16:30. Intense bomb attack on Łuków. An apartment building is destroyed. There is a fire a few meters farther. The streets, the power plant, and the railway station are damaged. Scenes of despair at the Nowińskis.
The Łuków hospital informs that large numbers were wounded, evacuated from Ciechanów. A German plane bombarded a train and shot at civilians with machine guns. Most of the wounded are women and children. Many dead.
Night. Dead silence. Scary silence. I can't sleep. I keep the radio on all night. You can't hear anything like: Attention, attention, approaching… The Germans don't attack at night.
At midnight, I hear suddenly: Blaskota. Blaskota. Boleslas calls to Warsaw. This is repeated, these exact words, many times. One after another, deadly, grimly, terribly. Blaskota. Blaskota. Boleslas calls to Warsaw.
The Germans report that the entire Polish front is retreating, that they took Nowy Sącz, Kraków and Kielce, that in Pomerania they destroyed our 9th and 27th divisions as well as the Pomeranian Cavalry Brigade. An announcement by our 6th division stated that our home front is being bombarded and that we destroyed 15 German planes today and 20 yesterday. There are battles in Łódź, Piotrków Trybunalski, Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Tarnów and Różan.
In the morning, I drove to Lublin. I came back around 7 pm, exhausted as I had been on my feet all day and I hadn't even had dinner. Today, Lublin looks downright bleak. All streets, especially the main ones, are crowded with cars of every brand and type. Suitcases and bundles are piled on the hoods, bumpers, wings… Petrol stations are under siege, not many people will manage to get any fuel. Military depots dispense petrol, but only to those who have the right paperwork. I saw huge lines of cars near such stores, inching their way from both sides. Often they formed such a bottleneck that none of the cars or carts could move. I also saw several cars pulled by horses.
The news is ghastly – Cracow, Zakopane, Czestochowa, Lodz, Bydgoszcz, and Grudziadz are taken. German troops are relentlessly pushing on Warsaw. Some goods are harder and harder to find, such as tools and travel equipment. Restaurants and coffee places are packed but once you push through, you can get something to eat.
There is no bread! Long lines of several hundred people formed in order to get a loaf of bread. The cries arose to the heart of the heavens. The beast in man came to the surface, for hungry mobs are capable of all manner of violence. One man struck his neighbor on his side and on his shoulder and there was no policeman to keep order. Whoever managed, after much effort and labor, to grab a loaf of bread, which is nothing but a bit of dough, was fortunate and his joy knew no bounds. This scene awakened revulsion in me, and pity for the unfortunates.
Today was, it seems, the culminating moment in some of the most tragic events of our times: the departure of young men from Warsaw. The request came by an official radio message: there was a speech by Col. Umiastowski, who called on young men of military age to leave the city before the arrival of the German army. This departure took on insane proportions. People were driven by a sense of duty, the wish to deprive the occupant of the best forces, or a sense of self-interest, or fear of occupying troops, or rumours and predictions that men would be executed or that everyone would be sent to concentration camps – even now I can’t come to terms with what is happening.
In the morning I felt how things had changed in the city. The German air-offensive was severe now, a raid every few hours, and the townspeople were badly frightened. They grouped in the hallways of apartment blocks and talked. The poorer people collected under archways and looked at the sky. A message was sent up, asking that the Union Jack be removed from our balcony, so as not to ‘attract' raiders. Lublin was going through a process we were to see repeated elsewhere; it was being eaten to the bone. Some food remained in the shops, in the restaurants there was almost none at all. The increasing number of refugees had upset the town's whole economy. I was even more disturbed by the signs of demoralisation among the Polish officers.
Mobilisation has begun. People were woken at night and pulled from their beds, taken from their workplaces in whatever they were wearing.
Several of our students have already received draft orders.
At home I learned that they came for me.
What a day! It began in the morning with a sudden telegram from Ksenia Merezhkovskaya, Dmitry’s niece, who we met here 35 years ago and saw here one evening in the summer. I said jokingly: well, if there will be a war, we will come to you. And now — voulez-vous venir chez moi à Lausanne?
It would be better to be with her than just the two of us, abandoned in Biarritz. But here our wandering began — to the prefecture, then to the Bureau (so they would give us permission to leave), then back to the prefecture, and again… and tomorrow again, if we will still be alive (I am waiting for the sirens!).
We finally reach Mielec. Zarebski, Eichhorn, and Szlabak are bathing in the Wisłoka. I am weary and I don't feel like undressing to bathe. We walk towards the market square. On our way, we buy some biscuits in kermess packaging. In one of the eateries, we find beer from Okocim. We drink two big tankards each; we buy soap, tobacco, cigarettes etc.
We start out for Kolbuszowa. One girl fleeing from Cieszyn joins us. We drop by a confectioner's where we have a coffee and get back on the road. We pass the still standing State Aviation Works and, a few kilometers after Mielec, we stop for a break in a roadside forest. We have some bread and eggs, some of which crumbled in the pocket of my coat.
