[Afternoon issue of Kurier Codzienny, no. 95, from 8 October 1945]


A recollection of the bloody days of the occupation
Christmas 1939 was dismal, the first Christmas under the bloody German occupation.

Wawer and Anin, less destroyed during the September fighting, were therefore populated with newcomers from Warsaw, which was partly destroyed. Because of Christmas, many people came to stay with their families living here.

The mood had been completely spoiled by the notices the Germans had published a few weeks earlier, stating that if telephone lines were damaged or any other acts of sabotage occurred, hostages would be taken from among the population. If the inhabitants failed to seize the culprit, the hostages would be executed after 48 hours. Nevertheless, everyone tried to find consolation in toasting the health of General Sikorski, who “would bring the Christmas wafer to Poland on the point of a bayonet” come next Christmas. I was a daredevil who listened to the radio throughout the entire occupation. During the memorable Christmas of 1939, there were a dozen people at my place, listening to the voice from Toulouse.

It was extremely chilly, the ground was covered with snow, the night very dark. As we were listening to Toulouse, Wawer and Anin were surrounded by the gendarmerie and SS. All the houses and villas were surrounded, and men, even small boys, were dragged out. I still don’t understand why they skipped our villa. Supposedly, they skipped villas that didn’t have any footprints around them in the snow. At dawn, like a bolt out of the blue, we were struck by terrible news: all of our closest neighbors had been executed! 120 men! It was simply a bolt that stunned us. It turned out that a bandit, named Prasuła, chased by the German and blue police, had turned up in Wawer, in a café. When two Germans and a blue policeman entered the premises, he shot at them, killing one German and injuring the other, and then fled. Repressions followed.

Cars with tormentors arrived from Warsaw. […]
We waited for a couple of hours in the freezing cold. Then we were ordered to form a row. We
all had to walk between two rows of SS-men, who beat us with rifle butts in an extremely
cruel fashion. Many men had broken jaws and mutilated faces.

After this horrible, merciless massacre, an empty yard between a couple of small streets was lit up with spotlights and the execution started, ten people at a time. They carried out the execution with a machine gun mounted on a car. We all stood there in a daze. It all seemed a continuation of some horrible dream, from which we had been torn. Then moans and a cries rose up from the crowd of men and boys. People kneeled, prayed and, groaning, raised their hands to the sky.

Eventually, I also found myself in a group of ten. We were led out and told to kneel so that our shoulders touched. My assistant was kneeling next to me. We were both crying and praying. He, being younger, turned to me and asked me to forgive him everything, if he had ever faulted me in any way, because in a moment he was going to stand before God. Meanwhile I kept asking God to allow me to fall when the first shot rang out, before the bullet reached me. I had heard about such lucky incidents. Suddenly, I heard a bolt – fell – and lost consciousness. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was. Only a moan from my dying friend and the warmth of his blood brought me back to my senses. I couldn’t tell, however, whether I was wounded or dying. I only felt that my fingers and ears were freezing.

The spotlight was still shining. I was lying in a pool of blood, trying not to breathe. At a certain moment I heard footsteps. Someone was walking around, leaning over the lying bodies and killing the dying. A shot sounded every moment.

I felt my heart stop in my chest. I simply stopped breathing. Someone came and leaned over me. My companion moaned. A shot resounded. He was killed. The footsteps moved away.

I was lying like a dead man, holding my breath. After a long while – which seemed like ages to me – there were footsteps again. Then listening again if anyone had moved or groaned – and shots.

At a certain moment I lost all sense of consciousness. When I opened my eyes it was dark. The spotlight had disappeared. Silence. Nevertheless, I tried not to move a muscle, I was wary of deceit. Only when I felt that the darkness had started to recede, that the dawn was approaching, did I decide to act.

I began to slightly turn my head to get an idea of the situation. I knew that I risked death with every move. I raised my head and noted that there was not a single man alive around me. I was alone among the dead. I crawled in the direction of the nearest fence – I don’t know how – and dropped in at my friends’ house, who went pale at my sight. I was saved.

Today, citizen Piegat still runs his hairdressing salon in Wawer and is one of Wawer county’s beloved and respected figures.

Bronisław Bakal