Insurrectionary accounts of witnesses

The memories of Zbigniew Debski from the "Kilinsky" battalion

The Uprising

Zbigniew Debski
born on the 29th of November in 1922 in Lasin
Second Lieutenant of Home Army pseud."Zbych-Prawdzic"
the commander of the seventh unit of the third company "The Grey Ranks-Junior"
Home Army Battalion "Kilinsky "
prisoner number 298383

         The first battalion concentration took place on the 28th of July 1944 on Friday. Everyone was full of energy, waiting for the moment when they could start fighting. After many hours of waiting, the same day in the evening, the alarm was called off and we had to go home. It was a serious mistake from the conspiracy point of view. Everyone observed crowds of young people walking with small packets. The enemy got informed, the element of surprise disappeared. Our third company of "Kilinsky" battalion called "The Grey Ranks-Junior" was located in the building at Gorskiego Street 3 (a chemistry school). I was a commander of the seventh unit of the third company.
         There was an unpleasant incident during the first concentration. One of friends, the platoon commander, demonstrated gun to the present. Unfortunately it fired. One of our girlfriends got hurt. Happily the injury wasn't serious. The bullet pierced the thigh without crushing either the bone or an artery. It was the first victim of the not-started-yet uprising.
         On the first August, from the noon hours, we started to gather again. Our aim was to attack Gorskiego School that was located at a street named the same way under the number 2. The school was occupied by Asian Russians. Of course after the action from a few days back they were prepared to this that was to happen soon.
         The weaponry of the third company was rather poor. We had one sub-machine gun, one rifle, one pistol and firebottles. Rifles were usually small, 7mm, and there were only three Parabellum guns. I was the lucky who had a rifle.
         Our action started punctually at the W-hour (17:00), though earlier on the Napoleon Square (today the Square of Warsaw Insurgents) one could hear some shots. We moved forward, we fired some shots and got raked by the enemy. As I have already mentioned, the watchmen were ready. Unfortunately, the first attack wasn't successful. One of our friends got hurt. Just on the second of September we got support and the attack was fortunate. We got some arms and the school building, prepared the right way by various services that had become since that time the headquarters of our company. We stayed there to the sixth of September.


The headquarters of the third company, at Gorskiego Street 2

         Apart from the City Centre some units of "Kilinsky" battalion fought in another districts of Warsaw. One company fought at Wola district, another in the Old Town. They were units, in some way, transferred.
         On the second August I took part, together with another friend, in the attack on the post office, that we were conquering from Warecka Street side.


The main post office                           A white and red flag over the conquered post office

         Then we got directed to various posts. Among others I was on a post in the Jerozolimskie Avenues above Brothers Borkowsky's shop (with electrical devices). In that time Germans moved back through Poniatowskiego Bridge behind Vistula, shifting back as the Home Army units were marching in. I was on the sixth floor of the building with my friend and we were cannonading the withdrawing units. At the same time we had to look out for the cannonade from the building of National Economy Bank (BGK) located opposite us that was occupied by the German.

The BGK building

         Going from BGK in the direction of Bracka Street once there was a small wall and a garden where the German hid. I was well-experienced as far as the shooting was concerned. As I have mentioned above, in our family there were hunting traditions since time immemorial. In spite of the young age, before the war I took part in many shooting competitions, achieving good results.


The first soldier pay

          Then the attacks on PAST at Zielna Street started. In that time, there were two skyscrapers in Warsaw, the highest in the whole city. One of them was Prudential (today Hotel Warsaw) and PAST was the second. PAST eight-storey building made of strong ferroconcrete construction was of a strategic importance for Germans. There was a telephone exchange office built in the interwar period. Before the war it secured both the national communication and the international one. And later on, Germans, thanked to it, could stay in contact with those in Poland, in the East and in Berlin. Due to this the building was heavily garrisoned and prepared for fighting. There were over one hundred soldiers including SS. The entrance was protected with bunkers while the fire posts were situated on the higher floors as well.
         For us the building posed a great threat and danger. As it was in the middle of the area where we were staying it made free movements impossible for soldiers and civilians. It was the strongest German resistance point in the City Centre. Germans, the sharp-shooters shot from the higher storeys at the building to everything that moved, without differentiating either there were women, the elderly or children. The building was to be conquered at all costs.

