Seventh day of the trial
Presiding Judge: Please call in the next witness.
Witness Antoni Podgórski, born in 1890, residing in Rawa Mazowiecka, worker, no relationship to the parties.
Presiding Judge: Were you sworn in yesterday?
Witness: – I took the oath in Rawa Mazowiecka.
Presiding Judge: – I wish to remind you that you are testifying under oath. Please present exactly what you know.
Witness: – About the men where I worked, on Szucha Avenue? The work was horrible there, I was a laborer. I saw a lot, but not everything because they wouldn’t let me. But I did walk the corridors, so I saw and heard a lot.
Presiding Judge: – Did you live there? At number 5?
Witness: – At number 25, from September 1939 until the uprising.
Presiding Judge: – Did you see what went on there? Please tell us.
Witness: – They only had me do services [for them]; when they beat someone, I had to fetch and take away buckets, towels, [etc.] I saw people jump out of the window because of the pain – [once,] when a man jumped out into a water tank, they kept shooting at him as if they were hunting a hare until they killed him. I didn’t watch closely. They took him out of the water tank and then down to the basement.
Presiding Judge: – Did that happen every day?
Witness: – Not every day, but it happened often – also at night, you couldn’t sleep because of it.
Presiding Judge: – [It was] one huge house of torture?
Witness: – There was no worse house of torture in those five years. Our hair turned gray and we went insane there.
Presiding Judge: – Were women and children also tortured in the same way?
Witness: – They were. Children of fourteen or fifteen [years of age] – they were not treated any better.
Presiding Judge: – And the elderly?
Witness: – Likewise. I saw them being carried and crawling on their knees because they were badly beaten.
Prosecutor Siewierski: – Do you remember [the] defendant, [Mr.] Meisinger?
Witness: – I know him by sight, because I did go there.
Prosecutor Siewierski: – Please tell us about him: who was he?
Witness: – [What he was like] as a commandant, I don’t know; I had other superiors, I was on the third floor. They had us carry tables or clean windows and floors, so I saw him, but it’s not that I saw what he did. I know he was [a] senior.
Prosecutor Siewierski: – The beating and torturing that you spoke about a moment ago, did it take place from the beginning, after the Gestapo set up their headquarters on Szucha Avenue?
Witness: – That’s right, from the beginning. From the beginning, until the end.
Prosecutor Siewierski: – Was it an exceptional case for those who had been beaten up to be led out or carried, or was this the usual practice?
Witness: – Even those [who were] killed, not only those [who were] beaten. The latter were supported under their arms when they were unable to walk on their own.
Prosecutor Siewierski: – Did this happen once a week, or perhaps on a daily basis?
Witness: – I was inside the building some of the time, and out doing some work at other times, so I wouldn’t always know, but there was not a single week without beating.
Prosecutor Sawicki: – Could you say in which room Meisinger had his office?
Witness: – On the first floor.
Prosecutor Sawicki: – What was the number of the room?
Witness: – I don’t remember.
Prosecutor Sawicki: – On which floor was room 210?
Witness: – On the second floor, I guess.
Judge Grudziński: – Was the screaming and beating heard on all floors?
Witness: – It was, once it started.
Judge Grudziński: – Was there a special room for beating, or were people beaten everywhere?
Witness: – They were beaten wherever they were interrogated.
Judge Grudziński: – On which floors was that?
Witness: – Usually on the third floor, but more often on the second.
Judge Grudziński: – Where were you when you heard the screams?
Witness: – In the corridors; you could hear them everywhere when you walked past [the interrogation rooms].
Judge Grudziński: – Did they resound throughout the building?
Witness: – Yes, when the windows were open in the summer. I saw a postman being escorted; he jumped from the second floor, his head hit the wall and that killed him, so they put him in a wheelbarrow. Another beaten man jumped into a water tank. I saw three such people.
Presiding Judge: – Does this mean everyone in the building could hear what was going on there? Were there moans?
Witness: – Yes, you could hear them even in the basements, everywhere.
Presiding Judge: – In the courtyard and in the street too?
Witness: – Yes.
Presiding Judge: – Are you aware of any instance in which a senior officer forbade such practices?
