I regret to inform the House that the disaster may prove to be of greater magnitude than was indicated by earlier reports. As far as can be ascertained there were on board 1,418 persons, of whom 315 were crew and 1,103 were passengers, some 800 of whom possessed British or European passports, and over 300 possessed passports of the United States of America.
It is now clearly established that the disaster was due to an attack, without warning, by a submarine. At 7.45 p.m. local time on the night of Sunday, 3rd September, a torpedo struck the ship abaft the engine room on the port side when she was 250 miles north-west of the coast of Ireland. Soon after the torpedo struck the ship the submarine came to the surface and fired a shell which exploded on "C" deck. The submarine cruised around the sinking ship and was seen by numerous persons, including American survivors, a considerable number of whom—I think 12 or more—have given affidavits to this effect.
Whoever saw or heard of such a thing in the history of the wars of nations that a rich country with thirty-five million citizens, with an organized army, would become something to be stepped on by the German villain within five days?
Our first air raid warning at 8.30 this morning. A warbling that gradually insinuates itself as I lay in bed. So dressed and walked on the terrace with L. Sky clear. All cottages shut. [Breakfast. All clear. During the interval a raid on Southwark. No news. The Hepworths came on Monday. Rather like a sea voyage. Forced conversation. Boredom.] All meaning has run out of everything. Scarcely worth reading papers. The B.B.C. gives any news the day before. Emptiness. Inefficiency. I may as well record these things. See more
My plan is to force my brain to work on Roger. But, Lord, this is the worst of all my life's experiences. It means feeling only bodily feelings: one gets cold and torpid. Endless interruptions. We have done the curtains. We have carried coal etc. into the cottage for the 8 Battersea women and children. The expectant mothers are all quarreling. Some went back yesterday. We took the car to be hooded, met Nessa, were driven to tea at Charleston. Yes, it's an empty meaningless world now.
Am I a coward? Physically I expect I am. Going to London tomorrow I expect frightens me. At a pinch enough adrenalin is secreted to keep one calm. But my brain stops. I took up my watch this morning and then put it down. Lost. That kind of thing annoys mc. No doubt one can conquer this. But my mind seems to curl up and become undecided. To cure this one had better read a solid book like Tawney. An exercise of the muscles. The Hepworths are travelling books in Brighton. Shall I walk? Yes. It's the gnats and flies that settle on non-combatants. This war has begun in cold blood. One merely feels that the killing machine has to be set in action.
Situation: Large parts of the territory occupied by German troops. The Prime Minister reports that the situation has slightly improved. The motorised German cavalcade, which forced its way through near Łódź, is not moving. We send as many officials as we can to Lublin.
The morning after this cold night was beautiful and almost quiet. It seemed as if we had repelled the attack.
But it was the opposite. The silence and empty streets showed that our army had withdrawn so that Kraków would not be bombarded. Indeed, sometime between 9 and 10 they entered the city. Vice President Klimecki appeared on the 3rd bridge, from where German forces were already firing. Soon after, at around 10 o'clock, a German colonel came to the city hall with a lieutenant and a sergeant (I am not sure of the charge) and a translator (a Polish civilian) and I had the opportunity to attend the meeting – so different from the one that took place 24 years ago in the President's parlour. In a polite tone, the German colonel dictated the first conditions: Kraków inhabitants would give up their weapons, and fugitives and stragglers from the Polish army would surrender. People would be allowed to circulate freely, but from 6pm to 5am traffic would be unconditionally closed, and the German forces would be safe and unharmed. See more
Details of the provisioning and location of the occupying troops were to be discussed in a smaller group. I left the city hall with a feeling that was difficult to describe, and there were clouds of smoke rising from the warehouses of the train station in the distance. But the day had a peculiar ending. At noon, a messenger from the city hall came to me saying that all members of the committee were to gather there, and that the German general in command would come. All of us, even the ladies, were there (except the Metropolitan Bishop).
Instead of the general, some senior military officer came to us, and told us that members of the committee would be taken as hostages (on orders of the general) – to ensure the safety of troops marching on the city. They had to be chosen from among the 25 of us. A patrol of 40 soldiers was placed in the courtyard – and for the first time we remained in [detention] to secure the safety of German soldiers with our lives. We were somewhat hungry because almost nobody had eaten dinner. Thin sandwiches brought from Hawełka and tea made on the spot saved us.
The Führer expressed his gratitude to the wounded soldiers for their courageous comportment. Their eyes gleamed with exuberant joy at the unexpected visitor who repeatedly recalled his own period of convalescence during the World War.
A trip to Deauville. The roads are quite easy-going. Everywhere there is an impression of order and peace.
