The Witnesses' Uprising Reports

Reasons of execution on Dworkowa Street (27 September 1944)

Aleksander Kowalewski,
son of Paweł and Agata; born on August 17 1920 in Vilnius; died on May 20 1997 in Warsaw
ps. "Longinus", the "Baszta" regiment of the liaison company K4

         In connection with the relations about the events preceding the executions in the Dworkowa street on September 27, 1944 there is a common way of thinking about the reason for it: an attempt at putting up resistance by soldiers taken captive there. I'd like to add my personal observations on this subject.
         On September 26, 1944 - to obey an order of the Commander, Colonel "Daniel" - together with the soldiers of my company I entered a sewer in order to get into the City Center. As it turned out, it was too late. Germans, predicting such a possibility, raised barricades on the fragments of sewers and put the guards at the manholes. I will not describe a 15-hour-travel through the sewers and all tragedies I witnessed. I will explain its ending fragment only. When the chance of going through the sewers to the City Center disappeared, to my mind, I decided to come back to the starting point, i.e. a manhole on the corner of the Szustra and Bałuckiego streets, to share the fate of the soldiers of cover units who stayed at their positions.
         While going towards a storm-water drain situated under the Puławska street, I had to squeeze myself through the crown of people blocking the entrance. As it turned out, they stood and waited for the manhole to be opened, and wanted to leave that awful place, even to be caught by the enemies. One could hear hysterically crying women as well as people's breaths. With difficulty, the people would catch the rest of Oxygen in the closed area of the sewer. My friends who stood in the crowd informed that corporal "Józef" (supposedly his name was Piórkowski) from K-4, a telephones' worker, decided to leave the sewer to reach the house in the Konduktorska street.
         As he could not cope with a heavy cover, one of his friends climbed the clamps to help him. At the time I thought it could not be the only way out. Squeezing, I went out of the hold-up and went further in this direction. Having no torch, I was moving forward like a blind man and could feel obstructions lying at the bottom of the sewer only by feet. After some time I met another group of people blocking the passage, as it turned out they were standing under another manhole. Due to their voices I recognized a second-in-command of K-2, Lieutenant "Gerard" and a telephone platoon commander, Lieutenant "Kępa" among them. Having explained them where I was going, I was informed that Mokotów had capitulated. The Germans were on the whole area. The last way out had been cut off. I was totally crushed with grief. I asked them what to do. The answer was, everyone had to decided for themselves. It was dead end. They were wondering whether to open a manhole or not. In my opinion, there was enough time to do it. Impatiently, I was looking for someone to think about another possibility. I started to come back in the direction of the manhole that was seen last, because I felt the supply of fresh air from that side. The manhole was opened While reaching it, I saw another people going through the shaft. Others would crowd at its exit. The standing people were lit by the light doming to the sewer's inside. They were deliberating.
         From the inside one could hear shouting, crying and even shots. I heard a message saying that Lieutenant "Gustaw" had shot himself. I admired that man very much - for his courage and self-control. The less resistant would press on because the people would suffocate because of lack of Oxygen. Those who were standing at the manhole were undecided. I noticed that my friends from the company, Corporal "Wołodyjowski", "Stefan" and others were leaving. Sergeant "Rybak", the Company Commander of K-2 was standing among them, as well. Under his arm he had a black arm oilcloth folder with the company documents. I saw he was at the end of his tether. Addressing me and the others, he said, "I see no other way out. I will suffocate here. I 'm leaving." He threw the folder into the Sewer at the bottom of which the piles of other documents that people leaving had got rid of before were lying.
         After some time there came a break, nobody decided to leave. I looked up and on the blue sky I noticed a stooping figure of a SS officer shouting "Komm, komm! Schneller!" ("Come, come! Faster!") It was one of the most tragic moment sof my lifetime. A choice: to take away your life as Lieutenant "Gustaw" did, or almost 100 per cent certainty that after leaving the sewer I will lose my life standing at the firing squad. Never, while thinking of death, did I imagine it like self-surrender and waiting for a slaughterer's step. I had to make a choice, being at the beginning of my life. Decisions concerning such an important issue had to be made quickly. In my thoughts a flicker of hope appeared: by leaving one has got an unknown now chance. I decided to believe my predecessors'(those who left) intuition. Maybe it will not be the end of my life? I got rid of telephone equipment, a helmet, a German belt, a gun and started to climb the manhole. It was almost the noon. When I leaned out of the manhole, a beautiful autumn Sun dazzled me. At the moment of my standing by the manhole, an officer standing near shouted, "Hände hoch!" ( Raise your hands!") and then he showed by gesture a soldier who was to search us. They would search everyone leaving the sewer, taking away from us not only guns and ammunition (that was mostly got rid of in the sewers), but also documents and valuable items.

