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

The perpetrators were mainly members of one of regiments of the collaborationist Kaminski Brigade of Waffen-SS, which also called itself the "Russian National Liberation Army" (Russian: Русская Освободительная Народная Армия, RONA). The RONA leader, Bronislav Kaminski, was later executed after sentence by the court martial for theft of the looted property for himself and other crimes against Germany (like the alleged rape and murder of two German women by his men).[citation needed]

Contents

Arrival of RONA in Warsaw

On the day of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1, 1944, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered to destroy the city and to exterminate the civilian population of Warsaw.[1][2]

On August 4, 1944, at 10 a.m. units of SS RONA commanded by Bronislav Kaminski entered Ochota. The staff of RONA having in its command 1,700 soldiers in total, placed itself in the building of the "Polish Free University" (Pol.: Wolna Wszechnica Polska) in Opaczewska 2a street (today Banacha 2 street), while one of RONA bataillons placed itself in the building of the 21st Hugo Kołłątaj Secondary School (Pol.: XXI Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Hugona Kołłątaja) in Grójecka 93 street, with the task to fight the insurgent post "Kalisz Redoubt" (Pol.: Reduta Kaliska). Same day, the RONA units commenced the first in a series of rapes, robberies and murders, targeting civilian population of Opaczewska street. Detached groups of RONA men rushed into flats, expelled their residents, shooting at old persons and at those who were reluctant to leave the rooms.[3] Murders of civilians were accompanied by robbery of property, destruction and arson.[3] Most buildings in Opaczewska street were burnt on that day. On August 4-5 1944, people were also murdered in nearby garden allotments and hand-grenades were thrown into cellars where people were hiding;[3] among others, 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 brutally killed the patients, many of whom were first gang raped,[4] the pattern which was repeated elsewhere.

The "Zieleniak" camp

On August 5, because of ever-growing number of people expelled from their flats, it was made the decision of the erection of a transitional camp (which was a stage on the way to the next transitional camp in Pruszków) located on the area of a former vegetable market, so-called "Zieleniak" (nowadays the area of Hale Banacha). Until the evening of that day, anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people were collected in it, while in the culminating moment their number reached several tens of thousands inhabitants of Ochota district and its neighbouring areas.[5]

That place, enclosed with a brick wall, made an escape of the collected population impossible; the staff of the camp took quarters in the building of the former administration of the marketplace, while caretaker boxes were turned into guard posts. From the beginning of its existence the "Zieleniak" camp became a place of mass crimes; people were first robbed, pulled out by force of their homes in the areas of Ochota, which were then set on fire, and driven towards the camp.[3] On the way they were beaten and shots were fired at them, drunk RONA soldiers pulled women out of columns of civilians and raped them in neighbouring buildings and then usually murdered them.[3] In the gate of the "Zieleniak" camp they were searched again for jewels and money, then located in the cobbled area of the marketplace. Since the beginning of their presence in the camp they were endangered by death, RONA soldiers sometimes shot for fun at the imprisoned people, there were no sanitary facilities and no water on the area of the camp (the only water source was emptied very quickly), no food (only some portions of mouldy bread were sometimes given out), no medicines and no medical aid. Nevertheless the German commander of armed forces assigned to fight the uprising, Erich von dem Bach, who inspected the camp on the same day, stated that "there was nothing wrong there, everything was in order."[3]

By August 7, 1944, the camp was fully packed with civilian population. The number of dead was growing and they were laid in piles along the camp wall or were tried to be buried. On the same day, several hundred persons of other-than-Polish descent were escorted away to a similar camp in Okęcie. On August 9, the first batch of prisoners were 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 the Lubecki Housing Estate (Pol.: Kolonia Lubeckiego) and blocks of the Social Insurance Office (ZUS) in Filtrowa street. After the fall of the "Wawel Redoubt" (Pol.: Reduta Wawelska) on August 11, 1944, there came a 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.[6] The corpses were transported by civilians forced to do it, then laid in piles, poured with spirit by RONA soldiers and set on fire.[3] On August 12, a German officer shot dead three captured boyscouts of the Gustaw Battalion, shot at the back of their heads in the moment they were putting down corpses from the area of the camp into an excavated pit. On August 13, the final evacuation of population into the transitional camp in Pruszków began, arriving groups of Ochota population stayed in the "Zieleniak" camp for a short time and soon were transported out of there. Selected men where forcibly included into units to burn corpses of murdered Warsaw inhabitants (Germ.: Verbrennungskommando).

The camp was in operation until August 19, when a mass murder was committed on 50 patients of the Radium Institute. The RONA SS units withdrew from Ochota during August 22-25 1944. During the two-week time of "Zieleniak" camp's operation, some 1,000 of its prisoners died of hunger, thirst, extreme exhaustion, or were shot to dead by RONA soldiers.[5]

The Radium Institute

Plaque to commemorate those murdered in the Radium Institute

On August 5-6, the RONA units broke into the Radium Institute (Pol.: Instytut Radowy, founded by Maria Skłodowska-Curie) on Wawelska 15 street, and robbed the property of the hospital, of its personnel and its patients, then destroyed the hospital (library set on fire, food stock destroyed, pharmacy destroyed, hospitals; equipment destroyed). The 90 patients of the Institute and the 80 members of its staff (including family members) were to be immediately executed, but after a half an hour of debate it was decided that the patients and 8 staff members would be left while the rest were marched away to the "Zieleniak" transitional camp. On the night on August 5, rapes began on the remaining hospital's staff. On August 6, the building was set on fire and some patients were burned alive.[6] The remaining 60 people managed to avoid death by sheltering in the cellar of the building and its chimneys.

