Veteran Stories:
Jan Karol “John” Szklarz

Army

  • Polish Army Identification, 1939.

    Jan Karol Szklarz
  • Mr. Szklarz in his Polish Uniform, 1944.

    Jan Karol Szklarz
  • Mr. Szklarz in his British Uniform, after the war in England, 1946.

    Jan Karol Szklarz
  • Mr. Szklarz in French Uniform, 1941.

    Jan Karol Szklarz
  • Mr. Szklarz's Prison Uniform from Strasbourg, June 1940. During his imprisonment, Mr. Szklarz worked as a nurse in the hospital.

    Jan Karol Szklarz
Enlarge Image
Listen to this story

"You see, I wasn’t scared. I did my work, if I would be killed or not."

Transcript

I joined the Polish army, 1st Polish Grenadier Division in France. And in 1940, in June, we went and fight German. French army quit, 17 of June and we were fighting until 31st of June. Then, the German army enclosed us and took us, this whole division, to the prison. I was there, they didn’t give any eating, nothing, so three days without water, without this and I got really sick. Then what I, they took 100 of us to Strasbourg, and in Strasbourg, we supposed to be in army barracks. So I got so sick that they had to take me to French hospital in Strasbourg. I was over there for four weeks and getting better and French were medical staff was discharged, discharged from the hospital and they were asking if I know anyone is from medical. And I said, I have certificate, I finish it medical, first aid medical in Poland. So I was the first that preparing hospital for Polish prisoner in Strasbourg, [called] Lager Lazarett.

Then I was over there for, in the office and then I transferred myself as a head nurse to medical floors. And then being over there, when German attacked the Russian, they start to bring the Russian soldier to the hospital. So in hospital, they were treating the Russian very bad. They didn’t give him nothing. Half a meals, this is what we were getting. So I understand a little bit Russian, so I was going with German soldier and changing dressing or something like that over there.

About 20 or 25 was dying every day, and German truck was coming, took them out and probably burned them outside the city. So they keep their soldiers until 1942 typhus develops in the hospital. So they took me and ten soldiers - nurses to Mutzig, Alsace, to prepare the hospital for Russian soldier, the wounded. So I went over there and three days after that, three of us escaped from the camp and we were so lucky that after say half an hour, platoon of German soldiers and three cars crossing our way, there was nothing, only small bush. So we went under that bush and this time, when the soldiers was to look at us, the car come from the back so the soldier put his head out, turned and bent back. When we were in Mutzig, three of us escaped and instead to go to France not occupied, we went back to Strasbourg.

And then we went to the church. And church help us there, put us on train and we went through the occupied France and then to free France. We had a Dr. Hortinski, I was working with him also, so we prepare, you see, we try to do our best to see if somebody wants to escape and, well, that our way was to help him. And beside that, when I come to this hospital, the hospital that was the hospital for people like seniors and they had over there, clothing, uniforms. So from the beginning, German even didn’t know that they had those clothes over there, the uniform. So we give about five or six prisoners those uniforms and some move on, escape in the uniforms. But they caught one also and they ask him, where did you get these uniform. And he said, well, when I was at the hospital, I went and took it myself. You had to try everything, you see, when you…. You see, I wasn’t scared. I did my work, if I would be killed or not.

Follow us