In Warsaw, on 25 March 1947, Halina Wereńko, member of the District Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Warsaw, proceeding pursuant to the Decree of 10 November 1945, regarding the Main [Commission] and District Commissions for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland No. 51, item 293), interviewed the below-mentioned as an unsworn witness. The witness, having been advised of the criminal liability for making false declarations and of the wording of Article 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Bolesław Korzeniak|
|Parents’ first names||Jan and Władysława|
|Date and place of birth||13 August 1895, in the village of Suchocin, Węgrów district|
|Education||can read and write|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
|Place of residence||Warsaw, Spokojna Street 13|
|Citizenship and nationality||Polish|
|Occupation||Stoker for the City Board|
During the German occupation, I lived in Warsaw at Okopowa Street 55a, where there was an elementary school, occupied at the time by two Wehrmacht units (one of which had the name Bau-Kolonne, the second was the 66th Telephone Battalion).
On 29 July 1944, the Germans evacuated the premises. On 1 August 1994, the building was occupied by insurgents of the Uprising. On 3 August 1944, the Staff officers of the “Zośka” battalion arrived, and stayed there until 11 August 1944. On that day at 4.00 p.m., the insurgents crossed the ghetto to get to the Old Town. A Wehrmacht unit arrived at the school right after the insurgents had left. After an inspection, they set fire to the building in the evening, but the building did not catch fire. It was only on 13 August 1944 that they – I was in the cellar and saw that they were German soldiers (I didn’t notice what kind of weapons they had) – poured petrol around the school building on four sides [and set the building on fire]. When it started scorching, myself and other residents of the building left in the evening through a hole in the wall into the Jewish cemetery, and we waited through the night there. Only once the building stopped burning did we return to the cellars of the burnt- out building.
During the German occupation there was an orphanage for the boys of the displaced from the Poznańskie Voivodeship at Okopowa Street 59, in the former paint factory. The children were evacuated before the Uprising, and only the priest, Henryk Zalewski, and two janitors, whose surnames I can’t remember, remained at the orphanage. At dusk on 16 August 1944 (I’m not sure of the date), while sitting in the school’s cellar, I heard groaning and screaming, children and women calling for help, all coming from the direction of the factory. From then on I would hear such sounds every evening up until around 23 September 1944. When heading out at night in search of food, I saw at that time – in the yard behind the factory, next to the Jewish cemetery – huge fires, and could sense the smell of burnt bodies. A few days later, having gone closer to the factory grounds where I had previously seen the fires, I came across a fire that hadn’t been put out, and I could see human bones that hadn’t fully burned, mixed with the ashes. I could see that there were two fires in the middle of the yard, each up to about 120 meters long and about 3.5 meters wide. There were pieces of timber arranged in parallel, on which – I’m concluding from the ashes and bones on them – corpses were arranged for burning. Beneath the factory chimney, in the yard, there was a fire burning continuously, and you could smell burnt corpses; I didn’t approach then because I could hear “Ukrainians” talking around the fire.
Towards the end of August 1944, when heading out in the evening to the factory yard for food, I met a few people who were evidently hiding, just like us. The priest, Henryk Zaleski, and Stanisław Komar were there (I don’t know their current addresses), and there was one more man whose surname I don’t know. I met them a few more times after that. Father Zaleski was hiding in the factory grounds, and later in the Jewish cemetery. He told me that when sitting in the factory chimney a few days before the end of August 1944, he had witnessed executions beneath the factory chimney and further away in the yard. The priest said that civilians from the Old Town were shot dead there.
Later, I also met Stanisław Trzciński, who had escaped from the place of execution, and told me that he was a resident of the building at Okopowa Street 53. He had been arrested by the Germans in the Old Town, taken to the factory for execution, and had managed to escape thanks to his knowledge of the grounds. He told me that the elderly, handicapped, injured, and children were led into the factory yard, and their mothers and closest relatives walked behind them. They had been informed that they were going to a hospital, so the people didn’t realize that they were going to their deaths. At the pieces of timber, arranged in parallel, the people were ordered to lie down, following which the Germans shot them in the back of the head. That evening, when Trzciński was taken there, approximately 500 people were shot dead in that way.
The report was concluded at this point and read out.