Gęsiówka

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Jewish prisoners of Gęsiówka and Polish resistance fighters of the "Zośka" battalion of the Armia Krajowa after the liberation of the camp in August 1944

Gęsiówka (Polish pronunciation: [ɡɛ̃ˈɕufka]) is the colloquial Polish name for a prison that once existed on Gęsia ("Goose") Street in Warsaw (literally, "Goose Farm") which became a Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland during the Second World War.

In the years 1945-1956 Gęsiówka was used as a prison and labour camp, first by the Soviet NKVD and subsequently by the Polish communist secret police.

History of Gęsiówka[edit]

Before the war, Gęsiówka was a military prison of the Polish Army on Gęsia Street (now Anielewicza Street), near the intersection with Okopowa Street and the Jewish cemetery. Beginning in 1939, after the German occupation of Poland, it became a re-education camp of the German security police (Arbeitserziehungslager der Sicherheitspolizei Warschau).

In 1943 it was turned into a concentration camp for inmates from beyond Warsaw and Poland, equipped with a crematorium. The camp, together with the nearby Pawiak prison, formed the backbone of the Warsaw concentration camp complex. Gęsiówka inmates (mostly Jews) included prisoners from Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Hungary, Belgium and Germany.[1]

The liberation of Gęsiówka during the Warsaw Uprising[edit]

Soldiers of the "Wacek" armoured platoon of the "Zośka" battalion on the corner of Okopowa and Żytnia Street - 2nd August 1944
Liberated Jewish women posing with Polish resistance fighters of the "Zośka" battalion - 5th August 1944

On 5 August 1944, during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising, the "Zośka" scouting battalion of the Armia Krajowa's Radosław Group led by Ryszard Białous and Eugeniusz Stasiecki attacked the Gęsiówka camp which was being liquidated at the time. The Panther tank "Magda", one of two captured by the insurgents on 2 August and assigned to Zośka's newly-formed armoured platoon under the command of Wacław Micuta,[2] was instrumental in the attack, supporting the assault with fire from its main gun. In the ensuing one-and-half-hour battle most of the SD guards were killed or captured, although some of the Germans managed to flee in the direction of the Pawiak prison.

Only two Polish fighters were killed in the attack and 348 able-bodied Jewish prisoners, who had been retained by the Germans as slave labourers after the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and left behind after the evacuation of most of the camp's inmates in July 1944, were rescued from certain death.[3][4]

Many of the Jewish prisoners joined the ranks of the insurgents, and most of them were subsequently killed during the nine weeks of fighting that followed, as were the majority of their liberators (the "Zośka" battalion lost 70% of its members during the uprising).[5]

After the war[edit]

In January 1945 Gęsiówka was used by the Soviet NKVD to imprison Polish resistance fighters of the Home Army and other opponents of Poland's new Stalinist regime, who were kept there in appalling conditions. The Polish communist secret police took over the administration of the camp later that year and continued to use it as a prison and labour camp for criminal and political prisoners, including so-called "class enemies", until 1956.[1]

Gęsiówka liberation memorial[edit]

Gęsiówka liberation memorial plaque at 34 Anielewicza Street - the inscription is in Polish, Hebrew and English

Gęsiówka was demolished in the 1960s and the only visible evidence of its existence today is a memorial plaque commemorating the liberation of the camp in 1944, which is located on the wall of 34 Anielewicza Street.[6]

The memorial was unveiled during the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising in 1994. Wacław Micuta, commander of the armoured platoon of the Zośka battalion, said the following words at the ceremony:

"On 27th July the Germans decided to evacuate the Gęsiówka camp to Dachau. More than 400 inmates, incapable of marching, were shot....A column of about 4,000 Jews was marched off, but disappeared without trace. And now the Zośka battalion was standing in front of this camp. They remembered the Scouting Statute, which says that a scout is a friend to every other human being and a brother to every other scout. We all wanted to attack immediately....and since we had captured a couple of tanks, the situation was rather better than in the previous days. So four of us went back to "Radosław" [Jan Mazurkiewicz, commander of the insurgent forces in Warsaw's Wola district] to ask for permission. Radosław was a cautious man and shared the view that the fortified positions should not be attacked frontally. But he agreed on condition that the attacking force be small in number and be composed entirely of volunteers....We carried it off by surprise. Our tank was a great success because the Germans [in the camp] had no anti-tank weapons. After the main gateway was destroyed Felek's platoon moved in...."[7]

The memorial features inscriptions in Polish, Hebrew and English.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 52°14′40.7″N 20°58′44.18″E / 52.244639°N 20.9789389°E / 52.244639; 20.9789389