A report from a hearing pursuant to Article 20 of the provisions introducing the Code of Criminal Procedure. On 11 December 1945, the Prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court in Kraków, with its seat at Grodzka Street 52, in the person of Deputy Prosecutor Jan Jasiński, interviewed the person specified below as a witness. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the wording of Article 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the witness testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Irena Woźniakowska|
|Date and place of birth||20 December 1895, Płock|
|Parents’ names||Stanisław Sarna and Anna Majerczak|
|Place of residence||Kraków, Basztowa Street 4, flat 4|
|Occupation||attorney’s widow, office worker at a Voivodeship Council|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
|Relationship to the parties||none|
My husband was an attorney, and he defended the Poles before the German courts during occupation many times. In June 1941, the Gestapo searched our house when my husband, the late Józef Woźniakowski, was defending someone in a German court. They were looking for a radio and weapons. When they were leaving our house after a two and a half hour long search, they ran into my husband, who was coming home from the court. They wanted to take him away, but after I pleaded, they agreed that he could come to the Gestapo headquarters the following day and give a statement. On the next day, my husband was released after an interrogation that lasted several hours. He told me that the Gestapo officers showed him an anonymous statement signed by one "Bujański" saying that my husband, his brother Dr. Jan Woźniakowski – an attorney, and Dr. Marian Cichocki were conspirators and that they possessed a radio and weapons. My husband demonstrated the absurdity of this accusation. The Gestapo officers later interrogated me and came to my house on several occasions, due to the information that I was not of Aryan descent. However, my husband managed to defend me. On Saint John’s Eve, 23 June 1941, we were being driven in a cab with my husband’s brother, attorney Jan Woźniakowski, to his house with packages – name day gifts. We noticed a person standing in front of our house. At around 2.30 a.m. that night, two drunk Gestapo officers came and took my husband away without telling us why. Later, I saw my husband only once, through a barred window at the Montelupich prison. On 24 July 1941, my husband was transported to Auschwitz. About two weeks prior to that, he had an incident in a German court with a lawyer, Dr. Spohn, who became an RD [Reichsdeutscher]. This lawyer did not speak German and made a fool of himself as a new VD [Volksdeutscher]. I was told (by a Ukrainian man Semakowski, among others) that after this incident, while being drunk in some joint, Dr. Spohn and his trainee Dr. Bernecki allegedly stated that they were going to destroy my husband. I tried to learn from various people how to help my husband. One Geschäftsberater [business consultant] Wilhelm Krause, a Gestapo officer whose name I do not remember, and a female Gestapo office worker whose name I also don’t remember, told me that an exceptionally nasty report was written to denounce my husband and that I featured in it as well. The denunciation was signed by Dr. Spohn and Dr. Bernecki. I was warned that nothing could be done, and it would be better for me to run.
According to the account provided by Adam Kuryłowicz and Józef Cyrankiewicz, residing in Warsaw, Śnieżna Street 4 (CKW PPS – Central Executive Committee of the Polish Socialist Party), and a technician Zygmunt Kubaty, residing in Kraków (I don’t know the exact address), my husband was beaten there and his hand was broken. I present the description of his death in the excerpt entitled "Auschwitz".
Nazi perpetrators destroyed people at the Auschwitz death camp not only through providing terrible conditions and food and killing our brothers when they were breaking their backs at hard work, but mostly through mass executions of the Poles accused of membership in clandestine Polish organizations or distribution of Polish newspapers.
In 1940, every day after the morning roll call, identification numbers of the prisoners condemned to death by firing squad were being called out in the blocks. There were a dozen or so of them, several dozen, or even several hundred – like on 11 November, a national holiday. Standing next to each other in line, prisoners said farewell to each other with the last embrace or a kiss, saying, "Today it’s you, tomorrow it’ll be me. See to it that those colleagues who survive avenge our deaths". This is how we said farewell to our colleagues Gaudasiński and Dubois. When Gaudasiński was stepping forward from the line, he called out his 18-year-old son who was also detained in the camp and said to him, "Remember, son: I die for Poland – you will bear these ideals that I tried to instill in you every day. You are my successor in the further fight for Poland’s freedom. Love Her as you love your mother".
