Wola Massacre

The Wola massacre (Polish: Rzeź Woli, "Wola slaughter") (August 5-August 8, 1944 in Wola, Warsaw) was the scene of the largest single massacre in the history of Poland.

According to different sources, some 40,000 to 100,000 Polish civilians and POWs were killed by the German forces during their suppression of the Warsaw Uprising. The Nazis tried to suppress the uprising early with an attempt to terrorize the inhabitants of Warsaw, hoping to end without having to commit to heavy urban combat, before realizing it was only stiffening the opposition.

German troops conduct mass executions of approximately 65,000 civilians in the captured districts. Poles, without regard for age or gender, are rounded up house by house and shot. More than 1, 360 patients and staff of Wola and St. Lazarus hospitals are murdered. The Special Group 'verbrennung-kommando' is collecting and burning the bodies.

No other event captures the brutality of the Uprising better than the Wola Massacre. Between August 5 and August 6 the Nazis embarked on a savage bloodletting in an attempt to batter the Poles into submission. Led by Oskar Dirlewanger, a despicable man with a history of sex crimes against minors, and Heinz Reinfarth, German units executed approximately 40,000 civilians in the Wola area of Warsaw. The massacre only came to halt when Hitler himself intervened and declared all civilians be sent to concentration camps instead. While Dirlewanger was beaten to death by Poles after the war, Reinfarth and countless others evaded justice. The senseless slaughter is commemorated by an impressive monument dating from 2006, designed by Ryszard Stryjecki and found practically opposite the Ibis hotel on Solidarnosci.

According to the Polish survivors of the massacre, the perpetrators had been preparing the attack for a few days in advance. The Poles noticed that their Ukrainian neighbors were drinking heavily, chanting anti-Polish slogans. In the morning of August 29, the Ukrainians surrounded the village. At first, they acted in a friendly way, talking to children, and asking men to gather in a square in front of the school. An UIA officer made a speech, in which he urged Poles to fight the Germans, alongside the Ukrainians. At the same time, in the outskirts of the village, holes for dead bodies had already been dug. After the speech, all Polish men were asked to come for “physical examination”, in a barn, one by one, they were killed by a blow to the head with a blunt object.

After all men had been killed, the time came for women and children, who were locked in the school building. One of the survivors, Marianna Soroka, who was a child back then, told later that they began singing religious hymns, and their mother told them to prepare for death. Another survivor, Henryk Kloc, who was 13, stated that the Ukrainians set fire to the school, and then they began firing at it, and throwing grenades inside. Kloc, heavily wounded, lay among the dying in a school orchard, watching the murderers kill a five-year old son of Maria Jesionek. The woman had already been dead, and her son was sitting next to her, calling her to go home. “Suddenly an armed Ukrainian came to him, and shot the boy in the head” - told Kloc later. He survived, because he played dead. As soon as the massacre ended, local Ukrainian peasants began looting the village. After the massacre, commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s unit reported: “On August 29, I carried out the action in villages of Wola Ostrowiecka and Ostrówki. I liquidated all Poles, from the youngest to the oldest ones. I burnt all buildings, and appropriated all goods”.