Kazimierz Moczarski was born in Warsaw on 2l July 1907. He graduated with a law degree from Warsaw University in 1932, having undergone military service. After continuing his studies at the University’s School of Journalism, Moczarski went to Paris to study international law at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales for two years. Later he worked at the Ministry of Welfare dealing with legislation concerning conditions of work.
During the German occupation Moczarski was an active member of the Home Army, working in the Bureau of Information and Propaganda (B.I.P.). He played a major role in the investigation of collaborators, heading the Investigation division in the Resistance. One of the actions he organised was the springing of over a dozen prisoners from an armed hospital in June 1944. During the Warsaw Uprising he was in charge of one of four radio stations organised by himself and he was the editor of “Wiadomosci Powstancze” (the daily newspaper of the Uprising). For his activities he was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit. In mid-October 1944, after the total destruction of Warsaw by the Germans [or Nazis?], Moczarski re-activated the Home Army information and propaganda centres in Kraków and Czestochowa.
On 11 August 1945 Moczarski was arrested by the new Communist authorities, which had started a campaign to eradicate all potential opposition to their power. Most former Home Army leaders were arrested: some were simply murdered, others were imprisoned, tortured and faced show trials, frequently being accused of collaboration with the Nazis. In 1946 Moczarski was sentenced to 10 years’ jail, which was later reduced to 5 years. In 1949, at the height of Stalinism, a new series of interrogations was started against him and he was sentenced to death in 1952. In a letter to the court Moczarski lists 49 methods of torture used against him. His confinement with Stroop during this period was one of the methods his jailers used to try to break his will. In “Conversations with an Executioner” Moczarski mentions Stroop’s walks, parcels from home, personal library and right to receive and to send letters, all privileges denied to him. After Stalin’s death in 1953 his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but he was not informed of this for another two and a half years.
On 24 April 1956 Moczarski was released after spending 11 years in prison and was rehabilitated 6 months later. Part of the verdict read: “. . renewed examination of the case during the appeal procedure disclosed the baselessness, artificiality and bias of the charges brought against Kazimierz Moczarski. These findings were confirmed by the representatives of the Polish People’s Attorney-General who withdrew the charges. Moreover, the appeal proceedings exonerated the Polish Resistance Movement, restoring its honour and good name. Kazimierz Moczarski exemplified the movement’s virtues, showing admirable fortitude and unbreakable spirit as an active Resistance worker and during his lengthy incarceration.”
After his release Moczarski worked as a journalist for many years. He also adroitly used the margins of available freedom to champion various social causes. In 1968 he was removed from his job when he spoke out in defence of his Jewish colleagues at the time of the Communist Party directed anti-Semitic purges.
Kazimierz Moczarski died in 1975.
Zbigniew Herbert dedicated his poem “Co Widziałem” (What I Witnessed) to Kazimierz Moczarski.
Conversations with an Executioner” by Kazimierz Moczarski
On 2 March 1949 Kazimierz Moczarski, a former member of the resistance, was locked into a Polish jail cell already occupied by two profoundly sinister men. One of them, Gustav Schielke, had been a former policeman and later a low-level officer in the SS. The other was Jűrgen Stroop, an SS general and the liquidator of the Warsaw Ghetto whom Moczarski had once tried to kill.
For 255 days Moczarski shared a small cell with the mass murderer. His Stalinist jailers thought that this would break him. Instead, as both men were convinced they would be condemned to death, they were able to talk believing that neither would break any confidences.
This book is the record of these prison conversations. Moczarski charts the events that caused a seemingly unexceptional German youth to become a passionate Nazi, an unswerving follower of Hitler and Himmler and, at various times, the SS overlord in Greece, the Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. The book largely retains the original conversational tone, increasing still further the drama of the situation. Moczarski is not merely a passive chronicler, but, as a witness to Stroop’s crimes, remains an aggressive opponent and continues to pursue Stroop’s replies. Schielke, the third man in the cell, provides a different perspective – that of the German mixed up in the Nazi world. Schielke thus is frequently critical of Stroop and his colleagues and has his own stories to tell.
