Tag Archive for Escape

Escape – Page 13

Night had fallen. The wind rose and it began to rain. What to do? We do not lose hope. If there are Poles in the camp, then some help will be given to us. I took off the uniform. Only in a sweater, without a hat, I went to the barrack. Bolek stayed for backup. I walked into the barrack. Party on the whole. Harmony plays from ear to ear. Nobody paid attention to me. I got to one of the elder men. It turned out he was from my region. He gave me bread and butter. The second portion I took for Bolek. After a long search, my friend came from under the heap. He dit not give me the map. He probably was afraid. I received a card from him to buy 2 kg of bread. None of the persons, however, could tell me exactly where we were. I went out. Bolek was already impatient.

We continued our journey. We walked along the railroad track. In the morning we came to a city. From the distance there were church towers. It was dark yet, and the ranks of people, with something like arms on their shoulders, were hurrying to the trenches. This made the impression of military manoeuvres, all the more when they started shooting with machine guns, and along the track was advancing an infantry. Under the light bulb we managed to escape to the pine grove. These were just military exercises.

It started to brighten up. Machine guns stopped firing. More and closer to us were the sounds of German commands. I reached out to the edge of the forest and saw straight in front of me the copse marching company of the army. Under the grove they stopped. They spread all the instruments for gun training. The soldiers divided into groups and started the training. Our location was tragic. Exiting into the open field would mean they will detect us. It could end up in a chase. Staying at the spot was also dangerous because during the break in the exercises the soldiers could enter the woods and would notice us. We stayed, however.

As we had predicted, there was a break in the exercises and several Germans entered the grove to help themselves with their physiological needs. We were unnoticed. To our joy, it began to rain. The company stopped the firing training and marched back.

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ESCAPE – Page 12

With one jump we were back into the forest and until evening we went and ran in unknown direction. In the evening we went out to the edge of the forest. We noticed two men covering a potato mound. Next to the mound stood a horse and an empty carriage. I went unnoticed under the mound. Having heard Polish talking, I went over. There were two of them. I greeted them in Polish. In the course of the conversation I learned that they are on the job. They promised to give us something to eat and even to sleep. I called Bolek, who at the time provided back-up. We got on the car and still during the light of the day we reached the village. They told us to wait. They were supposed to bring some cooked food. We couldn’t have waited; apparently they were too scared to help us out. After an hour, one of them came and ordered us to flee, because there is inspection. We did not have anything else but to actually march of.

We were so tired that we could not move much forward. We went a few miles, picked up potato leftovers in the field and like piglets stuffed them into us. So we hastened to dawn. It was terribly cold. We could not recognise each other in the morning. Dirty, tired, cold, we went further. The villages were still asleep. At times, there was a rooster’s sound or dog barking. We happened to meet some soldier, but without a word we went on without asking him anything.

For us it was all the same now. We walked all day with small stops. We did not bypass the villages; Either we will come or we will die. We only eat carrots. On the way we found a corn field where we rested and ate a little. By evening we reached a village. Our march stopped by the trenches.

They were freshly dug, which intrigued us so much. Is there an Eastern Front already? We were afraid to go on. We landed in the roadside heap. Terrible cold and wind with rain did not give us any rest. We huddled together to warm ourselves up, but it did not help much.

Dawn. At a distance of 300 m from the heap stood a newly built large barrack. In the distance the village, and near the trenches stretched far away.

For long time no one was seen. Strangely calm. Terrible hunger began to sting us. There was no carrots or cabbage to be found in the vicinity. Around 10 o’clock it stopped raining. Underneath our pile came a boy and started to collect potatoes, which after the rain were easily visible. I went to him. I learned that Poles lived in the barrack, and for a period they were taken by Germans to dig trenches. Today is Sunday, so they do not work. He could not tell us where we were. At my request went to call a better-oriented colleague. Around 15:00 hour his colleague came. He also did not know much or did not want to tell us. He went  out to find and bring a map for which we did not waited.

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ESCAPE – page 11

Around 19hr we reached Kostrzyn. Here we were showed the route and we were told to cross the Oder before 20hr later we would not be allowed to. They blinked at us expressively. We concluded that they were well aware of our situation.

