A miraculous release from the Gestapo in Warsaw

Polish farmers killed by German forces in German-occupied Poland, 1943.

Polish farmers killed by German forces in German-occupied Poland, 1943.

The German oppression of the Polish people was all pervasive, dictated as a matter of Nazi policy that wanted Poland wiped from the map. There was no opportunity for Poles to sit on the sidelines even if they had wanted to, they were under direct assault. As the war situation worsened ‘anti-partisan measures’ were intensified, resulting in more and more people taking up arms against the occupying forces. It involved people of all ages.

Julian Eugeniusz Kulski was only thirteen when he was arrested by the Gestapo in Warsaw. They had strong suspicions that he was working for the Polish resistance. Kulski denied any knowledge of any such organisation during two weeks of detention and interrogation. The German had continuing suspicions but because of his youth decided to release him. It was almost unprecedented for anyone to be released in these circumstances.

Tuesday (July 13, 1943) morning, I was sitting in my cell in total despair, thinking about my parents whom I was now sure I would never see again. But the ‘Kapo,’ the criminal trustee, suddenly called to me, ‘You are being set free.’
He gave me my release card. I just could not believe it!

But I was the only one who was silent. From the gloomy corners of the cell, sad jealous eyes looked at me and I heard everyone saying that I was lucky. The rule of the Pawiak prison is that the innocent go to Auschwitz, the guilty before a firing squad. Being released is almost unheard of.

Half an hour later I was sitting in the prison van on the way to Szucha Avenue.

Three pretty girls, their heads erect, were sitting by me in the van. Their quiet dignity caught my attention. I started to share my joy with them, but they told me that they were to be executed. The Germans had found out that they belonged to the Underground Army. They were Krystyna (16), Barbara (17) and Irena (20).

They told me about their fate so simply and openly that I did not know how to reply. Finally, I shook hands with each of them, and in this way paid tribute to their bravery. As a good-bye, they asked me to say a prayer for them in church.

Back at Szucha Avenue, I was put into the ‘sanitorium’ waiting room again. A man sitting near me had a face which one could call neither human nor animal. His jaw and cheekbones were all out of place and covered with coagulated blood. In place of his right eye was a raw wound. I could only wonder how he was still alive.

A lady of about thirty years of age was sitting on the next chair, quietly discussing with a companion the tortures she had gone through. She was talking about them in a strangely matter-of-fact way, her arms crossed over bandages where her breasts used to be. She said she had been told that she would be put on the rack sometime the next day, and implied that she hoped everything would end at last.

These people who, for their country or their faith, were suffering torture and death so bravely made a deep impression on me, and I could not help wondering if I would be so brave if it happened to me.

Julian Kulski left Warsaw for a period to lie low but he remained active in the underground resistance and was back in Warsaw by the time of the uprising the following summer.

See Julian Engeniusz Kulski: Dying, we live: The personal chronicle of a young freedom fighter in Warsaw (1939-1945). For more on Julian Kulski see Warsaw Uprising.

Action Saybusch (Polish: Akcja Żywiec), the mass expulsion of 20,000 Poles from the territory of Żywiec County, performed by the Wehrmacht and German police during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

Action Saybusch (Polish: Akcja Żywiec), the mass expulsion of 20,000 Poles from the territory of Żywiec County, performed by the Wehrmacht and German police during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II.

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