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My Warsaw madness. The other side of the Warsaw Uprising.
by Wlodzimierz Nowak and Angelika Kuzniak.
In Warsaw I took 19 fights on knives and bayonets. In cellars. In Warsaw, cellars were a second city. When you fight
in a cellar, it's quiet, you don't see anything. I was faster. I killed that Pole. My most terrible experiences came from
Summer 1944. Mathi Schenk and Peter, his friend from the army, are eating bean soup at some inn. Both wearing
the Wehrmacht uniforms. They somehow managed to leave the barracks and go the town. They talk about that fool
Fels, and about some guys who yesterday escaped from the army. Mathi can't escape because Gestapo threated
that they'll send his father on the Eastern front if he does so. He's the youngest soldier in the 46th Assault Brigade,
they call him Bubi. Recently he had his 18th birthday. They're stationing near Bonn. They were incorporated by a
trick. First, the Germans searched for volunteers to the SS, then to the new Assault Brigade. None came. So they
announced that they need truck drivers. Boys were eager. Everyone wanted to drive. Mathi was lucky that he
managed to get there. Germans gave them new uniforms, goggles and transported them near Bonn. They were
welcomed by lieutenant Fels:
- You impudent swines, you look like some clowns, take that goggles off!
Since then there wasn't a single word about trucks.
The inn owner turns up the volume on a radio. They're talking about the Fuhrer, there was a assassination, he's
probably dead. People ceased talking. Soldiers are riding motorcycles on the street. They hear orders. Suddenly,
everyone runs out. They left the food, none paid. The inn owner hides behind the counter. Mathi and his friend
escape trough the back door.
Huge mess in the barracks, the sirens are howling.
- Is Hitler dead? - some soldier asks.
- Shut your muzzles! Even if we're totally alone, we'll be loyal to our Fuhrer! Who hesitates, will be shot! - Fels
shouts. He orders to place guards around the barracks. Soldiers are laughing - they don't even have their weapons!
After few days they get their rifles and grenades. Readiness. The orchestra was playing. They marched to the train
station. They were sure that they're going to France. They were happy with that, because in France it's easier to
escape. They had food for two days and lots of red wine in 20-liter barrels. Wagons don't have roofs, there is a hay
on the floor. Comfortable. They drank, they sung. They played cards. People on the fields were waving. On the
station they sent Bubi on the back of the train to get the next 20 litres of wine. The train was long, when it started to
move Bubi couldn't get to his wagon. He sat all night on the stair between wagons. That's why he was the only one
sober when at dawn they reached a village. He recognized that it was Poland - he saw flat terrain and houses with
thatched roofs. They started drinking again. It was hot - 1st of August. They laid on the hay and listened to the
clatter of the train wheels. Suddenly he saw that wood from the planks is splintering. Yelling, blood.
- Someone's shooting at us!
The train started to get back. Wounded people were dying, drunk people were waking up.
- Damn, they carried us on the Russian front!
Even the company's commander was staggering, he was incapable to fight. Some children asked for a bread.
Soldier was running trough the filed, with his face covered in blood.
- There's an uprising in Warsaw! - he shouted.
In "Horsefly Village"
Summer 2004. 1200km- from Warsaw to Brullingen, small Belgian village near the border with Germany (on the one
side of the street there's a Belgian pub, on the opposite - German one). Beautiful region with windmill power plants.
Mathias Schenk lives in a small house with his wife and the youngest son. The house has thatched roof. Their
grandparents called this place "Horsefly village" because of horseflies swarm living in the old oak.
There's a Saint Mary of Czestochowa painting over the fireplace. Gift from the Polish farmers, who saved the
Mathias' life in 1945. We went to "Horsefly Village" to listen to his relation from the Warsaw Uprising. Relation coming
from the opposite side. 78-year old Belgian Mathias Schenk, in 1944 18 year old Sturmpionier (Assault Engineer) is
talking. His train was the last one which reached the uprising Warsaw at the 1st of August.
- It's impossible to say... - old man is frowning. - When the bodies are burning, they move. You can hear sounds,
similar to moans. Back then I thought that they're still alive. And these flies, worms. How many people were killed in
Warsaw? Some 350,000, yes?
