Warsaw, 30 April 1946. Investigative judge Halina Wereńko, delegated to the Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, interviewed the person named below as a witness. Having advised the witness of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the significance of the oath, the judge swore the witness. The witness testified as follows
|Name and surname||Antoni Bida|
|Names of parents||Jan and Anna née Patera|
|Date of birth||8 April 1897 in Kolonia Ostrów, Krasnystaw county|
|Occupation||department director in the Ministry of Propaganda and Information|
|Education||Faculty of Law, University of Warsaw|
|Place of residence||Warsaw, Belgijska Street 5, flat 13|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
During the German occupation I held the post of head of the press office at the Polish municipal board in Warsaw. In connection with my post, I with all due responsibility edited the official gazette of the Polish municipal board, Mitteilungsblatt der Stadt Warschau (Journal of Regulations for the City of Warsaw). This journal contained all the regulations of the Polish municipal board, regulations of the Stadthauptmann, that is of the city captain, Leist, the head of the police for the city of Warsaw, some regulations issued by Governor Fischer and some decrees of German ad hoc courts issued on the order of the head of the police for the Warsaw district.
The journal was published in two languages – German and Polish – throughout the period of the occupation, right up to the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Around fifty issues were published a year. All printed matter intended for publication had to be approved by the Stadthauptmann. During the initial period of the occupation, up to 1942, he gave this approval personally, later it was given via one of the departments.
My work during the German occupation was a continuation of my work in the same capacity before the war. The entire municipal board, together with all of its departments, was maintained by the occupation authorities after the takeover of Warsaw by German troops and authorities, and it continued its work in agreement with the emigration government. Upon the capture of Warsaw by German troops, the Polish municipal authorities, under the terms of the surrender agreement, undertook to immediately make all municipal government bodies operative. Occupational power was exercised by the Wehrmacht, and Dr. Otto was appointed by the German government as the Reich Commissar for the City of Warsaw. This happened at the end of September 1939. The Commissar had his offices in the Blank Palace [Pałac Blanka] and his relations with the superiors of the municipal bodies – President Starzyński and Vice-Presidents Kulski and Pohoski – were relatively workable. Having held the office for a short while, Dr. Otto was called back to Berlin and replaced by Dengel, a member of the Nazi party.
Things got worse. At the end of October 1939, Berlin replaced the military administration with a civil occupational administration in the territory of the General Government, set up for this very purpose and headed by Frank, a Reich minister, in the capacity of governor general with his seat in Krakow. Warsaw became one of four districts (in addition to Krakow, Lublin and Radom districts), headed by Fischer, who established his offices in the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A few days after this nomination (in the absence of Dr. Otto), President Starzyński was arrested upon the order of the Gestapo authorities, and soon thereafter Vice-President Jan Pohoski was arrested, too. His body has now been identified in the graves at Palmiry. An investigation into President Starzyński’s case, carried out by a Gestapo official on the morrow of the arrest, aimed to find his radio speeches and press announcements from the period of the siege of Warsaw, evidence of funds allocated on the day of the surrender, and court judgments signed by President Starzyński as commissioner of civil defense against persons who had committed treason against the Republic of Poland. The Germans were trying to establish what had happened to a missing German intelligence agent, who had been uncovered and executed in Warsaw before the surrender. I don’t remember the name of the agent. Starzyński, Pohoski, and other representatives of political and academic life who had cooperated with the defense leadership during the siege of Warsaw were undoubtedly already arrested upon the instruction of the members of the civil administration by then in office, that is Fischer and the head of the Gestapo (I don’t remember his name).
Already under the military administration there were plans to make Warsaw a separate administrative district, parallel to the General Government. Dengel was to become the head of this district, and Leist the head of the police in the latter’s office. The dispute between Dengel and Fischer ended in Fischer’s favor. Dengel was sent back to the Reich, and the city of Warschau became a municipality subordinated to Fischer, while SA Brigadeführer Ludwik Leist, the former head of the police and reorganizer of the Polish blue police [Polish Police of the General Government], became the head of the municipality with the title of Stadthauptmann.
