Will There Be War?

From March to the end of July 1939 Józef was based at Wełnowiec near Katowice where, with the help of the battalion doctor and Lieut. Kwieciński, he set up the sick quarters and the out-patients’ surgery. Then from the beginning of August he had several moves before being transferred to the position of the doctor for the Katowice National Defence Battalion in the Pszczyna district as described in a previous post  but just a few days later he is transferred yet again.


In accordance with my orders I report to Dr Różalski, the head of the divisional health HQ with some trepidation…what sort of man is he? But he turned out to be a pleasant old gentleman who, prior to becoming a major, was a civilian official with the Silesian Department of Health. He tells me:

“You will be the assistant campaign doctor for the headquarters; you will check the equipment, instruct the nursing staff, acquaint them with their functions, carry out typhoid injections, look over the kitchen and look after hygiene in general. In your spare time you’ll help out in the Garrison Sick Quarters – and we will live in harmony.”

The major’s orders! That’s a weight off my mind.

So after an uncomfortable earlier confrontation, numerous moves and an apparent misunderstanding about his whereabouts, the situation appears to have been resolved and Józef is in a new position. Now he writes about the tense atmosphere surrounding the camp in the final days of August 1939. I found this passage quite unsettling, imagining what it must have been like to see a city that was once so familiar now devoid of everyday life.

Since our last stay here, Katowice has taken on a completely different appearance. Something could distinctly be felt in the air. There is hardly anyone about. From time to time some section of the army passes by, civilian transport has vanished but there are many cars carrying military personnel particularly superior officers. Much of the population had already abandoned Katowice and those that remained were in their homes and speculated – Will there be war or not? How will it start?

Good morale prevailed. Their opinion was, “Let it finally start then afterwards there will be sustained peace. Ah those Germans. Surely we’ll win, won’t we? After 300 years there will be peace.” Nobody thought about defeat then. The tension grew more and more unbearable.

At the same time among the regular personnel there was a degree of fear in the quarters. War was close and somehow all was not going efficiently. Dispatch riders were tearing about, orders were flying and the squads were assembled.

In the barracks, the battalion standard-bearer packed the final regimental belongings in the railway carriages and sent them to Oświęciem. Otherwise the barracks were empty…There was no longer a health service, everything was closed.

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