We did as we were advised. We almost reached the Odra. It was dark. On the Odra the traffic is tremendous. Full of troops. We did not stop for a moment. Over the Odra there was a footbridge of over a meter wide. Near the footbridge was a guard station. He did not stop us. After that, at the first foot-pillar of the bridge, there stood a second guard-house. In front of it there stood around fifteen guards, somewhat strangely dressed. They looked at us but no one interfered with us. We went the second foot-pillar of the bridge. There was a narrow kind of rails. We went through these rails to the tunnel and into the square where the signpost was. Darkness everywhere. Bolek put me on the signpost. I read: Stettin, Schwerin. We stood at a crossroad without knowing where to go. Bolek reminded himself of a German football team from Schwerin, who had played matches with Międzychód before the war. Apparently, it is a town located somewhere close to the border.

We headed towards Schwerin. We went into the woods. We wanted to get through it before the morning because we expected some German defences in the neighbourhood. On the way we read the signposts to the nearest towns – just in case. We did it within in a very short time. Maybe we already made 10 km, when we left the road, 300 m away, we noticed an illuminated building. Apparently some barracks. We entered the forest and unexpectedly we stood eye to eye with the soldier on guard. He was in charge of military warehouses. He shouted: “Halt!” A dog jumped out. He sniffed us and went back to the guardhouse. In a moment, without waiting for the guard to continue and before he knew, we were already next to him. “Why are you yelling?” I called and patted him on the shoulder. In case he would shoot, he would have had his piece, enough to cross to the other world. Apparently he noticed a German uniform because he hesitated. He lowered the rifle, which he had ready to fire. I told him we were going to the next village to buy something to eat. When we would come back, we would give him some. Without waiting for his consent, we set off in the designated direction.

On the way we met civilians on bicycles, who looked diligently at us. I looked at Bolek, he at me, but we did not see anything unusual that might draw their attention. After we lost sight of them, we went into the forest and all the way though the grove along the brook. Here in the thickets we sat down for a while and … fell asleep. We must have slept for quite some time. We woke up from screams: “Deserters! Deserters! “I opened one eye. Over me stood a young German about twenty with a fusion prepared shooting me, and next to him a German women of about eighteen. They were watching us closely. I closed my eyes again, but immediately I jumped to him. He dropped the fusion, stepped back, and screamed out from the distance: “Deserters!”, Threatening the gendarmerie. Near the hut was the there was a rattle.

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ESCAPE – page 10

After some rest, we went out to the edge of town. It was already around eight o’clock. Two more hours of walking and we found ourselves in front of a yellow sign reading “Berlin-West.” A few light beams of the sun came through. In the bushes we dried our clothes. We shaved, and with a piece of our ragged prisoner clothes we had under the SS uniforms, we cleaned our shoes and improving our looks somewhat, we moved over South of Berlin to the east. On the way we saw many destructions and ruins. A military unit marched through the street. The commander gave us the honour, which of course we responded to, and without the slightest hassle we went further.

On the way we passed some factories, fenced with wires. Some of them – newly built. In front of one of the factories we noticed ‘stamped’ people walking around unrestrained. The first of a kind we met with a “P” and the “U” sign. We assumed that “P” is a Pole. We went up to one man with the stamp “P”. I first asked in German what this stamp means. He replied. Then in Polish I asked where he came from and what he was doing here. He replied that he was from Lódz. He was taken to work. To work in a factory. I told him who we were and we ask for help. He gave us 10 mark and showed us the way to the tram. Today, I wish I could thank him again , because neither his name nor his place of residence is known to me.

From the bridge over the river Spree, we took the tram to Berlin-East station. On the way, however, we changed plans. We were afraid of check-ups at the station by the military police. We went further, to the main highway in the direction of Frankfurt and Kostrzyn. We got off there. We wanted to take the road to reach some small station where there would be no checks for on getting on and buying a ticket.

The map we had ended after Berlin. The road we set off did not lead to the train station. Guided by our senses, we headed east. The entire route was filled with driving cars, which forced us to go of the road. We entered a military area and moved along the line, leaving Berlin behind us. On the way we picked potatoes from the mounds. We fried them in the woods. Back on strengths, we went on the main road. We stopped a truck. Two workers and a chauffeur were sitting in it. We asked them to take us to Kostrin because we were in a hurry. We needed to present ourselves for the army. We were going to the battlefront. They were surprised. They talked to each other until they finally demanded documents.

As our only document, we showed the gun. I sat down with the chauffeur and Bolek with the workers, and ordered them to move. They drove without a word. I do not know whether they were afraid or whether they were foreigners, because we encountered marching troops on the way, we were passing a town and the car did not stop for a moment.