The Captain's orderly
- Since I was a child, I always wanted to be a veterinarian. We had a farm. When in 1940 German army entered our
village, I was 14. (The Eupen-Malmedy region is today's German-speaking Belgium. As a border area, it came from
hands to hands. In 1919 it was accepted as a part of Belgium. Hitler after conquering Belgium incorporated this area
to Reich). Some of the neighbours started to greet themselves with "Heil Hitler!". We said traditional "Guten Tag".
They looked at us like we were traitors, because we didn't have swastikas in our windows. Nazis were asking my
father, why I weren't in the Hilterjugend. They also interrogated my parents because my brothers escaped to the
occupied Belgium. We had visits from Gestapo, they interrogated me too. The third brother was hiding in our
neighbourhood. They caught him. He returned from the Russian Front heavily wounded.
My talented cousin Daniel was my best friend. He secretly made a radio for us. It could receivept only BBC. But our
fathers caught us while we were listening. They’ve beaten us and destroyed the set.
Daniel was drafted to Wehrmacht. He became a radio specialist, later he died at Crimea.
I knew the way trough the border since I was a child. He helped the German Jews in escaping to Belgium, we
smuggled food. Last time iI crossed the border on Easter 1944, in German uniform. Germans caught me, but I was
lucky - the guard was Mr Furt, a shoemaker from Losheim. Before the war he made shoes for us. Now he let me to
I received my summons for the obligatory work for the Reich at November 1943. My first Christmas outside home. 20
of us jumped trough the fence and went to the Mass. As a punishment we had do clean latrines and run trough the
pile of **** singing Christmas carols. Half year later they drafted me to the army, my specialty -was engineer. Some of
the boys escaped. I couldn't, because they were threatening me that they'll send my father to the Russian front. I
hated the water exercises during my engineer course. I also didn't learn do swim, because our captain took me as
I tried to figure out how I could get back home for few days. When our company's commander asked who has
enough hens to furnish 100 eggs for the Easter breakfast, I lied and went on a 4-day vacation. I took the eggs from
our neighbours. At the village they caught a Russian prisoner, who escaped from POW camp. They forced him to
run naked on the street, beating him with batons. At this time there was an instruction how to treat a 'sub-humans'.
My mother gave him a pair of shoes and some butter. Our neighbours reported this and next time we didn't received
coupons for butter and shoes. When I was going back to the army, my mother gave me a black rosary.
Where have you been, pigs?
We were entering Warsaw, walking the cobblestones. Poles were shooting at us, but we haven't seen them. White
flags on some buildings. I jumped in through a broken window. On the stairs I saw a dead man and a woman, both
shot once in foreheads.
We were storming house by house, everywhere we saw dead civilians, women and children. Everyone had a hole in
the forehead. We made our way to SS barracks. Another company, that drove the lorries, took the wrong turn and
got straight to Polish positions. Few of the trucks were on flames, soldiers were running for their lives. Many have
been running straight through the line of fire. Seregant fell few steps from me.
Next day we were ordered to capture some road. We went through small gardens. Our commander Lieutenant Fels
was hurrying us forward. We had to blow up the doors of the building which from the fiercest fire was shot. We threw
hand grenades in. Poles surrounded us. Short knife fight and we run out into the bushes. Four of the guys from our
boxcar died. Fels once again was driving us to attack, but Poles were well covered. We could not withdraw because
they were shooting at us from the back. All night we were sitting in these small gardens like scared animals. I was
thirsty. I found some tomatoes. We were constantly shot at. Next evening the infantry came to the rescue, but we
made no progress. Then the SS unit arrived. They looked strange, they had no ranks on their uniforms and smelled
with vodka. They attacked at instant crying Hooorrraaay and were dying by dozens. Their commander dressed in
black leather coat was raging in back, rallying his men to attack. Then came a tank. We rushed with SS troopers
behind it. Few meters to buildings the tank was hit. It exploded and the soldier’s hat was thrown high up. We run
back once more. He second tank was hesitating. We were covering the front as the SS men were running out the
civilians out of their homes, SS men were positioning them around the tank, forcing some to sit on the armour. For
the first time in my life I saw such a thing. They were rushing a Polish woman in the long coat. She was holding a little
girl in her arms. People crowded on a tank were helping her to come up. Someone took the girl. When he was
handing her back to mother, tank suddenly moved forward. the child fell down under the tracks and got crushed.
