The Gęsiówka Story: A Little Known Page of Jewish Fighting History
On the eve of the Polish Warsaw Uprising of August 1, 1944, about 300 Jewish prisoners, mostly from Greece and Hungary, were left in the German KZ Warschau, also known as “Gęsiówka.” They had been sent there from Auschwitz-Birkenau to exploit the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. On the day the uprising broke out, they were joined by more than 100 Polish Jewish men and women transferred from the nearby notorious Pawiak prison. All of these prisoners were liberated during the first days of the uprising by a volunteer force of the Armia Krajowa (AK) scouts’ unit. Almost all the liberated Jews joined the uprising. Alongside the Jewish Fighting Organization unit, they formed the bulk of two other openly Jewish units in the uprising: the Jewish platoon of the Wigry battalion in the AK, and the Jewish International Auxiliary Brigade of the Armia Ludowa (AL). Twelve Gęsiówka mechanics and electricians of the Armored Platoon kept the only two insurgent tanks in action. During the last days of the fighting, two of those men rescued several hundred insurgents who were surrounded by German auxiliaries, by leading them to comparative safety. Others dispersed among the AK and AL units and fought with them. Their bravery, resourcefulness, and persistence were officially recognized in numerous citations and decorations. They suffered heavy losses. Only two of the twelve in the Armored Platoon survived. Overall, their survival rate was only about 25%, as compared to the general survival rate among the Polish forces of 64%, and 73% for the whole of Warsaw. Still, this survival rate is far higher than what might have been had AK scouts not liberated the Gęsiowka camp.