1. From the book "Dying, We Live"
Dying, We Live, (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1979, ISBN 0-03-040901-2), the diary style memoir
of Julian Eugeniusz Kulski, son of the Mayor of Warsaw (1939-44). Julian was a young boy at the outbreak of war but joined
the resistance at the tender age of 12 in 1941. He survived the entire Nazi occupation while fully participating
in undergound activities including the Warsaw uprising. He saw the end of the war in a German POW camp.
During the Occupation:
December 18-23, 1940, "A twelve-year-old classmate of mine tells me that he is building a small arsenal, and has asked
me to help. Jedrek lives on Krasinski Street, which is far enough away from home that my family will not get wind of my activities.
We decided to look for dud artillery shells in the parks around Zoliborz today, and found three. At night, we were able
to carry the two smaller shells to Jedrek's garage but had to roll the third one home on a cart... We took out the gunpowder
which we put in jam jars and stored away carefully.
Jedrek says he now has something with the greatest explosive power - nitroglycerin. We worked until late afternoon in
his garage. I had to get home before curfew.
The next day mother broke the news that a terrible explosion had occurred... the garage was a complete shambles... my
friend had already been taken to the hospital... I was horrified when I saw him. His right arm had been blown off."
Tuesday, March 31, 1942, "The food situation in Poland is awful, and the Germans are taking everything. Now there is
nothing more to sell, and my mother is resorting to bringing in sacks of potatoes and sugar from the countryside, riding in
crowded trains, and looking out for the police patrols when approaching stations. If she shes a patrol, she has to throw the
precious food out of the window in order to escape arrest and deportation to a concentration camp.
Professional smugglers, in collaboration with bribed Germans, smuggle food by train and truckload into the city, and
even into the Ghetto. These few are making fantastic fortunes out of the misfortune of others."
Wednesday, June 23, 1943 "From Ludwik's intelligence contacts Stefa had heard about Ola. When she was arrested, Ola had
some 'mail' and her false identity card with her, positive evidence to the Gestapo of her Underground connections. She
had been taken with the others to Gestapo Headquarters in Szucha Avenue shortly after the arrest. There, under interrogation,
she had refused to answer any questions. Neither threats nor beatings could break her.
When these tactics failed, the interrogators began to kick her with their boots. Other tortures, human and machine-inflicted,
followed. Little pieces of wood were driven under her nails, and later, she was put on the rack, the 'bed of death.' By the
time that last session of interrogation and torture was over, Ola had apparently felt she might finally break and betray her
comrades. So, back in her cell she had reached for the cyanide pill concealed in her clothes. Aleksandra Sokal - beautiful
Ola - thus remained silent until the end.
Grief and pity overwhelmed me, as Stefa finally broke down and wept..."
In this excerpt, Julian describes the period immediately following his release from arrest:
(July 13, 1943) morning, I was sitting in my cell in total despair, thinking about my parents whom I was now
sure I would never see again. But the 'Kapo,' the criminal trustee, suddenly called to me, 'You are being set free.'
He gave me my release card. I just could not believe it!
But I was the only one who was silent. From the gloomy corners of the cell, sad jealous eyes looked at me and I heard
everyone saying that I was lucky. The rule of the Pawiak prison is that the innocent go to Auschwitz, the guilty before a
firing squad. Being released is almost unheard of.
Half an hour later I was sitting in the prison van on the way to Szucha Avenue.
Three pretty girls, their heads erect, were sitting by me in the van. Their quiet dignity caught my attention. I
started to share my joy with them, but they told me that they were to be executed. The Germans had found out that they belonged
to the Underground Army. They were Krystyna (16), Barbara (17) and Irena (20).
They told me about their fate so simply and openly that I did not know how to reply. Finally, I shook hands with each
of them, and in this way paid tribute to their bravery. As a good-bye, they asked me to say a prayer for them in church.
Back at Szucha Avenue, I was put into the 'sanitorium' waiting room again. A man sitting near me had a face which one
could call neither human nor animal. His jaw and cheekbones were all out of place and covered with coagulated blood. In place
of his right eye was a raw wound. I could only wonder how he was still alive.
A lady of about thirty years of age was sitting on the next chair, quietly discussing with a companion the tortures she
had gone through. She was talking about them in a strangely matter-of-fact way, her arms crossed over bandages where her breasts
used to be. She said she had been told that she would be put on the rack sometime the next day, and implied that she hoped
everything would end at last.
These people who, for their country or their faith, were suffering torture and death so bravely
made a deep impression on me, and I could not help wondering if I would be so brave if it happened to me."
Regarding the Jewish Situation:
Monday, May 20, 1940, "Today Father (Mayor of Warsaw) came home from work in a very agitated state. The Germans
tried to organize a pogrom in the area around Dluga Street. They gathered up a bunch of criminal prisoners and used them as
anti-Semitic agitators. Father says that although this attempt to direct violence against Jews and their property
failed because the majority of Poles by far flatly refused to have anything to do with it, steps must be taken to ensure that
future attempts also fail.
Father says he has contacted the Underground and asked them to locate any collaborators involved with a view to punishing
them severely. He is also sending a letter to the German city authorities, demanding an immediate end to such organized criminal
Thursday, August 15, 1940, "I went out later to Wilson Square and bought a copy of a news paper, The Jewish
Gazette, published by the Germans in Krakow. It seems as anti-Catholic as the other German newspaper, the New Warsaw
Courier, is anti-Semitic. Again, I wondered if the Germans could really believe their own propaganda..."
"Today's (March 6,1941) Information Bulletin carries the Underground announcement that any participation of
Poles in anti-Jewish actions is traitorous and will be punishable by death..."
"Today (September 20,1940) I went with my mother to Praga; Aunt Zosia had called us to come. There we found 5 people,
a Jewish family from Lwow. They are all looking for a place to live and Aunt Zosia's place is too small. Three went back with
mother to Felinski Street. My mother knows that it is not safe for the family to stay in our house for long because of the
frequent Gestapo searches there."
Tuesday, September 1, 1942, "Ludwik (Commander of Underground company 'Eagle' of the 'Baszta' battalion) came
yesterday and told me that he was going on a mission into the (Jewish) Ghetto and that he wanted me to go along...
In the early hours of the morning he took me to a house, very close to the Wall. We were blindfolded and literally led by
the hand as we silently went downstairs to the cellars and made our way through a series of narrow, interconnecting underground
Our guide stopped us and removed our blindfolds. When we had adjusted to the daylight, we saw that we were inside the
Ghetto near Mila Street... they took us into a building nearby and made us change into rags like theirs - our clothes were
in too good a condition and would have betrayed us in an instant.
The sights in the Ghetto were unbelievable. People moved like skeletons - scarecrows with sunken, glassy eyes. The dying
lay on the ground or leaned against the buildings. The stench of the decomposing corpses, and of the living, was appalling.
That walk (to the meeting place) was a living nightmare. There did not seem to be any old people, yet everyone was
old. The sight of the children, silently begging and dying before our eyes - their bones sticking out of their rags - was
so pathetic as to be unreal. No prior description of conditions inside the Ghetto had prepared us for this reality.
As we walked, people suddenly started running past us. Around the corner of Zamenhof Street came a solitary German
soldier, firing at random. Our guides dragged us into a doorway, as he sprayed the street with bullets. The first to fall
was a woman, shot in the stomach, then two men fell bleeding to the ground. The soldier, seeing that the rest of his targets
had managed to get away, then turned back down Majzels Street. I had heard rumors that soldiers on leave often came to hunt
starving Jews on the streets of the Ghetto, but I had not really believed such stories until now. During the meeting that
followed, we were briefed on the fate of the Ghetto Jews and asked to take news of their plight to the Allies.
The following day, the meeting resumed and the younger man spoke 'What we need now is arms and ammunition, so that
we can start an Uprising. We know that we should have been training as your Underground Army has been doing, and I do not
want to waste time discussing why this has not happened... We know we cannot win, but we want to die as fighting men rather
than as slaughtered animals.'
Ludwik says that just about everything that can be done is being done. Almost every Jew who has escaped from the Ghetto
has either been taken into hiding here or given refuge somewhere in the countryside. The 'Zegota' (Jewish Assistance Unit),
an arm of the Underground, is increasing its efforts to get more people out of the Ghetto, but it is a slow and dangerous
process. Meanwhile, he has passed on the information we were given in the Ghetto, and assures me that the arms requested,
and promised, are being sent.
Yet even this seems inadequate, and increases our feelings of helplessness.
We can understand the Jewish Fighting Organization's reluctance to leave the Ghetto and join forces with us, and yet
there seems to be no alternative."
Wednesday, October 28, 1942, " I have been instructed to transport guns and ammunition from one of the most recent airdrops
to the Fire Brigade Building.
The idea is to hide arms underneath the fire-truck equipment, and send it into the Ghetto this way the next time the
Germans order the truck into the Ghetto to fight a fire there."
January, 1943, "The Germans have covered the city with printed announcements around the Wall and elsewhere. They
are signed by SS General Kruger: ANYBODY WHO HELPS JEWS WILL BE SHOT!
The Underground Press responded today with an appeal to the people of Warsaw: 'The Germans have again declared a death
sentence on anyone helping Jews to escape or assisting those who have already succeeded in escaping. Every decent person must
regard such threats with disgust! To render assistance to our brethren, to save our fellow human beings from extinction, is
a responsibility stronger than death. It is the honorable duty of every Pole to help all victims of German oppression.'"
On the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943:
"At dawn today (April 19), the Jewish Underground Army started the Uprising by attacking a more than 800-strong group
of Waffen SS which penetrated the silent fortress under the cover of a tank, two armoured cars, and a group of Jewish
policemen. Later they raised Polish and Jewish flags above the rooftop of an apartment house on Muranow Street."
"In the evening the sappers of the Warsaw Commandos (non-Jewish Polish Underground unit), under Captain 'Chwacki,'
were given the order to blow an opening in the wall of Bonifraterska Street opposite Sapiezynka Street in order to provide
direct access to the beseiged fighters.
Approaching Bonifraterska Street, the group started firing at the German troops guarding the wall. Immediately, German
reinforcements came running from the direction of Krasinski Park. A pitched battle ensued, and it soon became clear that it
would be impossible to reach the wall against such overwhelming odds. Two members of the group were killed in the battle,
'Orlik' and 'Mlodek.' Three others were seriously wounded."
"On April 20, I found myself in the midst of a (non-Jewish civilian) crowd on the sidewalk on Bonifraterska
Street, watching the battle being fought on both sides of the wall... I saw a burst from a machine gun topple 3 Germans,
the crew of a field gun positioned to the right of the crowd. As if with one voice, the crowd cheered the Freedom Fighters'
success, the women crying with joy, the men shouting words of encouragement.
The Germans, furious, turned their guns on the crowd, and people scattered.
The whole city has been revitalized by the action of the Freedom Fighters, and some of the churches have arranged special
services to offer prayers for them."
"At noon (April 22), (non-Jewish Underground) Commandos attacked the Germans outside the Wall. Led by 'Stadnicki,'
the unit attacked and killed SS police units guarding the Leszno Street gate. Simultaneously, a group of Commando officers
attacked Germans on Okopowa Street. Captain 'Szyna' killed a number of German officers entering through the Gesia Street gate
in a police car."
By Tuesday, April 27, "everything that Ludwik (Polish commando leader) could do had been done to help the Ghetto.
Further action was now impossible. Talk was grossly inadequate, and what was happening was eating our hearts out."
2. 2nd Battery, 60th Heavy Artillery Company
The following exerpt is from the booklet "Zarys Historii Wojennej Pulkow Polskich w Kampanii Wrzesniowej, Zeszyt
138: 10 Pulk Artyleri Ciezkiej." or "Outline of the Military History of Polish Regiments Involved in the September
Campaign, Booklet # 138: 10th Heavy Artillery Regiment."
The booklet has been authored by Piotr Zarzycki and published by Oficyna Wydawnicza "Ajaks," Pruszkow, 2005.
This series of booklets details what is known of the various Polish regiments, specifically their battles during the
German invasion of September, 1939. Very little documentation from that month exists but the authors have searched out
whatever sources of information are available and have pieced together rough outlines of the units' actions.
This excerpt details the fate of the 2nd battery of the 60th company or dac (Dywizjon/Dyon Artylerii Ciezkiej
- Heavy Artillery Company), designated here by the short form 2./60.
The overall situation in which the second battery of the 60th dyon found themselves has been summarized in the book The
Polish Campaign 1939, by Zaloga and Madej (Hippocrene Books, New York, 1985, ISBN 0-88254-994-4). The following
excerpt has been paraphrased:
"The 60th dac had been assigned to Armia Krakow, the largest of the Polish armies at the time, which was responsible
for defending the southwest corner of Poland. On September 1 Armia Krakow became immediately involved in the heaviest fighting against
the greatest concentration of German forces on the entire German-Polish Front, that being the 10th and 14th German
Armies of Army Group South which included the largest concentration of troops and the majority of the German armoured units
including four panzer divisions and all four light divisions. They were also faced with a secretly armed and hostile
German minority which engaged the Polish troops in a number of skirmishes and was responsible for quite a bit of sabotage.
In the southern portion of its sector, Armia Krakow had already been pushed back to the line of the Dunajec River
by the time the 2nd battery of the 60th heavy artillery battalion had arrived on the 4th of September. German units had
pushed in from the west and XXII Panzer Corps (2nd Panzer Division, 4th Light Division and 3rd Mountain Division) had blown
in from the south through the Tatra Mountains along the Dunajec River near Nowy Targ, the main defensive unit there being
Colonel S. Maczek's 10th Mechanized Brigade. Some Armia Krakow units had already been detached to Armia Karpaty on September
2. By September 4, Group Boruta/Bielsko began occupying defensive positions on the river Dunajec from Zakliczyn to its mouth.
Armia Krakow did not receive the orders to make a stand on the line of the Nida-Dunajec and so withdrew further east on September
Armia Karpaty meanwhile was responsible for the southcentral region of Poland, immediately to the east of Armia
Krakow, and battled combined German and Slovak units beginning September 1. By the 6th of September the sector began
to receive the eastward retreating southern elements of Armia Krakow which were being chased by the heavy German onslaught.
Operational Group Boruta was absorbed by Armia Karpaty which underwent a name change to Armia Malopolska on September 6. The
Polish 2nd and 3rd Mountain Brigades and 24th and 11th Infantry Divisions were fighting in the area where the 2./60 dac took
up positions. Behind the lines at the beginning, the 38th Infantry Division had begun the war assigned to Lwow but
now the war was quickly heading east to meet it. Armia Malopolska began a withdrawl that night from the Nida-Dunajec line
to behind the San River. Tarnow was lost on September 7.
By the 9th of September, Armia Malopolska units in the vicinity of 2./60 were the 11th, 24th and 38th Infantry Divisions
and the 3rd Mountain Brigade with the 2nd Mountain Brigade having been destroyed. The infantry divisions became outflanked
to the north and south by September 12 and essentially encircled by September 14. They were engaged with the German 1st Mountain
Division on the eastern periphery and the German 7th Infantry and 2nd Mountain Divisions to the west and south. Command
was transferred to General Sosnkowski's newly formed Army Group but by that time nothing more could be done.
