ESCAPED FROM JAWORZNO
(ARBEITS-KOMMANDO OF STALLAG VIIIB.)
ACCOUNT OF ESCAPE OF
North of ELBE Estuary 27 July
42. Escaped: JAWORZNO
(POLAND), 10 July 43.
Birth: 18 Apr
Peacetime Profession: Polish Air Force.
Recaptured near GOGOLIN
Sent back to LAMSDORF
11 Nov. "Reprisals" at LAMSDORF
1943. March. Unchained.
Exchanged of identities.
25 or 26 Jul.
14 Sep. Left SARREBOURG
15 Sep. LUNEVILLE
25 Oct. Left FRANCE.
27 Oct. Arrival in ANDORRA.
We came down very near a German A.A. post, and within five minutes about 12 soldiers under an officer arrived, bringing medical assistance. BOGUSZEWSKI died as he was being taken out of the aircraft. The Germans gave first-aid to the other three wounded members of the crew, and while they were doing so I manage to press the switch of the I.F.F.
I was then separated from the rest of the crew, whom I did not see again. I was taken to the German guardroom, where the only question I was asked was whether I had been shot down by a fighter. In the morning I was taken by car to a fortress, from which I was dispatched a few hours later with Feldwebel as escort to DULAG LUFT (FRANKFURT). We traveled via HAMBURG.
2. DULAG LUFT.
On arrival in DULAG LUFT I was put into a room by myself and kept there for four and a half days. During this time German officers visited me with the "Red "Cross" form. I filled in only my name, number, date of birth, and rank, and crossed out the other questions such as number of Squadron, name of Squadron-Leader, and name of Wing-Commander. The officers said they were trying only to help me. The told me the numbers of present and past Polish Squadrons, and asked the names of people in the Squadron who were not flying and questions about the type of bombs we had been carrying. I said I did not know, as I had been only two days with the Squadron; whereupon they asked how it came about that I was a first pilot. I said I had previous flying experience elsewhere.
They were no other interrogations except the officers who brought the "Red Cross" form. They knew from the markings of the aircraft that it belonged to 300 Sqn. and that I was therefore a Pole, but they did not use any threats of discrimination because of my nationality or ask about my relatives in Poland. I said I had been born in CANADA, but had been living in POLAND up to the war, giving them a false address in WARSAW.
After four and a half days in solitary confinement I was put into the main camp. After two days there I was sent to STALAG VIIIB (LAMSDORF), arriving about 7 Aug.
3. Attempted Escape from LAMSDORF.
On 7 Sep I escaped from LAMSDORF with Sgt. Kenneth HYDE (?), R.C.A.F. (a navigator). We were members of a party of about nine. A soldier cut through the wire at dusk, when there was a storm building up, while the rest of us kept watch. After leaving the camp the Canadian and I went alone, heading towards POLAND. I wore civilian jacket and hat which I had got from a Pole in the camp hospital who was aviating repatriation to POLAND. I had ordinary RAF trousers. The Canadian had railwayman's uniform made in camp by dyeing a foreign military uniform. We also carried Red Cross food.
We walked for three days and two nights, mostly through woods till we reached the river ODER near KRAPPITZ, not far from the Polish frontier. After crossing the river we made the mistake of walking too early in the evening, and were seen going into wood (probably near GOGOLIN) which happened to be a prohibited area. We were sent to a British working party at GOGOLIN, and shut up in the groom's room at a stable. I found a pair of clippers in the room and forced the hook which secured the door. The Canadian was shaving at the time, so I went out alone. I climbed on the roof and dropped into a courtyard on the other side of wood, but I was seen by the British P/W who stopped work to watch me. The Germans noticed this, and I was sent back to LAMSDORF, where the Stuff-offizier gave me two weeks' cells.
4. "Reprisals" at LAMSDORF.
On 11 Nov 42 "reprisals" begun at LAMSDORF. For the first three months I was tied up with string, which in Jan 43 was changed for chains. From 11 Nov till about 15 Dec we had no individual Red Cross issues. In March 43 I was among the old P/W who were unchained and transferred to another compound.
5. Attempted Escaope from JAWORZNO.
In this compound I found a chance of changing identities with Moritz LEDER, a Palestinian Private in the A.M.P.C. I had some difficulty in taking his place, because photographs were scrutinized carefully, and I did not at all resemble LEDER. I volunteered, in my new role as a Private, to go out on a working party, and was sent to TARNOWITZ (EUROPE AIR, 1:250,000, Sheet 34/4). On this working party we were very strictly guarded and there was no opportunity of escaping. I then asked to be allowed to work in a coal mine, and was sent to the Dachsgrube in JAWORZNO, where I worked with another Polish airman, Sgt. Witold RAGINIS (S/P.G. (Poland)1589).