Woman was screaming in terror. One of the SS men made a wry face and shot the woman in the head. They drove
over. Those who tried to escape were killed by SS men.
The attack was successful. Poles were retreating. We chased behind them. Behind us civilians were going out of the
cellars with their arms up. They were screaming ”nicht partisan” (we are not partisans). They were screaming. I
haven't seen what is happening there because we were exchanging fire with Poles, but I heard as this SS
commander in long black coat was shouting to his men to kill everyone including women and children.
Three of us have jumped into a house. We were at the ground floor, Poles attacked from basement and upper
floors. All night we were burning some furniture to see something. Time after time we were fighting bayonet to
bayonet. At dawn I saw that only two of us are alive. Fellow soldier had his throat slit. In every room there were
bodies. The sniper was shooting at us from the next house. We’ve hit him, he fell down but caught the construction
with his leg. He was hanging there upside down. He lived for the long time before he died. When we were returning,
the bodies of Poles were scattered all over the streets. There was no other way than to walk on the dead people. In
the heat they were rotting rapidly. Sun was covered with dust and smoke. Plenty of flies and worms. We were
covered with sticky blood. We were welcomed by this fanatic fool Lt Fels. Where have you been, you cheeky pigs?
He was cheering the SS for good job. I could eat nothing. We were all vomiting.
We called him "butcher"
In the barracks Bubi was told that this big SS man in black coat is Oscar Dirlewanger, and his people were the
criminals released from prisons. He learned more about his ”comrades in arms” after the war. In 1940, at Himmler’s
consent, Dirlewanger ordered the poachers out of prisons, because they possessed the shooting abilities and could
set up the traps. Dirlewanger himself, the political sciences PhD and NSDAP member since 1923, has also been in
prison before - for children molesting.
They were trained in Oranienburg Concentration Camp. They made themselves known for their numerous crimes
and atrocities in Lublin area and in Belarus. The losses were being reinforced with new criminals with death
sentences on their heads or the SS men from punishment units. In summer 1944 they were upgraded to brigade. At
5th of August 1944, Himmler pushed them to Warsaw.
SS- Sturmbrigade "Dirlewanger" was attacking from Wolska and Towarowa streets. It was ”pacifying” Old Town,
Powisle, Upper cCzerniakow and Downtown. In mid August Dirlewanger got the promotion for Oberfuhrer and at the
end of September he got the Knight’s Cross (of Iron Cross).
Then in the basements of Warsaw we called him ”a butcher”. Quietly, because in his units the road up to the rope
was short. He had a habit of hanging people at Thursdays. Poles or his own people, for nothing. Very often he
himself used to kick out the chairs from under his victims feet.
In restaurant, Schenk sits in the corner, always with his back to the wall. "Stupid habit" he smiles it's an Uprising
After few days of fighting we were detached to Dirlewanger, 3 Sturmpioniere at each SS platoon. Our job was to
make the way for the SS men, blow up all obstacles and doors. Behind us were going Dirlewanger’s horde. They
were looking like bums. Dirty and shredded uniforms. Not all of them had weapons, they were taking it from dead.
Every morning they used to get the vodka. We Sturmpioniere also were given vodka that we were drinking for empty
stomach, before attack, one does not eat. If you get shot in empty stomach, You may survive, if they will shot you in
full stomach you die in pain.
Dirlewanger walked on the rear, sometimes rode in a tank, always under a good cover. He rushed his men forward.
Some soldiers straggled, he shot them in the back.
Nurse with a tiny white flag
-Usually to open doors of flats and houses normal large crow-bar was enough. To open stronger ones we were
setting explosives or cluster made of three grenades. Heavy two winged doors of Bishop’s Palace, blew out in two
directions. Everything was purple. In the dining room, food was lying on the table. Still warm. We didn’t try it, because
we were afraid it was poisoned.
It's important to know, where to set explosives. From the side, in the middle. All depends where you want doors to fly
after explosion. Everything must be done as silent as possible, because Poles were standing behind doors listening
and shooting when they heard something. So we sometimes scratched opposing end of doors to mislead the Poles.
I was setting explosives under big doors, somewhere in the Old Town. We heard from the inside "Nicht schießen!
