BY NEAL ASCHERSON
BY NEAL ASCHERSON
Central European Windows-1250
The Third Partition, sealed by treaty in January 1797 but dating in practice from 1795, ended the independence of Poland. The Commonwealth vanished from the map of Europe. Austria took Kraków and the surrounding region, Prussia occupied central Poland as far east as Warsaw, the Russians advanced their frontiers to a line which - in its northern trace - ran close to the present Polish-Soviet border along the Bug river . A secret clause in the Partition treaty - the first of many such secret clauses in Poland's history - laid down that 'the name or designation of the Kingdom of Poland . . . shall remain suppressed as of now and for ever'.
A hundred and twenty-three years were to pass before a sovereign Polish state reappeared. Poland had 'descended into the grave', as the Romantic poets were to put it, but it was an unquiet grave. Poland was not dead, and it was not only the Poles who tried to resurrect her.
France, at war with all Europe, did not abandon the Polish cause, though ruthless calculation was as important as fraternal emotion in French actions. Napoleon allowed General Jan Henryk Dabrowski to raise two legions of Polish exiles in Italy (their 'March, march, Dabrowski' song became Poland's national anthem) and another legion was organised in Germany. They served France loyally, in part by helping to combat the national insurrection in Spain, and in 1807 Napoleon established the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a satellite state carved out of the Polish territories annexed by Prussia which soon included not only Warsaw but Kraków and a part of the Austrian zone.
THE STRUGGLES FOR
POLAND BY NEAL ASCHERSON
Although the Grand Duchy seemed to Poles only a prelude to the restoration of full independence, the great process of reform which had begun in the time of King Stanisław August Poniatowski was revived and carried further. The Napoleonic Civil Code of law was imported from France, and has shaped the Polish legal and administrative tradition ever since. Serfdom was again abolished, and a modern constitution gave equal rights to all but the poorest peasants. Hope returned; Napoleon seemed a liberator; and the Poles gave their treasure and their young men to help his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812.
But with Napoleon's defeat, Poland again left the map. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 changed the Partition boundaries: the Prussians fell back some way to the west, Kraków became a 'free city' in practice subject to the partitioning powers, and most of the old Grand Duchy of Warsaw, including the capital, became a semi-autonomous region of the Russian Empire, the so-called 'Kingdom of Poland'.
Abroad, all those who opposed the Holy Alliance, the block of three reactionary powers which not only suppressed Poland but seemed to threaten liberty throughout Europe, gave at least sentimental support to the Polish cause. It was the sense of belonging to a 'liberal international' that encouraged a series of Polish national conspiracies, especially in the Congress Kingdom.
Matters came to a crisis in 1830; the July Revolution in France spread waves of democratic unrest and turbulence across the Continent, while the Tsar prepared to send Russian troops (with Polish regiments) to suppress the new and liberal state of Belgium.
The November Rising began on the night of 29 November 1830 when a small party of officer-cadets attacked the Belvedere Palace, residence of the Russian viceroy, and another group captured the Arsenal with the assistance of the Warsaw population. The rising rapidly developed into a national insurrection, and the armies of the Congress Kingdom fought Russian troops in open warfare for almost a year before going down to defeat. But the leadership of the rising, ill-prepared, proved divided and confused; the liberal nations of the West, Britain and France, did not come to Poland's aid, although thousands of Poles secretly crossed frontiers to join the insurrection; and the strategy of the generals did not match the courage and professionalism of their soldiers. Warsaw was recaptured by the Russians in September 1831, and by late October organised resistance was over.
The consequences of the November Rising were grim and long-lasting. General Paskievitch in the Kingdom and General Muraviev in lithuania carried out their own versions of 'pacification': hundreds were executed, and some 180,000 Poles were deported, many in irons to Siberia. The civil service was purged, and the Kingdom lost its relative autonomy, to be ruled by decree. Polish institutions like the Bank, the army, the Sejm and the Commission for National Education were systematically abolished.
THE STRUGGLES FOR
POLAND BY NEAL ASCHERSON
The 'Great Emigration' was Poland's response to the failure of the November Rising. Most of the intellectual and political elite of Poland fled abroad, some 10,000 in all, establishing their exile centre in Paris around Prince Adam Czartoryski in the Hotel Lambert. This outflow of politicians, writers, musicians, philosophers and generals was the most extraordinary block of talent ever to transfer itself from one country to another until the Jewish intellectual emigration from Germany and Austria to the United States a hundred years later.
Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Slowacki wrote verse and drama, mystical and moral and yet intensely political, that still suffuse and inform the Polish imagination; Joachim lelewel wrote Poland's history; Frederic Chopin composed; Cyprian Kamil Norwid developed a new poetry whose innovation and genius was only recognised in the following century.
This was a Romantic culture. Neither the old Age of Reason nor the optimistic, liberal mood of the contemporary West could answer the questions the Poles now put to themselves: why had Heaven allowed the martyrdom of their country when it sought only justice, and how - when - could it be resurrected from the tomb? Against the background of intense Catholic faith, there developed the haunted idea of Messianism which - in its extreme form presented Poland as the collective Christ, crucified to redeem the nations, one day to be resurrected by a new embodiment of the Holy Spirit.
At home, the earth continued to heave over the buried nation. Another national rising was planned for 1846, but ended in multiple disaster. In Prussian Poland, the leaders were arrested; Krakow rose, but the rebellion was rapidly crushed by Austrian and Russian troops. In Galicia, the portion of southern Poland held by Austria which stretched from Krakow eastwards to the fortress city of Lwow and on into the Ukraine, 1846 did not just fail but turned into a slaughter of Poles by Poles. In this overcrowded province, nearly five million Polish and Ukrainian peasants worked the lands of a tiny class of great landowning magnates. As the rising began, the Austrians were able to provoke a peasant rebellion against the landlords which turned into a massacre; some two thousand estate owners and their families were murdered, and their manors burned down.
The fiasco of 1846 was a turning-point in the history of the Partitions. From Kosciuszko's rising onwards, Polish leaders had been able to rely on peasant support, promising an end to rural servitude in return for military service. Now, after Galicia, the Powers saw that they could cut off this source of strength by exploiting social divisions in Polish society. In 1848, Count Franz von Stadion, the Austrian governor of Galicia, offered the peasants possession of their own land and the abolition of feudal labour services. The Russians took a similar course in 1864.
As a result of the failure two years before, the Polish national leaders were too demoralised and disorganised to take a major part in the liberal revolutions which blazed across Europe in 1848. Minor rebellions in Kraków and Lwów were bombarded into surrender by the Austrians. In Prussian Poland, a National Committee sprang up in Poznań seeking autonomy within Prussia, but the movement was suppressed a few months later as the Hohenzollern monarchy regained control in Berlin. But Polish exiles fought 'for your freedom and ours' in almost every other nation in Europe during 1848-9. The poet Mickiewicz raised a legion in Italy, General Ludwik Mierosławski (who had led the ill-fated 1846 rising in Poznań) fought in Sicily and in southern Germany, General Henryk Dembiński and the legendary General Józef Bem commanded armies in the Hungarian national revolution. In the 1848 'springtime of nations', European sympathy with the Polish cause - rising all through the idealistic and revolutionary movements of the first half of the century - reached a peak, from which it then declined. Europe now entered a period of huge wars between empires and of internal class struggle, in which the fate of a 'failed' nation-state seemed steadily less relevant.
THE STRUGGLES FOR
POLAND BY NEAL ASCHERSON
O Lithuania, my country, thou
O Holy Maid, who Czestochowa's shrine
Such were the fields where once beside a rill
English translation by Kenneth R. Mackenzie
To write about 'Polish history' in this period inevitably distorts proportions. There was a common language, a common Polish version of Catholicism, a common culture whose strength and content could vary greatly between regions and social classes. There were 'Polish events', generally conspiracies which with great effort and luck could be made a shared experience for some Poles in two, if not always three, of the Partitions. But most of the 'history' that Poles made or suffered in the nineteenth century was - naturally enough an aspect of the history of Austria, Prussia or Russia. And these were very distinct experiences.
The Austrian Partition - Galicia and Austrian Silesia - was the most lenient. Here the ever-changing efforts of a multinational empire to reach a stable relationship with its subjects - Germans, Czechs, Magyars, Croats, Poles and Ukrainians, to name only the larger population groups - allowed the Poles to acquire considerable autonomy in Galicia where they numbered about three million, almost half the population of the province. They - or rather the highly conservative Polish landowners - ran their own internal affairs, fostered Polish culture without much hindrance, and for much of the period used Polish as an official language. As the Empire was itself Catholic, Polish religion raised no problems. Galicia was economically backward and rural, and the Polish nobility, nervous both about peasant radicalism and the rise of the Ukrainian minority (about forty-one per cent of the province's population in 1880), relied on the Austrians to protect them and became thoroughly nervous about ideas of national resurrection.
In Prussia, by contrast, the Poles - just under three million of them - were a minority. Up to the 1848 crisis, they had been handled with tolerance. But in the second half of the century, as the policy of Germanisation set in, they were treated increasingly as a threat.
Their position became far more exposed in 1871, when Germany united into an empire under Prussian leadership. Bismarck, who had been the chief minister to the Prussian King, now became the first Chancellor of the Hohenzollern Empire. Within a few years, the Prussian Poles were embroiled in the Kulturkampf - Bismarck's attempt to break the influence of the Vatican and bring the Catholic Church throughout the German dominions under the control of the state. Bismarck did not launch the Kulturkampfsimply to break the national spirit of the Catholic Poles - though he certainly hoped for such a result. Neither did he attack the Church simply because he, like the rest of the Prussian ruling class, was a Lutheran Protestant. His central purpose was to destroy or at least disable any institution which challenged the absolute authority of the German state. But the effect of Bismarck's onslaught against their church, coupled with his violent contempt for the very idea of Poland, faced the Poles in Prussia with the most serious danger to their cultural survival that they had yet encountered.
