world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland.

Excerpts from: German Crimes in Poland. Howard Fertig, New York, 1982.

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  Burning Corpses

Record No. 506
I was taken from Dlugosz Street (as a civilian) at 6 a.m. on August 6, 1944, and led to Sokolowska Street to the so-called Arbeitskommando head-quarters. Next day I volunteered for work with 50 other thinking that in this way I should be better off. We were sent to a house opposite St. Adalbert’s Church in Wolska Street, where about six hundred bodies of men, women and children were lying in heaps. Near by were a few dozen more, which we added to the heap. Then we went to No. 60, Wolska Street, where, on both sides of the courtyard lay the bodies of more than 100 men, as far was we could judge, victims of a mass execution. In the garden of this same house we found in a thicket the bodies of more than a dozen women, children, and babies, shot through the back of the bead. We carried out from the house at the corner of Plocka and Wolska Street (a large yellow house) several dozens of bodies of men, women and children, partly burnt, who had been shot through the back of the head. From a house in Plocka Street, between Wolska and Gorczewska Streets, we carried out about 100 bodies. In one of the houses we found the half-burnt body of a man holding two children in the arms. When we returned to No. 60, Wolska Street, we made a wooden platform on which we laid the dead; and then we cleared the ground of all traces of the German crimes, such as documents, clothes, or linen, which we placed on the pile of dead, sprinkled with petrol, and set alight. While we were thus burning the bodies, a drunken SD officer arrived in a car. He picked out three men of about 20 or 30 from a group of refugees passing by. He shot them through the back of the head in the course of a "friendly" conversation. After having murdered the first man he ordered us to throw him on the burning pyre before the eyes of the remaining two.

On Aug. 8, 1944, they led us to the yard of the "Ursus" works in Wolska Street. The whole courtyard, about 50 metres (55 yards) square was strewn with dead bodies so thickly that it was impossible to pass without treading on them. Half of them were of women with children, often with infants. All the bodies bore traces of robbery. Their position showed that they had each been murdered separately and in an especially bestial way. The number of bodies burnt there amounted, as far as I could estimate, to more than six hundred. Their clothes and suit-cases showed them to be refugees. When we were transporting bodies from neighbouring houses I found a great number of corpses in a flooded cellar in a house at the corner of Skierniewicka Street. We could not get out more than a few dozen of them, as the water was too high. I suppose they had been thrown in here after having been murdered in the courtyard, where we still found more than a dozen bodies. Then they took us to th e "Franaszek" works in Wolska Street, where we burnt in the same way as before about the same number of bodies as in the "Ursus" works, mostly of women and children. On one of the following days they took us to work in Sowinski Park, where again the bodies were mostly those of women and children; I found even pregnant women. The position of these bodies lying in a row seemed to be proof of a mass execution. We then burnt more than a thousand on two pyres. They made us search the bodies and give fall valuables to the SD-men. As to paper money, we were ordered to burn it, together with all other evidence of the crime. We worked there one whole day. Next day they took us to No. 24, Wolska Street (the “Wenecja" playground), where we brought bodies from the sector of Wolska Street between Mlynarska and Karolkowa and burnt over two hundred. On the same day we burnt about 200 corpses at No. 4, Wolska Street. In a house at the corner of Wronia and Chlodna streets we burnt about f ifty bodies which were there lying half-burnt. I then saw a non-commissioned SD-officer murder an old woman off about 80 who was passing along Chlodna Street, and whose body we added to the burning pyre. In the Machlejd factory building we threw bodies brought from neighbouring houses into the burning cellars. All next day we worked on the burning of bodies in the grounds of St. Lazarus’s Hospital in Wolska Street. We found the bodies of the murdered patients and of the staff in the hospital wards in beds, on the staircases, in the passages and in the cellars. From what I saw there, I suppose that all the patients and the whole of the staff were murdered. In most cases their bodies had been burnt in the cellars. After having partly burnt the bodies in St. Lazarus’s Hospital, we also burnt many in houses the addresses of which I do not remember. After returning to the hospital grounds, we found there the bodies of forty newly murdered men. On one of the next days we burnt about one hundred c orpses in the sector of Mlynarska Street between Wolska and Gorczewska Street; about one hundred also in the courtyard of the Michler works and about the same number in Ptasia Street. Towards evening we removed all traces of crime from the grounds of St. Lazarus’s Hospital. Then I fell ill and ceased working on the burning of bodies.

From the reports of my companions in other working parties I conclude that this work of wiping out all traces of mass murder lasted until the middle of September, 1944. The work was organised as follows. A gang for the burning of bodies contained one hundred men, divided into two lots of fifty, strictly segregated from the remainder of the Arbeitskommando. The work was done under the supervision of fifteen SD-men under the command of an SD-officer. Part of the men prepared and arranged the pyre, and the others brought the bodies from the neighbouring houses. I was informed at this time that an order to stop the executions had been given on the morning of Aug. 6, 1944. During this period (I cannot give the exact date) I saw the bodies of about 20 priests. At various times I saw individual old men and priests being murdered. For instance, in Zelazna Street an SD-man shot down two sick old women.

After the pyres on the "Wenecja" play-ground had burnt out, the ashes were thrown into the air-raid-protection trenches there. Our party of 50 men worked from Aug. 6 to 15 at the intersection of Chlodna and Wolska Streets. The second party worked in the sector of Gorczewska Street with cross-roads where there is an intersection, but I have no precise information about their work.

I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the dates I have given above, and the number of burnt bodies is only approximate, but it must certainly have been not less but rather more than I have said.

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