 

 

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ESCAPE – page 9

On the second day, after traveling about 30 km, we lie under a haystack. Suddenly we hear the barking of dogs. Straight at us group goes hunting. Germans in hunting attire with dogs. They came to the railroad tracks. Apparently they did not want to go over the tracks, they turned into the drive. Meanwhile, we slipped out of the entanglement. Only the people who working on the field digging potatoes and beet, started to insult us and called out: “Deserters!”. It was in the evening. Quickly we went through the fields and entered in a meadow, where, in the bushes next to a brook, we waited for the night.

We came to the conclusion that this way we won’t get far. More and more surprises on the way. You can fall in one without even knowing when. We decided to try to ride the train. We had 5 marks and this encouraged us. The railway line Halle-Berlin is connected to the narrow-gauge railway line, encircling Berlin from the South. It was almost to the eastern border of Berlin. We decided to take this route and get outside Berlin, where the former Polish-German border seemed close to us. We arrived at the small railway station on the Elbe. We purchased tickets to the next station to the other side of the river. We expected that these 5 marks for this purpose would be used up. It turned out that tickets were much cheaper. We still have 2 mark, for which we bought a beer, and the rest for bread rolls. After an hour, the train came. We set off in the direction of Berlin. On the train was mandatory blackout. It was very beneficial for us. There wasn’t any control on the train. We drove to our station for which we bought the tickets. Had to get off, but inside the train, so warm, pleasant. We stayed sitting and made the kilometres while outside the wind and rain whistled. We did not get off.

The closer we got to Berlin, the more travellers got on the train. Mostly military. An officer asked me about something. I pretended to be asleep. He did not ask me anything more. We eventually got to Potsdam. Almost everyone got out. We also headed to the station, but the view controllers and the military startled us on time. Discreetly we retreated to the other side of the train. Rails, jump over the fence and we ended up on the street. It was about 23 hours. We wanted to get out of town, but in no way could not find the right way. We went astray for about four hours. In the end, we rested in a park with tall trees. A light rain fell.

At dawn, we looked at each other with pity. We looked like two paupers. Enough for anyone seeing us, at once to be recognised as fugitives.

We moved on further exploring a way out of the city. The city began getting more traffic. Right at the checkpoint we saw gendarmes. We sat on a bench and thought about what to do next. Two gendarmes clearly glared at us, but did not hooked on. Skulls on our caps and collars deterred everyone.

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ESCAPE – page 8

We decided to go for it. In the beginning we went off-roads. Crossing fields and through the forests. We avoided villages and people. In the morning we arrived at stacks of grain in the clearing. Further march was impossible. We hid in a pile of straw. A little sleep, meditating on our fate. Hunger began to tease us. We strengthen ourselves on raw carrot and cabbage and waited for the night. We could not go by roads. Our compass were the stars. We had bad luck, because for the whole three-week trip the weather was bad. Rain or cloudy nights did not allow us to get a good sense of direction. After three days of walking we decided to figure out where exactly we were going. We went to a village to read signposts for direction and place names. We had assumed that these three nights we walked for 100 km. It turned out that we are only 20 km from the place of escape and were walking back in the direction of the camp.

On the edge of the forest we entered the fenced area, were we could not get out. A large German shepherd ran to us, sniffed and walked away. He saw a German uniform, but did not sense who it got in it. There was a flash light. We saw the mast, and the Nazi flag. Nearby stood a police station. Despite the lack of strength with incredible speed we were outside the fence – to get as far as possible.

Sometimes we lied through the whole day in haystacks. In the fields we saw farmers plowing. Soggy patches, mud and rains forced us to take risks. We decided to march along roads, on which cars were moving. The direction of our march led to Berlin. Food we gained in different ways.

In different ways we struggled through Germany. Only a novelist could describe our journey, strewn with thousands of surprises.

One evening we reached some village. In one of the houses the light was on. We approached, of course, weapons in hand. A large family was speaking Ukrainian. We called the host. We told him to bring a loaf of bread and 5 Mark. He brought it. We gave him a pack of cigarettes. Both sides were happy.

Mostly we walked between the hours of 20 pm to 4 am, because then the Landwache descended from their posts. We got a long way. We reached Halle. Bypassing the city from the North, we encountered some dugout. We went to one of them and to our surprise we noticed the gun in the stands and the bunks full of soldiers, both sides completely full. One soldier apparently doing night duty gave salute and wanted to report something. We asked only for the way, of course in a opposite direction, and we left. I think they were an outposts anti-aircraft artillery.

