Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Kazimierz Moczarski's Dialog with the Henchman

This is an amazing reconstruction of the biography of Juergen Stroop. As SS man and right hand man of Himmler, he was responsible for the liquidation of 50 000 Jews who had resisted German troops in the Warszawa Ghetto. It can shatter anybody’s assumptions about the feared SS, for the book shows the kind of mentality of those who were charged with implementing the anti-Jewish program of Hitler’s National Socialism.


“Discussion with the henchman” (or ‘with the executioner’ as official English title) by Kazimierz Moczarski is an amazing book. Based on personal conversations he had with Juergen Stroop, it can shatter any assumption one may have had about the SS. Comparable to Hannah Arendt’s description of Eichman who was herself bewildered when seeing that man in the docks of an Israeli court by the ‘banality of evil’, the polish poet Zbiegniew Herbert refers as well to that paradox. George Steiner calls it a 'cultural ennui' when the appearance of a normal person can deceive to assume a normal person compared to what is known what that person committed to do in terms of such real actions which were abstraction from life and exclusively directed against the life of certain other people, in particular the Jewish people. Zbiegniew Herbert recalls what he saw:

What I Saw (1956)

To the memory of Kazimierz Moczarski

I saw prophets tearing at their pasted-on beards
I saw imposters joining sects of flagellants
butchers disguised in sheepskin
who fled the anger of the people
playing on a block-flute I saw I saw

I saw a man who had been tortured

he now sat safely in the family circle

cracked jokes ate soup

I looked at the opened mouth

his gums - two bramble twigs stripped of bark

I saw his whole nakedness

the whole humiliation


a solemn meeting

many people flowers


someone spoke incessantly about deviations

I thought of his deviated mouth is this the last act
of the play by Anonymous
flat as a shroud
full of suppressed sobbing
and the snickering of those
who heave a sigh of relief
that again it has worked out
and after clearing away the dead props
raise the blood-drenched curtain

Zbiegniew Herbert

Moczarski lifts in his account of discussions with Juergen Stroop an important veil and provides insights into the operative nature of the SS. The book came about after having shared with Juergen Stroop together with a third person also from the SS but for the ‘Sittenpolizei’ or ‘police for moral conduct’ the same prison cell for about eight months. As such the book provides a first hand insight into the mentality of one SS man who thought to make a career under the guidance of Himmler and dreamt of obtaining a huge estate in the Ukraine as extension of Hitler’s end vision.

Kazimierz Moczarski took care when sounding out Juergen Stroop not to provoke but to let this man reaccount himself what he had done not only in Warszawa, but in Greece and elsewhere whenever Himmler needed him for some special action. Certain things are illuminated by connecting his life to what was happening at that time i.e. before Hitler’s ascend to power and the liquidation of the Jews becoming an official program. There is the childhood with an early love for uniforms and always an ambitious mother wishing for her son to succeed where the father had not. The father was a local police officer in the district of Lemberg, home of one of the most Teutonic monuments and thus prone to become a rallying point of National Socialism placing its cult upon a revival of the Germanic mythology. This was Racism in the making and Juergen Stroop although having completed only primary school stayed strangely apart from this political development. National Socialism had not yet gained social approach and out of fear to show own political views, it was a pragmatic wait. In the meantime he was captivated already by the wish to have ‘riding boots polishes so well that whenever he went out on a walk to promenade them the entire city would be reflected in that polished leather’. Such fantasies by Juergen Stroop from an early childhood on provoke Moczarski to make the observation what happens if in a society there is no experience of freedom and no positive deviance from the norm based on order only achievable if contacts to the upper class, the rich and the influential are established and upheld with servitude? It means serving till being promoted in order to have others below oneself. This being beneath others of higher social ranking while wanting to order around others without regard to their humanity, this was a part of a childhood dream. It was further prompted by the fact that no experience of justice could be made at home. For instance, one Christmas Juergen Stroop discovered that his shoes in which the gifts were supposed to be had been emptied. His younger brother had taken them. Juergen Stroop decided to confront his brother and then proceeded to beat him up. Then the mother intervened to protect the younger one and chided the older one for his action. Entered the father who backed the actions of his older son by saying every thief should be punished to underline discipline and order but also cruel methods of punishment go hand in hand.