Army Krakow surrendered on September 20 and the garrison at Lwow on September 22. Many units to the north remained active
Of interest is that both Gen. K. Sosnkowski and Colonel S. Maczek avoided capture and were instrumental figures later
in the war. Gen. Sosnkowski became the Polish Commander-In-Chief following the death of General Sikorski. Colonel Maczek,
promoted to general, led the 1st Polish Armoured Division through northern Europe in 1944-45.
Abbreviations used below:
2./60 = battery/battalion
156. pp = pulk piechoty (Infantry Regiment)
24. DP = Dywizja Piechoty (Infantry Division)
2. DGor = Dywizja Gorska (Mountain Infantry Division)
A.D. = Artyleria Dywizijna (Division Artillery - i.e. the infantry division's
own artillery unit)
dac = dywizjon (dyon for short) artylerii ciezkiej (heavy artillery
m.p. = miejsce postoju (encampment)
The terms dac, dyon and battalion are used here interchangeably.
It should be mentioned that the Polish artillery units were smaller than those of the British so that a Polish battery
may contain 3 or 4 guns and a battalion 2 or 3 batteries while a British battery could contain 9 guns. This difference in
terminology sometimes causes confusion in the literature.
"Mobilization of the 60th dac (dyon artylerii ciezkiej or heavy artillery battalion) began on the 27th
of August, 1939 at 17:00. The dyon was outfitted with 12 haubic (howitzers) of 155 mm caliber wz.
17 (Schneider Model 17) and was to be ready for deployment within 48 hours.
Over the course of a day all of the reservists arrived at the barracks; luckily the dyon had a full complement
of regular soldiers. However, the mobilization of horses and wagons did not go as smoothly as they did not arrive
until the morning of the 29th. The condition of the requisitioned wagons, horses and tack was not great. The dyon
was 12 hours behind schedule when it was finally prepared for deployment. The organization of the dyon took place at the barracks
and in the local villages.
The known staff of the 60th dyon was:
dyon Commander -mjr. Stanislaw Rogoz
adiutant -por.rez. Bronislaw
oficer zwiadowczy -ppor. Czeslaw Bardecki
oficer obserwacyjny -ppor.rez. Jan Madej
oficer lacznosci -por. Antoni Ilkiewicz
oficer zywnosciowy -ppor.rez. Szczepan
szef kolumny -ogn. Tadeusz Cugowski
dowodca 1. baterii -kpt. Zygmunt Lyzicki
oficer zwiadowczy -ppor. Mieczyslaw Widort
dowodca 2. baterii -kpt. Ignacy Uznanski
oficer zwiadowczy -ogn.pchor.rez. Edward
oficer ogniowy -ppor. Ludwik Witkowski
dowodca II plutonu -ppor.rez.mgr Bronislaw
szef baterii -st.ogn. Stanislaw
dowodca 3. baterii -kpt. Ludwik Skorski
oficer zwiadowczy -plut.pchor.rez.
oficer ogniowy -ppor.rez. Jan Lukaszczuk
dowodca I plutonu -ppor.rez. Jan Rejman
An order was received on the 31st of August for the 1st and 2nd batteries
to make their way to the town of Zurawice to load onto rail transport for the front. Upon arrival at Zurawice the order was
found to have been erroneous. As a result, Captain Lyzicki's 1st battery, the first to be loaded, waited on the platform for
almost 3 days before loading.
On the morning of the 3rd of September the loading of the 60th dyon at Zurawice began. The batteries were loaded one
after the other with the full transport trains departing immediately. Supply wagons and the headquarters staff occupied
troop transport cars at the Bakonczyce station and were the last units of the dyon to depart.
According to the general plan of defence, the 60th dac was to attach itself to Army Krakow.
On the 3rd of September, Army Krakow command determined that the 60th dac would be included
in the operational group of pplk. Walerian Mlyn (156. pp) which was headquartered at Wieliczka. The orders for this
group were to deny the Germans the crossings of the river Raba near Dobczyce and Gdow.
Captain Zygmunt Lyzicki's 1st battery (1./60), having been the first unit to depart Przemysl for Tarnow, was therefore
sent in that direction with the remaining units following.
From the start, the movement of the rail transports was somewhat slowed due to the damage inflicted upon the rails
by German bombardment. Particularly delayed was the final transport to leave Przemysl which contained the headquarters staff
and supply wagons.
On September 4, Captain Uznanski's 2nd battery attached itself to the 24. DP (mobilized August 30,
assembled in the Jaroslaw area September 1) which was unloading in the area of Tarnow-Tuchow-Gromnik. During
the evening hours the battery was unloaded from the train and after dark directed to the line of the Dunajec river.
Before dawn on the 5th of September the 3rd battery (3./60) unloaded at Tarnow with orders to head for the town of Rzuchow.
Shortly thereafter, at approx. 05:30, the 60th dyon command arrived at Tarnow. Here, Major Rogoz received orders to unload
and to report to 24. DP command in the town of Radlow. At that time he was also informed of the previous orders given to Captain
Lyzicki to continue west, with the 1st battery now being at the disposition of Army Krakow.
That morning (September 5) the 60th dac was officially assigned to assist the 24. DP. The 24th had been given the
task to defend the crossings of the river Dunajec along a front from its entry into the river Wisla (Vistula) south
to the town of Czchow. The two batteries (i.e. 2./60 and 3./60) took up firing positions on the left flank of the 24. DP,
specifically to aid the 38. pp.
On the morning of the 6th of September a German motorized column from the 4. DLek (4th Light Mechanized Division) was
spotted across from the 38. pp, headed north along the western bank of the Dunajec. Batteries 2 and 3 commenced firing and
inflicted significant losses on the Germans, stalling their advance. Not long after, the German infantry attempted an unsuccessfull
attack against II/38. pp. At approx. 16:00 the Germans resumed their attack accompanied by heavy artillery fire. Both batteries
of the 60th dac continued their defensive fire in aid of the Polish infantry. Unfortunately they were forced to conserve their
ammunition as ppor.rez. Antoni Molodecki's ammunition column had not yet caught up with them.
During the night of 6/7 September, an order arrived to withdraw from the line of the Dunajec. According to plan the 60th
dac was to move under cover of the 155. pp in the direction of Tarnow-Skrzyszow to Pilzno.
Persuant to that order, at 03:00 on the 7th of September, the 60th dac (minus 1st battery) joined the 39. pp. marching
on the road to Tarnow. Together with this infantry regiment the 60th bypassed Tarnow and Machowa to Pilzno. The march along
the congested roads did not encounter any actions by the enemy, however a lack of military police resulted in the disassociation
of the columns and the batteries became separated from the infantry. In the early afternoon the unit arrived on
the Wisloka river in the area of Pilzno.
On the morning of the 8th of September, persuant to orders from the headquarters of the 24. DP, the 60th (still
minus 1st battery) began to set up firing positions in the area of Golibowka on the southern flank of the division with the
intention of giving aid to the 17th pp. Major Rogoz recalled the situation: 'On the morning of the 8th, while we
were in the midst of setting up our positions, I met the commander of the 17th pp who informed me that he was about to
pack up and head further east while I was to follow at 24:00. I never received this order. It was 6:15 and the 17th
pp left at 07:30. I requested a platoon of infantry to cover the artillery but was flatly denied this request. I
was left alone with the dac at the tail end of the retreating infantry column. I ordered our batteries to pack up and organized
a marching column, encountering great difficulties in building suitable bridges over the streams we had to cross. We quietly
marched all day. During the march I received three orders, one after the other, directing me to a location for the night,
each one to a different place. The final order directed us to the town of Weglowka.'
They headed in a line from Wielopola Skrzynska-Wysoka Strzyzowa to the town of Weglowka.
Near midnight the dyon arrived in the area of Weglowka. During the march the column had become undone and the 3rd battery
had moved ahead by a few kilometres although contact was maintained with the rest of the dyon. Following a forced
stop due to the road congestion, the march resumed before dawn on the 9th of September and took all day. During the course
of the march German airplanes repeatedly strafed the column creating much confusion but not causing great damage otherwise.
Bypassing the town of Domaradz the column arrived in the town of Barycz.
The 60th dyon arrived at its new positions in an already weakened state. Following the unblocking of the road in the
area of Weglowka, the 3rd battery of captain Skorski became attached to units of the 11. DP (mobilized August
31, was to be heavily engaged in the Barycz region Sept. 11/12, defeated SS Germania Regt. Sept. 15-17 near Jaworow though
suffering heavy losses) and was no longer under the command of major Rogoz.
Meanwhile, during the night of September 9/10, orders arrived to move on to the crossings at the River San. At the same
time, major Rogoz assumed command of the 24th dyon whose commanding officer, captain Filejski, had gone missing in action.
On the morning of September 10, 2./60 crossed the San and set up positions on the eastern bank of the river. At the same
time, 3./60, having been attached to the 24. DP in the area of Barycz on the day before, continued to operate in that division's
sector. The dyon's three batteries had been scattered.
On September 10 at around 10:00 the lead units of the German 2. DGor. (2nd Mountain Division) arrived at the San in the
area of Jablonica Ruska. Following the crossing of the river they engaged 7th company, 1st pspodh. Captain Uznanski's
2./60 entered the battle with the goal of defending the line of the San and aiding their comrades in holding their positions.
That evening, 2./60 began a withdrawl to an area east of Bircza. At this time major Rogoz was in effect, the commander
of the 24th dyon.
On the 11th of September the 2nd battery was positioned on the northern flank of the 24th Infantry Division in the area
of Lodzinka Gorna by the road to Przemysl.
On the morning of the 12th of September the 2nd battery's positions came under heavy fire from the guns of the German
2. DGor artillery. Subsequently, the enemy's attack resulted in the loss of hill 482 and the town of Lodzianka Gorna
although further German advances were halted by effective artillery fire by units which included 2./60. At 07:00 a counterattack
was launched by III/1. pspodh., aided by artillery fire from Polish batteries including 2./60. This led,
despite continued heavy enemy artillery fire, to the recapture of the town of Lodzianka Gorna.
After dusk, the unit withdrew once again, this time to Nizankowice, which was reached by dawn of September 13. Here,
the commander of A.D. 24. DP colonel Kaliszek ordered the unit to halt at the town of Zablotce, where 2./60 set up
positions together with the dyon command.
In the evening, the 60th dyon (still minus 1st and 3rd batteries) left in the direction of Hermanowice. There, a company
of infantry joined the dyon to cover their withdrawl. The march continued in the direction of Drozdowice-Stroniowice-Boratycze
to the forests west of the town of Husakow. A change of order and all, including the 60th dyon's command, moved on to
the forest of Tyszkowice. Captain Uznanski's 2nd battery took up firing positions in the forest of Liskowiec, aiming
the guns in a south-easterly direction. One gun was moved to the edge of the forest with the intention of firing head
on at the enemy.
Just before noon on September 14 captain Uznanski reported over the phone to major Rogoz that German infantry was
approaching from the direction of the town of Stroniowice. He was immediately given the order to fire. Nevertheless the
enemy soon was upon the artillery positions.
The commander of the 60th battalion, major Rogoz recalls: All around one could hear rifle and machine gun
fire. Captain Gozdzielski from the A.D. headquarters arrived at my command post for an update on the situation
however at that very moment, a German light machine gun appeared in the forest about 100 steps away and began to
fire. I immediately organized an attack on its position. I, captain Gozdzielski, por. Ilkiewicz and ppor. Bardecki as
well as a number of gunners advanced upon the gun with a shout "hura." Por. Ilkiewicz stopped and began to fire
his rifle at the Germans, killing the shooter. The rest of the Germans ran, chased by our fire... During the attack
on the machine gun in the forest ppor. Bardecki, command post officer of the 60th, was killed.
Meanwhile 2./60 continued firing from its positions in the Liskowiec forest - three howitzers firing indirect and the
one gun removed to the edge of the forest - direct frontal fire. The enemy attack was repulsed but German artillery began
firing at the positions of the 2nd battery. As a result a number of artillerymen were killed and wounded. Captain Uznanski
instructed ppor. rez. mgr. Sokolowski to take one howitzer and set up a position 2 km distant, with the goal of providing
covering fire for the withdrawl of the balance of the battery. The order was carried out but could not entirely prevent further
losses. At the observation post on hill Liskowiec the commander of the 2nd battery, captain Uznanski was wounded as was
the lead gunner, st. ogn. Swiecki. One gun was destroyed. Firing officer ppor. Ludwik Witkowski assumed command.
At about 15:00 the German artillery began to fire at the Tyszkowiec railway station. This induced major Rogoz to move
the 60th dyon command to the town of Chodnowice. There he received the order to march on to Husakow. Upon arrival the town
was already ablaze and a new order sent them past Zlotkowice-Myslatycze-Pakosc-flw. Krysowice-Strzelczyska-Radenice into
the forest south of the town of Czyzowice, where the dyon was to support 39.pp. At dawn on the 15th of September the unit
bypassed Moscisk arriving shortly thereafter at the designated location. It turned out however that the infantry did not make
At approximately 08:00 they were found by the chief of staff of the 24. DP, mjr. dypl. Edmund Rozycki, who issued
a new order for the unit to head in the direction of the villages of Czyzowice-Lipniki-Wojkowice-Twierdza-Chorosnica.
On September 15 in the afternoon, while marching by Lipniki, 5 km to the southeast of Moscisk, the 2nd
battery (60th dyon) was attacked by the German air force. In the end, many horses were lost and a number of the crew
dispersed. The commander of the 1st platoon, an officer cadet (name unkown) was wounded. The firing officer of the 2./60, ppor.
Ludwik Witkowski, who had assumed command of the battery following the wounding of captain Uznanski, endeavoured to gather
together the surviving horses, men and equipment however another attack destroyed the battery completely. Most of the remaining
horses were lost and all of the guns rendered unuseable.
The scattered unit split into two groups. One group which included the battalion command, was led by ppor. Witkowski,
while the second was led by ppor. rez. mgr Sokolowski. This second group managed to salvage 4 wagons, onto which they loaded
some ammunition as well as the balance of the equipment, then marched into the Janowski Forest, where on the 17th September
German artillery destroyed these few wagons and once again dispersed the crew.
The remainder of the 60th dyon command and 2nd battery made it as far as the area of Holoska Wielka, where unsuccessful
attempts to reach Lwow led to the disbandment of the unit. The dyon commander, mjr. Rogoz, while attemting to reach Lwow via
the road by Zboisko was captured by the Soviets, from whom he shortly thereafter escaped."
The following are the shortened biographies or recollections of various students and staff who attended
the Polish Technical College in Esslingen Germany in the post war years of 1945 - 1949. They have been compiled in a commemorative
book published by their alumni association.
3. Boleslaw Jeglinski,
Survivor of Buchenwald Death Camp
(By Loretta Jeglinski)
Jeglinski was arrested by the Gestapo during the summer of 1943. He was suspected of subversive activities against
the Germans because his father was a Polish Army officer. He was first sent to Birkenau, a satellite camp of Auschwitz
In October 1943 Boleslaw Jeglinski (born October 30, 1923 at Kamien, Upper Silesia) was shipped out of Auschwitz
with hundreds of other prisoners in sealed freight cars to an unknown destination. After two days they were brought to a railroad
siding in Buchenwald. From the train the prisoners were driven to a nearby camp by club-wielding, yelling SS-men accompanied
by viciously barking dogs. Above the entrance gate there was a large sign saying "KRAFT DURCH FREUDE" which meant
"Strength Through Happiness."
