First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
Memories of Janusz Hamerlinski - a soldier from "Kilinski" Battalion
The Start And The First Days...
We all entered the building and our comrades after a brief welcome told us the building had been guarded by two uniformed Germans. One of them surrendered on a spot the other one was shot while trying to escape in the elevator.
We walk on, slowly, along the odd number side of the alley towards Jasna Street. Amazing how beautiful the sound of singing birds are... Like long melodious whistles. I wonder what kind of birds they are...
We reach Jasna Street, cross it and go towards Sienkiewicza St. Still no people around. In some windows you can see faces peeping from behind net curtains. We wave to them joyfully - it has started at last!
There is a man on the corner warning.
- 'They are shooting from Napoleona Square!'
Our commander 'Trocki' gives an order:
- 'Run across, one at a time!'
I am watching running mates. What the hell? All of them must have well hobnailed boots! With every step I can see sparks on the paving just behind their feet. Somehow the birds' whistles get kind of shorter. Now my turn to jump across. On the other side sudden revelation - they are not birds nor hobnails. They are German bullets hitting the street! It was close!
Now we are turning into Sienkiewicza St. We stop at the first archway to our left (no 3 on the plan). Suddenly… ALERT!! Germans advancing from Napoleona Square! 'Trocki' immediately orders us to take a flat on the first floor and man the windows. We run. Indeed there is a tank approaching from the square. Nobody is shooting. The tank turns into Jasna Street (apparently it got burnt later in Boduena St).
Behind the tank there is a single German with a sub machine gun. Now everybody is shooting at him, but no hit. It must be excitement and 'hunting fever'... I try too, taking aim carefully, pulling the trigger and... click - dud! I reload and can see a mark at the back of the shell so the bolt works OK. I turn the round a bit and try again, aim, trigger, click again...
No time for the third try. The German lies dead next to one of the gates. I throw the cartridge away and look at the rest of the ammunition anxiously. What condition is it in? Can't say.
We go down to the street. No sign of the tank. The German's dead, and there is a beautiful Schmeisser next to him - just to take it. But it is a bit too close to the main Post Office where the firing is from...
'Trocki' - 'Who volunteers to get the gun?
No volunteers... I am not stepping forward too. Uneasy feeling when you think of it... Suddenly I hear:
- 'Morski', you'll go!
The fear vanishes. An order can perform miracles - you just have to carry it out and there is no room for fear. I give my rifle away to have free hands for the run. Between me and the square there is only some kiosk - the machine gunner at the Post Office will see me well when I cross the street.
Jump! I run across the street. I can hear the rattle of the machine gun. I am in the gate in one piece. Sigh of relief, I made it this time! I wave joyfully to my mates and all of a sudden bricks chip off just inches away from my face! My eyes are full of the brick dust. Apparently I had to expose my hand to the Germans while waving, and they took good aim awaiting my next jump.
As I saw later the gunner had a good eye - there were some bullet holes in my trench coat. I believe that when I ran my coat was unbuttoned and waved loosely behind me. The German must have aimed in the centre of the silhouette which was just behind my back...
Anyway, it takes a while before I can see again. I prepare to the next jump to the next gate (no 1 on the plan). I realize it's going to be worse - I will run towards the machine gun and the guys are waiting.... but the magic of the order still works... Sudden jump forward, forced run and turn to the life saving gate.
But when I turn a self incendiary bottle flies away from pocket and crashes at my feet. I freeze watching a spreading pool of petrol among smashed glass. No idea why it never ignited. I guess the paper strip with chemicals wrapped around the bottle must have fallen a bit further...
Now I see the gate is manned by "Lightning" group armed with home- made sub machine guns. That's a part of a unit of LT. 'Blyskawica', I don't know which battalion. These guys shot the German and took his gear. I did my runs for nothing...
There was another dead German with a MP 40 at the edge of the square, but there was no way to approach him (no 11 on the plan). It meant certain death. Not much to do any more except to come back to my group which in the meantime moved to the house at 2 Sienkiewicza Street.
I am not brave enough to run back across the street - to close to the machine gun. Also, there is no order so there is no motivation to do it. Some brave guy tried to cross the street from the other side, he survived but got shot in the bum!
Then I hear WO 'Trocki's voice:
- 'Wait till dark and come back at dusk'.
It suits me! I guess it was just past 18.00. I waited and at around 21.00 I returned to my unit, no sweat. I guess the unit got a bit bigger - I could see some new faces there.
We get an order to man the windows looking onto Napoleona Sq - no 2 was a corner house. Several shooters enter a flat on the first floor to the left from the staircase (no 8 on the plan. All the people living in the building gathered in the back yard or basements - air shelters.
Some corporal cautiously approaches a window and standing next to it breaks the glass with the butt of his gun. There is an instant shot from the Post Office... and I can hear a cry of pain from the hall behind us. The bullet has got through a inner wall and wounded a medic girl. It means the Germans are watching the stations and they are no use to us. So we back off looking for other possible spots.
It is a very dark, moonless clear night. I find a phone and dial in darkness to call Mother.
- 'Hi Mum, I am OK and in one piece. The fun will be over in a few days.'
Youngsters are always optimistic...
We get some sandwiches - right! There was no chow since the morning! Then equipped with a brand new Lightning gun I and some guy ('Sęk?') go through a maze of corridors to a room to the right from the staircase (no 9 on the plan).
