Bracka Street Massacre in Warsaw
The Bracka Street massacre in Warsaw was a series of murders, arson and other serious war crimes committed by soldiers of the German Wehrmacht in 1944 . The series took place during an attempt to unblock a section of the Aleje Jerozolimskie street that had been closed by the Warsaw insurgents .
In the fighting on August 3 and 4, 1944, the soldiers of the East Prussian Grenadier Regiment used four Polish civilians permanently as "living shields" , who had to secure attacks by tanks on the barricades of the rebels. The Germans also murdered prisoners of war and residents of the houses on Bracka Street and Aleje Jerozolimskie. Over 200 people fell victim to this.
The German attack in the direction of the main train station
Aleje Jerozolimskie and Poniatowski Bridge formed one of the most important highways in Warsaw, which Germans used to supply their troops fighting the Red Army with food and supplies on the right bank of the Vistula . On the first day of the Warsaw Uprising (August 1, 1944) soldiers of the Polish Home Army (Pol. Armia Krajowa, AK for short ) attacked the most important German buildings in Aleje Jerozolimskie (including the main train station, the building of the Gospodarstwa Krajowego Bank, Poniatowski Bridge ), but they did not block any section of the main thoroughfare. Only at the level of Bracka Street could they establish a weak connection with the AK units in Śródmieście Południowe. The situation only changed in favor of the insurgents on August 3rd. Early in the morning of that day, the soldiers of the "Chrobry II" group occupied the post station building at the intersection of Aleje Jerozolimskie and Żelazna streets. Opposite the Postbahnhof, the same group took over the so-called Dom Turystyczny (German: Tourism House ), where the connection to the soldiers of the group "Gurt", who occupied the nearby building of the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny (German: the military institute of geography ), was established . Around 10:00 the soldiers of the two groups attacked the tunnel of the cross-city line ( kolej średnicowa ) and occupied part of the evacuation train and took over a lot of weapons. From that time on, the Aleje Jerozolimskie and the railway line were blocked by the insurgents.
The Germans quickly began a counteraction. Around noon a mighty column of tanks drove into Aleje Jerozolimskie from Towarowa and advanced from the Wola district towards the Poniatowski Bridge. Several hundred civilians imprisoned in the Wola were driven as "living shields" in front of German tanks. The Germans attacked the defenders of the Postbahnhof and around 1 p.m. they reached the Poniatowski Bridge. On the other hand, an attack by two battalions of the Grenadier Regiment East Prussia 4th began from the side of the Poniatowski Bridge (the regiment had been brought in from Zegrze the day before ). The German infantry, supported by several tanks, advanced along the Aleja 3 Maja and Aleje Jerozolimskie and tried to reach the main train station, which was still occupied by the German troops. On the section between Bracka Street and Nowy Świat Street, the East Prussian grenadiers encountered bitter resistance from Polish soldiers of the 3rd Company of the Kiliński Battalion, the so-called Kolegium C (even house numbers of Aleje Jerozolimskie), the battalion of the Bezpieczeństwa corpus. Sokół ”and the AK unit“ Bełt ”(odd house numbers). The Germans occupied the section of Aleje Jerozolimskie between Nowy Świat Street and Marszałkowska Street until 7:00 p.m., but they did not advance to the Central Station. In addition, AK soldiers hold the positions in the houses at Aleje Jerozolimskie No. 17 and 21. Due to the heavy losses and the strong resistance of the insurgents, the Germans had to stop the attack and withdraw the main troops of the regiment near the National Museum . They only left the fuses in the burned houses 19 and 25.
On August 4th, Aleje Jerozolimskie became a scene of heavy fighting again. In the morning the East Prussian grenadiers opened the attack in the west again. Later a powerful column of wagons and the German infantry from the 19th Panzer Division (from 60 to 80 tanks and tank guns) advanced from the vicinity of the Poniatowski Bridge to the Ochota district . As a result of heavy fire, the AK soldiers had to temporarily leave the burning post station. However, the Germans suffered heavy losses (the 19th Panzer Division alone lost 11 dead and 40 injured). The enemy also did not attempt to permanently occupy and secure Aleje Jerozolimskie. The Germans only kept the previously occupied main station, the Gospodarstwa Krajowego bank building and the National Museum. They left some positions in the ruins of the houses on the stretch between Nowy Świat Street and Marszałkowska Street. The AK soldiers, however, kept their positions in the post station building and in the tenement house No. 17. As a result, neither the Germans nor the Poles could use the Aleje Jerozolimskie as a traffic route. Only after several days of fighting did the insurgents secure the section of Aleje Jerozolimskie between Nowy Świat Street and Marszałkowska Street, which was the only overground route connecting Śródmieście Południowe and Śródmieście Północne (10-25 August).
