On 9 November 1946 in Warsaw, Józef Skórzyński, examining judge for cases of exceptional significance, interviewed the person named below as a witness, and said witness testified as follows:
My name is Władysław Mazurek, son of Marcin and Władysława, born on 21 January 1907. I am a Roman Catholic, a veterinary surgeon and major of the Polish Army, residing in Pruszków at Parkowa Street 10, flat 3, criminal record – none.
From February 1944 I was the vice-chairman of the Management Board of the Main Welfare Council in Pruszków.
I don’t know who ordered the establishment of a camp at the railway workshops in Pruszków, in August 1944, for civilians that were being evicted from Warsaw in connection with the Warsaw Uprising. The railway workshops were closed at the time, for the machines and equipment had been disassembled and taken to Firchau, near Piła, a few months earlier. In the afternoon of 6 August the chairman of the representation of the Main Welfare Council in Pruszków, parish priest Edward Tyszka, informed me that on that day he had been summoned to the commissar of the township of Pruszków, Bock, who in the presence of the governor of the Warsaw district, Rupprecht, instructed him, in his capacity as representative of the Main Welfare Council, to organise the collection of 5 thousand plates and spoons over the next few hours and bring these to the railway workshops for the Warsaw populace that was to arrive there.
The first transport of evicted persons arrived in Pruszków on 7 August in the morning, driven on foot over some 15 km. It comprised a few thousand residents of Wola, who having reached Pruszków were completely exhausted, both physically and mentally. The transport was made up of women and children. It contained hardly any men in their prime. The people were terribly hungry, many of them had not eaten for days, and none had had a hot meal during the past week or so. Many women and girls, raped in Warsaw, applied for medical assistance. In the first few days, the administration of the camp rested with SA Oberführer Stephan and SS Sturmbannführer August Polland, who had at his disposal functionaries from the Arbeitsamt. All of the camp gates were manned by gendarmes.
When the first transport was followed by others, and the desperate crowd of wounded, burned and sick refugees started growing steadily larger, it became clear that neither Stephan, nor Polland were prepared to run such a camp. Apart from the collection of dishes and the preparation of medical aid – to be provided by a single doctor – no other organisational steps were taken before the arrival of the first transports. Thus, none of the attempts undertaken by the aforementioned with the object of bringing the unrest and chaos under control, and of imposing any form of organisation on the mass of refugees, were successful. Hoarse from shouting, they could only rasp, and simply got lost amongst the melee, the shots, and the groans. For the Germans had only one way of arguing with Poles: to shoot; and only one name for them: "bandits". Therefore shots would ring out regularly, and every now and then people with gunshot wounds would be brought in for treatment. The relations existing in the camp at that time can be illustrated by an incident that I remember very well: amongst the crowd of evictees I noticed a demented woman, who – as her neighbours said – had lost her mind following the deaths of her loved ones. Since her behaviour irritated those around her, I turned to a gendarme Wachmeister with the request that he allow me to take her out of the crowd and have her sent to the hospital in Tworki. His response was: "What for? I can shoot her at any moment and peace will be restored." He cocked his pistol and walked up to the woman in order to put his words into action. Only my pleadings and the fact that I grasped his armed hand, accompanied by the woman being hidden in the melee by those nearest her who had noted my desperate signals, prevented a tragic finale.
Being unable to bring the situation under control, after two or three days the aforementioned Stephan got drunk, beat up some people, quarrelled with the Germans, and left the camp, never to return. In this way, Polland became the sole manager of the camp; he was usually drunk and would walk around the camp with a revolver in his hand, shooting and hitting people at the slightest perceived provocation.
In order to provide a fuller picture, I would like to add that hall no. 1, to which transports were first directed, was in all probability overcrowded, and in spite of the curses of the gendarmes, and the blows and the kicks, people started to spill out from the entrance. Hall no. 2 was then set aside for the more seriously ill and wounded, but this did not help matters. The halls were littered with all sorts of scrap, waste, and rubbish, flooded with oil and lubricants, and intersected by rails between which – practically along their entire length – there were so-called inspection pits, previously used to conduct repairs on train undercarriages. The floor was flooded with water. Human excrement could be found in the corners. A crowding and a stench that cannot be described. People were forced to perform the most discreet activities in front of everyone else.
