Class 6

Memories from the time of the German occupation

The Germans were in charge of our country [?] for five years. I do not think there is a single family in Poland that was not touched by that barbaric nation, the Germans. Here they put someone behind the wire, there they arrested a father and carried him off to Auschwitz or to Majdanek, and how many innocent people were shot. The uprooting of entire villages was often talked about, and so we too expected the same. But it was quiet for a while.

Until suddenly, at dawn on 31 March 1943, gendarmes surrounded the village of Wywłoczka and went from house to house, waking up the terrified people and chasing them out to the shrine in the square. I was nine years old then, but, hearing everything the adults were saying, I was terribly afraid of those Germans.

On that day I was very surprised that mum woke me up so early. It was still dark in the room. I didn’t have a chance to ask what was going on: I saw a German gendarme standing by the bed. I knew at once that it was something bad. Mum told me to get dressed and said that the Germans were forcing us out of our home. I started to cry and dressed in a hurry. There was no time to pack: we left home as we were, hurried out by the Germans. Mum carried my little brother in her arms, he was only one year old.

There were lots of people by the shrine already. Some had horses, cows or carts with them, others had bundles on their backs or baskets in their hands. Germans were standing on the hill with machine guns in their hands, watching us closely to make sure nobody ran away. Cars were driving up and down the road. It was probably the Germans collecting the more valuable possessions. We stood like that for several hours, wondering what would happen to us. I was very cold – I don’t know if I really was or if it was just out of fear.

Suddenly there was some movement in the crowd. It was the Germans. They ordered the men to go out onto the road and stand in groups of three. I can’t describe just how horrible a moment it was. All the children started to cry loudly. Fathers said goodbye to their families and left with the thought that they might never see them again. My dad went with the others as well.

All at once a thought crossed my mind: “what will happen if the Germans take mum away from us and we are left by ourselves?” I hugged mum closely. I was holding a medallion of the Virgin Mary in my hand and I prayed quietly for at least mum to stay with us. I decided that I wouldn’t let us be split up, I would rather the Germans kill me.

Suddenly the gendarmes ordered everyone to get ready to move and they hustled us to Zwierzyniec. Everyone kneeled and crossed themselves as they passed the shrine, asking God to take them into His holy care. When we were near Zwierzyniec, we saw plumes of black smoke above our village. It is hard to describe the kind of lament and wailing that could be heard in the crowd.

We managed to escape from the line and hide at the post office, and they even released dad as he worked for the county. They put everyone else behind the wire.

I could describe many other similar memories. Today, when Poland is free, we are glad that they are nothing more than the memories of terrible experiences that will never be repeated.