They became the target of campaigns not only against their faith but against their education and finally against their land. Government-financed waves of German farmer-colonists were sent east to buy out the Poles and settle. On all three fronts the Poles of the Poznań region and West Prussia successfully defended themselves through a generally defiant Catholic leadership (Cardinal Ledóchowski was imprisoned for two years ), and through a network of self-help organisations which not only blocked the German colonisation plans but in some areas bought back farms that had been purchased from Poles.
Bismarck regarded Poland as a 'seasonal state', a sort of sandbank which appeared in times of international crisis but which had no title to be considered a nation. The keystone of his European strategy was the maintenance of peace between the German and Russian Empires through their common interest in the partition of Poland. After his fall in 1890, when he was succeeded by Chancellor Caprivi, German policy changed towards a hostility to Russia that was to reach its climax in 1914, but this brought no relief to the Prussian Poles, now regarded as a security risk in a military frontier zone.
Of all three fragments of Poland, the Russian partition was easily the most oppressive. It contained the largest block of Poland's former population: there were over five million Polish subjects of the Tsar, of whom about 4.3 million lived in the 'Kingdom of Poland' and the remainder either in the old lithuanian territories or in the eastern Ukraine.
After 1831, the Kingdom was in effect under military occupation. Polish culture was treated as subversive, and the Catholic religion was regarded as a disqualification from official employment. The modest political liberty allowed in Prussia and still more in Galicia was unthinkable in Russian Poland. Polish politics, to the extent that there were any beyond an unfocused hatred of anything Russian, could only develop as conspiracies prepared to use violence to maintain themselves and armed revolution to achieve their ends. Between the Russian tradition of total, utterly centralised and despotic authority and Poland's history of free speech and limited power, no stable compromise was possible.
After the Russian setback in the Crimean War (1854-6), conspiracies were formed among the thousands of Polish students studying at Russian universities and there was a new restiveness in the Kingdom. The new Tsar Alexander II, who had come to the throne in 1855, warned the Poles that they would win no concessions, but in 1860 patriotic demonstrations took place in Warsaw, followed by more in the following year which were crushed by the gunfire of Russian troops. Plans were laid for another national insurrection, which exploded prematurely in January 1863.
The January Rising was in some ways a contrast to the rebellion of 1830-31. Politically it had been carefully prepared and its underground leadership was highly organised, but its military strength was weak. There was no collision of armies; instead, partisan bands fought a guerrilla war throughout the Kingdom which soon spread to the huge forests of Lithuania and regions of Byelorussia and the Ukraine. The partisans were supported by an 'underground state', running central and local government, foreign policy, a press and an arms industry.
The odds, however, were hopeless. Feeble attempts by France, Britain and Austria to mediate with the Tsar were ignored. As in 1830, thousands of Poles came from Austria and Prussia and from all the emigrations in the west to fight and die, but the Rising itself did not spread beyond the Russian partition. After fifteen months of desperate courage, the insurrection crumbled away, and its last leadership, headed by Romuald Traugutt, was hanged outside the w arsaw Citadel.
The January Rising failed mainly because, without the intervention of a foreign power , partisans could not defeat a Russian army which came to number nearly 350,000 men. But its collapse was hastened by a clever stroke of politics. The underground 'government' had - as usual - promised the peasants full ownership of their land and an end to labour duties for the landlord. But in March 1864, Alexander II proclaimed a version of these reforms as his own, on behalf of the Russian government, depriving the Rising of much of its appeal to the rural poor.
A thick darkness of repression now fell on the Kingdom. Again, there were executions; again, thousands of Poles were herded off in long convoys to Siberia. The Kingdom lost its name and its last shreds of autonomy, becoming the 'Vistula Territory' of the Russian Empire. Poles were excluded from almost all official positions; Russian became the language of education and government; the Catholic Church was persecuted and the spread of the Orthodox faith encouraged; a stream of Russian bureaucrats, teachers and policemen moved in. The policy of 'Russianisation', the deliberate extermination of the Polish identity, was applied even more severely after the murder of Alexander II in 1881.
Under the Partitions, two broad strategies were open to patriotic Poles. One was the Romantic tradition of armed insurrection, a course which turned out to be hopeless in practical terms unless there was full-scale support from other European nations - which never materialised. The other was to preserve and build up the cultural and economic strength of the nation, which involved a degree of compromise and collaboration with the partitioning Powers.
This second strategy, known as 'Organic Work', dominated the decades after the failure of the 1863 Rising. In Galicia, the agrarian slum of Europe, there was little industrial development before the end of the century. In Prussian Poland, the self-help policies of the Poles, combined with the economic dynamism of Germany, gave them a prosperous farming interest and useful experience in finance and industry . But it was in Russian Poland, in spite of ferocious political and cultural suppression, that the most vigorous changes took place.
Polish society there had been shattered as much by the land reforms of 1864 as by the defeat of the Rising. The easy-going old life of the rural gentry came abruptly to an end, with the loss of unpaid labour. A part of the petty nobility left the land and moved to Warsaw where - barred from any responsible post they became the embryo of the turbulent, independent Warsaw intelligentsia that survives today. Others, however, went to Russia itself, to study, to work as managers and - often - to encounter the new Russian generation of revolutionary conspirators. Professor Leslie records that the Polish population of St Petersburg rose from 11,000 in 1864 to 70,000 by 1914.
In 1851, the tariff barrier between Russia and the Kingdom had been abolished; in the years after 1863, Russia's protectionist policies cut off the supply of industrial goods from the West. This was the opportunity for Russian Poland, still economically far more advanced than the rest of the Empire. There were few Polish capitalists, but German investment poured in to finance industrial development; large-scale industry appeared not only in the boom town of Lódź, whose textiles clothed all Russia, but in the coal and iron basin of the Dabrowa and in Warsaw in the form of heavy and light engineering.
By 1900, Poland accounted for an eighth of all Russian production. Organic Work, at a first glance, seemed to be paying off. But in fact it was already a discredited creed.
There were two reasons for this. One was social: the new Polish working class was underpaid and atrociously housed, and - in Russian Poland - almost totally deprived of trade union protection until 1906. Revolutionary socialist ideas spread rapidly , accelerated by the slump at the end of the century. On the land, the end of serfdom and land reform had only created further problems as a rural population with a soaring birth rate tried to fend off starvation on tiny plots of soil. Many gave up the struggle and emigrated, from Prussian Poland to the United States and to the Ruhr in western Germany, then from the old Kingdom, and finally in an enormous exodus from overcrowded Galicia which took over one million - Poles, Jews and Ukranians - abroad, mostly to the Americas, between l870 and 1914.
The second reason for the fading of the Organic Work strategy was political. If it was not to degenerate into mere opportunism, only making life easier for those with money and position, it had to show returns - an appreciative readiness of the partition Powers to allow the Poles to run their own affairs. But the opposite was true: in Russia and Germany, above all, imperialist russianising and germanising policies were growing rapidly more oppressive.
It was at this stage in Polish history that Jozef Pilsudski entered the struggle. As the nineteenth century ended, the Poles looked back on a hundred years of humiliation and martyrdom and swore that there would not be another hundred. Internationally, the outlook for restoring an independent Poland was bleak. But the tightening vice of foreign repression, added to the miseries of the economic slump, was breeding up a fresh militancy in all the Polish lands. The emergence of coherent political movements, like the Polish Socialist Party, gave resistance and struggle a quite new staying-power. Pilsudski was typical of the young Polish generation, impatient to renew the struggle, hoping against all reason for a sign of weakness in one of its imperial enemies.
Józef Piłsudski was born in a country manor in Lithuania, to a family of the Polish squires who had dominated that country for centuries, only four years after the suppression of the last great Polish insurrection which began in January l863. He grew up in a land helplessly exposed to the Russian vengeance that followed the January Rising: executions, torturings, arrests, deportation to Siberia, the confiscation of estates, the suppression of Polish culture and language, and the persecution of the Catholic Church. At school, Piłudski's teachers were Russians who sneered at his Polishness and treated him as an alien in his own country. Józef Piłsudski acquired a hatred and fear of Russia which never left him. The Polish gentry in Lithuania were little affected by the doctrines of compromise, of a sort of patriotic adaptation to foreign rule, which became widespread in other parts of the divided nation in the years after l863. They remained true to the older tradition of romantic conspiracy, which looked to yet another armed insurrection to liberate Poland. (...)The situation at the turn of the century was a strange one. Poland had lost its independence just over a hundred years before, and remained partitioned between Russia, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire, which had inherited the conquests of Prussia. On the one hand, the profound discouragement which had fallen upon the Poles after the failure of the January Rising in 1863 was rapidly wearing off. The sober doctrines which gained support in the decades after the Rising, suggesting that the true patriotism was to avoid head-on conflict with the occupiers and build up the economic and cultural strength of the nation by hard work, agricultural improvemem and social organisation - this cautious approach was out of fashion. Political parties were being founded, some operating openly in the relatively tolerant conditions of the Austrian partition, others underground. Higher education, some of it clandestine, was reviving even under the Russians. In the Prussian partition, a vigorous and quite successful struggle was being waged on the land to resist German colonisation. The economic turn-down at the end of the century, which had reached the dimensions of a severe slump in Russia, was spreading bankruptcies and unemployment and undermining the case for patient, constructive work. The new generation, which had not experienced the devastating consequences of 1863, was disinclined to be patient.
