world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland.

Excerpts from: German Crimes in Poland. Howard Fertig, New York, 1982.

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  Human shields

Record No. 71
When I was wounded and in hospital, about the middle of August (I do not remember the exact date), a group of 20 or 30 men and women were driven in. They were dreadfully burnt.

They had been evacuated from the shelters under some houses in Wolska Street. When they had been in the streets, Vlassov’s men threw inflammable liquid over them and drove them among the burning houses. Their clothes at once caught fire, especially the women’s light dresses, and several of them could go no further. The others struggled on terribly burnt. As they could not walk any further, they were taken to, the hospital. Their sufferings were awful; the eyes of some were burnt out, faces were burnt, others had open wounds on the whole body. Only one-third of these victims survived; the others died after inhuman suffering.

Record No. 117
On August 7, at 9 p.m., they hunted us out of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry building, No. 2, Elektoralna Street. There were several hundreds of us, driven here from various burning houses. They drove us through the cellars of the Ministry. In the passage, a German dragged me aside and tried to violate me, but after a moment he chose a new victim from another group. Wanting to get rid of me, he took out his revolver and aimed it at my forehead. At this moment someone else passed, and he ran after that person, shooting. I took advantage of this and ran up to the Ministry of Finance, and then through the burning streets to No. 5, Solna Street, where they kept us the whole night until 11 the next morning. They then robbed us of all our watches and valuables, and drove us on through Mirowski Square and Elektoralna Street towards the suburb of Wola. In the Square I saw huge bomb-craters, and also burning corpses. The streets all round were on fire. At the intersection of Chlodna a nd Wolska Streets, and Towarowa Street, and Kercelli Place we stopped. From Kercelli Place the Insurgents were firing towards Towarowa Street. The Germans who were going into the fighting stopped us and made of us a living barricade, under threats of being shot, they ordering us to lie down across the street from one side to the other. With our backs turned to the Insurgents, we knelt or crouched and the Germans placed themselves on the ground behind us, or knelt on one knee, firing over our heads towards Kercelli Place. There were 23 of us including (two children), mostly young women. It is difficult to describe what we felt during the two hours the fighting lasted. We were all prepared to die and said the Rosary aloud. Bullets whistled over our heads, or past our ears. The noise of the German guns nearly deafened us. As if by some miracle, the bullets only hit the Germans. When the first German fell we were paralysed with fear. My mother told me: “If I am shot remember not to shed one tear; do not complain, preserve the dignity of a Polish woman Show no weakness in their presence". Only the children wept bitterly and were greatly afraid.

The Germans were bewildered by the fact that only they were falling. They ordered the men to drag the bodies aside. We thought they would take their revenge on us. Stupefied and astonished they looked towards the Insurgent posts, and then at our quiet, resigned attitude; and the children clinging to their mothers.

At last, they let us go.

Record No. 247
On August 7, 1944, by order of the SS people from the entire town district were compelled to leave their houses, which were at once set on fire. We went in crowds of several thousands, driven and pushed by SS-men. When anyone fell, struck by a rifle-butt, those who wanted to help were struck likewise. We went through Bednarska Street and Krakowskie Przedmiescie, towards Trebacka Street. On Marshal Square the men were separated from the women; people wept and despaired. In the Saxon Garden shots were heard from the Market Place. The insurgents were firing. The SS-men began to make living barricades of us. They ordered us to lie down, beat and pushed us. Soon a rampart of living bodies was formed. People wept and cursed, but the SS-men began to fire from behind it.

The firing stopped. We went forward again under an escort of SS-men. The Ukrainians* robbed us of our watches and valuables, and tore our paper money into pieces. On the Zelazna Brama Place we saw near the Market Hall a pile of suit-cases and trunks. Whoever had a good suit-case had to give it up, and it was added to the heap. We saw motor-trucks coming to take away our belongings.

We continued our march. A car stopped and some SS-officers got out. They looked attentively at the passers-by, took from our ranks three pretty young girls, the two sisters R. and an unknown girl, and drove off. The girls cried and tried to escape from their caresses. An old woman fell. An SS-officer shot her through the back of the head. Again curses were heard; the spirit of revolt and thirst for revenge surged in the hearts of thousands of people.

In the church at Wola they stole our remaining belongings. All young girls were detained, even those of not more than 12 or 13. We older women were taken on with the children in the direction of the Western Station and then by train to Pruszkow, where they shut us up in a huge, dark, damp factory hall ankle-deep in mud. Moaning was heard in the darkness; a woman gave birth to a child without any help, and without a drop of water. A woman-doctor was among us, but what could she do without instruments, water, or light. She had only matches. The child was born dead.

At the other end of the hall an old woman lay dying. Several people recited prayers for the dying, while others sat listlessly, absolutely broken, and others again thought of how to escape.

At daybreak they let us out of the hall. We went on. There were several thousands of us, men, women and children. The SS-men fired over our heads. They took us to the station. We started hungry and thirsty, on our journey to an unknown destination. At wayside stations Polish people gave us coffee, bread and tomatoes.

* See [ RONA ]
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