The Exodus

The civilian population in the areas of Warsaw occupied by German units was brutally thrown out of cellar hideaways and flats. This was accompanied by robbery, rape, murder, and arson. Warsaw residents fled their homes without food, warm clothes, or kitchenware. They were forced to leave behind all their possessions in a city being systematically demolished. The Germans also repeatedly attempted to encourage the populace to leave the city voluntarily. Leaflets were scattered and ordinances were issued, guaranteeing the inhabitants safe evacuation, but Varsovians remained suspicious. They feared the repressions which they could face upon surrendering to enemy units. Besides the Wehrmacht, in Warsaw at the time were also units of the SS RONA Brigade and the 36th SS Dirlewanger Division, renowned for their brutality and responsibility for massacres of the civilian population in Warsaw’s Wola, Ochota, and Powiśle districts.
Having been thrown out of their hideaways and homes, Varsovians were herded by German units to the collection points prepared in the city. The largest two, intended for inhabitants of left-bank Warsaw, were created 1) at the church of St Adalbert on Wolska Street and 2) in the area of the Zieleniak vegetable market at the intersection of Opaczewska and Grójecka streets. The first was mostly for those who had survived the Wola massacre, Zieleniak was mostly for those expelled from Ochota. There were also collection points at Okęcie, the horseracing track at Służewiec, at the Sokolnicki Fort, and at the Nasz Dom orphanage in Bielany. The refugees’ road normally led on to the Warsaw West railway station, whence they were taken away to the transit camp in Pruszków, and later also to camps in the nearby cities of Ursus, Piastów, and Ożarów Mazowiecki. The exceptions were collection points created in the south of the city, whence the people driven out of Warsaw were directed to the Electric Commuter Railway (EKD) station at Raków, where transports departed for Pruszków. There were also sporadic cases of Varsovians being taken out of the city limits by lorry or having to walk to the camp. This was the case with the first group expelled from Wola, who left Warsaw by foot on August 6, 1944 and reached the camp in Pruszków the next morning, after an all-night march. The population of right-bank Warsaw – from Anin, Wawer, Kobyłka, Marki, and Zielonka among other places – was sent directly to the Warsaw East railway station, from where they were taken to Durchgangslager 121.
The exodus from Warsaw reached an unprecedented scale with the end of the Warsaw Uprising. Around 170,000 Varsovians, according to German estimates, left the city over barely a few days – namely, between October 3 and 7, 1944. They left along Śniadeckich and 6-go Sierpnia streets in the direction of Filtrowa and Żelazna streets and Jerozolimskie Avenue in the direction of Grójecka Street, and also Grzybowska and Chłodna streets in the direction of Wolska Street. Columns of refugees were conducted under guard to the Warsaw West railway station, where they waited to be transported by train to one of the transit camps, although many were herded there on foot. The final date of the exodus is taken to be October 10, 1944 when the last transports of Varsovians from the central Śródmieście district left the city. The evacuation of Warsaw’s hospitals did indeed last until the end of the month, but by then Dulag 121 was mostly receiving Varsovians caught during round-ups in Pruszków and its surrounding localities.

Related keywords