Warsaw, 4 May 1946. The investigating judge Halina Wereńko, delegated to the Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, heard as a witness the person specified below. Having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the importance of the oath the witness was sworn and testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Julia Bielecka|
|Parents’ names||Julian and Łucja née Newelska|
|Date of birth||23 January 1900, Dołkowce, Mohylów district|
|Occupation||school doctor in a pedagogical high school|
|Place of residence||Pruszków, POW Street 12, flat 4|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
On whose decree the Pruszków transit camp was set up, I do not know. At first the camp had been run by the Arbeitsamt [Labor Office], that is, by the head of the office, Polland, and the German Gendarmerie. On 12 August 1944, the German troops seized control of the camp. Colonel Sieber became the camp commander. He was issuing standing orders and controlling supplies, but the SS and the Gestapo from the so-called “green carriage” had superior authority. There were several subsequent commanders in the “green carriage.” I remember one who held this post at the beginning – until the middle of September – his name was Diehl. He had a hat with a black band and a skull and crossbones. I don’t remember the names of other SS men and Gestapo men. Such details could be provided by a doctor’s wife, Sowińska (domiciled in Łódź, Kościuszki Street 52), who was working in the Pruszków camp as a paramedic along with the Samaritan nuns, as she spoke German and was thus in contact with the Germans. Apart from the army and the SS, the Arbeitsamt was also important – during the segregation of people and the organization of transports to Germany. Inspector Kretschmer (I don’t remember his first name), who held his post until November 1944, was especially ruthless and cruel in handling these matters.
The aid of the Polish people for the deported Warsawians was, as far as I know, not organized but spontaneous. Access to the camp premises in the form of a pass could be obtained from Polland, and later from the Wehrmacht authorities. The Central Welfare Council had access to the camp as an organization, and doctors and paramedics were volunteering and acting in their own right. On 8 August 1944, that is, on the third day of the camp’s existence, I entered the camp with the Red Cross group, without a pass. During the first days the doctors were mainly issuing health certificates, on the basis of which the Germans were releasing the sick from the camp. In this way we could save Polish teenagers from deportation to Germany for forced labor. Apart from myself, other doctors were also entering the camp individually: Dr Ryniewicz, Dr Kaczanowski, Dr Wolframówna, Dr Żygielewiczowa, Dr Szupryczyński, Dr Łabędzki, and others. I would like to emphasize that at that time the Red Cross was not functioning legally and was not an officially recognized organization, and yet all doctors and some paramedics with Red Cross bands on their arms could move freely around the camp. On 14 August, I don’t know on whose order, Dr König from the Wehrmacht (I don’t know his first name) was appointed chief physician of the camp, and Dr Klener, Dr Verner, and a few others whose names I don’t know – but also from the Wehrmacht – were appointed camp physicians. From 14 August, release from deportation to the Reich, in other words an admission order to the local hospitals or an order to leave for the General Government, depended on German physicians, who were receiving tips concerning releases from the Gestapo. The list of the sick whom the Polish doctors wanted to have released had to be approved by a German doctor responsible for the given shack. After approval, the list had to be approved once more in the “green carriage,” I don’t know whether by the Gestapo or the SS. I have to add that the German doctors were in opposition to the “green carriage” and were liable to approve our decisions concerning releases. The lists of the released and individual releases were taken by the Germans and as far as I know they are missing. On average, some 200 people, the majority of whom were women, were released from the camp daily. Sometimes Dr König would reject someone recommended for release by the Polish doctors. Sometimes the “green carriage” would reject the entire list without even seeing the sick, or would cross out a number of names.
Apart from supervising the camp commander and the camp physicians, the “green carriage” was making decisions as to where a transport was to be sent. In the second half of August 1944, a Pole, Maria Krzyżewska (currently domiciled in Boernerowo at Telefoniczna Street), who was directed to work in the “green carriage,” overheard a conversation of SS men after some transports of men had been sent to the Reich in sealed carriages, without food or water. Those Germans were wondering how many men would reach their destination alive. At the time when the transports from Starówka [Old Town] began to arrive, there were rumors, impossible to verify, that many people had been arrested for political reasons and executed on the camp premises. After the surrender of Śródmieście, allegedly some members of the Korpus Bezpieczeństwa [Security Corps] were arrested and executed.
In the first days of August, beginning on 6 August, the transports were from Wola and Ochota; around 15 August they were from various places; around 15 August the transports were from Starówka, then Powiśle (I don’t remember the date). I don’t remember who came next in order.
The evacuated Warsawians, who arrived in the camp either on foot or by train, were placed in nine production halls on the premises of the former railway workshops. At first the transports were being directed to block no. 5, where segregation was taking place. At first the segregation was being carried out with the help of the Gendarmerie at the entrance to the camp, by the Arbeitsamt ’s inspector Kretschmer, who was especially brutal. It was generally known that Kretschmer used to beat and kick people and separate families and did not allow for the distribution of belongings or a few words before separation.