Nicht schießen!"(Don't shoot). The doors opened and a nurse appeared with tiny white flag. We went inside with
fixed bayonets. Huge hall with beds and matresses on the floor. Wounded were everywhere. Among the Poles there
were also wounded Germans lying there. They begged SS men not to kill the Poles. Polish officer, a doctor and 15
Polish Red Cross nurses surrendered Lazaret (Military Hospital) to us. But just after us Dirlewangerers came. I hid
one nurse behind the doors I managed to key-lock. I heard after the war, that she survived. SS-men shoot to death
all wounded. They were breaking their heads with buttstocks. German wounded were screaming and crying in
despair. After that Dirlewangerers ran for nurses, they were tearing clothes from them. We were driven out for guard
duty. We heard women's screams. At evening on Adolf Hitler's place, roar was so loud as on boxer's fights. So I and
my friend decided to climb the wall to see what was happening there. Soldiers of all units: Wehrmacht, SS,
Kaminski's cossacks, boys from Hitlerjugend, whistles, exhortations. Dirlewanger stood with his men and laguhed.
Nurses from Lazaret were rushed trough square, naked with hands on their heads. Blood ran down over their legs.
After them doctor was brought with loop on his neck. He had red rag maybe from blood covering his face and spike
crown on top of the head. All were lead to the gibbet, with few bodies hanging already. When As they were hanging
one of the nurses Dirlewanger kicked bricks she was standing on. I couldn't watch that anymore. We ran to our
quarters, but before we reached them we saw Kaminski cossacks rushing with civilians. We called those cossacks
Hiwis - from Hilfswillige (volunteers, willng to help). Next to them one polish pregnant woman felt. One of the Hiwis
turned back and whipped her, she tried to escape on knees, but they killed her running over her with horses.
Poles sang lively song
- We were sleeping in basements. In quarters we drunk a lot of vodka, we talked a lot too. "Maybe tomorrow I will be
wounded and return home" - we were saying.
We had nightmares, I screamed in sleep. Then companions woke me up with cold water saying "Bubi, du hast den
Warschaukoller" (Bubi, you have a Warsaw madness).
We slept in clothes, continous alarms; "Raus! Raus!" shouted Fels. More than once we could hear the Poles sitting
on the other side of wall. Once they even sang lively song. I sometimes cried. When you storm you are not afraid,
but in quarters you shake. We drank a lot.
Commando of Ascension
- We demolished a fence which was obscuring view on a big yard. SS planned to storm buildings on other side of it.
When friend was battering doors with crow-bar, I saw Pole one my left side. I pulled friends into hole, but both got hit.
One got whole mag, second in the lungs, bullet bounced from dog tag. When he was breathing, blood was pouring
out of his mouth. I put soil in his lung wound. I was lying with dead and wounded. I pressed against the wall. Friend
groaned, Poles tossed two grenades. I threw out back one, second rolled out of my reach. I was red from blood and
flesh. Afternoon four from Wehrmacht came with stretchers. We managed to break trough, but wounded friend got
three shots and died. I couldn't say a word, I had shakes and was vomiting. Major gave me a day to rest, so I saw
burial of my friends. They took their shoes off, threw to hole with other killed and sprinkled with calx. Polish civilians
had to do everything.
Friends were falling, they sent us new ones. I had stupid luck, maybe because Fels forced me to action, he wished
me to "die like a dog" (Schenk is laughing). I don't think he liked me. Our group of Assault Engineers was called then
Himmelfahrtskommando (Comando of Ascension), because we always were first, and Poles were shooting, no one
knew where from where, they were shooting. Whhizz of the bullet and you fly to heaven. We quickly learned from
clever Poles, how to conceal. they could shot from under slightly levelled tile. Many fought in German uniforms i and
spoke German very well. We couldn't wear our metal pots, because Poles were using them too. We were too afraid
we start shooting at ours troops.
At the beginning I was a bad shooter. They where punish me for lack of aim. I couldn't shut my left eye. They were
suspecting I'm simulating. They sent me to doctor and he told me to shot from other hand. I became left eye shooter.
It was quite handy in street fight.
Once in hand combat Pole pulled rifle from my new friend. Fels came in with SS-men and ordered him to retrieve the
gun. Boy was all shaking, but Fels drawn his own gun and ordered him once more to follow the Poles. Boy returned
quickly badly wounded with knife; he was screaming and bleeding.
