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Stanislaw Sznuk 
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Post Stanislaw Sznuk
What an amazing man! Did any of you know him?

Picture of Stanislaw Sznuk.

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STANISLAW SZNUK 1926-2005

Stanislaw (Stan) Sznuk’s life of service included torture by the Gestapo, SAS-type operations with the Polish Home Army or “underground” resistance to Hitler culminating with award of “Virtuti Militari (VC equivalent) at the Warsaw Rising. After the war he gave long term service to the British forces based in Germany, recognised by award of Honorary MBE and on-going support to those whose lives had been torn apart by World War ll.
Born on 7 May 1926 in Lotz, he grew up in Warsaw. He joined the Polish Army as a cadet at the age of 10, a year earlier than the rules permitted. When Poland was simultaneously attacked by Germany and the Soviet Union on 1 September 1939 he was called up with others at his military school to be a despatch rider and sent to the eastern front. As defeat approached, the Polish commander there, General Anders, sent him back to the west with a letter to General Rommel who was commanding the German forces there. Despite, being wounded in a minefield covered by German artillery he delivered the letter and received a cross for “Bravery in the face of the Enemy”.
He returned to school but was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 December and taken to Pawiak Prison in Warsaw for interrogation about weapons which had been buried at the school when war broke out. He knew nothing of this because it had happened after his call-up. Despite this he was interrogated day and night, severely beaten with a cattle whip, hot needles placed under his fingernails and suspended on a meat-hook under his rib-cage expanding it by 20cm (in later life doctors were amazed by X-ray photos of his chest). Other tortures included having his feet in a salt bath with a goat licking them. Infuriated by his total resistance his tormentors finally kicked him back into his cell where, for 3 days, the only place for him to lie was under the feet of his dead cell mate, who had hanged himself.
In May 1940, the time of his 14th birthday, he was transferred to Auschwitz where he joined 27 other cadets breaking stone for Auschwitz ll. One day in November 1940, realizing that their situation was hopeless, they attacked their guards with picks and shovels and made a break-out. Eighteen were gunned down by the SS pursuing on horses and with dogs. Ten reached the Vistula. There they remained for more than 48 hours in the ice-cold water of the marshes in order to avoid the dogs. A further six died of hypothermia. Stan was one of four picked up by members of a unit of the new Polish secret “Home Army” alerted by the activities of the guards. His mother was told that he had “died of typhus”. She paid 2,500 zloty for a meat tin containing “your son’s ashes”.
Over the next few years Stan underwent much training for commando-style operations including parachuting. Instructors were parachuted in from England and were also landed by aircraft using forest clearings. He played important roles in many attacks on German trains installations and VIPs thus helping to tie down German units away from the main fighting. He avoided suspicion by attending school and seeming to fill his remaining time not required for sleep at Polish Dance for which he quickly became an instructor.
In April 1944 he qualified as an officer. Accounts of the Warsaw Rising which began in August that year describe some of his activities under his pseudonym of “Stach”. He was involved in the initial attack when numerous German aircraft were destroyed on an airfield near the city and was the man ordered to walk out to the Germans for the capitulation. One of the books describes his “death” as he leapt from a window as Germans entered the room he had been in firing at him. He received the “Virtuti Militari from General Count Bor-Komerowski, the leader of the Rising.

When resistance ended on 3 October, after 63 days in which the city was reduced to rubble, he was taken prisoner and, by good fortune moved to a camp in the west of Germany. His own account is that he came closest to death at that time, seeking shelter under a sheet of corrugated iron when the POW camp was attacked by allied aircraft. He seemed not to count the 8 wounds in action for which he received medal stars! He was released by Canadian forces and, when his very wide linguistic capability was discovered, was employed in Montgomery’s HQ in Berlin as an interpreter.
After the war hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers from Yugoslavia and Poland, hitherto prisoners of war in Germany, refused to return to their own countries under communism. For more than a year they continued to live in their POW camps. In 1946 they were demobilised as soldiers and declared “Displaced Persons”. The British saw it as in both in their own interest and in the interest of these stateless people to permit them to volunteer to serve in a new “Mixed Service Organisation” (MSO) for employment guarding service installations, construction work and as drivers. Later Baltic nationals and Ukrainians were allowed to join. By 1949 the strength of this “civilian” force was 30,000 but over the next three years 20,000 of them had abandoned hope of returning to their homes and families and accepted opportunities to emigrate to a variety of countries in the free world. Stan had joined this organisation a few months after it was formed and remained, through various reorganisations, for 44 years, retiring as a Staff Superintendent, the highest rank.
Stan was fluent in German, English, Russian and Serbo-Croat, as well of course as his native Polish. A devout Roman Catholic, he devoted selfless energy to using his language skills for the support and welfare of those whose lives had been disrupted by war and their extended families. He gave great support to the work of the Serbian Orthodox Church as well as to Caritas, with whom he was active till the end of his life. When Stan wanted something done he remained friendly and diplomatic but determined that nothing would stop him. He would leap “the normal channels” at a bound, as at home in the office of the Commander-in-Chief or, in later years, that of a Minister of the German Government as he was with some elderly displaced Serbian widow. He had two personal audiences with the Pope.
Stan died in Dortmund on 18 May 2005. His first wife, Maria, had died in 1986. They had 3 children. He is survived by them and by his second wife Therese, who continues their joint support of child performers of Polish dance in Dortmund and works for the very active Polish church there.
Stan’s life story is an example of courage and stamina in all circumstances. He had the attributes of Bunyan’s Pilgrim; Valiant for Truth.


Wed Dec 03, 2008 9:46 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2008 10:49 pm
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Post Re: Stanislaw Sznuk
Hi Mark
I think Rupert may remember him, If I am not mistaken he came to the unit once I think it was his retirement trip round all the MSO units there was a big party for him I remember Squie the CO driver saying that he had the most medals and honours in the MSO and was a hero in their old country.
Stan is still with us, the LAD MSO he had a big mop of black hair but is a bit thin on the top now,Julie ( daughter) is going to translate a letter from him some time after Christmas as he is working part time in her Father in Laws tanker haulage firm.
As the lad in the photo is wearing the RE stable belt I have sent the peice to Martin the lad as he was in the RE bridgeing Regt in Hamlen, and he may remember him if he was with them.

Brian


Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:13 pm
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