Gunfire from PAST at Wielka Street

         PAST was situated in the middle of "Kilinsky" batallion action, whose commander was Cavalry Captain Henryk Leliwa Roycewicz. Attempts of conquering te building had been made since the beginning of the uprising. Due to heavy gunfire surrounding of the building and difficulties in getting closer to it made us to carry out the attacks at night. The first organized attack carried out on the third and the fourth of August. Then the bunker was damaged and the entrance gate was crushed down. The insurgents attacking the building forced their way into it. Germans escaped up on the higher floors and from there they dropped down the grenades preventing the attacking from moving forward. At the same time the defenders threw the grenades out from the windows blocking off the assault groups. After some hours of difficult revolutionary fighting the assault units were driven out from the building suffering great losses. Some attempts of conquering the building were made but without any success.
         Three times did I take part in the attacks on PAST. Two times there was the so-called firewall. The insurgent shooters were located in the buildings standing near PAST. Me and my friend, we had a post in the lower part of PAST. It was a night and the visibility wasn't very good. Some light was given by the flashes made by exploding grenades. We observed flashes coming from the barrels shooting from the PAST windows and it was the place where we directed our guns. I was not sure how effective it was, but they detected us too and successfully opened fire on the target. Fortunately only the wall pieces landed on our heads.

Fire posts for PAST gunfire

         The command decided to change the way of fighting when the next attack would take place. Germans were cut off from the water-flow and the telephone communication in the manhole at Krolewska Street. The electricity was cut off as well. At first they didn't want to set fire to the building as precious communication devices were installed there, though in that situation it was impossible to escape. In the conquered Main Post Office at the Napoleon Square there were significant reserves of oil and petrol. For a long tome that fuel had been transported to Zielna Street under the even number. Everything was used for the transportation: buckets, plates, etc. In that way three tonnes of fire mixture was gathered. Then the firebrigade motor pump was brought.
         The final assault was planned for the night of 19th and 20th of September 1944. Till the midnight all the units that took part in the attack took their posts. Apart from the soldiers of "Kilinsky" battalion in the attack another units took part (eg. "Chrobry II"). On the 20th of September at 2:30 the explosion happened that was to breach a side wall of PAST and that was to be a signal for the beginning of fighting. At the same time the motor pump started to pour in the fire mixture onto the PAST first floor.

The motor pump is pouring in the fire-mixture onto the PAST building floor

          When hundreds litres of mixture were poured in the PIAT bullet was fired and firebottles were thrown. Unfortunately, Germans being near killed it in the egg.
         The assault units, that got inside through the hole from the Bagno Street were pushed away, but set fire to the canteen. The second unit of sappers supported by shooting fire broke the main wall of the building. By the daring attack the assault units forced the hole and moved inside. In a fierce fighting another and another ground floor rooms were obtained. The result of the fighting wasn't solved anyway. In the meantime the second portion of fire mixture was pumped in and when the second PIAT bullet was fired the whole floor was under fire.

The fight for PAST

         In the meantime sappers broke another wall from the side of Prozna Street and another assault group entered the building. At the same time using the motor pump one could successfully set fire to the second floor, the enemy got higher, fiercely defending themselves. When I ran into the burning building there was darkness because of the smoke. There was an enormous heat, while the shooting was that of a blind one. Fighting lasted many hours. Suddenly some Germans wanted to leave the building and escape along Zielna Street in the direction of Sasky Garden, but they were dispatched after some metres of running. Another group tried to escape through the breach in the direction of Bagno Street, but they were eliminated as well.
         In the interval the sun was rising outside. Germans hung on PAST roof-top a yellow flag, asking for help the units garrisoned in Sasky Garden. They had already tried to reach PAST with the help of tanks or armoured vehicles so as to distribute arms to defenders, ammunition and food but they didn't manage to wade through the protective insurgent lines as they were attacked by grenades, firebottles, and occasionally by the PIAT. Then the building was on fire, clouds of smoke were hovering over it. There was a German plane that appeared above them, made a few circles and departed. Germans didn't get the support and the defence was weakening.

PAST almost conquered

         Every single floor was fought for, every corridor, every room. There was an incredible heat, the smoke stung eyes, and one could see nothing. Germans went upwards. We marched behind them with great difficulty. From above they threw grenades on us, shot fire from sub-machine guns. We conquered, in turn, the second and the third floor. There appeared white and red flags in the windows of the overrun rooms. When the unit marching in the advance group reached the top storey they didn't find the enemy. As it turned out Germans escaped to cellars using additional, narrow, spiral and metal staircase landing.
         We started looking into the cellars trying to trace down the rest of Germans. At the end of a long corridor, in an enormous boiler room, we found some armed Germans. Having heard: "Hande hoch" without any hesitation did they put up their hands, got disarmed and led out of the room.
         Apart from Germans in PAST building we found six women and four men downstairs. They belonged to the service doing some auxiliary works and during the action were treated as hostages by Germans.
         When the building was invaded and the enemy surrendered I had the honour of hanging a white and red flag on the top of the building. The flag was hastily prepared by nurses: "Hajdutchek", "Ela", "Janka". I took the flag and in the company of two soldiers from my unit: private Tadeusz Karczewski pseud."Or," and private Stanislav Zielaskowsky pseud. "Elm." They were a kind of an additional, protecting wall in case of encountering a hidden enemy. A woman reporter from the Public Information Bureau joined us. She had a camera on herself.
         We ran quickly upstairs so as to celebrate our success by hanging the flag. The road to the top was very difficult. Telephone devices were dying especially in the technological part. They were installed in high, almost four-metre containers. The heat was so enormous that running along them meant getting injured by the tin boiling over. And it was the thing that happened to us.
         We got on the red hot top of the building. The roof was flat. In its middle part there were ventilation cables, and a flue that was part of the underground boiler room. The terrace roof was encircled by a small wall. With some difficulties could we fix the flag vertically to the ventilation devices. It looked impressive, even the more as a gentle breeze unrolled it. When those from the downstairs noticed it an unrestrained enthusiasm broke up. One could hear screams of joy that finally a thorn in our posts stopped existing.

