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Remnants of the Pawiak prison and a dead tree, now used for posting obituaries.

Pawiak was an infamous political prison built in 1835 in Warsaw, Poland. During the World War II German occupation of Poland, it eventually became part of the Warsaw concentration camp.


The Pawiak was built in 1829–1835. During the January 1863 Uprising, it served as a transfer camp for Poles sentenced to deportation to Siberia. Its name derived from that of the street on which the prison stood, ulica Pawia (Polish for Peacock Street).

After Poland regained its independence in 1918, the Pawiak became Warsaw's main prison for male criminals; females were detained nearby at Gęsiówka.


World War II

Pawiak prison during the occupation
Polish inmates of Pawiak Prison, hanged by the Germans in Leszno Street (Warsaw) on 11 February 1944
Remnants of the Pawiak prison monument

Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939 it was turned into a German Gestapo prison, and then part of the Warsaw concentration camp. Approximately 100,000 men and 200,000 women passed through the prison, mostly members of the Armia Krajowa, political prisoners and civilians taken as hostages in street round-ups. An estimated 37,000 were executed and 60,000 sent to German death and concentration camps. Exact numbers are unknown, as the prison's archives were never found.

During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Pawiak became an assault base for the Nazis; jailers from Pawiak, under the command of Franz Bürkl, volunteered to hunt for the Jews.

On July 19, 1944, a Ukrainian guard, Wachmeister Petrenko, and some prisoners attempted a mass jailbreak, supported by an attack from the outside, but failed. Petrenko and several others committed suicide. The Resistance attack detachment was ambushed and suffered very heavy casualties, practically ceasing to exist. In reprisal, over 380 prisoners were executed the next day. It is thought that the whole incident was actually a well-planned Gestapo provocation.

The final transport of prisoners took place shortly before the Warsaw Uprising, on July 30, 1944. Two thousand men and the remaining 400 women were sent to Gross-Rosen and Ravensbrück. After the area was secured during the Warsaw Uprising and subsequently again lost to German forces, on August 21 an unknown number of remaining prisoners were shot and the buildings burnt and blown up by the Nazis.

The building was not rebuilt after the war. Its site is now occupied by a Mausoleum of Memory of Martyrdom and the Pawiak museum.

See also

Coordinates: 52°14′47″N 20°59′26″E / 52.24639°N 20.99056°E / 52.24639; 20.99056


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