The first transports coming in from Warsaw did not undergo any segregation. When after some time the first goods trains that would carry the evictees further afield arrived, they too were loaded without any segregation – the sick and wounded mixed together with the dying – and one transport would leave after another into the unknown. Sometimes, before such a transport departed it was necessary to remove the bodies of those who had died in the wagons.
Once the first transports had left, the evictees were forced to undergo their most terrible experience – the segregation and tearing apart of families. These activities were performed by the gendarmes together with functionaries from the Arbeitsamt to the accompaniment of screams, blows and kicks, thus creating separate transports of men in their prime, whom the majority of prisoners considered as earmarked for liquidation.
The organisation of new official authorities began somewhere around 10 August. For it was on this day that a Wehrmacht unit arrived at the camp, this comprising seven or eight officers, a few non-commissioned officers, and several dozen German soldiers. In addition, it included several dozen Russian prisoners of war. The unit was commanded by a German colonel, Sieber, an officer of the old school, and maybe for this reason he was exceptionally sensitive – for a German – to human suffering. His first order was to prohibit shooting on the camp premises. And even if his regulation did not fully eliminate this plague, it did improve the situation to a certain degree.
The SS authorities were organised at more or less the same time. The SS commandant for the camp was SS Sturmbannführer Diehl, who worked at the camp throughout its period of existence. He was a cold, composed, and taciturn man, whose iron firmness allowed him to carry out everything that he planned. Following the capitulation of Warsaw, Diehl headed the Raumungstelle, which was located at Wolska Street and tasked with conducting the systematic pillage of belongings left by the Polish populace and completing the destruction of Warsaw.
The camp SS administrative office used the letterhead Stab SS General Sendel on all passes and certificates that it issued, and a round seal with the Nazi eagle in its centre and the following surround: Generalgouvernement der SS und Polizeifuhrer im Distrikt Warschau. The activities of the SS at the camp were concerned with exercising superior authority, escorting transports from Warsaw (and sometimes to Germany), conducting – together with the Arbeitsamt – the segregation of evicted residents into those who were fit and unfit for work, tearing apart families, nosing out those who had registered themselves erroneously on purpose, and controlling the activities of the Polish and German camp personnel. And so, for example, a list of seriously ill persons who were to be taken to one of the local hospitals – elaborated by the Polish personnel and checked and approved by a German army doctor – had to be additionally approved by the SS. I am of the opinion that Diehl decided the purpose and numerical composition of each transport.
The third camp authority, the Arbeitsamt, was headed by the aforementioned inspector, SS Sturmbannführer August Polland. He participated in and provided an official character to the segregation of evictees. He took bestial pleasure in tearing families apart, and woe betide those who, wanting to stay together for good and bad, betrayed this fact by an unguarded word or action in his presence. Such people simply had to be separated, even if they had the same qualifications (and thus, for example, were fit to work in the Reich) – they would never travel together. This was so because the brute was overjoyed with the pain, suffering, tears and despair that he caused. And if he could not inflict any special suffering on a single person, he would take his or her beloved dog, the sole companion following the loss of that person’s loved ones, a canary, or even their humble baggage. Polland had at his disposal a few dozen functionaries from the Arbeitsamt, some of whom were uniformed, while the rest were dressed in civilian clothing. In all probability these were Volksdeutschers, for they knew only Polish. These would work together with "special inspectors" from the Arbeitsamt, who wore administrative uniforms, similar in colour to those of the Wehrmacht, but with different shoulder straps. The main task of the Arbeitsamt at the camp was to work together with the SS on the selection of people. This procedure was initially conducted at a spot fenced with barbed wire, located right next to gate no. XIV, thereafter in hall no. 7, and finally in front of hall no. 5, which was a transit hall.
The following rules were applied: a) mothers with children up to 15 years of age; b) visibly pregnant women; c) women aged over 50, and d) men aged over 60 were considered as unfit for labour in Germany, while towards the end of the camp’s existence men aged over 50 and persons who were visibly crippled were added to the list. All these people were directed to hall no. 1, from where they were deported to lands within the General Government. Persons classified as fit for work were deported to labour camps in the Reich. In the period when the hatred of the Germans towards the insurgent city of Warsaw was greatest, for example during combat in the Wola district or following the capitulation of the heroic Old Town and Czerniaków, individual transports would be sent to concentration camps, such as Oświęcim, Dachau, Mauthausen, and others.