I left alone once more. My storm group mates were heavily wounded from knife and bayonet. It was 6 August. From
that point dates are fading. Only heaviest fights I can tell quite ordered, but without dates. I remember, that on 14
August I got postcard from pastor from Manderfield, last message from home. On 15 September I was looking at
other bank of Vistula river. I saw a Russian tank. then next one and third. They came to bank. We all panicked.
Russians should have great view on our positions, they weren't shooting. Tanks disappeared between houses.
- I was lying in the bed on third store. SS officer ordered us to hold the house. I Whole apartment was covered with
thick layer of sand. Good idea, I admired owners. I would do the same. They had to work hard. Sand protected flat
from fire. "After the war all they will need to do is remove it" I thought. I was throwing gasoline bottles through window
at the cinem on the other side of street. Houses attacked with such bottles usually were starting to burn. I thought we
smoked out Poles, but they were still shooting and tossing grenades. In the dust of the last detonation I started to
run downstairs. When I moved by the window on the staircase, I felt pain like from strike with whip and something hot.
Hands and face in blood. I felt I'm seriously wounded. My friends too. They took my pants off and started to roll on
the floor laughing. I had small scar on my butt. Bullet hit canteene with coffee.
Gefreiter Bubi in a newspaper
I think Bubi was promoted in that time to the Gefreiter rank. Promotion was automatic after 15 hand-to-hand fights.
Every fight was noted in the soldier's military book. Even Fels mentioned something about valor of Schenk.
Especially there was article in the front "Das Weichselblatt" (Vistula News) with stated that Gefreiter Schenk freed
German prisoners of war.
- It was clear incident. I just blew out next door. I set the load and hear: "Nicht schießen!". White flag in window,
Doors opened and 30 German soldiers came out. They were crying from happiness, kissing me everywhere. They
said, that Poles that took them captive, treated them well.
For the Warsaw Bubi got Iron Cross of second class
My wife sleeps long and I try to count them all in my mind
- Sometimes in the movies, are scenes from uprising, but there is nothing from what I've seen then. I haven't told that
to anybody yet with such great details. You ask about everything. Its your right, but everything awakes again. Whe
haven't idea back then that those killed will never die, that they always be with us. Everything happened so quickly.
Shouts, shoots. Singular faces. This all stuck in my memory very strongly.
(Schenk hides his face in hands).
- We breached the doors, I think school ones. Children stood in hall and on stairs. Many children. All with their small
hands up. We looked at them for few moments until Dirlewaniger came in. He ordered to kill them all. They shot them
all, and then they were walking onver their bodies and breaking their little heads with buttstocks. Blood streamed on
down those stairs. There is a memorial plaque in that place, stating that 350 children were killed there. I think there
was much more of them, maybe 500.
Or that Polish women (Schenk doesn't remember which action it was). Every time, when we stormed cellars, and
women were inside. Dirlewanger soldiers raped them. Many times a group raped same women, quickly, still having
arms in their hands. Then after one of fights, I was literally shaken. I stood by the wall and couldn't calm my nerves.
Dirlewanger soldiers came in. One of them took woman. She was pretty. She wasn't screaming. Then he raped her,
pushing strongly her head against table, bearing bayonet in other hand. First he cut her blouse off. Then one cut
from stomach to throat. Blood flushed. Do you know, how fast blood is congealing in August..?
There is also those small children in Dirlewanger hand's. He took it from woman, who was standing in crowd on
street. He lifted child high then threw it into fire and then shot the mother.
Or that little girl, She unexpectedly went out of the cellar. She was slim and short, something about 12 years old.
Torn clothes, hair in chaos. From one side We, from other Poles. She stood by the wall not knowing where to run.
She raised her hands, and said "Nicht Partizan". I waved with hand that she shouldn't afraid and should came closer.
She was walking with her little hands up. She was squeezing something in one of the hands. She was very close,
then I heard a shot. Her head bounced. Piece of bread felt out from her hand. In the evening the platoon leader
came by and said proudly: "It was a master shot. Wasn’t it?"
Sometimes children came by. They couldn't find parents. They wanted bread. Small Polish boy brought us food as
we were on guard duty. I don't think he was prisoner. I don't know. I had then guard duty in cellar of a textile factory.