Apparently Marshal Rydz-Śmigły and the government were in Lublin. In any case, the Minister of Justice (Witold Grabowski) visited us at the court and, as they say, he was terribly afraid of raids. The radio broadcast an order that all military-age men leave the capital. It's not good. They also talk about evacuation. And there are growing waves of refugees – all to the East, beyond the Bug. It's supposed to be safe over there. We will defend ourselves there. Meanwhile, the Germans dominate the Beskids near Nowy Sącz. Kraków is abandoned. Ciechanów is being defeated.
The first Heimnachmittag"Home-afternoon”: gathering time for the Jungmädel, a Nazi organization for girls aged 10-14 meeting since our vacation. Liesel reported on the advancement of our troops into Poland and exultation filled our hearts. Krakau has fallen; the Führe/s Frontline has already driven all the way to Graudenz. The Polish government has fled to Lublin. Unbelievable, but the absolute truth! Liesel told of her train station duties and of the refugees from the eastern and the western areas, of all the hardship and misery that she saw. We younger leaders are sorry that we cannot yet perform these duties.
I wanted to stay, but the sudden departure of others played on me. Ms. Gojawiczyńska phoned unexpectedly on Tuesday to ask if I was leaving - as she was trying to. She was very nervous. We decided to talk again soon and plan something together. After her call, I joined my brother-in-law, who had a rented car, on his way to his office in Lublin. He also did not want to leave Warsaw. He seemed completely devastated.
War has broken out! Since last week, Poland has been fighting with Germany. England and France also declared war on Hitler and surrounded him on three sides. But he isn’t sitting idly. Enemy planes keep flying over Przemysl, and every now and then there’s an air raid siren. But, thank God, no bombs have fallen on our city so far. Other cities like Krakow, Lwow, Czestochowa and Warsaw have been partially destroyed.
But we’re all fighting, from young girls to soldiers. I’ve been taking part in female military training—digging air raid trenches, sewing gas masks. I’ve been serving as a runner. I have shifts serving tea to the soldiers. I walk around and collect food for the soldiers. In a word, I’m fighting alongside the rest of the Polish nation. I’m fighting and I’ll win!
The radio announced – and then repeated several times – that the Germans had broken through the frontlines and that they could now be near Warsaw shortly; and that because of this there was an appeal to the citizens of Warsaw to dig trenches. In my neighbourhood, Lublin Square was designated as a meeting point for those volunteering for work. At night, in the darkness of an air-raid emergency, the streets were swarming.
Things were not very well organised, but as well as they could be in such circumstances. In any case two hours went by before the detachment from my street (which was already neatly narrowed by then) was ordered to go dig in its designated location. New "diggers" were brought in from the street, in theory nighttime volunteers, but they were treated as forced recruits. People not used to this work were barely able to raise their shovels after a few hours.
My duty ends at 1:00 at night. I go to wake up Rysiek Wojcikowski for his shift. He is in a pessimistic mood, and for the first time I hear something from his lips about a supposed plan to evacuate the city. He says that everything has been packed at the department where his father works, and they are leaving Lodz at any minute. I'm surprised. What? How? The Germans, I hear, are going to take Lodz at any moment.
I go to sleep, but a loud conversation wakes me at five in the morning. A neighbor, Grodzenski, is sitting there with his crying wife, telling us to leave. Where? Why? Nobody knows. To flee, flee farther and farther, trek, wade, cry, forget, run away... just run away as far as possible from the danger.
Drove to the new headquarters in Allenstein, through the corridor and over the military bridge near Kulm. Awful scene near Schwetz, where everything was shot up following a futile attempt by the Poles to escape the corridor by taking the Vistula ferries near Kulm. Hundreds of riderless horses from the Polish cavalry and supply trains.
My mother, my dear, forever terribly sensitive mother, now shows an extraordinary amount of self-control. She comforts Mrs. Grodzenski and talks her out of making nonsensical plans. She gradually manages to calm the mass hysteria in the house— the psychosis of a crowd going to be slaughtered. Father loses his head; he doesn't know what to do. Other Jewish neighbors come for a meeting. They talk about the order commanding all persons capable of bearing arms to leave the city so the enemy won't be able to send them off to work camps. They don't know what to do. A moment of deliberation, and finally the decision: stay put. Whatever will be will be.
People keep leaving; lines of men to a gathering point in Brzeziny. All conscripts and reservists flee the city. After them, women with bundles on their backs—clothes, bedding, food. Even small children go. All the commanders have fled; jokingly, we appoint ourselves commanders and serve in the roles until noon.