This is how the greatest sons of Poland went to their deaths in block 11.
An hour later, a firing squad marched through the streets of the camp with officers in the front, followed by the camp authorities and an SS doctor.
And then – the first salvos from rifles told the prisoners that in block 11, the "death block", the first five of our brothers were being killed. They were stripped naked and had numbers written on their chests in pencil. Their hands were twisted behind their backs, put in handcuffs, or bound with a wire.
Nazi perpetrators feared the defenseless prisoners who proudly marched one by one to the place of their execution, looking at the Nazi hitmen with contempt.
When the man who was in command of the firing squad gave the order to shoot, the prisoners cried out, "Poland has not yet perished!".
This is how thousands of the greatest sons of Poland fell, soaking the Polish soil with their blood. The prisoners assigned to work during executions had to carry their bodies to a place where the corpses were arranged into a pile, so that the next five prisoners could be called out to the execution spot. And so prisoners marched in fives to face the salvos from rifles in order to satisfy the bloodthirsty Nazi thugs. If a prisoner showed some signs of life – a bullet from a revolver belonging to someone from the camp authorities’ entourage aimed at the heart terminated the last breath of the prisoner.
In 1942, the camp authorities ceased shooting prisoners by means of the SS execution units.
Mass shootings of the prisoners still occurred, but the firing squad was replaced by one man named Palitzsch – a beast who held the rank of Oberscharführer. He killed several dozen or even several hundred prisoners every day by firing shots from an automatic rifle at the back of their heads. After such a murderous act, this beast named Palitzsch would walk through the camp with the automatic rifle on his shoulder, spreading terror among the prisoners. He has on his conscience thousands of victims murdered in such a manner. The following day, the corpses were driven by prisoners harnessed to carts to the crematorium, covering the streets of the camp with the blood of the victims.
You may ask whether these executed prisoners faced trials before the Nazi courts. Were they tried? Were they allowed to defend themselves from the death sentence? Were they allowed to have a court-appointed defender?
I answer all of these questions: "They were never tried, nor were they allowed to defend themselves or have a defender assigned to them".
This cruel, barbaric lawlessness fueled by the racial hatred towards the Poles caused the deaths of individuals, deaths of thousands of prisoners. A famous, eminent attorney from Kraków, my good friend, Józef Woźniakowski, was arrested in 1942 in Kraków. While he was detained in the Montelupich prison and later at the Auschwitz camp, he was never interrogated by anyone. He told me that he was never even informed about the reason behind his arrest. On 11 October 1943, he was killed in the same manner as 87 other representatives of the Polish intelligentsia and working class.
According to eyewitnesses, after being marched out of the underground bunker in block 11, he was moved to the side of the corridor by the man who was the head of the camp at the time. Other prisoners were being shot at that moment. Their colleagues thought that Woźniakowski was going to be spared.
Several months later, Oberscharführer named Bogen, a notorious despot, entered block 11 and walked through the corridor. He saw Józef Woźniakowski standing in the corridor, halted next to him, smiled ominously and ordered Woźniakowski with a gesture to march to the execution spot.
That is what happened. A reputable, eminent attorney died – a man who could have rendered great service to Poland.
Many others died. Why, you ask? Because they were Polish.
And Nazi thugs didn’t have the courage to note in the personal files that these prisoners had been shot. They ordered other prisoners – the victims’ colleagues, to falsify the death notifications, so that they stated that the prisoners died from natural causes after a disease and hospital treatment.
The so-called Totenmeldung [death notice] of Józef Woźniakowski, who had been shot, stated that he "died from a heart disease in hospital block 28". I read this document myself.
The families of the prisoners who had been shot weren’t even informed about their deaths. They hope that a father, brother or son transported to the west of Germany is alive and may soon come back.
"One who goes forward must arrive where he set out to be even if a hundred fears were to bar his way at the crossroads".