Medical services during the Warsaw Uprising


          Czerniaków was the name used for the area of southern Powiśle between Ludna Street and Solec Street from the north and Rozbrat Street and Łazienkowska Street together with the Czerniakowski Fort in the south. Czerniaków was connected with Downtown South through Książęca Street; the eastern border ran along the Vistula River.
          Czerniaków during the occupation was, to a large extent, a German residential district. Within the Czerniaków area there were a number of well-armed enemy positions - the Sejm hotel, the Legia stadium, the Czerniakowski port, the Female Students House at Górnośląska Street.
          At first, the insurgent units captured so-called the Upper Czerniaków area, between the streets Ludna, Rozbrat, Łazienkowska and Wioślarska. Subsequent capture of Trzech Krzyży Square allowed to maintain the communication with the rest of the city through Książęca Street.
          Powiśle was captured by Germans on 6th of September, and they started their attack on Czerniaków on 11th of September. Capturing Czerniaków was important to them for strategic reasons. Russians began preparations for their offensive on the right bank of the Vistula. And Germans had to completely cut off the insurgent forces from the Vistula as soon as possible in order to prevent the Red Army from establishing a bridgehead in the left-bank part of Warsaw.
          At that time, insurgents defending Czerniaków began heavy fights with the overwhelming German forces of the "Reinefarth" Combat Group. The insurgent forces of the "Kryska" Group were reinforced by survivors of the "Radosław" Group which previously fought in Wola and the Old Town.
          On 14th of September 14, the Red Army and units of the Polish People's Army (the LWP) captured Praga - the right-bank district of Warsaw. On 16th of September, soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions of the 1st Army of the LWP carried a landing in Czerniaków in order to strengthen the insurgent forces and tried to establish a bridgehead. Unfortunately, the forces involved in the operation were too weak and small and the participating-in-the-operation soldiers had no experience in the street fighting techniques and as a result, suffered enormous losses.
          The last point of Polish resistance in Czerniaków fell on 23rd of September, 1944. Warsaw was finally cut off from the Vistula. While capturing Czerniaków, Germans committed numerous murders of the wounded, prisoners of war and civilians.

