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, Poland, and which, under German occupation during World War II, became a Nazi concentration camp.

In 1945–56 the Gęsiówka served as a prison and labor camp, operated first by the Soviet NKVD, then by the Polish communist secret police.

History[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]

Liberation during Warsaw Uprising[edit]

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

On 5 August 1944, early in the Warsaw Uprising, the "Zośka" scouting battalion of the Home Army's Radosław Group, led by Ryszard Białous and Eugeniusz Stasiecki, attacked the Gęsiówka camp, which was being liquidated by the Germans. Magda, one of two Panther tanks that had been captured by Polish insurgents on 2 August, and assigned to Zośka's newly formed armour platoon commanded by Wacław Micuta,[2] supported the assault with fire from its main gun. In the one-and-a-half-hour battle, most of the SD guards were killed or captured, though some fled toward the Pawiak prison.

Only two Polish fighters were killed in the attack. Rescued from certain death were 348 able-bodied Jewish prisoners who had been retained by the Germans as slave labour after the Germans' 1943 liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto and had been left behind after the evacuation of most of the Gęsiówka camp's inmates in July 1944.[3][4]

Many of the Jewish prisoners joined the ranks of the insurgents, and most were killed in the next nine weeks of fighting, as were most of their liberators (the "Zośka" battalion lost 70% of its members in the Uprising).[5]

After World War II[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 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]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 52°14′40.7″N 20°58′44.18″E / 52.244639°N 20.9789389°E / 52.244639; 20.9789389External links[edit]