Crimes against prisoners and civilians
During the fighting on August 3 and 4, 1944, the East Prussian grenadiers committed a series of war crimes. During the entire extent of the attack, the Polish population was evicted from the houses captured by the Germans and taken to the National Museum. On the evening of August 3, more than 4,000 civilians entered the cellars of the museum building. It was not until the evening of August 4 that the Germans provided the displaced persons with some food and allowed the doctors to help the injured.
The German soldiers used the Polish civilians imprisoned in the Praga district as "living shields" , who had to secure attacks by tanks on the rebels' barricades. According to a report by the witness of these events to the editors of the rebellious newspaper "Rzeczpospolita Polska" (No. 26 (98) of August 15, 1944) an officer of the German armored forces selected about 60 men from the cellars on the morning of August 3 civilians detained at the National Museum. He then ordered them to form a column (5-6 people in each row) that were driven in front of tanks in the direction of insurgent positions. Next to the Polish barricade at the intersection of Bracka Street and Aleje Jerozolimskie, civilians from the “living shields” got caught in the crossfire and were massacred. The hostages who escaped or tried to protect themselves from being shot were shot or pelted with grenades by the Germans. As a result, around 50–60 Polish civilians died. The witness mentioned above testified that only five men were able to return to the National Museum, including three injured and scalded (one of whom soon died).
The Germans acted similarly during the fighting on August 4th. In the morning, around 100 male civilians and some insurgents detained in Powiśle were taken from the basements of the National Museum and driven to the insurgent barricades. Many hostages died during the shooting or were murdered by the Germans. Some fled to the insurgent-controlled area. Hostages also had to cover the column of the German 19th Panzer Division. Initially, it was the civilians who were imprisoned in the museum's cellars. However, many hostages escaped or died in the first phase of the attack. The Germans then pulled several hundred civilians from the houses near the intersection of Marszałkowska Street, Nowogrodzka Street, and Aleje Jerozolimskie. They secured the convoy's journey to the intersection of Aleje Jerozolimskie and Chałubińskiego streets, where they were kept under guard for several hours.
On August 3rd and 4th, the East Prussian grenadiers also carried out a series of executions. The situation report of an unidentified AK unit on the evening of August 5, 1944 shows that the Germans murdered all the men who were imprisoned in the houses in Aleje Jerozolimskie No. 8 and 16 and in the corner house Nowy Świat / Aleja 3 Maja . In the rebellious first aid station at Aleje Jerozolimskie 16, a doctor helping the injured was shot and the head of a sanitary department burned herself in a house set on fire by the Germans. On the other hand, the newspaper "Biuletyn Informacyjny" No. 43/44 reported that the residents of the tenement houses at Bracka Street 17 and Aleje Jerozolimskie 19 had been killed (40 men and some women were supposed to die in the last house ). Antoni Przygoński estimated the total number of people executed for about 100 people. Men from the house on the corner of Marszałkowska Street and Aleje Jerozolimskie survived because a Silesian who was accepted into the Wehrmacht let them escape to a house occupied by the insurgents at the right time.
The insurgents who were captured were also murdered. One of the largest executions took place in Powiśle, where, after a failed attack on the Poniatowski Bridge, several dozen badly armed soldiers from the 1138th and 1139th platoons of the 3rd AK group "Konrad" in the house at Aleja 3 Maja No. 2 were imprisoned. During the German counterattack on August 3, 1944, the tanks destroyed the gate of the house and the frightened residents hoisted the white flag. The AK soldiers threw away weapons and insurgent armbands and joined a group of civilians. After occupying the house, the Germans separated men from women and began to make a selection. Barbara Sikora, the caretaker's daughter and a well-known Gestapo informant, took an active part in the search for insurgents (she revealed that around 50 Home Army soldiers were hiding in the house). The Volksdeutsche Koenig also took part in the search, but he did not show any insurgents, he even saved a few soldiers. Finally the Germans found 20 soldiers of the group "Konrad" from the crowd and gathered them under the arch of the viaduct (so-called "snail"). A resident of the house bribed the prison guards and rescued Zbysław Przepiórka (code name Zbyszko ) from the group of convicts. Probably on the same day, the remaining 19 prisoners were shot under the viaduct. The second group of suspects, mostly hidden insurgents, were taken to ulica Wioślarska by the Germans. Her testimony was sufficiently coherent that the Germans refrained from an immediate execution and locked the prisoners in a turret in the Poniatowski Bridge. They were held there for almost two weeks (they provided food and water to the population of the Saska Kępa district). 18-19 On August 1st they were taken to the barracks at 11 listopada Street in the Praga district, where they worked for two weeks loading the cars. They were later transported to the transit camp in Pruszków and from there deported to KL Stutthof .
