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The Wola and Ochota Massacres

The German massacre of the civilians of the Warsaw districts of Wola and Ochota was one of the largest mass murders conducted during World War II. Upon learning about the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on 1 August 1944, Hitler ordered the destruction of Warsaw and the annihilation of all its inhabitants. The implementation of the order was started by SS officers, policemen and the Wehrmacht soldiers, who began murdering the captured insurgents and the civilians. Already on 1 August the Germans murdered groups of Poles on the corner of Sowińskiego Street and Karlińskiego Street, at 20 Okopowa Street and at 165 Wolska Street. By 4 August the soldiers of the “Hermann Goering” armoured division had murdered around 400 people, and the soldiers of the 608th Security Regiment expelled civilians from their homes, murdering, looting and raping women. Starting from 4 August, the German forces launched a counterattack on Warsaw from the West, carried out by the SS Special Regiment led by SSOberführer Oskar Dirlewanger – which was composed of criminals released from prisons – the police group led by SS-Gruppenfuehrer Heinz Reinefarth and the multiethnic SS RONA Brigade (Russian National Liberation Army) led by SS-Brigadefuehrer Bronislav Kaminski.

On 5 August these units began the massacre of the civilian population of Wola. The murderers killed the inhabitants using machine guns regardless of the gender and age of the victims. The collective executions were accompanied by looting and mass rape of women, including underage girls. Some victims were brought as “human shields” to the positions of the insurgents. Between 5 to 10 thousand people were murdered in the area of Górczewska Street and Moczydło Street, including the personnel and patients of the Wola Hospital. About 6 thousand people were murdered in the “Ursus” factory, including three children of Wanda Lurie (1911-1989), who survived under the piles of bodies despite heavy injuries and was an important witness of the massacre. About 4 thousand people were murdered in the Franaszek factory, about 3 thousand were murdered at 9 Górczewska Street, and about a thousand people were murdered at the tram depot at Młynarska Street, at Wolska Street and at Sowińskiego Park. In some places the burnt bodies were piled 25 metres high. On 6 August the massacre was continued in the agricultural machinery warehouse on Wolska Street, where about 2 thousand people were murdered, as well as in the Franaszek factory, in the area of Górczewska Street, Moczydło Street and in the area of the Redemptorist monastery at Karolkowa Street. One of the Azerbaijani battalions murdered about 200 patients at the Karol and Maria Hospital. About 7 thousand people were murdered on 7 August, mainly in the Mirowskie Halls. At the same time, thousands of civilians were expelled from their homes and driven among the fires and piles of corpses towards the Western Railway Station and Włochy district. In the following days the intensity of the massacre decreased, but expulsions, murders, looting and rapes continued until mid- August. The total number of victims of the Wola massacre is estimated at about 50 thousand people.

The Ochota massacre began on 4 August when the RONA units joined the suppression of the uprising under the general German command. On 5 August, a transition camp for displaced persons was created in the area of the vegetable market, the socalled “Zieleniak” (currently: Banacha Halls), where several tens of thousands of people were gathered over the next few days and gradually expelled to the camp in Pruszków. On the way to the vegetable market and at the transition camp, SS officers and drunken RONA members murdered and raped the displaced civilians. The bodies of those who were murdered or died of exhaustion were laid in piles along the camp wall. On 5 and 6 August, the RONA units murdered over 150 people at the Radium Institute at Wawelska Street. Another place of mass murder was the Kolonia Staszica housing estate, where the RONA units systematically raped, robbed and murdered the hiding civilians. The victims’ bodies were burnt on the grounds of the Hugo Kołłątaj High School. The total number of victims of the Ochota massacre is estimated at about 10 thousand people.

Just like the Monument in Memory of the Inhabitants of Wola murdered by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, located at the fork of Aleja Solidarności and Leszno Street in Warsaw, this issue is intended to commemorate the innocent victims of this atrocity. The reverse of the coin depicts a figure of a kneeling woman, symbolizing a victim of the August 1944 events, as well as fragments of the images of two male figures – outlined behind her back – symbolizing the murderers.

The obverse of the coin depicts a fragment of the Monument in Memory of the Inhabitants of Wola murdered by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, created by Ryszard Stryjecki.

Professor Wojciech Roszkowski