At the mine I got in touch with Polish civilians who were working in the mine. They were members of an organisation. I never spoke twice to the same man, and always met the next contact by signals. The organisation agreed to help to escape and an appointment was made to meet one of the embers outside the camp. (This was a special camp some distance from the mine).
Before 2200 hrs. on 9 Jun 43 I cut the camp wire. At 0100 hrs. on Jun 10, when the night shift was returning from work and there was a good deal of movement in the camp, I got out through the gap in the wire. Unfortunately, the place the Polish civilian and I had chosen as a rendezvous had been selected that night by the Gestapo, who were on the look-out for Polish patriots. As the Pole and I met the Germans opened fire with machine guns, and the civilian was killed. I threw myself on the ground and lay until a goods train came along on a adjacent siding. Under cover of the noise of the train I managed to get to the railway. After falling three or four times in my attempts to board the train I got into the last wagon and traveled about 30 km. to SZCZAKOWA (Sheet 34/4). I then walked toward OLKUSZ.
I was recaptured by a Battalion of S.S., who were also searching for Polish patriots. I was in civilian clothes, which I had got at a village on the way, and was taken for a civilian - a pose which I kept up in hope of being sent to GERMANY, whence I thought escape would be easier. The Germans slapped me on the face, and I eventually produced my Stalag identity disc to show I was a P/W. I was sent back to JAWORZNO, where I was sentenced to two months in the cells.
6. Escape from JAWORZNO.
While serving my sentence I was able to renew contact with the Polish organisation. On completion of my sentence, still retaining the identity of LEDER, I went to work in another mine in JAWORZNO (The Leopoldsgrube). In this mine I was working on a night shift. The shifts were changed every fortnight, and on 10 Jul 43, my last day on night shift, I escaped from mine.
The organisation gave me a hat and arranged that I should meet two men with bicycles outside mine. When the day shift was leaving the mine I came up in the cage with four of the P/W who were going off work. The cage normally held only four, and the guard at the top apparently did not reckon on the possibility of there being an extra man in the cage. The other P/W and I were wearing civilian clothes, issued to us for work in the mine, of type worn by civilian workers. The guard took out four others without noticing me, and I walked behind whistling Polish tunes and talking loudly in Polish to the other Poles. The four P/W were led to a shower room, while I walked through the gate with my miner's lamp in my hand just as though I were one of the civilian miners.
I walked down the road past the P/W camp to the spot where the two men were awaiting me with bicycles. One of the men gave me his bicycle and the other led me to his home at JANOW, about 4 km. from JAWORZNO. I was four days here, hiding most of the time in a cornfield. For the next three days I was hidden in a hayloft in JELEN, another village in the district. The Germans were searching the district, but the Polish organisation had warning of searches from Polish patriots in the police force. Seven days after my escapee I was taken back to JAWORZNO and was hidden for three days in the HUTA district town.
I was then sent to SZCZAKOWA (22 Jul). I was given a railwayman's uniform and was put on the engine of goods train bound for CRACOW. I travelled only as far as RUDAWA, a few miles East of KRZESZOWICE (Sheet 34/4) where I was sheltered for four days. On my first night in RUDAWA the Gestapo surrounded that village and an adjoining one. My host heard the Germans arriving and warned me, and I slipped out into a potato field. the Germans shot 27 men in RUDAWA that night after torturing them. One man was hung from a door lintel by the feet and his wife and child were shot under his head. All those who were killed had to dig their own graves. About 60 others were taken to prison. During the rest of my stay in POLAND I never slept at night.
On 25 or 26 Jul I was taken to CRACOW, where I remained till 18 Aug. Here I met my friend RAGINIS who had been at liberty since escaping on 10 Jun. He had been if Polish hands in JAWORZNO before being sent to CRACOW. RAGINIS spoke Polish, French, English and Spanish, and helped me in my subsequent journey which he shared.
7. Journey from POLAND to SARREBOURG.
The Polish organization in CRACOW supplied RAGINIS sand me with identity cards, and arranged with the Arbeitsamt (labour office) for us to be sent to work in GERMANY. RAGINIS was furnished with documents which gave his profession as clerk who had had a University education, while I was shown as a shopkeeper who had had a High School diploma. We both had false names. My story was that I owned a shop in CRACOW which had been taken over by the Germans and that I preferred going as a voluntary worker to GERMANY to remaining as a assistant in what had been my own business.
On Aug 18 we left CRACOW with a party of Polish civilians who had been conscripted for work in GERMANY. As alleged volunteers we were the only members of the party to whom a definite destination and definite employment had been assigned. This had been arranged with Arbeitsamt. We had been assigned to Bahnmeister (station master) in SARREBOURG.
