Pawiak Prison Warsaw


himmlervisitsPawiak

Heinrich Himmler visits Pawiak Prison

The construction of the Pawiak prison commenced in 1830 under the direction of Henryk Marconi and was completed in 1839. The four tiered building was 150 metres long and 12 meters wide. A corridor ran along each ier, on either side of the corridor there were cells with heavy doors provided with fittings and spy-holes. Just below the ceiling there were small windows covered from the outside by – so called- baskets. The staircases were blocked by heavy grates on each tier. One entered the building by stone steps with banisters of thick chains fixed to stone posts.

The prison covered an area of 1.5 hectares in a rectangular shape bordered from the North by Pawia Street, which gave Pawiak its name, from the East by Wiezienna Street and from the South by Dzielna Street. The fourth side of this rectangular was the building for women prisoners, the so-called ‘Serbia.’ There was in this building a military hospital in the time of Russian – Turkey war in 1877 -1878, commonly known as the Serbian War.  Serbia was located on Dzielna Street and was separated from the men’s prison by a wall with an iron gate in it. Behind ‘Serbia’ from the side of the Dzielna Street there was a gateway which was walled up during the Nazi occupation. Along from this gateway there was a one storied building inhabited by prison guards. During the Nazi occupation it was used for various purposes, including the incarceration of interned citizens of foreign countries. Opposite the ‘Serbia’ building there were auxiliary premises which on the ground floor housed a potato store and detention cells and upstairs were the prison laundries. Between the ‘Serbia’ building and the wall overlooking Pawia Street there was an exercise yard which also housed a workshop and a greenhouse. The ‘Serbia’ building was two tiered and along each tier ran a corridor with cells on both sides. On the ground floor beside the first section of the prison cells there was the chapel, which was used as a cell during the Nazi occupation, a bath, an administration office and a clothes store room. On the first and second floors there were the second and third sections of the women’s prison and a hospital. The area of Pawiak prison was surrounded by a protective wall, which was heightened in 1942, to approximately 6 metres, topped with barbed-wire. Half-way along the wall on the Dzielna Street side, in front of the entrance to the prison behind the heavy iron gate there were two small guard houses. To the left of the gate close to the wall, in three big kennels the Gestapo kept especially trained police dogs.

On 2 October 1939 the cells of Pawiak began to be rapidly filled, the names of the first 163 prisoners became known to the Polish Underground from a note illegally smuggled out of the prison by the Polish nurse Stanislawa Sroka. The prisoners’ details were entered in ledgers, and one of leaves found after the war in the ruins of the prison contained the name Stefan Starzynski, the Polish President of Warsaw, whom the Germans murdered in Dachau concentration camp. The first public execution in Warsaw was closely linked with Pawiak. The Bekanntmachung of 3 November 1939 informed the populace of the execution of Ms. Eugenia Wlodarz  and Ms.Elzbieta Zahorska, who were arrested for tearing down the German propaganda poster, which read England – this is your work!. They were imprisoned at Pawiak and then executed by firing squad at the Fort Mokowtowski. During the first period under the Nazi occupation – until March 1940 – the prison was under the control of the Department for Justice, within the General –Gourvernement , but in March 1940 it came under the jurisdiction of the SIPO / SD (Security Police / Secret Service) Commander of the Warsaw District whose headquarters were at  Aleja Szucha. In November 1940 the German commandant SS- Obersturmführer Otto Gottschalk and his deputy Hans Fehlhaber were appointed and German staff, took over the responsibility for running the prison. The majority of the Polish prison guards were arrested and a brutal regime became the norm for the prisoners incarcerated in Pawiak prison. Within the walls the prisoners were brutally treated with over one hundred of them hanged in the cells, or forced to take part in brutal ‘gymnastics’ which often resulted in death. Every day in the mornings and at noon prisoners were transported by the prison guards to the Gestapo headquarters at Aleja Szucha for interrogations. Jozef Garlinski a member of the Polish Underground recalled his journey to Pawiak from the Gestapo headquarters:

