Medical services during the Warsaw Uprising
The northern Powiśle area was included from the north by the Kierbedź Bridge, from the east by the Vistula river bank, from the south by the Poniatowski Bridge and from the west by the Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. At the moment of the uprising outbreak, soldiers of the Polish Home Army faced a difficult task of seizing the entire west Vistula river bank along with bridgeheads and eliminating the strong German posts in this area.
Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz Copyright © 2018 SPPW 1944. All rights reserved.
On 1st of August, insurgents' attacks were unsuccessful and did not achieve any of the planned targets. The "Bończa" battalion sustained severe losses during the unsuccessful charge on both, the Kierbedź viaduct and bride, and as a result, the battalion withdrew to the Old Town. The "Konrad" battalion after the attack on the Poniatowski Bridge withdrew and took positions at the building of the Polish Teachers' Union at Smulikowskiego Street. The both mentioned battalions belonged to the "Róg" Group.
The only noticeable success was capturing the Power Plant which was seized by the inside action carried out by a unit of Captain Stanisław Skibniewski pseudonym "Cubryna". The "Krybar" Combat Group made unsuccessful attempts to capture the University of Warsaw. In this situation, Praga district was cut off from other districts and Powiśle became an isolated operational theatre. Skirmishes in this area lasted until the first days of September.
Situation had changed after Germans captured the Old Town. From 4th of September, Germans commenced regular attacks on Powiśle using Stuka bombers and tanks. Within a few days, Germans drove insurgents out of Powiśle and made insurgents retreat towards Nowy Świat Street. On 7th of September, the whole Powiśle area, including the even-numbers-side of Nowy Świat Street, was captured by Germans.
There were several hospitals in Powiśle: the Polish Red Cross Hospital at 10 Smolna Street, Institute of Ophthalmology at 4 Smolna Street, the Countess Anna Mazowiecka Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Karowa Street, Children's Hospital at 43 Kopernika Street, Hospital of St. Roch at Krakowskie Przedmieście.
The Polish Red Cross Hospital mentioned in the order of the district commander as a place for wounded in the first period of fighting functioned normally. All wounded were treated carefully and professionally. There were no fights near the hospital. On 3rd of August, the hospital pavilions were fired at from the bridges direction and an armoured train running along the tracks of the diametrical line. Several pavilions lit up. On 6th of August, SS soldiers entered the hospital, and their commander, after gathering all able-to-walk-patients in the hall, began preparations for execution. At that time, the head of the hospital, Henryk Cetkowski, took out of his pocket the Iron Cross ID card and in fluent German, spoke to the commander that he was ashamed of this distinction he received during World War I, if the heirs of the uniform, which he once wore, do not respect the rights of waging war, shoot the wounded and medical personnel, burn and destroy hospitals. The speech made a strong impression on the German officer who canceled the execution order and also suggested that the hospital could be moved to a safer location. The hospital was moved to buildings at 11 and 12 Kopernika Street where a field hospital and an operating room was set up in the drugstore basement. The operating and treatment equipment was moved over there, and the rest was provided by residents of nearby buildings. On 23rd of August, the hospital moved to a new location at 3 / 5 Pieracki Street (currently House of the Journalist). This hospital, full of the wounded, was bombarded on 6th of September with incendiary bombs. About 60 wounded died in a fire. The rest, over 100 people, were moved to the cellars of the burned Ophthalmic Institute, and then, at the German orders, to the garden of the Polish Red Cross Hospital. After about three days, about 120 wounded and about 20 people of the medical and nursing staff were evacuated to the Hospital of St. Stanisław and the Wola Hospital. Dr Cetkowski arranged with the Wehrmacht command that cars carrying ammunition to the front line and going back without cargo, will be used to transport the wounded to the Hospital of Wola. In the first days of October, the hospital medical personnel moved to Milanówek and was located at the "Gloria" villa at Warszawska Street, where the hospital with about 100 beds was re-established.
The Ophthalmic Institute, after the institute building was burned by Germans on 4th of August, the hospital was relocated to the shelter of St. Kazimierz at 35 Tamka Street, and then to the Japanese Embassy building at 10 Pierackiego Street. The hospital later fate was similar to the Polish Red Cross Hospital.
The Countess Anna Mazowiecka Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Karowa Street, was located behind the German lines. The hospital was evacuated by two cars, which were provided by the German authority on special request of Ms Mroczkowa.
The Children's Hospital at 43 Kopernika Street was selected as a field hospital for the "Gustaw" battalion. Even before the uprising, there were supplies of dressings, medicines and surgical instruments. After "W" hour, children's beds were removed from two rooms on the first floor and the battalion hospital was open. After 2nd of August, the injured Germans and Poles were brought to the hospital from the dressing station at the Teacher's House at Smulikowskiego Street. On 5th of August, a tank shell hit the building at the end of the hospital corridor and exploded in the furnace located in room #1 which at the time was full of the wounded. Fortunately, the explosion was harmless. On 6th of August, Germans entered the hospital and took their wounded away. The German patients stated that they were treated well and that it was a civilian hospital. Germans left the hospital in peace.