During the fighting to resolve the Aleje Jerozolimskie, the Germans caused massive destruction. On August 3, they set fire to the houses at Aleje Jerozolimskie 18, 20, 22, 32, 34 and 36, as well as the upper floors of the rental house at Bracka 17 street, with petrol and shots from tank guns. The fire also reached parts of the buildings on the Aleje Jerozolimskie side with odd numbers. The next day, the Germans set fire to all of the rental houses on the side of this street with even house numbers - on the section between Bracka Street and Nowy Świat Street. They also set fire to all the houses between Smolna Street and Aleja 3 Maja and some houses on Nowy Świat Street (in these last, the Germans should not allow the evacuation of civilians from the burning buildings).
All the crimes described above were carried out with the knowledge and consent of the German leadership. Walther Brunon, the captured soldier of the Grenadier Regiment East Prussia 4th (iv civilian Protestant pastor ), testified that his unit received an order to kill all men who were pushed, to pull women and children out of their houses and to burn houses. Civilians detained in the National Museum building were held hostage . In the evening situation report of the German 9th Army of August 4, 1944, it was written that of the almost 4,000 Warsaw residents imprisoned there, “we are today releasing women and children and telling them that if the fire is not stopped by 8 a.m., they will we owe the shooting of their husbands and fathers to the criminals, as well as the shooting of all other men because the soldiers are unable to determine who is enemy and who is friend ”. Ultimately, this threat did not get carried out. Some men (qualified as "sick") were released along with women and children. The rest were transported from Warsaw.
- The raiding party was led by Lieutenant Zbigniew Brym ( code name Zdunin ). See: Borkiewicz 1969, p. 107.
- The column consisted of about twelve tanks, which most likely belonged to the Parachute Panzer Division 1 "Hermann Göring". See: Borkiewicz 1969, p. 105.
- Women and other residents were brought to Saska Kępa and after a certain time they were allowed to return home. See: Michelis i Rudniewska 1993, pp. 120-121.
- Adam Borkiewicz: warszawskie Powstanie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. pp. 59, 62, 65
- Adam Borkiewicz: warszawskie Powstanie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. p. 107
- Adam Borkiewicz: warszawskie Powstanie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. p. 105
- Robert Bielecki: W zasięgu PAST-y . Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1994. ISBN 83-07-01950-8 . Pp. 119-120
- Adam Borkiewicz: Powstanie warszawskie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. p. 108
- Adam Borkiewicz: warszawskie Powstanie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. pp. 115-116
- Robert Bielecki: W zasięgu PAST-y . Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1994. ISBN 83-07-01950-8 . Pp. 126-128
- Adam Borkiewicz: warszawskie Powstanie. Zarys działań natury wojskowej . Warszawa: Instytut wydawniczy PAX, 1969. pp. 251, 325
- Antoni Przygoński: Powstanie warszawskie w sierpniu 1944 r . TI Warszawa: PWN, 1980. ISBN 83-01-00293-X . Pp. 241-242
- Ludność cywilna w powstaniu warszawskim . T. II i III. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1974. p. 127
- Maja Motyl, Stanisław Rutkowski: Powstanie Warszawskie - rejestr miejsc i faktów zbrodni . Warszawa: GKBZpNP-IPN, 1994. pp. 65-66
- Ludność cywilna w powstaniu warszawskim . T. II i III. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1974. pp. 57-58
- Maja Motyl, Stanisław Rutkowski: Powstanie Warszawskie - rejestr miejsc i faktów zbrodni . Warszawa: GKBZpNP-IPN, 1994. p. 65
- Adam de Michelis, Alicja Rudniewska: Pod rozkazami "Konrada". Pierwsza monografia III Zgrupowania Obwodu Warszawskiego AK . Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza “Volume”, 1993. ISBN 83-85218-58-0 . Pp. 117-121
- Adam de Michelis, Alicja Rudniewska: Pod rozkazami "Konrada". Pierwsza monografia III Zgrupowania Obwodu Warszawskiego AK . Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza “Volume”, 1993. ISBN 83-85218-58-0 . Pp. 121-122
- Maja Motyl, Stanisław Rutkowski: Powstanie Warszawskie - rejestr miejsc i faktów zbrodni . Warszawa: GKBZpNP-IPN, 1994. p. 108
- Ludność cywilna w powstaniu warszawskim . T. II i III. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1974. p. 50