         One of us was ordered to take off his new soldier shoes with legs. A young soldier (c. 20 years old) who was searching me took to his pocket a silver pencil and a fountain pen. My wallet with documents was thrown on the pile of objects taken during the search. From now on I became a person with neither name nor surname, without the past. I could start my life from the beginning, by giving facts that I would think about. I could do that if I lived. If the exhumation of my body occurred, I would be nameless. After the search I was made lie with my face in the direction of the ground, on a little meadow at the foot of the slope, where my friends were lying. I noticed that the commander was a SS officer who would fulfill the orders coming from the military police head office, situated in the Dworkowa street. At the top of the slope, figures of the German soldiers observing us, lying there, occurred from time to time. One of the military policemen started to come from the slope and -when he was about 2 meters from the slope- he sat down and started to observe us with sight full of menace and hatred. Also, he called us "Bandits, Polish swines and Polish shitface". At last he asked, "Who knows the German language?" As there was silence, he went on, "You understand me", and added, "who of you knows what happened with Sergeant, here he gave a name and a surname, who went on the patrol on August 8 and did not come back?" As he did not get an answer, he stated, "I won't forget you that. He was my best friend and for his death I will kill some of you today".
         This fact is show that the execution in the Dworkowa street was not caused by putting up resistance by a group of soldiers who left the manhole whose exit was situated in the Dworkowa street. So, it is not a whole truth that the German military soldiers were provoked by the behaviour of those Polish soldiers. A monologue of the soldier pitting on the slope is a proof that the action had been planned before regardless of the way in which the soldiers taken captive behaved. Some of us, or all of us, were destined to death to boost the morale of the winners. It was the act of revenge for misfortunes and victims during the Rising fights. A long brake followed and nobody would leave the sewer, so the officer claimed that he wanted a translator, a person who knew the German language well. For this call Sergeant Budkiewicz from K-2 came forward. The German officer ordered to call -in Polish- the ones who were inside the sewers to leave them. He made him enter the manhole and get the guns left by us, which he did. As the call did not have effects, he ordered to say once again that the Germans were waiting for 10 minutes more. At 1 p.m. hand-grenades were to be threw into the sewer. Meanwhile the soldiers were preparing a bundle of grenades and with the German precision, at 1 p.m. sharp, there was a grenade explosion. Then, commotion started. Certain commands were made and the shooting started.
         We were ordered to keep our heads near the ground. Bullets were flying above us. I thought that our units, not disarmed so far, would try to recapture us. After some time shooting was calming down. I looked in the direction of the Belwederska street and I noticed a person wearing a white shirt, escaping and a German soldier with a machine gun in his hand, reaching him. The soldier, having caught up with his victim, made him -by a meaningful gesture- come back. As they were coming nearer, I recognized one of the soldiers of our company, rifleman "Blondynek." He was wounded and supported his left hand by a right one. A left sleeve was dripping with blood. When they were near us, the officer ordered to translate for Sergeant Budkiewicz the following statement, "All who will try to escape will experience the same as he will - and he showed "Blondynek" - "To execute!" A soldier who brought him along, touched his arm and made him stand at the edge of a path, his face in the direction of the Belwederska street. The convicted could look at the last moment of his life at the Podchorążych street, where he lived. Maybe he could even see his house, to which he escaped with such a hope, where probably his mother awaited him. He lacked good fate because he was hit. He lacked strength because of bleeding.