At the gate all prisoners were counted, including the sick and the dead. Inside the camp they were first taken to
the disinfection and shower building. After being given cold showers and having their heads shaved they were issued disinfected
clothing. Instead of typical striped prison uniforms they received civilian clothes with large circles sewn on the backs of
The prisoners were then registered and assigned their serial numbers. Jeglinski became prisoner # 33778. Concentration
camp inmates had to wear trianglular patches on the breast of their jackets which indicated their "crime" and nationality.
Jeglinski wore a red triangle for being a political prisoner with the letter "P" for being a Pole.
The camp consisted of hundreds of identical one story wooden barracks. Each housed from 200 to 300 inmates. The
beds were in three tier bunks with straw mattresses.
The barracks were not run by SS-men, but by carefully selected inmates with sadistic inclinations. Most of them were
Germans with prior criminal records. When there were not enough suitable Germans, then hardened criminals of other nationalities
were chosen for these cruel tasks. Many of them outdid the Germans in brutality. Those "kapos" had absolute power over
Even without any unusual events, life in a concentration camp was always very tense, exhausting and full of danger. The
day began before dawn with the sound of a gong, instantly followed by unearthly shouts of "Get up! Get up!" from the block
chiefs and ward bosses. Spurred by incessant yelling, inmates got up and dressed with lightning speed and made their beds.
Making beds was not a simple matter. Three men tried to do it simultaneously on three different levels, nervously and in a
great hurry. Those that did not make their beds properly were severely punished. Speedy washing followed. Sometimes inmates
were ordered to wash outdoors in subfreezing weather stripped to the waist.
Then came breakfast - a bowl of watery soup and a cup of warm liquid, called "coffee." A daily ration of about half a
pound of bread was issued. Everything had to be done in a great hurry in an atmosphere of terror.
No one could be late, even for one second, for the roll calls in front of the barracks. All hell broke loose if the count
did not add up. Inmates were kept standing at attention for hours until the missing inmate was accounted for.
During roll call various administrative announcements were made. The prison numbers of those inmates who had to report
to the administration were read off. There they received their verdicts - usually death penalties, and very rarely releases.
After roll call, the prisoners were grouped into work details and led to their assigned work places. Jeglinski was employed
in a factory as a welder, a trade he had learned in Poland. The factory produced parts for German V-2 rockets used in the
bombardment of Britain. It similarly was isolated from the outside world by electrified fences and watchtowers as was the
concentration camp itself.
Those unfortunate prisoners who were assigned to work outdoors in the quarries, summer and winter under all weather conditions,
had a much smaller chance of survival. Jeglinski learned early on the five rules for survival:
1. Do not steal, or even try to steal anything, particularly food. That crime was punished by being stoned to death by
2. Always move or run, whether you accomplish anything useful by it or not. Guards would not tolerate seeing anyone idle
3. Obey all rules - just or unjust. Never forget to salute a passing SS-man; such negligence could have tragic consequences. Never
run away from an SS-man. He could shoot you without warning.
4. Try not to get sick. If you do get sick, avoid going to the infirmary, where you can expect death.
5. Always keep a low profile. Do not try to be somebody. Better to be a live nobody than a dead somebody.
At the factory the prisoners worked a twelve-hour shift, which started at about 6:00 am. Small portions of bread were
distributed at noon. After work all inmates had to assemble at the gate to be counted. Back in the camp, after checking their
mail and the latest news, all had to assemble in front of their barracks for the evening roll call. Like the morning roll
calls, some of these lasted for hours until everyone was accounted for. Once, everyone had to stand at attention till late
at night until an escaped prisoner was caught. He was promptly hanged in front of the assembled prisoners. On another occasion,
prisoners at roll call had to stand at attention until late at night when the body of an inmate who had thrown himself onto
the high-voltage wires was found. Attempts to escape were rare and unsuccessful.
After evening roll call, the prisoners ate supper in their barracks. This consisted of a bowl of watery soup and
Nazi concentration camps were established for the exploitation and the ultimate extermination of people. The periods
after the last meal and bedtime were not wasted. Instead of needed rest, the already debilitated prisoners were frequently
required to perform exhausting exercises such as push-ups and frog jumps. This was a favourite method of collective punishment
for any alleged infraction of discipline. The prisoners were told that those exercises were beneficial.
They also participated in "cultural" activities such as singing. Directed by their maestros, the barracks chiefs, the
prisoners endlessly practiced singing popular German songs. On Sundays, the entire camp population was assembled on the camp
main square, to give performances in front of the camp boss, the Lagerfuehrer and his henchmen.
Prisoners used the work-free Sunday for resting, mending clothes, shaving, haircuts and letter-writing. They were allowed
to mail one letter each month. The haircuts were something special. First a razor blade-wide strip was cut from the forehead
to the back of the head. It was called a louse alley. When the hair on that strip grew back, the hair on both sides of it
was cut, leaving an inch-and-a-half wide ridge of hair like a Mohawk Indian's.
Prisoners were allowed to receive food parcels. Without them their chances of survival were very slim. A concentration
camp inmate would survive for only a few months on the allotted number of calories. These starvation rations were further
reduced by the thievery and corruption of the camp personnel. To get more lenient treatment, prisoners had to share large
portions of their parcels with their Kapos and barracks chiefs. Any hestitation could have fatal consequences.
When the factory making the rockets went into production, the Germans expected the Allies would find out about it and
bomb it. In the fall of 1944, Allied planes dropped leaflets over the plant area warning that it would be bombed. When the
bombers approached, the Germans ordered all workers to leave the factory and run into the neighbouring woods, which were still
inside the electrified wire enclosure. The factory was built of wood, and was burned to the ground by the incendiary bombs.
There were few fatalities among the prisoners.
Immediately after the raid, the Germans began rebuilding the destroyed factory, not believing that their defeat was inevitable.
In April 1945, the Germans decided to evacuate the camp in front of the American army, which was advancing from the west.
The Germans had nowhere to run because the Soviets were advancing from the east, but not as fast.
Bolstered by the imminent defeat of Germany, the camp underground leaders advised the inmates to ignore the evacuation
order. The camp administration ordered all who refused evacuation to be shot. The rest had to assemble and march to a railroad
station, where the prisoners were herded into closed freight cars. Those who were too weak to walk were shot. The train left
for an unknown destination. Soon it was spotted by Allied fighter planes, which hit the locomotive. The disabled train remained
on the track for two days until the American troops arrived.
Those who survived the Nazi concentration camps owed it more to luck than to anything else. Had that transport been disabled
in the middle of the winter most of the prisoners on it would have been frozen to death. There had been such a case earlier
in Buchenwald. A trainload of passengers arrived in open wagons in the winter in subfreezing temperatures. The frozen
bodies of prisoners were taken directly from the trains to the crematorium.
After the war many horrible atrocities committed in this concentration camp came to light. One of them was revealed at the
trial of the Buchenwald administrator's wife, known as the Bitch of Buchenwald. She used to observe the newly-arrived
prisoners through a peephole while they showered. She arranged for those prisoners who were tattoed to be killed, and
had their skin made into lampshades. She had quite a collection of them, labeled "Made of Human Skin."
4. Father Henryk Kaliszan, College Chaplain
Henryk Kaliszan was born on December 11, 1911 in Essen, Germany. He graduated from the Poznan Seminary and was ordained
in 1938. Father Kaliszan began his pastoral work as vicar for the parish of Wysocko, not far from Ostrow Wielkopolski. A year
later he was appointed prefect at the secondary school in Ostrow, but the outbreak of war brought these plans to an end before
the school year began.
Father Kaliszan was arrested by the Gestapo at his parish church in early October 1941. After many harrowing experiences,
including confinement in Poznan's infamous Gestapo prison, Fort VII, Father Kaliszan was sent to Dachau. As a Polish priest,
he was treated by the Nazis with the same contempt and barbarity they had reserved for the Jewish inmates.
For an entire year Father Kaliszan was confined to a hospital ward where he was used as a human guinea pig in cold blooded
pseudo-medical experiments. Three times he was subjected to extreme surgical procedures. The result of one of these operations
left the priest horribly infected, and his foot swollen and putrefying. It was only by a miracle that he did not die.
After he was liberated, Father Kaliszan nursed typhus patients until they were taken into US Army field hospitals. He
then went to the Polish camps in Munich. There Bishop Jozef Gawlina assigned him to pastoral duties in the Polish refugee
centers in Braunau, Rawenshofen and Neue Heimat in Austria.
These centers were closed after a year, so the Polish bishop in Frankfurt appointed Father Kaliszan to the post of chaplain
and lecturer at the Polish Technical College in Esslingen. He stayed at the college until the middle of 1947, having
decided at that time to return to Poland, drawn there by the fact that his diocese had lost 60% of its priests during the
Following many years of service, mostly in Ludomy, near Oborniki, Father Kaliszan retired from active pastoral life in
5. John Suski
A Teenager's Wartime Mining Experience
I was seventeen in July 1942 (born Jan Szczucki on November 9, 1923 at Meducha near Halicz). During that month,
I, together with all the young men from my village in the south-eastern region of prewar Poland, were deported to Germany
for forced labor. We were first sent to work on a large estate near Glogau in Lower Silesia. The work was backbreaking. We
were housed in the stables. But this was nothing compared to what awaited me later.
By Christmas, when there was not much to do on the farm, some of us were sent back to the labor office for re-assignment.
I ended up in the industrial region of the Ruhr. There, due to a mix-up in a transit camp, I was separated from my fellow
Poles, and herded together with some Russians. We were sent to a mining camp near the city of Essen. That camp, fenced with
barbed wire, housed about a thousand Russian miners brought from the Donets coal basin after it had been captured by the Germans.
Being the only Pole among a thousand Russians, I was scared to death, and expected the worst. But I soon realized that
I had nothing to fear from them. Our common enemies were the ruthless German oppressors.
I will never forget my first day in the coal mine. At the mine shaft, even before going down into the pit, I saw the
miners from the earlier shift. They looked blacker than chimney sweeps, and my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. The
appearance of those devil-like creatures, with only their white teeth and eyeballs flashing, made me feel that I was about
to enter into a hell.
We were loaded into huge four-level freight elevators for a ride of more than half a mile down into the pit. The rapid
downward acceleration of the elevator made me feel weightless, and pushed my guts upwards towards my throat. The ride seemed
to last an eternity, but after some ten minutes it came to a stop.
From the shaft we had to walk about half a mile through narrow, dark, poorly lit corridors to our work site. Often we
could ride in the empty wagons of the narrow gauge trains used for transporting coal. Jumping into them while they were in
motion was not allowed as this practice frequently ended in tragedy.
The coal seam where I was assigned to work was only about four feet high, and required me to work on my knees. Even with
the thick knee pads it was very uncomfortable, and after a while it led to painful inflammations and ultimately to a
crippling rigidity of the joints.
I had the exceptionally bad luck to start working in the mine when there was a cave-in in progress in the section where
I had been assigned to work. Everyone was rushed to help stabilize the settling of the overhead mass of rocks by shoring it
up with new timber posts. Within minutes, those posts buckled with deafening bursts, and had to be replaced again. The unevenly
settling overhead rocks cracked with a terrifying roar and earthquake-like tremors. After several hours of death-defying struggle,
the miners finally succeeded in stabilizaing the cave-in. Of the original four feet of headroom, only a foot-and-a-half remained.
Ths was barely enough to crawl through, and keep that seam open.
To avoid injuries, or even death, I had to master the art of safe mining. The Germans were only interested in maximizing
the output of coal, and cared little about our safety. We were expendable.
Exhausted, we trudged back to the exit shaft after we finished our assigned quota mining about 10 tons of coal each.
After showering and changing into our ragged "clean" clothes, we had to assemble for a roll call. After everyone was accounted
for, we were then escorted by armed guards to our camp. Because of our weak condition, it took us about an hour to cover a
distance of less than a mile. Annoyed by our slow pace, especially when the weather was at its worst, our guards ordered
us to sing their favourite song: "Heute is der Schoenste Tag in Meinem Leben", whose words went: "Today is the most
beautiful day in my life, I would not give such a day for any other..."
Arriving at the camp, we were counted again. This took place outdoors, even in the most abominable weather. We were then
finally given our meal: a bowl of cabbage or turnip soup and a quarter of a pound of dark bread. Those who were unable to
fulfill their daily work quota were kept in the mine for the second shift. They would only have some three hours of rest before
they were called to assemble for work again.
We were always exhausted because we were allowed only one day off every fourth Sunday so we might rest. We had no vacations,
no holidays. We had no facilities for recreation - no books, no newspapers, no records, no radios, no games. However, I wonder
if we could have used them, for we had neither the time nor the energy. No religious services of any kind were available to
In normal times, miners are among the highest paid workers, because mining is one of the most hazardous occupations.
In comparison with other workers we earned the highest wages, but a large portion was deducted from our pay for war reparations.
The Nazis added insult to injury by making us pay them for their cost in conquering our country.
In wartime Germany everything was rationed. Nothing could be bought without coupons. We were not eligible for coupons,
and being confined to the camps we did not have access to any stores or shops. At work we were able to clandestinely buy some
bread from our German co-workers. If we were lucky, we could buy a two-pound loaf of dark bread for our monthly salary. Such
trade was strictly forbidden, and only the Germans of Polish ancestry would undertake such risks. Many Poles had settled in
that industrial region during the past century. Most of them did not speak Polish; they only had Polish surnames. Their
attitude toward us was much friendlier than that of other Germans.
The Germans did not provide us with clothing. All our clothing was sent to us by our needy families from home. Occasionally,
we were given new work shoes made with canvas tops and thick wooden soles, or Dutch wooden sabots. This type of footwear was
torturous to wear, and underground it gave no protection against falling objects.
Our Nazi masters believed that we were inferior creatures; "Die Untermenschen." Clubbed and whipped, we were
worked to exhaustion on starvation rations. We were dehumanized to the level of working animals or even lower. A broken shovel
was a greater loss to our "masters" than our broken limbs. Very few of us, especially youngsters my age, had the necessary
training or experience to perform such dangerous work safely. Because of this, accidents occurred daily, and they were often
As a result of such inhuman treatment and conditions, our debilitated bodies were susceptible to physical and mental
illnesses. Tuberculosis was rampant, afflicting one out of four of us. We also suffered more than our share of casualties
from the incessant Allied air raids on the prime industrial targets that surrounded our camp area. Unlike the Germans, we
were not provided with air-raid shelters.
All this, combined with poor medical care, resulted in agonizing sufferings, and an appalling death rate. During those
bleak years surviving even one day seemed to be a miracle. With little hope of coming out of those sinister tombs alive, we
could not help wondering if our wretched lives were worth living. Some did take their own lives after reaching the limits
of their endurance. I once intentionally injured my right palm by piercing it with a jackhammer pin. I got two weeks "sick
leave." This was my only "vacation" during four years of coal mining.