Poland Resurrected: 1900-1921
1914, the novelist Joseph Conrad decided to take his family on a continental holiday. He wanted to show his English wife and children the city of Kraków, where he had grown up and where he had buried his father, the revolutionary Apollo Korzeniowski. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, successor to the imperial Austro-Hungarian throne, had been shot at Sarajevo a few weeks before. Like most ordinary Europeans, Conrad paid little attention to this. As a result, the outbreak of the First World War caught the Conrads in Krakow, in what was now the enemy territory of Austria-Hungary, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that they managed to escape internment and make their way back to Britain.
On the night of the general mobilisation, as army cars rushed hooting through the streets and crowds of unwilling young men slouched to the barracks to have their hair cut off and their uniforms fitted, Conrad and a group of Polish friends gathered in the smoking-room of his hotel and contemplated the future.
'The big room was lit up only by a few tall candles, just enough for us to see each other's faces by. I saw in those faces the awful desolation of men whose country, torn in three, found itself engaged in the contest with no will of its own, and not even the power to assert itself at the cost of life. All the past was gone, and there was no future, whatever happened; no road which did not seem to lead to moral annihilation.' Conrad, recalling the scene a year later, wrote: 'I am glad I have not so many years left me to remember that appalling feeling of inexorable fate, tangible, palpable, come after so many cruel years, a figure of dread, murmuring with iron lips the final words: Ruin - and Extinction. (Joseph Conrad, Notes on Lifes and Letters, J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1921, p. 229, P.238)
Four years later, Poland regained her independence. The war which seemed to promise only ruin and extinction led to the collapse of all the three partitioning empires. But there are lessons in that memory of Conrad's which should never be forgotten. Only hindsight or the bravest contemporary guess could identify those baleful days of 19l4 with the beginning of Poland's resurrection. Only the most absurd nationalism could attribute that resurrection to the actions of the Poles themselves. There was nothing inevitable about Poland's revival in 1918, which was the result of an incredible stroke of fortune. In 1914, there was no lack of Polish politicians struggling for the independence of their country, openly or underground, at liberty or in prisons. But Conrad in that Kraków hotel, like most Poles, shared only their aspirations, not their optimism.
In the gap between the end of the war and the beginning of Versailles, the new Polish frontiers were already being set. Fighting had broken out between Poles and Ukrainians at Lwów in November 1918, ending with all Galicia under Polish control seven months later. In December 1918, there was a victorious Polish rising in the German province of Poznań. The Lithuanian capital of Wilno was taken first by the Bolsheviks and then by the Poles. Czechs and Poles fought each other in the Cieszyń region, the small industrial area which had been Austrian Silesia. That struggle ended in July 1920 when the Allied powers enforced a partition - a solution never accepted by the 140,000 Poles who found themselves on the Czechoslovak side of the frontier.
The toughest problem on the
Silesia. With its concentration of coal-mines, many producing
coking coal, and its iron and steel mills, this was the most valuable
area in central Europe. Under German rule, its population had become a
dense mixture of Catholic Poles and Catholic German Silesians under a
of Prussian Lutheran administrators and industrial capitalists who were
usually German or German-Jewish. Many 'Germans' were of Polish descent
and had relations who considered themselves Polish. .
Nobody was going to abandon Upper Silesia without a fight. The economy of central and eastern Germany depended on it; but without Upper Silesia, Poland would be a poor rural country lacking a primary industrial base. After two Polish insurrections in the region, the Allies intervened and held a plebiscite. This produced a German majority of votes, inflated but not decided by trainloads of Germans ferried in for the poll. The result, on 3 May 192 I, was a third Polish rising led by Korfanty and helped by the passive support of the French occupation troops, which ended after several months of savage fighting with the Poles in possession of most of Upper Silesia. The League of Nations drew a final partition line in October, giving the best part of the industrial districts to Poland.
These fights around the frontier were overshadowed by the Polish-Soviet war of 1920-21, an event which for a brief but terrifying moment seemed to threaten the whole of Europe and whose baleful consequences were to determine not only the nature of the Polish state but the fate of the next generation.
Here, Piłsudski was the moving spirit. It is still often said that he attacked Russia in order to suppress Bolshevism, that he acted as mere tool of Britain and France who had already intervened on the White side in the Russian civil war. But this is a false account both of what happened and of Piłsudski' s motives. Paderewski in Paris had once suggested that Polish armies could be used to overthrow Lenin, but nothing had come of it. Piłsudski' s aim, in contrast, had always been to restore something akin to the old Common-wealth, by detaching the Ukraine from Russia and bringing it into a federation with Poland. He failed to reach any agreement with the Whites, who could see no point in helping Poland to demolish the empire they hoped to restore.
Ever since the Armistice, the Germany army stranded in the east had formed a buffer between Poland and Russia. In February 1919, it finally withdrew, and Polish and Bolshevik units began to collide. Slowly the old Commonwealth outlines began to reappear, as Polish troops took Wilno in April 1919 and Minsk, the main city of Byelorussia, in August. The Bolsheviks, preoccupied with the civil war, we re ready to be flexible over frontiers with the Poles, but talks between the two sides broke down in December. Meanwhile, the Allies were becoming alarmed by Piłsudski's march to the east. They had no love for Bolshevik Russia, but neither had they expected Poland to turn into the enormous revival of historical dominions, which was now taking shape.
Piłsudski turned his attention to the Ukraine, which had a precarious government of its own under the Hetman Petlura. He was able to force Petlura to agree that eastern Galicia - in spite of its Ukrainian majority in population- should be merged into Poland, in return for Polish protection for Petlura's authority in the rest of the Ukraine. But t e deal did not stick; most Ukrainian patriots rejected the surrender of Galicia as unpardonable treachery. However, Polish troops supported by Petlura's forces went ahead with their attack on the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, on 8 May 1920.
By now the Bolsheviks saw the Polish advance as a threat to the survival of the Revolution itself. A huge army was assembled, and in the summer of 1920 a double counter-offensive, led by Budyonny's cavalry army in Galicia and the talented young General Tukhachevsky in the north, burst through Piłsudski's defences and poured westwards towards Poland.
It seems to have been Lenin, normally the coolest of men, who decided -against the, opinions of his colleagues, including Trotsky and Stalin - that this offensive should go forward until it carried the Revolution into the heart of Europe. Tukhachevsky proclaimed: 'Over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration.' By August, the offensive was nearing Warsaw; Cossack cavalry crossed the Vistula north of the capital, and the Bolsheviks we re approaching the German frontiers of East Prussia. If Poland fell, the way to Berlin would be open. ,
Confident of victory, the Soviet government had set :up a revolutionary committee, the nucleus of a Polish government, at Białystok under Julian Marchlewski, a Polish Communist who had been one of the SDKPiL leaders.
Tukhachevsky's armies surging across northern Poland were leaving an undefended flank, and the Poles -outmanoeuvred but not defeated - took their chance. A strike force was hastily put together, and on 13 August it tore across Tukhachevsky's rear and cut him off. A hundred thousand prisoners were taken, and the Soviet armies fled out of Poland with Piłsudski's men at their heels.
Marian Żebrowski was a young cavalry officer; his regiment headed the Polish counter-offensive as it hit the left flank of Tukhachevsky's advance. 'Army people know what it means when one is attacked across the line of one' s advance. That means the complete destruction of an offensive - and that's just what happened. The third and fourth squadrons destroyed everything ahead of them. The second squadron rode round the right wing, crossed a bridge and covered our right. The first squadron was sent to deliver a cavalry charge on the left, where larger groups of the enemy had been seen. In the last phase of its attack, the squadron got into some marshland and in this marshy ground there we re small units of the enemy. Our men fired on them, but the horses began to sink into the soft ground and the charge came to a standstill. The enemy redoubled their fire, and the squadron took heavy casualties . . . My friend, an officer-cadet called Suchodolski - his horse was killed and he fell, and was stabbed seven times with a bayonet. I helped to carry him to the ambulance cart and he just said to me: "Marian, we won such glory today, though I won't see the results of it . . .'"
This was the battle of Warsaw, or the 'Miracle on the Vistula'. It was one of the most dazzling operations in European military history. It saved Poland' s independence, and it forced Soviet Russia to abandon for ever the idea that November 1917 had been only the prelude to world revolution; from now on, Lenin was to adopt a more defensive policy which was to end in Stalin's formulation of 'socialism in one country'. Many people, then and now, have concluded that in 1920 Poland saved Europe from Communism. It would be more prudent to say that the 'Miracle' probably saved Germany from Soviet invasion. The revolutionary tide in Germany was ebbing fast by the summer of 1920, and any Red Republic established there by Soviet troops would have been swept away by the combined armies of the West.
excerpts of the
First American Edition
Random House Inc.
New York 1988
Ignacy Zygmuntowicz: "Polish Cavalry on Patrol", oil on canvas, 60 x 92 cm, private collection
Germany occupied all Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. Simultaneously, the Germans issued an ultimatum to Poland over Danzig, and Poland responded by moving troops up to the frontier.
On 31 March the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced that Britain would guarantee Polish independence in the event of attack. Beck flew to London, and the guarantee was made formal in April. Hitler retorted by renouncing his 1934 pact with Poland.
