Medical services in the Warsaw Uprising


          Taking control by insurgents had a crucial meaning for the further course of the Uprising. Wola covered the city from the west. Moreover, Wola ensured communication with Zoliborz and the Forest of Kampinos. Wola was equally important for the Germans pushing insurgents back from the axis of Wolska street towards the bridge of Kierbedz opened communication between German troops and the front army on the right side of the Vistula river and, at the same time, it divided the Downtown into separate centres of fights.
          Unlike Ochota, before the Uprising in the area of Wola there were no bigger and more powerful German troops. However, immediately before the Uprising outbreak, tanks of 'Herman Göring' armoured division reached Wola and were located in the area of Ulrich gardens between Prince Janusz and Gorczewska street as well as in the area of Bemowo, Boernerowo and Gorce. Heavy German tanks moved from the west to the east through Aleje Jerozolimskie [Jerozolimskie Avenue] and over Poniatowskiego bridge to Praga in order to reinforce the front troops. A part of them remained in the Ulrich Gardens.
          It brought about fatal consequences for the insurgents since arms and weapon for the 1st and 3rd areas of the Home Army 'Wola' district were stocked up on in secret storehouses in the Ulrich gardens. Therefore, in such a position it was impossible to reach them.
          Total District forces amounted to 2 660 insurgents armed with two heavy machine guns, sixteen light automatic rifles, twenty-three submachine guns, 310 handpistols and about one thousand grenades. Major Jan Tarnowski 'Waligora' was in command of the District. Insurgents in Wola were mobilized in a wrong way due to orders which had been given too late. On the 1st Augutst about 1 000 insurgents, which makes 40% of them, turned up at concentration points.
          The Home Army Headquarters were situated in Wola in Kemler's Factory at 72 Dzielna Street. The Headquarters were covered by a specially selected 'Radosław' Kedyw Concentration of the Home Army Headquarters. Those were selected troops of the Home Army: battalions of Parasol, Czata 49, Zośka, Pięść, Miotła, armoured platoon 'Wacek', Unit of the A Body, Women's Troop 'Dysk'. The Concentration could also have been used as reserves to support troops of Wola District. Unfortunately, operation plans of the District did not take into consideration direct cooperation. The Concentration had similar problems with mobilization. At the moment of the Uprising outbreak only nine hundred soldiers arrived at concentration points.
          In Wola the Germans had four thousand tank soldiers and grenadiers of 'Herman Göring' division at their disposal; moreover they had pilots from the airport in Boernerowo, Wermacht and SS soldiers who were supported by 'Bahnschutz' railways security formation and 'Werkschutz' factory security. The Germans were perfectly armed and supported by tanks and artillery.
          Insurgents were locally successful in some way, e.g. they captured a depot, SS barracks in St. Kinga of Poland school or Pfeifer factory. A number of barricades were built on German Forces' way. Unfortunately, forces disproportion resulted in a situation when Germans seized the initiative right from the 2nd of August.
          Reinforcements from Poznan for the police, army and SS reached Warsaw on the 3rd and 4th of August. General Heinz Reinefarth took command of those reinforcements. They also sent two more brigades to Warsaw. One of them was the SS brigade under the command of Oskar Dirlewanger, SS-Oberführer, which consisted of criminals. The other was the collaboration brigade, the so-called RONA [Russian Liberation People's Army (Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya)] under the command of SS general Mieczyslaw Kaminski - a renegade and a traitor. In Dirlewanger's Storm Group there were Azeris from the 1st battalion of 'Azerbaijan' 111th regiment and 'Bergman' 2nd battalion. They were ex-Soviet prisoners of war who became infamous of exceptional cruelty during actions in Wola in the first days of August. People of Warsaw called them Ukrainians, Mongolians or Kalmucks (or Kalmyks).
          Heavy fights connected with mass slaughters of civilians commenced. 50 thousand people were murdered in Wola in a few days. Suffering great losses, insurgents troops of 'Wola' 3rd District dispersed in the area or joined the Downtown troops which were fighting along Towarowa street. After heavy fights, 'Radosław' Concentration troops made their way through the ruins of ghetto to the Old Town, where they took up further fights. On the 11th August took control of Wola and reached the area of Mirowski square and broke communication between the Old Town and Downtown.

