Medical services during the Warsaw Uprising


          The District II Żoliborz played a significant part in the uprising plans, because it was a corridor connecting the city with the Kampinos Forest. Preparations to strike at the "W" hour got complicated when on 1st of August at 13.50 hours before the concentration ended in Żoliborz, a shootout took place between the Kedyw team carrying weapons and a patrol of German airmen. Alerted Germans brought the police and tanks. Concentrating insurgent soldiers dispersed and were not ready at 17.00 hours to start the uprising. No advance carried out by insurgents ended up successful. Reports about failed attacks, lack of communication with the District commander and commanders of other areas made the commander of Żoliborz, Lieutenant Colonel Mieczysław Niedzielski "Żywiciel", to make a decision and withdraw all units outside the city to the Kampinos Forest. At night of 1st of August, about 1,000 people marched out to the forest. Only a small insurgent unit remained in the area at Wilson Square.
          On 2nd of August, General "Monter"'s liaison officer arrived in Kampinos with general's order to immediately return and man the Żoliborz area. The "Żywiciel" soldiers returned the next night and made combat contact with enemy. In the following days, fights were rather local, except for an unsuccessful attempt to open a communication route from Żoliborz to the Old Town on 19th-22nd of August. n 18th of September, soldiers of the 6th Infantry Regiment of the LWP made an unsuccessful attempt of crossing the river from the Praga bank and establishing a bridgehead.
          On 24th of September, Germans began a massive attack on Żoliborz using fine front-experienced tank units. The attack was preceded by a barrage. The advantage of Germans units was so great that insurgents did not have a chance to stand their ground. Żoliborz units laid down their weapons on 30th of September, on the Home Army Headquarters' orders.

          There was no stationary hospital in Żoliborz. The nearest hospital, the hospital of Jana Boży at Bonifraterska Street, was located south of the railway tracks and the viaduct, so after the uprising outbreak it was unavailable to the Żoliborz insurgents and civilians. In this situation, the head doctor of the area decided to establish field hospitals.
          Field hospital No. 100 was established on the monastery grounds, to which belonged the school of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection at 31 Krasińskiego Street. The hospital was organized in a part of a one-storey building (the building does not exist at present times), the operating room was located in the school's biology room. Originally, the hospital was for 20 beds, the number of which quickly increased to 30 and even 60 beds. Next to the operating room there was a dressing room, a dining room for doctors and stock rooms.