We were crammed into large, vermin infested barracks, and slept on double tier bunks that had no mattresses. The
camp was isolated from the outside world by barbed wire fences, with watchtowers and dogs. It was controlled by German guards,
who were absolute masters of life and death.
The most notorious of our guards was Wolfgang Wolf. His ferocious name matched his personality well. No survivor of that
camp would ever forget that man and his half-missing right index finger which he used to menace those of us he selected for
My turn came when I was sent to him by the camp physician to receive twenty-five lashes on my bare body with a knotted
whip for falsely reporting sick, and by doing so missing a day of work. It made no difference that I had just finished
a double shift. Wolf told me that I must take my punishment in total silence. If I screamed, I would be subjected to
attack by a vicious dog which he held on a leash. The punishment was not carried out by Wolf himself, but by his two
assistants who alternatively whipped me from either side. Wolf told me to loudly count out each lash. If I missed a count,
the lash would be repeated. I gritted my teeth and counted to about twelve.
Then it became humanly impossible for me to endure such terrible pain. As soon as I screamed, the dog jumped at
me. When the dog snatched my right pinky finger with his teeth, horrified and even in greater pain, I shrieked with
all my strength. This spurred the dog on to tear at my finger with added fury. Because my hands and feet were strapped
to the table, I was unable to avoid either the whip or the dog's ferocious teeth. I passed out.
When I regained consciousness, with the help of a bucket of cold water, I was in excruciating pain all over my battered
body and especially from my badly mauled finger. The blood dripping from the open wounds formed puddles on the table
and the floor. For my tormentor Wolf, it was a very amusing spectacle. Laughing and brandishing his loathesome finger stub
in front of my blurry eyes, he growled; "You dirty Schweinhund! See what your finger is going to look like?"
6. Stefan Duszka
I was Protected by the Hand of God
In January 1943, I (born September 1, 1920 at Kozienice) was captured by the German police during a street roundup
in Radom, and was marked for deportation to Germany for forced labor. By chance I managed to bribe a Ukrainian guard to let
me go, and thought myself to be very lucky. I managed to regret this much later. Had I been sent to Germany then, I would
have been spared many hideous experiences.
I was arrested by the Gestapo in my family's home in Kozienice on suspicion of being active in the resistance. This particular
series of raids and arrests was conducted by the Gestapo to crush a resistance network operating in the nearby Kozienice forest.
All who were arrested were brutally tortured during the course of their interrogation. A few were shot on the spot, and surprisingly,
a few were let go. The rest, a group of some two hundred people, including myself, had our hands bound behind our backs
with wire, and were loaded onto railroad freight cars.
Days later the train came to a halt. As we got off the train, we were ironically greeted by a marching band. We
passed through a gate, above which was a large sign which said "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" (Work Will Make You Free). The
electrified barbed wire fence with the watchtowers and armed guards did not indicate that there was any way to become free
from that place. In my first conversation with the "Veteran" residents I learned that I was now in Gross Rosen Concentration
Camp. They assured me that one entered this place through the gate, but that the only way I, or anyone, would leave would
be through the crematorium chimney.
The part of my stay at Gross Rosen that will never leave my memory is the camp's bathhouse. Our entire transport, moved
along with shouts and beatings, hurried naked into the bathhouse. We were packed into a shower room like sardines. It was
unbelievably hot and the air was suffocating. Yet no water came out of the shower heads. A few drops dripped out every few
seconds from some of them, and waiting below each were dozens of parched throats. The weaker prisoners would pass out, and
then be dragged into the corners where they convulsed and died in agony.
After several hours of this torture, we were let out, a few dozen at a time, and led to a pool filled with ice-cold water.
It was the beginning of April and the weather was still winter. In this way more of the weaker prisoners were finished off.
We, the newcomers, were transformed into prisoners in a very abrupt manner. Barbers shaved off our hair and we were issued
the infamous striped prison uniforms with berets made of the same striped cloth. Two thugs at each door hurried us along with
blows of their clubs on our naked bodies.
From the very first day we newcomers were introduced to camp discipline. We were mustered into ranks and for hours we
were trained on how to correctly "salute" the camp authorities. It seemed that the main purpose of the striped beret
was to "greet" passing SS men with it. We were to stand at rigid attention at an appropriate distance from the SS man, and
snatch our beret from our heads with lightning speed and slam it in salute against our hip. Anyone who did not salute an SS
man in this way was severely beaten, sometimes to death.
My work assignment was in the stone quarry. My first job was to load stones into carts. We had to work in the open
air, whatever the weather, from dawn to dusk. We worked without a break, under the watchful eyes and the brutal clubs of the
"Kapos." The Kapos were the concentration camp's gang foremen. They were usually German, and had criminal records and
sadistic inclinations. They held absolute power of life and death over their gangs. It seemed that the more cruelty they exhibited,
and the greater the pain they inflicted, the greater they were esteemed by the camp administration.
My gang dug trenches, shoveled sand, broke stones with sledge hammers, and carried away the rock. When we had the sledges
in our hands, they had to keep in constant motion, and had to strike hard blows with each and every swing. When working with
the shovels, they to had to be in constant motion, and full to the edges with each movement. When we carried rocks, it had
to be done at a run, and God help you if the rock was too small. And so it went, hour after hour, day after day, without a
The veteran prisoners had already mastered the art of "working with their eyes." This consisted of carefully watching
the Kapo. The instant his attention was somewhere other than on you, you could relax for a moment. This called for lightning
reflexes, and you had to anticipate the instant when the Kapo would again turn in your direction. If you did not have quick
reflexes, you did not attempt to "work with your eyes." The Kapos or the SS would finish you off in an instant.
Our number one enemy was hunger. The normal human organism would survive no longer than three months on the calories
we were allotted. These starvation rations were further reduced by the thievery and corruption of the Kapos and the camp administration.
Besides hunger, cold was our greatest enemy, especially during the winter. The cold autumn rains were also devastating.
Our soaked uniforms would not dry overnight in the unheated barracks, and we would have to work for days in our wet uniforms.
We tried to keep warm any way we could. For example, we would wear old cement sacks under our uniforms. But pity the person
who was caught wearing such a "sweater."
Some of the inmates were at the end of their strength, and lost the will to live. We referred to these listless people
in camp jargon as "Muselmann." For a Muselmann the only hope for surviving the winter was to go to the camp hospital, but
it was difficult to be admitted. Inmates often injured themselves on purpose in the hope of getting in for a few weeks. It
was difficult to call this facility a hospital, but it did keep you out of the cold and away from the murderous labor.
My work in the quarry so exhausted me physically and spiritually that I was close to going to the crematorium. My will
had been so weakened that despite the fact that I was ill, I did not even try to get into the hospital. I became a Muselmann.
At the point of my deepest despair, seeking some way out, I entrusted my life to divine providence, which somehow saved
my me. In June 1944, I was transferred to a newly established camp near Breslau. Having been a craftsman, I was taken to work
in a factory which produced parts for V-1 and V-2 rockets.
From that moment my fate improved greatly. Above all, I was now working indoors, in relative warmth and with a roof over
my head. Aside from these improved conditions, I was assigned to work during the night shift. This protected me from the many
routine torments of camp life, such as the roll-calls that would last for hours, and many other daily cruelties. I finally
managed to get some long-desired real sleep.
My first day there I was reunited with my friends, Jozef Nocun and Bronislaw Kuciarski, whom I had last seen in the Radom
Gestapo prison. From then, until we were liberated, we looked after each other. This helped me to survive. We also were able
to receive packages from our families, and the food we received was a very great help. All of these things contributed to
the recovery of my strength. Unfortunately this idyll did not last. With the beginning of the Soviet winter offensive
in January 1945, the entire camp was prepared for evacuation. We loaded the SS men's baggage onto carts. In early February
1945, we were marched out of camp on foot. There were no horses available to pull the carts, so oxen were used.
This trek across the German countryside was much different than before. In the past German children would hurl epithets
and stones at us when they saw our striped suits. Now nobody taunted us, and even the SS men guarding us with weapons in their
hands looked gloomy.
The February frost penetrated our uniforms, and went right to our bones. Every three days we received a bread ration.
We were taken down back roads, as the main roads were jammed with German troops and civilians trying to flee from the Russians.
At night we would sleep in empty barns and stables. A new scourge soon sfflicted us. After several nights on the road we were
totally infested with lice.
We were driven along, cold and hungry, wthout food or water. He who could go on would live, he who fell was finished
off with a bullet or a rifle butt. Jozef, Bronislaw and I helped each other through this Golgotha, holding each other up with
One day I was called to pull the SS men's baggage wagon. The oxen could not take the strain of the march, and had died
of exhaustion. My shoes were beaten into tatters. Eventually the soles fell off, and I had to pull the wagon barefoot through
the snow. At this point the guards put me behind the wagon, to push. I was at the end of my strength, and felt as if I was
a step away from death. I held on to the cart to keep from falling. If I fell I knew I would be finished.
Late that night the cart caught up with the rest of the column. The other prisoners were already asleep in a camp. As
a member of the team that pulled the cart, I received my "prize," three boiled potatoes and a few swallows of watery soup
The following day, which I believe was a Sunday, and the third since we left Breslau, we were lined up for a roll-call
and a count of the survivors instead of continuing our march. I stood in the ranks, my feet wrapped in rags. At the sight
of us, which must have truly been horrible, and despite the presence of the SS guards, prisoners in a nearby barracks came
to our aid. We were bombarded from the windows with pieces of bread, potatoes, and whatever shoes and clothing the inmates
may have had on hand. To my good fortune a pair of ladies' slippers landed in my fingers. They fit my small, bare feet perfectly.
The prisoners' act was a spontaneous and noble response of the human heart to the desperate needs of fellow humans, who
like themselves, had been torn from their homes and families and deported to slave labor camps. Should any of those good-hearted
Samaritans ever hear or read my words, I want them to know that they have the heartfelt thanks of we unfortunates, who received
those miraculous gifts. Our wish to them is that their children and their descendants will never know a concentration camp,
and will always live in freedom.
We were still some 40 kilometers away from Buchenwald, which was our final destination. The prisoners were so weak and
exhausted that some could not even pick themselves off of the ground, on which they had fallen like logs. The SS guards then
organized some horses and carts to transport the weakest of the prisoners and the dead. They had strict orders to bring everyone,
whether alive or dead, to Buchenwald. Thank God that Jozef and Bronek and I all made it to Buchenwald alive.
In the Buchenwald bathhouse I was separated from the rest as a "sick Muselmann," and sent to a small hospital. The hospital
was full of Jewish children from Hungary. Here I again began to slowly regain my health.
On Palm Sunday the Germans ordered the evacuation of Buchenwald. Encouraged by the apparent decline of the Germans, the
camp underground resistance advised the inmates to ignore their captor's orders. The camp commendant sent in the SS, who shot
the leaders and pushed and brutalized the rest of them into the assembly area. A column of several hundred prisoners then
began a march in the direction of Dachau.
The hospital where I remained had not been evacuated. We soon heard rumors that it had been mined, and would soon be
blown up. A Czech doctor was in charge of the hospital. He was a very noble person, very calm and composed, the way a doctor
should be. He comforted the children, who were crying with fear. He assured them that he would stay with them and they would
all soon be free. I was reminded of him when after the war I heard about the famous Polish doctor, Janusz Korczak, who also
would not abandon his children and had gone with them to the gas chamber.
The physician's words soothed everyone as if they were balsam. I fell sound asleep. I dreamed of my mother, and that
I was at home with her. As my dream continued, I looked out the window and saw soldiers in uniforms, green uniforms that I
had never seen before. I shouted, "Look mother! We are liberated!" At that moment I awoke, and I suddenly heard joyous shouts
of "Long live America!" American soldiers were entering the camp, and my dream had become completely and utterly true.
That same day, April 11, 1945, we were again free people.
7. Julian Waszynski, Hartford, Connecticut, USA
Julian Waszynski was born on January 6, 1922 in Hrubieszow, Lublin Province. He was attending secondary school when the
Germans invaded Poland. He then studied at a clandestine Polish trade school during the German occupation.
In May, 1941 Waszynski, along with all of his fellow students, teachers and many of the educated Poles in the area were
all arrested in a sweep by the Gestapo. After brutal and lengthy interrogations, all were sent to the Auschwitz death camp.
Waszynski survived two years there, partly by luck, and partly through his skill in playing the violin. Waszynski was eventually
made part of the camp's orchestra, and was saved from many of the random and routine horrors of camp life. Out of the 670
persons who were deported to Auschwitz in Waszynski's transport, only 10 were still alive two years later.
Waszynski was transferred from Auschwitz to the Buchenwald Concentraion Camp in March 1943. Fortune again smiled at him
when he was assigned to be a cabinetmaker. He worked indoors, and was spared the debelitating labor outside, during all seasons
and in all weather conditions.
As the Allied armies marched across Germany, the Buchenwald camp was ordered evacuated. Waszynski and over 6,000 other
prisoners were loaded onto railroad cars. It was not long before Allied fighter planes strafed the train, disabling the locomotive.
The prisoners were forced to walk the rest of the way to their destination. Without any food or water, the column staggered
on. Anyone who was unable to keep up was shot.
On the sixth day of the march the column stopped for the night. The prisoners were made to fall out of their ranks in
a boggy meadow. When Waszynski awoke the next day, he was amazed that he and several hundred prisoners had been overlooked
by the guards that morning. The exhausted men had not heard the column forming up at dawn, and the guards did not see them
sleeping in the thick, wet shrubs of the swampy meadow. Too exhausted to do anything, the majority simply lay where they were,
and were liberated by the Americans the next day.
Only after the war did Waszynski discover that the rest of the prisoners had been loaded onto another train, and that
it had been sent to the concentration camp at Dachau. That train reached the camp, but the prisoners were never let out of
the locked freight cars. The majority on the "death train" had starved to death.
8. Jozef Klis, Westward With the Polish Brigade
As part of Poland's national defense program, I (born February 20, 1914 at Nowy Kurczyn, Kielce) was called up for three
months military training with the 23rd Infantry Regiment in Wlodzimierz Wolynski in 1938. By the time I returned to civilian
life, I had participated in the officer cadet program, and achieved the rank of cadet corporal.
Responding to Hitler's threats, the country prepared for war, and on August 28, 1939, I was mobilized in Tarnow, and
my unit was sent to eastern Poland for further re-equipment. By the time our party reached Zamosc there was no further need
for any additional equipment as the Soviets had overrun eastern Poland. Now our only decision was whether to chose occupation
under the Soviets, or under the Germans. I chose the Germans, and returned home to Nowy Korczyn.
In 1940 I entered the "conspiracy," and joined a local unit of the Armia Krajowa. In November 1943, I was arrested by
the German security police. They soon released me, apparently as a tactic to keep me under observation. Two weeks later the
entire town was surrounded by a cordon of German soldiers. The security police took over from them, and the flower of our
local Polish youth were arrested. In all, they took twenty-three, among them three women. All of them were shot. From the
moment of my release I hid in a neighbor's barn, and consequently escaped with my life.
After this I went to the village of Kocina, near Krakow, and again joined the local Armia Krajowa.
In January 1944 my unit returned to Nowy Korczyn to take part in an attack on the German police, and avenge the death
of my comrades. The Germans were making preparations to abandon the town before the approaching Soviet Army. We did not want
them to leave before they paid for what they had done.
