First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
Memories of Janusz Hamerlinski - a soldier from "Kilinski" Battalion
At The Main Post Office
After escorting the prisoners I found my unit preparing to enter the Main Post Office (no 15 on the plan), which had already been taken by our company from Swietokrzyska Street.
According to 'Smuga' the company moved from Marszalkowska Street to Swietokrzyska Street and then through the back yards of the houses on the odd- numbered side of the street to the back of the Post Office. Then they threw some grenades at the yard and jumped through the wall (2 metres tall) and attacked the entrance (no 18 on the map). After the evacuation there were still about a dozen German soldiers who surrendered after a short fight.
Together with WO 'Trocki' we went upstairs the building from Warecka Street archway and we took the rooms there to accommodate the Company. Then we went to explore the building a bit. It was huge and there was no way to see everything. Others set up observation posts. First we went to see the machine gun bunker (no14) and you could see the field of fire was excellent from there. Then we took a look at the basements.
A day or two later different services were organised there. There was a field hospital to the left from the entrance (no 19), and a canteen to the right ruled by SH (Soldier's Help) women. 'Scarlett' among them was exceptionally beautiful.
Further in the hall there were Headquarters rooms including 'Szare Szeregi' Company HQ (no 21), the corridor itself served as an air shelter for the Post Office crew.
After coming back to the Company I was assigned to be a 'room elder'. My duties were to maintain order when WO 'Trocki' was absent. And then, there was the first trouble. Boys will be boys, and in the first hours of the Uprising, some people, still half civilians followed their own tracks, unfortunately and there was looting.
There was a destroyed shoe shop not far away. Boys with shoe boxes started to come to the Post Office. Also some of the lads from our squad. There was an order from the Company HQ to collect stolen shoes and take them to the HQ. The boys would give away the boxes nicely, except one guy I didn't know. When I called him to give the shoes ((women's I guess) back he replied using a language far from royal, simply letting me know he wouldn't obey the order.
I got boiled: I produced a pistol and aiming at the guy I repeated the order. He grabbed a bayonet and took a defensive position... and what now? I recalled a saying that a gun once produced had to be used. But to shoot one of our own??? Fortunately exactly at this moment WO 'Trocki' came in and took over. The case got solved painlessly.
After my duty shift ended along with 'Wir' we went to penetrate the upper floors of the Post Office. There was nothing interesting there, except for an upright piano in one of the little rooms. Because both of us could play the instrument we broke the glass above the door and crawled in that way to treat ourselves with half an hour of a private little concert.
After we got back, the captured weapons were shared around. In addition to the Walther pistol I mentioned earlier I now had a Mauser 98 rifle in a perfect condition. Unfortunately - only for one day.
We got an order to inspect the barricades being built. Although the Post Office was taken the area was still reachable from Marszalkowska and Nowy Swiat streets. There was a barricade being built in Sienkiewicza St. (the spot where we had our paper one) and in Warecka St. (no 23). The main building material were concrete pavement blocks. Mainly civilians worked there. Many of them wanted to join the AK (Home Army).
I can vaguely remember the works were lead by a short man wearing a beret ('Krecony' - Stanislaw Dybowski). We also took a look at the lightly damaged tank (no 12). Later the tank was towed to the Post Office gates where a gunsmith repaired the canon action.
After the inspection I got an order to take a post at the barricade at 11 Warecka St. where I spent the rest of the day - the second day of the Uprising. The night I spent on the floor asleep (at last!) with my head on the rifle's butt. It had never been so soft and comfortable... maybe only the following night.
I woke up the following morning in a great shape and saw a beautiful thing - a blond pretty girl bending over me. She was one of the people living in the building who (west wing, 3rd floor over Eugeniusz Bodo's flat), who offered us a little breakfast. Great! So after we washed a bit we followed the girl. (Eugeniusz Bodo - famous Polish actor known mainly for his comedies).
After breakfast we took care of our uniforms - our new friend gave us officers' braids which we put on our uniforms. We proudly went to the street and at once met WO 'Trocki' who shouted:
- Who gave you a right to wear officers' insignia?? Take them off immediately!!
This way our dream of ...fame ended. My friend 'Wir' was not happy. He was very careful about his appearance. So after taking off those braids he started his own 'beautification' process. He was quite tall and skinny. He looked quite scraggy in his tall boots, baggy trousers, squeezed with the belt. He started with stuffing the boots with all sort of wooden sticks. Indeed, his ankles didn't look like stilts any more...
The fear of armoured vehicles did not decrease, especially amongst the civilians. They kept on asking us if tanks would come again. WO 'Trocki' decided to organise an observation post and picked a burned-out staircase (no24). He took the first watch himself. The view from there was excellent - one could see Nowy Swiat and part of Krakowskie Przedmiescie streets. He ordered me to stay half way up the staircase to maintain voice communication with the people in the street and the Post Office's backyard.
After some time there is panic downstairs:
I look through the window, can't see anything.
People start to run in hurry-scurry, 'Trocki' lost his nerve and said:
- 'Morski', deliver the message - good - people - there - is - not - a single - tank - down -- there!
I repeated the words one after another and we both went down on our four dying of unstoppable laughter.
At the end of my duty two fighter aircraft Me-109 came from the East. They had little bombs which they dropped on the Post Office, they used their machine guns too. I don't know if they knew the Polish soldiers replaced their civilian clothes with German uniforms (without insignias) but the only effect of the attack was the killing of several German POWs in the Post Office backyard.
