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Operation Kutschera was the code name for the successful execution of Franz Kutschera, SS and Reich's Police Chief in German-occupied Warsaw, who was shot on 1 February 1944 by a combat sabotage unit of Kedyw of the Home Army (predecessor of Battalion Parasol) mainly manned by members of scouting and guiding Gray Ranks. This special action was a part of the larger Operation Heads - the code name of a series of executions of Nazi officials by the Polish Resistance.
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei Franz Kutschera became SS and Police Leader of the Warsaw District on 25 September 1943. During his earlier posting in the Mogilev District of the Soviet Union he proved himself as a ruthless officer, prone to brutal and unscrupulous methods.
Soon after his arrival in Warsaw he stepped up terror measures directed against the civilian population. The number of public executions and łapanka round-ups were increased, and lists of hostages to be shot in reprisal for civil disobedience or any attack on a German soldier were published daily. These actions, based on a decree by Hans Frank, were intended to crush the will to resist among the Polish population. As a result, the Polish underground leadership included Kutschera in its "Operation Heads" list.
Kutschera's whereabouts in Warsaw were a closely guarded secret but were discovered by Aleksander Kunicki (code name "Rayski"), head of intelligence of the Agat company, while he was investigating two other assassination targets: Dr Ludwig Hahn, Chief of the Sicherheitspolizei and Sicherheitsdienst in occupied Warsaw and SS-Sturmbannführer Walter Stamm.
In the course of his surveillance of the area around the Gestapo HQ on Aleje Szucha, Rayski one day noticed an Opel Admiral limousine entering the drive of the building at Aleje Ujazdowskie number 23, which was then the SS headquarters in Warsaw (and now houses the Hungarian Embassy). The SS-man who emerged from the car wore the insignia of a general, and Rayski began to monitor his arrivals and departures from the building. The SS-man was soon identified as Kutschera, who actually lived only 150 metres away, at Aleja Róż number 2. Rayski also discovered that despite the short distance from his home to the SS headquarters, Kutschera always used his car to get there.
Rayski filed a report about Kutschera to Kedyw commander Emil August Fieldorf (code name "Nil") and several days later Kutschera was sentenced to death by a "Special Court" of the Polish Underground State. Adam Borys (code name "Pług"), commander of the Parasol Battalion of the Armia Krajowa, selected Parasol's 1st Platoon to carry out the execution. Platoon commander Bronisław Pietraszewicz (code name "Lot") was appointed as leader of the assassination team and planned the operation in close cooperation with Pług.
The first attempt on Kutschera's life was prepared for 28 January 1944 but had to be aborted after Kutschera failed to leave his home that day. After the execution team broke up, one member of the platoon, Jan Kordulski (code name "Żbik"), was wounded by a German patrol. He was replaced in the team by Zbigniew Gęsicki (code name "Juno") and Stanisław Huskowski (code name "Ali").
The second attempt took place on the morning of 1 February 1944. The execution team was in position at 8:50AM and included:
- "Lot" (Bronisław Pietraszewicz) – commander and 1st executioner (armed with: MP 40 submachine gun, Vis pistol, Filipinka hand grenade).
- "Ali" (Stanisław Huskowski) – second-in-command and security screen (grenades).
- "Kruszynka" (Zdzisław Poradzki) – 2nd executioner (Sten submachine gun, grenades).
- "Miś" (Michał Issajewicz) – 3rd executioner, driving an Adler Trumpf-Junior and armed with a Parabellum pistol and grenades.
- "Cichy" (Marian Senger) – cover (Sten submachine gun, Parabellum pistol, grenades).
- "Olbrzym" (Henryk Humięcki) – cover (Sten submachine gun, Parabellum pistol, grenades).
- "Juno" (Zbigniew Gęsicki) – cover (Sten submachine gun, Vis pistol, hand grenades).
- "Bruno" (Bronisław Hellwig) – driving an Opel Kapitän and armed with 2 Parabellums and grenades.
- "Sokół" (Kazimierz Sott) – driving a Mercedes 170 V and armed with 2 Parabellums and grenades.
- "Kama" (Maria Stypułkowska-Chojecka) – signals.
- "Dewajtis" (Elżbieta Dziębowska) – signals.
- "Hanka" (Anna Szarzyńska-Rewska) – signals.
At 9:09AM Kama (who was standing near the entrance to Ujazdowski Park) signalled that Kutschera was leaving his house at Aleja Róż number 2, in his limousine. As he approached the gate of the SS HQ, he was blocked by the car driven by Miś.
Lot and Kruszynka then ran up to the limousine and opened fire on Kutschera from close range. Miś jumped out of his car and together with Kruszynka finished off the wounded Kutschera and searched him for documents. Meanwhile, the two other getaway vehicles moved into position and German guards stationed nearby opened fire on the executioners. An intensive firefight ensued between the Germans and the covering team (Cichy, Olbrzym and Juno). At this critical moment Ali was not able to open his briefcase in which several hand grenades were concealed. Cichy, Lot and Olbrzym were all wounded in the firefight.
Due to his injury, Lot's call to withdraw was not loud enough to be heard and as a result the shootout was unnecessarily prolonged, but all the executioners were able to eventually get into the cars and drive away.
A frantic search for a hospital willing to defy the Germans and operate on the heavily wounded Cichy and Lot began, since the originally planned medvac scheme failed. It took several hours and five attempts before a hospital finally admitted them. As a result of the delay, both men died within a couple of days. Meanwhile, Sokół and Juno were intercepted while driving across the Kierbedź Bridge. After a short exchange of fire, they jumped into the Vistula river where they were either shot at, however later according to a German schupo report the Germans recovered their bodies, Sokol was shot and had his ID with him which later caused Germans taking action against his family. Zbigniew Gesicki "Juno" was recovered as being drowned and since he had no documents which was a requirement of all actions, he was not identified by the Germans. Later the AK in order to hide the identity of Zbigniew Gesicki took his railway hat from his family in the city of Piastow and documents, later delivered them to Policja Granatowa pro German police station in the suburb of Grojec city, in order to avoid making any relation with the Kutschera action and to protect his relatives from revenge. It is unknown what the Germans did with the bodies they recovered.
The Germans held the Kutschera's funeral ceremony in the Brühl palace. His body was then transported to Berlin on a special train. On the next day, 2 February 1944, they shot 300 civilian hostages in one of the last public executions in the city before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. Also, they imposed a 100 million złoty tribute on Polish residents of Warsaw and Warsaw County.
In popular culture
- Richard C. Lukas "Forgotten holocaust - The Poles under German Occupation 1939-1944" Hippocrene Books 1997 ISBN 0-7818-0901-0