Piotr Śmietański “The Butcher of Mokotow Prison”

08-01-2019

Staff Sergeant Piotr Śmietański, born 27 June 1899 in Zawady village son of Anna and Władysła  was a non-commissioned officer of the communist secret police Urząd Bezpieczeństwa  and one of the main executioners in Stalinist Poland.

Śmietański  was stationed at the Mokotów Prison  in the Warsaw borough of Mokotów located at 37 Rakowiecka Street. From World War II until the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, Mokotów Prison – where Śmietański conducted his deeds – was a place of detention, torture and execution of the Polish anti-communist opposition.[4]

Śmietański joined the Communist Party of Poland  in 1923, using the pseudoname Moses Mojżesz.

Śmietański – nicknamed by the inmates as the “Butcher of the Mokotow Prison” – executed personally and supervised the executions of hundreds of opponents of the Stalinist regime in PRL.  Among them were prominent politicians, social activists and Polish underground fighters,  including Lieutenants Jerzy Miatkowski , Tadeusz Pelak , Edmund Tudruj , Arkadiusz Wasilewski , Roman Gronski , Capt. Stanislaw Lukasik , Comdt. Hieronim Dekutowski  (killed by Śmietański in one day, on March 7, 1949).and Adam Doboszyński (August 29) . Those executed after Śmietański’s apparent death in 1950 include Major Zygmunt Szendzielarz, Lieutenants Henryk Borowski, Antoni Olechnowicz, Lucjan Minkiewicz (February 8, 1951), Capt. Stanisław Sojczyński, Lt. Antoni Wodyński from AK, and countless others, including victims of the notorious March 1, 1951 Mokotów Prison execution, who were given five consecutive death sentences each. Brigade. General Emil August Fieldorf , age 57, was hanged rather than shot as a humiliation.

The head of the Mokotów Prison, Alojzy Grabicki,  was sometimes present at the executions. The victims’ dead bodies – often undressed and placed in empty cement bags – were wheeled out at night and buried in unmarked graves, leveled out afterwards in the vicinity of different Warsaw cemeteries: in Służew (till mid 1948), the Mokotów and the Powązki cemeteries, or in open fields, in around Pola Mokotowskie, Kabacki forest and Okęcie. 

On May 25, 1948, Śmietański personally executed Witold Pilecki, age 47,   the founder of the Secret Polish Army and prominent member of the Armia Krajowa,  famous for his daring mission to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Śmietański is believed to have been paid 1,000 Polish złoty for each execution he carried out, a substantial amount of money under Stalinism.

According to historians some pieces in Nasz Dziennik and Najwyższy Czas! falsely claimed he had emigrated to Israel in 1968, that he was born in the 1920s, was purposefully not listed in the population registry, and was possibly still alive in Israel. However he died from tuberculosis in the Korczak sanatorium on 23 February 1950 and was buried in Bródno Cemetery 4 days later.

In 2003 the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) launched an investigation in order to establish the whereabouts of Piotr Śmietański,  with the intention of interviewing him about the remains of Pilecki. They found out that all personal data pertaining to Śmietański was earlier removed from official government records, including from archives of the Ministry of Defence, and the Prison Services. The investigation was halted in 2004. Historian Jacek Pawłowicz from IPN in his 2008 book about Pilecki claimed that Śmietański died of tuberculosis at the age of 50 in the year of his last known Mokotów executions.

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