          Wola was a quarter which was best prepared for the Uprising outbreak from the viewpoint of first-aid posts base. Four big municipal hospitals were located in Wola. Those were: Wolski hospital, St. Lazarus hospital, St. Stanislav [Stanley] hospital, Charles and Mary's hospital [also known as Karol and Maria Hospital]. Each of them was able to provide medical help for fighting insurgents. In the area of Czyste there was a big complex of hospital buildings abandoned by Wermacht. Moreover, during fights there operated a couple of first-aid posts which were located near fighting troops.
          Wolski hospital in Plocka street, which was managed by doctor Jozef Marian Piasecki, was well-supplied and prepared for the event of Uprising outbreak. It had appropriate number of dressings, medicines, linen and food. Also a team of eminent surgeons worked there. The hospital had 480 beds in its disposal. Very quickly the hospital was placed in the front line fights. Tank soldiers of 'Herman Göring' division entered the hospital as early as on the 2nd August. They gave a warning against infantry troops which consisted of a mixed bunch of different nationalities. Since 4th August a great influx of the injured began. The hospital was under fire from an armoured train which was standing over a railway flyover. The injured were moved from room into a corridor in fear for bullets.

Wolski Hospital

          On the 5th of August a liaison from the insurgents' command reached the head of the hospital with an order of instant evacuation of the injured to the Downtown. It was absolutely unrealistic. Around noon first Germans rushed into the hospital. Doctor Piasecki, the head, profesor Janusz Zeyland and a priest Kazimierz Ciecierski, a hospital chaplain, were taken into the head's office and murdered with gunshots. Patients and staff were chased out and formed into a procession of several hundred people. Then they were chased along Plocka and Gorczewska street towards the railway flyover. Having passed the flyover, that crowd was stopped in the hall in Moczydlo. On their way to Moczydlo, the Germans excluded doctor Leon Manteuffel and doctor Stefan Wesolowski together with two nurses and directed them to St. Stanislav [Stanley] hospital where a German first-aid post was being organized.
          The rest of people who had been chased out of the hospital were murdered in a mass execution. Nearly 60 people of the staff and about 300 male patients were shot. In hospital there remained about 100 seriously injured and ill patients and one doctor - doctor Zbigniew Wozniewski - who had been highly recommended by a German patient. At nightfall executions by firing squats stopped and those who had stayed in Wolski Hospital probably survived. Apart from 98 injured and ill patients in the hospital there was only one doctor and one nurse - Sister of Charity.
          On the 6th of August in the morning a German first-aid post developed in the hospital and occupied the whole ground floor. Humane attitude of a German doctor who was in charge of that post let the Poles continue their work and protected the hospital against further plundering and acts of raping. The same day survived part of staff from Charles and Mary's Children Hospital and from St. Lazarus Hospital reached Wolski Hospital. They brought a small group of the injured and ill who had been rescued from a massacred which had taken place there. Germans left that whole group in the Wolski Hospital, which had been intended by them for all the injured from other quarters. With the support of the group of survived doctors from other hospitals of Wola, Doctor Wozniewski organized their work in the plundered hospital. The Germans reduced their action to supervising only. Doctor Wozniewski organized expeditions for potatoes and tomatoes to neighbouring fields. He also got a little food from a burnt-down house of Sisters of Charity in no. 9 Gorczewska street. Later he succeeded in obtaining a permission for deliveries for the hospital from outside the city. Carriages which delivered provisions took some number of the injured on their way back, who, in turn, were located in places near the capital passing over the camp in Pruszkow.
          After the Old Town had collapsed, the hospital began to take in a wave of the injured, orderlies and single doctors who had survived from savage massacres by the Germans in local hospitals. First, on the 15th of August thirty-three injured and ill patients, two doctors and a priest from evacuated the hospital of the Order of the Knights of St John (of Malta) reached Wolski Hospital.
          On the 9th of September doctor Manteuffel and his wife arrived at Wolski Hospital and assumed the post of the chief surgeon. It was a period when the Germans had already granted insurgents the rights resulting from the Geneva Convention.
          On the 4th of September doctor Edward Kowalski came into contact with Wolski Hospital. Doctor Kowalski came with a group of people from the Old Town to St. Adalbert church in Wola where a temporary camp for expelled people of Warsaw was located. Together with a couple of people, Doctor Kowalski organized a first-aid post in the chancel of St. Adalbert church and then, frightening Germans with epidemic, brought about transferring a lot of people endangered by the Gestapo to the hospital and then their evacuation outside the city passing over a selection in the camp in Pruszkow. That system was in effect until the exodus of the capital population after the Uprising capitulation on the 2nd October 1944. Last segments of Wolski Hospital left Warsaw for a makeshift hospital in Pszczelin on the 3rd November 1944.