Leist was Fischer’s man and had his full confidence, he took part in consultations with Frank, and was perceived as a significant person in the Nazi hierarchy, decorated with the highest party order, the so-called Blutorden (blood order). There were rumors of his rough manners and that during the First World War he had been an ordinary non-commissioned officer and a low ranking official of the criminal police during Hitler’s coup. He remained in the post of Stadthauptmann until the end of the German occupation. The order police and criminal police departments, as well as Polish blue police departments were a part of his office and reported directly to him. At the same time, he had a strong position in the political police, and all arrests of members of the Polish government of Warsaw took place with his knowledge and approval. In 1940, the director of the City Tramway Company [Tramwaje Miejskie], Niepokojczycki, was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where he died. Subsequent years brought constant arrests of local government officials as well as members of the former trade unions of public service workers, in the tramway company, water works, gas works, power plants and so on. Leist, having no trust in the loyalty of the Polish directors of public service facilities, removed the latter from under the competence of the city mayor, placing them under his own direct administration. This administration was headed by Dürrfeld, who had been appointed by Leist. He was Leist’s trusted man. In 1940, Leist ordered the construction of high walls around the city’s northern district, inhabited mainly by Jews, but also – as was the case in the Old Town, on Sienna, Zielna, Złota, Żelazna, Chłodna, Ogrodowa and Leszno streets – by Poles. The secret of those high walls, constructed upon Leist’s order by the technical department of the Polish municipal board, was known neither to us, the officials on the board, nor to people at large. It first became clear in the autumn of 1940, when orders were given for all Poles to leave the district within a few days and for the Jewish population expelled from other parts of Warsaw to be concentrated there. At that moment, the Polish municipal board ceased to be the administrator of the walled-in ghetto. This also took place with the knowledge and approval of the Stadthauptmann, particularly in terms of the date of the expulsion, the area of the ghetto, what was to happen with work establishments and so on.
The general rule for creating ghettos was of course imposed by Krakow. The ghetto became a separate administrative district, excluded after some time from under Leist’s competence and placed under a special official appointed by Fischer (I don’t remember the name). Upon Fischer’s order, a Jewish order police was created in the ghetto, under the command of the German order police subordinated to the Stadthauptmann.
As the occupation continued, German terror in Warsaw escalated, hundreds of men and often women were arrested in the streets, in trams, and in flats, many of them public service workers. Thanks to the direct intervention with Leist on the part of the Polish mayor of Warsaw, it was sometimes possible to get some of those arrested out. Yet in many cases these interventions were ineffective. Leist had the power set free detainees and arrestees, and if he wanted someone released, released they were.
Over time, the German administration perfected the means of terror at its disposal, introducing, for instance, a system of financial contributions. As far as I remember, Leist had Warsaw pay two or three such war contributions that were imposed on the entire population. Most of Leist’s regulations were published in the Mitteilungsblatt. There were so many of them that one needs to go through all the annals of both the Polish journal of announcements, as well as the Amtsblatt, published, in German only, by theStadthauptmann ’s office. The complete annals are most probably in the possession of the municipal board, preserved in various municipal offices with their seats in Praga. My collections of documents were burned in my flat and in the city hall.
Starting in the autumn of 1943, Warsaw became the scene of daily round-ups and mass executions. The city was plastered with big red posters announcing the death sentences and executions performed, sometimes with hundreds of names. These announcements were signed by the Warsaw governor Fischer, and later by the head of the Gestapo, Colonel Moder. Collections of the posters was created; it is uncertain whether they survived, however one can find evidence of those bestial German crimes committed in Warsaw on old advertising columns under layers of new announcements. The other journal of official German announcements, apart from the Stadthauptmann’s Amtsblatt, was the Amtsblatt of the head of the Warsaw district, Governor Fischer.
The report was read out.