Boy didn't know German, but we could communicate with gestures. When I had I gave him cigarettes. Passing by SS
man was walking by, he waved on boy to follow him. The boy went after him. Then I heard shot, I ran, dead boy was
lying on the stairs. SS-man pointed gun at me. He gave me long look, but eventually left. This is how matters were in
Our mascot was crippled boy. Also 12 years old. He lost his leg, but he could jump very fast on the remaining one.
He was very proud of that. He always jumped around soldiers, there and back. We said its for luck. He helped a little.
One day SS-men call him. He jumped to them willingly. They asked him to jump to trees. I saw from far that they put
2 grenades into his bag. He didn't notice. He was jumping and they laughed at him shouting: "Schneller, schneller!"
Boy blew up.
I usually wake up very early, my wife sleeps longer. Sometimes in the half-dream I see dead in front of me. And
sometimes I try to count those I killed, but I can't.
Punishment for blue underwear
- There was shortage of water in the whole Warsaw. There was a bath tube at dressing point, where fresh water was
stored. I jumped once to it. Many others jumped too. Known paramedic told me about underwear left in abandoned
cellar. It was blue, non regular. I got ride of issued ones and took those blue. Later I got one week of penitentiary
company from saregeant. I had to carry mines by the river's bank.
My second penitentiary watch I got for a priest. We breached with explosives back door to monastery-very heavy,
they lead to cellar. Monastery huge building near the Old Town, was already very damaged by bombs and
grenades. We jumped in pair inside. There was priest standing in front of us. He had cup and waffel in his hands.
Maybe this was reflex, I don't know, we knelt and took communion, then third of us entered and did the same. Then
SS-men entered, and usual shots and screams, groans started. Nuns were in habits, Few hours later I seen that
priest in Dirlewangerers' hands. They drank wine from cup, wafer was lying broken. They were pissing on cross
resting on wall. They were torturing priest: he had blooded face, torn gown. We took that priest from them, it was
reflex. they were surprised, but so drunk, that they didn't knew what is happening. Next day they also didn't
remember what happened. We passed priest to our battalion. I didn't heard about him anymore. But on the road we
meet Fels so I got a lone guard duty on bridge I think it was Kierbiedz bridge. Bridges on Vistula river were
demolished already, but part of the spans were still standing. Russians had HMG nest on their side of river as we
had HMG on our side. I had to stand in the middle of the bridge and gather intelligence. I hid behind steel cranes.
Night was peaceful. From time to time HMGs were shooting at each other, rather for viva because of large distance.
At the day Russians were moving rather careless. On the back small cars were riding with food and officers with wide
emblems observed with binoculars our part of Warsaw. Soldiers were sun burning.
On other penal watch, hid in bale of material in textile factory I watched Poles. In case of attack I had to shot flare
and run away. There was 40 of them. Officer in uniform was leading the group. they look terrible. Many wounded. I
saw women with arms, civilians, children. Their weaponry was poor. At evening I returned with report, we stormed
that hideout in the morning.
I don't remember when we decided to kill Fels. To survive, because he constantly pushed us ahead. In seven or
eight we lucky rolled rifles, two were loaded. First time Fels was in front of us we shot him in the back. He felt and we
retreated. New commander was much more humane.
Pants heavy from gold
- Today I don't know, if we blew out State Securities Printing House, or maybe Polish Bank. One is sure this was in
downtown. We couldn't take that object for long time. They told us to do sap. We dug in pairs, wearing only
underpants. We changed on head. When I was in head, I smelt strange smell, than friend stopped to take soil from
me. I crawled to him, he lied dead. Sap exit was in cellar. I heard Poles, they probably took it over. At night I crawled
out of hole and walking through cellars I managed to rejoin with ours. I couldn't recognise sentry. He ordered me to
lie on the ground. I screamed My name and password: "Heidekrug"(Pot of the growth). He asked why I'm wearing
only underpants. Eventually he believed me.