The monastery and school of the Sisters of the Resurrection

          Around 2 p.m. on 1st of August, there was a fight between insurgents and a German patrol which took place nearby the monastery. Around 3 p.m. Germans entered the monastery and claimed that the shots came from the monastery building. They ordered all the sisters to leave the building and stay outside, and began to search the building. They were showed around by sister Rafaela, who spoke fluent German. Prepared hospital beds did not arouse any suspicion of Germans, they admitted they were wrong regarding the shots and left.
          Already from 1st of August, several dozen wounded were admitted to the hospital. From 3rd of August, the hospital was under fire of the armoured train stationed at Gdański Station. Artillery shells fell on the hospital building from the Central Institute of Physical Education in Bielany and the fire of machine guns ripped the building from the roof of the Chemical Institute.
          Facing the constant threat of being under fire, the sick were transported on 5th of August to the wing of the building from Stołeczna Street, then to the lower (basement) and safer storeys. The wounded were transported through a deep trench. From 7th of August there was no electric light in the hospital and the operating room, where surgeons worked non-stop, lit up with candlesticks and battery lamps. Wounded Germans were also admitted to the hospital, and they were treated as carefully as the wounded insurgents.
          On 10th of August, bombardment of the monastery began at 5.30 a.m. and within one hour more than 100 missiles hit the building, the hospital part of the building was damaged. Luckily, apart from scratches, none of the wounded sustained additional injury. As a result of the bombardment, a decision was made to move the entire hospital to the basement. On 18th of August, Germans broke into the ground floor of the monastery through the holes in the wall. Fortunately, they did not go down to the basement, where about 200 wounded were laid down. Part of the building was set on fire by Germans who left afterwards. The fire was extinguished. The monastery building was on the front line and became the Sisters of the Resurrection Fortress. And its ground was a theatre of constant fights.
          In this situation, there was made a decision to evacuate the hospital within two more nights to a building of the School of Workers' Society of Friends of Children at 10 Krasińskiego Street corner of Wilson Square, where there were left a few dozen beds after German field hospital was evacuated in July. Rooms for patients were prepared in the spacious hall and classes of the school building. Next to the building, in a one-story house behind a stone fence, in which there was a communication hole, was organised a reception room and room for the severely wounded, and an operating room was arranged in the basement. Dressing station at the monastery functioned until 25th of September.
          After unsuccessful attacks on Gdański Station carried out on 21st and 24th of August, the hospital at Krasiński Street full up with the wounded. Around 1.30 p.m. on 24th of August, the hospital was hit by rockets, so called "cows". Damages done by the rockets were so great that it took another two nights to evacuate the hospital to blocks of flats at 6 Krechowiecka Street. The most severely wounded were placed in two large shelters prepared in case of war in 1939. The rest of the wounded were placed in the commandeered private basement flats located at 18 staircases. All staircases were connected through holes made in the basement walls. The laundry room was converted into an operating room, and surgeries was carried out in the room lit up by carbide lamp. Various services were functioning in garages at Mickiewicza Street, among others, a sewing room, laundry room and kitchen ran by nuns. Water came from the well located in the yard, which was under constant fire. On 31st of August, 5 nuns were killed in the yard during the aerial bombardment. At the beginning of September, the number of wounded reached 400, and 70% of the figure were soldiers. The overall conditions the wounded were kept in were tragic, they laid almost in the dark as the windows were secured with sandbags. There was shortage of food. On the day of capitulation, on 30th of September, Sister Rafaela, after negotiations with German commander, rescued the lives of the wounded once again. The wounded got to the camp in Pruszków.
          Field Hospital No. 104 operated from 1st of August in the building of the School of Military Family at 49 Czarnieckiego Street, in so-called villa part of Żoliborz. The hospital operating room was organised in the school rooms and the wounded found shelter in the adjoining buildings as the wide-windowed rooms were not safe. The number of the wounded coming into hospital increased when the situation at the hospital of the Sisters of the Resurrection got worse. Many of the wounded were treated in private homes. In case of serious treatments, for example: change of the cast or puncture, patients were taken to Czarnieckiego Street on stretchers. Before the capitulation of the Old Town, a large group of the AL soldiers (People's Army) who evacuated through sewers to Żoliborz, appeared in the hospital.
          Field Hospital No. 104a organised in the building of the Poniatowski Gymnasium, popularly called "Poniatówka", at Lisa Kuli Street corner of Rokitna closely cooperated with the hospital at Czarniecki Street. The gymnasium building before the uprising was a German field hospital and when it was captured by insurgents at the night of 3rd - 4th of August, it was fortunately taken with all hospital equipment. However, the "Poniatówka" building had to be vacated by insurgents due to increasing fire from the direction of railway tracks and the railway station.
          The hospital was relocated to the former minister Kościałkiewicz villa at 43 Śmiała Street. A hospital facility for 130 beds was organized within two days. It had a well-equipped operating room illuminated with car headlights. The hospital functioned from 15th of August to 29th of September. Over 200 soldiers were treated at the hospital, as well as civilians and Germans taken prisoner of war. The distance from the hospital building to the German lines did not exceed 150 metres, which protected the building from the aerial bombardment and artillery fire. Guarded building entrances and secured windows protected the building from the enemy firing from small caliber weapons.
          At the end of August also the villa part of Żoliborz was under heavy fire. The only facility being able to guarantee safety of the wounded was the nearby Sokolnicki Fort. The insurgent authorities of Żoliborz decided to evacuate both hospitals to the Fort.
          Field hospital at the Sokolnicki Fort in the Stefan Żeromski Park at Wilson Square began operating on 1st of September. Part of the wounded from the hospital in Krechowiecka Street and the wounded from the hospital at Śmiała Street were relocated there. On the ground floor of the rotunda, on the right side of the building, there was organised an operating room with the adjoining room for the severely wounded. It was managed to place 400 of the wounded in the overcrowded Fort.
          Facing preparations for capitulation, liaison officers were visiting the wounded soldiers and military personnel collecting their Home Army and People's Army ID cards, armbands and weapons. Two note books were filled up and contained information regarding the wounded, their pseudonyms and unit names. Those book notes contained 608 items. On their basis, lists of patients with their addresses and real names were prepared. The book notes, ID cards, armbands and weapons were secured and buried at the entrance to the Fort.
          On 30th of September, Germans entered the Fort. Initially aggressive and violent behaviour of Germans softened thanks to statements of the wounded Germans treated in the hospital. They confirmed good treatment and care they received from the Polish staff. Therefore, Germans behaved decently. The wounded and sick stayed at the hospital until evacuation. All the severely wounded were transported to hospitals in Tworki and Pruszków. It was also managed to organise transport and evacuate all the hospital equipment which later on was donated to hospital in the outskirts of Warsaw. From 3rd of October, trucks and ambulances helped to evacuate the hospital. The severely wounded and sick were evacuated first. Each transport was accompanied by a certain number of volunteers from the hospital medical staff. There were "fake patients" among the hospital patients, young boys and girls, insurgents. They were applied a massive cast dressings marked with signs and names of non-existent injuries.
          The 203 field hospital was opened in Bielany in the premises of the "Nasz Dom" (Orphanage) at 42/44 Confederation Square. In these premises was operating a field hospital during the 1939 campaign. After Germans captured Bielany, the hospital was concealed under the name of the RGO as a hospital for civilians. On 2nd of October, the patients and staff members (60 people in total) were transported to Pruszków.

