An SS account of the Warsaw Uprising (1943)

Jurgen Stroop was a Schutzstaffel (SS) general who, in 1943, was tasked with crushing the Warsaw Uprising and overseeing the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. The following extracts were taken from his diary:

April 19th 1943
“Ghetto sealed off from 3.00 hours. At 6.00 hours deployment of the Waffen-SS in strength for the combing of the remainder of the ghetto. Immediately upon entry strong concerted fire by the Jews and bandits… We succeeded in forcing the enemy to withdraw from the roof-tops and strong-points situated in high positions to the cellars or bunkers and sewers. About 200 Jews were caught in the combing operation. Shock patrols were then deployed against known bunkers with the task of clearing out the occupants and destroying the bunkers. Resultant catch of Jews about 380. The presence of Jews in the sewers was established. Total flooding was carried out, rendering presence impossible.”

April 20th 1943
“The pockets of resistance located in the uninhabited, not yet opened up part of the ghetto were put out of action by an assault squad of the Wehrmacht— sappers and flame-throwers… The howitzer had dislodged the bands from their fortifications and, as far as can be ascertained, also caused them some casualties. Due to the onset of darkness, this Aktion had to be broken off.”

April 21st 1943
“Setting fire to the buildings had the result that Jews who were, despite all searching operations, concealed under the roofs or in the cellars and other hiding places, appeared during the night on the outside fronts of the blocks of buildings somehow to escape the fire. Large numbers of Jews, entire families, already on fire, jumped from the windows or tried to let themselves down by means of sheets, etc., tied together. We made sure that these, as well as the other Jews, were liquidated immediately.”

April 22nd 1943
“It is unfortunately impossible to prevent a proportion of the bandits and Jews from hiding in the sewers under the ghetto where they have evaded capture by preventing the flooding. The city administration is not in a position to remove this inconvenience. Smoke-bombs and mixing creosote with the water have also failed to achieve the desired result. Liaison with the Wehrmacht excellent.”

April 23rd 1943
“The whole Aktion is made more difficult by the cunning tricks employed by the Jews and bandits, e.g. it was discovered that live Jews were being taken to the Jewish cemetery in the corpse carts that collect the dead bodies lying around, and were thus escaping from the ghetto. A permanent guard on the corpse carts had blocked this escape route… Today 3500 Jews from the factories were caught for evacuation. So far a total of 19,450 Jews have been caught for evacuation or have already been transported. Out of these Jews, there are at the moment still about 2500 to be loaded. The next train leaves on April 24th.”

April 24th 1943
“At 18.15 hours the search party entered the buildings after they had been cordoned off and established the presence of a large number of Jews. As most of these Jews resisted I gave the order to burn them out. Not until the whole street and all the courtyards on both sides were in flames did the Jews, some of them on fire, come out from the blocks of buildings or try to save themselves by jumping from the windows and balconies into the street on to which they had thrown beds, blankets and other things. Time and time again it could be observed that Jews and bandits preferred to return into the flames rather than fall into our hands.”

April 25th 1943
“If last night the sky above the former ghetto was filled with the glow from the fire, this evening an immense sea of fire is to be seen. As with the methodical and regular combing operations, a large number of Jews continue to be ferreted out, the Aktion will be resumed on April 26th at 1000 hours. Today a total of 27,464 Jews of the former Jewish ghetto of Warsaw were caught.”

April 26th 1943
“It is becoming increasingly obvious that it is now the turn of the toughest and most resistant Jews and bandits. Several times bunkers have been forcibly opened, the occupants of which had not come up to the surface since the beginning of the Aktion. In a number of cases, the occupants of the bunker were no longer in a position, after the explosion, to crawl up to the surface. According to statements made by Jews caught, a considerable number of the occupants have been driven mad by the heat and smoke and explosions… 30 Jews evacuated, 1330 Jews brought up out of bunkers and immediately destroyed, 363 Jews shot in the fighting. Total caught today: 1722 Jews. Total number of Jews caught thus increased to 29,186. In addition, countless Jews have probably perished in the 13 bunkers blown up and in the fires.”

April 27th 1943
“It has been established by the SS men who descended the sewers that the bodies of a great many dead Jews are being washed away by the water.”

April 28th 1943
“Today’s results: 1655 Jews caught for evacuation, of which 1 10 shot in the fighting. In addition, many Jews were burned in the fire and an unknown number destroyed when individual bunkers were blown up. Today’s results bring the total number of caught or destroyed Jews to 33,401. This figure does not include Jews burned or destroyed in bunkers.”

April 29th 1943
“Several sewer shafts have been blown up. Two outlets located outside the ghetto have likewise been made unusable by blowing up or walling up. Statements by various occupants of bunkers confirm that these Jews have not been outside for 10 days and that as a result of the long duration of this Grossaktion their food supplies, etc.,
are giving out.”

April 30th 1943
“Today a total of 1 599 Jews were caught, 179 of which shot in the fighting. This brings the total number of Jews caught so far to 37,359. Today 3855 Jews were loaded on to the train. The number of armed Jews caught in the last few days has increased quite a lot.”

May 1st 1943
“A considerable number of the Jews caught were brought up out of the sewers. The systematic blowing up or blocking up of the sewers was continued… A shock patrol has established an unascertainable number of corpses floating in a main sewer under the ghetto.”

May 2nd 1943
“Combing of the whole district of the former ghetto by nine shock patrols, also deployment of a large detachment for cleaning or destruction of a block of buildings situated around the Transavia and Wiszniewski armaments factories…  When the above block of buildings was destroyed 120 Jews were caught and countless Jews destroyed when as a result of the fire they jumped down to the inner court-yards from the attics. In addition, many Jews have perished in the flames and a further number have been destroyed by the blowing up of bunkers and sewer outlets.”

May 3rd 1943
“In most cases, the Jews use weapons in resisting leaving the bunkers. There are therefore two wounded to report. Some of the Jews and bandits fire pistols with both hands.”

May 4th 1943
“Countless Jews who appeared on the roof-tops during the fire have perished in the flames. Others did not make an appearance on the top storeys until the last minute and could only save themselves from being burned to death by jumping down. Today a total of 2283 Jews have been caught, 204 of which shot, countless Jews destroyed in bunkers and in the fire. The total number of Jews caught so far has increased to 44,089.”