On 23 August, to the
stupefaction of the
and Molotov signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of Non-Aggression. A secret
to the pact provided for the partition of Poland and the Baltic States
between Germany and the Soviet Dnion. Once again, the main dish at the
feast of friendship between Poland' s historic enemies proved to be
independence. A few days later, Britain signed a more specific
making it clear that a German attack would lead to war with Britain as
well as with Poland.
Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Government of the
and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics desirous
of strengthening the cause of peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R and
proceeding from the fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement
concluded in April 1926 between Germany and the U.S.S.R., have reached
the following agreement:
Done in duplicate, in the German and Russian languages.
MOSCOW, August 23, 1939.
For the Government of the German Reich:
With full power of the Government of the U.S.S.R.:
Secret Additional Protocol
On the occasion of the signature of the Nonaggression Pact between the German Reich and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics the undersigned plenipotentiaries of each of the two parties discussed in strictly confidential conversations the question of the boundary of their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. These conversations led to the following conclusions:
1. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
2. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narew, Vistula, and San.
The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.
In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.
3. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares; its complete political disinterestedness in these areas.
This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.
Moscow, August 23, 1939.
For the Government of the German Reich:
Plenipotentiary of the Government of the U.S.S.R.:
Poland is a country where brilliant ideas have been bom, but seldom nursed up to full application. Nicolaus Copernicus, from Toruń, showed that the earth revolved round the sun; Michał Kalecki was a pioneer of modern socialist economics; Polish mathematicians from Poznań broke the secret of the German 'Enigma' coding machine. But it was not Poland that conquered the cosmos, ran a successful welfare stafe or won the 'secret war' of cryptography between 1939 and 1945.
Other countries put these ideas into practice. So it was with Blitzkrieg, the concept of waging offensive war with fast-moving columns of armour or motorised infantry, concentrating maximum force to punch through a minimum sector of enemy line. This theory came into the mind of a young French officer named, Charles de Gaulle as he witnessed the rapid thrusts of the Polish-Soviet War, utterly unlike the broad-front offensives which had gained so little at such hideous cost on the Western Front a few years before. What if those cavalry armies could be replaced by tanks built for speed?
But it was British and German military thinkers who developed the idea of mobile warfare, years before de Gaulle finally put his thoughts on paper. And itwas the Germans who first tested his theory, in the campaign against Poland in September 1939. Poland was attacked from three sides at once by Panzer divisions, and mobile units followed through the gaps they made. The German ranks outnumbered the Polish by at least ten to one, and with an airforce five rimes as large as that of Poland - the Germans immediately seized command of the air.
It should have been an easy victory, but it was not. The Germans afterwards regarded it as a hard-fought campaign, and were disconcerted by the capacity of the Poles to keep fighting and regrouping in spite of such hopeless weriority in weapons. The casualties Germany took were heavier than in the longer campaign in France the following year.
The extraordinary thing about the Polish soldiers was the self-reliance: their capacity to reorganise into ever-smaller units, as all coherent command from above vanished, and to go on fighting. Part of the Polish navy had already escaped and reached British and French ports, ready to continue the war, and as resistance collapsed about a hundred Polish aircrat - all that remained - flew to Romania.
At 3.30 on the morning of
17 September 1939,
ambassador m Moscow was summoned from his bed and handed a 'Note'. The
Soviet Union announced that as the Polish state had ceased to exist
was not true) steps had become necessary to protect the Ukrainian and
minorities in the 'former' Polish territories. An hour later, Soviet
crossed the frontier.
Government of the
and the Government of the U.S.S.R. consider it as exclusively their
after the collapse of the former Polish state, to re-establish peace
order in these territories and to assure to the peoples living there a
peaceful life in keeping with their national character. To this end,
have agreed upon the following:
Done in duplicate, in the German and Russian languages.
Moscow, September 28,1939.
the Government of
authority of the
The Government of the U.S.S.R. shall place no obstacles in the way of Reich nationals and other persons of German descent residing in the territories under its jurisdiction, if they desire to migrate to Germany or to the territories under German jurisdiction. It agrees that such removals shall be carried out by agents of the Government of the Reich in cooperation with the competent local authorities and that the property rights of the emigrants shall be protected.
A corresponding obligation is assumed by the Government of the German Reich in respect to the persons of Ukrainian or White Russian descent residing in the territories under its jurisdiction.
Moscow, September 28,1939.
the Government of
authority of the
Secret Supplementary Protocol
The undersigned plenipotentiaries, on concluding the German Russian Boundary and Friendship Treaty, have declared their agreement upon the following:
Both parties will tolerate in their territories no Polish agitation which affects the territories of the other party. They will suppress in their territories all beginnings of such agitation and inform each other concerning suitable measures for this purpose.
Moscow, September 28,1939.
For the Government of the German Retch:
By authority of the Government of the U.S.S.R.:
MR. CHAIRMAN: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of today, wherein you communicate to me the following:
"Implementing my letter of today about the formulation of a common economic program, the Government of the U.S.S.R. will see to it that German transit traffic to and from Rumania by way of the Upper Silesia-Lemberg-Kolomea railroad line shall be facilitated in every respect. The two Governments will, in the framework of the proposed trade negotiations, make arrangements without delay for the operation of this transit traffic. The same will apply to the German transit traffic to and from Iran, to and from Afghanistan as well as to and from the countries of the Far East.
"Furthermore, the Government of the U.S.S.R. declares that it is willing. in addition to the quantity of oil previously agreed upon or to be agreed upon hereafter, to supply a further quantity of oil commensurate with the annual production of the oil district of Drohobycz and Boryslav, with the proviso that one half of this quantity shall be supplied to Germany from the oil fields of the aforesaid oil district and the other half from other oil districts of the U.S.S.R. As compensation for these supplies of oil, the U.S.S.R. would accept German supplies of hard coal and steel piping."
I take note of this communication with satisfaction and concur in it in the name of the Government of the German Reich.
Accept, Mr. Chairman, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration.
Herbert Hupka, ein Offizier der Wehrmacht
awarded by Hitler for the Wehrmacht massacres and atrocities in Greece
on racial grounds dismissed from the Wehrmacht as unworthy bear arms in 1944
but awarded again with the Hitler's administration position
in German occupied Polish town Cieszyn, Silesia,
escaped justice in 1945
SEPTEMBER 1939-JUNE 1941
THE POLlSH MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
FOREWORD TO FIRST EDITION
8. War damage in
Warsaw in September 1939
Europa als Lebensraum, Oktober 1942
Der Aufbau des Grossdetschen Reiches seit 1933
Die Gaueinteilung der NSDAP
MR. BRENDAN BRACKEN, on July 9, 1942
On the basis of reports to the Polish Government
Minister, General Sikorski, from Poland, both of a general and of a
nature, the Polish Government now has a very clear picture of the
of government, i.e., the German persecutions and barbarities in Poland
during the first six months of this year. It is a picture which freezes
the blood in one's veins. After the brief period prior to the outbreak
of war with Russia, while the Germans attempted to get the Polish
to co-operate with them-towards which attempts Poland maintained her
attitude of contempt and hatred for the criminal invaders - the
oppression has increased again, turning Polish life into one long
torment, slaughter, blood and tears. But it is also an unbroken
of will to resistance, such as is almost without precedent in the
of years of world history, not excluding the martyrdoms of the early
But for us Poland is our country, our sole country in
beloved land, our great Motherland, and it is the Poland to which
The information on acts of savagery committed by the
which we give hereafter, brings the story down to the latest possible
For much of it relates to the situation at the beginning of June, about
two months ago. And it confirms that the terror which the Germans
in Poland three years ago, and which has, raged there ever since, is
continuing in all its violence and inhumanity.
(1) AFTER HIMMLER'S VISIT
After Himmler's visit there was a revival of the mass
round-ups in the streets of the larger towns. Following are a number of
the more extreme instances of these activities:
(2) TERROR AS A PROGRAMME
(3) COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
(4) PRISONS AND CONCENTRATION CAMPS
BOJANOW, STUTTHOF, DZIESIATA
I spent five days in Dzialdowo, a camp set up in former
though other prisoners had spent as much as several weeks in this camp,
which is used as a transitional point. Even during the reception, for
as in Dachau, prisoners waited for many hours, we were made familiar
the entire system of torture which is applied to prisoners. We were
to stand first with our backs to the buildings, then the other way
An S.S. man walked continually up and down in front of the prisoners,
himself with taking aim at the windows (as though at prisoners alleged
to be or in fact looking out of the windows) and fired more than once
the windows. The camp commandant, a real brute in features and
also walked about with a whip in his hand and held conversations with
S.S. man on the following lines: "Why didn't you kill him? You must aim
straight," etc. Presumably this was for the benefit of the prisoners.
also stood with the other prisoners; it was forbidden to move, and
was no food or drink. The courtyard is a large one, provided with a
with a machine gun set up inside and guards with rifles at the ready.
we stood awaiting the reception, we saw S.S. men driving prisoners out
of a building and chasing them at a run across the yard, shouting:
faster!" and using their whips. After a moment we realised that the
were being driven out to the closets, this procedure taking place three
times daily. Not, strictly speaking, to closets, but to a hole beside
closets, in a state which is unmentionable. During this procedure no
was allowed to stop even for a moment, so the prisoners could not
the function of evacuation normally, but dirtied their clothes, boots,
etc. Women were also driven out, in a separate party; in Dzialdowo the
women en route for concentration camps are kept in separate
RAVENSBRUECK CAMP FOR WOMEN
This camp consists of sixteen blocks, so arranged along
each pair of blocks, one on either side, forms a small, closed-in yard.