In practice, the principles according to which evictees were selected – outlined above – were frequently not enforced, and the same goes for Diehl’s declarations, repeated on numerous occasions during official visits (from Bishop Szlagowski, a delegation of the International Red Cross, von dem Bach, and others), for the classification was carried out not on the basis of one’s age, written down in a temporary identity card, nor on the strength of certificates and expert medical opinions, but "at a guess" and very quickly. It was conducted by officials from the Arbeitsamt and ordinary SS men within an atmosphere of shots, blows and kicks, amidst the cries and pleadings of separated families which did not even have time to say goodbye, or to divide up their luggage, usually packed together. The quick glance of a rank and file gemein (gendarme) on an evictee would be sufficient to pass judgement: "those fit for work – left", "those unfit – right". Such assessments could not be appealed!
As I have already mentioned, the hall of the railway workshops in which the refugees were located did not meet elementary hygienic standards, and the total lack of straw made it impossible for the weary and exhausted people to grab even a few hours of sleep. Not infrequently, the halls were filled to overflowing, housing up to ten thousand people. The latrines, erected on an ad hoc basis, were insufficient, while the absence of sewage facilities contributed to contamination, resulting in a stench that was frequently indescribable. The cleaning group comprised a small number of Russian prisoners of war and was subordinate exclusively to the camp commandant. The refugees, in turn, passed through the camp too quickly for they themselves to be able to tidy the barracks; this would have been possible only if the barracks had been completely emptied for a period of time.
According to the calculations of the Camp Section of the Representation of the Main Welfare Council, some 685 thousand residents of Warsaw and neighbouring townships passed through the transit camp in Pruszków (Dulag 121).
On 20 August, the camp in Pruszków was visited by Bishop Szlagowski, who talked with the refugees, heard their complaints, and intervened with the authorities regarding the tearing apart of families and failure to release priests and nuns. Although Diehl solemnly promised the Bishop Szlagowski that he would satisfy his demands, a few minutes later he would be giving orders to the contrary and no change occurred for the better. The sole exception consisted in allowing three Pallottine priests to conduct pastoral work in the capacity of camp chaplains.
On 5 September, when the German camp authorities were awaiting the arrival of a delegation of the International Red Cross from Switzerland, Diehl summoned the Reverend Tyszka and myself – the representatives of the Main Welfare Council in Pruszków – demanding that we sign a declaration which he had prepared; this stated that the freed populace of Warsaw currently located in the transit camp in Pruszków finds itself in a favourable position, insofar as local conditions allow, that it is provided with foodstuffs, that it enjoys medical and pastoral care, and that it has not been the victim of any abuses. Although the final paragraph of the declaration stressed that the document was being provided voluntarily at the request of the German authorities, Diehl stated that measures would be taken if the declaration was not signed, and the Polish personnel would be ejected from the camp. The threat that we would be deprived of the possibility of providing further assistance to the populace of Warsaw led us to sign said document, which in an altered wording was printed in the "Nowy Kurier Warszawski". On the day on which the aforementioned declaration was signed, the camp in Pruszków was visited by general von dem Bach. Following the visit of inspection he informed the representatives of the Polish personnel who accompanied him that they must make preparations to receive a greater number of people, for within the next three days he planned to cease military operations against Warsaw for a few hours in order to the allow the civilian population to leave the city. However, von dem Bach’s hopes were dashed, for although leaflets were dropped on the city from aeroplanes and the bombing of Warsaw was interrupted, only a small number of people, mainly the elderly, children, and persons unfit for combat, arrived at the camp.
In the middle of September two carriages with gifts from the International Red Cross intended for those evicted from Warsaw reached the camp, and immediately thereafter the camp was visited by a representative of the International Red Cross from Geneva; I think he was a Frenchman, and during his discussions with representatives of the camp’s personnel he collected a body of materials for his inspection report. While the delegation from Geneva was visiting the camp, the evictees were transported from the camp in more or less "comfortable" conditions, using passenger cars.