And now I was to pass through the walls of the Ghetto, but as a Gestapo prisoner, in a prison van. We were strongly escorted, the horns blowing loudly and, as it was six o’clock in the evening and the city at its liveliest, trams stopped and cars got out of the way. A wall, a barrier! Over the Ghetto rose clouds of smoke. I was arrested on 20 April 1943 and one day earlier the Germans started the final assault on the Jewish district and were greeted by fire from small arms and grenades. The Jewish Fighting Organisation had started to resist. We were under a black canvas hood, but it was possible to see a little. The gloomy blocks of houses, standing close together, were shaken every moment by the nearby detonations of shells. From inside came shrieks, smothered by wild firing. The barrier had been raised to let in our column of cars. We raced through the deserted streets, past a group of gendarmes and SS men crouching behind a wall, past some corpses. Finally, the crazy barking of dogs the curses and shouts of the Gestapo men, Raus, raus (Get Out), the Pawiak, an island in the midst of the stormy sea of the fighting Ghetto.    

Jozef Garlinski was sent from Pawiak to Auschwitz concentration camp on 13 May 1943 in a transport of 356 male and female prisoners. He was tattooed with the number 121421 and incarcerated in the Penal Company. He later published his memoirs under the title ‘Fighting Auschwitz.’

Another inmate recalled the Ghetto Uprising

During the ghetto uprising in April – May 1943 Pawiak became an assault base for the Nazis. Prison warders under the command of Bürkl, volunteered to hunt for insurgents. Captured victims were beaten, humiliated and ill-treated. Then they were shot dead at point blank range in the back of their heads. Men and women alike. Also the Ukrainians did the same, later like their masters, they returned excited by murder. We looked at their faces with disgust – we were petrified to hear their tales. In Pawiak the cells were filled with acrid smoke. We could smell human bodies burning. Iron cupboards and beds were scorching. Rubber soles turned into balloons. Apparently, we would also go up in flames.

Conditions in the Pawiak prison were harsh and the Association for Care of the Prisoners – widely known by the name of Patronat – looked after nearly all aspects of the prisoner’s life. The Patronat supplied medicines and dressings to the infirmaries, provided additional food to supplement the meagre rations, established the infirmary kitchen and provided care of children, to pregnant women and new-born babies and provided clothes. They even bribed the Gestapo men, sometimes with expensive gifts. The work of the Patronat was largely funded by the Home Delegation of the Polish Government – in-Exile and by some local companies. The majority of the Patronat were women, who were led by Helena Danielewiczowa – a scoutmaster and a soldier of the Home Army (AK). As a result of the co-operation between the clandestine prison unit and the Home Army, the Directorate of the Civilian Struggle pronounced death sentences on Gestapo officials who served in Pawiak and at Aleja Szucha. Hans Burkl, deputy commandant of Pawiak - a well-known-sadist and mass-murderer was shot dead at the corner of Marszalowska Street and Litewska Streets by soldiers from the 'Agat' detachment on September 7, 1943. During 1943 and 1944 soldiers of the Home Army executed other murderers from Pawiak and Aleja Szucha  such as SS- Oberscharführer Herbert Schulz  on 6 May 1943, SS- Rottenführer Ewald Lange on 22 May 1943, SS- Obersturmführer Jacob Lechner on 5 October 1943, SS- Rottenführer Ernst Wefels – the jailer from Serbia, SS- Scharführer Stephan Klein. On 29 January 1944 Hedwig Podhorodecka – a wardress from ‘Serbia’ and senior wardress Olga Narewska were also struck down.  

Following the Jewish Ghetto uprising during April and May 1943, the area around the Pawiak prison was turned into rubble, and thus became a convenient site for executions of inmates from the prison. From May 1943, until the last day's of Pawiaks existence, executions were carried out twice each week, and from the autumn daily, or even several times a day. Prior to these executions, inmates were shot in the yard in front of Pawiak, at Dzielna Street No 25/27, or in the camp at Gesia Street and at Nowolipki Street 27/29/31. These executions multiplied between the autumn of 1943 until August 1944.