Witness: – I never went into the [interrogation] room because we, Poles, were not allowed to enter. I only walked the corridors, they called me to do things, and so I heard [things].
Presiding Judge: – Did you witness any of the senior officers being surprised at, or outraged over what went on?
Witness: – They often talked in German there, but I didn’t understand.
Presiding Judge: – But did nothing change? Was the method the same until the uprising?
Witness: – It was the same, even during the uprising three groups of fifty people each were brought there, shot, and burned; I had a number of friends there that I was in touch with; [those] people were thrown into the fire and burned.
Judge Rybczyński: – Did you enter the basement? What was there?
Witness: – There were prisoners’ cells there.
Judge Rybczyński: – Weren’t there any pits?
Witness: – They told me to carry something to the basement, so I saw that prisoners were kept there.
Judge Rybczyński: – Weren’t there any facilities for burning bodies?
Witness: – I can’t say.
Judge Rybczyński: – Where were these three groups of fifty people burned?
Witness: – At Szucha Avenue 14, where the inspectorate [General Inspectorate of the Armed Forces, a Polish institution] had been located, that’s where it all took place.
Judge Rybczyński: – Let us return to the tortures: what did they torture people with? Did they use rubber police batons, or clubs perhaps?
Witness: – There were whips made of leather thongs bound together, and there were nailed clubs.
Judge Rybczyński: – In all the rooms?
Witness: – No, not in all, but in many. They had rubber police batons, and if that was not enough, they used chair legs and beat [prisoners] to death. We, Poles, were not sent to deal with this kind of thing, only Jews were, and the Jews told us about it. There was a priest there, lying [on the floor].
Judge Rybczyński: – Were the rooms cleaned up every day? And what about washing off the blood?
Witness: – No, once or twice a week, depending on what your duty schedule was.
Judge Rybczyński: – Were there many people on duty?
Witness: – There were twelve from the Ministry of Education. [Before the war, the building at Szucha Avenue 25 housed the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment; the witness is probably referring to their staff taken over by the Germans along with the building]
Judge Rybczyński: – When Jews were brought from the ghetto, were there many of them? Two, three?
Witness: – Maybe fifty.
Judge Rybczyński: – What did they do?
Witness: – They unloaded coal, they carried various things, and they were used to wash off the blood. When one of them earned it, they made him stand, [high] on [the drug] coke, out in the cold, for a few hours; then they took him away and killed him with a revolver shot. During the uprising there was a meeting and a vote on whether we should be shot or left [alive].
Defendant Meisinger: – High Tribunal, Mr. Prosecutor! I’m asking the witness: in the corridor where my office was located, were there other offices as well?
Witness: – There were German offices. I don’t know what they were exactly. There was the personnel department.
Defendant Meisinger: – Then let me tell you that in the transverse corridor, in which my office was located, there were also my aides’ two rooms; the entire corridor was occupied.
Prosecutor Sawicki: – What was the room number of your office?
Defendant Meisinger: – I don’t remember the number. If you took me there, I would show you.
Prosecutor Sawicki: – What was it, more or less?
Defendant Meisinger: – At any rate, it was a room number that corresponded to the first floor. The personnel department was on the first floor.
Witness: – His office was there, on the first floor. There was no torturing there.
Defendant Meisinger: – That is exactly why I’m asking my questions. I would also like to say here – and I will return to it later – that I know that torture sessions took place there. I would also like to ask the witness one more question: do you remember, that on my orders, more than a hundred portions of food per day were issued to the Poles?
Witness: – I don’t know.
Defendant Meisinger: – But you did live in that apartment.
Witness: – Were they allowances?
Defendant Meisinger: – No, they were spare dinner portions.
Witness: – I don’t know about that. I only knew I had to escape.
Defendant Meisinger: – Let me then phrase my question differently. Can you remember on which floor I had my office?
Witness: – On the first floor.
Defendant Meisinger: – Your Honor, let me now say that the personnel department was on the first floor. Am I supposed to continue speaking about this matter?
Presiding Judge: – Other witnesses will be testifying about Szucha Avenue, and then defendant Meisinger will have a chance to speak. The witness is free to leave. I am ordering a five-minute break.