Ochota massacre

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Ochota massacre
Miejsce pamięci tarczyńska 17.jpg
One of many memorials commemorating the Ochota massacre sites, located at the corner of Tarczyńska and Daleka Streets (at this site, 17 civilians were shot in the back of the head and their bodies burnt)
Location Ochota, Warsaw
Coordinates 52°12′36″N 20°58′16″E / 52.210°N 20.971°E / 52.210; 20.971Coordinates: 52°12′36″N 20°58′16″E / 52.210°N 20.971°E / 52.210; 20.971
Date 4–25 August 1944
Target Polish civilians
Attack type
Mass murders, gang rapes, looting, arson
Deaths Approx. 10,000
Perpetrators Germany S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. commanded by Bronislav Kaminski

The Ochota Massacre (in Polish: Rzeź Ochoty – Ochota slaughter) was a wave of German-orchestrated mass murders, robbery, looting, arson, and rape, which swept across the Warsaw district of Ochota during August 4–25, 1944. The gravest crimes were committed in Ochota hospitals, in the Curie Institute, Kolonia Staszica, and the concentration camp called Zieleniak. In all, about 10,000 residents of Ochota were killed, their property stolen, and the district systematically burnt down by German forces.

The troops, which were mainly responsible for the war crime, were led by Bronislav Kaminski, a Russian who commanded the Nazi collaborationist S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A., the so-called "Russian National Liberation Army" (Russian: Русская Освободительная Народная Армия, RONA).

Arrival of RONA in Warsaw[edit]

Senior officers from the Russian National Liberation Army (RONA) hold a briefing during the Warsaw Uprising

On the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, on August 1, 1944, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the city and the extermination of its civilian population.[a][b]

On August 4, 1944, at 10:00, units of SS RONA commanded by Bronislav Kaminski entered Ochota. The staff of RONA, having in its command 1,700 soldiers, was based in a building of the Wolna Wszechnica Polska (Polish Free University) in Opaczewska 2a Street (today Banacha 2 Street), while one of RONA's battalions was based in the building of the XXI Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Hugona Kołłątaja (21st Hugo Kołłątaj Secondary School) at Grójecka 93 Street. They were to fight the insurgent post at Reduta Kaliska (Kalisz Redoubt). On the same day, the RONA units launched the first of a series of rapes, robberies, and murders targeting the civilian population of Opaczewska Street. Detached groups of RONA men rushed into flats, expelled their residents, and shot old persons and those reluctant to leave the rooms.[1] The murders were accompanied by robbery, destruction of property, and arson.[1] Most buildings in Opaczewska Street were burnt on that day. On August 4–5, 1944, people were also murdered in nearby garden allotments, while hand grenades were thrown into cellars where people were hiding.[1] The residents of the building in Gójecka 104 Street were killed in this way. In the first hours of the massacre, RONA collaborators entered the institute for terminal cancer victims, where they killed the patients, many of whom were first gang raped,[2] a pattern which was repeated elsewhere.

Zieleniak camp[edit]

The Zieleniak camp memorial at the site where hundreds of prisoners were shot in August and September 1944

On August 5, due to the ever-growing number of people being expelled from their flats, the Germans decided to erect a transitional camp (a staging point to the next transitional camp in Pruszków), located in the area of a former vegetable market, called Zieleniak (today the area of Hale Banacha). By evening, anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants of the Ochota district and its neighbouring areas were rounded up.[3]

The brick wall enclosing the camp made escape impossible. The military took quarters in the former administration building of the marketplace, and used caretaker boxes for guard posts. The Zieleniak camp became a place of mass crimes: the Germans robbed and forced the Ochota-area residents out of their homes, setting the buildings on fire, and herded the people to the camp.[1] RONA soldiers beat them and shot them along the way, pulling women out to rape them, often killing them afterwards.[1] At the gate of the Zieleniak camp, the victims were searched for jewels and money, then forced into the cobbled area of the marketplace. RONA soldiers sometimes shot for fun at the imprisoned people; the prisoners had no sanitary facilities and no water, little food (mouldy bread was sometimes given out), no medicine, and no medical aid. Erich von dem Bach, the German armed forces commander assigned to fight the uprising, inspected the camp on the same day and said, "there was nothing wrong there, everything was in order."[1]

By August 7, 1944, the camp was jammed with civilians. The dead were laid in piles along the camp wall or buried in a makeshift manner. On the same day, several hundred persons of non-Polish descent were escorted away to a similar camp in Okęcie. On August 9, the first batch of prisoners was escorted from the Zieleniak camp into the larger transitional camp in Pruszków. Because of the fall of subsequent points of defence of the Warsaw Uprising, the camp was again filled with people, from Kolonia Lubeckiego (Lubecki Housing Estate) and blocks of the Social Insurance Office (ZUS) in Filtrowa street. The fall of the Wawel Redoubt on August 11, 1944, was followed by the next wave of people expelled from their flats. Bodies of murdered and deceased prisoners were burned in the gymnasium of the neighbouring Hugo Kołłątaj Secondary School.[4] The corpses were transported by conscripted civilians directed to lay them in piles. The RONA soldiers doused them with alcohol and set the bodies on fire.[1] On August 12, a German officer shot and killed three captured boy scouts of the Gustaw Battalion, shooting them in the backs of their heads as they lowered corpses into an excavated pit. On August 13, the final evacuation of civilians into the transitional camp in Pruszków began; Ochota residents stayed briefly at Zieleniak camp before being transported away. Selected men where forcibly assigned to units in charge of burning corpses of murdered Warsaw inhabitants (German: Verbrennungskommando).

