Tadeusz spent the war in Warsaw. He attended piano lessons with Professor Tadeusz Wituski, music theory classes with Professor Kazimierz Sikorski and composition classes with Professor Bolesław Woytowicz. In addition, he listened with great interest to music presented at various venues in the occupied city: Woytowicz’s art cafe – “House of Art” in Nowy Świat Street, in private homes, at morning concerts of the Central Welfare Council in Okólnik Street. He also performed during clandestine chamber concerts as a pianist, playing solo or as member of an ensemble. At that time he composed his first piano miniatures, compositions for violin and piano as well as songs. None of these compositions survived the ravages of war.
At the age of 16, in the spring of 1944, he obtained his “certificate of secondary education” and towards the end of August he was deported to Germany. Baird recalled the circumstances of this event in the following manner:
We all sat in cellars, afraid of stray bullets, afraid, first of all, of Germans and Ukrainians, Ukrainian SS-men, who would go from house to house, searching, harassing, terrorising. There was only one thing left to us, people living in the boroughs of Saska Kępa, Praga and Grochów: to listen to what was going on the left bank of the Vistula River: shots, gunfire, sounds of fighting. In mid-August 1944 there were rumours that the Germans were preparing an evacuation of all men from the right-bank Warsaw. Men i.e. all over the age of 16. I celebrated my 16th birthday four days before the outbreak of the Uprising, so I was an adult and a mature man. The assembly point was at the Washington Roundabout and in Francuska Street, and I thought to myself that this might be the last moment, the last time to spend a few more minutes with music. There were no window panes; some stray bullets had destroyed many pieces of furniture in the flat. I sat down, not being afraid of anything, not being afraid even that the sound of the piano would attract the Germans or some Volksdeutsche guards. I played Szymanowski’s Etude in B flat minor. It was a piece that I had just mastered or was finishing practising. Next day we were in a camp in the Zakroczym Fortress, then in what is now Piła, where there was a “transition camp for foreign [...] workforce”. This was followed by a journey lasting many days, in cattle vans, across Germany [...]
Initially, Baird worked as a farm hand in Emsdetten (North Rhine-Westphalia), which he later recalled in the following manner:
For quite a long time, in any case for many weeks, I worked as a farm hand and was allocated to the stables. One of the horses, and these were big, heavy Friesian horses resembling the Percherons known in Poland, turned out to be a murderess. A few days before my arrival at the farm, it kicked and killed a Soviet prisoner who worked at the farm. Despite the fact that he was a peasant, a man used to working on a farm, this spiteful beast, named Beta, by the way, surprised and killed him. It crushed his skull. You can easily imagine the fear with which I attended to these horses for many weeks. To this day I’m afraid of horses, I don’t like them. This lasted for several weeks and it was in fact the first stage in my German adventures, adventures which had only started. For me this stage was all the more important given the fact that I learned what I, a human being, his life, his work are worth in the system created by the Nazis in Europe. The only valuable thing I had was a few German banknotes.
However, he did not bear a grudge against the family for whom he worked. Many years after the war he even visited them:
In 1980 we went to Westphalia – recalls Alina Baird. Of course, this main German [...] – a high-ranking officer – had been dead by then [...] When they learned from the newspapers about the prize of the city of Cologne, they wrote a letter and looked for Tadeusz. They found him and corresponded with him. When [Tadeusz Baird] had lectures in Münster at the University, we went to visit the family. They had quite a large estate, one of the children was running it. [...] We established friendly relations [...] But they didn’t remember much [...] They kept saying that he had had good conditions, because there had been a piano and he had been able to play, which wasn’t true, because how can you play the piano with your hands cold after picking beetroots [...]
Tadeusz Baird was then sent as a forced labourer to the German-Dutch border to work on the reinforcement of defence fortifications.
One fine day I and my nine companions, who had to [...] build some fortifications, anti-tank reinforcements etc., rebelled. We clearly sensed and heard that the front was coming closer, that the Canadians were attacking. We hoped that perhaps this time, if we managed to escape, the front would pass above us and for us the war would be over, we would be liberated. Indeed, the ten of us did manage to escape as the German troops were withdrawing, and we hid a few kilometres away [...] Unfortunately, two or three days later the German military police pulled us out of some barn – the composer recalled.
After the failed attempt to escape, Baird was arrested and for three weeks he remained in a Gestapo fortress in Münster. Sentenced to indefinite imprisonment in a concentration camp, he was transferred to Gladbeck (a branch of Konzentrationslager Neuengamme). The stay in the camp resulted in a serious illness – osseous tuberculosis. His condition was so serious that the Germans left him behind with other equally frail prisoners, when the camp was evacuated in a hurry in 1945. As the composer recalled:
A huge number of prisoners were evacuated, just several dozen of us were left behind by the SS men, who didn’t ever bother to shoot us. They were so sure that we wouldn’t survive [...] Suffice it to say that for several days and nights we – wounded, injured, suffering from typhoid and dysentery, with frostbites – lay with no food or blankets, on bare wooden planks, in a ruined barrack, dying there. We were dying one by one, waiting for our liberators.
Found in a hopeless state by the Americans, Baird was sent to a German military hospital in Zweckel. There he underwent rib resection three times and was treated for six months. After the treatment he found himself near Emmerich am Rhein in a displaced person camp. Waiting for a return to Poland, Baird threw himself into cultural-educational work in the camp (which held about 2000 Poles over a period of two years). There he set up a club, a library and a musical ensemble. With it he often gave very popular concerts in the neighbouring camps from the British occupation zone. In Germany 18-year-old Tadeusz also began working as a teacher of theoretical musical subjects in a temporary conservatoryfor foreigners in the town of Kagel near Hagen. In addition, he performed as a pianist, playing his own works as well as those by Fryderyk Chopin and Karol Szymanowski. At that time he received his first commission as a composer:
When people living in the camp for Polish DPs in Emerich am Rhein heard that there was a young composer among them, one day I was visited by a young man who asked me if I could compose a work for a fair fee. I was very excited by this; after all, the first commission in my life as a composer was no small thing. I agreed, asking for details, and learned that this young man, deported from Poland to Germany as a forced labourer like hundreds of thousands of others, had left behind his beloved whom he missed very much. The gentleman was about to return to Poland and, as he told me, wanted to bring his beloved fiancée a gift in the form of a piece of music that would testify to his constancy. And the best thing would be to make it a tango and, even better, to call this tango Longing. The fee was to be several boxes of American cigarettes, which, as people who lived in Germany at that time remember, were next to coffee the best and the only reliable currency. I agreed, of course, and composed a tango entitled Longing, and even wrote some lyrics to it. The tango was suitably moving, sentimental, tearful and full of feeling. Unfortunately, some time later, after returning to Poland, I learned that I didn’t achieve the success I’d have wished with this composition. My work, my tango was not a success with the lady to which it had been given [...]. In any case, this was not the end of the piece. Much to my surprise many years later when I was having dinner one day at the Monopol Hotel in Wrocław, I heard my tango, Longing, being played by the restaurant band.