These and many other details giving insights into the psyche of a henchman – Juergen Stroop was ordered by Himmler to go to Warszawa in order to liquidate the Jews causing resistance in the ghetto – say a lot about someone growing up in a Germany which had just been defeated in First World War and hence resentful about the Treaty of Versailles so that many were willing to embrace anyone who would flagrant the truth of that Treaty in order to remilitarize Germany for the sake of becoming a strong state again. But the book goes on to reveal more about how military strategy is linked to special training and how everyone was being prepared beforehand to undertake special actions. Moczarski makes the brilliant observation that Juergen Stroop was not really articulated due to his limited educational background but when he spoke about these actions it was as if suddenly another person was speaking. The concepts, the timing, the orders and the military perception had influenced his vocabulary and diction. Whenever any specific action was to be undertaken, he received training from scientists, researchers, military experts etc. and this for several months. Always key importance was given to how the action could be justified. It was a way to silence human conscience since replaced by concepts like superiority of the German race.

The strange thing about such a man like Juergen Stroop is his discipline and faithfulness to the leader which he upheld until the end even when in prison and awaiting his second trial in Warszawa. The first one had been conducted by the Americans for having shot captured American pilots who had rescued themselves by parachutes after their planes had been shot down. He was charged with violating the Geneva war code and sentenced to death. But then the Americans handed him over to the Polish authorities especially due to his important role in the liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto in Warszawa.

One strangeness in his behavior observed Moczarski when Juergen Stroop got completely nervous, broke out even in sweat, the moment he discovered that the third man in the cell, this SS man from the police, had objects like a razor blade although forbidden according to prison rules. This man who had broken every human law was afraid of being incriminated for having broken prison rules. It showed to what degree of servitude to a higher cause any own judgment about what is allowed, what not is wiped out, thereby leaving the person totally in fear of authority. There was no alternative to just serving and trying to be a perfect example of discipline. No wonder that Himmler was fond of him and even more so when upon visiting his protegee took a liking to the son of Juergen Stroop who responded immediately when asked what was his orientation shouting out as reply: “faithfulness to the leader”.

Juergen Stroop had married the daughter of a well educated man who upon death left them among other things as inheritance a huge library containing many wonderful books. Juergen Stroop, as uneducated as he was, did not appreciate the value of these books nor could he really take advantage of these books. Instead of keeping them he decided to sell them to a bookstore or to a library but to no avail. Nobody wanted them. Finally trucks from a paper producing company came to pick them all up. The company was producing toilet paper. This was before the action of burning books by the Nazis had started.

The book is not only about a single man but through such a person reflects the military organization of the Nazis, specifically of a special branch of the SS mixing police, military and criminal action all in one. As coverage they did enter the Wehrmacht and served fake duties; at the end of the war, Juergen Stroop discarded his SS uniform and wore instead the soldier’s uniform of the Wehrmacht. All along the book shows how the SS proceeded and planned actions. It gives an insight into how tactical moves were deliberately planned. That includes letting someone win a civil court case so as to hide the fact that the National Socialist regime was running all the courts according to its will and interpretation. It shows furthermore how a fellow SS leader in Warszawa despite having made a reputation for himself was allowed to make mistakes even though it cost so many soldiers their life if only to have a sufficient pretext by which he could be disposed and gotten rid of. All that competition between different persons struggling to get recognition within the military hierarchy of SS leads naturally to such conspiracies within the own ranks that Juergen Stroop became involved in interrogations of those sought to have conspired against Hitler. Outwardly the unity of the National Socialists had to be preserved at all costs. It legitimized all counter measures based on who to trust, who not and certainly besides Jews Social Democrats, Intellects, even simple doubters were taken to be dangerous elements as they could undermine the will to fight and the leadership of Hitler. After all that required complete compliance and following orders.

