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World War II atrocities in Poland
The war against Poland was from the start intended as a fulfillment of the plan described by Hitler in his book "Mein Kampf". The main axis of the plan was that all of Eastern Europe should become the source of the power for Germany, so called German Lebensraum (living space). The German Army was sent, as stated by Hitler in his Armenian quote:"with orders for them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish race and language".
During the first week of the German invasion of Poland, there is little agreement as to the number and manner of minority Germans killed during Bromberg Bloody Sunday. Doubtless, some Germans participated in subversive acts, and equally doubtless, panicked and frustrated Polish soldiers and civilians were indiscriminant in attacking ethnic Germans. There is still disagreement between historians, as to how many Germans were killed and the circumstances. The lowest number given for German victims was around 600. Nazi propaganda reported 60,000 people and used it as the second pretext for repression against Poles (after Provocation in Gliwice).
According to Nazi propaganda:
- In addition to the events in Bromberg, throughout western Poland a portion of the German residents were rounded up, jailed, marched eastward, shot and buried in nearby woods. This all occurred in the confusion of the military retreat. When advancing German forces neared the prisoner marches, they were some times executed as a spies, but more frequently released.
German and Polish historians continue to argue about the validity of the claims.
As German forces gained control, immediate executions killed over 3,000 Poles, many with unproven culpability. More reprisals were soon to follow. A British witness described the beginning of the massacre as follows:
- The first victims of the campaign were a number of Boy Scouts from twelve to sixteen years of age, who were set up in the marketplace against a wall and shot. No reason was given. A devoted priest who rushed to administer the Last Sacrament was shot too. He received five wounds. A Pole said afterwards that the sight of those children lying dead was the most piteous of all the horrors he saw.
Following this, the Wehrmacht troops began rounding up schoolboys in the street, who were similarly executed. The witness continues:
- Thirty-four of the leading tradespeople and merchants of the town were shot, and many other leading citizens.
The troops then attacked the Jesuits, looting and ransacking the church. The priests were taken to a barn, where the local Jewish population was already imprisoned, and they were all subjected to abuse. Altogether, some 1,000 people were killed in the ensuing massacres.
Deportation of Jews
The area was subdivided into three Regierungsbezirke ("administrative districts") – Poznan, Inowroclaw, and Lodz. On Sept. 1, 1939, it had 390,000 Jews (including 4,500 in Poznan, 54,090 in Inowroclaw, and 326,000 in the Lodz district – 233,000 in the city of Lodz). Like all Polish areas incorporated into the Reich, Wartheland was from the beginning designated to become "judenrein" (Heydrich's "Schnellbrief" of Sept. 21, 1939). In a secret order to the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt – Reich Security Main Office) and the high SS and police officials, issued on Oct. 30, 1939, Himmler fixed the period of November 1939-February 1940 for clearing the incorporated areas of their entire Jewish population and the majority of their Polish population as well. A similar decree was issued on Nov. 4, 1939, by Wartheland's Gauleiter Arthur Greiser. Arrangements were made for the transfer of 100,000 Jews from its territory during this period. In fact, more than 50 Jewish communities were deported wholly or in part to the Lublin district between the fall of 1939 and May 1940; the larger communities among those deported were Poznan, Kalisz, Ciechocinek, Gniezno, Inowroclaw, Nieszawa, and Konin. In some towns the deportation was carried out in stages, with a small number of Jews remaining, engaged in work for the Nazi authorities. In some instances, the regime of terror drove the Jews to desperation, so that they chose "voluntary" exile. This happened in Lipno and in Kalisz, where many Jews, unable to withstand the persecution, fled from the city in October and November 1939. In Lodz, over ten thousand Jews, including most of the Jewish intelligentsia, were deported in December 1939. For weeks the deportees were kept at assembly points, and had to supply their own means of subsistence, though they had been deprived of all their valuables. Large assembly points were located at Kalisz, Sieradz, and Lodz. There, the Selektion ("selection") took place in which able-bodied men, aged 14 and over, were sent to labor camps which had been established in the meantime, while women, children, and old men were deported in sealed freight cars to the Lublin and Kielce areas. This occurred in the severe winter of 1939-1940, and upon arrival at their destination, some of the deportees were dead, others nearly frozen, or otherwise seriously ill. The survivors were bereft of clothing, food, and money. A few found refuge with relatives or friends, but most of them had to find places in the crowded synagogues and poorhouses. For the Jewish communities of the Lublin and Radom districts, the influx of deportees was a very heavy burden. Most of the deportees perished before mass deportation began.
Terror against Poles in 1939
2,000 Polish intelligentsia were murdered, and another 10,000 in other part of Operation Tannenberg.
In 1939 near a village called Piaśnica Wielka in the Western Pomerania province Nazis exterminated about 10,000-12,000 people. The majority were Poles from the Third Reich territories (ethnic cleansing) and from Pomorze. There was a large group of Polish intellectuals, clergy and intelligentsia from Pomerania and Cashubia. In the same area special SS troops executed about 1200 German psychiatric patients from nearby psychiatric institutions.
Terror against Poles 1940-1945
(to be written)(Certainly there were a great deal of German atrocities that could be documented here. Nazi terror was aimed at complete reconstruction of the society. Jews were to disappear, Poles was to become slaves of Great Germany. Therefore the leadership of Poles, political, economic and religious leaders were to be murdered, while the bulk of population shed of any rights and given no education or health care. To explain the policy of terror for German society and abroad, some pretext were necessary. Some of the alleged causes were the revenge for Bloody Sunday, reaction to Polish resistance activities, and political agendas of the fanatical Nazi leadership.)