After twenty-two hours of fierce fighting, the local unit of the Armia Krajowa had almost completely run out of ammunition.
The Kocina unit arrived, and thanks to them, the Police headquarters was taken. Twelve German policemen were captured, and
all were executed on the spot.
As the front came closer to the Vistula, it became more and more difficult for the Polish underground units to operate
in the local villages. We were being squeezed between our Soviet enemies and our Nazi enemies.
At this time I learned that the Holy Cross Brigade of the Polish Nationalist Army Forces was expanding. I joined the
Brigade in the village of Lasocin in Kielce province in September 1944.
We were commanded by Antoni "Bohun" Dabrowski, (who was the author of the book, Bylem Dowodca Brygady Swietokrzyskiej
- I Commanded the Holy Cross Brigade). The brigade numbered 1,200 men, was well equipped and supported by a supply column.
With the beginning of the Soviet offensive on January 13, 1945, the Holy Cross Brigade started to move west with the
objective of reaching the Western Allies. A few days later we were attacked by a Soviet armored unit, and were forced to cross
the Pilica River into heavily defended German positions. The Brigade was disarmed, but our emissaries had managed to open
negotiations with the German commander in charge of our sector. The Germans returned our weapons and allowed our brigade to
continue its march westward.
On the second day of our march our commander had final discussions with the German commander in the Lubliniec area. This
negotiation would decide the fate of our brigade.
Tired and hungry, but ready for combat, we waited on the edge of town for the conclusion of these talks. We saw something
strange and astonishing at the edge of the forest. In the distance was a supply wagon loaded to the top with freshly butchered
beef. I was so hungry that when I saw this wagon, despite everything, I left the ranks. As I had nothing else, I gnawed off
several mouthfuls of the raw meat with my teeth. For the first time in my life I knew how raw meat tasted, and became convinced
of its ability to give one energy.
After many further adventures, the Brigade, in formation, marched across the border into Czechoslovakia. From what we
saw, we were certain that the war would come to an end at any moment. Years before we had seen Poles in flight, trying to
escape invaders. Now we saw Germans fleeing deep into Germany, trying to escape the Bolshevik tidal wave. During our march
we also met some of our countrymen, survivors of the Warsaw Uprising. They joined our column as we continued our march west.
We sent out a patrol ahead of us. It was commanded by an officer. Its mission was to make contact with the advancing
American Army. After 48 hours, the patrol managed to meet with general Robertson, commander of the American 2nd Infantry Division,
and gave him the message from our commander.
Our formidable military formation eventually reached the village of Vsehrady, near the city of Pilsen. After we entered
the village, we learned that there was a concentration camp a few kilometers away. It was full of female prisoners of all
nationalities who had been forced to work in a German munitions factory. Our plan was to assault the camp at dinner time.
Fortunately we acheived complete surprise, and the fight was over quickly, but not before two of us were killed. We had captured
two hundred German guards, whom we later handed over to the Americans. We had liberated more than a thousand women prisoners,
many of them Poles. The Jewish women had been separated from the rest, and were to have been murdered. What we saw in the
camp was horrible and macabre. From the barracks came the unbearable stench of decomposing corpses. When I saw this, all I
could think of was to what depths human nature could fall.
We and the liberated prisoners were overcome with a joy that is impossible to describe. We were ecstatic about the happy
conclusion of our attack, just as the war was coming to an end.
On May 8, 1945, the war came to an end with Germany's unconditional surrender. On this day we met the American army,
and establsihed liaison with General Anders.
Our brigade went on to serve as an auxiliary unit of the United States Army in occupied Germany. Whoever wanted
to could now go his own way. I found my sister in Belgium, and returned to the American zone of occupation in Germany.
Then I enrolled in the Polish Technical College in Esslingen with Aleksander Cmielewski, Captain Wladyka, and a few others
from our Holy Cross Brigade.
9. Boleslaw Szostak, Greensboro, North Carolina
Boleslaw Szostak was born on April 2, 1923 in Gdow, Krakow province. During the German occupation he attended underground
schools. The Germans caught him during one of their street roundups in Krakow in 1941. He was then deported to the Kassel
district of Germany for forced labor. He worked in a coal mine for more than three years under horrible conditions until liberated
by the Americans in April 1945.
Immediately after liberation he worked for a U.S. Army military police battalion, and later for the U.S. Army Medical
Corps. Later, he was able to attend the Polish Technical College and following the conclusion of his studies he emigrated
to the United States in 1949.
10. Lech Nowak, Poznan, Poland
Lech Nowak was born on January 21, 1927 in Poznan. He had completed primary school, and had passed his examinations for
secondary school when Germany invaded Poland. His father, a colonel commanding the 13th Infantry Regiment, was killed in action
during the defence of Poland.
At the age of fourteen Nowak was conscripted for forced labor in German firms which had moved into Poznan after that
city was annexed to the Reich. He spent three years working in an electronics firm, and then in heavy construction until August
The Red Army had reached the Wisla River, and Nowak was sent to dig trenches and anti-tank ditches as the Germans fortified
Poznan. At the end of the month he was sent to Karlstadt as a slave laborer in a quarry serving a Portland cement plant.
In January 1945, the workers were transferred from the quarry to clear forests for a front line airfield near Aschaffenburg.
After liberation by the American Seventh Army, Nowak was transferred from DP camp to DP camp, and was finally able to attend
secondary school in a camp near Karlsruhe. When this camp too was liquidated, Nowak made his way to Esslingen to join the
Polish Technical College.
In August 1946, Nowak received the first news about his family in Poland. His widowed mother, a medical doctor, had survived
the war and was alone. He joined a refugee transport for home leaving Stuttgart on August 20, 1946. By 1959 he had graduated
from the Medical Academy in Poznan and was able to begin a successful career.
11. Aleksander Miller, Lodz, Poland
Aleksander Miller was born in Lodz on May 2, 1924. His father was a laborer, but the family managed to save enough
money to send Aleksander to a commercial secondary school after he had finished his primary schooling. Aleksander was ready
to begin his second year when the war broke out.
Miller was deported to Germany as a forced laborer in 1942. He was working near Berlin, but the Germans, in a move that
was highly unusual fior them, sent him back to Poland because of his fragile health. In 1944 he was again conscripted for
forced labor, this time in a factory in Poland that had been taken over by the German Telefunken electronic corporation. As
the Red Army approached, the factory was evacuated along with all of its workers, to another Telefunken factory near Breslau.
As the Soviets approached that city, Miller and his co-workers were again moved to the city of Ulm, in Wurttemberg.
Miller lived in refugee camps after Ulm was taken by the Americans, until he enrolled in the Polish Technical College.
In 1949 he returned to Poland and studied in Warsaw to become an architectural engineer, eventually returning to his
home city of Lodz.
12. Jerzy Huppenthal, U.S.A.
Jerzy Huppenthal was born on May 25, 1923 in the city of Przemysl. He began his secondary education at a local school
in 1936. Following the September 1939 invasions by the Soviets and the Germans, Przemysl became a Soviet city on the
border with German occupied Poland. Huppenthal's father did not return from the front.
The Soviets immediately began arresting and deporting large numbers of people. The schools were reopened, but Huppenthal
had to work to support himself, his mother and an infant sister in addition to attending the school.
On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Huppenthal was awakened by artillery that morning. He watched in
amazement as hundreds of Soviet soldiers ran barefoot, wearing only underwear, from their barracks into the nearby woods.
Huppenthal was happy to see the former "allies" now fighting each other. He had expected better conditions under German
occupation but this was not to be. The Germans did not allow any secondary schools to reopen, and arrests, executions and
deportations became the order of the day.
Huppenthal found work in a blacksmith shop, and was paid with potatoes, butter or milk. Sometimes he even received some
meat or a chicken. This was how the blacksmith himself was paid in an economy where money had become worthless.
As the Huppenthal family had relatives living in Austria, the Germans considered them to be Austrians. Jerzy Huppenthal
was drafted into the German army. He protested, saying that he was a Pole, and not an Austrian. For this, Huppenthal was sent
to a prison camp near Muelhausen in Alsace in March 1943.
Huppenthal was put to work in the local salt mines. He realized that he had to serve the Germans in one way or another,
but reasoned that his chances for survival were better in a mine than at the front. Jerzy had to work over half a mile below
the surface, getting there in a wire cage which hurtled down the shaft to the bottom, making everyone feel as if their insides
were coming out of their throats. Watched over by sadistic guards, the prisoners faced cruel whippings for any minor infraction.
After the Allies invaded France, Huppenthal, with others who had mining experience, was sent to Germany to build deep
underground factories to house the German war industries. There he met soldiers of the Home Army who had been taken prisoner
during the Warsaw Uprising.
Huppenthal was liberated by the Americans in April 1945.
13. Aleksander Cmielewski, Adelaide, Australia
Aleksander Cmielewski was born on December 9, 1923 in Ostrow Wielkopolski. He had completed three years of secondary
school before the German invasion. His father was immediately arrested because he had taken part in the 1918 uprising against
the Germans. The remainder of the family was expelled to Kielce in Central Poland. There Cmielewski attended a trade school
which was approved by the Germans, and where Polish secondary school courses were also secretly taught.
Cmielewski completed school with excellent grades and secured a position as an inspector. This helped him in his work
in a clandestine resistance organization, "The Salamander Alliance," which he joined in 1942.
When the Gestapo arrested a fellow conspirator, Cmielewski fled into the forests, and joined a unit of the National Armed
Forces, the Holy Cross Brigade. That unit fought both the Germans and the Soviets before meeting General Patton's 3rd Army
in Western Czechoslovakia. After the end of the war the Brigade remained in service in the ranks of the Polish Guard Companies
at the side of the US Army.
14. Boleslaw Budzyn, Passaic, New Jersey
Boleslaw Budzyn was born in Rakszawa, near Lancut, on July 14, 1920. He had graduated from a technical secondary school
in Poznan before the war. The Germans annexed this territory to the Reich, and expelled the Polish population. While the Budzyn
family was resettled in central Poland, Boleslaw was deported to Germany for forced labor. He managed to escape after a year
A year after he had returned to his family, the Germans called Budzyn's teenaged sister to report for forced labor in
Germany. Boleslaw went in her place. At the end of the war he escaped through the Iron Curtain to the West. He found himself
in the American zone of occupation where he joined the Polish Guard Companies before moving on to the Polish Technical College.
15. Adam Bobrowicz, Chicago, Illinois
Adam Bobrowicz was born on February 25, 1924 in Ginewicze, near the old Soviet border. He was attending secondary school
in Molodeczno when the Soviets invaded. He tried to continue his education in a Soviet secondary school, being taught in the
Russian language. During the winter of 1940-41 he was deported to a Soviet forced labor camp near Smolensk.
Four days after the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets began evacuating their prisoners east
towards Moscow. Bobrowicz, with a few others, managed to escape. After two days he crossed the front line and made it
During the German occupation all of the Polish schools were closed, and Bobrowicz continued his education secretly, in
private homes. He soon joined a local unit of the Polish Home Army. His assignment was to observe German troop movements,
and note what units were stationed in, or were moving through the town of Radoszkowice.
Bobrowicz again escaped when the Soviet partisan commander, General Ponomarenko, ordered all Polish partisans be disarmed
or shot. After some very difficult times the Poles rebuilt their brigade. In May 1944, Bobrowicz's unit, the 78th Infantry
Regiment, began marching toward the Kampinos Forest near Warsaw.
At the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1, 1944, Bobrowicz was slightly wounded while taking part in the attack
on the Bielany airport. On August 16, 1944, Bobrowicz was transferred to the famous 21st "Children of Warsaw" Infantry Regiment
in Warsaw's Zoliborz district. Bobrowicz took part in the attack on the Gdansk Railroad Station and he was again wounded during
the fighting for the Wisla levees. On September 28, 1944, the Home Army in Zoliborz was forced to surrender, and Bobrowicz
was taken prisoner by the Germans.
He was liberated by the Americans on April 11, 1945 and joined a Polish Guards Company in February, 1946. A return home
to Soviet occupied Poland was out of the question as he had been sentenced to a prison term in absentia.
16. Myron Lepkaluk, New York
Myron Lepkaluk was born into a Ukrainian family on April 4, 1919 and grew up in Stary Kotor. After finishing secondary
school in 1938, he could not gain admission to either of only two Polish Polytechnic Institutes (Lwow and Warsaw). He
was however accepted by the Danzig Polytechnic and there began a German engineering education.
After the German invasion of 1939, Lepkaluk was allowed to continue his education due to his Ukrainian background. By
early 1944 he had been appointed to the position of staff assistant at the Stuttgart Polytechnic Institute where he continued
Within weeks of the end of the war, Lepkaluk joined with other Ukrainians and Poles to begin technical education in the
Polish refugee camp in Esslingen. It was in large measure due to Lepkaluk that the Polish Technical College in Esslingen was
founded, for he was able to take advantage of his acquaintance with German industrialist Eberspacher in order to secure the
use of a vacant school building and factory for the College's use.
17. Professor Stanislaw Marcinkowski, Poland
Professor Marcinkowski was born on November 11, 1887 and was the oldest of the school's lecturers. Gray hair and a goatee
added to his authority and dignity. He graduated from a German engineering school in Munich before the First World War,
and went to Russia, where he built industrial buildings.
Between the wars, he was a director of a techncal school in Poland. After the Second World War he taught construction
engineering at the UNRRA university in Munich, where the lectures were conducted in German. However, the majority of his students
were Eastern Europeans. Their knowledge of German was mostly the brutal words they had heard as forced laborers, so their
comprehension of the language was inadequate for academic undertakings. Marcinkowski was fluent in three languages, and was
able to lecture in either German, Russian or Polish.
18. Alfred Ruebenbauer, Germany
Alfred Ruebenbauer was born on October 13, 1894 in Sambor, Poland, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He completed
his primary and secondary education in Lwow.
Ruebenbauer was a volunteer in the Polish Legions, serving with them through the entire First World War. When the war
ended, he was a captain. He later fought as a Polish volunteer in the fierce battles for the city of Lwow.
From 1919 to 1924 Ruebenbauer studied architecture at Lwow Polytechnic. There he became an assistant to Professor Bartel,
a noted scholar in the field of descriptive geometry. Bartel later became a prominent statesman, and served three times as
the Polish Republic's Prime Minister, and as a speaker of the senate. Professor Bartel was executed by the Nazis in Lwow in
After graduation, Ruebenbauer worked for an American firm in Lwow designing spa hotels for the mountain resort of Krynica
for two years. He then opened his private firm, designing apartment buildings and recreational facilities, including a revolutionary
covered swimming pool. From 1935 until the outbreak of the war in 1939 he was employed by the Lwow Municipal Council as a
building surveyor. Through this entire time, Ruebenbauer was a regular lecturer at the Lwow Polytechnic.
During the Soviet occupation of 1939-41 he continued working as an architect in state architectural design offices. After
the Germans captured Lwow, he was employed by a German building firm.