In the second half of August, when the Pruszków camp became known also in Europe, they began to carry out the segregation in a more humane way: people had a few minutes to distribute their belongings. Those who were to be deported to the Reich (usually men and young women) were being directed to the 6th shack; those who were to be sent to the General Government (usually old people, women with children or pregnant women) were being directed to the 1st shack; in the 2nd shack there was a German medical board. Polish doctors, assigned to particular shacks, were making lists of the sick and sending them to the 2nd shack, where Köenig would either approve them or want to see the sick. In the 3rd shack there were railwaymen and tram drivers who could go the Reich voluntarily with their families, but there were not many volunteers and the majority tried to obtain a sick leave. Despite the offer to go “voluntarily” to Germany, Kretschmer was often going there to tell all present to join the transport to the Reich, without regard for the fact that there might have been ill people among them. The 4th shack had no specific use, people from it were being transported both to the General Government and the Reich. Men and women were being placed there. At the time of the surrender of subsequent districts of Warsaw (Żoliborz, Mokotów etc.), the 7th shack was for the healthy prisoners, and the 8th for the injured. In the 9th shack there was a kitchen and a store.
The sanitary conditions were very poor in all the shacks: there were no toilets at first, only on 15 August did they begin to build makeshift latrines. In some shacks, such as the third one, there was a lack of running water. By the end of the camp’s existence, water was piped to all locations. It was, however, undrinkable; it had been previously used in the factory. There was nothing to sit or lie on. The Warsawians were sitting on the ground or on the wooden boards and on their own luggage. The never-cleaned floors were littered with rubbish, there was a plague of lice. At the time when the injured were being placed in the 8th shack, some pallets were brought there. On about 25 August, the Germans made an observation shack, 2B, in order to control the diagnoses of Polish doctors. They made bunk pallets there. Dr Anikiejew, a Soviet prisoner of war, was appointed chief physician there, but he was cooperating with us.
The most widespread diseases in the camp were the gastric diseases: dysentery and acute diarrhea. I cannot provide any statistics. The epidemic was not very strong, but we used to pretend there were more cases in order to help Polish people to regain freedom. Again, I cannot provide the list of deaths. All the deceased were being buried in the Pruszków and Żbików cemeteries. The funerals were being handled by the Central Welfare Council and the Pallottine priests. Priests Sikora and Bartkowiak were present from the beginning of the camp as chaplains. How it got approved, I do not know. Father Bartkowiak of the Pallottine order lives now in Cracow with the Franciscan brothers, I don’t know the exact address. Apart from these, father Jaworski of the Basilian order had stayed in the camp for a long period of time. Currently he often visits the Samaritan sisters in Pruszków at Szkolna Street 15.
The Germans did not keep count of the people evacuated from Warsaw. I cannot tell how many people went through the Pruszków camp. The transports from Warsaw were irregular, sometimes they were coming very often, several thousand people a day.
At the beginning of August 1944, all transports to Germany were to the concentration camps. I know for sure [they went] to Auschwitz and Ravensbrück. Whether Warsawians were being sent to other places, I don’t know. Transports to the Reich were being put in freight carriages, which, during the first phase of the camp’s existence, were being sealed. After 15 August they were no longer being sealed and were only sent under guard. Transports to various parts of the General Government were being put in open freight carriages.
People were being put in the carriages tightly with one another, packed like sardines.
The camp was closed on 16 January 1945. Until 1 November 1944, it was a transit camp for the evacuated Warsawians, then a concentration camp for the people caught in round-ups. The Pruszków camp served also as a warehouse for looted things from Warsaw which were being reloaded and taken to Germany.
The doctors did not get any dressing materials or medicaments from the Germans. I know that the Central Welfare Council received some rations of these things from the Germans, and later from the aid packages from Switzerland.
During my work in the Pruszków camp, at the end of September 1944, when, despite Kretschmer’s prohibition, I set up an emergency room and began to admit the sick, Kretschmer came at me with a revolver, threatening to use it, and then told the soldiers to take the sick Warsawians who were grouped around me for a transport.
During the existence of the Pruszków camp the Germans were often carrying out round-ups of Warsawians in Pruszków and other neighboring places. In effect, people released from the camp as sick would often come back to the camp.
In the first phase of the camp’s existence, before it was taken over by the Wehrmacht, the Germans treated the Warsawians with extreme brutality, they were being pushed, kicked and called names such as a polnische bandit on a daily basis. When Wehrmacht seized control of the camp, the situation improved insofar as kicking and pushing became less frequent.