          During the fights in Czerniaków, there was one stationary hospital at the Social Insurance Company, several field hospitals and a dressing station at 168 Czerniakowska Street.
          Hospital at the Social Insurance Company at 231 Czerniakowska Street, corner of Ludna Street was the medical ground for the fighting Czerniaków. The building was also a defensive redoubt of insurgents. The first days of the fight did not have any impact on the work of the hospital, however, after Germans captured two viaducts, they brought an armoured train to the fight. On 4th of September, a several-hour bombardment of artillery and grenade launchers forced the hospital staff had to evacuate most of the wounded and sick to shelters in the cellars of the building. Surgeries took place on the first floor. The bombardment was carried out, despite the fact that the hospital was visibly marked with the Red Cross flags and the Red Cross signs on the roof of the building. On 13th of September, the hospital was the target of an air-raid. As a result of the bombardment, a part of the building where the operating block was located collapsed, and the doctors operating the wounded got killed. The rest of the wounded were moved to cellars. The hospital building became a redoubt, and a dressing station was open in the basement of the building.
          On 15th of September, Germans charged for the last time with the support of assault guns and bombed the building once more. The building partially collapsed and a fire started in the shelter where some of the wounded and sick were hiding, as a result of the fire several dozen patients burned alive. An evacuation of the survivors began, during which several doctors and medical staff were killed. Because part of Czerniakowska Street which was occupied by insurgents was in flames, the hospital staff had to relocate the wounded to the Gas Works occupied by Germans. After they got there, criminals from the Dirlewanger brigade kicked and beat them up, as well as looted and raped women. A group of lightly wounded was sent under escort of Germans to Frascati Street, they were probably intending to murder the severely wounded, but the Soviet bombers air raid prevented them from doing so. Chaos which was caused by the bombardment, was used by nurses, who with the help of civilians, moved the wounded to the Monastery of St. Kazimierz at Tamka Street. At night, once the fires burned out, Germans got into the Social Insurance Company building. In the part of the building they occupied, they murdered the wounded and civilians who did not manage to leave the hospital earlier. About 60 patients and hospital staff members got murdered on that day.
          Approximately 120 people were saved from the Social Insurance Company building. After the fall of Czerniaków, the wounded hiding in the monastery were murdered by German troops while they were searching the ruins.
          Reserve Hospital at 2 Okrąg Street started to be organised after 6th of August due to destruction of the building and artillery fire directed at the building of the hospital at the Social Insurance Company. The Substitute Hospital was located in a private flat, previously inhabited by Germans. In the beginning, the hospital had 30 beds, however, constantly increasing number of incoming people in need of medical assistance caused the number of beds increased to 50 beds at first, and then to 150 beds, which greatly deteriorated the general conditions of the stay and treatment. The hospital staff, partially transferred from the hospital at the Social Insurance Company, was joined by local doctors and a group of girl scouts. Medicines came from the warehouse at Ludna Street, the source of food were German stocks and the nearby pasta factory.
          The hospital functioned until the end of the fights. The hospital commander, Dr Halina Semadeni-Konopacka pseudonym "Konstancja", tried to make the hospital looked like it only treated civilians. Seeing the hopeless situation and the inability to quickly evacuate the wounded, she ordered the hospital staff and the walking wounded to leave the hospital. The rest of the wounded were dressed in civilian clothes, the weapon was hidden. When the hospital was captured by Germans on 19th of September, Dr "Konstancja" introduced herself to the SS commander as a doctor looking after wounded civilians. And perhaps a massacre, in which more than 100 wounded were murdered, would not happened, if it was not for the behaviour of one of the wounded. He stated, that he was forced to fight in the ranks of the Home Army and that he was a volksdeutsch. The SS officer shot him dead and then started shooting at the other wounded laying on the ground. He personally murdered 110 wounded. Dr Konstancja, who was present at the murder scene, was forced to confirm the shot wounded were dead. Only 17 wounded lived through the massacre. When after a while, Germans reappeared at the hospital, their commander agreed to evacuate the survivors. They were moved to Czerwonego Krzyża Street. The seven of the most severely wounded together with Dr "Konstancja" and her son survived in the hospital until 2nd of October. On that day, they were relocated to Downtown hospitals, which at the time were being prepared for evacuation outside Warsaw.
          Field hospital No. 1 of the "Kryska" Group at 19 / 21 Przemysłowa Street located at the Containers Factory, so called "Blaszanka", was organised because of the distance of the southern part of the district from the hospital at the Social Insurance Company. The transport route of the wounded to this hospital was long and dangerous. The average number of patients was 300, including 60% of civilians, who mostly were injured while saving their belongings from their homes set on fire by Germans. Since the "Blaszanka" building could not protect the wounded from heavy missiles, some of the wounded, especially the lightly wounded and convalescents, were located in the basement of the Church of Our Lady of Częstochowa at Łazienkowska Street. On 11th of September, during an air raid, nine bombs hit the church, as a result of which the basements caved in. 40 people were recovered from the rubble, and more than 80 people got killed.
          Similar fate was met by the "Blaszanka". On September 12, Germans bombarded the hospital with the rocket mortar shells - so called "cows". One incendiary rocket fell into the hospital and caused a fire. A few wounded were wounded again, a few others, including nurses, were severely burned. Luckily, no one got killed. The hospital was demolished. The same day, the hospital was relocated to the nearby potato cellars of the "Pakulski Brothers" Company. There were arranged treatment, dressing and operating rooms there. Constant danger of the closely located Germans who had positions from Rozbrat Street to Przemysłowa Street, caused a need to relocate the hospital to the premises of the Citroen factory at 199 Czerniakowska Street.
          In the afternoon, on 15th of September 15, the Citroen factory was seized by Germans after their attack from the south. There were 162 injured there, and 37 of them were severely wounded, there was no possibility of evacuation. After a few hours, the lightly wounded along with civilians were driven out, the severely wounded and ill stayed in the factory looked after by few nurses. German soldiers demolished the operating room. After conducted negotiations, the hospital was not evacuated and after the reconstruction of the operating room, the hospital also treated severely wounded Germans, who after treatment were transported by civilians towards the Sejm. On 19th of September, a local volksdeutsch approached the German doctor, Dr Willy Schulz, and denounced two wounded insurgents. The German doctor shot them dead. On 26th of September, the hospital was evacuated to Pruszków. During the evacuation, Germans shot another 37 wounded who could not move. During the march to the Warszawa Zachodnia Station, Germans pulled out from the column few people suspected of Jewish descent. They were taken to the German police barracks at Narutowicz Square and they disappeared without a trace.
          Field hospital No. 2 in the primary school building at 9 Zagórna Street was open at the same time as the hospital in "Blaszanka". The field hospital could admit about 200 wounded. The hospital was located in a detached building located a few dozen meters from the road. Both, the building and the square in front of it was clearly visible from German positions. On 16th of September, the hospital at Zagórna Street was captured by Germans, before it happened, a dozen or so of the wounded were taken out of the hospital and then evacuated to the right bank of Vistula. However, there were left over 200 patients in the hospital. In the evening, the walking patients and a group of seriously injured women along with the hospital staff were rushed by Germans to Szucha Avenue. Young men were executed there, others were sent to hospitals outside Warsaw and German death camps. Out of the 80 people remaining at Zagórna Street, many were shot, some tried to get out of Czerniaków, some of them even tried to swim through the Vistula or use improvised rafts to get to the other bank. Many of the brave did not reach the Praga bank and died in the river currents.

