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Harrison Forman

Worked for The New York Times and National Geographic.

Poland tried to sit on two chairs. Had pact with France against Germany + with Germany against Russia. So hesitated to accept help from France when Germany began pressure. Result: Germany + Russia got together for the partition of Poland. Poles reason for not accepting French help: “We didn’t want be a French colony!"

When the Russians started mobilization that was the signal for all correspondents and cameramen to get out while the getting was good. The last outlet from the country was through the south, the “appendix” of Poland and across the short piece of frontier with Rumania. A few days later the Russians started moving, and this last exit was closed by occupying Red army troops.

Man, wife + baby. Refugees from Lodz. They had nothing but a car and four handbags. Yet he could get gas because he was one of the civilian defenders of Lwow against the Russians. “Brave then, and brave again now”, he said. “But”, with a look at his wife and baby, then overhead at the bombers, “what can I do against them?” pointing to sky. Yes, what could whole city do against “them”? The second largest city in Poland, totally defenceless against plane attack! Perhaps they did have anti-aircraft guns.. If so, even more disgraceful for not having any ammunition.

Jews will suffer most. 3 ½ million of them. 10% population – greatest proportion of all European countries. Germany has only 1% Jews. And, despite Poles protest that Jews have control of industry, the Jews in Poland are of the lowest class. In ghettos, bearded and booted filth, and clad in traditional garb. Well knew what was in store for them. Yet what could they do? Where could they go? Were not permitted to travel.

I talked to some of the prisoners brought in to Warsaw. They certainly didn't look like imperialistic goose-steppers to me. Simple fellows, like their Polish adversaries. As a matter of fact, not a single one of them knew that England and France were fighting Germany on another front. They had been called up for what they thought were autumn military maneuvers. And first thing they knew, there they were in Poland and ordered to fire back at the Poles who had "suddenly tried to invade Germany."


Warsaw saw a squad of Polish soldiers marching up the street with two German pilots shot down in the just finished air raid over Warsaw. A howling, hooting mob trailed behind, waved fists and shouting curses. They were kept from rushing in and tearing the airmen apart only by the bayonets on their own Polish soldiers. I followed into the prison compound, and ground away. The feature of that certainly unrehearsed sequence was a Polish colonel helping one of the wounded pilots pull off a boot from his injured leg.


Polish army had no field wireless or even telephones. Spies cut few commercial telephone lines, High Command lost complete contact with armies. One general didn’t know where other was, and often where his unit was.



When the roar of the planes overhead finally was heard, there was the agonizing wait for the bombs. And you breathed a silent prayer with every exploding boom, for you knew that was one that missed you. It seemed the German airmen knew of this nerve-trying wait, and we were all certain they deliberately circled around and around the city and held off their bombing until the very last possible moment—when Polish anti-aircraft shells came a bit too thick and fast.

Apparently they had a sadistic streak running through the whole lot of them, those German pilots. Else how will you explain the diving down and machine-gunning of farmers in the fields, cows in the meadows, horses and wagons on the road, people in the streets? Scarcely a town or village in all Poland, no matter how big or small, escaped them. A bomb or two here, a spree of machine-gunning there just enough to spread terror the length and breadth of the land.

The Polish-American Society presented the Polish government and President Moscicki with an American flag and the flag of each of the forty-eight states of the Union. After the formal presentation by Ambassador Biddle, an honor guard of picked troops paraded these flags through the streets of Warsaw to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

I had been much intrigued with Warsaw. It was a beautiful city. Life there seemed so easy-going, so calm and peaceful. Fine old buildings symbolized dignity and respectful reserve. It was a city of parks and fountains with an Opera House famous the world over; a city of wide, shaded boulevards on which modern motor taxis were less numerous than horse-and buggy cabs—which unhurried Warsovians seemed to prefer. See more