On the eve of the August 1944 Polish Uprising the Gestapo evacuated the majority of the prisoners to a number of concentration camps including 1,400 men to Gross Rosen and 400 women to Ravensbruck. The last group of executions took place on the 13 and 18 August 1944 and German sappers (Sprengkommando) blew up the prison on 21 August 1944.  

On the eve of the August 1944 Polish Uprising the Gestapo evacuated the majority of the prisoners to a number of concentration camps including 1,400 men to Gross Rosen and 400 women to Ravensbruck. The last group of executions took place on the 13 and 18 August 1944 and German sappers (Sprengkommando) blew up the prison on 21 August 1944.  

Other members of the Pawiak prison German and Ukrainian staff worthy of mention are, though this is not a definitive list of the SS garrison:

August Albers - SS- Scharführer

Engelberth Fruhwirth - SS- Oberscharführer

Paul Gerhard Hiersemann – SS Hauptscharführer

Helmuth Heiss - SS- Untersturmführer

Herbert Junk - SS- Obersturmführer

Michael Kowalenko – Ukrainian SS

Albert Muller - SS- Rottenführer

Arno Schubert - SS- Rottenführer

Spengler - SS- Untersturmführer

Alfred Steinebrunner - SS- Oberscharführer

Thomas Wippenbeck (The Hangman) - SS- Rottenführer

Otto Wulfes – SS - Unterscharführer

Today, the former Pawiak prison site has been transformed into a fine museum, with a mausoleum constructed on the foundations and preserved fragments of the cellars of the old prison, main gate pillar, the prison yard and permanent exhibitions that portray the courage and suffering of the Polish people incarcerated in Pawiak prison.    

Sources

Pawiak – Museum of the Prison of Pawiak

Pawiak 1835 -1944 published by The Pawiak Prison Museum – Museum of Independence Warsaw, Warsaw 2002

Jozef Garlinski, The Survival of Love, published by Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1991

Danuta Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, published by Henry Holt & Co, New York 1989

French L. Maclean, The Ghetto Men: The Destruction of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto April – May 1943, Schiffer Publishing Ltd 2001

Photograph – Ghetto Fighters House Israel


© Holocaust Historical Society 2014


















  




On the eve of the August 1944 Polish Uprising the Gestapo evacuated the majority of the prisoners to a number of concentration camps including 1,400 men to Gross Rosen and 400 women to Ravensbruck. The last group of executions took place on the 13 and 18 August 1944 and German sappers (Sprengkommando) blew up the prison on 21 August 1944.  


Other members of the Pawiak prison German and Ukrainian staff worthy of mention are, though this is not a definitive list of the SS garrison:


August Albers - SS- Scharführer


Engelberth Fruhwirth - SS- Oberscharführer


Paul Gerhard Hiersemann – SS Hauptscharführer


Helmuth Heiss - SS- Untersturmführer


Herbert Junk - SS- Obersturmführer


Michael Kowalenko – Ukrainian SS


Albert Muller - SS- Rottenführer


Arno Schubert - SS- Rottenführer


Spengler - SS- Untersturmführer


Alfred Steinebrunner - SS- Oberscharführer


Thomas Wippenbeck (The Hangman) - SS- Rottenführer


Otto Wulfes – SS - Unterscharführer


Today, the former Pawiak prison site has been transformed into a fine museum, with a mausoleum constructed on the foundations and preserved fragments of the cellars of the old prison, main gate pillar, the prison yard and permanent exhibitions that portray the courage and suffering of the Polish people incarcerated in Pawiak prison.


Sources


Pawiak – Museum of the Prison of Pawiak


Pawiak 1835 -1944 published by The Pawiak Prison Museum – Museum of Independence Warsaw, Warsaw 2002


Jozef Garlinski, The Survival of Love, published by Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1991


Danuta Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, published by Henry Holt & Co, New York 1989


French L. Maclean, The Ghetto Men: The Destruction of the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto April – May 1943, Schiffer Publishing Ltd 2001


Photograph – Ghetto Fighters House Israel


© Holocaust Historical Society 2014