First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
Memories of Janusz Hamerlinski - a soldier from "Kilinski" Battalion
Before The Action
On the main streets of Warsaw you could watch and observe. The movement of German military columns from the east to the west: a lot of horse powered carts in the columns. Many soldiers in bandages, tired and resigned faces... It was a new face of the invincible German army. It was early July 1944.
It was around this time we got an order of higher alert for the 'Kilinski' Battalion.
These are notes written in June 1945, less than eleven months after the events.
'At the end of July we had a lot of drill alerts, which turned into constant readiness. The company was accommodated in at 138 Marszalkowska St. (No 1 on the plan) on the first floor of an office closed due to 'maintenance'.
Our squad was permitted to stay at my home at 26 Hoza St. flat No 2. Due to lack of further orders the squad would disperse to their own homes 90 minutes before the curfew. The following day they would gather back at my home at 7 in the morning.
It was horribly boring. Some of us would play cards or read, some others would talk or argue. There was always somebody playing the piano. Rucksacks and military bags - all packed and neatly arranged on the floor, food packages in all possible places, several bodies partly uniformed, on the sofa. Somebody would be 'drumming' crazy foxtrot, little groups talking or yawning in all corners and everything swathed in clouds of cigarette smoke.
Typical picture of our quarters: picture if you can somebody playing with a bayonet, somebody else sorting the ammunition, or counting self-inflammatory petrol bottles (so called J bottles), you will get the full image.
We had inspections every day. Usually it was WO 'Trocki' visiting us but not empty-handed. He really took care of his men, he would always bring some food. I can remember - once he brought quite a big package of meat and asked my mum to cook dinner 'for the boys'. Several times we were inspected by our former squad leader, now deputy platoon leader 'Czarny'.
The street got really crowded those days. Many young people looking as if they had their clothes made at the same tailor, buttoned from top to bottom hiding something, all in tall boots, briskly walking up and down the streets carrying strangely shaped long packages or big, fat parcels sometimes showing a corner of a blanket or a leather satchel.
The activity of the German patrols decreased surprisingly. Previously, they would literally jump on anybody looking suspicious, checking the IDs and thoroughly searching individuals, now they would just walk past, not paying any attention to the hurrying young people. You could even see how they would avoid many of them clearly with respect! No searches whatsoever.
We couldn't wait for the uprising to start and would go home everyday greatly disappointed.
Finally the moment, so long awaited, came. On 1st August at about 11 in the morning a runner from the Company Headquarters brought an order to move to the Headquarters in Marszalkowska St. immediately. This was it!
Last look through our 'uniforms'.
- long German officer boots custom made in Vienna, with a German stamp inside the top - gift from Father,
- Polish breeches made from military type material (part of fire-fighter's uniform), borrowed from a school mate,
- some top with breast pockets (swapped later for a postman's jacket),
- a summer trench coat.
A backpack in one hand, a small bag with food and bandages in the other. a short goodbye with Mother and off we go!
In pairs we left to go to Marszalkowska St., others went to Krucza and Bracka St. We approached the building No 138. I can see a model of the Eiffel Tower, roughly four feet tall in some shop window. We enter the archway. On the stairway we pass a couple of young guys staring at us with a sharp look. We ring the doorbell. Somebody opens, behind him there is a man covering the entrance with a pistol, the safety was off. We are there.
The place itself is enormous! The windows blackened, it is silent. Yet inside... a real crowd. I would never think so many people could be so quiet. We report our arrival to the squad leader. It was few minutes after 12... We got our white and red arm bands with a stamp: an eagle, letters AK on both sides and the number 165 at the bottom.
I can't really remember those few hours separating us from the 'W' Hour. I guess we would talk quietly and look at our comrades faces...
Finally it comes, the quiet order to gather up. We stand in a double line. In front of us the Company commanding officer WO 'Frasza' and platoon leaders. There are few words spoken... we are starting. Anxiety in the throat. We don't have many weapons. Only the group going out first gets them.
The CO's words:
'I don't assign people to the first group. Volunteers will go. The rest - dismissed!
My legs step forward by themselves. With me more than a dozen people. I look around and to my surprise can't see any of my friends in the group. But there is no time to think about it. WO 'Trocki' takes over the command and takes us to another room to take the weapons. As far as I can remember, we had 2 or 3 carbines, a few pistols and the 'J' bottles. For the whole group - and actually, the whole company!
I was given a long barrel Lebel type carbine with a handful of ammo and two petrol bottles. There were no cartridges, so I load the carbine with 5 rounds and lock the bolt. The rest (5 - 10 rounds) I put in my pocket. The bottles I put into the coat pockets, one on each side - the bags and rucksacks were to be left.
I am ready... But maybe I'll just check the riffle's bolt? It is easy to get seizure. I reload and suddenly a fountain of bullets burst in front of my nose! A moment of confusion ensues thenI get it - because there is no cartridge there is nothing to hold the bullets down in the chamber. So I have to load the weapon with single bullets, but carefully put the bullet into the barrel!
We can hear muffled shots from a distance. At 17.00 sharp, we go out to the archway and then right away to Marszalkowska St. There are 10 - 12 of us. WO 'Trocki' leads us along the building walls towards Swietokrzyska St. We just behind him ready to fire the guns. The street is empty, there is nobody there. You can hear single rifle and pistol shots and short sub machine gun bursts. We can't tell exactly where from, but there is no time to think about it.
'Trocki' carefully looks into Swietokrzyska St. towards Napoleona Sq. Then we sprint across the road to the PKO bank (no 2 on the plan) and knock loudy. The door opens immediately and two men with riffles and white and red armbands show up. They were there before us!
This way we 'took' the bank!
redaction: Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz
translation: Wojciech Hamerlinski
born 2 July 1926 in Warsaw
private of Armia Krajowa (Home Army) - AK
III squad, 165 platoon,
"Szare Szeregi" Company
Copyright © 2010 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.