Warsaw concentration camp liberation 75th anniversary marked

Paweł Supernak

Flowers were laid on Monday at a plaque honouring Home Army (AK) soldiers fighting against German troops in the Warsaw Uprising, who liberated the Warsaw concentration camp Gesiowka and freed around 350 Jews on August 5,1944.

The Zoska battalion, which liberated the camp, was formed in late August 1943 as part of the Polish Home Army (AK). It was composed mainly of Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) paramilitary scouting organisation members. Many of the freed Jews joined the battalion and fought in its ranks during the Warsaw Uprising.

"The Gesiowka concentration camp claimed the lives of thousands of Poles and Jews, and was a symbol of Nazi barbarity. Its liberation by Zoska soldiers on the fifth day of the Warsaw Uprising was a symbol of what the insurgents were fighting for, namely, hope, the regaining of freedom and retaliation for German crimes," Warsaw deputy Mayor Pawel Rabiej stressed during the ceremony.

"Poles and Jews were fighting arm in arm, and were killed together," he said.

The ceremony was also attended by representatives of the Israeli Embassy.

Speaking on behalf of the Embassy and herself, deputy Ambassador Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon expressed gratitude to the Zoska battalion soldiers, who 75 years ago liberated the Gesiowka camp and freed Jewish inmates, brought mainly from Hungary and other European countries.

The diplomat stressed that it was extremely important today to remember, to honour the heroes and all those murdered in the Holocaust, and to meet the challenges of our times, namely, to fight for equality and justice, and against racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.

The Home Army-organised Warsaw Uprising broke out on August 1, 1944, as the biggest resistance operation in German-occupied Europe. Initially intended to last several days, it continued for over two months before its suppression by the Germans. The uprising claimed the lives of 18,000 insurgents and around 200,000 civilians.