Life under German occupation through the eyes of a Briton

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Davey Boy
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Life under German occupation through the eyes of a Briton

Post by Davey Boy » 16 Sep 2002 08:34

An extract from the book Red Runs the Vistula by Ron Jeffery, a downed pilot in war time Poland. Enjoy...

From its beginning, and difficult to conceive possible, 1943 heralded a slow but sure escalating of the horrors of the German occupation of Poland. With the political immaturity of a gorilla, the swastika had rampaged throughout the land since the blitzkrieg of 1939. The viciousness of the invader accelerated. The abandonment by the Hun of the slightest vestige of physical and moral decency had left every Polish man, woman and child under no illusion as to the eventual fate intended for them and their whole country by the Hitlerite barbarians. Resistance to the enemy remained the only outlet for the Poles. They had nothing to lose but their lives and in 1943 this fatalistic conviction nurtured an increasing fanatical revulsion to all things German, reflected in the explosion of anti Hun ferocity at every point of contact between temporary victor and vanquished.

Reverses and withdrawals in the face of resurging Russian armies in the east and increased bombing pressure from the Allies in the west galvanised the Germans to hold viciously tight onto all initial gains, their losses assuaged by inflicting further suffering and death on the unfortunates overrun. In no other country did cruelties and spite prevail on such a scale, as unfolded in Poland from this stage of the war. Terror produced counter terror. Counter terror produced further terror. During the first half of this gory year, thousands of Jews, still remaining in the Warsaw ghetto, had decided to die fighting rather than submit meekly to being transported to the death ovens and for weeks the whole city listened to the sound of gunfire as German troops razed the Jewish district to the ground and slaughtered the defenders. The rise in ferocity brought with it an increase in the numbers of assassinations and assassination attempts on German personnel, particularly those guilty of excessive inhumanity towards Poles and Jews. The Hun adopted a policy of collective responsibility. One such German death would result in the immediate arrest of a number of civilians in the streets. Summary execution, up against a wall, by special mobile Hun firing squads, left a heap of corpses of all ages and sexes, lying on the pavement, their blood coursing the gutters. Such actions served only to strengthen Polish resolve and hatred. The mood had gone too far and an insane lust for killing gripped German and Pole, a sadistic safety valve to relieve the internal mounting pressures.

The Poles seemed to find some consolation in their martydom. Sites where the street executions had taken place were strewn with flowers, and candles were left burning to emphasise an indestructible spirit of patriotism and nationhood determined to prevail. Thousands of Warsaw citizens witnessed some of these brutal reprisals. Fortunate enough never to be present on such a grim occasion, I happened on one scene a few minutes after the bullets had struck. The victims had faced their executioners and commenced singing the Polish national anthem at which the Hun officer had speeded his men to the task. A sobbing Polish woman recounted the heroic vocal defiance. A nausea of heart, head and stomach resulted from the terrible sight. Warm blood ran off the pavement and along the gutters.

There was talk of insurrection. Arms were being gathered, men were being trained. Sooner or later the time would come when the Germans would be closer to defeat and the people of Poland would fall on them and cut them to pieces. All were so impatient for the wonderful day to come and prayed for survival at least until then to be able to participate and exact vengeance. My light hearted compassionate young manhood was long dead. I too ached to kill.

Karol's arrest had caused the cancellation of the plans that had been mooted to send me back to the United Kingdom. The project suddenly became reborn in an unexpected and entirely different manner.

During my period of compulsory retirement from espionage activities, more had been seen of fellow escapee Tommie Muir. Both of us now spoke fluent Polish. A joint survival in the Warsaw jungle provided much in common and we both enjoyed the others company. It was a bonus pleasure to converse in our native tongues. No exception was taken by Tommie to a comment that his Polish had developed so well that his native Glaswegian was now tinged with a Slavic accent. Tommie had been coaching a Polish Resistance fighter to speak English and his pupil having heard about me wished to arrange a meeting. Thus I became an acquaintance and later the close friend of a very talented man whose name is almost a Polish household word, synonymous with bravery and love of country. The Underground pseudonym of this hero to whom Tommie introduced me in a small Warsaw cafeteria was Jan Nowak. Such was the aura which grew around that name that his real name faded into anonymity, although the English mouthful of Zdzislaw Jezioranski might have been an important factor in the change. Nowak he became iffThé Resistance and to this day is known even in America, which, for him and his family, has become a second home, only as Jan Nowak. There are so many Jan's in this tale that all future references to this redoubtable Pole will be under the now permanently adopted surname.