In 1944 Ruebenbauer, his wife and two teenage daughters were deported to Germany. There the daughters were separated
from their parents. The elder one did not survive the war. After the liberation in 1945, Ruebenbauer established a technical
school in the Aschaffenburg refugee camp. With that camp's liquidation in 1946, the school merged with the Polish Technical
College in Esslingen. There, Ruebenbauer taught descriptive geometry, technical drafting, architectural design and building
codes. After the college closed in 1949 he was employed by the United States Army in Ludwigsburg as an architect. He remained
in Ludwigsburg, where he continued to help Polish refugees who had remained in Germany. He was the president of the local
Polish refugee association, and he continued in this work until his death in 1976.
19. Roman Borysthen-Tkacz, USA
Roman was born in August of 1919 to Ukrainian parents in the district of Lubaczow. Tkacz graduated as valedictorian of
his secondary engineering school class in Nowy Targ.
In the spring of 1940, Tkacz gained admission to the Danzig Institute's Department of Mechanical Engineering, beginning
his studies there in September of 1940. Due to his excellent grades, he was exempted from having to pay tuition. With continued
academic success, Tkacz was offered a position as junior assistant to the Chairman of the Turbine Machinery Department.
This position proved to be decisive for his future. As the Red Army cut off Danzig, he was ordered to evacuate with the
Danzig Technical Institute's personnel in January 1945. Tkacz eventually contacted an old friend, Myron Lepkaluk, in Esslingen
and eventually they became instrumental in the birth of the Polish Technical College.
Tkacz taught at the school then took a leave to complete his master's degree in mechanical engineering at Stuttgart Polytechnic.
He then returned as a lecturer to the Polish Technical School before emigrating to the United States in August
20. Excerpts from: A Sketchy Outline of the Events in My Life from 1939 to 1941,
Teresa Oszurko, Buffalo, New York, USA.
"Our happy summer vacation of 1939 was short-lived. The fact that father was recalled from furlough forced
us to face the inevitability of war. We hoped that father would be able to organize the removal of our most essential belongings
to the country, in the firm belief that it would be easier to survive the war here than in the city. But the discovery
of a spy nest by Polish counterespionage (2-ka) kept the whole staff in the garrison working 24 hours a day. All orders concerning
national defence had to be changed.
It was ironic that the spies were Polish Jews working for the Germans, at a time when Hitler's persecution
of Jews was well known in Europe if not the rest of the world.
So, mother followed father to take care of the arrangements, but before she reached Bydgoszcz, German planes
bombarded the city, concentrating on the airfield and railroads...The war raged around us, with bombs falling a fraction of
a mile away and German planes flying low, machine-gunning anything that moved. As soon as anyone spotted a plane, we would
hit the ground preferably behind bushes or potato fields, and stay put until the planes disappeared... the Polish army was
forced to surrender despite our soldiers' heroic opposition...
... After months of anxiety and prayers for their safety, our parents and grandmother arrived on one
cold winter night. It was one of the happiest moments of my young life.
We were staying with father's sister who had a large family, so six extra people for an unlimited time
created problems which summer didn't pose, as all the yougsters slept in the hayloft then and considered it fun. So, our quarters,
with the cold weather approaching, were really cramped. With little hope for the end of the war in the near future, we
decided to return home while it was still possible. However, before we could realize our plans, the border was closed.
Too many Jews were trying to go back under German occupation, but were refused entry.
So, the Russians closed the border and a few months later deported us to Siberia with other "war criminals"
like intellectuals, land owners and officers of the Polish Armed Forces.
CLICK HERE to continue reading this memoir at the "Soviet Invasion of Poland" web site. Choose the "Soviet Occupation of Poland
1939" page and scroll to the bottom.
21. Excerpt from: Behind Barbed Wire, Hanna Czuma
Many of the participants of the Warsaw Uprising who were not killed in action or murdered by the
Germans during or following the battle were taken to POW camps to suffer further. Here, Hanna Czuma describes the
uncommon instance of a camp where, relatively speaking, the suffering was a notch or two less than the brutality experienced
at most camps. Ironically, once liberated, Hanna and her mother had to escape their liberators,
It was not until several years after WW2 that I learned the prisoner of war camp where I spent the final 6 1/2 months
of the war was unusual. In fact, at that time there wasn't another like it anywhere. When we arrived at Jakobstahl in cattle-wagons
in October 1944, after a three-day journey, the German commander took one look and refused to admit us without conferring
with his superiors. We were some 2,500 Poles of all ages, including many sick and wounded. There were soldiers in uniform
and some civilians, emaciated and filthy children as young as 10, and even a few dogs.
As members of the Home Army - Armia Krajowa - we had taken part in the Warsaw Uprising against the German occupation.
The children had been invaluable as messengers, while I had been working in one of the first aid centres. I was 18. After
two months of fighting, beginning on August 1, the Home Army had been forced to surrender and the resistance fighters were
rounded up for transport to POW camps in various parts of Germany. Our group consisted of patients and personnel from several
hospitals and first aid centres. German soldiers, determined to raze Warsaw, had burned and dynamited any building still standing
after the capitulation. As we left on October 11, the third house from my family's was being torched - we said goodbye for
the last time to the city as we knew it.
We were sent to Zeithain camp, part of Stalag IVB in Muhberg, located about halfway between Dresden and Leipzig. When
we were finally admitted, the POW quarters - up to now a male-only facility - changed overnight into a military hospital camp
for men, women and children. The trauma of the previous 2 months was still fresh, but there was no time for tears. Work started
immediately. The commander delegated the camp's administration to our own Colonel Leon Strehl, one of 40 doctors who had come
in our transport.
The equipment and medicines we had brought with us made it possible to set up a primitive operating room, laboratory,
dispensary, dentist's office and outpatient clinic, with barracks for surgical, internal medicine and tuberculosis wards.
We soon added obstetrics and maternity wards. The first baby, Andrzej Wisnicki, was born November 25; 12 more children were
later born and given individual POW numbers and daily food rations. The first night I climbed onto an upper bunk, examined
the straw mattress and flimsy blanket, and sat there watching my 51 room-mates getting settled. I felt strangely safe and
cheerful. It's not bad, I thought. Each of us had a bed, we would be fed, there was no shrapnel flying around and bombs were
not falling on our heads.
A girl with dark hair and thick glasses stood up from the bunk below. She introduced herself as Teresa Jelowicka and,
pointing at my bare feet in open sandals, asked if I intended to spend the winter dressed like that. Startled, I replied,
"Of course. I have nothing else." Muttering darkly, she took off her leather boots and handed me her heavy woolen socks. "There,
put these on. You will survive better."
No protest would change her mind; she had cotton socks in her knapsack and that was enough, she said. I had to accept
what she called a "fair sharing." From then on, we shared everything and were friends for life.
I was pleased that my mother, who had come with me, was placed in the female TB ward under the care of a capable chest
disease specialist. She had contracted TB in 1940, then recovered enough to work, but suffered a relapse during the difficult
conditions of the uprising. I had wanted mother to settle in the Polish countryside, but she would not hear of it. "It is
best to be together," she said. So here she was, in a small barracks by the fence. I visited her every day and we decided
never to part. At war's end, we would join father in Switzerland, where he had lived since war broke out.
I was assigned to work in the female surgery. The job was hard. We did everything from giving injections to scrubbing
floors. Water had to be carried from a pump outside and heated on the stove. Blood-and-pus-soaked bandages, dressings and sheets
we had brought from Warsaw for the severely wounded were washed at night and dried outside, if weather permitted, or in the
barracks during the day. Amputations were frequent. men and women hobbled on home-made crutches, with coat arms hanging loose.
Several patients died on my ward, and this was hardest to take.
We should have been used to seeing people die; there had been brutal carnage in Warsaw. But perhaps one never gets used
to such things. Here friends were dying before my eyes, girls with whom I shared experiences, dreams and plans for the
future. And we were not allowed to mourn. "Do your crying outside," cautioned the head nurse. "The other patients are upset
Life in the camp was exhausting and degrading. We had to wash ourselves and endure regular delousing in a bathhouse while
male guards watched. We were always hungry; the daily ration consisted of watery turnip soup, 125 grams of bread, a tiny square
of margarine, a poor imitation of tea, and a grayish slab of a substance called cheese. We walked to work and back day after
day, tired and depressed. Our only hope was to hear about the defeat of the German forces. Some of the boys smuggled in and
installed small radios in their matresses; they circulated war news.
Slowly, as our sick and wounded started to improve, vitality returned. In mid-November we received food parcels from
the International Red Cross, and in December parcels from home began arriving. The German guards, all older soldiers, were
not unfriendly. I especially remember one who paid little attention to us and whose favourite occupation was attending to
his pipe. Ours was not the only camp in Zeithain. Around us were Russian, French, Belgian, Dutch, English and Polish POWs
captured earlier. There was communication and trading between the camps; two American cigarettes bought an extra bucket of
coal for the barracks, and three cigarettes would bribe a guard at the gate to turn away while prisoners sneaked back and
Sometimes German and Polish doctors discarded animosities for the sake of their work. When a well-known eye specialist
from Warsaw asked for equipment and supplies needed to perform a complicated operation, the answer came back: "Permission
granted. A German doctor would like to assist and learn from you."
Two chaplains looked after our spiritual well-being. At Easter, a German bishop conformed several young people, including
me. Three weddings were also celebrated. Cultural life was fostered by writers, artists, actors, teachers and scholars.
A theatre group was formed, school-age children attended classes, and nursing training began. Among the lectures, I especially
liked those on travel and art.
Sessions on nutrition set us dreaming of food we would like to eat.
Talks on hygiene evoked fits of laughter. Bedbugs stalked the wooden bunks in long black lines. We called our camp "Hospital..."
or "Hotel-Under-the-Bedbug." Body lice, referred to as "Blondes," were pretty well taken care of by the delousing, but head
lice, "brunettes," were a different story. They remained unconquerable and provided us with great entertainment. The person
who caught and killed the largest number as we combed our hair each night was the winner. I won once - with 72 Brunettes.
Soon after Easter tragedy befell Barrack No.7. Late one evening, 18-year old Krysia Nogaj lit a match while sitting on
a top bunk. Although the window across from her wqs covered with a black-out blanket, a bit of light must have leaked out.
A bullet shot by a watch-tower guard flew straight into Krysia's heart, almost without a sound. She died instantly and her
body fell to the floor before anybody realized what had happened.
By mid-April fighting could be heard from the direction of the Labe River, and we rejoiced; the Allies were approaching.
On April 20, the towers stood empty and the gate was open. But then Soviet tanks rolled in. Two weeks later, as the first
POW transport to Soviet-controlled Poland was being organized, my mother and I escaped to freedom. We never did join
my father. As we made plans to cross the Swiss border and travel to Zurich in July 1945, we received news that he had died.
Mother died in 1966, without ever seeing her native country again. I did not return to Poland for almost 50 years.
Today, when I think about life in the camp I recall many things. But most of all I remember the people; my friend Teresa;
a poet and songwriter who recited and sang to us during the long winter evenings; someone who started to teach us English
"to forget the hunger"; a 15-year old Jewish girl and her guardian, a woman who had saved her from being taken into the ghetto
a year before. I remember Leokadia Cwiertniak, a woman in her mid-30s who took care of 19-year old Kazimierz Siedlecki, who
was blinded by shrapnel. She shaped a cane from a tree branch for him, and they walked around the camp until he became familiar
with his surroundings. She cradled him in her arms when he cried, humming soothing tunes to save him from despair. There were
I remember bad and good times, sadness as well as gaiety. I talk about it with others who were POWs after the uprising,
asking them: Am I crazy to say that sometimes I enjoyed myself there?" They say "No, not at all." there was hardship, lots
of it, but they, too, often had a good time. Perhaps it was because of the many friends we made, and because we all hoped
the war would end soon. Or maybe, when one is young it is possible to find fun in everything - even life in a POW camp.
From an article that originally appeared in Legion, Nov./Dec., 1995, by Hanna Czuma
22. Michal (Michael) Niczko
(outline provided by son Robert Niczko)
Michal, Son of Gustaw and Helen (nee Moskalew), was born on January 14, 1904 in the town of Kijow.
In 1920 (possibly even in 1919), Michal participated in the war against the Russians as a volunteer soldier
of the 2nd Cavalry Division (Dywizja Jazdy). He served in Colonel von Buol's horse artillery company covering the
region of Plonsk to Zwiahel.
Michal received his secondary school diploma in 1923 and began his studies in the discipline of law at the
University of Warsaw. However, in May of 1924 he left the university and began instead studies in navigation at the Navy
School at Tczew, which he completed in 1927.
As a lieutenant of the reserves, he was mobilized on August 24, 1939 and was initially posted to Oksywie as a
platoon commander. Michal participated in the defence of the Polish Baltic seacoast and on the night of 18/19 September (the
day before the surrender of Oksywie) he slipped away in a row boat to the peninsula where he participated in battles
in the area of Hel. During the night of October 1/2, as the decision to surrender the fortress of Hel was being made, Michal and
one or two dozen of his colleagues made plans to escape to Sweden in a pair of cutters.
According to the original plan, Michal was to get away in the motorboat "Batory," however at the last moment he
was assigned to command one of the cutters, which lacked a certified navigator.
The moment is described by J. Pertek in the book "Mala Flota, Wielka Duchem" (Small fleet, Huge Spirit):
"This cutter had as many volunteers on it attempting to bypass the German
blockade as did the cutter 'Hel 117.' Among them were two navy captains: Jozef Giertowski and Jozef Wierzchowski, six 2nd
lieutenants: Michal Anaszkiewicz, Julian Czerwinski, Stanislaw Leszczynki, Wladyslaw Plawski, Ludwik Zaborski and Jerzy Zytowiecki
as well as two reservists: Tadeusz Jasicki and Michal Niczko. The latter, a certified navigator in the merchant fleet,
was chosen by the escapees as commander of the vessel."
Mieczyslaw Jacynicz, a crew member of the other cutter, described the plan of escape and the mood in the hours prior
"The plan of escape was simple: to avoid areas patrolled by German ships.
We were first to sail in the direction of Pilawa, then change course due north.
"The hours spent waiting through the night dragged on terribly. It wore
down one's nerves. Those of our friends who were not sailing with us, tried to convince us to abandon the idea as they felt
it would lead to certain death. Their pleas had no effect. We could only think that perhaps we could pull
Unfortunately, the escape never happened with both boats seized during the night and the crews taken prisoner by
the German ships "Pelikan" and "Nautilius." (On the other hand, the "Batory" did manage to slip away to Sweden).
The first week or two of Michal's life as a POW was spent at the Kriegsmarine camp at Pilawa. Then followed short
stints in the transit camps of Klein Dexen and Stablack (both in East Prussia) and Riesenburg (today's Prabuty). At some point
in the first half of November, Michal was transferred to Oflag XVIII-B in the area of Wolfsberg, Austria.
As soon as the weather had warmed up, Michael conspired to escape from this camp. The plan was described by T. Jasicki
in the book "Ku Chwale Bandery" (For the Glory of the Flag), pages 103-104:
"Nearest the fence was a prisoners' barracks from which we decided to
dig a tunnel. A suitable entrance was found by a warrant officer (whose name I have forgotten) of the Border Defence Corps
(KOP). He arranged it so that the opening in the floor was revealed by moving aside the barber's sink.
