Cheerless gentlemen at the rally. Account of Tadeusz Berelski
Tadeusz Berelski – native of Bydgoszcz, graduate of Warsaw University, journalist, in search of his Jewish roots: he conducts historical research, he has found relatives in Israel and has been learning Hebrew.
"At some point flyers and announcements began to appear; they informed on a rally which was to take place on 8 March in front of the Kazimierzowski Palace at the Warsaw University. I went to the rally, and I remember a certain Mr Maciszewski, Assistant Professor at the time, later Professor, a fine historian, slightly less so as a human being according to some. I remember him running with a megaphone and shouting at people that the rally was illegal. Needless to add, nobody listened to him.
There were many people at the rally. We moved towards the Kazimierzowski Palace and suddenly a group of people turned up. They encircled the students. I remember clearly a commanding person, clad in a leather coat. At some point somebody shouted: “Students sit down.” So we did, and those cheerless gentlemen stood around us. It later turned out they were all from the Security Service. Provost Rybicki also came out to tell us that no permission had been granted to organize rallies and that there was no Security people amongst us. So we showed him the two gentlemen.
The action of pulling people through side gateways began. Several coaches (apparently with labourers) pulled over – that is when the real action began. It was a proper fight in which I took an active part. I was a sportsman at the time, and I had always had a feisty streak in me. We fought them bravely, but they pushed us downwards. There is an escarpment on the University grounds and that is where we fled from. All that happened on day one.
Sometime earlier, lists were being circulated at the University. We were persuaded to sign them – they were protests against banning the performance of Dziady from the theatre stage. My friends signed the lists and I remember not signing anything and saying to a friend that he would end up at the Security Service headquarters deciphering other signatures. My father used to say: “Do not ever sign anything.”
Several days passed. A rally was organized at the Warsaw Polytechnic. I remember their main lecture hall full of students shouting something about lies, as we had already been described in the papers as lawless rogues. We would burn those papers in front of the Polytechnic main building, shouting that only Świerszczyk did not lie. Świerszczyk was a children’s weekly.
Yet again the crowd of students set off and, yet again, it was attacked by the militia at the square. I remember us hiding in a store called ‘1001 Knick-Knacks’ (1001 Drobiazgów) not far from Nowogrdzka Street. The shop assistants hid us in the back office.
On the third day, when we fought in front of the University and the militia marched along Nowy Świat Street, we hid in the courtyards. One of my friends caught a small militiaman marching at the end of the procession and we beat him into a pulp.
On some other occasion they chased us through the town again. We popped into a flat in the centre of Warsaw, at Zbawiciela Square. We were outraged that they beat everybody up, with no exceptions. Even if someone was simply walking peacefully, he would get smacked with a truncheon too. In the flat we bumped into Moczar himself! He was terribly cross with us, and said we did not understand anything and so on and so forth. We thought that he would have us all detained, but somehow we got away with it.
At the end of the day we went for a beer. There, some guys approached us. Apparently they were labourers – at least that is what they said. They showed us some sort of ID from the Passenger Automobile Factory and – I remember it very clearly – they said to us: “Stop making fuss over Dziady. Instead, print flyers with prices of meat or sausage, and we will distribute it at the factory.” I do remember this conversation. That was my only contact with the working class at the time.
I had no connection with the Jewish milieu, I did not know that I was Jewish and I was not perceived as a Jew – or at least that is what I think. To me, the Gdański Railway Station did not feature as a symbol. Many years had passed before I found out that Jews were being forced to leave the country from there."
The text is based on the interview with Tadeusz Berelski, conducted in 24 August 2015 for the Oral History collection of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Interview: Lizy Mostowski; editing: Joanna Król.