First-hand accounts of the Warsaw Uprising
Memories of Janusz Hamerlinski - a soldier from "Kilinski" Battalion
I got a message that 'Szare Szeregi' Company remains occupying a post at 8 Widok Street.
I went there. Confirmed - the quarters are on the first floor of a building with flats, the northern side of the street. Opposite - a wall of windows of a house destroyed back in 1939.
I got new weapon there - a rifle with the barrel shortened by about 1/3. I didn't really trust its accuracy so I decided to test it.
I loaded the rifle and took the position. I was aiming at scarred rendering of the destroyed house opposite the street. I pulled the trigger. Crack of the shot. A long flame out of the barrel and a piece of the rendering coming off exactly at the point of aim... OK, the weapon is accurate, but why the flame? When the barrel is cut short the amount of cordite (estimated to get the bullet through) doesn't burn completely inside. So the rest of the cordite burns outside the barrel. So how am I going to fight at night? Not good...
I gave the rifle away as soon as I could find a reasonable excuse. Then I got a 'Pepesha' from a drop.
The gun came separately with the empty drum magazine and ammo (72 rounds I guess). It took a while to load it, but I was doing a better job than pulling a PIAT's spring.
They were last days of September. Peoples' moods were not at their best.
Czerniakow and Mokotow surrendered. Germans entered Powisle too. There was one stronghold left: the city centre. Germans pushed hard and now there were fights in Swietokrzyska Street.
Nowy Swiat Street is completely in German hands. To the best of my knowledge 'Smuga' is still fighting from the Café-Club on the corner of Nowy Swiat and Jerozolimskie Avenue.
We also expected to be send there. From witnesses reports and papers we knew quite a lot about the horrible results of being on the receiving end of what we called 'cows' - German multi barrel mortars (Nebelwerfer).
Germans would use normal shells and then incendiary ones. People within range would burn alive or at least suffer heavy burns. The piercing screech of the shells being fired was a common sound of fighting in Warsaw.
We were also depressed knowing it was our turn now; it was our last stronghold. We wouldn't make it through...
There was no false bravado, everyone feared the 'cows' and air assaults. We just can't survive...
Food also wasn't keeping our spirits up. Now we had only groats made of unleaned wheat seeds. In those days it was known as the famous 'spit soup'.
But we had to get these groats from somewhere. Greater amounts of wheat were stored around the streets of Sienna, Zlota and Zelazna. We would go to get some with bags every second day.
Once I took part in such a trip. Because I was still considered as 'wounded' and didn't have to carry anything, I went as the cover with my pepesha.
I can't really remember this trip at all. We went off in the evening, walked around German positions at the main Railway station and further in the Rail Mail building. There were no surprises. I can vaguely remember we didn't have to load the bags, there were bags prepared for us. We just left our empty bags there.
Then we surrendered.
The last order was read in front of the unit in the evening. It reported and summarised the results of the two month fights. They read the estimated losses of our own troops and civilians, It included losses in particular platoons. I can well remember when they said:
- platoons of 1st Polish Army (PAL) - 2
- platoons of Folk Army (AL) - 0.
Polish AL (troops ruled from Moscow) I knew from earlier time when I saw them visiting somebody around Grojec. They would wear white and red armbands with an image of a sickle and a sword and letters PAL.
But any information of the AL (also ruled from Moscow) I only had from our underground papers and I only knew they had a platoon around Krucza Street but didn't take part in combat.
The order was read on 2nd or 3rd October.
The Wehrmacht patrols started to enter the city centre sheepishly. We met one of these patrols in Widok Street. Smiling German soldiers waved at us and stopped for a chat. I can speak German.
Having a conversation they called us 'tapfere Kerle' (brave boys) and they suggested that now we will move out against Bolsheviks together.
A this very moment from a gate of a house we were staying at, some civilian appeared (the people of Warsaw had been evacuating for several days now) with a bottle of vodka in his hand. He looked at us gloomily and handled the bottle to the German soldiers! Well, we wouldn't drink with Germans and they also didn't suggest it as they were 'on duty'.
Another meeting was very different though.
With some courier girl (Samsonowska? 'Myszka'?) we got to the area between Widok and Chmielna streets. From a gate in Widok St. we got to some backyard.
There to our surprise we saw a German truck and a large group of SS-men in black uniforms. When they saw us they aimed their schmeissers at us immediately and one of them barked (in German):
- 'You bandits! What are you doing here? Away - or we will shoot you!' We cleared off in a hurry but we could see the Germans were busy with carrying many crates of good quality (coloured) vodka from the basement to the truck. My mates were not happy - such a treasure just on our doorstep and we didn't know about it!
