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Julian Eugeniusz Kulski. Dying, We Live. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979.
Saturday, August 5
Two detachments of our platoon were called to the still unfinished barricade at Slowacki Street today, to defend it against the attacking German infantry. We repelled three enemy attacks with our hand grenades and with our machine guns, Sten guns, and rifles. In this action, eighteen were killed on, the German side while we had only two wounded.
While we were engaged in this counterattack, the 229th Platoon was fighting against troops supported by a tank, attacking from the river toward Wilson Square. The 230th Platoon fought with an enemy patrol on Krasinski Street. This day brought us complete victory, as the German attacks were repelled everywhere.
We are not far from Felinski Street, and this evening Aunt Stacha (informed by Marysia that I was here) came to our quarters, dust-covered and tired but bringing some wine and food from home. Aunt Stacha tells me that my father is now in the Old City of Warsaw, with the General Staff of the Home Army, and that this part of the city is presently under the heaviest fire.
The Germans are attacking the Old City with airplanes, tanks, infantry, and all available artillery. From Zoliborz one can see quite plainly the dreadful pall of smoke hanging over the Old City, and hear the unceasing explosions of bombs and artillery shells. Every hour enemy Stukas fly over Zoliborz from the Bielany airfield, dropping bombs on the city before returning for a new assault. It is outright slaughter; we do not have one antiaircraft gun in the entire city.
According to the news circulating in Zoliborz, the enemy is now fighting to open an artery from the western part of Warsaw through the Center City held by the Home Army, all the way across the river to the eastern suburb of Praga. The reason is obvious. The German Army fighting the Red Army across the river has lost its vital line of supply, which we have cut. Unless they can restore contact, they will not be able to hold out against the Soviet troops much longer. Therefore, they are throwing their main forces against the Home Army units blocking their way. We hear that a brigade of Ukrainians*, organized by the Germans from Soviet war prisoners with promises of plunder, food, and vodka, is fighting with the Germans.
The westernmost suburb of Wola evidently has received the brunt of the first attack, and it is reported that the Germans and Ukrainians are giving no quarter to anyone in their way. They are taking no prisoners, and are killing men, women, and children on sight. According to eyewitnesses who have reached Zoliborz, the entire staff (as well as the sick and wounded) at the Hospital of Saint Lazar on Leszno Street has been massacred. Babies were swung by the legs and their heads split on the corners of buildings; women were raped before being shot; and hundreds of civilians were herded by the Germans in front of tanks attacking the barricades. Polish fighters cannot open fire on these innocent civilian shields, and some of the enemy's successes have been due to this tactic.
Were it not for what has happened during the last few years, and what happened to the Ghetto little more than a year ago, nobody would have believed the Germans capable of such barbarism.
Saturday, August 5, Night
By nightfall, 'Zywiciel' gave our company the job of holding the northernmost area of Zoliborz, the most exposed of our defenses. The 229th and 230th Platoons have been assigned to protect our northeastern flank, and are to provide our platoon with reinforcements as needed. They are located off Slowacki Street.
Our platoon has been chosen to take over and hold the Fire Brigade Building, my old fire-fighting headquarters, at the junction of Potocki and Slowacki Streets. It is a most dangerous location, as it has put us forward of our own lines, and means that we are surrounded by the enemy's positions. But the Germans will not expect us to be in the building, for they are not likely to believe that we would try to occupy an area so near their strongholds. We had to make our way here under machine-gun and mortar fire from the old Chemical Warfare School, which the enemy holds. We crawled all the way under cover of the very dark night. When we reached the building, I was able to explain its layout to my comrades. After setting up observation posts at several windows and taking all possible precautions, we went to sleep in the dormitories previously used by the firemen.
Sunday, August 6, Morning
We were all careful not to appear at the windows, even during the night. The morning passed very peacefully, and it was not until about eleven that our observer informed us that the enemy was advancing from the direction of Bielany.
We soon took our positions behind the windows, and just when we had finished placing our platoon's three light machine guns we saw a German truck racing down Slowacki Street. When the unsuspecting truck was about 225 meters from our building, we fired. Unfortunately, our shots went wild and the Germans quickly turned their truck around and escaped at full speed. We were furious with ourselves because we had disclosed our positions.