          St. Lazarus Hospital was originally located in Ksiazeca street. During the occupation it was moved to Wola to a spacious building on the corner of Leszno and Karolkowa streets, where a Centre for Jewish Children and Elderly People was located before being moved to ghetto. On the 1st of August there were several dozen patients, about one hundred and fifty staff members with their families and two doctors on call. Later on, in response to the Uprising Authorities' order, three more doctors came forward to fill a first-aid post. Patients with light injuries stayed on the spot. More serious cases were sent to Charles and Mary's Children Hospital. On the 5th of August the hospital was on the way of attacking German troops. In the hospital there were about three hundred patients including a dozen of injured Germans captured by insurgents. In the afternoon insurgents were driver out of the building. In the evening soldiers of one group of Ostlegionen , which was a part of Dirlewanger's Storm Group - Azeris, rushed into the hospital.
          A massacre of injured and ill patients, staff and their families began. It also involved people of Wola, including a great number of children, who sought for a shelter in the hospital. Executioners fired machine guns at cellars through windows, threw into grenades and killed people who were being led out with a shot at the back of their heads.
          Approximately 1 200 people were killed, some of them burned alive in buildings to which fire was set after the massacre. Thanks to intervention by German soldiers which were treated in the hospital, about 50 staff members were escorted to St. Stanislav [Stanley] Hospital. They murdered a few doctors as well as about 30 lay nurses and orderlies of uprising service including 16- and 17-year-old scouts.
          St. Stanislav [Stanley] Isolation Hospital was located at 37 Wolska street. Due to its purpose, in the first days of Uprising it remained completely neutral. Doctor Pawel Kubica, who took over as a manager, ordered insurgents who were coming for being dressed to leave their weapon outside. He made efforts to keep the civil nature of the hospital. On the 5th of August the Germans set fire to Franaszek factory which was neighbouring on the hospital and demanded opening the main gate. The Germans rushed into the building and having shot an employer who had opened the Gate for them, they began to chaotically fire at windows. Priest Nieczuperowicz was killed in the shooting. Doctor Kubica, who could speak German very well, managed to explain it to a German officer that it was an isolation hospital and there was neither surgeon nor an operating theatre. Doctor managed to stop the execution.
          A German first-aid post with SS doctors was set up in the hospital. On the same day Doctors Manteuffel and Wesolowski, who had been saved from the slaughter of Wolski Hospital, were brought to St. Stanislav [Stanley] Isolation Hospital. Both doctors helped with dressing injured German soldiers. Later on the hospital became the headquarters of Dirlewanger's brigade, who stayed there even after fights ceased.
          After the capitulation in October 1944, the hospital was evacuated to places near Warsaw.
          Charles and Mary Hospital at 136 Leszno street consisted of a couple of pavilions in the area which stretched up to Zytnia street. It was appointed for a first-aid post of 'Radoslaw' Concentration Group which kept in touch with St. Lazarus Hospital. Kedyw medical headquarters was located here as well. On the 'W' hour a team of orderlies turned up in the headquarters. They made the staffing of patrols and first-aid posts.
          Large numbers of the injured started to come in the hospital. At first they were placed on mattresses which had been laid out on a floor. On the second day a consignment of beds, mattresses and bedlinen that had been captured from the Germans reached the hospital, which allowed for arranging additional rooms for the injured. In operating theatres two or three teams of surgeons worked ceaselessly. They were supported by local doctors.
          On the 5th of August after heavy fights Kedyw doctors left the hospital in the evening and at night. Uprising medical service, a few people of the staff as well as lightly injured patients left the hospital with them. Doctor Kmicikiewicz, who had come from Wolski Hospital, stayed with seriously injured patients. At night Germans set fire to St. Lazarus Hospital which was located 200 metres away from Charles and Mary Hospital.
          On the 6th of August there were 60 ill children and about 150 injured patients including a few Germans in the hospital. Upon entering the hospital Germans chased out the majority of the staff to the street ordering them to leave injured and ill patients. They managed to lead out some part of patients - the rest of them got killed in torched buildings. A part of the staff and ill children were left in a utility pavilion. The rest of them were dashed towards Gorczewska street. On the corner of Mlynarska street they shot some more people. Germans ordered the commander of the hospital to report to them. Doctor Kmicikiewicz stepped out and was immediately shot. That probably saved the rest of doctors from being killed.
          The group which was being dashed finally reached Wolski Hospital. Doctors and nurses were separated there; the injured and other people brought there were turned back. Later they got shot in front of hospital. The group of children and nurses from the utility pavilion reached Wolski Hospital the following day. The group consisted of thirty-six children and around fifty ill and injured patients. The rest of children dispersed in panic over the area. The next day they managed to find only one of them. Another group of sixty people were directed to Bem's Fort where the elderly and the staff were released.