Fortunately the window is already open so no need to break the glass. We make some sort of shooter's nests out of some mattresses and sofa parts. I lie next to the wall with a radiator on it. Scanning the area. The windows at the Post Office are covered with sandbags. Occasionally you can see the helmet tops behind them. Silence interrupted with single shots, close or distant. I am thirsty as hell...
I leave my post, go to the staircase and shout to the guys in the back yard asking for something to drink. 'OK' I hear ' we'll bring it in a moment'. I go back to my spot. A door with matt glass separates us from the corridor. After some time I can hear footsteps from the hall. I turn around and see a bright light of an electric torch behind the glass. I am furious and shout:
- 'TURN THE BLOODY THING OFF!! the Germans can see our heads with this light in the background!
The light goes off instantly and... silence. What the hell? We aim our weapons at the door. Suddenly a firing burst and the glass falls in to pieces. I pull the trigger - a single shot. I check the switch - on 'automatic'. I pull the trigger again, the gun doesn't work - jammed. My mate shoots one after another just next to my ear. Unbearable noise.
Suddenly the fire ceases and I can feel some warm liquid dripping on me. It's over. My mate got hit in the artery and I don't have a gun. I get up, jump to the door frame and wait for the enemy with a bayonet in my hand... Nobody comes in. Silence ringing in the ears... Suddenly running footsteps and calling:
- 'What's going on, guys? Who is shooting?'
Our guys. My mate is OK, but water pours down from the shot radiator. I have many minor scratches. Not too bad then. Immediate inspection of the flat revealed nothing. Only the next day we found a gun in a wardrobe. Apparently the flat belonged to a folksdeutsch.
After several days my scratches swelled and tiny pieces of tin came off them. Out of curiosity I went to show them to a gunsmith. He said they came from fragmentation bullets.
After the 'adventure' I came down to the archway and stayed there till the morning. At midnight I witnessed just crazy bravery of some woman who, facing the machine guns, crawled to the dead German (no 11) and took his Schmeisser. No man volunteered to do it.
In the morning from Sienkiewicza St. The LT 'Blyskawica''s troops attacked the Post Office. Total stupidity. The attack was forced back with huge loses. The bodies covered the area up to the water tank (no 13).
In the morning, 2nd August, a sudden alert - tanks! Indeed, there are two or three tanks coming off Warecka St. Something like stage fright again... I get an old Polish grenade (I got rid of the petrol bottle) and with a pistol (can't remember what kind) take a post at the bottom of the staircase in the archway. Just in case the tank is covered. The tank is coming. I pull the pin and throw the grenade. Counting: twenty one, twenty two, twenty three... what the hell? Twenty four... The tank has passed and my grenade lies neatly in the middle of the street! Well, the stuff is like the ammo for the Label rifle - old, useless. But the tanks are gone, no cover, so nothing to worry about.
After an hour, something new - armoured vehicles come to the Post Office main door from Warecka St. and you can see the German personnel being evacuated. We quickly build a barricade out of window black out paper rolls from a nearest shop (no 10), as a protection from the machine gun, and take cover behind.
We keep firing but with unknown result. The gap between the wall and the vehicle is about three feet wide and if you can hit a running silhouette it is pure luck.
The Germans didn't like our shooting though. They called a tank for help. It came from Nowy Swiat St. stopped at the Post Office and started firing at Sienkiewicza St and our positions.
We'd been expecting that so we had already left the barricade and gone into the back yard. Me and another, quite old soldier, went to the stationery shop (although I have an impression it could have been before the tanks passed and my unfortunate grenade attack).
Waiting for the tank to fire I hid behind one of the pillars supporting the ceiling. The other soldier didn't take any cover. The first shell blew up the barricade sending the paper rolls in all directions. The second shell hit the shop window frame. I felt a strong impact at my stomach and heard a moan of pain from the other guy. A moment of fear - a stomach wound. It is the worst that could happen! I grab my waist, and... hands dry, no blood, and there is a biggish piece of wood from the window frame on my lap. That's it. But my mate is down and groaning.
After a brief examination I can see it is only a hand wound, not dangerous. I lift him up to take to the medic point, then he handles me his pistol - a police Walther cal. 7. The firearms would often go to somebody else, we didn't have enough for everybody, that's the reason for those frequent risky actions like the girl last night.
The pistol, I guess the same one I had with me during the tank attack, I described before, excellent and accurate, served me to the end of the Uprising.
The Germans carried on with the evacuation using armoured vehicles coming to the Post Office every so often. Suddenly I can see... German military policemen in our back yard! They don't have any weapons and are escorted by our soldiers. Apparently they were the crew of an MP station in Moniuszki St (no 14a on the plan) who surrendered after our troops came through the surrounding buildings. Later I read somewhere a Polish cleaner woman, employed at the station, took part in the negotiations.
I got an order to take the prisoners to a square in Kredytowa St. The escort was made up of 3 - 4 people. As we learned some of the prisoners spoke Polish. They were folksdeutsches I guess from Poznan County and north of Poland. The officer taking the prisoners from me said they would be court marshalled. The next day I went to this place and saw bodies of some of them, shot dead...
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 © 2011 Maciej Janaszek-Seydlitz. All rights reserved.