A white and red flag over PAST

         A lesser enthusiasm was aroused by the flag in Sasky Garden. When we reached the surrounding small wall to see what way the whereabouts looked like from that place we heard the bullets whizzing near us. From the German posts instant concentrated fire from sub-machine guns was directed at us, but fortunately off-target. Stealthily we got into the manhole. Before we got downstairs, we had noticed that in the already hung flag shooting traces appeared.
         During the fight for PAST there was one hundred fifteen Germans held captive - the Wehrmacht and SS-soldiers.


German prisoners let out from PAST

         German losses amounted to 28-30 people. Lots of arms and ammunition were obtained. Life losses during PAST conquering amounted to 25 soldiers from "Kilinsky" battalion and 10 soldiers from other units. German prisoners were escorted to Jasna Street where they were subjected to investigation. I know nothing about their further histories.

German prisoners at Jasna Street

         PAST conquering was one of the greatest successes of the Uprising. The most difficult object was seized, the biggest number of prisoners and arms was reported.
         Then I took part in conquering "Cristal" a restaurant at the corner of Jerozolimskie Avenues that was a "thorn" on our area too. It was the twenty second of August 1944.
         Then, at night, I was sent by the commander to make a reconnaissance of the situation at Nowy Swiat near Jerozolimskie Avenues. The Patrol Chief was an officer cadet "Boleszczyc". Together with him there was "Zawisza" from my unit. After the reconnaissance "Boleszczyc" went with a report, and left us so that we could still continue the observation. We were waiting as long as he had come. We were waiting very long. Finally I made up my mind to get back. It turned out that "Boleszczyc" did not reach the destination. He died from the mortar fire on the Napoleon Square. In those circumstances I gave the account me myself to the battalion commander.
         Our reconnaissance, as it later turned out was a preparation for the attack on "Cafe Club" situated at the corner of Jerozolimskie Avenues and Nowy Swiat. It was a German resistance point located opposite BGK, where Germans stayed as well. The attack was carried by our group on the 25th of August. It started at dawn. One of the group exploded the cellar entrance, the second one, where I was, attacked from the side of Nowy Swiat and the entrance gate. Germans were totally surprised, they were in underwear. In total we took a few prisoners, three from the cellar and about ten from upstairs. Some part of the unit managed to escape to BGK. This way the whole Nowy Swiat was in our hands. BKG building could only pose a threat of gunfire.
         On the 6th of September the headquarters of our company at Gorskiego Street was bombarded. I jumped out of the headquarters just before the bombing, as we were to garrison Nowy Swiat 21 post. During that time, the bombs fell down. I was buried by the wall elements but I managed to get out by myself and I took party in the rescue operation. Unfortunately, some friends, male and female, resting after the action died in the headquarters. Large-calibre bombs were used there. A bomb crater was street-long, from curb to curb. If the bombs had been smaller friends could have survived. They were located in cellars, each unit had its own room. But Gorskiego School was damaged deep down into cellars. We tried to rescue friends. Even on was taken out from the debris, but a new wave of gunfire started and finished the total destruction.

A pass for the nurse allowing to move around the region of "Kilinsky"'s sanctions