On 26 September, following the capture of Mokotów by the Germans, three peace envoys from the Home Army arrived at the camp wearing Polish (albeit English-style) uniforms with full insignia and proceeded to inspect the camp, acting with such dignity and solemnity that even the Germans treated them with respect. They proceeded to the shower room under the pretext of wanting to take a bath and, once removed from the watchful eye of the accompanying SS officer, they said: "everything is over, there is no other way". On the next day a Home Army unit arrived from Mokotów; this numbered some 1,2 thousand people, and among them a few "defenders" aged eight–ten years and a girl who was maybe 10 years old, these also in uniforms with Home Army armbands. Soon thereafter, transports of civilians from Mokotów started to arrive. The Home Army was isolated in hall no. 7. On the very first day the SS let a few Germans who had been taken prisoner by the Home Army and had now regained their freedom into the hall. Walking with sticks amongst the insurrectionists, the Germans led a few of them behind the vegetable warehouse and started beating them over the head with the sticks. One, in particular, was hit over his bandaged head with such ferocity that the colour of his dressing soon turned from white to red. The beaten insurrectionists were taken to the so-called green carriage, where Diehl worked. Colonel Sieber, informed by the Polish personnel, demanded that Diehl immediately free the group of insurrectionists, stating that prisoners of war belong to the Wehrmacht. This Home Army unit, among others, had been ordered to remove the Polish eagles from their berets. When this order was ignored, SS men armed with knives appeared, and they cut the eagles off of those who had refused to obey, all the time maintaining an air of complete calm and ostensible indifference.
The mortality rate in the camp grew as the number of civilian transports increased, for the longer the populace remained among the fighting and the fires without food and water, the physically weaker it arrived at the camp. One could observe this with particular clarity amongst those who had been evicted from districts in which the fighting was most severe; these civilians had been forced to remain in bunkers and cellars without a pause and – in addition to their experiences of a moral nature – they became susceptible to various illnesses. If we take into consideration all of the wounded, those who were buried under the rubble and rescued, burnt and suffering from contusions, it soon becomes clear that the mortality rate must have been high, for the state of health of these people required immediate and intensive care in hospitals or sanatoriums, whereas they were placed in the camp in Pruszków where the sanitary and hygienic conditions could kill not only one who was already sick, but also a completely healthy individual. For this reason, during the influx of residents from the Old Town, Czerniaków, Wola, the northern part of Śródmieście, and other areas, the percentage of deaths was considerable.
Presently, giving even an approximate number for those who died in the camp is impossible, for no such register was kept at the time.
Since from more or less 15 August I regularly travelled to Warsaw with aid for those remaining in the city, I was able to observe the professional manner in which the Germans pillaged the property left behind by the evicted populace. Everywhere the procedure would be similar, namely: The Germans brought over several dozen men from amongst the evicted Varsovians in trucks, dividing them into groups. Under escort, they would be let into a few houses standing next to each other. All of the articles which they brought down were segregated on the spot – clothing, underwear, shoes, fur coats, linen, valuable paintings, furniture. etc. – and were placed on the pavement. The vehicles would take these "spoils" to the Western Railway Station – some taking the underwear, others the linen, etc. The goods were arranged in the same way in wagons for transport to Germany. This went on house after house and street after street. Next were the tramcar cables, which were removed from the pillars, and thick telephone lines, pulled out from pipes and canals and cut into pieces the length of a railway carriage.
When a street was "cleaned", the Vernichtungskommando, the destruction group, would commence its business, setting fire to house after house or placing mines in the larger buildings. Every two to three days the Vernichtungskommando would go along the same street, torching the floors, cellars, staircases and individual flats that were still standing. This was repeated until literally everything had been consumed by the fire. In this way the Germans destroyed the houses surrounding Narutowicza Square, together with St. Jacob’s Church, a part of Filtrowa Street and Raszyńska Street, the whole of Szczęśliwicka Street, and after the capitulation Krucza and Żurawia streets, as well as the neighbouring areas – and I practically witnessed this with my own eyes. Hand grenades would be thrown into the cellars in order to kill off those hiding inside. The houses that were left standing, for example the hostel at Narutowicza Square, a row of houses in Aleje Jerozolimskie, and others, were not destroyed only because German units were stationed there until the last possible moment, that is, until the approach of Polish and Russian units.
I have read the report.