          Apart from hospitals, there also were about 20 dressing points operating in Żoliborz:
          - Dressing station at 20 Mickiewicza Street located in a private flat of the Zielińscy, later on relocated to basements at the following locations: 26 Czarnieckiego Street, 23 Pogonowskiego Street, Burakowska Street and 45 Słowackiego Street;
          - Dressing station #115 at the Dr Szalawska Physiotherapy Center at 34 Mickiewicza Street;
          - Dressing station at 18 Krasińskiego Street;
          - Dressing station at 5 Suzina Street located in a private flat #91, later on transformed into the AL field hospital, in the last phase of the fights it was relocated o 21 Krasiński Street;
          - The 101 dressing station at 2/4 and 6/8 Mickiewicza Street;
          - The 102a dressing station at 29 Wojska Polskiego Avenue;
          - The 103 dressing station at 2/4/6 Inwalidów Square;
          - The 104 dressing station at 49 Czarnieckiego Street, later on converted into a hospital;
          - The 104a dressing station at 43 Śmiała Street;
          - The 105 dressing station at 23 Pogonowskiego Street;
          - The 107 dressing station at 23 Słowackiego Street;
          - The 108 dressing station at Tylżycka Street, operated until 27th of August;
          - The 115 dressing station at 34 Mickiewicza Street;
          - The 115 dressing station at 20 Dygasińskiego Street;
          - The 116 dressing station at 3 Suzina Street;
          - The 116a dressing station at 16 Krasiński Street;
          - The 117 dressing station (the AL dressing station) at 18 Krasiński Street;
          - The 118 dressing station at Próchnika Street;
          - Dressing station at the Social Insurance building in Powązki town;
          - The 201 dressing station at Pelpińska Street;
          - The 202 dressing station at 6/7 Lipińska Street.

          Evacuation of the wounded and sick and the hospital was carried out between 1st and 3rd of October. The severely wounded were evacuated as the first and placed in Tworki and Pruszków. The last wounded left the hospital on 11th of October. The evacuation included over 1,500 of the wounded and around 3,000 of the personnel. All the hospital equipment was evacuated as well and large part of the evacuated equipment was used at hospitals in the outskirts of Warsaw.

Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz

translated by: Janusz Kocerba

Copyright © 2018 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.