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Testimony of Halina Paszkowska


Halina Paszkowska (maiden name: Lewicka)                                                  E139

 

     I was born in Warsaw on March 8, 1932 in Czystem on 7 Dworskiej Street, Apt. 37.
     When on August 1, 1944, at 5pm, the Warsaw Uprising began, I was at home. We stayed in our house until August 13 (Sunday), and then, during the pacification of our street, I took shelter with my parents in a cork insulation factory, which was across the street from our home. During the pacification of Wola, on August 20, as the SS formations forced us to Pruszków, we miraculously escaped being shot on the way to the outskirts of the city. As we went, I saw murdered people on Bema Street, burned infants. I saw a burning horse (restrained with a wire and surrounded by wood). On Bema Street, SS officers were standing next to tables that were covered by white paper, displaying trays of cake, which they offered to us, while we were forced to move by the butts of guns. It turned out that they were trying to make a film; unfortunately, it did not work out according to their plan because as we walked by the table, everyone turned their head in the opposite direction. Nearby however, they were shooting people (but obviously, they did not film this). 
     In Pruszków, they crammed us into cattle wagons and locked them shut, and then for the next couple days they transported us to Germany, to the transit camp in Bittenheim, where we went through a month-long quarantine. Next, after splitting us into groups, they transported our group to Stuttgart. Upon arriving in Stuttgart, we were forced into a peculiar, slave market, where we were groped, patted, and our teeth were looked at. These kinds of inspections were carried out by the directors of companies, with the assistance of Gestapo officers. All of this took place under torrential rain, on the platform of the railway station. In Stuttgart, I worked (as a twelve-year-old child) in a factory of weapons, Kugellagefabrik "Norma" (a factory producing ball bearings) in Kanstadt (a neighborhood). The work conditions were horrible; all of the handling of ball bearings took place in kerosene. My mother had her palms and forearms eaten away to the bone by the kerosene, and after six months of work there, she weighed 38 kg. I developed a rash on my entire body and horrible wounds developed in my armpits, and I had abscesses the size of nuts on my legs. We could not cure ourselves; we were slaves. The factory was responsible to the arms industry, and the conditions were like in a camp. Hunger, terror, as well as continuous carpet bombings by the Allied forces.
     Before liberation, which took place on April 19, 1945, our "guardians", commanded us to sit in a shelter that was hollowed out on the slope of a mountain; it was cold, wet, and there was no food. We were not working there, so we did not get food! There were rumors that they were going to kill us there, and only a quick Allied invasion impeded their plans.
     After liberation I stayed in a camp in Ludwigsburg; the camp was named after Washington, and I was cared for by American doctors while I was there. In November 1945, I returned to Poland by the first possible transport. There was nothing in Warsaw; everything had been burned down, so my parents settled down in Łódź. My parents lived separately; they did not withstand life's test. In Germany, their marriage started splitting. I tried to continue with my education, but I stopped after the third semester of middle school, which was the ninth grade. My nerves were worn out; my whole life was in ruins. My beloved city burned to the ground, my family broken, inhumane conditions while at the camp, malnutrition, work - they all took a toll on my health.
     In 1950, I got married; I have two children who are already adults. I was under the care of the Psychological Health Clinic (Poradnia Zdrowia Psychicznego). I do not work; my husband supports me financially. Living through the war and the occupation left me with permanent trauma, anxiety, repulsion and apprehension with regard to Germans. I cannot even listen to the German language without having my heart race and without becoming jittery. I will never visit the GDR (East Germany) or the FRG (West Germany).

 

        

 

 

 

 

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  The project is implemented by the Museum of Warsaw in cooperation with the State Archives of City of Warsaw, and the Niedersachsische Gedenkstatten Foundation