          Soldiers of the "Radoslaw" Group which after the fall of the Old Town were deployed to Czerniaków, had their own medical staff. Right after their arrival, a dressing station was organised at Cecylia Śniegocka Street. It was ran by Dr Zygmunt Kujawski, pseudonym "Brom". Doctors of the Group, though young, had a vast experience gathered during the sabotage period, so they were an asset to the medical services of Czerniaków. Dr Kujawski, before leaving with his unit for Mokotów, continued his work for several hours at the dressing station at Solec Street, at the crossing to the other side of the Vistula. It was the only medical facility on the coast providing medical assistance to numerous wounded from all units. Only two staff members of this station got to the other bank.
          At the moment of the uprising outbreak, Czerniaków had a dressing station at the pre-war Volunteer Work Center, also known as the Earning House for the Elderly at 168 Czerniakowska Street. The station was substantially supplied in dressings and stretchers brought there from Fabryczna Street. The station medical staff were medical students and trained nurses. Among the first patients of the station were the wounded soldiers who sustained their wounds during the attempt to break through to the Kabacki Forest and the wounded in the vicinity of the River Pump Station, occupied by Germans. However, small rooms of the station, which was slowly turning into a proper hospital, could not accommodate all the wounded.
          On 23rd of September, medical teams with stretchers from the Hospital of Dzieciątka Jezus situated in Downtown received a pass from Germans to transport the wounded civilians from Czerniaków. Walking through the areas captured by Germans, Filtry, Rakowiecka Street, Puławska Street, they reached the Unii Lubelskiej Square, then through the premises of the Ujazdowski Hospital, Górnośląska Street to Rozbrat Street, where more than a dozen people were saved.

          After the fall of Czerniaków, some of the wounded civilians and insurgents, mainly those who were unable to walk without assistance, remained in various basements and hiding places, apart from them there was also a number of people who stayed and wanted to survive. Germans found many of those while combing the area, and numerous of the found were murdered by hanging or executed. This is how the chaplain of the "Kryska" Group, Father Pallottine Józef Stanek pseudonym "Rudy" was murdered. Father "Rudy" was hanged together with other insurgents on the conveyor belt at the back of the warehouse at Solec Street. On 13th of June, 1999, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Father Pallottine Józef Stanek pseudonym "Rudy" the blessed among other 108 martyrs of World War II. Civilians who were still alive and able to work were used by Germans to remove the piles of decaying bodies.

Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translated by: Janusz Kocerba

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