We keep walking through the forest along the beautiful highroad made of porphyry cobblestone. A few kilometers ahead of Kolbuszowa, a passing car takes our companion from Cieszyn. We ourselves stop for the night. It is harder and harder to get food. It is difficult to order morning milk. We are getting ready to sleep.
A few people are beginning to realize what a remarkable war it is. The French military command claims to have made contact with the enemy in the vicinity of Saarbrucken. The Germans issue denials of such horror tales. The English drop leaflets, thereby infringing Holland’s neutrality but no shot is fired on them. Mussolini is silent. But how is one to believe in betrayal when there is no apparent bribe? The Germans’ statements that the Russians are reaching military agreements with them grow more and more definite. This nonsense is gladly disseminated. See more
The fact is that the Russo-German pact makes the air clearer. What we have is a war between imperialist states. We have Germany as the aggressor and warmonger. We have aggressive capitalism against defensive capitalism. The central powers need the war for conquest, the Western powers need it to defend their conquests. There is enough barbarism to maintain a barbaric situation. For the USSR it would only be possible to enter the war on the Western side, it would only be more a ‘matter of state’, would be more akin to the way the social-democratic parties caved in during the great war, would be more like power politics, participating in a reckoning between capitalists, rather than keeping clear of it.
The slogans are now improving, it seems to me. The British Labour party now has ‘with Chamberlain, but not for him’. The Germans can be ‘against Hitler but not for Сhamberlain’, etc. and the USSR can wait until peoples come along whom they can enter into alliance. Instead of just governments. Though in fact that involves a great risk. It makes a general agreement among the capitalist states more likely.
Sunny day, so after work in the Civic Committee and Civic Guard we went to see the damage to houses on Pawia Street and in the area. Trams are running all the time and brightening the atmosphere in a deserted city, especially on the days of air raids. On the other hand, the lack of horses and any means of transportation prevents the removal of the garbage, animal carcasses or even corpses from under the telegraph station.
A German officer found a way though, as director Polaczek-Kornecki told me, of burying 50 or 60 corpses, victims of the bombing in Swoszowice. He ordered the soldiers to bring 50 Jews. They were absolutely terrified when he made them form a line. The poor men were shaking, fearing they are going to be shot. But they were given spades and picks, put in the carts and off they went to dig graves. They had to get back on foot.
Shops are working again and are partly open thanks to the city administrator's announcement. In front of grocery shops, there are lines, watched by the Civic Guard. One can get some bread, but there is no milk.
Have heard much talk today about peace! Idea is that after Germany's victory over Poland Hitler will offer the West peace. I wrote this rather carefully for my broadcast this evening, but the censor wouldn't allow a word of it.
It's just a week since the "counter-attack" began and tonight I learn from an army friend that the Germans are within twenty miles of Warsaw. A new decree today providing the death penalty for anyone "endangering the defensive power of the German people" - a term which will give Gestapo chief Himmler plenty of leeway. Another decree forces workers to accept new jobs even if they pay lower wages than jobs previously held.
Unfortunately, I have the darkest premonitions. Of course, a counteroffensive is theoretically possible, but will Polish troops, harassed by hostile air forces, be able to regroup in practice? In the eastern part of the country, the railway network is very poor. The number of cars is ridiculously small.
If only I could have confidence in our leaders! But I know them: they are mediocre, arrogant, uninspired people, with unimaginable self-satisfaction and conceit. I always felt a threat of catastrophe, I predicted it to my relatives. Now that it has arrived, my heart breaks and tears come to my eyes.
Barring a miracle, it seems that it is only a matter of time before the Germans take the city. Civilians supervised by the army are digging trenches at various locations in the city centre; in Ujazdowskie Avenue, near the embassy, there are anti-tank guns. It appears that, without leadership, true Polish "legionnaires" will defend the city against the significantly more numerous enemy to the last drop of civilian blood.
In general, at least from a layman's point of view, the way the defense is led looks headless. It will be a subject for military historians one day.
Drove to 3rd Army Headquarters in Neidenburg. Then to Falken corps headquarters [XXI A.C.] and to the 10th Panzer Division. The desolate steppe near Prasznycz was depressing. On the way met elements of the 21st Division, which had fought at Graudenz. His eyes sparkling, a company commander whose unit had lost 4 killed and 12 wounded there praised his people especially the NCOS.
Brauchitsch was worried that I was swinging too far to the east, Halder too. As I couldn't convince them I reassured them. My eastern wing is to advance on Ostrow! That's far too narrow thinking! But I was ordered to do it. If I take all my forces behind the east wing, especially the fast reserves, it will still be reasonable in the end.
The booty from the battle in the corridor is considerable; 15,000 prisoners, 90 guns and much equipment reported so far.
The Westerplatte has been taken.