The major section of the book is a day-by-day account of the Nazi liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Stroop had been specially groomed for this task and he was sent to Warsaw to carry it out. Already hundreds of thousands of Jews had been sent to the extermination camps – now the Nazis wanted to remove the last remaining Jews from Warsaw. Himmler was only expecting the “Grossaktion” to last a few days, but because of the bravery of the Jews, galvanised by the Jewish Fighting Organisation, it lasted nearly a month. Even after this, when Stroop symbolically dynamited the Great Synagogue, some Jews fought on for many months. Stroop admits that about 70,000 Jews were killed as a result of his action. The SS General has, however, great respect for his enemy, even though he still stresses that German scientists have shown that Jews are not human beings, having different blood and tissue from the rest of humanity.
Moczarski’s background as both a lawyer and a journalist equipped him perfectly for his role and his eye for detail and fluency resemble the style of Kapuscinski. Numerous theatrical and radio performances testify to the dramatic power of the book, which is added to by Moczarski’s occasional confrontations with Stroop and by his touches of irony. “Conversations with an Executioner” then reads very easily, but remains one of the most illuminating titles ever published on the nature of Nazis
For many years, in spite of the Polish’s Communists permanent anti- German propaganda campaigns, it was impossible to publish “Conversations with an Executioner” (since this would have been de-facto admission of the repression of the Resistance). Eventually it was serialised in a provincial, small circulation paper but then had to wait 5 years, and for Moczarski’s death, before it appeared in book form.
Selection of Reviews
If seldom are biters bit, how much more rarely are executioners executed? On such rare case here recounted in baleful detail, is that of Nazi General Jurgen Stroop, Hitler’s liquidator of the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II and a man who calmly sent thousands to their deaths in concentration camps. After his capture Stroop shared a cell with a low-level German prison-of-war and Polish resistance fighter Kazimierz Moczarski. For 255 days the three man discussed the war, their attitude to life and death, the Nazis’ determination to extirpate Jews from the face to the earth, and Hitler’s grandiose plan to reorder mankind along Germanic-Nordic lines. […]
All in all these long conversations let one enter into the darkness of the Nazi mind as no other book does that I can recall. John Barkham, New York Review of Books
An extraordinary document….a book whose scope equals the message of a Solzhenitsyn. La Nouvelle Republique
One of the most astonishing portraits of a Nazi leader which we have... (it) brings us what no other document can: the truth which comes from a long look at oneself under another’s eye. La Quinzaine Litteraire
The main source for an understanding of Stroop’s personality is a posthumously published book by Kazimierz Moczarski,” Conversations with an Executioner” (“Gespräche mit dem Henker”) Introduction to the Stroop Report, Secker Warburg, 1980
...without precedence in our literature, and who knows, maybe without precedence in the literature of other countries. K.Wyka, Professor of Literature, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Immerse yourselves, I beg you, in the words of Jürgen Stroop, who is the classic case of a mind captivated by the totalitarian way of thought. Reading “Conversations with an Executioner” understand the fate of Kazimierz Moczarski, a man who never gave up, who was ready to die in order to protect others from a wretched life under any totalitarian regime. Introduction to the German edition
History of the Book – "Rozmowy z katem" by Kazimierz Moczarski