Next Day they brought a "Goliath". Civilians had to lead it path, because Poles learned how to detonate a "Goliath"
at our lines and many soldiers died. Goliath made a hole in the fence. We were searching for Poles whole night. In
the morning a tank came and building was taken. Lots of gold coins lied in cellars. We were stuffing them into pocket
so hard that pants were falling from us. Then gold disappeared. Boys were speculating that Dirlewanger took it
"I knew who will live"
- That was probably my last action in Warsaw. We were storming some building, i ran through a field. A wounded
soldier lied on the ground. I gave him some water from my canteen, than ran foreword to blow some doors. The SS
was moving behind us. When I ran back , Dirlewanger stopped me. He pointed to the wounded soldier: "You gave
water to this pig?". Only then I noticed, that on a German uniform the wounded has a dirty white-red armband.
"Shoot him!" - Dirlewanger handed me his pistol.
I stood without a move, sick of all of that. Dirlewanger was so furious, that I couldn't understand what he is shouting.
This Pole looked at me. I will never forget his eyes. In Warsaw I learned to recognize if a wounded survives next ten
minutes, or couple of hours. When one sees so many people dying, you just know who will live. One of Dirlewanger
SS-men grabbed a gun from me and shot that Pole.
Dirlewanger shouted he will shoot me on site. Then some Wehrmaht soldiers arrived so he begun to threaten me
with a court martial. One infantry officer started a violent discussion with him. I ran away.
- At the end of September three Poles approached me with their hands up. Handed me a machine gun and two
pistols. One of them spoke in perfect German. I stood on my post. I didn't know what to do. I said they have to wait,
and better not being noticed by anyone. I was lucky, I quickly found our new lieutenant. He took the POW personally
and escorted them to the SS.
The last stronghold of the uprising surrendered. Some high ranking officer came, as a representative of the people,
with a white flag. We led him to our battalion commander. I saw there our Maj. Wullenberg, Dirlewanger and other
commanders. After a couple of hours the Poles arrived, with a mass of people following them. All the wounded were
lied down in a huge warehouse of an acetic factory. We were ordered to leave. From the outside we heard screams
and shots. I know what happened there.
In the last days of the Uprising I ran across Fels. He was seriously wounded, but survived our shots. I carefully
avoided him. I saw Dirlewanger for the last time - he walked among ruins accompanied by two beautiful women. The
city was burning, dead bodies everywhere on the streets. His leather coat was wore out. The women - one blonde,
one brunette - very elegant, clean. I didn't know if these women were Polish - I was too far.
Remains of Warsaw were being blown apart by demolition squads. We were relocated, but in November we returned
to Warsaw once again. Playing soccer. The ball felt into a cellar. I jumped to bring it back. In the cellar there were
uncountable human bodies, now almost skeletons.
Soviet, German, or Mateusz
In Ochodza, a small village close to Gniezno, people still remember Mateusz, but not from the time he was hiding in
Brzezinski's stable, but as an elegant man who visited the village in the 80's. He arrived in a van packed with food
and western clothes. The gifts were distributed by a priest among the parishioners.
We looked into the Libner's farm. Józef Libner died last year. He at the same age as Mateusz; they liked to wrestle,
they rolled on the farmyard, but Mateusz, experienced in grappling always won.
Libner's son showed me a date notched on the wall of a wooden lavatory: "1946 M.S." - Our father told us to leave
this plank when we've overhauled the lavatory. It is a reminder of Mateusz.
- I notched it with my folding knife, when I was leaving - Schenk is touched, when he speaks about Ochodza. With
Józef we were like blood-brothers. We nicked out wrists, and touched them together - like the Indians did.
The retreat of Sturmpioner Schenk from Warsaw is a separate story. He wrote down few years ago. Of all the
soldiers who came to Warsaw with him, only three were left alive. During winter 1944 they escaped from Soviet
tanks, and SS squads who hanged the deserters on the trees. Starved and exhausted they approached Goscieszyn
(Godesberg) near Gniezno, where a point has been set up.
We threw away almost all our weapons, belts and helmets. Some of us have wound they were trying to hide, afraid
that their comrades would leave them behind. The Ivans were tracing outfoot steps in the snow. Our way to the
forest was cut. We escaped towards the centre of a frozen lake. They didn't follow us but a tank was firing targeting
the surface of the lake. One of us started to prey. His prayers become more and more quiet, than stopped. He died.
