The Systematic demolition of Warsaw by German soldiers.

The Systematic demolition of Warsaw by German soldiers.

Marszałkowska St. in 1944.

Burned out buildings near Napoleon Square (presently Powstańców Warszawy Square).

Destroyed Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.