Sunday, November 24, 2013


As a full-fledged user of the local village library, I have decided to take advantage of the library services such as requesting a book that I want to read instead of just buying it. 24 zloty not spent is 24 zloty saved. Plus that, our librarian is very nice. It’s a pleasure to go to the library and now the library is also equipped with a computer and Wi-fi. Ok, so far I am the only person who has ever tried to use it, thus discovering that the library doesn’t know its own password, but whatever. Baby steps, baby steps.
gowniarzu marsz do kataRecently I requested the book “Egzekutor” by Stefan Dąmbski. It’s short, about a hundred pages, and took me a couple of hours to read. Stefan Dąmbski was a member of the Polish Home Army (AK) during WWII and a self-titled “egzekutor”. He participated in many “liquidation actions” as they were called, killing German soldiers returning from the front, German civilians, Polish people deemed traitors, random Ukrainians, general riff-raff and in many instances completely innocent people by mistake or just for fun. The book is not a complete memoir of his life or even his time in the AK. It wasn’t meant for publication and was only sent to publishers by family after Dąmbski’s death. It appears to be Stefan Dąmbski’s attempt to sort through his own memories and reflections before his death. Having said that, this book was hard to take, not because of the brutality of his descriptions, but because of the discrepancy between Dąmbski’s AK and the other accounts of the AK I have read.
Dąmbski as a teen, was permitted to join the AK after “taking care of” an informant, another young man that he knew well. In Dąmbski’s retelling, he volunteered to take care of the problem and killing the man was his idea. He claims that he had to convince the AK to allow him to do it and after a few hours of persuasion, they agreed. Perhaps that is true or perhaps it was the slick manipulation by the AK of a young boy eager to serve kill. And there’s another thing difficult to take in this book. Dąmbski does not present himself as a hero, but as a killer. He says that part of his motivation in writing his account is to contrast what the AK usually writes about themselves, mostly heroic stories. The writer of “Sołdat” had similar motivations. Dąmbski describes feeling like a hero, a patriot, at the time. His descriptions are however void of any heroism and patriotism and sound like the notes of a sadistic killer. What is war but sadistic killing colored with bóg, honor i ojczyzna.
The book includes some reaction of representatives of the AK, people who lived in the places he described and historians. Some of Dąmbski’s accounts are recorded in history a bit differently or attributed to different people. Dąmbski also does not include some actions he most certainly participated in. Some names are also changed, by the accident of memory or on purpose? We will never know. One accusation was that the AK did not participate in liquidating the locals. However, a historian was able to show documentation of such “actions”. I am struck by the absence of Jewish people in his writings. The AK has been accused also of “cleaning up” Jews in some areas. Perhaps Dąmbski didn’t participate in it, didn’t know about it, was so ashamed he didn’t want to mention it or not ashamed at all as not to mention it.
Dąmbski in his own defense in his own writing states,
Z każdej historii można wyciągnąć wnioski i się czegoś nauczyć, o ile wszystko opierać się na prawdzie.  Dlatego w tej książce piszę tylko o działaniach wojennych, w których sam brałem bezpośredni udział. Nie piszę tu o rzeczach, które mi opowiadano i których nie byłem świadkiem. Podaję tu fakty z życia prostego żołnierza Armii Krajowej.
From every story we can draw conclusions and learn something as long as everything is based on the truth. That’s why in this book I write only about those acts of war that I directly took part in. I do not write about things that were told to me or that I was not a witness to. I give facts from the life of a simple soldier of the Home Army.
Pisząc dziś te wspomnienia, próbuję – podając różne przykłady – usprawiedliwić siebie i takich jak ja, gdy chodzi o ogromne krzywdy, jakieśmy w tym czasie wyrządzili rasie ludzkiej. Za późno dziś, by prosić kogokolwiek o przebaczenie, tak się ludziom życia nie. przywróci. Niech to będzie jeszcze jedno ostrzeżenie dla przyszłych pokoleń i różnych organizatorów politycznych. Niech pamiętają, że każda wojna to tragedia, że w niej zawsze giną ludzie młodzi, mający całe życie przed sobą – i to giną niepotrzebnie.
Writing today these memories, I try – giving various examples – to justify myself and other like me regarding the enormous harm we did to the human race. It is too late today to ask anybody for forgiveness, it won’t bring those people their lives back. Let it be another warning to future generations and political organizations. Let them remember that every war is a tragedy and that in every war young people die, young people who have their whole lives in front of them die and they die unnecessarily.
I would have liked to read more about Stefan Dąmbski’s life before the war and after the war as he moved to the United States. I also wish that his reflections were more often and I guess with more reflection in them. I suppose this is a consequence of the fact that the text was written for himself and not for us and that in a few words he was able to reflect deeply enough for his own needs. Stefan Dąmbski perhaps intended to write more. His text ended abruptly mid-sentence. Stefan Dąmbski shot himself in the head in 1993 in Miami where he lived.

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