Surgical operations were carried out in hospital all the time, in mid-August doctors almost did not leave the operating room. Surgeries carried out in the hospital included severe surgeries. Among carried out surgeries were abdomen and lungs bullet wounds, trepanations, amputations. Medical supplies were running short. However, despite the bad conditions, the mortality was relatively low.
In mid-August, the hospital was filled up with patients, which created a need for a new hospital ward to be open. It was opened on 57 Konopczyński Street, in the building where, before the Uprising, were located German quarters and there were beds made of iron in the rooms. Several dozen of the wounded from Downtown North were accommodated there, and those were mainly soldiers of the "Chrobry II" battalion and civilian victims of German air raids carried out by the Stuka bombers.
On 3rd of September, the hospital experienced a heavy air raid, during which the building was bombarded with incendiary and incendiary bombs. Evacuation was necessary. The wounded were relocated to the basements of the adjoining buildings. The 6th of September saw another air raid. The wounded were evacuated towards Downtown. After the fall of Powiśle, the hospital personnel was evacuated along with the wounded.
Hospital of St. Roch at Krakowskie Przedmieście was located on the other side of the University, at the entrance to which was situated a German bunker. On 4th of August, the hospital building was manned by a well-equipped German military crew but Germans behaved correctly. Around 7th-8th of August, Germans captured the even-numbers-side of the Krakowskie Przedmieście. About 5 000 civilians from the area of Bednarska Street was rushed into the building of the Metropolitan Seminary at 52/54Krakowskie Przedmieście Street, in front of which was put a sentry. Two nurses based in the Seminary, dressed in white aprons and carrying the Red Cross flag, managed to get to the Wehrmacht Headquarters located in the Saxon Palace and obtained passes enabling them to transport the severely wounded and sick from the Seminary building to the Hospital of St. Roch. After the fall of the Old Town, they also got a pass to evacuate the wounded left in the Old Town. They received 25 stretchers and a column of 50 people got to the hospital at 7 Długa Street. They found there about 50 survivors in the cellars and in the courtyard who were taken away to the Seminary building. The next day the team went again to the hospital at Długa Street and then the next day they went to the Church of St. Jacek. The Seminary was evacuated on 27th of September.
Hospital of St. Roch was bombarded on 17th of September, as a result of which the hospital was evacuated to the Monastery of the Nuns of the Visitation at 34 Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. At night the bomb destroyed the first and the second floor of the hospital, burying many of the hospital patients under the rubble. Later on, similar to other hospitals, the hospital patients were evacuated to the Hospital of Wola.
Apart from proper hospitals located in Powiśle, there were several field hospitals functioning during the uprising.
Field hospital at the "Grey House" at Dobra Street corner of Ks. Siemca Street, belonging to the Ursuline Gray nuns, was prepared yet during the occupation. A medical personnel consisting of the Ursuline nuns and girl scouts offered help to the wounded, the misplaced and fire victims. The hospital was full of wounded and surgeries were performed there. The "Grey House" was bombarded on 3rd of September. The hospital was not evacuated to Downtown, after the fall of Powiśle, the hospital staff along with the wounded was drove out and rushed to the Church of St. Wojciech in Wola and then to Pruszków.
Field Hospital at the House of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity at 30 Tamka Street performed a similar role. At first, two rooms were designated for the hospital functions, and later on also the bedroom, common room and basements were adapted for the hospital. After the fall of the Old Town, the number of the wounded increased, and other patients came from burned and evacuated hospitals. The hospital was bombarded on 4th of September. The severely wounded had to be taken out on the street. The fire was extinguished after midnight. Part of the wounded were moved to a shelter in the basement of the Domański Factory of Chocolate and Sweets at Cicha Street. The hospital functioned until 27th of September, 1944.
Field Hospital of the "Konrad" Group located in the cellars of the "Alfa-Laval" plants at Smulikowskiego Street corner of Tamka Street had a branch at 13 Kopernika Street, where the severely wounded were directed. There was a passage opened for stretcher bearers which led between the gardens of the Sisters of Charity at Tamka and further up along Szczygla Street. When Germans started their attacks on Powiśle, the artillery shells damaged the hospital building and the hospital ceased to exist. Some of the staff members and the wounded managed to evacuate through Nowy Świat Street to Downtown.
Around noon on 6th of September, the hospital was entered by the SS men who had earlier captured Smulikowski Street, using a "human shield" of thirty civilians rounded-up in the Powiśle area. At the time, there were 11 severely wounded insurgents at the hospital, the chaplain of the hospital, Father Dominican Michał Czartoryski pseudonym "Michał" and a few medical staff members.
Germans took away all nurses from the hospital and moved them to their own hospital. Half an hour after the evacuation of the remaining personnel, Germans murdered Father Czartoryski and all the wounded. Civilians which earlier were forming the "human shield" for the attacking German units were considered no longer useful and executed at the nearby abandoned barricade. All corpses, including the murdered wounded, were doused with gasoline and burned.