At the same time, it is interesting to read how Juergen Stroop did not under estimate his enemies, in particular the Jews who put up such a fierce resistance that upon arrival Juergen Stroop had first of all to restore the morale of his own SS troops before venturing again into the Warszawa Ghetto to fight from house to house. He had gotten orders from Himmler to liquidate the Ghetto as quickly as possible but instead of two or three days it took three weeks and even longer before the skillfully constructed bunkers, tunnel systems, pockets of resistance at roof tops etc. could be flushed out and blown up. After having been hit by Jewish snipers he took the precautionary measure of setting first the houses on fire. Since then the Jewish fighters jumping from the fourth floor but not before they had thrown down anything like mattresses and other things to land on became known as ‘burning angels’. Their bodies already in flames they fought till the end. This included Jewish women who Stroop feared the most since upon arrest they would suddenly have the courage to blow themselves up along with the officers arresting them. In order to avoid further casualties he ordered immediately that women were no longer to be arrested but be shot on the spot.

As the account of Moczarski continues, the reader gets a feeling of how such military advancements were accompanied by the actions of one man giving himself the luxury to enjoy good coffee and excellent food after a day’s work in the ghetto. He would telephone with Himmler to give a day’s account and earn further praise while getting further instructions on how to proceed with speed. Juergen Stroop set then a date as to when his actions to liquidate the Jewish Ghetto would end symbolically. He planned to do so by blowing up the Synagogue. He put experts to work and remarked how long it took them as it was a most complicated and diverse building.

The charges of the Warszawa court brought against Stroop in 1952 can be read out again against all those who commit crimes against humanity. The fact that Juergen Stroop pleaded ‘not guilty’ since just following orders belongs to this category of military men who never take personal responsibility for their actions. Moreover in many cases it was difficult to prove exactly what he had done. As in the case of Milosovic and other war criminals, they know how to cover their ground and not to leave any traces. Before the American troops entered and Juergen Stroop leaving his last post in Wiesbaden, he made sure that all files were destroyed in a three folded manner: after being first burned, the ashes were made into sludge and then transported off to be dumped where no one could tell these were the SS files. Always great care was taken that the high command had no visible direct linkage with what the troops on the ground were doing. Still photos show Juergen Stroop entering with his troops the ghetto to inspect what damages had been inflicted that day and what more was needed to overcome this unexpected strong and intelligent resistance.

Even with American troops advancing, Juergen Stroop believed till the end that they could weather the American occupation and still continue thereafter to realize Hitler’s total victory. They had not only plans to retreat to Germany’s south thought to be the safest area but had instructed scientists to study the Polish resistance thought to be the most powerful and intelligent force capable of operating effectively under conditions of occupation and suppression. The account about Juergen Stroop provides further proof for the thesis of Prof. Klaus Heinrich who concluded after a 5 year colloquium about Fascism: ‘a force which had not been defeated in 1945, but learned to mask itself better’. 1


Hatto Fischer

Athens 20.8.2006


Kazimierz Damazy Moczarski (Maurcy) (1907 - 1975) .

Pseudonyms: Borsuk, Grawer, Maurycy, Rafal.

Officer of the Polish Army reserve, lieutenant (1944), captain (1945)

Born on July 21, 1907 in Warsaw, son of Jan Damazy, teacher, principal of a middle school and Michalina Franciszka (nee Wodzinowska), teacher. Since 1917 attended the Romuald Traugutt Middle School at Lipno, in 1924 moved to M. Kreczmar High School at Warsaw, where in May of 1926 Moczarski graduated.

In October of 1926 started studying law at Warsaw University. During studies he called up to the Reserve Infantry Battalion at Bereza Kartuska (August 1929 - June 1930). His student practice took place at Polish Consulate in Paris, France (July - October 1931).

In December of 1932, after graduation, continued studies at the Journalist College at Warsaw and in 1933 took up studies at Institut des Hautes Études Internationales at Paris’ University. In 1935 returned to Warsaw, becoming an advisor to the Ministry of Labor and Social Services. His specialty was Polish and international labor law regulations.

Active on several fields, he was a member of the “Youth Legion”, and a member of a radical organization “Labor Club Maurycy Mochnacki”. In 1937 took part in organization of Democratic Club at Warsaw (the first meeting took place at his Warsaw’s apartment).

During the Polish - German campaign of September 1939 Moczarski was commander of a platoon which was part of 30th Infantry Division, also participated in defense fights in Warsaw. Later, in German-occupied Warsaw, was an active member of secret Democratic Party, also participating in works of anti-German Armia Krajowa (Home Army). In the Home Army, Moczarski (then an ensign) was a member of Information Department. His then-nickname - “Rafal”.