"After working on the tunnel, the sink would be replaced on its spot.
In the first threesome were 2nd. lt. Niczko, 2nd. lt. Woloszynski and I. The idea was to dig a deep well shaft then, at about
a depth of one and one-half metres, we would dig a tunnel of 50 cm width. The earth from the digging of the tunnel would then
be dumped into the well, making the construction of the tunnel that much quicker and simpler.
"I did the digging of the well shaft, Niczko removed the dirt and passed
it on to Woloszynski, who spread it around outside as broadly as possible. I dug until dawn to a depth of about three
and one-half metres. The tunnel was to be about twenty metres long; its exit was to be in the field beyond the potatoes,
where there were deep ditches so that one could sneak along for quite a while. And then - along the river Lavant to the
"We stopped working in the morning and arrived as usual for roll call.
The following evening the second trio continued the work: W. Korzeniowski, J. Chmielewski and Z. Kicinski.
"While the rest of us were asleep, suddenly shots rang out, searchlights
were switched on and after a while, officers led a number of soldiers into our barrack. All of the beds were occupied.
The guards looked around but could not see anything out of place until one of them rolled back the covers on one bed
to find a mannequin lying there. We had made an error: we should have invited a few friends from other barracks to take the
place of our missing workers."
As a consequence of this attempt at escape, Michal was transferred at the beginning of April, 1940 to the punishment
camp (Oflag VIII B) at the Spitzberg (Ostrog) fort near the town of Silberberg (Srebrna Gora), arriving on April
11. Not long after he was once again transferred to the fort at Hohenstein (Wysoka Skala), which was perched on top of
a hill across from Oflag VIII B. He left this fort at the beginning of May 1940 thanks to a daring escape attempt which ended
A group of prisoners fashioned a key to a locked room, situated next to the mess hall, in which there was a
window to the outside. Following an evening's events at the mess hall, a group of escapees managed to hide themselves in this
room. A further description of events is given by J. Giertych in the book "Wrzesniowcy" (September's Soldiers):
"Finally silence. The Germans had locked up the mess hall for the night.
All one could hear through the window to the outside were the steps of the guard by his station. Darkness fell. The first
trio carefully and quietly came out from their hiding place under the board bed. The first to squeeze himself through the
hole was Michal. I followed second but not before I removed my bulky coat. The window recess had enough room for the
both of us while Zdzisio had to wait by the hole, poking his head through to watch.
"Quietly Michal and I open the window. Rather than iron bars, the
window was blocked by barbed wire. We cut up our fingers while slowly untangling the wire. Done!
"We look out and around very carefully. Below us is a moat about 2 stories
deep. Beyond the moat - woods. To the left and to the right the moat curves away. Silence. Emptiness. Not a soul in the area.
"We carefully let out our rope made from bedding. It's long enough.
It's made it to the ground. We have nothing to tie it to so I hold the end in my hands. In the wall is an old rusted hook
but it's loose and hopefully it won't shred our rope. I hold the rope while Michal climbs down on it. Good! He's made it.
He heads left avoiding the water, clambers over the rocks and gets over the top."
After 10 or 11 days of freedom Michal is recaptured by the Germans together with 4 of his colleagues and deposited once
again at Hohenstein. Later that summer he was back in Spitzberg.
At the beginning of November 1940, Michal was transferred to another specialty camp, Oflag IV C in Colditz castle, which
the Germans reserved for the most troublesome, habitual escapee POWs from across all of Europe.
Finally, from the 17th of August, 1943, Michal spent the rest of the war at Oflag II C at Woldenberg (Dobiegniew).
23. Elfrida Trybowska, Rabka, Poland (extract of a letter)
"... Immediately prior to the outbreak of war, both Czeslaw (her husband) and I were working in Rabka (we had
gotten hitched in June, 1938). Czeslaw was the director at the Meteorological Station and taught at the local Men's High School.
I ran the PBP "Orbis" Agency in Rabka.
On the day that war erupted we joined the ranks of the refugees, despite my pregnancy, and fate took us as
far as Brody. There we lived through a few terrible weeks; bombardment, the front moving back and forth. We returned to Rabka
in October. Our home had been looked after by a good friend.
Following our return, I wound up working at the post office in Rabka on account of my knowledge of German while Czeslaw
got a job at the registration office. Our son Antoni was born in March of 1940.
The two of us began work for the underground. In 1942 the Gestapo uncovered the secret organization in the region
of Rabka and undertook many arrests and raids. Someone slipped up and gave away some information which resulted
in Czeslaw being arrested on 17.9.42. Following a brutal interrogation at the prisons in Zakopane (quite likely the
infamous Gestapo interrogation and torture prison at the "Palace" hotel) and Tarnow, he was first transferred to the
concentration camp at Oswiecim (Auschwitz) then later to Flossenburg in Bavaria. The ordeal that he lived through
there you may be familiar with as much has been written.
And so, I was left alone with a 2 year-old child, constantly in fear that I too would be arrested and the child would
be on his own. Luckily, God did not abandon us and I survived the war although I had to change jobs a few times while the
Gestapo stayed on my heels, not allowing me to work in any German offices.
Through all that time I sent parcels to Czeslaw at the camps which, in large measure, helped him to survive the war.
He came home on the first of August, 1945. Once again we became a family although initially under very difficult conditions.
During the occupation I ran, albeit on a smaller scale, Czeslaw's meteorological station. I managed to rescue the
entire apparatus before Czeslaw was taken away by the Gestapo, keeping it hidden in my home, so that upon his release and
return home Czeslaw had the means to resume his profession.
I must add that my father, an officer, was deported to the depths of Russia to that place Katyn, of which I'm
sure you've heard. My eldest brother perished in Italy..."
24. Michael D. Adamski,
Toronto, Canada: A Short Summary
I was born in September 1928 in Wozniki-Sieradz, Poland, where my parents owned a house, some land with an orchard and
a small grocery store and where I attended school. Following the invasion, occupation and annexation of our part
of Poland to the German Reich in September and October, 1939, my school in Sieradz and all the schools in western Poland were
locked up by the German authorities in November, 1939. Most of our teachers were arrested and we were told that there will
be no more schools for Poles. So, my primary education ended at the 5th grade.
A few years later on April 5th, 1942, just before Easter, at 5 o'clock in the morning, a loud banging on the door woke
us up and a couple of uniformed German soldiers and a Polish translator informed my parents that we were all to pack up and
be ready in one hour to meet the commission for work in Germany which was to be waiting for us on the grounds of our previously
deported neighbour, Mr. Fitce, just across the street from our home. When we arrived one hour later on foot, accompanied by
a German policeman, with our suitcases in our hands, at the designated area, the place was crowded with people similarly
apprehended and the commission, composed of a few uniformed SS-men, looked into our eyes, checked our noses and declared
my family, that is my father, mother, me, 13 years old at the time, and my two older sisters, as well as most of our
neighbours assembled there, that we were all fit for labour in Germany. We were locked up in an empty factory building and
kept under police guard until a week later we were all transported by train to some transition camp near Magdeburg in Germany,
then eventually distributed to different farms and slave labour camps in the area.
My family's destination was the Radicke's large farm in Sangerhausen, near Halle. We were given two small rooms in the
attic over the cow house and some gruel and bread and we became the farmer's slave labourers. That spring and summer he kept
us all busy working six and sometimes seven days a week, mostly in the fields, for no pay.
That winter my father and I were sent to a forest camp in the Hartz Mountains, about 20 km. distant from Sangerhausen,
to work as tree cutters or lumberjacks while my mother and sisters were permitted to stay on the farm and kept busy with odd
jobs indoors. In the early spring of 1943, after about 3 months of work, my father and I, both extremely starved, returned
back to Radicke's farm.
The following winter, 1943-44, my father and I were sent to work in a small machine factory, "Rudolph Machine Werke,"
on the outskirts of Sangerhausen and together with about twenty other foreign, mostly Polish, slave workers, we were lodged
in some vacant building belonging to a nearby brick plant, which was not in use during the war. As winter came to an end,
we were told to continue working in the factory and we stayed there for another year until we were liberated by the American
forces in April, 1945.
Freed from our German masters we were advised by the Polish Liaison Officer representing the Polish Government-in-Exile
in London, who had arrived in Sangerhausen with the American forces, to move to a newly set up camp for Poles established
in the former quarters of French war prisoners who had earlier departed for their homes in France.
Afraid to return to our homes in Poland on account of the re-occupation of our country by Communist Russia, we stayed
in this new camp in great moral distress for about 2 months, not knowing what to do or what was going to happen with
us. Finally, the same Polish Liaison Officer now informed us that the Allies had agreed to give up these eastern territories
of Germany, occupied at the moment by the Americans, to the Soviet Red Army. However, he assured us that it had
been agreed that we would not be left behind and all Polish people not wishing to return to Communist Poland would be provided
transportation to a new camp in Bavaria so that we might remain in the American Zone of Occupation.
Despite wild rumours flying about that, like our country, we would be abandoned to the Soviets, in due course a
cattle train was provided for all of us and after a day's journey to Bruckenau, we were transferred to open military trucks
and taken to Wildflecken DP (Displaced Persons) camp.
In the summer of our arrival in 1945, that former German military base must have held over 30,000 people of many
Eastern European nationalities and the crowding, food and disorder were terrible. However, after a month or two, all the other
nationalities were evacuated elsewhere and then Wildflecken contained about 17,000 to 18,000 Polish citizens. Also during
that same time period, our food changed from old German supplies into much better American rations, delivered by the UNRA
(United Nations Relief Agency). And thanks to a more sympathetic American UNRA director and a new local Polish administration,
several schools opened and a strong Polish Scout movement for the young became organized. Variety shows and plays were performed
by "Stara Banda," a group of actors from Warsaw and life in the camp generally improved.
Of course, as with most people with too much time on their hands (while waiting for some miracle to allow them to
return to a free Poland), some caused trouble terrorizing nearby German villages in a vendetta for their old grievances and
persecutions received during Nazi times. But there were also in the camp some outstanding Polish individuals who together
with other similarly responsible persons worked very hard to curtail such behaviour and abuses and tried as much as possible to
bring purpose and order to our lives there.
|Captain Tadeusz Ziolkowski
|Polish Merchant Marine
25. Captain Tadeusz Ziolkowski
Deborah H. from Tennessee has submitted her 3rd cousin's name to our site. He was married to her
father's aunt, Ludmila Jarosinska.
Tadeusz Ziolkowski was born on June 5, 1886 at Wiskitno in the county of Bydgoszcz at a time when that part of Poland
was under German (Prussian) occupation.
As a teenager he joined the merchant marine in Hamburg, first learning the trade on the sailing ship Grossherzogin
Elizabeth. At the age of 24 he finished the Captain's course at the School of Navigation in Hamburg then continued
to learn on board ships. During WW1 he was mobilized as a 2nd Lieutenant on board the cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm.
Soon after the war he became heavily involved with the reborn Polish merchant navy, most famously as the first commander
of the 3-masted sailing training ship the Lwow. He was a severe teacher but won respect for turning out the
finest sailors and commanders in the merchant navy.
He was also involved with the Polish Yacht Club (est. 1924) and the Maritime School in Gdynia (relocated from Trzew to
Gdynia in 1928). He also worked to bring the sea and sailing to the people, particularly scouts and students and participated
in the regattas of the 1936 olympics.
By then well known as a hero of the renewed Polish maritime tradition, in 1929 he accepted the post of commander
of the Port of Gdansk, the free city of Danzig, where he remained until the outbreak of World War Two.
On August 25, 1939, as war with Nazi Germany appeared imminent, Captain Ziolkowski refused entry into the port
of Danzig (Gdansk) to the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, which was supposedly arriving on a courtesy visit.
He was arrested by the German police and detained for a few hours before being released.
Following the opening salvos of the war on September 1, Cpt. Ziolkowski and some 60 of the harbor
employees were once again arrested. The captain was interrogated by the Gestapo and eventually he and his men were taken away
to the concentration camp in Stuthoff.
Cpt. Ziolkowski refused the German proposal that he join the kriegsmarine or German merchant navy as he had
during the first world war. On March 22, 1940 he was among a group of 67 men gunned down in a mass execution in the woods
some two and one-half kilometres outside the camp. In 1947 his remains were exhumed and brought to the cemetery at Zaspa.
Captain Ziolkowski's memory has been honoured in many ways. He is affectionately known as the "First Sailor of the New
Republic." A memorial tablet has been placed on the front wall of his former home home in Bydgoszcz (103 Grunwaldyka Street)
where he lived from 1896-1927. His bust graces a square in Gdansk and most recently (December 20, 2006) a granite obelisk
containing a memorial tablet has been unveiled in Gdansk on Ziolkowski Quay. Beside an image of the ship Lwow, his
portrait graces a stamp, one of a series released in 1980 honouring the Polish maritime school tradition. He also has
two schools named after him. Quite a set of tributes to this Polish hero of the sea.
26. Karol Stachura
Karol Stachura was born in Nowy Targ in 1914. The family eventually moved to Krakow. Following high school
Karol enrolled in a technical school, taking a course in graphic arts. He then began a career at the Illustrowany Kuryer Codzienny
(Illustrated Daily Courier) as a colour photo retoucher, although this job was interrupted by military service from 1935 to
1937 (2nd Air Regiment). He was discharged and placed in the Reserves with the rank of private, in late 1937.
Click here to visit Karol Stachura's document collection.
By 1939 Karol was a member of the Cracovia Sports Club and had obtained a glider pilot's license and membership in the
Aeroklub Krakowski (Cracow Aeronautical Club).
The outbreak of war on September 1, 1939, saw the German army quickly approaching Krakow. Karol headed east, reporting
to the local air base Command at Hrubieszow where he was redirected to the air base at Luck. Later, finding himself at the
garrison in Rowne, he was again redirected, this time to the air base at Tarnopol. This was on the 16th of September; the
day before the Soviet invasion of Poland. Karol was close to the Polish-Soviet border at that time.
Managing to avoid the invading Red Army, Karol escaped certain capture and imprisonment, together with many other Polish
soldiers, by crossing the border into Hungary. There he was eventually processed by the Hungarian authorities in Balatonkiliti
(today's Siofok in Somogy Province), on January 23, 1940. At 11:00 p.m. on the evening of the 22nd of February, 1940, he crossed
the Drava River into Yugoslavia. Once again he was processed, this time by the Polish Consulate in Zagreb, on the 25th of
He eventually made his way to France and rejoined the Polish Air Force on August 5, 1940. The PAF was reforming in France
at that time as was the Polish army. Karol was still a private (known in the RAF as AC2 - aircraftman 2nd class) although
his rank was upgraded to AC1 on the 7th of February, 1941. Following the fall of France in the summer of 1940, Karol was able
to successfully evacuate to England where he once again rejoined the Polish Air Force, effective July 1, 1941, at the rank
of LAC (leading aircraftman). He worked as a tradesman with 306 Fighter Squadron, and rose in rank to sergeant by the end
of the war.
While in England, Karol married an English girl who, interestingly, was reclassified as an "Alien" in her own country
by virtue of her marriage to a foreigner. Two children were born to the couple in England prior to their emigration to Canada.
