Corporal Władysław Szlifierz, 6th Tank Battalion.
In the autumn of 1939, a group of prisoners of war was transferred to the labor camp in Olesko. The conditions in the transport were cruel. The prisoners of war were transported in freight cars used for transporting cattle. We were locked so tightly that we could see nothing outside. We received almost no food or drinking water while in those cars. We traveled for three weeks in such conditions.
When we arrived in Olesko, different types of pressure were exerted on us. The former Olesko castle had been transformed into a prison camp. The camp was surrounded with barbed wire and numerous posts with armed guards.
The living conditions were getting worse every day. For example, we were given only 300 grams of bread and we were forced to work very hard. So-called work quotas were set – the amount of work that had to be done in one day. Those quotas were so high that an average physical worker was not able to meet them even in two days. We were becoming weaker and weaker, while the food rations were being reduced even more. Our health deteriorated with each day because the situation we were in really did not allow us to stay clean and healthy. It was impossible to maintain hygiene because bugs were simply eating us alive. Our underwear was so dirty that it turned black. It was impossible to find water anywhere, let alone soap or time, because there was simply none. Severely sick people had to go to work because otherwise they were locked in cells and given no food and water, or they were dragged to work and beaten with rifle butts – they simply tortured us. We slept naked on cold concrete because blankets and other military equipment had been taken away.
It’s really difficult to describe the situation we were in. We were locked in cells and threatened with deportation to Siberia. I will describe a specific case of abuse of defenseless POWs. In winter, when it was freezing cold, a prisoner who had become insane because of the abuse set about escaping. Dogs were set on him and shots were fired. When he was caught, they started torturing him. They took him along his escape route through barbed wire, beating and torturing him. When he came back, the sight of him made our blood run cold. He was freezing and cut all over. Then, they took off his clothes and locked him in a cell.
After the outbreak of the Russian-German war, we were driven from the labor camps, which were situated in occupied Poland, to the USSR – with no food or water. Those who were weak and lingered behind were tortured, beaten with rifle butts, and stabbed with bayonets. When someone asked for a sip of water, they would stick a bayonet in his mouth. When I was in the Zborów camp, I saw a scene that reflects the crimes committed by the NKVD against Poles. The scene was the following: on the floor in a basement, there were three Poles with their heads smashed with a truncheon. I know the surname of one of them: it was Daniek. Under the floor, I saw two dead Poles stripped of their clothes – one of them had his throat cut and the other had his side pierced and his legs tied. The room in which I found the above-mentioned Poles had been vandalized. As I found out later on, those people were so weak that they were not able to go any further – they hid, but the murderous hand of the NKVD had found them even there.