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Warsaw commemorates 1944 Wola Massacre

05.08.2022 09:30
An exhibition entitled "Wola 1944" has opened in the Polish capital to commemorate a bloody Nazi German massacre in the city’s western Wola district during the first days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising.
Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński.
Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński.Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

The exhibition at the Polish capital's Warsaw Rising Museum marks the 78th anniversary of what is known as the Wola Massacre, the systematic killing of tens of thousands of Polish civilians by the Nazi Germans in Warsaw's Wola district in the early stage of the uprising, which broke out on August 1, 1944.

It is estimated that up to 10,000 civilians, including many women and children, were killed on August 5, the first day of the Wola Massacre.

Speaking at the exhibition's launch on Thursday, Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński said the Germans killed anywhere from 15,000 to 60,000 men, women and children in Warsaw's Wola district between August 5 and 7, 1944.

He stressed that “first, this was a war crime that had all the hallmarks of genocide, and second, it was a crime that went unpunished.”

Gliński added that, "despite the lapse of so many years and the work of various institutions and researchers, the massacre has not been fully investigated."

The exhibits include victims’ personal belongings, survivors’ testimonies, as well as a report from the criminal proceedings against Heinz Reinefarth, a German SS commander of the troops that were responsible for the atrocities.

Magdalena Gawin, director of Poland's Pilecki Institute, which has organized the exhibition jointly with the Warsaw Rising Museum, has said that Reinefarth, known as the "Butcher of Warsaw," has "not been brought to account."

After the war, he became mayor of the town of Westerland and a member of the Schleswig-Holstein Landtag regional parliament in Germany.

Gawin added that, in the course of a criminal investigation into the case, 39 volumes of court records were gathered and 1,135 witnesses gave their testimonies.

Yet Reinefarth did not stand trial after the prosecutor’s motion to dismiss the case was approved. He died in 1979.

The Wola 1944: Erasing Memories, Genocide and Reinefarth’s Case exhibition features an interview that Reinefarth gave to West German television in 1964.

In the interview, which was never aired in Poland before, the former SS commander denied the crimes, saying that even if any crimes took place he did not have any knowledge of them or they were committed by other units.

A march of remembrance in tribute to the victims of the Wola Massacre is set to be held in Warsaw's Wola district on Friday evening.