The day Poland’s Home Army killed SS criminal Franz Kutschera

The Second World War saw the Polish capital Warsaw endure unimaginable suffering at the hands of the German occupier. Soldiers from the Wehrmacht committed numerous war crimes. They murdered tens of thousands of civilians, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the sick. Babies’ heads were smashed against walls, people were burned alive…

Amid these atrocities, Poles fought back as they could. On 1 February 1944 at 9am, a combat sabotage unit of Poland’s Home Army killed one of the bloodiest criminals from the German SS in charge of Warsaw, the Austrian Franz Kutschera. This special action was a part of the larger dissident plan known as “Operation Heads”. The latter referred to a series of executions of high-ranked German officials by the Polish resistance groups. 

SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor of the Polizei Franz Kutschera was known to the local population as the coordinator of large-scale terror measures targeting mainly the civilian population. Hostages, public executions, beatings,… Kutschera was among the masterminds of the criminal actions conducted by the German National-Socialist authorities in charge of the General Government (territories of German-occupied Central and Southeastern Poland – editor’s note).  

Members of the Home Army spent long weeks preparing for their intervention. They investigated his schedule and organised a meticulous action plan involving a dozen people that would allow for the execution to be successfully conducted. The initial attempt on Kutschera’s life was cheduled for 28 January 1944, but was eventually aborted after Kutschera failed to leave his house that day.

On 1 February, things unfolded differently. The whole operation lasted only about 100 seconds. Kutschera’s driver approached a meeting point with a limousine in the centre of Germany’s police-occupying district and was shot dead. Kutschera was first severely wounded before being finished off by Michał “Miś” Issajewicz. 

The following day, the Germans shot 300 civilian hostages in one of the last public executions before the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. The occupiers also imposed a 100 million PLN tribute on Polish residents of Warsaw and Warsaw County. The Germans held Kutschera’s funeral ceremony in the Brühl palace, and his body was later transported to Berlin by train.

“Operation Kutschera” remains one of the most significant successes of Poland’s Home Army amid the German occupation. Not only were the Germans animated by a genuine feeling of hate toward the local population, they also felt the frustration caused by the upcoming loss of WWII, which they so confidently started in 1939.

Andrzej Kryński from the Branch Office of National Education of the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw drew attention to the importance of this event in an interview for Radio Maryja.

The successful attack caused a shock among the Germans. For the first time, the Polish underground liquidated such a high-ranking officer of the occupation authorities. Direct German retaliation was violent and cruel. After several days, the persecution visibly weakened. Until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, they did not reach the level under Kutschera’s rule” – Kryński explained. 

The most notorious crime perpetrated by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising was the Wola Massacre. From 40.000 to 60.000 of Warsaw’s Wola district inhabitants were murdered by the Germans in just three days, between 5-7 August 1944. Mass executions were carried out on Hitler’s orders to “clear Warsaw of its civilian population”. 

On 1 September 2022, the “Report on the losses suffered by Poland as a result of the German aggression and occupation during the Second World War, 1939-1945” was published. The latter was prepared by the Parliamentary Team for Estimating the Amount of Compensation Due to Poland from Germany for Damages Caused During World War II, led by Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk. A group of 30 scientists, including historians, economists, property appraisers, and reviewers contributed to the large document. The abridged version of The War Report in English is available here.

 

Image: X (@ipngovpl_eng)

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

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