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ESCAPE – page 6

The repairs continued over time . No one was in no hurry. Neither the Kommandoführer was in a hurry to leave this secluded place away from the bombing, nor the SS, nor the gendarmes assigned for protection. After a few days the Kornmandoführer got acquainted with the owner of the buildings, a young German women. He began an affair with her, and we, in the best of our ability, we tried with our work to extend their romance.

In the afternoons and on Sundays we were taken to harvest. We put sheaves in the field. Occasionally, we were allowed to bathe in the stream. We could not complain. Bolek received parcels, which he shared with everyone. Next to us lived French prisoners of war. There were fifteen of them. Every morning, they went to work dressed in their military uniform. They returned late in the afternoon or evening. Often we envied their “freedom”.

After renovating the floors and repairing the roof, we went down to the basement. Because of the raids, it was decided to put the bulk storage as low as possible. We started digging at in the rocky bottom where the crane would be stored. It was like working in the mine under electric light. We could not dig too deep, because of constant flooding from groundwater, which we had to remove by using a hand pump. We worked in shifts, day and night. The only entertainment at pouring water all-night, was listening to the radio brought by an SS man. This was the period of the Warsaw Uprising. Every day the fighting in Warsaw, every day of the massacre carried out in the heart of Polish. It stirred in us a passion for revenge. Our hearts breaking for our fighting countryman. Our hands tightened to fist ready to kill the animals personified in the SS. There were moments that I had to withstand the urge to kill an SS with his own weapon. I deliberated, however, and waited for a better opportunity.

I became restless, taciturn and only looking for sedation at workg. Sunday came. It was the end of September 1944. Three of us gathered: Bolek Maciaszek, Molik and me. We started a long discussion. The main topic of our discussion was, escape, as soon as possible. Certainly the Warsaw Uprising will trigger reprisals against the Poles. For sure we will be driven to the camp. Faith already known. One way or the other, it ends in death. Molik was of the opinion that we needed to arrange civilian clothes. Apparently, he already made efforts with the French soldiers. Stubbornly he stuck to that plan. But that would only bring us in trouble, because it is difficult to trust people you do not know. How would it be organised? We did not know the French who would provide us the clothes. Our lives would be hanging on a hair. We could not find a solution, the more that Molik was not fully determined. We decided to flee, together with Bolek. The deadline was not agreed. We only waited for an opportunity. And an opportunity came.

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ESCAPE – page 5

For the next transport we got called up again. I knew that I won’t be able to avoid the transport every time.

Therefor, I looked for a transport myself. That opportunity arose. A small commando were departing to Braunschweig. To complete the group, they needed a bricklayer. I thought to myself that I can be as well a bricklayer. After all, these big blocks in the camp were also not build by experts. So I volunteered as a mason at Kapo Martin. Also I covered for Bolek Maciaszek and we got accepted and included for the drive out.

I left the camp in Neuengamme on May 3, year 1944. I did not assumed to go back there ever again. Fortunately. Because before the end of the war, the camp was liquidated: the prisoners were taken to ships which then got bombed. Only a handful were saved.

So to the camp at Braunschweigiem I came. There were Spaniards and French. A prison car took us to work. In the middle of the town we built a barrack. During our stay the town was bombed very often. People got buried under rubble. Even bunkers proved little protection against the bombs.

We were not afraid to die from bombs. Each bombing elicited great joy from us. For us, what was bombing compared to be killed by the wheelbarrow, get a boot on the neck and suffocate or to drown in the muddy trench, or, at best, be shot like a dog.

Construction proceeded quickly and efficiently and soon I finished the construction. After a few days we were placed at a small village near Helmstedt. Here we fix the warehouses of the SS that were crumbling from the bombing.

Me as ‘bricklayer’, was told to fix the chimney. At first I thought that this wouldn’t be a too difficult job. I was wrong. I pretended to be an expert, but could not use a trowel. Soon I had to go through the exam. I got exposed. I was not sent to the camp, what I feared most. Instead, I was changed in function: I became an assistant in construction, and masons were brought from the village. They were two old Germany civilians. Together with Molik,we brought the bricks, stirring the lime and carried “miszung” up. The job was not the worst; it was far from the camp were we were constantly being routed up “Los … los …” Sometimes only Kapo Martin hunted us, but when we “bought” him some products from parcels, he calmed down.