Field hospital at the former Academic Hostel at 4 Tamka Street was organised on 1st of August. This hospital was poorly equipped, there was lack of the transfusion equipment and infusion fluids. The hospital building was destroyed during the air raid on the neighbouring through the wall Church of St. Teresa on 27th of August, as a result of the bombardment, many of the wounded as well as the staff members got killed.
Field hospital and outpatient clinic for soldiers and civilians, for 40-60 beds, located in the building of the Polish Teachers' Association at 6 / 8 Smulikowskiego Street was launched in the first decade of August. After the fall of Powiśle and capturing the area by Germans, the wounded were evacuated to Wola.
Field hospital in the building of the Primary School "Pod Sową" No. 34 at 8 Drewniana Street operated from 8th of August. The hospital treated, among others, soldiers from the 4th company commanded by "Pobóg" of the "Krybar" Group. At the end of August, there were about 200 wounded in the hospital. The lightly wounded were evacuated on 5th of September. The hospital was captured by Germans on 6th of September. There were still a few dozen severely wounded. According to the witness statements, the hospital evacuation was supposedly stopped by a doctor who was running the hospital - his seriously ill mother was in the hospital and the doctor thought that her condition may deteriorate during the evacuation.
The wounded insurgents got rid of the armbands and helmets, and the hospital was reported to Germans as hospital for civilians only. They seemingly accepted it, but the next day, as if accidentally, they threw a grenade onto the first floor where the beds were positioned. The hospital staff dragged the wounded to the basement where they were laid down on pallets put on the floor. The hospital existed in uncertainty for several days as it was located on the no-man's land.
About 2 p.m. on 27th of September, 1944, the Reinefarth Group soldiers suddenly entered the hospital, and while shouting and beating the hospital staff, they ordered them to come out into the courtyard and stand against the wall. Then the soldiers ran to the cellars, where the patients were and started the massacre. After murdering the wounded, they ran (shouting "we will make a crematorium here") to the garden at the school building, where they shot dead two nurses in the gazebo. After the execution, the corpses were poured with gasoline and set on fire. The hospital staff members were stood against the wall where they were waiting to be executed. Just a moment before the execution, a German officer appeared who stopped the execution.
At the hospital at Drewniana Street, there were murdered 22 people on that day. Among others, the senior officers of the "Radosław" Group were murdered there: Major Wacław Janaszek pseudonym "Bolek" - Chief of Staff of the "Radosław" Group and Captain Mieczysław Kurkowski pseudonym "Sawa" - Staff Officer of the "Radosław" Group. The both officers were severely wounded in the Old Town and evacuated through the sewers to Downtown along with the Group retreating from the Old Town and after safe arrival, placed in the hospital at Drewniana Street on 2nd of September.
Apart from hospitals located in Powiśle, there were also several dressing stations:
- Scouting dressing station at 12 Furmańska Street located in a shop with two rooms with entrances from the street and the courtyard was operating in the first days of August. Since the number of wounded staying in it grew, there were opened two additional stations at 75 Dobra Street and 7 Bednarska Street. Later on the area was abandoned by insurgents and taken over by Germans on 6th of August. The station commander for the safety of the wounded hung up a sign on the shop: "OPL Dressing Station" (OPL: Polish for anti-aircraft defensive units), armbands with the same writing were put on by girl scouts. For a few days, the neighbouring buildings were located on no-man's land, and after some time, German soldiers started to douse the buildings with oil and gasoline and set them on fire. The wounded were relocated to a one-story building at 10 Furmańska Street, in which the SS unit took the position. Germans believed that taking positions among the wounded insurgents, they would be protected from insurgents' fire. The station commander and a doctor decided to move the wounded to Krakowskie Przedmieście Street to the Charity Society, where the Sisters of Charity worked. Starting on 2nd of September, after the fall of the Old Town, the wounded from all the hospitals, field hospitals and dressing stations were drove out and rushed to the Hospital of Wola at 26 Płocka Street.
- Dressing Station of the "Krybar" Group was also organized at 40 Tamka Street, in the premises of the Gerlach plant, opposite of the stairs at Okólnik Street. This station operated until 6th of September. Then it was evacuated to Downtown.
- Dressing station at the Power Plant at 41 / 45 Wybrzeże Kościuszkowskie reached a number of a dozen beds or so. In August, there were new stations opened at 53 Dobra Street corner of Lipowa Street and at 1 Szczygla Street in the ground floor private flat.
The ruins of the burning Powiśle were slowly and carefully captured by Germans from the Wolff Group in the first days of September. Civilians were rushed towards Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. Young men were selected from the crowd and executed. A similar fate shared by many of the wounded. Those who survived, after three days of waiting, were evacuated to the Hospital of Wola at Płocka Street in Wola. Many doctors from Powiśle also arrived there.
translated by: Janusz Kocerba
Copyright © 2018 SPPW 1944. All rights reserved.