Each block holds from 190 to 200 prisoners, sometimes even more, and
a washroom, with twenty basins arranged along two sides, and from six
ten footbaths along the middle. The beds are, as a rule, arranged in
tiers, but when the blocks are crowded straw-filled palliasses are
on the floor. The pillows are also filled with straw. Baths are taken
a week, under warm showers, often three persons under one shower, but
is possible to wash. There is a medical attendant, but in point of fact
no real medical treatment. is provided ; even those most seriously ill
must stand for hours in the queue to see the doctor, who makes a very
examination and prescribes no treatment at all ; people are regarded as
ill only when they drop. Small cupboards are provided in which the
keep their personal articles; one cupboard to two prisoners. The camp
consists of grey-blue flannel skirts and overalls; slippers are
for use only in the blocks. In summertime and late into the autumn the
prisoners have to go barefoot, through streets sprinkled with coarse
In consequence many prisoners get sore and festering heels, but they
to go on walking barefoot.
(5) LETTERS FROM PRISON
... I am kept in isolation. I'm feeling pretty
(6) DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWISH POPULATION
(7) PUBLIC EXECUTIONS
At CIERLICK GORNY in Cieszyn county, Emil Trepa, a Pole
accused of escaping from a concentration camp and spreading foreign
news, was executed publicly before his own home. Polish miners from
and Sucha were brought under police escort to watch the execution, and
the local inhabitants were also driven out to watch. The Germans
Polish students, colleagues of the condemned man, to set up the
When the prisoner, Trepa, dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was
from the prison, he was tortured for two hours in public, among the
being his paralysed mother, placed specially in front of the house, and
his father, brought from prison. Trepa behaved with dignity and
and as he stood below the .gallows shouted:
(8) THE TEN MARTYRS OF PRUSZKOW
The wave of terror in Poland has assumed such vast dimensions in the spring of this year, after Himmler’s visit, that the Polish Government has again decided to call the attention of the Allied Nations to these crimes unheard of in history. On Saturday, June 6th, the Polish Gabinet debated the form of this protest, and it has been decided that General Sikorski shall give a protest speech on the radio to Poland. This protest has been made known to the world in a diplomatic note which the Polish Government has addressed to all Allied and Neutral Governments.
General Sikorski said:
Germany has always worshipped brute force, and has stained her path with rivers of blood. The Germans will certainly not overturn the Nazi regime of their own free will, as this regime is ideally suited to their national character and given full play to their innate characteristics. Therefore, the year 1918 will not be repeated in this war. But Germany, who, as Goering has said, has been raised high by the genius of her Fuehrer, will fall into a bottomless abyss when the power of the German army and of the Nazi party have been broken. Germany cannot escape her defeat. This is clearly shown by the events of all war fronts, and by the gigantic raids of the Allied Air Force, which bring the German nation only a foretaste of the just and well-merited retribution she will undergo.
On July 7th, 1942, at a special session dealing with the
of German atrocities in Poland the Polish National Council unanimously
adopted the following resolution:-
On July 9th a press conference was held in the British Ministry of Information) under the chairmanship of Mr. Brendan Bracken, the British Minister of Information, assisted by Mr. J. Brebner, the Director of the News Division. Mr. Mikolajczyk, the Polish Minister for Home Affairs, Prof. Stronski, the Polish Minister of Information, and Father Kaczynski, Mr. Kulerski, Dr. I. Schwarzbart and Mr. S. Zygielbojm, members of the Polish National Council, also took part. Below we give an extensive summary of the statements and reports presented to this conference.
THE GERMAN TERROR IN POLAND
You will certainly be struck by the number of Polish citizens who have been shot or murdered in other ways, which amounts to over 400,000. It is almost certain that this figure is in reality still higher, but I restrict myself to those cases which are proved beyond all doubt. One year ago the figure was 80,000; later on 100,000 and 140,000: and in the last few months it has risen to 400,000 murdered Poles and Jews. There were two reasons for this appalling increase. First, the tremendous increase in the terror applied to the Poles, and secondly, the beginning of wholesale extermination of the Jews.
The tide of German terror usually rises either as a prelude to a military offensive or in cases of growing resistance which threaten to lead to an outbreak of violence.
In Poland both reasons played their part, but there was also a third. Polish territory separates Germany from the fighting zone of the eastern front, and therefore the Germans are particularly concerned with keeping the Poles in submission.
Yet the primary reason for the methods applied by the Germans in Poland is that they are aiming at the extermination of the whole of the Polish population, so as to make it possible to include the entire territory as bare land free of any traces of Polish life and culture into their Lebensraum.
This explains the outstanding ferocity of the German terror in Poland, which, coupled with an unusually destructive economic, social and political system, they believe to be the best means of wiping out all traces of Poland. The Germans have been strengthened in their resolve by the hopeless failure of their attempts to win over the Poles in 1939, and by the refusal of the Poles to join the anti-Soviet crusade in 1941, both of which proved beyond any doubt that there is no possibility of either breaking or demoralising my country.
It may seem to be impossible to exterminate a nation of 35 millions, but the figure of over 2 1/2 million people who have disappeared from Poland since 1939, including 400,000 killed, tells a ghastly story. That does not take into account the losses inflicted upon our nation by the disastrous decrease in the birthrate, and the increase in mortality through epidemics and systematic starva•tion, all of which are the blessings of Hitler's "New Order."
THAT IS WHY MY COUNTRY APPEALS IN THE MOST URGENT TERMS TO OUR GOVERNMENT AND TO ALL ALLIED GOVERNMENTS, FIRST, FOR THE OPENING OF A SECOND FRONT IN ORDER TO BRING ABOUT A QUICKER DEFEAT OF GERMANY, AND SECONDLY TO BEGIN WITHOUT DELAY RETALIATION AGAINST THE GERMAN NATION, A NATION WHICH ONLY UNDERSTANDS THE LANGUAGE OF IMMEDIATE RETRIBUTION FOR CRIME.
During the last three months the Gestapo have intensified the terror very severely. Their efforts are directed towards the tracking down and extermination of all signs of Polish patriotic and freedom activities. Throughout the country, and particularly in Poznan and Warsaw, there is a ceaseless wave of political arrests, and hardly anybody arrested is being released; most of those arrested are kept permanently in penal confinement under the Gestapo, in ordinary prisons and in concentration camps; many of them, particularly in Western Poland and Pomerania, are executed by the Gestapo shortly after their arrest.
During these months there has been a great increase in the application by the Gestapo of third degree methods during the cross-examination of persons arrested. The beating and torture of prisoners is so intense that more and more cases of death of prisoners during cross-examination are occurring. The Gestapo applies not only terrible beatings, but also the most ingenious sadistic tortures; the tearing out of nails, hanging by the feet, beating in the stomach, injuring the most sensitive parts of the body, and kicking with heavy boots so that pieces of clothing are driven into the flesh. Most of the victims return from the torture chamber to prison in a state of terrible physical exhaustion; this hastens the death of many in prisons and concentration camps.
The Gestapo men in Warsaw and Poznan are specially distinguished by their cruelties.
The torture of persons under examination always aims at the extraction of personal information or concerning secret organizations, so that afterwards the Gestapo terror may the more easily seize up on fresh cases of patriotic activities and fresh people.
The state of things in this sphere is so severe and threatening that all possible means should be taken to bring about an even partial relief and mitigation of the situation.
News has been received of increased terror in Upper Silesia. There are gallows in eighteen Silesian towns. Those arrested are hanged. In Dombrowa, Szurley, Bendzin and Sosnowiec they are hanged publicly on gallows and trees, the public, even schoolchildren, being driven to look at these crimes.
In the concentration camp at Oswiecim itself the number of prisoners held has risen in the course of three months by 8,000.
The mass arrests concern especially Polish officers of the reserve, Polish peasants who do not deliver the quota of agricultural produce demanded by the Germans, and Polish railwaymen and workers accused of sabotage in their work.
A public execution of 100 Poles - of whom four were women - was carried out at Zgierz, a town near Lodz, on March 20th, in the presence of 7,000 people, for the killing of two Germans by a Pole on March 7th. The bodies were beaten with revolvers while still alive. This took place after the public announcement that 10 Poles had been shot for the killing of one German - and now the rate is 50 for one.
On March 18th in the concentration camp at Dziesiąta, near Lublin (where there were formerly 1,150 Soviet prisoners, of whom 950 were shot), 140 Polish political prisoners out of 800 imprisoned there were shot. Among them were a number of peasants imprisoned for delivering an insufficient agricultural quota.
At Zwolen, near Radom, 380 persons were shot before the eyes of their families, and at Waclawow nearby 160 for the alleged killing of one German. In Janowiec, near Kozienice, 210 were shot for two Germans killed.
400 Poles were shot near Lublin, and 540 near Radom - in each case for one German killed. In Bochnia 18 people deported from Cracow were shot, in Lancut 30; near Hrubieszow 20 peasants were shot for sheltering Russian war prisoners. At Rudka Kijanska, near Lubartow, 211: persons were murdered in one village by being shot of having hand grenades thrown into their homes. In Poznan there is an average of 200 executions at the citadel monthly. Sulmierzyce, Kalisz, Lask, Szczepanow and Radomsko are other places where mass murders have occurred. Everywhere throughout the length and breadth of Poland there are scenes of executions, murder and terror.