During the night, 'Szajer' had sent one of our detachments to the Health Center across Slowacki Street. This building was of strategic importance to us, for if the Germans tried to attack us, they would be caught in a crossfire from us and the detachment on duty at the Health Center.
Sunday, August 6, Afternoon
At about noon, a fast-firing field gun arrived from the direction of Bielany and, after being placed about 350 meters from our building, it opened fire. The crew's task was clearly to ascertain whether the building was still occupied. After half an hour's firing, the Germans withdrew the gun, evidently deciding we were not in the building since they had not drawn our fire.
A few minutes later, however, our building received another burst of shells. This time the enemy used their heavy artillery, and the bombardment was heavy and long. Our lieutenant gave an order for us to remain at our positions, although our people were being wounded right and left by enemy shells.
One of the shells exploded on a corridor wall just over 'Szajer's' head, knocking him down and covering him with bricks. I saw the explosion from the other end of the corridor and thought him dead. But after a few minutes he got up from under the rubble and staggered over to us. His escape was miraculous; except for a few bad bruises, he was not even injured.
In the meantime, one of the observation posts had reported an enemy skirmishing party advancing toward our positions. It was now around 2:00 P.M. The Germans, who had noticed that we had remained silent all through the day, began to advance more boldly and we could soon hear their officers shouting commands.
We learned that they wanted to attack the barricade situated some 275 meters behind our positions. We saw about 350 Germans preparing for the attack. Our platoon consisted of only about 40 men, but we were determined to fight to the end when the time came.
The Germans approached our building and, after passing it, started the attack on the barricade. They soon realized that they had their hands full, and, since they were under continuous fire from the neighboring blocks of houses, they started to move slowly backwards. Only a few of them remained, firing at the barricade with their machine guns.
Then came the long-awaited order to fire. We put the muzzles of our rifles, Sten guns, and machine guns forward through the windows, and poured a murderous fire down on the Germans, who were taken completely by surprise. In addition to this, the detachment on duty at the Health Center lost no time in firing on the enemy from the other side and launching an attack. One after another, the Germans were struck down by our bullets.
Positioned immediately under the window from which I was firing was an SS police machine-gun squad. At the first burst from Cadet-Officer 'Zawada's' Sten gun a machine-gunner was shot down. Although he was badly wounded, he tried to retreat, spitting blood and leaving a deadly red trail on the pavement. A rifle shot finished him off. He fell spread-eagled in the gutter. A few meters from him another policeman was lying with his stomach torn open by bullets. We did not spare ammunition when shooting at SS policemen – the men who had been responsible for the slaughter in the Ghetto, for the executions, the street hunts, and the wanton murders.
The retreating enemy stopped just beyond our field of fire and brought their fast-firing gun and heavy machine gun to bear on our positions. It seemed they were attempting to prevent us from picking up weapons from their fallen comrades. However, our troops were poorly armed, and some were without arms at all, so we were much too tempted by weapons lying in the middle of the boulevard to be stopped.
Some of us crawled into the middle of the street between bursting shells to collect the arms. 'Longinus' had spotted a large machine pistol next to an SS policeman. He managed to get it, and under heavy machine-gun fire returned to our building. After being pinned down by machine-gun fire in the middle of SIowacki Street, I returned, scratched but unharmed – crawling all the way – with an automatic rifle in my hand. But the enemy's gunfire had left my uniform in shreds.
During the fight, we captured twenty rifles, two machine pistols, and one machine gun. Three SS policemen were taken prisoner.
The bodies of four of the enemy were lying in the middle of the square in front of our building, and one of them lay very near their own positions. Under cover of night, but still within range of bullets from enemy machine guns, we pulled the blood-smeared corpses away with ropes in order to take the arms and ammunition from them.
My shoes were falling apart after the long march to and from the Great Kampinoska Forest. I took a pair of boots from one of the bodies and, as they fitted, I put them on.
In addition to all the losses suffered by our platoon in battle, during the arms – cleaning hour 'Wilk' was accidentally wounded in the leg by one of our own soldiers. This unfortunate accident has not only caused 'Wilk' a great deal of pain but has also put him out of action.