On November 15, 1940 in the buildings of the former military prison at Gęsia Street 24, the Nazis established the ghetto’s central jail, which was formally subordinate to the Warsaw Judenrat.

The correctional complex consisted of a few buildings and was surrounded with a wall. Apart from Jews, people of Romani nationality were also kept there. In cells with the capacity of 300, up to 1,300 prisoners were incarcerated. Ludwik Hirszfeld writes about the prison in his book "Historia Jednego Życia" ("The history of a life"):

"As the leader of the Health Council, I visited the prison at Gęsia Street. Although it was supposed to hold only 200-300 people, actually it held 1,200. On the left, some smaller cells destined for intelligentsia (for 8-10 people) have bars in the windows. The cells for proletariat have only small windows under the ceiling. They are so crowded that there is no space to sit or lie down. The prisoners suffocate and die of carbon dioxide poisoning".

The Nazis carried out numerous executions at the jail courtyard. Additionally, from the spring of 1944 they shot at mass executions also prisoners from the nearby prison at Pawia Street, so called Pawiak. Bodies were burnt on the spot.

The jail was officially closed down on April 19, 1943 and replaced by a department of the Nazi concentration camp, Majdanek. Groups of Jews, including displaced people from Western European countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, were held there. The prisoners were exploited for free labor on the territory of the destroyed Ghetto. They had to demolish buildings and search the ruins for valuables.

After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, on August 5, 1944, after an offensive which lasted one and a half hour, soldiers of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) company “Giewont” from the scout Battalion “Zośka” took control of the camp and released 348 prisoners. A part of them – among others Henryk Lederman and Dawid Goldman, pseudonym Gutek – joined the insurgents and continued the fight against the occupying forces.

Julian Grzesik in his book entitled “Zagłada Żydów 1939-1945” (‘Extermination of Jews 1939-1945’) described the liberation of the camp:

"Jewish prisoners heard the explosions, so loud that the barracks were shaken to the foundations. It turned dark and an atmosphere of terrifying silence prevailed, suddenly disrupted not by German, but Polish words. A question was posed: ‘Boys, who are you?’. The answer was: ‘We are Jews!”. The prisoners heard: “You are free!”. They started breaking the windowpanes with stools and getting outside the building. Then, in a state of euphoria, the Jews started running across the jail courtyard shouting hoarsely: “Long live Poland!”(…) Jakub Wiśnia, held in Pawiak prison, in so-called “ eight - Jewish cell of death”, later kept in Gęsiówka, wrote down a conversation with one of the officers of Battalion “Zośka”. The officer had asked him, where he came from, if he had a family and what he was planning to do. The answer concerning the family was to be expected. He had lost everyone, he gave up hope, but he wanted to take part in the uprising with all his heart. This way he, a Jew Jakub Wiśnia, together with his comrades, found his way to the Battalion”.

After the war, on a wall of the building at Anielewicza Street 34, the memorial plaque was unveiled and its inscription says: “On August 5, 1944, the scout battalion “Zośka”, a part of “Radosław” Regiment of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), conquered the Nazi concentration camp “Gęsiówka” and released 348 Jewish prisoners, citizens coming from various European countries. Many of them fought and were killed in the Warsaw Uprising”.

 

Print