In the early afternoon we all gathered in our place, where 'Trocki' read an order giving us the status of 'a commando unit', which was to be used for the heaviest fights. As a result, we stayed practically all the time in the reserve. Then we went to our base in Marszalkowska St. to pick up our rucksacks and personal belongings. The rest of the day was filled with drill. In the evening of 3.8.1944 I was made the commander of a barricade built across Nowy Swiat St. (no27). The mission - checking the identifications of people crossing the street. I got the password and the response. The night I had a great night sleep on the café 'Napoleonka's floor with a grenade instead of a pillow under my head...
The next day (4th Aug)I again spent on the barricade. A well-built soldier who was passing by caught my attention. He wore an AK band and had a big German shepherd with him. I love dogs so I started a conversation. His ID showed he was a communication officer or aide-de-camp for a Red Army officer accredited with the Home Army HQ. He told me, the officer (Cpt. Konstantin Kalugin) had a radio and was in constant touch with the Red Army troops approaching Warsaw.
Maybe a week later when some Russian troops were spotted at the East bank side of the city, I met the guy again and he told me, his Russian couldn't get in touch with his people. The contact was broken.
At the same time an order from the Home Army HQ was read in front of the company, that in case of Russians or so called 'Polish Army' entering the city we were not allowed to contact them or 'make friends'. The order didn't really meet our enthusiasm. We were rather surprised and didn't understand its intention at all.
We tried to fire at the German traffic in Krakowskie Przedmiescie from our barricade. They had built a low wall running across the street near St, Cross Church along with a communication ditch. At the church the wall was taller and on the other side of the street the ditch was shallower or was not there at all. You could see bent silhouettes of the feldgrau running to the right and at the end of the run they were exposed almost from their knees. We fired single shots with our rifles but I didn't see any hits except an occasional tripping. There was an unknown shooter who had a far better field of fire from a little tower of a corner house (no 28).
We took positions in the attic of a building over the café. There was a huge breach in the north side house wall. The main position was in the middle by the chimney, so it was hidden in the shade. But after a few shots the Germans must have noticed our muzzle flashes, and we got ourselves under fire of their machine guns. The first burst brushed the inner side of someone's thigh cutting through his trousers and painfully burning his groin.
That day (or next) in the afternoon after our duty finished at the Warecka St. barricade - alarm at the company. The Germans were attacking along Swietokrzyska St, from Nowy Swiat St!
We hurried to one of the houses along odd number side of Swietokrzyska St. We took positions in the windows on the 3rd and 4th floor (no29). The sight was surprising and disturbing...
From Nowy Swiat St. from Napoleona Sq. there was a large crowd moving slowly towards us.
They were... Polish civilians, mostly women and a lot of children... you could also see the silhouettes of the feldgrau in the crowd, mostly at the back, but also mixed with the people holding their weapons in front of them. I was generally a good shooter when it came to firing an air gun at glass bottles. But here you had to have a good eye and a steady hand... Not all of us had rifles then so not being one hundred per cent sure I gave mine to one of the guys. German shooting was mixed with shouts from the crowd:
- SHOOT!! Don't pay any attention to us!
So the firing started. There was a wave going through the crowd. People ran to the sides of the street emptying the middle. There were several silhouettes of the feldgrau left on the road. They did not move. The Germans fell back in a hurry.
After the war I met a girl in Gdansk who had been in that crowd. She told me not one of the Poles got hit or wounded then. Our boys fired accurately.
Unfortunately Germans also could fire accurately - especially when hidden. The Warsaw's nightmare were so called 'pigeon shooters' - snipers hidden in the attics and hunting soldiers or anybody carelessly walking around street crossings or any uncovered terrain.
We were standing there (3rd Aug) in the backyard of 11 Warecka St. (no 23) when we heard a sub-machine-gun burst, a woman's distant cry and a shower of empty cartridges falling down onto us. The 'pigeon shooter' had got himself located on the roof! Immediately we set a combat patrol and ran the staircase up to the attic! Nobody. Looking out at the roof - nobody. We start searching other attics of the houses lined up, they were connected with kind of walking breaches. We may feel a burst at any time now... our hearts are thumping... The rifle in front of me but, a rifle in a close encounter is useless! So I produce the pistol and hold it the way to have both weapons with my right hand and to support the rifle's barrel with my left one. Right hand at my hip, the finger on both triggers...
Nice walk - but no trace of the enemy. Apparently he was caught a few days later, if so - he is surely dead by now.
Along with using civilians as a cover and sniping at people, the Germans also had exploding bullets (event at night on 1st Aug). and dum-dum bullets. Fortunately I never experienced any of them but heard stories. One of them was almost funny - one of our boys on the post around Roz Ave. suddenly had to relieve himself late at night. Under the cover of darkness he crouched comfortably in an open area. As he was getting ready to do the paperwork, he felt a sharp tug in his hair and he sat back in the stuff he just had dropped. He was very scared and angry when he returned to his mates. They knew what was going on. He survived the incident unharmed except for missing a clump of his hair. The sniper's round had just missed taking his head off.
On that day when we looked for the sniper I felt sorry for myself - when leaving the barricade I had to give away my rifle to someone going on duty after me. Well... we didn't have rifles enough for everyone - but it was beautiful to have my very own rifle even for a while!
It happened just before a planned attack on the police station in Krakowskie Przedmiescie. Our squad was in reserve. The action started in the evening and we slowly followed the attacking group.
I can't really remember the fight. I can only remember on 28th Aug at 1-2 p.m. me and 'Wir' found ourselves at a book store near the St. Cross Church (no 30). Because we found a great amount of sheet music there, we started to 'secure' it. The church was well on fire then so we had enough light. We dragged a good half a sack of sheet music to our quarters.
I had trouble with 'Wir' who was a romantic and a musician at the same time; he stubbornly wanted to save Chopin's heart from the fire. We could only persuade him the heart had surely been secured from the Germans for a long time.
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.