Signs of the Enemy part 2

Józef continues with his lengthy description of this day, the 9th of September, and writes about the impact on both soldiers and civilians of the early days of the invasion.

I couldn’t sleep for long, because planes were constantly circling over the town and from time to time dropping ammunition of some kind. They were ineffective though, as they were repelled by the anti-aircraft artillery.

The laments, distress and stories of the population were endless – how they were shot at, beaten, taken prisoner and so on.

The major ordered us to be ready at any moment to continue the march. The activity in the town became increasingly intense. There were a lot of foot soldiers, but what a sight – they were totally worn out.

The soldiers from 23rd Infantry Division were barely able to stay on their feet; in fact many of them could no longer stand at all. Most were lying down in the street under fences, on the kerbs, on the doorsteps of houses. Everywhere there was a sleeping mass of motionless shapes. Their faces were haggard, tired, emaciated, shrunken. They hadn’t removed or adjusted their uniforms for nine days, so they were hanging off them. Those of the soldiers who were more mobile (and hungrier) set out for the town in search of something to eat.

At the same time a number of Jews had been affected by all this too; more than one padlock from the closed shutters of a shop had gone.

Sitting in one of the gardens near the squadron, I heard first one shot, then another, five, ten, then one great continuous volley of gunfire. Bullets whistled over my head, sinking into the sand nearby. I grabbed a rifle and stood at the edge of the barns ready to fire at the aggressor. Shouts, wails… at last decreasing shots, three, two, then one… one more, then quiet.

It turned out that, in spite of the shots from the anti-tank guns standing amongst Polish soldiers at the entrance to the town, the most brazen German bus drove in. It was full of soldiers and bore the inscription “Deutsch Reichspost”. But it was only when it reached the market place in the town centre that anyone noticed that it was in fact German.

Someone fired at a lancer and in response all the soldiers standing nearby started firing at the bus. Consequently the top of the bus was completely shattered. Inside there was one German asleep and 17 terrified Germans quaking with fear, lying on the floor of the bus.

Those interrogated said they were sure that their army was in Stopnica. The commander, who was protecting the anti-tank artillery at the entrance to the town, stated that he was commandeering the bus.

Meanwhile there were two German air raids, which didn’t cause us any harm. There was also a rumble of artillery in the distance, at which point the major ordered us to march on.

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