12 May 1948, Warsaw. Member of the District Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, Halina Wereńko, interviewed the person named below as an unsworn witness. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false statements, the witness testified as follows.
|Name and surname||Piotr Paweł Dembiński|
|Date and place of birth||27 June 1888, Siemianowice Śląskie|
|Parents’ name||Wawrzyniec and Urszula, née Chwałków|
|State affiliation and nationality||Polish|
|Occupation||Clergyman in the metropolitan seminary|
|Place of residence||Krakowskie Przedmieście Street 52, Warsaw|
When the Uprising started, I was serving as a priest at the seminary in Warsaw at Krakowskie Przedmieście Street 52. On 8 August 1944 (I am not sure of that date) about 5,000 civilians from the area of Bednarska Street arrived on the seminary premises. A few days later the seminary was visited by a German officer (I don’t remember his name) who introduced himself as an aide to General Stahel and demanded that one of the older priests go with him to the general. As I had a good command of German, I agreed to go. I was taken to the Saski Palace where on the first floor, in the part of the building closer to the Brühl palace, General Stahel had his office. After introducing himself, the General remarked that he had once served as commander in Rome. He said that he was on good terms with people in the Vatican and that he hoped to work closely with the clergy in Warsaw in order to ease the plight of the civilian population. Our face-to-face conversation lasted about 15 minutes. The General was extremely polite. He told me that he had just spoken with archbishop Szlagowski, from whom he expected to obtain some declarations. He failed to explain what declarations he meant. Archbishop Szlagowski informed me later that the General expected him to persuade the insurgents to stop their action. However, the archbishop replied that before making any commitments he wanted to consult his advisors, by whom he meant Fathers Choremański and Kozubski. He couldn’t get in touch with the latter because of the Uprising.
Stahel informed me that he wanted the priests to persuade the civilian population to leave the city. At the same time he noted that he was going to use all the means at his disposal to crush Die Banditen. He tried to impress me with his knowledge of the insurgent positions, which, however, turned out to be very poor. Having received no pledges from me, he assured me he was prepared to come to our assistance should the need arise. As we talked, he referred to the “savage frenzy” (Blutrausch), as he called it, which German soldiers were often thrown into when fired at “out of the blue” and which, unsurprisingly, led them to do horrible things (Schreckliche Sachen). This “thank God”, he added, “has so far taken place only incidentally”. Stahel noted that he was also going to have such conversations with other priests. I declared that I held no public office and as such I was a nonentity.
Stahel didn’t call for me to make any pledges. He allowed me to contact him if German soldiers committed any acts of violence. When our conversation was over he gave orders to take me back to the seminary and to post guards before its entrance. Nobody was allowed to enter our property.
Some 10 days later I had a second conversation with Stahel (I don’t remember the exact date) when he unexpectedly came to our seminary, accompanied by his aide whom I already knew by sight. He behaved in a brutal manner, calling for half of our priests to leave the seminary along with the civilian population. To my complaints regarding the violence committed by German soldiers in the seminary, he reacted by asking: “Do you think that we are going to send our army against those bandits?”. He carried out a cursory inspection of the seminary and left. The violence stopped. His visit took place on the same day on which Krystyna Wilkowska went to intervene in the Saski Palace.
I didn’t hold any other conversations with German commanders. Throughout the Uprising I often talked to the division’s German chaplain, named Schultze. An honest man, he tried to intervene with Stahel and his deputy on our behalf about some less important matters. One day, in mid-August, as far as I can remember, I heard an SS officer, who, relying on the assistance of a number of other SS men, had selected people (up to a few hundred men and women) from among those gathered in our seminary on the pretext of taking them out of Warsaw, say that the women had been sent to the camp and the men between 18 and 40 had been eliminated. In response to a question asked by one of the interlocutors, he said that they were shot.
On 27 September 1944, a drunken Gestapo officer came to the seminary and ordered its immediate evacuation, under pain of being shot. An appeal to the Wehrmacht’s representatives was successful. The names of other German commanders who appeared on our property remain unknown to me. I only remember that in the first half of August a German officer burst into the seminary and threatened to “demolish it” if shots were still fired from the property (I know for certain that there was no shooting from inside the seminary). German guards (Wehrmacht) posted before the seminary told me that he was named Schmidt. Later, from one of the first days of September 1944 until my departure from the seminary, this Schmidt served as commander of the area that encompassed the premises of the seminary. I know this because he was the one who issued people different documents. His behavior towards us was proper.
I attach the pass issued by Schmidt on 23 September in connection with the evacuation of people from the seminary. I never used the pass, having left the seminary with other people.
From Rodig, who worked in the Baumungatabe in Pruszków, I learned that in December 1944 (when, with the consent of the Germans, we brought the seminary library out of Warsaw) Stahel was appointed by the Führer to command the defense of Bucharest, where he was flown on a plane that landed at the airport which had already been captured by the Soviets. Stahel was immediately hanged by the Russians. This conversation took place in December 1944. I don’t remember the date of his departure.
I attach the pass issued by W. Rodig on 1 December 1944, in connection with the evacuation of the library. I carried out the task with Father Jakubiec, Szwenk and others. We managed to hide the more precious works, and they weren’t removed from the seminary.
At this the report was concluded and read out.