Since late fall of 1943 concentrated his effort on the intelligence and propaganda (BiP) department of Warsaw’s Home Army District. Since May 1944 Moczarski (under the new pseudonym “Maurycy”) took the post of the head of department of personal sabotage. Its task was to fight traitors and German informers and Moczarski was regarded as a highly qualified on this field professional. It was his idea to recapture Polish prisoners, incarcerated by Germans at the Jan Bozy Hospital in Warsaw (June 11, 1944)

Shortly before the Warsaw Uprising he was given a new post - of the head of radio and telegraph services of Home Army’s Headquarters. During the Uprising Moczarski was directing one of the radio stations - “Rafal”, located at Warsaw’s district Srodmiescie - Polnoc. In September 1944 he moved to another station - “Danuta”, located at 16 Widok street. At the same time was editor-in-chief of “WiadomoÊci Powstancze” (“Uprising News”) - a regional, daily addition to the Home Army’s “Biuletyn Informacyjny” (“Information Bulletin”). On September 14, 1944, by the order L.418/BP was promoted to the post of reserve lieutenant.

After collapse of Warsaw Uprising, on October 7 1944, together with a group of coworkers from BiP, he left the city, but shortly afterwards returned, helping with the escape of Jan Stanisław Jankowski - the delegate of Polish Government in Exile. Later on, he continued his underground activities, changing in late fall of 1944 his nickname to “Grawer”. Since mid-October was the head of Home Army’s BiP (Information and Propaganda) office. He was trying to restore the BiP, as the office was destroyed during the Uprising.

In the first months of 1945, using another nickname “Borsuk”, Moczarski still was the head of the BiP, which was part of headquarters of a newly organized Home Army’s continutation - Delegacy of Armed Forces (DSZ). Moczarski, together with Wlodzimierz Lechowicz and Zygmunt Kapitaniak was the co-author of a memorial which stipulated that former Home Army’s soldiers should disclose. On July 24, 1945, together with colonel Jan Rzepecki (head of DSZ) he issued an order entitled “To former soldiers of Home Army” which stated: “Do not listen to those who incite you to destruction, to creation of underground armed forces, to political burglary (...) Start up a public reconstruction of Poland, on all fields”

On August 11, 1945, five days after disband of DSZ, Moczarski was arrested by communist authorities. On January 18, 1946 sentenced by Military Court to 10 years, but in February of 1947 the sentence was shortened to 5 years. In spite of his sentence’s fulfillment, Moczarski was not released from Warsaw’s Mokotow prison. In his ward, he stayed for some time with two German SS-men - SS-Sturmbannführer of BdS Krakau Gustaw Schielke and SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop. As a result of this, several years later he wrote a famous, fascinating book “Rozmowy z katem” (“Conversations with an Executioner”). The publication is the result of Moczarski’s conversations with Stroop and gives an interesting view on the mind of a German SS-man (Stroop is responsible for destruction of Warsaw’s Jewish Ghetto).

In 1952 a new trial was opened and by the decision of Warsaw’s District Court Moczarski was sentenced to death (November 18, 1952). Almost one year later (November 8, 1952) the sentence was changed to life in prison. However, the inmate, staying in death row, was informed of it only in January of 1955.

Released from prison on June 24, 1956, in December of the same year Moczarski was cleared from all previous charges. After release, he joined the Democratic Party. Also worked as a journalist at “Kurier Polski (“Polish Courier”) daily, being responsible for contacts with readers. Active in anti-alcohol movement, for some time was editor-in-chief of a “Problemy Alkoholizmu” magazine.

In April 1972 in “Odra” monthly the first part of “Discussions with a hangman” was published. The story in parts continued to run until February 1974, and as a book was issued in 1977. Unfortunately, Moczarski did not witness publication of his book. He died on September 27, 1975 in Warsaw.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimierz_Moczarski"


1 For further information please go to following sites:

About Kazimierz Moczarski: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazimierz_Moczarski"

Photos of Juergen Stroop in action when ordering the liquidation of the Warszawa Ghetto: http://wilk.wpk.p.lodz.pl/~whatfor/getto_43.htm


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