We travelled via BERLIN and SAARBRUCKEN. In SAARBRUCKEN we bought our own tickets in preference to going to the Arbeitsamt which might have diverted us from SARREBOURG.
In SARREBOURG we reported to the Arbeitsamt and police and our employment was officially confirmed. There had already been some Poles working in the district for a long time, but, on account of its proximity to FRANCE, there had been no new comers for some time. We were billeted in the Fraunlager (? B.M. Lager) where there were about 150 Polish and Russian women, who were employed laying new, and repairing old, tracks on the railway. We were the only men there, the other male Poles being at work on farms in the district.
RAGINIS and I were given light employment - in the garden of the Bahnmeister and in the fields. We were under supervision all the time. We were working with a native of LORRAINE, to whom, after two weeks, RAGINIS confined that we were escaped P/W, and asked his help, since we had passed out of hands of the Polish organisation when we were dispatched to SARREBOURG. The Lorrainer got in touch with a French organisation in LORRAIN which undertook to help us.
8. Journey to FRANCE.
At 0600 hrs, on 14 Sep we left SARREBOURG with a railway worker who lived on the frontier, and travelled to a small station, probably HERTZING (EUROPE RAOD MAP, 1:250,000, Sheet 62). Here we were taken to a farm, whence we cycled to the village of FOULCREY, just before the frontier. The railwayman left us and we spent the day at FOULCREY. In the evening we were given directions as to how to cross the frontier, which we did while the German guard was changing. We crossed along and walked to IGNEY, on the French side of the frontier, by road. We were told we would be met outside IGNEY, but we saw no one corresponding to the description of the man we had been told to expect.
Failing to find our contact, we went to the farmhouse, where we were sheltered in a stable for the night by a farmer who had helped many French escapers from GERMANY. Next morning (15 Sep) we again waited for out contact, who was to have given us French identity cards. On the advice of the farmer we went to LUNEVILLE, near the frontier. Here we found help which eventually resulted in our being put in touch with an oragnisation which arranged out journey to SPAIN.
9. Crossing of PYRENEES.
I left FRANCE on the morning of 25 Oct with RAGINIS, a New Zealand soldier named “JEFF”, Sgt PHILO, S.J.V., 49 Sqn. R.A.F. and a guide. It was raining in the valleys when we set out. We walked till midday, by which time the New Zealander was so exhausted that PHILO and RAGINIS had to carry him. I was sick and had pains in my legs and could not help them, though later I carried JEFF.
About 1300 or 1400 hrs. on 26 Oct JEFF got so tired that he could not even walked downhill. We were all very tired and hungry, not having been provided with sufficient food. The guide advised us to leave JEFF in the mountains, but we were determined to carry him for as long as possible. At this stage the guide and RAGINIS went on ahead in hope of being able to bring back help. We did not see them again. It was snowing heavily and the snow in the mountains was more than knee-deep. We carried on for five hours. At 1900 hrs. the New Zealander died. We left him in the mountains, probably somewhere North of the PIC DE RULLE.
PHILO and I continued walking. It got dark and we lost the footprints of RAGINIS and the guide which we had been following. The sky cleared and it froze hard. Our clothes, which were completely saturated, now froze on us. We reached a rocky mountainside, across which it took us about four hours to cover one kilometre. I was in front, and when we reached a level stretch of snow I waited for PHILO. When he reached me he lay down and fell asleep. I then discovered that he had taken his shoes off and had been walking with them under his arm. I cut off his socks, dried his legs with a towel from my pack, and put a dry pair of socks and his shoes on his feet. This was very difficult, as his legs were frozen stiff. His hands were also frost-bitten. I then smacked him all over till I had revived him, and covered on of his hands with handkerchief and other with a sponge-bag.
I forced him to continue walking and in this way we carried on all night. We had to go back about 3 km. As we had lost our way. By this time there was no foot trace of RAGINIS and the guide, but we took general direction the guide had given us before leaving. It took us twelve hours to reach the top of the mountain, normally a climb of about half an hour or an hour. On the top of the mountain we looked at PHILO’s escape map and managed to locate the South with his escape compass, although it had been broken on one of the falls. We could then see a lake on the top of the mountain, which the guide had told us to look for.
After we were half-way down the mountain we could see ANDORRAN mountain guards watching us through glasses. Avoiding the guards, we crossed the next mountain and followed the guards’ footprints till we reached a road and eventually a cottage. We were directed to a second cottage, where we were given hot milk and allowed to sleep in a hayloft. It was then 27 Oct, the crossing having taken us two days and a night. We arrived in ANDORRA on the second night.
Next day 27 Oct a man arrived
who put us in touch with helpers. Our journey from ANDORRA to SPAIN was
arranged for us.
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