          The troops of 'Radoslaw' Concentration had their own medical service.
          'Miotla' Battalion ['Broom' Battalion] had their own field hospital in 14 Wolnosc street, which had already been arranged before the Uprising. There were three rooms: a small narrow room which served as an operating theatre, a waiting room with an admission unit of ten beds for the injured and a day room which had been turned into a hospital room. 2nd Lt Stefan Sledziewski, pseudonym 'Algajer' was the commanding officer and a cover commander. Janusz Anyzewski, a fifth-year student of medical science worked as a doctor there. Medical service consisted of over 20 girls. During the fights less complicated operations under intravenous or inhalatory anaesthesia were performed there. During the first day of Uprising more serious cases were handed over to Charles and Mary Hospital. First-aid post of 'Parasol' battalion ['Umbrella' battalion] was set up in the Residential Home on the corner of Zytnia and Karolkowa street. It was equipped with full sanitary fittings and there was a possibility to put on dressings and lighter surgeries. All soldiers of 'Parasol' battalion had their blood groups denoted. However, the number of soldiers in Wola increased by one-third, which resulted in the situation in which it was impossible to look after the injured according to instructions that had been prepared earlier. The battalion had three cars at their disposal in Wola. They used the cars to transport the injured to St. John of God Hospital in the Old Town after Germans had captured Charles and Mary Hospital.
          'Piesc' battalion ['Fist' battalion] had its first-aid post in the residential Home by Evangelical Cemetery. On the 1st August they arranged a first-aid post for 'Zoska' battalion at the back of Telefunken factory in Mireckiego street. Lt. doctor Zygmunt Kujawski 'Brom' was the commanding officer there. The post in Municipal Sanitary Plant at 15 Spokojna street was also arranged for the needs of that battalion.
          On the 6th of August the troops fighting in Wola were left without any first-aid or hospital base. Kedyw troops began to move their first-aid posts towards the Old Town. On the 6th of August the field hospital of Miotla battalion got the order of evacuation. At first they retreated to Order of Malta Hospital and then to St. John of God Hospital. The Main First-Aid Point of 'Zoska' battalion lasted the longest. It was located in St. Kinga of Poland school in Okopowa street and it was managed by doctor Zygmunt Kujawski, pseudonym 'Brom'. Evacuation of the injured from that post took place on the 11th August when the last soldiers were retreating from Wola. The building was raked with cannon fire and German diving bombers -the so-called Stukas - kept flying in waves. They managed to move all the injured to St. John of God Hospital.

          Troops of 'Waligora' Concentration had medical service which was mainly based on medical patrols and first-aid posts. A number of stationary hospitals caused that they had not planned to hold field hospitals. A field hospital for 'Waligora' soldiers located in Gorczewska street was one of those rare hospitals which were set up in that quarter. Moreover, there was another one at 85 Obozowa street organized by Wladyslawa Martynowska. It was located on the 1st floor in a large hall of administration offices of 'TOR' Workers' Housing Estate. Inhabitants of the housing estate were extremely helpful. Thanks to them after two hours the hospital had a fully-equipped ward of 50 beds and an operating theatre at its disposal. Apart from four doctors, two nurses turned up to work there.
          Closer to the Downtown in Ogrodowa street a German hospital, which had already been evacuated, was adapted for the insurgent hospital. The hospital worked until the 6th of August. On that day the staff and injured patients were evacuated to St. John of God Hospital and Order of Malta Hospital.
          A first-aid post was also organized in the presbytery of St. Lawrence Hospital at 140 Wolska street. On the 5th of August Mieczysław Krygier, a parish priest and the Home Army military chaplain for Warsaw District was murdered by encroaching German patrol. A group of orderlies rescued themselves.
          After the 8th of August, as a result of German overwhelming forces the majority of first-aid posts, including the post which was located in Municipal Women House at 96 Leszno street, ceased to work.
          On the 10th of August Germans got into Municipal Sanitary Plant at 15 Spokojna street. They shot Wladyslawa Bukowska, an orderly who worked there and who was wearing doctors coat and a Red Cross band.
          Unfortunately, the tragedy of hospitals in Wola repeated itself in other quarters of Warsaw.

Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translation: Dorota Rapacz

Copyright © 2014 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.