         The next tragic episode for me was the defence of Nowy Swiat 21. After conquering Powisle the Germans started getting closer to Nowy Swiat. On the seventh of September they got really close. I was the commander of the post of Nowy Swiat 21. There was about twenty people and we were to defend it not allowing Germans to cross the uneven side of Nowy Swiat. Germans were opposite us, under the wall of Nowy Swiat 22. We were under 21. There was an ice-cream shop and now there is a cafe "One" from where I kept on the gunfire. The Germans barricaded themselves and fired at us too.
         Such a situation lasted for some time. Germans unable to move forward called for help from the Stukas (German bombers). In that time our post was withdrawn a little to the second gate. I came out forward behind the wall borders observing German movements. At that moment airplanes arrived and bombarded our positions. All my warm-hearted friends died under the debris. I knew them from the secondary school and from the building construction one. There was a dozen or so of them. I was hurt and injured because the debris falling down buried me as well. Because I came put further ahead the coming in rescuers saw the end of my shoe jutting out from under the remains.
         I was dug out and transported across the former cinema "Coloseum" at Bracka Street when friends came back to liberate the rest of the buried. Again the planes appeared and dropped firebombs. It made impossible any further rescue action to go on. Nobody was delivered alive from here. Germans subjugated the area of Nowy Swiat and the neighbourhood. For the next two days serious fighting took place in "Coloseum." There, among others, was seriously hurt the battalion commander cavarly captain Henryk Leiva Roycevich that jumped out from the curtain cheering the soldiers on to attack, lots of friends fell fighting.
         I was transported to the dressing point at Bracka Street (probably number 23). I had been unconscious for two or three days when I got sent on the second side of Jerozolimskie Avenues to the hospital at Sniadeckich Street. The hospital was under the number seventeen. Here I stayed a few days, and because I cold move I was delivered to the building at Koszykova Street 54. Form here I went for the dressing, while my hospital place was vacated for the one who badly needed help. The building where I stayed was bombarded later on as well. It wasn't vacated totally, but just the higher storeys.
         On the 19th of September I made friends with the commander of my company Tadeusz Usarzewski, pseud. "Tadeusz", that was injured and underwent treatment there. He issued the pass for me that made transport of all the convalescents to the ward possible. With that pass we went back on the second side of Sikorsky's Avenues.

A pass for the convalescent transportation

         In those times the German operations were less intense. Prague was seized by the Red Army. Great landings that were made on Czerniakow brought many losses and no effects. Above our heads Russian Po-2 planes appeared that dropped to us, of course without any parachutes, some dried biscuits, arms and ammunitions. The artillery behind Vistula and Soviet fighters helped to decease the number of the Stukas bombardments. But for that planes they could have won us with starvation. Unfortunately, the planes won. We had no guns that could bring effects in fighting them.

A voucher for some buckets with water for the command

         On the 18th of September, when I was on the second side of Avenues, there was that great American airdrops that brought more invisible than visible advantages. It is estimated that about 85 % of containers dropped down the German side. For us it was just a spiritually uplifting demonstration. Then the fighting practically calmed down and I took no part in any action. The North City Centre wasn't seize by the German, the border of their region finished in Nowy Swiat.
         The capitulation was a depressing bewilderment.

Bor-Komorovksy's appeal

         I recovered and was assigned to the group of covering units. Their aim was to hand down to the Germans the part of the city that they hadn't conquered yet. Germans thought us to be a kind of security that there would be no surprises on the lands we owned. We were also responsible for coming the civilians' aid in case any help was needed. When, after the capitulation, they left Warsaw all those that formed the protective units were registered by the Germans. Our Home Army cards and insurgent bands were stamped with their stamp called "gapa" (German Eagle with swastika).


Home Army card with the "gapa" stuck on it

         It was a pass allowing to move freely. Our patrols marched with guns, also on the area conquered by the Germans. I was escorting two times at Kopernika Street the civilians that wanted to get home.
         Walking among the Wehrmacht soldiers we didn't experience any signs of hostility. Germans were rather full of appreciation that we had offered resistance for so long. They behaved towards us in quite a decent way.


An original insurgent band with the number 166

         Some necessarily wanted to make a trade and exchange or purchase our guns. One of Germans proposed to me a gold Schafhausen (a brand watch) for my Blyskawica-gun, another asked my friend to exchange a brand new Schmeiser for my friend's Sten-gun. In both cases we didn't avail ourselves of that opportunity.
         It was a typical situation that we met neither SS-men or ROA soldiers. The former ones coming from the elite SS Herman Goering unit were sent to the front where they were needed most.
         There were two protective companies. The first one, about one hundred people from "Kilinsky" battalion and the second one C made of about seventy soldiers from the company KEDYW C Body. The civilians and the capitulating insurgents were leaving Warsaw till the 5th of October. We stayed in town up to the 9th of October.
         On the 9th of October we left Warsaw using the same route that the units from the City Centre did. On the square in front of the Technical University we lied down our arms. As usually it was incomplete or damaged. Due to the decent conditions of capitulation the last unit leaving Warsaw could do it carrying our national flag and cold steel. In our company there were ten people with cold steel. One of them had a sabre, another a small sword, bayonets. In front of the unit there was marching the colour party with a flag, then a group with cold steel and the rest of the company.

Zbigniew DÍbski

translation: Malgorzata Szyszkowska

      Zbigniew Debski
born on the 29th of November in 1922 in Lasin
Second Lieutenant of Home Army pseud."Zbych-Prawdzic"
the commander of the seventh unit of the third company "The Grey Ranks-Junior"
Home Army Battalion "Kilinsky "
prisoner number 298383

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