The camp operated until August 19, when the Germans committed mass murder of 50 patients of the Radium Institute. The RONA SS units withdrew from Ochota on August 22–25, 1944. During the two weeks of the Zieleniak camp's operation, some 1,000 of its prisoners died of hunger, thirst, and extreme exhaustion, or were shot to death by RONA soldiers.[3]

Radium Institute[edit]

A plaque commemorating the staff and patients murdered at the Radium Institute in August 1944

On August 5–6, the RONA units broke into the Instytut Radowy (the Radium Institute, founded by Maria Skłodowska-Curie) on Wawelska 15 Street, first looting the hospital and robbing the staff and patients, then destroying the hospital (the library was set on fire and the food stock, pharmacy, and hospital equipment were destroyed). The 90 patients of the Institute and 80 staff members (including family members) were to be immediately executed, but after a half hour debate, it was decided that the patients and eight staff members would be left, while the rest were marched off to the Zieleniak transitional camp. On the night of August 5, rapes began on the remaining hospital staff. On August 6, the building was set on fire, with some patients burning alive.[4] The remaining 60 people avoided death by seeking shelter in the building's cellar and chimneys.

On August 9–10, the survivors were discovered, and RONA set the building on fire again. On August 19, RONA troops pulled all the remaining survivors out of the building and killed the critically ill patients on the spot. Some 50 surviving patients of the Radium Institute were sent to the Zieleniak transitional camp and on August 19 they, too, were executed (according to evidence of eyewitnesses, by a shot in the back of the head) and then burned in a pile in the gymnasium.[4] Prior to the execution, one female patient (of Ukrainian descent) scheduled for execution was released. In total, about 170 people (patients and staff) were murdered.

Other atrocities[edit]

The first crimes committed by RONA in the area of the Kolonia Staszica (Staszic Housing Estate), the Lubecki Housing Estate, as well as neighbouring streets (Białobrzeska, Kopińska, and Szczęśliwicka) occurred on August 6, while the culmination took place after August 11, when the last large point of resistance in Ochota, the Reduta Wawelska (Wawel Redoubt) fell. Rapes, robberies, setting buildings on fire, executions, and murders of civilians hidden in cellars, usually by throwing hand-grenades into buildings, were widespread. In the area of the Lubecki Housing Estate, Mianowskiego and Mochnackiego Streets, as well as the southern side of the Filtrowa Street and a housing block on Pługa 1/3 Street were devastated by RONA; on Filtrowa 83 Street the 82-year old painter Wiktor Mazurowski and his wife were murdered. Starting on August 6, RONA systematically plundered the Staszic Housing Estate, torching houses and searched them for alcohol and jewelry.

The next crime RONA committed was in the insurgent field hospital grenaded in Langiewicza 11/13 Street. RONA killed the well-known dramatic actor Mariusz Maszyński and his family, as well as the architect Stefan Tomorowicz and his wife in Pole Mokotowskie. On August 25, patients and personnel of the evacuated Szpital Dzieciątka Jezus (Infant Jesus Hospital) in Lindleya 4 Street were beaten and murdered.

Victims[edit]

A memorial plate for the house where scores of people were killed with grenades in a basement and twenty people shot in the back yard on August 4, 1944

The number killed in the Ochota massacre amounts to some 10,000 people,[3] including 1,000 people who died in the Zieleniak camp. There are tens of places of collective executions in Ochota district, many marked with plaques to commemorate the deaths of several dozens or up to several hundreds of victims. Places of lesser murders are mostly unknown, but nearly every yard of that district was the site of an execution. Most crimes in Ochota district ended with the fall of the last insurgent redoubt in the building of the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny (Military Geographic Institute) on August 13, 1944.

Systematic looting and destruction of Ochota district[edit]

From mid-August till the beginning of October 1944, looting of property continued in the forcibly abandoned area of Ochota. The German occupational administration organized a systematic campaign of pillaging; booty was loaded into goods trains in the Warszawa Zachodnia railway station and forwarded to Germany. Additionally, convoys of trucks loaded with stolen property set off on the road to Piotrków Trybunalski. In the end, German Vernichtungskommando (destruction units) systematically set street after street on fire, thus effecting the final destruction of the city district.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "[...] The Führer is not interested in the further existence of Warsaw [...] the whole population shall be executed and all buildings blown up. Madajczyk 1972, p. 390.
  2. ^ According to evidence given by Erich von dem Bach to the Nürnberg, Himmler's order (issued on the strength of an order from Adolf Hitler), read as follows: 1. Captured insurgents shall be killed whether or not they fight in accordance with the Hague Convention. 2. The non-fighting part of the population, women, children, shall also be killed. 3. The whole city shall be razed to the ground, i.e. its buildings, streets, facilities, and everything within its borders. Wroniszewski 1970, pp. 128–129.

Citations[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Datner, Szymon; Leszczyński, Kazimierz (1962). Zbrodnie okupanta w czasie powstania warszawskiego (w dokumentach) (in Polish). Warszawa: Institute of National Remembrance, Wydawnictwo MON. 
  • Kazimierski, Józef; Kołodziejczyk, Ryszard (1973). Dzieje Ochoty (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. 
  • Madajczyk, Czesław (1972). Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. 
  • Wroniszewski, Józef (1970). Ochota 1944 (in Polish). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. 
  • Wroniszewski, Józef (1976). Ochota 1939–1945 (in Polish). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. 
  • Ujazdowska, Lidia (2005). Zagłada Ochoty (in Polish). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Fronda. ISBN 83-922344-1-3. 

External links[edit]