The 19th of September 1940—the second street round-up in Warsaw.
There are a few people still alive who saw me go alone at 6:00 a.m. to the corner of Aleja Wojska and Felinskiego Street and join the “fives” of captured men drawn up by the SS.
On Plac Wilsona we were then loaded onto lorries and taken to the Light Horse Guards Barracks.
After having our particulars taken down in the temporary office there, being relieved of sharp objects and threatened with being shot if so much as a razor was later found on us, we were led out into the riding school arena where we remained throughout the 19th and the 20th.
During those two days some of us made the acquaintance of a rubber truncheon on the head. However, this was more or less within acceptable bounds for those accustomed to guardians of the peace using such methods to keep order.
Meanwhile, some families were buying their loved ones’ freedom, paying the SS huge sums of money.
At night, we all slept side by side on the ground.
The arena was lit by a huge spotlight set up right next to the entrance.
SS men with automatic weapons were stationed on all four sides.
There were about one thousand eight hundred or so of us.
What really annoyed me the most was the passivity of this group of Poles. All those picked up were already showing signs of crowd psychology, the result being that our whole crowd behaved like a herd of passive sheep.
A simple thought kept nagging me: stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving.
I suggested to my comrade, Slawek Szpakowski (who I know was living in Warsaw up to the Uprising), a joint operation during the night: take over the crowd, attack the sentry posts while I, on my way to the lavatory, would “bump” into the spotlight and smash it.
However, I had a different reason for being there.
This would have been a much less important objective.
While he—thought the idea was total madness.
On the morning of the 21st we were put onto trucks and, escorted by motorcycles with automatic weapons, were taken off to the western railroad station and loaded onto freight cars.
The railroad cars must have been used before for carrying lime, for the floors were covered in it.
The cars were shut. We travelled for a whole day. We were given nothing to eat or drink. In any case, no one wanted to eat. The previous day we had been issued some bread, which we did not yet know how to eat or to treasure. We were just very thirsty. The lime, when disturbed, turned into a powder. It filled the air, irritating our nostrils and throats. We got nothing to drink.
Excerpt from The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, by Captain Witold Pilecki, translated by Jarek Garlinski. Copyright 2012 Jarek Garlinski/Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd. Excerpted with permission of Aquila Polonica Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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