world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland.

Excerpts from: German Crimes in Poland. Howard Fertig, New York, 1982.

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  Crimes at the Radium Institute Hospital

Record No. 45 / II
Between ten and eleven o’clock on the morning of August 5, 1944, numerous military formations were seen approaching from the direction of the houses of Wawelska Street. Soon afterwards about a hundred soldiers in German uniforms, belonging to Vlassov’s detachment (ROA) [ RONA ], rushed into the building of the Radium Institute, shouting and shooting at random.

That gang of drunken soldiers, having first secured the exits, began searching and plundering. There were at the time about 90 patients and 80 members of the staff with their families in the building. They were robbed by the soldiers of all their jewels, watches, and money and even of such trifles as fountain-pens, automatic lighters, or pocket mirrors. The fact that the institution was a hospital, which was explained to the soldiers and was in any case obvious owing to the presence of the patients and the staff in their white coats, left the soldiers indifferent.

After having been robbed, the whole staff were driven by threat of machine-gun-fire into the hospital garden, where the stage was set for an execution.

Amid insulting and threatening shouts and shots fired in all directions, the victims were lined up in rows of three and forbidden to look round; and then an order was given to set up machine guns in their rear.

The husband of one of the patients, who slightly transgressed against the above-mentioned order, was killed on the spot by a revolver shot.

The whole party were then led in this order from the hospital garden across the Mokotow field and along streets in which lay dead bodies with skulls split open, to a camp at 'Zieleniak'. There they were kept for four days and nights in the open air, without food or water. Time and again women were assaulted, dragged out and violated by the drunken soldiers. Some of the Staff of the Institute were then transported via Pruszkow to Germany. Others succeeded in escaping from the transport and stayed in the vicinity of Warsaw.

We must here mention the fact that when the Hospital Staff were taken straight from their work, dressed very lightly, mostly in their white coats, they were not allowed to take anything with them, and if anybody happened to be carrying a parcel oar a small suitcase, it was immediately taken from him.

About 90 patients confined to bed remained in the hospital, and 9 members of the staff had hidden in the chimney flues, and thus avoided expulsion.

That same day the plundering and demolishing of the buildings was begun. Doors were broken down, stores, cupboards, safes and suitcases were broken open, and glass was smashed. All the mattresses, pillows, blankets, and linen were ripped up and thrown about in the corridors and wards of the hospital. The ether and spirits were drunk and the store-rooms emptied.

More valuable things (clothing, linen, dresses, or silver) were stolen or thrown out of the windows and destroyed. Female patients were assaulted and violated.

On the next day, August 6, 1944, the barbarity of the drunken soldiers reached its climax. Some of the seriously sick and wounded, lying on the ground floor (about 15 in number), were killed with revolver shots, after which their mattresses were set on fire under their dead bodies. As not all the shots hit their mark, and those that did were not always fatal, some women who were too weak and ill to move were burnt alive. Only one of them, although badly burned and very weak, dragged herself out of bed and crawling on all fours escaped immediate death.

While these atrocities were going on, petrol was poured on the floors and the Institute was set on fire, all the exits having first been covered by machine-guns. In spite of this three women (an X-ray assistant, a nurse and a patient) managed to slip out of the building. Two of them were caught, and after having been violated many times by the soldiers were brutally murdered. Their common grave has been found in the hospital garden, where they were buried by those who were forced to dig trenches.

The remaining patients, on the upper floors, over 70 in number, and seven members of the staff who had managed to hide themselves, remained in the burning building, making desperate efforts to find some place where they could hold out against the suffocating smoke and burning heat of the fire. That day the unfortunate victims saved their lives for the moment, thanks to the fact that the Institute was burning comparatively slowly, owing to the absence of any great quantity of inflammable material and to the existence of fire-proof parquet floors. But later all the patients and one nurse were killed.

No less terrible were the scenes which took place in the science building of the Institute. It is true that the inmates were taken to the 'Zieleniak' camp, but the building was set on fire and the people from the adjacent building (belonging to the Navy) were brought there. The women and children were separated from the men, who were driven into the burning building under the threat of machine-gun-fire. In this way eleven men perished in the presence of their families.

After committing these revolting atrocities, the soldiers left the Institute for a while. The 70 patients and the 7 members of the staff still remained in the building. The nurses stealthily cooked hot food for the patients at night and looked after them. Between August 6 and 9 Vlassov’s men returned from time to time to the hospital, and took away girls of 13 or 14, whom they violated and then killed in the garden. They repeatedly carried out executions in the grounds of the Institute, after driving their victims to the spot from the city, and sometimes they set fire to the building again.

Meanwhile the German soldiers also came with cans and carried away all the valuable objects from the hospital, such as X-ray apparatus, laboratory outfits, or furniture.

When begged by members of the staff still remaining in the building to transfer them to a safer place, they answered that they could not do so.

On August 19, Vlassov’s men came back again and the final destruction of the Hospital began. The few members of the staff were ordered to leave the Institute and to take out all the patients. Among the latter were three women very seriously ill, who could not even walk. One of them was carried out into the garden by a woman member of the staff, who however, did not succeed in saving the other two, for a soldier rushed up and shot them, and then poured petrol over their bodies, which he set on fire. One of them was the woman mentioned above, who on August 8 had crawled from her burning bed and so saved her life — but only for a fortnight.

When everybody had left, the building was set on fire: 2 members of the staff had not obeyed the order and were still hiding in a chimney.

When the soldiers noticed in the procession a very sick woman, staggering and helped along by the others (it was the one who had been carried out by a member of the staff), they ordered her to be laid down near the wall of 19, Wawelska Street, where one of them shot her, and then set fire to the body.

In the 'Zieleniak' camp only 4 members of the Staff survived. The remainder, about 70 patients and one nurse, were drawn up three deep, and marched into the Health Centre Building, where an officer was waiting for them and shot them through the head. Their dead bodies, — indeed probably some were still alive — were piled up in the execution room, sprinkled with petrol, and set on fire. In this way, all the patients at the Radium Institute were massacred.

Of the 9 members of the staff who remained in the building after August 5, 1944, two nurses were murdered (one of them after having been violated many times), one woman employee escaped from the burning building and was saved, four were taken to the "Zieleniak', and two stayed hidden in the chimney flues for a couple of months. They left as late as October 1944. In this report of indescribable German atrocities, the following two points should be stressed: 1) that the inmates of the Radium Institute had not by their behaviour given any cause whatever for reprisals, 2) that the terrible crimes perpetrated by Vlassov’s men were carried out by order of the German authorities to whom they were subordinated, and who knew of their barbarity.

That the action was planned and premeditated by the German commanding is proved also by the following circumstances: 1) that Vlassov’s men were purposely given drink before marching on the city, 2) that one of the murderers stated on August 5 in the Institute: "The building won’t be burnt to-day, for we haven’t any orders yet", and 3) that the German Chief of Hospital and Ambulance Services in the Warsaw sector, Captain Borman, declared to a doctor, who begged him to intervene in the matter of the Radium Institute: "It is of no importance if several old women with cancer perish — the most important thing is to win the war."

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