On Saturday evening, the March of Remembrance took place through the streets of the capital city of Wola. Those gathered paid tribute to the civilian victims of crimes committed by the Germans and their collaborators during the Warsaw Uprising.
The celebrations commemorating those murdered during the Wola massacre began with a ceremony in front of the Memorial Monument to the 50 Thousand Residents of Wola Murdered by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, located at the Memorial Square, at the intersection of Leszno Street and Solidarności Avenue. It was attended by representatives of state and local government authorities, veterans of World War II, including Warsaw insurgents, as well as residents of the capital. Also present were representatives of the Institute of National Remembrance, the Warsaw Uprising Museum and the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression.
President: Slaughter, genocide, bestiality. That’s what it should be called
In a letter to the participants of the ceremony, the President Andrzej Duda he noted that “it is impossible to describe what happened in Warsaw’s Wola district 79 years ago.” “However, standing in this place, at the monument to the Victims of the Wola Massacre, the words meet the image of hewn granite, in which the artist has included a load of emotions to help us, our contemporaries, understand the drama of the memorable August 1944” – he noted.
This year, the image is particularly suggestive, because the celebration of the Wola Massacre falls on Saturday. Just like 79 years ago, on a day that we usually spend at home, together with our loved ones. That August Saturday brought death to 50,000 residents of Warsaw’s Wola district. ruins, graves and terrible silence. Those who survived said until the end of their days that they had survived their own death” – he stressed.
The president also noted that “today we stand in the heart of a city that the German occupier wanted to raze to the ground, taking no prisoners. Warsaw in 1944 was to be – according to Hitler’s words – ‘an intimidating example for all of Europe'”. “After 63 days of insurgent fighting, it seemed that the Führer’s order had become reality. However, it was an illusion, because despite the sea of ruins and tens of thousands of murdered people, life was smoldering in the city,” he pointed out.
“What was forbidden to talk about for years has now been given a name. Slaughter, genocide, bestiality took place in Wola – and we will always use such terms when describing the history of this district. women, old people, patients of local hospitals, clergy, orphans and disabled people. We will talk about it because of the memory of them, but also the bitterness caused by the fate of Wola’s tormentors. Many of those who gave orders to the local hecatomb did not live to see justice” – the president stressed in the letter. The letter was read by the head of the president’s office, Paweł Szrot.
“Wola is the most patriotic district. It paid the most with its blood”
Mayor of the Wola District, Krzysztof Strzałkowski, noted that “this is a very difficult day for every resident of Wola and every mayor of this district”. – We meet on the trail of memorial sites, and each of them reminds us of thousands of victims brutally murdered in the greatest crime against civilians in history, even in comparison with the horrors of the entire World War II – he said. Strzałkowski also recalled the role of women during the Warsaw Uprising – both those who fought and those from the civilian population. He also pointed out that the majority of civilian casualties were women and children.
Antonina and Justyna Janowski, 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 massacre, spoke in front of the monument. They recalled the history of this place and quoted a fragment of their grandfather’s memories. As they said, “Wola is the most patriotic district. It paid the most with its blood. Let’s not forget about August 5, 1944.”
Walk through the streets of Wola
The march, which was organized by the Warsaw Uprising Museum, began after the reading of the Remembrance Appeal. He 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. Along the way, volunteers of the Warsaw Uprising Museum and scouts laid flowers and lit candles.
The march ended in front of the Monument to the Fallen Undefeated at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery. The ashes of about 50,000 fallen in battle and murdered inhabitants of Warsaw rest in the necropolis.
Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, one of the veterans of the Warsaw Uprising, greeted those arriving at this place and thanked them for coming, adding that she was very moved. – This cemetery is the ultimate document of what war is all about. This cemetery is to call out to the whole world that there will never be wars again, that all nations of Europe can make friends and live in harmony, appealed the participant of the uprising.
Slaughter of Will
The slaughter of the inhabitants of the capital city of Wola lasted from 5 to 7 August 1944. According to various estimates, between 40,000 and 60,000 inhabitants of the district died in mass executions. The people were shot and the bodies of the dead were burned. The large-scale extermination ended on August 7, but to a lesser extent, it lasted until August 12, when General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who commanded the operation to suppress the Warsaw Uprising, issued a ban on murdering civilians.
After the war, none of the perpetrators of this crime was held accountable. 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 on the square at the fork of Aleja Solidarności and Leszno Street, which is called the Monument to Fifty Thousands. In 2010, the Council of Warsaw established August 5 as the Day of Remembrance of Wola Residents
Main photo source: PAP/Marcin Obara