First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
Memories of Janusz Hamerlinski - a soldier from "Kilinski" Battalion
After the first fights it was quiet around Napoleona Sq. Therefore we could get busy with domestic duties. We had quite good quarters - a big bright room, where we dragged beds and sofas. The whole squad slept there including section leaders - no WO 'Trocki' though, he was assigned to the Company CO quarters.
We didn't have any complaints about the food either. We had black (chicory) coffee everyday, bread and marmalade. Various dinners, mainly pastas. The food was served in the canteen by women called 'Pezetki'. Very nice ladies. From time to time the canteen was a stage for various Warsaw artists, even singers. Unfortunately I can't recall any names.
Our hunger for information was satisfied with the London radio. We also got newspapers published by various organisations. Anyway we got bored with the radio very quickly, it was not nice to listen to the gloomy chorus: 'with the smoke of fires, with the dust of brothers' blood...'
Newspapers were much more interesting - it included plenty of the latest communiqués and news, particularly from different locations of combat on the barricades and German strongholds under siege. They also were illustrated with photographs. There were photographers everywhere; some uniformed, some not. They wandered around and shot interesting events or groups of soldiers. They could usually find eager models. I always avoided lenses and I regret it a bit now when I look at this kind of photo.
A soldier should be clean. Our uniforms were covered with a thick layer of dust from collapsed houses. The same about our faces and hands. I can't remember where we washed. But I can remember we were taken with towels to some bathhouse in Chmielna Street in August.
The spiritual side of life was present in taking part in field masses in the Post Office area (in the canteen). It was not obligatory - one who wished could take part also in the communion and confession. I saw bishop Stanislaw Adamski in Warecka Street once - he was wearing his full liturgical outfit and walking slowly with his entourage towards Napoleona Square, frequently stopping, talking to the people and blessing them.
The phone lines helped to stay in touch with our families - Germans switched them off quite soon, then the electricity went off too - and scout postal services.
Occasionally the guys would get some leave and visit their families - of course, only if the area was not cut off. I had a chance to do such a 'trip' to see Father in Smolna Street. In order to look like a true soldier I borrowed a Schmeisser from a mate of mine, a rifle from another one, two potato masher grenades and off I went. The rifle on my shoulder, the grenades behind my belt the Schmeisser in my hands. My own weaponry propaganda!
It is all right Dad, not much longer!
I took my route along Warecka Street towards Nowy Swiat, then first to the right along the tennis court (ice rink) I was at the back of Smolna.
At Father's I played a veteran, I asked about what's the news in Smolna. Then Father took me to some flat in the front of the street and suggested I take a cautious look off the balcony - and got stunned! There were German patrols, not crouched - upright, walking along the street - and I was alone!
It was interesting I had never seen any Polish patrols on the way there. The whole quarter was within no-man's land! I cautiously retreated from there.
In the 'barracks' we entertained ourselves with some... target shooting. If the ammo stock allowed it, we tested our pistols at the Post Office backyard. One day along with 'Szczerba' (Olgierd Michalowski) we started to shoot a target from a distance of 30 feet using our own pistols - 0.7 cal. My little Walther did an excellent job, good concentration, although not all the bullets were on target (drawn on a wall with a piece of chalk).
After the capitulation we learned old Polish ammunition was to be blamed - German ammunition was very good. 'Szczerba' had a very different pistol - very flat, strange one with several mysterious buttons on it. During the firing I stood on his right hand side. After firing several shots he lowered his hand with the pistol along his thigh and then... it fired a burst hitting concrete not far from my leg. We figured out it must have been caused by one of those buttons which had to be a switch to automatic, something we wouldn't expect from an ordinary pistol. It had previously belonged to a Gestapo officer.
The people with the most authentic combat dress were 'Smuga' (Olgierd Michalowski) and WO 'Rebajlo' (Stanislaw Troszok - 'Trocki's brother). They both wore German leopard-print tops (very rare in the city centre), submachine guns in their hands and steel helmets on their heads. You couldn't see them too often in our quarters, because 'Rebajlo' was Section Leader (2nd platoon of assault company) so he spent most of the time on his post in Krolewska Street. But 'Smuga' loved open spaces. He hated being in a building during a bombing raid and always volunteered for any action in the field.
Indeed bombing raids were a problem. At the beginning we were attacked by Messerschmitts with light bombs which did more noise than harm. But later Junkers Ju-87 Stuka bombers (Sturzzkampfflugzeug) started appearing. They would drop bombs very accurately from a low altitude or diving. And nobody could do anything about it. We could see such a circus many times over Krolewska from our spot in Warecka Street. Finally it was our turn.
The bombing raids usually found me in the reception room (no 17) where I was on duty as a sentry commander sitting in the farther room on a very comfy leather armchair at a big desk.
My job among other things was to interrogate the suspects brought in by the patrols, questioning them why they moved around without IDs. The conversations were often very hot but I can't remember any case where the guy was persecuted. We would let them go with a warning - 'one more time and you are in trouble'...
The bombing raids didn't bother us too much, we had trust in solid walls and ceilings. But for extra safety during a raid I would go to the doorway in the supporting wall holding my head exactly in the middle; a kind of extra ceiling.
I think it was on 10th Aug. about noon there was a bombing raid. No warning posts - too small distances. Every raid - especially low altitude one - was a surprise.
This raid took me and 'Szczerba' by surprise in the first guard-house room. We heard the roar of the engines and the wheeze of the first bombs. It was instinct to jump under the doorway leading to the main gate.
Suddenly a deafening bang; something goes down on our heads - and we were surrounded by darkness. Hair rising on our heads - we are buried! We are still standing holding each other. Dull thumping in our ears. But the darkness is like getting lighter. Yes! It is getting brighter.
It was only smoke and brick dust. Now we just have to get out... More feeling then seeing we run into the street, but because there is still the engine roar overhead we run to the basement of another house in Warecka Street. There we waited through the raid along with grumpy looking civilians. Then we go back to the guard house and get a surprise - all the doors are missing. The first room was buried under rubble but how about the room I was on duty in? You could see the desk and the armchair had moved one floor lower. - and got buried under steel and concrete plates from the ceiling. They didn't look so comfy any more... But where will His Majesty's Sentry Commander have his office?
So I go to see my Company CO (no 21), I guess WO 'Socha' and report I have left my post. To my surprise he and everybody in the room burst with laughter and they have tears in their eyes. What happened? I report the guard house is in ruins. But what happened to your helmet? The leather strap properly under my chin, the leather lining on my head but the helmet itself I gone!
This look of mine, far from being regulation, was probably the most memorable thing for the people in the HQ if it comes to any memories about 'Morski'. By the way I was relieved from my sentry duties afterwards. I guess the helmet had been torn off by the blast - what else?
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.