Nowak was slim, tall and good looking. Closely cropped hair was a registerable feature of his appearance, but it was the tenacity and courage projected by his eyes that divulged a dedication to whatever cause was chosen to follow. He knew a great deal about me and had been a party to another plan for my return to the United Kingdom before the disruption precipitated by the Vienna disaster. The subject of my repatriation had been raised once again at Underground headquarters, hence the meeting. Although with no wish to embarrass Tommie, Nowak clearly wished to convey some private information. After a spate of small talk in Polish, Tommie accepted the situation very common at gatherings of Resistance personnel, and with no umbrage, gracefully excused himself to leave us alone. Nowak wasted no time, disclosing immediately that he was a courier of the Home Army travelling from Warsaw to London and back. Months before it had been proposed that Jeffery, whose Reich journeys had caused favourable comment, should go to London for the purposes of reporting on the Underground Army. My enforced official departure from the Warsaw scene, until the German pressure to find me after Karol's arrest abated, resulted in the plan being temporarily shelved and now reactivated.

In the meantime, however, Nowak requested a personal report in my own handwriting, setting out some of the conditions in occupied Poland to be microfilmed and carried by him to Britain. Nowak's eagerness was accounted for by a projected departure for London within a week. Having listened attentively to all the courier had to say, and with time at a premium, I hastened back to Elektoralna to compose a first general statement. Subject matter of the report and to whom it was to be sent were left to my discretion and if it got through, the editor of 'The Times' was my choice of recipient.

There was insufficient time to prepare anything with which I could feel well satisfied, but in a couple of days Nowak received my letter, signed with name, regiment and number. The Poles were delighted. No matter how well a report written by a Pole was sent, it was felt that a British eye witness's contribution would make a weightier impression.

The thought crossed my mind as to the German reaction on learning that the British press had its own representative with the German forces in Poland. That they were very angry with me had been evidenced by the Florian episode and the latest literary effort would certainly be furiously added to the Jeffery file. My commissioning in the field and a Polish Cross of Valour, was certainly going to place me with the newly adopted role of war correspondent, that much higher up the rungs of the Hun ladder of public enemies. I might even one day get to the top.

In the letter to the 'Times'* taken by Nowak, I stressed the courageous anti German resistance of all Poles, the kindness and loyalty to people like me, and the vicious repressions carried out by the Hun, in particular the calculated inhuman liquidation of the Jewish race. I pleaded for an international condemnation of the bestialities in Poland and for a warning to be given by the Western Allies that all Germans were held responsible for the inhuman crimes and full retribution would be levied after the Nazi defeat. The letter taken by Nowak, reached the 'Times' intact. It is reproduced later with mention of the hurdles faced by my humble effort when it saw the London light of day.

Davey Boy
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Post by Davey Boy » 16 Sep 2002 11:01

Certainly puts the Polish pogroms against the Germans in 1945 and later into perspective. Well it does for me, anyway. :|

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Post by Ogorek » 16 Sep 2002 16:25

The Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, mentioned in the above excerpt, wrote an excellent memoir, COURIER FROM WARSAW. After the war he worked for Radio Free Europe. In 1996, President Clinton awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Nowak-Jezioranski was also awarded with the Virtuti Militari during teh war, and more recently, The Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish distinction.

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Post by Ovidius » 16 Sep 2002 19:53

Adolf Hitler had written:

Annihilation of Poland in foreground. Goal is elimination of the vital forces, not the attainment of a specific line. Even if war breaks out in the West, the destruction of Poland remains the priority.


~Ovidius

Davey Boy
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Post by Davey Boy » 17 Sep 2002 09:19

Ovidius wrote:Adolf Hitler had written:

Annihilation of Poland in foreground. Goal is elimination of the vital forces, not the attainment of a specific line. Even if war breaks out in the West, the destruction of Poland remains the priority.


~Ovidius



Indeed he did. But can you elaborate please?

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Post by Ovidius » 17 Sep 2002 12:07

Adolf Hitler wrote:Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans.

Davey Boy
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Post by Davey Boy » 17 Sep 2002 12:56

Ovidius wrote:
Adolf Hitler wrote:Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans.



What's your point?

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Post by weiwensg » 17 Sep 2002 14:05

Ovidius wrote:
Adolf Hitler wrote:Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans.


And there also was this plan to let the Poles learn to count up to 500 and no more right? Geez...

Davey Boy
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Post by Davey Boy » 18 Sep 2002 09:07

weiwensg wrote:
Ovidius wrote:
Adolf Hitler wrote:Poland will be depopulated and settled with Germans.


And there also was this plan to let the Poles learn to count up to 500 and no more right? Geez...



Quite clearly, the Nazis had our best interests in mind. :D

But the funny thing is that some Germans will actually claim that. 8O

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Post by Wolf » 19 Sep 2002 23:03

The Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, mentioned in the above excerpt, wrote an excellent memoir, COURIER FROM WARSAW.


Very good book, IMHO. Recommended.

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