When clouds covered the moon we crawled towards the rim of the lake. The Russians were smoking cigarettes, we
crawled between their posts. We hide in the woods but in the morning we know that the tank is following our traces
again. I felt tired, exhausted and I lied in a ditch on the edge of the forest. I had a white, camouflage cover on my
uniform similar to what the Russians were using.
Polish peasants found me.
- "Soviet?" - they asked.
- "German?" - I nodded
- "Poor kid, Are you hungry?" - The tallest of them asked in German.
They took me to a house. I was afraid. "The Poles are spiteful and shrewish" - I have been taught in the army. When
a girl entered the kitchen, holding a big knife I thought the are going to slaughter me. She cut my shoes because
they were unable to take them off. My feet and my arm were broken, and I had many frost-bites. They gave me some
hot milk. This way I found myself in a farm of Brzewnicki brothers in Ochodza (both already died). The older one,
Ignacy I called "father", and Wincenty - "uncle". They called me Mateusz. They hide me in a stable together with
three horses, "Mucka", "Gniady" and "Murzyn". During cold nights I slept over a steamer for potatoes.
The Russians who checked our village were taloled by Brzewnicki that I am his seriously ill son. The sick people were
carefully avoided by the Russians. The Polish officials were told that I am hiding there for half a year after deserting
Why did they save me? I never learned why. Because of mercy, probably; I looked like a beaten kid. They told me
once later that it was because of the black rosary, which they found while tearing the uniform off me.
I would be a Pole
One day, "father" said: "Hitler kaputt", "war kaputt", and Mateusz didn't have to hide any more. The village liked him,
and he felt happy there. He was helping them with the farm work.
- They interrogated me in Trzemeszno, a Pole and a Russian. They asked me to take my clothes off. Then checked
if I don't have any SS tatoos. On the yard a dead boy was lying in a Hitlerjugend uniform. The interrogators were
very suspicious because of the 19 knife fights noted in my military logbook. My "father" avouched for me, then he
took my logbook and has hidden it in a wall of his house.
I remember, when local parson returned from a concentration camp. The parishioners walked forward to meet him.
"Father" took me with him. The priest walked, holding a walking-stick tightly, skinny, and pale. We drove to a church
and for the first time in a very long period I heard “Tantum Ergo” celebration, just like home. The priest walked,
singing, through a church and blessed us all. Including me. I felt happy, but also full of shame, and guilt.
Mateusz left Ochodza in June 1946. Before he left Brzewinski family gave him 200 zl, bread and butter.
- A temporary Belgian embassy has been set up in Warsaw. I sat on stairs of a building, which a year before I was
trying to capture. People have been living in ruins and cellars. The only tram line joined the two banks of Vistula. I
returned home for three months. Through polish arrests, American POW camp in Berlin. The Belgian gendarmerie
took me to Brussels for an interrogation. The Belgians didn't want me. I didn't have any ID. Everybody could say he
is a Belgian.
I met my future wife after the war. That time, on the Belgian-German border everybody was smuggling. She was
trying to smuggle a little pig to Belgium and I smuggled coffee to Germany. We met in the middle of a forest. I
returned home with her little pig.
Now, Mathias Schenk has three sons and a daughter. For ten years he attended a penance pilgrimage to Banneux,
where Virgin Mary emerged to a little girl. During the 80-ies he organized a help for Poland. 32 times he travelled to
Poland with transports of food, clothes and diapers.
- I have been to Warsaw again. I've met the veterans of the uprising. They were nice for me. One of them spoke
about how they opened fire to the last German military train arriving to Warsaw. When in Ochodza I didn't know who I
am - a Belgian, a German, Mateusz? I didn't even know if Belgium still exists. I thought my relatives are dead. I not a
note from them which I received in march 1945 , I would stay in Ochodza.
I would be a Pole, just like you.
Mathias Schenk has told his story also to Dietrich Schubert a director of the documentary titled "Mathi Schenks letzte
Reise nach Polen" made for ZDF.
A GERMAN SOLDIER'S PERSPECTIVE OF THE WARSAW UPRISING 1944
The above text was based on an interview with Mathias Schenk, the German soldier. It was translated from the original
Polish by Hermannek, Alphabet76, Brzeczyszczykiewicz and "fdt" who is a member of www.militaryphotos.net/forums
The original Polish version was available at http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/df/1,34467,2242556.html