         Meanwhile, behind his back, a terrifying scene occurred. It showed the degeneration of human feelings. Two peers, German soldiers, would tear away a rifle from their hands in order to shoot to a defenseless victim. When the lucky hunter cocked weapons and wanted to stand on the other side of the path to shoot exactly at the back of the victim's head, another soldier who wanted to shoot ran to him. He did not want to lose such a wonderful occasion. The officer adjudicated upon to the advantage of the one who took pains to have pleasure in making a person lose his life. Then we heard a shot. The victim bended his legs and fell as if touched by a clap of thunder. Against an autumn background of a scenery of the sunset, a life tragedy of one of us occurred, observed by many spectators. It was a tragedy o people who had to pay the highest price - to make a sacrifice of their lives - for fighting for the nation's freedom with ruthless and dehumanized invaders.
         For some hours we were ling soaked, hungry and dead tired in a cool shade of the slope. People weak physically and mentally, shook with cold and emotions. Their teeth were chattering. The whole uncertainty as for our future faith made us feel constant tension. A tragic episode that occurred behind us gave the others a flicker of hope. The officer's statement saying that they would shoot the escaping ones also showed that -for the time being- they did not plan to shoot us. Another fact that gave us some optimism was ordering nurses to bandage the wounded in our group. The concern for the wounded meant that they would not do it before executions. After some time we heard an order to stand in pairs and a word of command "Go ahead." We moved in the direction of stairs. And then I noticed the bodies of lying near the stairs rifleman "Knox" and several others who were trying to escape towards the Dworkowa street and were shot by the military soldiers. Some soldiers were standing with guns in their hands, others with hands at their hips or crossed on the chest. They observed our military parade. But when I looked on the Wright I saw a macabre sight. Under the barbed wire fence fencing off the street from the slope (protection from an attack form the slope), there was a heap of human bodies, victims of the latest execution. The bodies' arrangement showed that at the moment of death they were turned away from their assassins. They were shot at their back or the back of their hands. Some bodies were hanged on wires, others fell on the heap of their predecessors. Looking at the clothes, one could recognize some people.
         Being a participant of those events, I cannot agree with a mistaken facts' assessment. I heard the following interpretation of the event: some of the soldiers taken captive (unknown number of them) having heard their commanders' password, tried to get guns and attack the German military soldiers, shouting, "Friends, let's not allow them to kill us like sheep!" In retaliation for that the Germans sentenced c. 120 people to be shot. Those who did not rebel survived and now relate the events.
         By being based on his report and assessing the military soldiers' Leeds, one can say that they were provoked for that and according to current during the occupation customs, they shoot the rebels and decimated the others. If the people taken captive had not behaved in a provocative way, any danger would have threatened them. This fact is treated like one of thousands that took place during the occupation reality. This is not true. The execution was planned. The proof is quoted the military soldier's monologue uttered one hour before the execution. I am sure that r4egardless of the captives' behaviour, they would be executed. Their desperate step was only an after-effect of the atmosphere made by the German soldiers who would talk openly about the execution and uttered threats addressing the captives. Those must have seen the preparations for the execution. That made them behave desperately. The tragedy of the situation is deepen by a fact that an order of General von dem Bach saying that Rising soldiers must be treated like war captives was violated. Thanks to this order, my friends and I, while leaving the sewer at the place situated 30 meters further than the execution place did not get in "beast's" hands directly. We survived. The same law protected those who lost their lives. If villains taking part in his massacre were found, they could not hide behind the need to fulfil their duties according to the German war law existing then, because at the moment of the crime they did violate the law. It was inconvenient for them.

Aleksander Jacek Kowalewski
Translated by Monika Ałasa

      Aleksander Jacek Kowalewski ps. "Longinus"
'Baszta' regiment, K4 communication company
(born: Wilno 1920 - died: Warszawa 1997)

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