Still worse is the situation of the Jews. The Warsaw ghetto is already notorious. Hunger, death and sickness are exterminating the Jewish population systematically and continually. In the Lublin district on the night of March 23rd to 24th, the Jewish population were driven out of their homes. The sick and the infirm were killed on the spot. One hundred and eight children of from 2 to 9 years old in a Jewish orphanage were taken outside the town, together with their nurses, and murdered. Altogether that night 2,500 people were massacred, and the remaining 26,000 Jews of Lublin were removed to the concentration camps at Belzec and Trawniki. Eight thousand people were deported from Izbica Kujawska for an unknown destination. In Belzec and Trawniki murders are also carried out by means of poison gas. There have been mass murders at Rawa Ruska and Bilgoraj, where the Jewish communities have ceased to exist. At Wawolnica, near Kazimierz, on March 22nd, the S.S. shot 120 Jews in the market-place. An unknown number of Jews was led out of the town and slaughtered. On March 30th, Jews were driven from Opole to Naleczow, 350 being killed on the way. The rest were put into goods trucks, which were then sealed, and deported to an unknown destination. At Mielec about 1,300 Jews were slaughtered on March 9th. In Mir 2,000 Jews were slaughtered, in Nowogrodek 2,500, in Wolozyn 1,800, and in Kojdanow 4,000. Thirty thousand Jews from Hamburg were deported to Minsk, and there all were murdered. The Jews slaughtered in Lwow amount to 30,000, in Wilno 50,000, in Stanislawow 15,000, in Tarnopol 5,000, in Zloczow 2,000, and in Brzezany 4,000. Reports have been received of the murder of Jews at Tarnow, Radom, Zborow, Kolomyja, Sambor, Stryj, Drohobycz, Zbaraz, Brody, PrzemysI, Kolo, and Domb.
The compulsion to dig one's own grave, mowing down with machine-guns and hand grenades, and even poisoning with gas are everyday methods of annihilating the Jewish population. In Lwow the Jewish Council itself had to provide a list of victims.
The number of Poles executed, murdered and tortured to death during nearly three years of German occupation already amounts to 200,000 persons. The number of massacred Jews exceeds 200,000.
Therefore we consider that from the beginning of war to date about:
150,000 Poles were killed in the September, 1939, campaign; 200,000 are prisoners of war in Germany, 1,500,000 Poles deported to forced labour to Germany, 170,000 Poles have be en compulsorily recruited for the German Army from the incorporated territory; 400,000 Polish citizens (Poles and Jews) have been killed.
This picture takes on yet more sombre hues when we recall the number of people, amounting to about 1,500,000, removed from Western Poland-the territory incorporated into the Reich - into the General-Gouvernement, and the losses which we are bearing as a result of the fall in the birth rate, the increase in the death rate and the spreading of infectious diseases.
The Germans, in relation to Poland, have applied and are applying the policy of clearing Lebensraum for themselves by the systematic extermination of the whole population living in those territories and the annihilation of all traces of Polish life and culture.
The people in Poland think that the reaction to the unexampled torture inflicted upon them is too weak, as much on the part of their own Government as on the part of the Pope and the Allies. They demand that an equivalent code should be applied to the Germans in the United States ; at least some tens of thousands of them should be imprisoned in concentration camps and regarded as hostages. The mere threat of a tribunal in the future and the inexorable application of reprisals does not help at all.
In connection with the above state of affairs, we have received from Poland during the last few days the following appeal addressed by the responsible leaders of the Polish underground movement to the Polish Prime Minister, General Sikorski:
"For over 2 1/2 years the Germans have been carrying out a systematic plan, prepared for years beforehand, for exterminating the Polish nation as a natural barrier to their centuries-old Drang nach Osten.
" The fury of this action has reached such dimensions during the past few weeks that its further continuance threatens the Polish intellectual classes with complete annihilation, and the whole nation with such a loss in strength that after the war we may not be able to deal with the great tasks which will await us.
"From various parts of Poland alarming news is coming in confirming that the furor teutonicus, having reached a murderous paroxysm, is sowing mass murder and fire among the innocent Polish people.
"1. For delay in delivering the agricultural quota, which very often exceeds all possibility of fulfilment, there are tortures, dispossession, labour camps, concentration camps. which as a rule mean death sentences, and recently, as was proved in the Lublin districts, even destruction or burning down of the whole farm together with the farmer's family, who are locked up for the purpose in the farm buildings. those trying to save themselves by running away being shot on the spot.
"2. For an attack on a German, for giving shelter or help to escaping Russian prisoners or partisans, for the damaging of communications by saboteurs, hundreds of innocent Polish people living in the neighbourhood perish immediately.
"3. On the discovery of a secret publication or any kind of appearance of partaking in freedom activities there are tortures and death sentences, or long terms in concentration camps, the equivalent of death sentences, with prolonged tortures.
"4. On discovery of trading in articles of daily use: labour camp, concentration camp or death sentence.
"5. For any kind of patriotic gesture or of criticism towards the occupants: concentration camp. As basis for the authentication of these crimes, all denunciations resulting from personal prejudices are regularly admitted as evidence.
"The wave of terror and murder includes the whole of Poland, although only fragments of news of the German barbarism get through to the civilised world.
"It has gone so far that there is no Polish family to-day which is not weeping for some dear one murdered or tortured in a concentration camp.
"In this state of things, the protection of human life in Poland assumes a fundamental meaning for her future.
"There arises therefore urgent and definite necessity for:
" (a) Awakening the consciousness of the whole civilised world against the German barbarians ;
"(b) Applying the most severe reprisals permitted •by international law, preceded by a stern diplomatic note to the German Government and a warning proclamation to the German nation, both the note and the proclamation being published in the languages of all civilised nations."
THE PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH
According to this news, seven Polish dioceses have be en completely liquidated: Poznan, Gniezno, Wloclawek, Plock, Pelplin, Lodz and Katowice, and many other dioceses have been partially liquidated. Seven bishops were deported and 90 per cent. of the clergy imprisoned or exiled. Still worse, a large number have been executed by the Gestapo. Churches are closed, and many millions of Catholics are entirely without Mass or the Sacraments, in a country where over 70 per cent. of the people are Catholics. The following bishops are now in Nazi concentration camps: Archbishop Jablrzykowski of Wilno, Bishop Fulman of Lublin, Bishop Jasinski of Lodz, Bishop Wetmanski of Plock, Bishop Kozal of Wloclawek, the Bishop Auxiliary of Lublin, Goral, and the Bishop Auxiliary of Lodz, Tomczak.
In the Archdioceses of Poznan and Gniezno, before September, 1939, there were 828 priests. Of these 86 were murdered by the Gestapo, without trial or evidence of guilt, 451 were arrested and sent to concentration camps, while others were deported to the General Gouvernement. There are now only 34 priests left in these two dioceses for a Polish population of about 2,000,000.
In Poznan, which had a population of over 200,000, there were 30 churches and 47 chapels. To-day in Poznan there are only two churches open for the Poles.
In Lodz, with a population of 700,000, only four churches are now open.
Since the beginning of the war 2,700 priests have been arrested.
At this moment some 1,200 priests are in concentration camps.
The above is sufficient to show the difficult situation of the Churches in Poland to-day, and there is no hope of immediate improvement.
THE ORGANIZED SLAUGHTER OF JEWS
It is difficult to believe these facts-and yet they are true. I wish to give you some details of this catastrophe, out of this ocean of suffering which has befallen a nation with thousands of years of history.
Wilno: Out of a Jewish population of 65,000, about 15,000 remain alive. They are artisans-left alive because Hitler still needs them. All others, about 50,000, were gradually slaughtered by the Germans and Lithuanians in the Ponary mountains.
Pinsk: The Germans slaughtered about 8,000 Jews between the ages of 16 and 60. At first they took about 3,000 Jews from their houses. In the villages Halewo and Zapole the Jews were ordered to dig their own graves and stand in front of them. Then machine-guns went into action.
On another occasion about 4,000-5,000 Jews were taken from the town. No trace was ever found of them.
Brzesc: about 6,000 Jews were slaughtered. Janow: about 300 Jews were slaughtered; Homsk: the whole of the Jewish population were wiped out; Motol: Jews were slaughtered, including children.
Kobryn: Jews were driven out of their homes and the whole Jewish district was set on fire. Wlodzimierz: many thousands of Jews were murdered. A mass grave is evidence of their fate. Bialystok: mass executions of Jews, irrespective of sex and age. Lomza: about
1,800 Jews were killed. .
Czyzew Szlachecki (near Lomza): about 6,000 Jews were driven together into anti-tank trenches ; they were murdered and put into a mass grave.
But that does not exhaust the list. The Germans organized mass slaughter and mass executions in the towns: Zborów, Kołomyja, Sambor, Stryj, Drohobycz, Zbaraż, Przęmyślany, Kuty, Sniatyn, Zaleszczyki, Brody, Przemyśl, Rawa Ruska, Kosów, Lachowicze, Tarnów, Radom and others.
The reports speak the same language of horror, suffering and death as to the fate of Jews in other places, towns and villages.