We learned that our company was to maintain the order in streets of the city centre till the time of giving the weapons away and marching out of the city as POWs. The Battallion was to leave Warsaw as the last one.
We started patrolling the streets. There were no reasons to intervene. Quite often our armed patrols passed German armed patrols doing the same duty. No incidents though.
We also considered if there was any point in to giving ourselves up as POWs. But there was no other alternative. Any attempt to secretly get to the Vistula through Powisle and trying cross the river was unrealistic.
Because Germans signed the capitulation with the headquarters of AK only, its conditions applied only to AK troops, not AL (Folk Army). These soldiers could be just shot by the Germans or they could try to cross the river. But many of them, like many of the AK soldiers would dress as civilians and leave the city this way.
We got our pay then - the first and the last time - in US dollars. It was about $21 per head. We had to equip ourselves - clothes for a long journey and camp life. Along with Gasecki (?) - alias 'Zakrzewski' (son of those Gasecki Painkillers company people - he lived in Skorupki Street.) and another mate, we went to our homes. We took some underwear and warm clothes for the approaching winter and we said our goodbyes to our families. We ignored our possessions left in Warsaw knowing that Germans would keep their word which they had announced through the city speakers on 1st August that all the houses from where Germans were fired upon 'would be flattened to the ground'. So we gave the excess of our underwear and clothes to those who might have needed them.
Oh, and one more thing! The last order from AK HQs promoted all the soldiers one rank higher, and made WOs officers. We said goodbyes to our families in our 'updated' uniforms. After we had finished hunting for clothes we gathered in Gasecki's house. We had a drink of wine and then we had to do something with the remaining ammunition. No need to give it to the Germans so we shot the flowerpots!
I produced my Walther and shot a flowerpot from a distant of four metres - nothing! Second shot - the flowerpot intact! What the heck?! Surely I was not that bad! Third shot - nothing again: I was furious.
I was about to shoot again, when something made me hesitate. I lowered the gun and took a look at the end of the barrel. I saw a bullet stuck in the end of the barrel!!!
Wow, after the fourth shot it would have exploded and I would have lost my hand! Now the mystery of my poor shooting at the Post Office was solved. Simply old Polish ammunition - didn't have any power to push the bullets through the barrel!
I throw all the Polish bullets away (coloured of light copper) leaving the German ones (dark green). I lost the mood to demolish flowerpots. It was a hard job to unblock the barrel anyway.
I sold the Walther to an AL soldier for a piece of bacon - he may find it useful trying to cross the river.
We go back to our quarters. We go along Krucza to Jerozolimskie Avenue and here is a surprise. Both sides of the street manned by Wehrmacht soldiers. And Polish civilians amongst them. The Germans let everybody in but do not let anybody out. The only direction allowed is West.
And we have to go to Widok so what do to? We approach the German from behind and gently tap on in the shoulder. The soldier turn his head around and moves away in a hurry - we are holding submachine guns ready to shoot. We go along the street against the stream of people and go towards Bracka Street. There we turn left and with our guns in front of us walk toward the Germans. They step aside - and then we are in our own area! It was quite funny.
What else? Not much... One can only quote a very descriptive text written at least 10 years ago for the POW Martyrdom Museum at Lomianki - still not sent off:
'165 Platoon 2nd Company 'Kilinski' AK, after the capitulation of the Uprising maintained order in the city centre, taking quarters in Widok Street. Their term of duty lasted until 9th Oct. 1944, when the last troops left the city.
The platoon marched off from Widok to Marszalkowska Street where it joined a column of fighters going to surrender their weapons. The column went along Marszalkowska and Snadeckich Street to 6 Sierpnia next to the polytechnic institute (Polna Street exit) The platoon entered with a group of German soldiers. The Germans accompanied them to the backyard of the former Home Office building in Chalbinskiego Street. Here the platoon was to surrender its weapons.
The column marched under the white and red flag, some of the German soldiers would stand to attention when they saw it, but were quickly told off by others so they went back to 'at ease'.
At the Home Office's backyard the column stopped and the fighters would individually approach the Germans in charge, opened the chambers to demonstrate there was no ammo left in there, then they would throw their weapons on one of the stacks. Sometimes it happened the riffles would literally fall apart as the owners would have removed some of the parts (pins, springs, bolts) to make them useless. The Germans diddn't intervene when they saw it.
After grounding their weapons the fighters were escorted to Ozarow through Wolska Street where they were accommodated in some factory buildings. They were preliminary registered there. A couple days later in the afternoon we were taken to a railway site where we got in cargo wagons. The train moved off, its destination unknown.
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.