It was possible to extract some 100,000 people from the Pruszków camp thanks to the assistance of its Polish personnel. After leaving the confines of Dulag 121, they found sanctuary with families or friends or were accommodated by the inhabitants of surrounding towns. They were not completely safe there, however, as the Germans regularly carried out round-ups in localities near Warsaw and conducted searches of private houses. Captured Varsovians and those without a valid Kennkarte identity document were sent back to the camp.
For most of the prisoners, their stay at Durchgangslager 121 was only a stopover during a longer odyssey across Poland and Europe. Packed into cattle wagons, the prisoners were informed neither of their direction of travel nor the transport’s ultimate destination – many therefore feared they were being taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This is why people threw keys to their homes out of the sealed wagons together with slips of paper carrying messages for their families and friends as the transports left the area of Durchgangslager 121. These messages were gathered by local inhabitants and if possible delivered to addresses or hung on a fence near the camp’s western gate. The journeys by crowded wagons lasted even up to several days and took place in inhuman conditions, without medical care, food, water, or the possibility of satisfying physiological needs. Some people managed to escape from these transports, but these were merely sporadic instances as the trains were guarded by armed German troops.
Transports with those deemed incapable of work were directed elsewhere within the General Government (i.e., German-run Poland), most often to the vicinities of Łowicz, Sochaczew, Jędrzejów, Końskie, Częstochowa, Wolbrom, Kraków, to the Kielce region, or even to the area of Tarnów and Podhale. After arrival, the exiles were herded to small peasant farms, where they then vegetated in extremely difficult circumstances, forced to rely on modest assistance provided by local branches of the Central Welfare Council and the generosity of the local population.
Persons capable of work were sent to the territory of the Third Reich, first to transit camps for forced labourers, and thence to armaments factories and production plants, German farms or collective labour camps. These were for young and fit men and women, but there were cases of the elderly or mothers with children being sent to do such work. The workers faced a 12–hour working day with insufficient food rations and appalling sanitary conditions. Work at armaments factories also involved the threat of death from allied bombing raids.
The worst fate awaited those who were shipped to concentration camps. Transports left Pruszków for Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Stutthof, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Ravensbrück, Gross-Rosen, Neuengamme, Flossenbürg, and Dachau. Around 60,000 prisoners were sent to those camps while Dulag 121 was operating. Most of them lost their lives.
The first groups of refugees began to return to Warsaw in 1945. At the end of January and start of February those expelled elsewhere within German-run Poland (i.e., the General Government) began to return; in the summer came the turn for those taken away for forced labour in the Third Reich and rescued from extermination camps. But Warsaw lay in ruins. Buildings which had survived the conflagration were completely looted, while many areas of the city were still mined. Some of the displaced decided not to return. They settled in other areas of Poland or else remained in exile.