STATEMENT BY MR. S. ZYGIELBOJM,
I realise that the facts you have in the report of our
Minister of the
Interior, Mr. Mikolajczyk, are so horrifying that one may ask if human
beings can be degraded to
I can assure you that what you have learned from our information is the truth, but it is only part of the truth, because sending information in to Poland about what happens in the world, and getting information about what happens in Poland is not a simple and easy task. But, as you know, we Poles, for 150 years, have been not only the most studious scholars, but, łet me say, masters of conspiracy. When we are able one day, after this war, to write the full story of what was the information in Poland and from Poland, it will be a most interesting chapter of journalism. I trust you will remember that, whatever you can say and write about the German horrors in Poland will never be exaggerated. EVEN THE TERRIBLE FIGURE OF 700,000 JEWS, IF YOU CALCULATE NOT ONLY THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN DIRECTLY EXECUTED, BUT THOSE WHO HAVE LOST TREIR L1VES BY ANY K1ND OF PERSECUTION, S1NCE THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR, 1S CORRECT. This is only a part of the tragic truth about persecution of the whole Polish nation. Believe me, your appeal to world opinion is most necessary.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT issued on October 25th) 1941, statement declaring that:
THE PRIME MINISTER,MR. CHURCHILL, issued on the same day a statement that:
MR. EDEN, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on June 17th, replying in the House of Commons to Captain Graham, who asked about German acts against Poles, said:
On July 1st, 1942, in the House of Common,) Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken to warn the German people of the retribution that will be exacted on them if they continue to support or endure their Nazi leaders and countenance the continued murder of innocent people in the conquered countries. MR. EDEN replied:
At Nottingham, on July 23rd, MR. EDEN said:
CHIEF RABBI, Dr. J. H. Hertz, in a broadcast speech on June 28th, 1942, said:
"And - most horrible thought of all - the slaughter of which we are told to-day is only a beginning. Nazi spokesmen have repeatedly informed the world that the whole of the Jewish population in Eastern Europe - seven million human beings - must be exterminated. And that sentence of death upon an entire people is being carried out! Alas, that the solemn announcement by the Allied Nations of condign and inescapable punishment for such diabolical murders has so far not prevented their continuance. And the systematic mass massacre now in full swing against the Jews is not intended to end with them. There is little doubt that many another people will similarly be doomed to extermination by these dehumanized criminals.
"Men of good will the world over at last realize the mortal danger that threatens humanity and the whole sacred heritage of man at the hands of the barbarians of Berlin. They all join Israel in the fervent prayer that God in His mercy speedily cause us to see the complete triumph of the forces of Freedom in this cosmic conflict."
CARDINAL HINSLEY, the Archbishop of Westminster, broadcast on July 9th, 1942, the following special message:
Others again are prevented by force of fraud and deliberate lying from knowing the glaring facts which the rest of the world is obliged to gaze upon in an unmistakable torrent of fire and blood.
There are still other people who dismiss even the clearest evidence with the sneer, "Oh! British propaganda."
But mighty is the truth; murder will out. Here and now I am going to tell some items of the truth about the murderous work of the Nazis in Poland, and I will tell the truth without fear or favour. I am going to set down things which cannot be gainsaid concerning the barbarities of those tyrannous invaders in their treatment of Jews and Christians in Poland. History, if impartial, will applaud whatever even-handed justice may mete out in retribution to the doers of savage deeds. For the records of all past ages prove that right reacts against wrong; and for the times to come we are witnesses of the unparalleled wrongs inflicted by the Nazis on men. women and children, untried and guiltless, in the lands overborne by the Nazi mechanized hordes.
I cannot imagine that the German people are allowed to know or are willingly ignorant of the crimes committed to the eternal dishonour of their name by their present ruthless masters. They have carried war into peace-loving countries, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, Greece, Norway, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Such unprovoked treacherous aggression horrified the world, but did not surprise us because we knew that the ruling party in Germany worships war and openly professed their intention to enslave all races they consider inferior to their own cultured greatness. We have been long aware from the testimony of the real representative of German thought and culture, that the Nazi overlords have no higher ideas than the tigers in the jungle. But we did not think that humanity could sink so low as to revel in sadism and wallow in deeds of slaughter, in cold-blooded murders.
In Poland alone the Nazis have massacred 700,000 Jews since the outbreak of war. Must we not appeal to reason? A Jew is a man, and among rational civilized people no man may be condemned unless he is tried and found guilty. But the Nazis have done to death without the semblance of justice numberless innocent peoples of non-Aryan race.
Innocent blood cries to heaven for vengeance; the Lord
his own good time. We know, mark this, we know on the unimpeachable
of eyewitnesses, aye! on the evidence of authentic copies of Nazi
which ordered or recorded the brutalities that have doomed the millions
of heroic Polish Christians and Catholics to extermination - we know, I
say, what the Nazi New Order means for Poland.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, Doctor O. F. Garbett, said in the York Diocesan Leafiet, on July 11th, 1942:
acts of hatred against Polish people go unpunished,
plan, encourage, and advocate
hate crimes and biased policies
against Poles and Poland.
In the 21st century
Those in doubt should
dr Zbigniew Halat
Latest story: Germany's Nazi past has returned to haunt
A vitriolic outburst by Poland's prime minister revealed the Second
War bitterness that still strains the heart of Europe, accusing the
of "incomprehensible crimes" against his country
|Poland on August 31, 1939||
|Poland Occupied by the German State
before the Germans invaded their Soviet allies
|- annexed to the Reich||
|- so called 'General Government'||
|- area occupied by Slovakia||
|Poland Occupied by the Soviet Union
before the Germans invaded their Soviet allies
|- Ukrainian Soviet Republic||
|- Byelorussian Soviet Republic||
|- area occupied by Lithuania||
Territory and Citizens
|Post War Poland in new borders*
on February 14, 1946 (census)
(* excluding more than
all Western Territories
of the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth,
in fact the tripartite
and including the Polish part of the
Dominium Maris Baltici
plus Silesia and Great Poland,
the cradle of the Polish State
regained after several hundred years
of German domination
as a form of partial reparation
of Poland's World War II Losses)
Source of numerical data: History of Poland in
Statistical Office, Warsaw, 2003
There was no surrender. In Poland, the fighting went on. The siege of Warsaw, its people starving and its buildings crumbling under bombs and artillery bombardment, cost tens of thousands of dead. Zofia Kolarska remembers: 'We alllived in cellers, taking beds, mattresses and whatever we could with us. The army was there, so there were many horses: women would go up to the dead horses with sharp knifes and we' d cut off chunks of meat, and that helped us to live through those days.'
Warsaw's 'President' (mayor), the much-loved Stefan Starzyński, finally agreed to surrender on 27 September. Incredibly, the small Polish garrison on the Hel peninsula near Danzig, now hundreds of miles behind the lines, held out until 2 October, and the last shots of the campaign were fired at Kock, in central Poland, on 5 October.
For all their faults and
errors in the past,
the men who
had governed Poland never contemplated an armistice. Poland had not
to exist and would not cease to fight simply because its armies had
defeated and its territory was occupied by the enemy. The problem was
to carry on the struggle; Romania, under extreme pressure from both
and the Soviet Union, had interned the Polish military and political
However, the Romanians did not detain General Władysław Sikorski. As an
old critic of the Sanacja regime, he had not held command in the
campaign and was allowed to leave Romania for France, where
ambassador in Paris - on his own authority - charged him with raising a
new Polish army out of refugees and Poles living in France. From
President Mościcki managed to send to Paris a message announcing his
The group of Polish leaders who had already reached France accepted it,
but rejected his ideas for a successor. They chose instead Władysław
a respected provincial governor who had not been tainted by too close
association with the Sanacja. Under the guise of a 'correct' transfer
power, a discreet revolution was now overthrowing the Sanacja.
Raczkiewicz took the oath in the Paris embassy on 30 September, and at
once appointed Sikorski as prime minister. Kazimierz Sosnkowski reached
France a few days later, sank old animosities and joined the new
Finally, the absent Śmigły-Rydz was induced to resign in November, and
Sikorski became commander-in-chief as well as head of the government in
German death camp at Auschwitz
108 Martyrs of World War Two
In July 1942, the Germans
began to deport the
of the Warsaw Ghetto to the gas chambers at Treblinka. Against the
mood of hopeless fatalism, a Jewish Fighting Organisation was set up,
managed to make contact with the Home Army outside. Bunkers and petrol
bombs were prepared, and when the SS entered the almost empty ghetto
the final round-up on 19 April 1943, the Jewish resistance went into
It was a fight which the ghetto warriors knew they must lose; the odds
were crushingly against them, and the Home Army and the Communist
were able to do little to help. But this was a tight not for victory
for honour, and for the future of the Jewish people. The handful of men
and women held out against tanks and artillery for almost a month,
the smoke of burning buildings and the stink of burning bodies drifted
across Warsaw. Before he committed suicide with his comrades, Mordechai
Anielewicz, the leader of the Ghetto Rising, said: 'I have seen Jewish
self-defence in all its glory.' Out of 3.35 million Polish Jews, about
340,000 were alive by the end of the war, most of them refugees in the
In July 1943, the hinge of
the war began to
turn. At the
biggest tank battle in history, Hitler's offensive near Kursk was
to a standstill and then driven back. The Red Army began to move
in a slow advance which was to end in Berlin almost two years later. In
January 1944, the first Soviet troops crossed the line which had been
old Polish frontier in 1939.
With great difficulty, some
men, determined to carry on the war, had made their way to France from
Romania and Hungary. Another 40,000 men were recruited from the large
community in France, mostly from the coal-mining regions of the north.
Sikorski's army saw action in April 1940, when the Germans invaded
and Denmark; a Polish brigade landed with the Aliied force near Narvik,
only to be evacuated again a few weeks later.