27. Cecilia Slusarczyk
I was born on June 25, 1922 to Stanislaw and Marianna Panka in the small village of Borowo in
the Kujawy region of Poland. I was the 11th of 15 children (Boguslawski: Jan, Ignacy, Helena, Janina, Maria; Panka: Zygmunt,
Kazimiera, Genowefa, Stanislawa, Izabela, Wanda, Henryk, Jozef, Wladyslaw).
My childhood memories of pre-war life in Poland were predominantly happy ones. Of course there
were always farm chores and school responsibilities to keep me busy, as well as four younger siblings that needed care and
supervision. I remember....
The whole family kneeling down to pray the rosary together each evening during the Marian
months of May and October,
My father going to Holy Mass each Sunday with half of the children, and my mother going to
a later Mass with the remaining children, and then my father spot-questioning the children about the gospel and sermon that
day to see if we had indeed been paying attention or just daydreaming in Church,
My father sitting by the fire in the evenings, carving a violin and teaching the older girls
to dance as he whistled out tunes,
How humble yet magnificent the Christmas tree looked as we took turns peeking through the
keyhole of the locked door until the first star appeared in the winter sky and the Wigilia (Christmas Eve) meal could
begin... and what a joy it was to receive a candy or an orange or a small handmade cloth doll,
How as young teens, my sisters and I would wet the red paper that the hickory was packaged
in, in order to tint our lips ever so slightly, or curl our hair using long strips of cloth or a two-pronged iron that was
heated to a bright red in the open flame of the wood stove,
How my younger siblings and I would secretly throw small pebbles at the feet of the horses
of potential suitors who came calling on an older sister, especially if we were not impressed with the suitor and wanted to
encourage a hasty departure.
But I also recall the sadness of my father's death in March 1936, and the struggles my mother faced
in running a large family and farm on her own with no extended family living in the vicinity to help. And life was
about to get a whole lot tougher...
When World War Two broke out in September 1939, our family would periodically hear news regarding
the death and destruction occurring on various fronts in Poland. My mother knew that it was only a matter of time before our
small village would be impacted directly. Foodstuffs and other provisions were already disappearing off the shop shelves.
And then the German soldiers arrived!
One of the first things they did was tie ropes to the massive mission bell at our church, pull
it off the bell-tower, and drag it through the village behind a horse-drawn wagon. They eventually closed the parish church,
and murdered or imprisoned the priests. My mother warned that "Hitler was destined to lose the war he had started,
once he started warring with God." Selected families in my village were being forcibly removed from their homes and
farms, which were then occupied by Germans who were brought into the area from other parts of Poland. The displaced Polish
families were given little or no notice of their impending evacuation, and were not allowed to take any of their belongings
One of the locals enlisted to assist the German soldiers with the resettlement was a neighbour
of our family. He came to our home late one evening in May, 1940 and told my mother that our family was on the list for evacuation
early the next morning. My mother gathered what few valuables and money we had, called the children together, and under cover
of night, buried the box at the foot of a large tree on the property. She said that we all knew where the box was buried so
that if any of us survived this terrible war and managed to return home, we would know where to find it. There
was no sleeping that night as each of us thought with great fear and trepidation about what the next day would bring.
Just as the neighbour had warned, there came a knock on the door at 5 a.m. My mother cried out,
"Children, the Germans are here." These were the last words that I would ever hear my mother speak. Out of terror,
an older sister Stasia and I jumped out of a window and hid in the nearby brush. From our cover we watched as, one by one,
our family was loaded into a truck by the Germans and carted off down the familiar dirt road. The Germans had a list of each
house's occupants and knew that not all family members were accounted for at this homestead. The Germans yelled out that my
sister and I had five minutes to come out of hiding or they would then start shooting. Knowing there was no way out, Stasia
and I came out with our hands up in the air. We were terrified that our folly may have angered the Germans enough to earn
us a quick gunshot to the back of the head.
My sister and I remained under armed guard while the German soldiers continued to round up neighbours
who were also "on the list." By the time our group arrived at the detention area, our family had already come and gone. After
several days of living in intense fear, anxiety and unsanitary conditions, I became physically ill. I was detained for medical
assessment while my sister Stasia was transported out. I was 17 years old and totally alone. My world had been turned upside
down and I lived in constant terror that I may not live to see another day. My family was gone. I only learned much later
that they were still alive and had been taken to a protectorate in distant Lublin. Some of my family I would not see again
for 30 years. Others I would never see again! Two of my siblings died during the war. My oldest half-brother Jan died on active
duty and his body was never recovered. My sister Stasia died in a bomb blast while in forced labour in Germany. She is buried
in a cemetery in Bremen, Germany.
1940 - 1953
I eventually found myself on a cattle car bound for Lodz and then Germany and a very precarious and uncertain
future. On the transport to Germany, I met another young Polish girl by the name of Kazimiera (Kazia) Wesolowska. We formed
a friendship that would last six decades and transcend two continents. When we arrived in Celle, Germany, we were worn
out and emaciated-looking from our ordeal. German women who were waiting at the train stop for the new shipment of slave-labour
for their farms, passed over the frail, sickly-looking girls for more hardy stock that would not break under the rigors of
exhausting farm labour.
After the German women and their new charges left the station, Kazia and I were left standing alone on the
platform. Because of our emaciated condition, we were taken to a regional German doctor for examination to ensure that we
were not carrying diseases like tuberculosis. The doctor determined that we were disease-free, just undernourished, and physically
and emotionally exhausted. On our work papers he specified that we were suited only for domestic duties.
We were assigned to work in a glass factory in nearby Gifhorn, which manufactured small, mouth-blown medicine
bottles. We were there for nine months and received no payment for our work. We were billeted at the home of a retired employee
of the company who suffered from tuberculosis. At meal-times, he would first spit on our food, and then pass the plates to
us. For fear of developing tuberculosis ourselves, Kazia and I would decline the food despite our immense hunger. The man's
wife would pour the food into a separate pot and serve us the same contaminated food again the next day.
Without adequate nourishment, we remained weak. Many of the older German men who worked at the hot ovens
of the glass factory, realized that we were not there by choice. They took pity on us and would sometimes sneak us a piece
of bread when the supervisor was not around. German-born women working in the factory, observed the kindness shown to us.
Out of jealousy, they reported us to management, stating that we did not want to work and that we had it "too good."
A short time later, Kazia and I were escorted by armed guard to the Arbeitsamt in Gifhorn. A nasty
female official there reviewed our work papers and stated smugly, "Your good times have ended." We stated that we were prepared
to work but that the doctor who had examined us initially upon our arrival in Germany had documented that we be assigned to
domestic duties. The official falsely noted in our work papers that we were refusing to work. She made a telephone call and
shortly thereafter a police officer arrived. We obediently went with the police officer. As we approached the gates of the
old Schloss (castle) in Gifhorn, our terror mounted as we realized that he was taking us to jail! He knocked on the
heavy gate. The gate opened slowly, papers were surrendered, and the gate closed behind us with a thud. We were taken to our
cells, Kazia to Cell 21, me to Cell 19.
The cell was small and dark. I started to sob. From the cell between us I could hear the most beautiful
singing in Polish. But instead of calming me, it saddened me all the more and I sobbed even louder. The guard pounded on my
cell door and warned me that if I was not quiet, I would be taken outside and shot! During exercise period the next day, I
rejoiced at seeing Kazia again. I was not alone! We found out that the beautiful voice coming from Cell 20 belonged to a well-known
singer from Lodz by the name of Halina Stachowska. For periods each day, the guard would put the three of us in one cell together
and give us chores to do, like darning the soldiers' socks or peeling potatoes. A special camaraderie developed between the
three of us.
Every few weeks, the Gestapo would hold hearings in the area. After three weeks in jail, Kazia's and my
cases were presented to the presiding Gestapo officials. They concluded that it was senseless to continue feeding able-bodied
young women in prison. We were assigned to domestic duties, Kazia at a hotel in the centre of Gifhorn, and me at Pavilion
Heidesee, a restaurant/guesthouse just outside of Gifhorn.
It was May 1941, one year after my deportation and separation from my family. Rudolf and Else-Marie Koch
were the proprietors of Heidesee. Herr Koch worked as a mechanic, servicing the German military planes at a nearby airfield.
He was gone much of the time. I worked as a housekeeper, a kitchen-aide, and a nanny to the Koch's three young children. There
was always a lot of work to do from early morning until late at night, and 16 hour days were typical. But I was not mistreated
or abused by the Kochs. I was not paid, but adequate room and board was provided. I always had to wear the typical identifying
letter "P," on a triangular patch, on the left breast of my clothing.
Without a doubt, the most humiliating and demeaning occasions were when insolent German youth (Hitler-Junge)
would walk by, taunt me and curse at me, and literally spit in my face. And there was nothing I could say or do in retaliation
or in my defense. There were numerous occasions when I was sent into Gifhorn on a bicycle, by Frau Koch, to buy fresh produce
for the restaurant. I would be detained on the street and beaten by a particularly nasty German SS-type patrolman for no apparent
reason other than that I was an Auslander (foreigner) and that he could. When I returned to Heidesee and Frau Koch
asked how I received the bloody nose, or cuts and bruises to my face, I would lie and say that I had fallen off the bicycle.
I feared retaliation from the cruel patrolman. If I had confessed what had really happened or if I lodged a complaint
against him, I would have feared for my very life. I had no rights, no power. I was nothing.
If I wanted to live, and I did, I had no choice but to keep silent and take his verbal and physical abuse
when I encountered him on the street. He was hated by Germans and Auslanders alike. When the war was drawing to a
close and the Americans entered the area, the liberators were told about the actions of this cruel and evil man. They sought
him out and detained him while he was on partol at the train station. An American soldier offered one of the Poles present
at the station a gun to shoot the German. The Pole tried, but could not do it, could not pull the trigger. A Frenchman
quickly leapt forward, seized the gun, and shot the German before the American soldier might have a chance to change his mind.
But just as there are evil people in the world, there are good people too. I would be remiss if I did not
acknowledge the enormous debt of gratitude I owe Frau Koch. One day, she came to me and gave me a pill to take. She warned
that the pill would make me feel feverish and very unwell, and that I would need to stay in bed the following day. I did not
understand, but I trusted her and did as she said. The next day I was indeed very sick. That day, I had been scheduled to
see a doctor on another matter but Frau Koch sent word to him that I was too ill to travel to his office. It was only
later that I learned that this doctor held travelling clinics and was conducting procedures to sterilize young female Auslanders.
Fate, and a good-hearted woman, had been on my side that day. But others had not been so lucky, and as a result would never
know the joy of having children of their own.
There was a Catholic Church in Gifhorn. I was periodically allowed to attend Holy Mass, but these locations
were closely patrolled by the Germans. Groups of Auslanders were not permitted to congregate. Sometimes I would see
my friend Kazia at church. I wondered if I would ever have the joy and privilege of hearing Mass in Polish or giving my confession
to a Polish-speaking priest again. Freedom to practice one's faith is often taken for granted, until one loses that freedom.
Then it becomes the greatest treasure in the world.
As the German front was retreating and crumbling, the Allies pushed forward. It was the American
army that liberated our area. I distinctly remember the day the Americans arrived at Heidesee. Herr Koch and a friend of his
had come home from the airfield for a few hours as they were planning to smoke a pig in the back shed. I had just come from
milking the goats and reported that I heard voices in the woods but could not understand the language they were speaking.
Herr Koch and his friend were still in German uniform. They got on their motorcycles, hoping to make a speedy departure
and avoid a confrontation until they could return in civilian clothing.
Her Koch's friend was in the lead. As he approched the main road, he was shot by the Americans. Herr Koch
deliberately tipped his motorcycle and sought cover in the woods familiar to him. The Americans, suspecting that there were
many more German soldiers taking cover in the Pavilion, were on high alert. When they came upon the bunker on the property,
the Americans opened fire. Had we taken cover in the bunker as first intended, we too would have been killed. The soldiers
proceeded on to the living quarters and found Frau Koch and me in the kitchen, clutching the three children to us in terror.
I will never forget how daunting those big, black American soldiers appeared to me. There seemed to be sadness and regret
in their eyes, perhaps suspecting that the motorcyclist in German uniform they had just killed was these children's father
and they were now left orphaned. In a small gesture of comfort, one soldier pulled a chocolate bar out of his uniform pocket
and offered it to the children.
Emancipation was finally here, but there was an incident of cruel irony. As the Germans fled a nearby town,
they freed all the Russian prisoners of war detained in the German detention camp. There was a joyous celebration among the
newly-freed Russians. When the Allies arrived, they told the emancipated that for three days they could celebrate to their
heart's content but after that, order would be restored. That night, the Russians found casks of alcohol and proceeded to
celebrate like there was no tomorrow. In the morning, bodies of dead Russians could be seen everywhere. As fate would have
it, in their celebrating they had poisoned themselves by consuming wood alcohol (methanol, not drinking alcohol).
They had survived the war, only to die before getting the chance to return home.
Post-war refugee camps were established but there were rumors regarding the living conditions and the debauchery
rampant in many camps. My friend Kazia had a very mean employer and was all too eager to leave her station. She said that
Frau Koch was good and fair, and that I should stay where I was for the time being. She would go ahead and send for me later.
I remained at Heidesee until my emigration to Canada in 1953. I continued to work for Frau Koch until December 31, 1947, at
which time ownership of Heidesee transferred to Herr Friedl Kuhls. Both were pleased with my work and offered exemplary references
upon my leave.
After the war ended, mail contact with my family in Poland was gradually established. A brother and sister,
who had also been in Germany during the war, came to visit me in Gifhorn. Together we went to Bremen to visit our late sister's
grave. They said that Poland had been decimated by the war and was now under Communist rule. Poverty was everywhere. They
encouraged me to stay abroad. If I found that I was truly miserable then I could always return to Poland, but once I returned,
I would not get a second chance to leave. This was my one and only opportunity to make a better life for myself. And so I
stayed. I continued to work hard. There were challenging times, like when I sustained significant facial injuries in a head-on
collision with a British army truck. And some happy times too. But as a Pole, I never felt like I truly belonged or fit in
I maintained correspondence with my friend Kazia, who by this time had emigrated to Canada and married.
Her husband's pal sponsored me to Canada as his betrothed. Under the sponsorship agreement, we were required to marry within
one month of my arrival in Canada (or someone else had to marry me in that time frame), which we did.
My husband, daughter and I returned to Poland as a family for the first time in 1971. After my beloved husband's
death, I made two trips to Heidesee (1992 and 2000). Herr Kuhls had died but his widow remembered me well and welcomed me
back to Heidesee whole-heartedly. I expected that it would be an emotional experience for me but I had not anticipated how
much it would impact my daughter. I am glad that we could share this return to a past chapter in my life, together.
The war years were a terrifying, lonely and sad chapter in my life. I was robbed of my youth, my hopes
and dreams. I could not complete any training or educational program. I was denied the opportunity to realize my full potential.
As a mere child of 17, I was alone in a strange country, surrounded by people speaking unfamiliar languages. But the greatest
loss of all was the forced separation from my home and family.
But today I feel that Canada is my home. My Ojczyzna, Polska, will always have a special place
in my heart. My roots are there. But I have tried to propagate a legacy here in Canada through my daughter and through my
involvement with the Polish community.