On Friday evening, the inhabitants of the capital walked through the streets of Wola in the March of Remembrance to pay tribute to the civilian victims of crimes committed by the Germans and their collaborators. On the way, candles were lit in many places of executions carried out during the Wola Massacre between 5 and 7 August 1944.
The celebrations commemorating the murdered began with the ceremony at the monument dedicated to the murdered residents of Wola, located at the fork of al. Solidarności and ul. Leszno. In a letter to its participants, President Andrzej Duda described the mass murders in Wola as “a shocking crime of genocide”. “They were murdered en masse, in the most brutal way. A huge number of victims were women and children, the elderly and the infirm, medical personnel, the sick and wounded from Wola hospitals. The slaughter of Wola is invariably a symbol of unimaginable evil and the trampling of all human rights and principles” – emphasized the president He added that it is also shocking that any of the German criminals responsible for the crimes in Wola did not hold criminal responsibility, for example Heinz Reinefarth, the “hangman of Wola”, who after the war held high local government functions in West Germany.
According to President Andrzej Duda, the crimes of 78 years ago are one of the prices “paid by the people fighting for freedom”. “Warsaw – an untamed city – has paid this price more than once in its history. In this way – with terror and brutality – the neighboring powers tried to bring the Polish capital to its knees,” he said. He compared this crime to those currently committed in Ukraine by the Russian army.
The deputies paid tribute to those murdered during the Wola Massacre.
Precise “death machine”
The Mayor of the Wola District, Krzysztof Strzałkowski, recalled that the murders committed against the inhabitants of Wola were the largest single genocide against Poles during World War II. As an example of the fate of the inhabitants of the district, he mentioned the figure of Wanda Lurie, who lost all her children in the slaughter of Wola, and being pregnant, miraculously escaped death in a street execution. He emphasized that the memory of the events of 1944 survived and became part of the district’s identity, despite the fact that it was almost completely silent during the communist period.
The deputy mayor of Warsaw, Renata Kaznowska, also drew attention to the unparalleled scale of the crime committed by the Germans. She said Wola Slaughter was an inadequate term as it was not a “wild fury attack” but a precise “death machine” that resulted in the deaths of some 50,000 inhabitants. She said that on the first day of the crime, “every 2 seconds, one inhabitant of this district was killed.”
The granddaughters of Jerzy Janowski, one of the initiators of the construction of the monument commemorating the murdered inhabitants of Wola and other forms of commemoration, who survived the slaughter, spoke in front of the monument. They recalled the history of this place and quoted a fragment of their grandfather’s memories. “Our grandfather survived his own death. He often repeated that if I cannot forget, I must fight for a worthy memory” – said Antonina and Justyna Janowskie.
Flowers and candles on the route of the march
The march that began after the reading of the Memorial Appeal followed the main streets of the district. It was attended by the inhabitants of the capital, veterans and representatives of state and local authorities, the management of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, scouts and representatives of numerous patriotic organizations and reconstruction groups. The march was opened by the soldiers of the Representative Regiment of the Polish Army. Its participants received candles. The veterans arrived on special buses. Along the way, volunteers from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which organized the March, and scouts laid flowers and lit candles.
The march ended at the Monument to the Fallen Undefeated at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery. The ashes of about 50,000 killed and murdered Warsaw residents rest in the necropolis. Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, one of the veterans of the Warsaw Uprising, welcomed those arriving there and thanked them for coming. In the first part of her speech, she again referred to her conflict with the Masovian Voivode, Konstanty Radziwiłł. The dispute concerns the cross recently erected near the burial mound in which the ashes of the murdered residents of Wola and other districts of Warsaw were laid.
She also talked about the need to care for nature and fight climate change, which she said is the result of wars. She also criticized the Warsaw Uprising March 1, organized by national circles and patriotic organizations.
Director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Jan Ołdakowski, thanked for participation in the ceremony and the efforts of all those who care for the cemetery in Wola. Then Traczyk-Stawska spoke again and appealed for peace, because the insurgents fought for a world in which “children who are born were not afraid of the end of the world, because every war causes changes in the climate.” She also called for arms supplies to Ukraine, which was fighting the Russian invasion, because – as she noted – the Warsaw Uprising could not be victorious due to the lack of weapons.
None of the perpetrators of this crime was held responsible
The slaughter of the inhabitants of the capital city of Wola lasted from 5 to 7 August 1944. According to various estimates, from 40 to 60 thousand people died in mass executions. neighborhood residents. The population was shot and the bodies of the dead were burned. The large-scale extermination ended on August 7, but lasted to a lesser extent until August 12, when General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who commanded the operation to suppress the Warsaw Uprising, banned the murder of civilians. After the war, none of the perpetrators of this crime was held responsible. For many years, the crimes committed in Wola were not sufficiently commemorated. It was not until 2004 that the Monument to the Victims of the Wola Massacre was unveiled in the square at the junction of Solidarności Avenue and Leszno Street, which is called the Monument of the Fifty Thousand. In 2010, the Warsaw Council established August 5 as the Day of Remembrance of the Residents of Wola.
Reinefarth never answered for the slaughter of Wola. The materials from the investigation went to the exhibition.
Main photo source: PAP / Piotr Nowak