Executioners of Wola

          A few higher officers of Wehrmacht and SS became particularly infamous for their crimes during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Most of them avoided responsibility for the atrocities committed at the time of the Warsaw Uprising.


Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski, SS Obergruppenführer and police general, commander of the German corps fighting down the Warsaw Uprising. The major war criminal, responsible for the death of 150,000 - 180,000 civilians in Warsaw and for the destruction of the city.
After the war he stated: "I claim full responsibility for this period of time, during which I was in command. Even in the cases when I was not able to impose my will on the army... To the very end I was the man of Hitler and to this day I am firmly convinced of his innocence..."
Erich von dem Bach was never called to account for his crimes against civil population of the USSR and Poland.
He was a defendant in a few trials, and in 1962 he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the German court in Nuremberg for murdering six communists in 1933.
He died on 8 March 1972 in a prison hospital Monachium-Harlaching.


Heinz Reineferth, SS Gruppenführer, Higher SS and Police Leader in the so-called Reichsgau Wartheland (former Poznañ Voivodeship).
By Hitler's order, on 5 August 1944 he took command of the SS troops and moved from Poznañ to Warsaw Wola. Under his command, SS and the Police officers began a raid along the Wolska Street, bringing total death and destruction to the civil population.
For his contribution to the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, Reineferth was awarded Oak Leaves for his Iron Cross on 30 September 1944.
After the war Reineferth was arrested on suspicion of war crimes, but the court in Hamburg released him because of an absence of evidence.
In 1951 he was elected the mayor of the town of Westerland on the island of Sylt. In 1962 he was elected a member of Landtag in Schleswig-Holstein, and when he served his term in 1967, he took up a job as a lawyer.
Despite numerous demands of the Polish authorities to extradite the criminal, all their requests were denied by the West Germany authorities. Instead, the German government granted Reineferth a general's retirement pension. Heinz Reineferth died in 1979 in his residence on Sylt.
He was never held responsible for his atrocities.


Oskar Dirlewanger, SS Oberf?hrer, was authorized by Himmler to kill anybody he wanted, according to his will.
He was punished for several crimes. In 1934 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in a concentration camp for raping a 13-year-old girl, a member of BDM (the Nazi League of German Girls).
He commanded the brigade consisting of German criminals and professional offenders, infamous especially for the atrocities committed during the anti-partisans actions in Belarus. Responsible for the massacre of the civil population in Wola, Old Town, Powi¶le and Czerniaków in Warsaw.
Arrested in 1945 in Germany in the French occupational area, he died for unknown reasons in Altshausen, Baden-Württemberg.
He avoided responsibility for the committed crimes.


Wilhelm Koppe, SS Obergruppenführer and Waffen SS general, secretary for security affairs in the General Government. Several days before the outbreak of the Uprising, he avoided death at the hands of the soldiers from "Parasol" regiment after the verdict issued by the court of the Polish Underground State.
During the Uprising he was responsible to Himmler for mass murder of the Warsaw population.
After the war, the West German government refused to extradite him to Poland.
In 1964 the Public Prosecutor's Office in Bonn instituted proceedings against Koppe, accusing him of, among other things, complicity in murdering 145,000 people. In 1966, however, the claim was dismissed by the domestic court in Bonn due to the deterioration of defendant's health.
He died in 1975 in Bonn.
He was never held responsible for his crimes.


Ludwig Hahn, SS Standarteführer, Chief of Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) on Szucha Alley.
Responsible for deportations of Polish Jews to the extermination camp in Treblinka. The outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising saved him from the execution ordered by the underground court for his sadism towards the Polish detainees. He claimed at that time that it was enough for a person to possess a leaflet, regardless of his age, to be sentenced to death and executed.
During the Warsaw Uprising he commanded a battalion of 700 SS officers, who murdered and burned to death around 2,000 people in the vicinity of Szucha Alley and on the premises of the former GISZ (pre-war General Inspector of the Armed Forces).
After the war he hid in Germany using a false name.
In 1949, when the danger of extradition to Poland passed away, he again started using his real name and took up a job as an insurance broker.
He stood trial three times, but was convicted not before 1975.
For his crimes against humanity he was sentenced to life imprisonment.


Reiner Stahel, lieutenant general of Wehrmacht, commander of the German garrison in Warsaw.
Author of the instruction on an exceptionally brutal fighting against the Warsaw insurgents and on the usage of special methods of destroying the city. Responsible for giving felonious orders to the units of Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe under his command.
Having left Warsaw, he was dispatched to Bucharest, where the German forces anticipated the outbreak of the uprising similar to the Warsaw one.
When Romany suspended hostilities with the USSR, he was arrested by the NKVD.
In November 1952 he died in an NKVD transfer prison in Vladimir.
He was not convicted by the crimes committed in Warsaw.

compiled by:
Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
Jerzy Janowski
Janina Mañkowska

translation: Beata Murzyn

Copyright © 2011 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.