On August 9-10, the survivors were discovered and RONA set the building on fire again. On August 19, RONA troops pulled all people still alive out of the building and killed on the spot the badly ill patients. Some 50 surviving patients of the Radium Institute were sent to the "Zieleniak" transitional camp and on August 19 they were too executed (according to evidence of eyewitnesses, by shot in the back of the head) and then burned on a stack in the gymnasium.[6] Prior to the execution, one assigned for execution female patient of the Institute, of Ukrainian descent, was released. In total, about 170 people (patients and staff) were murdered.

Other atrocities

The first crimes committed by RONA on the area of the Staszic Housing Estate (Pol.: Kolonia Staszica), the Lubecki Housing Estate, as well as neighbouring streets: Białobrzeska, Kopińska and Szczęœśliwicka, took place on August 6, while their culmination took place after August 11, when the last large point of resistance in Ochota, the "Wawel Redoubt" (Pol.: Reduta Wawelska) fell. Rapes, robberies, setting buildings on fire, executions and murders on civilian population hidden in cellars, usually by throwing hand-grenades into buildings, were widespread. In the area of the Lubecki Housing Estate, the Mianowskiego street and Mochnackiego street as well as the southern side of the Filtrowa street and a housing block on Pługa 1/3 street were devastated by RONA; at the building in Filtrowa 83 street the 82-year old painter Wiktor Mazurowski and his wife were murdered. Since August 6, the Staszic Housing Estate was being systematicly plundered by RONA, which members set houses on fire and searched houses for alcohol and jewelry.

A next crime was committed by RONA in the insurgent field hospital grenaded in Langiewicza 11/13 street. Afterwards RONA continued their campaign of pillage, killing a well-known dramatic actor Mariusz Maszyński and his family and the architect Stefan Tomorowicz and his wife in Pole Mokotowskie. On August 25, patients and personnel of the evacuated Infant Jesus Hospital (Pol.: Szpital Dzieciątka Jezus) in Lindleya 4 street were beaten and murdered.

Victims

The number of death victims of the Ochota massacre amounts to some 10,000 people,[5] including 1,000 people who died in the "Zieleniak" camp.

There are tens of places of collective executions in Ochota district, marked with plaques to commemorate deaths of several dozens up to several hundreds of victims. Places of smaller murders are mostly unknown, but it may be assumed that nearly every yard of that district was the place of an execution. Most crimes in Ochota district ended with the fall of the last insurgent redoubt in the building of the Military Geographic Institute (Pol.: Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny) on August 13, 1944.

Systematic robbery and destruction of Ochota district

see also: Planned destruction of Warsaw

Since mid-August till the beginning of October 1944, looting of property continued in the area of Ochota left by its civilian population. A campaign of systematic pillage was organised by the German occupational administration. Robbed property was loaded by Germans into goods trains in the Warszawa Zachodnia railway station and forwarded to Germany therefrom. Additionally, convoys of trucks loaded with stolen property would set off on the road to Piotrków Trybunalski. In the end, German destruction units (Germ.: Vernichtungskommando) began their activity, setting street by street on fire in a systematic way, thus effecting the final destruction of the city district.

See also

Bibliography

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

References

  1. ^ Madajczyk, Czesław (1972). Polityka III Rzeszy w okupowanej Polsce. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. pp. p. 390. "(...) Führer is not interested in further existence of Warsaw (...) the whole population shall be executed and all buildings blown up." 
  2. ^ Wroniszewski, Józef (1970). Ochota 1944. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. pp. p. 128, 129. "According to an evidence of Erich von dem Bach in Nürnberg, Himmler's order (issued on the strength of an order of Adolf Hitler), read as follows: 1. Caught razed insurgents shall be killed despite whether they fight in accordance with the Hague Convention or they infringe it. 2. Non-fighting part of population, women, children, shall also be killed. 3. All the city shall be raized to the ground, i.e. buildings, streets, facilities in that city, and everything which is within its borders." 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ujazdowska, Lidia (2005). Zagłada Ochoty. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Fronda. pp. p. 111, 112, 113. ISBN 83-922344-1-3. 
  4. ^ ATROCITY AT THE MARIE CURIE INSTITUTE
  5. ^ a b c Kazimierski, Józef; Kołodziejczyk, Ryszard (1973). Dzieje Ochoty. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe. pp. s. 325. 
  6. ^ a b c Datner, Szymon; Leszczyński, Kazimierz (1962). Zbrodnie okupanta w czasie powstania warszawskiego (w dokumentach). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo MON. pp. s. 92, 101. 

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