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ESCAPE – page 4

New victories on the fronts inclined to the side of opponents of the Third Reich. Planes constantly bombed Germany. In July of the same year, raids bombed Hamburg terribly. More frequent alarms wreaked panic among the Germans. Prisoners helped sorting out Hamburg after the raids. They brought all sorts of information about the damage done by the phosphorous bombs, etc. The smoke of the burning city obscured our camp.

At the same time course in the camp had eased a little. Although Lagerführer Mayer got replaced by Lagerführer Thumann from Majdanek, he tightened discipline, but did not managed to turn the camp into an abattoir of people. We went to work normally, but all of us felt that the end of the criminals-reign is imminent.

Beside the brick factory, we set dozens of poles in such a way that it brought cover and rest all day over excavated pits while waiting for the end of the war. One person was standing watch and to alert us if necessary. Then we worked with redoubled energy. It worked successfully for a long time. But the pitcher goes as far until the ear doesn’t tear off. Once, before the end of the work we went in a group and we started to talk about our experiences. Suddenly, unexpectedly arrived the Lagerführer. He wrote the name of the commando and my number as the guardian of the group. Knocked on the whole. It has not helped explaining that we were only gathering for ending the shift and such. It was in April 1944.

On the evening roll, my name was call out and I had to present myself for the whole camp. I was told to bow my head, which got tied to the stool together with my hands. Two of the strongest camp prisoners whipped me more than 25 times over my behind. I saw all the stars in the sky, but gave not even a whimper. The Sturmführerowi did not enjoyed it and therefor ordered to repeat the portion. Of course, he ordered to lash faster and with more force. This time, I not even felt the pain. My-continued silence brought the Sturmführer into a frenzy of rage. Apparently he did not want to loose face – the called to end the appeal, and I had to be escort the shed next to the kitchen. There, he only changed the executioners. Again, I received my portion. After that, they released be to the block hut.

Please try to imagine, how I moved myself to my hut. Józio Ślaski and Bolek Maciaszek took me under the arms and brought me to the bunk. There they washed off my blood and put compresses on me. For three weeks I could not sit, and I could only sleep on my stomach.

So our commando got the attention of the Sturmführer and the next transport has been designated to go to ‘Dritte’. They herded us to the bathhouse, where a medical examination was scheduled. I got out accidentally by being in the dispensary and avoided transportation. Also, most of my friends managed to escape from the bathhouse.


 

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ESCAPE page 3

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After a so called quarantine period, during which it was forbidden to lay contact with the old inmates of the camp, we got separated under different commandos. I was assigned to Zaunbaukommando. Our kapo was Johann Schmidt, an elderly man, a communist. I got a manageable job in the construction of the fence. We put high poles, similar to Auschwitz. Another group pulled wires and set barbed wires. Several times plans for the fence changed, so that we were also moving poles. The work was prolonged. It was an advantage, since good work was to be respected.

After some time, the political branch began checking our personal data. Letters we sent to all the places of birth and residence, requesting to carefully check the personal data. It turned out that many of us have foreign names. Back came the replies that this or that had long since been dead. They began to call us to the political department. Many persons taken did not return to us. My friend, with whom I worked, gave the name of Dobija. It turned out that his name was Kazimierczak and was a lieutenant in the Polish Army during the interwar period. Not uncovered in Auschwitz until the poor man came here. Leaving Auschwitz he thought of escape, this time he stood at the precipice. What finally happened to him, I do not know, because in the meantime I left the camp.

Autumn of 1943, our working commando was next to a brick factory. Here I met several colleagues from the Messap commando. Mostly they were Poznanians, for example. Miecio Krauze from Wrzesnia, near Poznan. Spychała under Miedzychód and many others places.

At the brickyard there was the Klinkerwerkkommando. It was one of the toughest commandos in the camp. Every day we watched as they were herded, beaten and kicked. Even worse than this Elba commando. Work in this commando finished off mass of prisoners, as they continuously worked in the water.

On Sunday, we also worked at the excavation for the new building. The work was hard everywhere, and hide from it was not possible. The camp at Neuengamme, however, differed substantially from Auschwitz. People here did not die en masse. Occasionally there were hanging, shooting, but not wholesale slaughter. Kapo’s, Vorarbeiters, were recruited mainly from the Communists. The SS may even been worse than Auschwitz, but they had no helpers in finishing off people. Many prisoners went on wires and perished from electrocution.

The commando for the construction of the fence continued through the year with varying degrees of luck. From time to time I received beating with the whip or fist, but not experienced it as bad as in the previous camp.

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