|1972-74||Published in excerpts by the literary monthly "Odra" in Wroclaw, Poland.|
|1977||First Polish edition of "Rozmowy z katem" in a book form published by PIW (Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy). Introduction by Prof. F. Ryszka. Immediately sells out.|
|1978||German edition (hardback), Droste Veralg, Dűsseldorf “Gespräche mit dem Henker”- translation by Margitta Weber, introduction by A. Szczypiorski and Erich Kuby|
|1979||French edition by Éditions Gallimard, Paris “Entretiens avec le bourreau” – translation by Jean-Yves Erhel, introduction by A.Szczypiorski|
|1979||Yougoslavian (Slovenian) edition by Borec, Ljubljana, translation by France Vodnik -“Pogovori z rabljem”|
|1979||Yougoslavian (Serbo-croate) edition by Prosveta, Belgrade, translation by Ilija Marinković – “Razgovori sa dželatom”|
|1980||German paperback. Fisher Verlag, Frankfurt, translation by Margitta Weber, introduction by Andrzej Szczypiorski|
|1980||Finnish edition by Kansankulttuuri Oy, Helsinki “Keskusteluja pyövelin kanssa” translation by Unto Järvinen, introduction by Prof. F. Ryszka|
|1981||Hungarian edition by Europa Könyvkiado, Budapest “Beszélgetések a hóhérral” – translation Gimes Romána, introduction by István Kovács|
|1981||American edition, Prentice Hall, New Jersey "Conversations with an Executioner" edited by Marianna Fitzpatrick|
|1981||Hebrew edition published by Beit Lochamei Haghottoat Publishers, D.N.Ackrat, Israel represented by The Book Publishers Association of Israel, Tel-Aviv|
|1981||Japanese edition through Tuttle-Mori Agency, Inc. Tokio. Published by Kobun Sha Ltd.|
|1985||Czech edition by Mlada Fronta, Prague – “Rozhovory s katem”, translation by Pavla and Dušan Provaznikovi, introduction by Dr. Václav Novák|
|1988||Sixth Polish edition by PIW (bringing total number published in Poland to over 200,000 copies)|
|1992||First uncensored Polish edition by PWN (Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe), Warsaw. Immediately reaches bestsellers lists, and sells out. Introduction by Andrzej Szczypiorski|
|1993-2002||Next ten Polish editions by PWN, Warsaw. Becomes a school set-book. (total number published to over 90,000 copies)|
|2002||New Polish edition by ZNAK, Kraków - over 50 000 copies sold, introduction by Prof. Norman Davies|
|2008||Osburg Verlag, Germany – new German edition; translation by Margitta Weber, introduction: Gesine Schwan|
|Bollati Boringhieri Editore, Torino, Italy – first Italian edition, translation by Vera Verdiani, introduction by Adam Michnik;|
|Jota, Brno, Czech Republic – a new Czech edition;|
|ALBA Editorial, Barcelona, Spain – first Spanish edition;|
|2009||Books –XXI- first Ukrainian edition, introduction by Adam Michnik|
|2011||New French edition by Gallimard (Collection Folio Historie), translation by Jean-Yves Erhel, introduction by Andrzej Szczypiorski, prologue by Adam Michnik|
|2014||Alexandria Publications – first Greek edition, translation by Εdyta Kosiel-Evanggelou, Olga Bezantakou|
|1977||Teatr Powszechny, Warsaw. Theatre adaptation by Zygmunt Hubner, directed by Andrzej Wajda (Many other adaptations in Poland follow)|
|1979||French theatre adaptation, Hede|
|1980||German Theatre adaptation by Diter Kuhn. Main theatre, Dusseldorf|
|1983||East German Production, Dresden|
|1983||Finnish TV production|
|1983||Dutch theatre production, Amsterdam|
Various radio productions in France, Israel, Germany, Hungary, Finland Czechoslovakia and Poland
1994 – Documentary on Kazimierz Moczarski “Na Hożej, Jasnej i Słonecznej” directed by Andrzej Titkow
2007 – Polish TV Theatre directed by Maciej Englert, first prize at the Polish TV Theatre Festival, summer 2007
2015 – "Moczarski’s Case" – a short animation film by Tomasz Siwiński, - in a metaphorical way tells the story of Moczarski’s life and his encounter with a Nazigeneral - Jürgen Stroop, the liquidator of the Warsaw Ghetto