Veteran Stories:
Stefan T. Meissner

Army

  • Photo of Stefan Meissner taken during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.

    Stefan Meissner
  • Stefan Meissner holding a Polish submachine gun based on the British Sten Gun.

    Stefan Meissner
  • Stefan Meissner's prisoner of war "Dog Tag".

    Stefan Meissner
  • Stefan Meissner while serving in Italy with the Polish 2nd Corps. October 1945.

    Stefan Meissner
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"We were fighting for every house… for every street, for every house until sometimes for… well, like in this case it was not perhaps for the house, but for the ruins of the house."

Transcript

We were part of the group and we knew where we had to… we were waiting for the uprising to start [the Warsaw Uprising, August-October, 1944]. Our group it was around… probably fifteen of us; all of them were older than I was and we were waiting for the order to start.

Our officer was, at that time, still not with us and when the uprising started, he didn’t come yet, so we were – fifteen of us – we were waiting for him to come and finally we joined the other group which was already fighting in that area, and that’s where I was fighting during the uprising. That was near the central station of Warsaw.

We were supposed to take over the central station – railroad station – but we didn’t. So then we took the other… well, we surrounded the central station and there were Germans who were fighting there, but they still had the control of the railroad station.

When I started, I had two grenades and a rifle. As I said, there were fifteen of us and we had one rifle for two, so I had half a rifle and two grenades. But we were sure that we will have some more… will take them from Germans, and I… well, I think it was ninth or tenth day, so I had already a Sten [the Sten Gun, a British 9mm submachine gun]. I had a Sten Gun for the rest of the uprising.

We barricaded the streets, we barricaded the houses and then there were some other parts where the Germans were also barricaded, so we had to cover those parts. And well, as you probably know, the Germans started to… well, part by part they would attack the line and cut off the part of the [Polish] Resistance [Polish Home Army]… or part of the town and then ruin that part and then go to the other part.

So we were defending… more or less defending ourselves against the German attacks. In some places we attacked them… oh yes, they were attacked with tanks, aeroplanes, Goliath [Goliath tracked mine] – which I don’t whether you know those… the small like a tank-like vehicles full of the explosives, so they would self-propelled. And that’s what they would… and they were directed from the tank to our barricade and then blow up and so they’d blow up the barricade.

Well, when we started we didn’t have any uniforms, but in the first few days of uprising, there were… warehouses… German warehouses of the sort of… those were not really German uniforms, but those were the dark shirts and pants, and so our unit was in those shirts… dark shirts and pants and German helmets, which we… some of them had; when you killed a German, you had that helmet. So some of us had the helmets and we looked like an army.

The spirit was very, very high. Oh, it was… especially the first few days of uprising, you know, the whole population of Warsaw, everybody was helping to build the barricades and those were the… we felt that we are free; we were fighting for our freedom and everybody felt that that’s the end of the occupation, the end of the harassments and degradation which were carried on by Germans for the five years.

So I was wounded three times. Well, the first time was in the leg – in the left thigh. The second time it was in the left hand and the third time, which was the final one, I was wounded in my chest… stomach.

The first two were not very serious wounds – I could still fight – and the third one, it was… well, it carried me on to the hospital, which was in the cold cellar of the house.

The first time it was… the Germans were attacking […] and I was at the barricade – the barricade was made from the sandbags and other things – but anyhow, there was a machine gun – German machine gun – which was shooting from the other side of the street. It was just on the other side of the street and I got the bullet through my thigh, but that was the muscle only and so it was not even very painful.

The second one was just a few days – or a couple of days – after, because that was the hottest fighting at that time; that was the beginning of September [1944] and they were trying to take our position and they were attacking from the central station. It was in the house where… house already burnt… they burned… it was already… the major fightings were in the hotel called Astoria, and that was… well, they couldn’t get it, so they burned it and when they burned the hotel, there was a question who will be there first in the […].

We were first in a part of it. In the office and in the other part, they were… the Germans were and they were… they had a machine gun there and barricaded themselves. So we tried to take all the ruins of the hotel, take it over from them, and then I was the second time wounded in my hand, and that was a part of the shrapnel. But that the more painful than the first wound, because it was… it blocked my nerve in my arm, but that was the left arm and well… I still could use it, but I left the feeling of part of my hand; one of the small fingers I couldn’t move that.

That fraction of the shrapnel was still… was removed only after the war in London, because when I was… well, a day or… after I was wounded in the chest, and that was when the grenade blowed out in our… We were a group of us was in the room when the grenade blew out – the German grenade blew out – and killed one of our sisters… what they called the Red Cross sister, and one of my friends lost two hands and I got full of iron in my chest and stomach.

We were fighting for every house… for every street, for every house until sometimes for… well, like in this case it was not perhaps for the house, but for the ruins of the house.

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