Terror against intelligentsia and clergy
During the 1939 German invasion of Poland, special action squads of SS and police (the Einsatzgruppen) were deployed in the rear, arresting or killing those civilians caught resisting the Germans or considered capable of doing so as determined by their position and social status. Tens of thousands of wealthy landowners, clergymen, and members of the intelligentsia—government officials, teachers, doctors, dentists, officers, journalists, and others (both Poles and Jews)—were either murdered in mass executions or sent to prisons and concentration camps. German army units and "self-defense" forces composed of Volksdeutsche also participated in executions of civilians. In many instances, these executions were reprisal actions that held entire communities collectively responsible for the killing of Germans.
As part of wider efforts to destroy Polish culture, the Germans closed or destroyed universities, schools, museums, libraries, and scientific laboratories. They demolished hundreds of monuments to national heroes. To prevent the birth of a new generation of educated Poles, German officials decreed that Polish children's schooling end after a few years of elementary education. "The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans. . . . I do not think that reading is desirable," Himmler wrote in his May 1940 memorandum. In the same document he promised to deport all Poles to the east. In other statements he mentioned the future killing fields for all Poles in the Pripjet Swamps. Plans for mass transportation and slave labor camps for up to 20 million Poles were made. All should die during the cultivation of the swamps. A bitter note is Hitler`s remark, that they should be exterminated where the Poles in the early medivial age originated.
In the Wartheland, the Nazis' goal was complete "Germanization" to assimilate the territories politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich. Germans closed even elementary schools where Polish was the language of instruction. They renamed streets and cities so that Lodz became Litzmannstadt, for example. They also seized tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, without payment to the owners. Signs posted in public places warned: "Entrance is forbidden to Poles, Jews, and dogs."
The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed in Wartheland more harshly than elsewhere, as they systematically closed churches there; most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported to the General Government. The Germans also closed seminaries and convents, persecuting monks and nuns. Between 1939 and 1945 an estimated 3,000 members of the Polish clergy were killed (in all of Poland); of these, 1,992 died in concentration camps, 787 of them at Dachau.
Expulsions of Poles
The Germanization of the annexed lands also included an ambitious program to resettle Germans from the Baltic and other regions on farms and other homes formerly occupied by Poles and Jews. Beginning in October 1939, the SS began to expel Poles and Jews from the Wartheland and the Danzig corridor and transport them to the General Government. By the end of 1940, the SS had expelled 325,000 people without warning and plundered their property and belongings. Many elderly people and children died en route or in makeshift transit camps such as those in the towns of Potulice , Smukal , and Torun. In 1941, the Germans expelled 45,000 more people, but they scaled backed the program after the invasion of the Soviet Union in late June 1941. Trains used for resettlement were more urgently needed to transport soldiers and supplies to the front.
Between 1939 and 1945 at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were transported to the Reich for labor, most of them against their will. Many were teenage boys and girls. Although Germany also used forced laborers from western Europe, Poles, along with other eastern Europeans viewed as inferior, were subject to especially harsh discriminatory measures. They were forced to wear identifying purple P's sewn to their clothing, subjected to a curfew, and banned from public transportation. While the actual treatment accorded factory workers or farm hands often varied depending on the individual employer, Polish laborers as a rule were compelled to work longer hours for lower wages than western Europeans, and in many cities they lived in segregated barracks behind barbed wire. Social relations with Germans outside work were forbidden, and sexual relations with them were considered "racial defilement" punishable by death. During the war hundreds of Polish men were executed for their relations with German women.
Poles were prisoners in nearly every camp in the extensive camp system in German-occupied Poland and the Reich. A major labor camp complex at Stutthof, east of Danzig, existed from September 2, 1939, to war's end, and an estimated 20,000 Poles died there as a result of executions, hard labor, and harsh conditions. Auschwitz (Oswiecim) became the main concentration camp for Poles after the arrival there on June 14, 1940, of 728 men transported from an overcrowded prison at Tarnow. By March 1941, 10,900 prisoners were registered at the camp, most of them Poles. In September 1941, 200 ill prisoners, most of them Poles, along with 650 Soviet prisoners of war, were killed in the first gassing experiments at Auschwitz. Beginning in 1942, Auschwitz's prisoner population became much more diverse, as Jews and other "enemies of the state" from all over German-occupied Europe were deported to the camp.
The Polish scholar Franciszek Piper , the chief historian of Auschwitz, estimates that 140,000 to 150,000 Poles were brought to that camp between 1940 and 1945, and that 70,000 to 75,000 died there as victims of executions, of cruel medical experiments, and of starvation and disease. Some 100,000 Poles were deported to Majdanek, and tens of thousands of them died there. An estimated 20,000 Poles died at Sachsenhausen, 20,000 at Gross-Rosen, 30,000 at Mauthausen, 17,000 at Neuengamme, 10,000 at Dachau, and 17,000 at Ravensbrück. In addition, victims in the tens of thousands were executed or died in the thousands of other camps-including special children's camps such as at Lodz and its subcamp, at Dzierzazn — and in prisons and other places of detention within and outside Poland.
End of war
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