The Katyn Massacre
Why? Nobody knows that
either, outside the
looks like an act of selective genocide against a part of the Polish
elite, closely parallel to Hitler's order to exterminate the Polish
class. For Stalin, this act have been a small affair compared to some
his other slaughters. Some think it was simply an error by the NKVD
of the KGB), was misunderstood an order to 'liquidate' the special
Near the end of the
conference, there was a
on the future of eastern Europe. The Big Three accepted that there
be predominant Soviet influence in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the
Baltic states and Jugoslavia. Poland was more complicated. Stalin
his promise that he would establish a 'strong and independent' Poland,
a promise which in his own way he kept: Polish fears that he intended
absorb the whole of Poland as a new republic of the Soviet Union were
But the three men at Teheran decided, in secret and without consulting
Mikołajczyk, that the Polish state would be moved bodily several
miles to the west. The Soviet Union would absorb the old eastern
in which Poles were a minority, and set its frontier along the 1920
Line. In the west, Poland would take over almost the whole of Germany
of the rivers Oder and Neisse: Silesia with its mineral wealth and
and the great city of Breslau, Pomerania with a long stretch of Baltic
coast including Danzig, and the southern part of East Prussia.
The Warsaw Rising of 1944
The failure of the Rising
was a fatal and
both for the Home Army and for the Polish government in London. With
leadership dead or imprisoned, and the capital destroyed, much of the
spirit went out of the Home Army. Some units ceased active operations,
allowing many of their men to bury their weapons and return home. A few
prepared for a new armed struggle against Soviet forces and the
authorities. In the liberated areas, where the PKWN now announced
many thousands of ex-Home Army soldiers allowed themselves to be drawn
into the Berling army, which numbered 290,000 by the end of 1944.
The Warsaw Rising Museum
German bestiality during The Warsaw Rising of 1944
From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West
Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Eastern
The German terms Lebensraum and Konzentrationslager,
because of their use by the Nazis, were not coined by the Hitler
These terms were minted many years earlier in reference to German South
West Africa, now Namibia, during the first decade of the twentieth
when Germans colonized the land and committed genocide against the
Herero and Nama peoples. Later use of these borrowed words suggests an
important question: did Wilhelmine colonization and genocide in Namibia
influence Nazi plans to conquer and settle Eastern Europe, enslave and
murder millions of Slavs and exterminate Gypsies and Jews? This article
argues that the German experience in Namibia was a crucial precursor to
Nazi colonialism and genocide and that personal connections,
and public debates served as conduits for communicating colonialist and
genocidal ideas and methods from the colony to Germany.
Key Words: Herero • Holocaust • Konzentrationslager •
Lebensraum • Nama
of necessity temporarily anonymous
Written in Warsaw under the German Occupation
IN Poland, as in all the countries of Western Europe,
spirit was first awakened by the interest which ruling houses and their
courts began to take in works of art about the middle of the sixteenth
century. The last kings of the Jagelllonian dynasty (1386-1572) were
the possessors of splendid specimens of Renaissance art like the famous
collection of tapestries known as the Wawel Arrases. .
BOTH Government and private circles had, for several years before the German invasion, devoted much attention to the question of SAFEGUARDING, MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS in the event of a war. A plan for the international protection of memorials and works of art, which had been drawn up by the Office International des Musees, and had in July 1937 been accepted by the Commission Internationale de Cooperation Intellectuelle, was the startingpoint of their considerations. This plan the Assembly of the League of Nations had, in August 1938, turned over to the Netherlands Government, which had undertaken to conduct negotiations with other governments and to call a diplomatic conference. The plan was based on the idea that all States are equally interested in the preservation of art treasures, and that the loss of a work of art, belonging to any nation whatever, is a gap in the spiritual heritage of all mankind. The new convention, to be based on The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, was made necessary by the altered conditions of modern warfare. It was to lay upon all Governments an obligation to ensure respect for works of art and memorials by the issue of special instructions to their troops, by preventing pillage, and so on. The plan provided for the creation of special storehouses for works of art and national treasures, these storehouses to be under the control of international commissions, and to be immune from offensive action during hostilities, and from any other activities of an occupying Power. In particular, the convention stipulated that no national treasure or work of art could be made an object of enemy reprisals. Unfortunately, this convention was not signed by the year 1939, so that at the outbreak of war Poland had not been able to form the intended special storehouses under international control, since their formation before the signature of the convention might have meant the dispersal of the whole country's most valuable art treasures. Each museum therefore sought to safeguard its collections individually and in accordance with local conditions. The Silesian Museum was evacuated to Lublin, at the outbreak of war; the Czartoryski Museums of Cracow and Goluchow sent their most valuable possessions (including pictures by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt, jewels, goldsmiths' work and coins) to Sieniawa in the voivodship of Lwow, and there walled them up in previously prepared underground vaults. Part of the collection of Kórnik near Poznan (miniatures, illuminated manuscripts, and so on) were taken to the Zamoyski Library in Warsaw, some of the objects from the Gniezno Cathedral Treasury and Library were entrusted to the Dominican Friars at Lublin, a Rubens from the church of St. Nicholas at Kalisz was sent to the National Museum in Warsaw. The famous high altar of Our Lady's church in Cracow, the work of Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz), among the city's most valuable treasures, was taken to pieces - the larger sculptures were carried in three barges to Sandomierz and were there deposited in the cathedral, while the smaller fragments were hidden in private houses in Cracow. Many other collections and works of art were similarly treated. Numerous private collections in western and south-western Poland were taken to the central provinces; for example, the Tarnowski family's collections from Sucha, Dzikow and Dukla, the Bninskis' collection from Samostrzele, the Skorzewski's from Czerniejewo, the Potockis' from Krzeszowice, and so on. Many privately owned objects were entrusted to the National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum in Cracow, and the Lubomirski Museum in Lwow; others were placed in the houses of related families. No plan was made to send such objects abroad, and we know only two cases of such exportation: (1) The eleventh-century Coronation sword and the magnificent collection of 125 arrases made for King Sigismund Augustus in 1556, as well as a number of valuable historical relics, all belonging to the Polish State collections, have left the country, as also (2) a number of valuable objects from the Sanguszko residence at Gumniska. The remaining museums and collections, whether public or private, did their best to safeguard their buildings and property on the spot. The National Museum in Warsaw packed a great part of its collections in hundreds of previously prepared cases and stored them in its cellars. The same was done with the collections of the National Museum in Cracow, with the treasury of the Cracow Cathedral, the Lubomirski collections at Przeworsk, and the Branickis' at Wilanow. Other private collections in country residences such as Nieborow and Jablonna, were left in their usual places, as also were some in towns-for instance, those of the Zamoyski, Krasinski and Przeździecki families in Warsaw.
• • •
The LOSSES OCCASIONED BY HOSTILITIES are enormous and
the chief public and private collections were comparatively little
1. Nazi Policy in the" Generalgouvemement"
That the Germans possessed a detailed plan concerning
and private museums and collections, as well as other art treasures,
abundantly proved even during the first months of ENEMY OCCUPATION. The
studies carried on for so many years by German scholars, especially
of Breslau and Koenigsberg, appeared in a new light. At Koenigsberg
Dr. Karl Heinz Clasen had with his university collaborators made a
study of Poznanian and Pomeranian art. At Breslau Professor Dr.
Frey had organized a university institute for the study of Eastern
art and had shown a particular interest in Silesia, central, southern,
and eastern Poland. Both these scientists had considerable means at
disposal and their many journeys to Poland had given them a detailed
of the country's art treasures. In the domain of prehistoric research
studies were diligently pursued by a group of scholars headed by
Dr. Ernst Petersen, Director of the Institute of Prehistoric Studies at
Breslau and recently professor of Rostock University.
+ + +
During the first period, which began with the entry of
as well as during the second, which followed the confiscating degrees,
there was a marked difference in the treatment meted out to the"
two chief centres of intellectual life, WARSAW AND CRACOW. This is
no accident, but the result of explicit instructions. Only Church
suffered greater depredations in Cracow than in Warsaw-public
were robbed far less brutally here, and private property (with the
of Jewish belongings) was respected. Not only were there no
at private residences and flats, but no inspection was even made.
was treated with far greater severity, probably because of its
resistance in September 1939. The despoiling of museums and public
was here carried out on unusually extensive scale; all the larger
collections, and even many small ones in private apartments, were
+ + +
Conditions of life in Poland under German occupation are
is impossible to make a complete inventory of losses caused by
or by confiscation. Terrorism is at such a pitch that many private
are afraid even to make a list of their losses, let alone give
about them. The fact that no receipts were given and the making of any
notes concerning removal forbidden renders any detailed registration
and this is the more mischievous as many private collections and even
public ones had never been fully studied. This is a further loss for
since history will be deprived of even a description or a copy of some
of these lost and destroyed possessions. We must also expect the making
of any inventory to become more difficult month by month owing to the
losses of the intelligentsia; people are dying of sickness and
in prisons and concentration camps, they have lost their memories, such
materials as photographs, family documents, letters and so on are
In WARSAW the comparatively few works of art confiscated
property were taken from thr CATHEDRAL and the DIOCESAN MUSEUM. This is
perhaps due to the fact that the Warsaw churches possess few specimens
of mediaeval decorative art, and the majority of their
dates from the Baroque period and after, whereas the Office of the
+ + +
Under present conditions a registration of COL L E C T I
plundered or confiscated OUTSIDE WARSAW AND CRACOW is very difficult,
it is only possible to mention the most notorious facts.
2. Nazi Policy in "Territories Incorporated in the Reich”
Museum collections in the territory "incorporated in the Reich" seem in general to have been left undisturbed, but the Polish staff have been dismissed and Germans employed in their stead. In several cases the Polish directors were arrested. As far as we know, at Poznań in the Muzeum Wielkopolskie, the largest piece of Polish monumental sculpture only was destroyed - the Wawel Procession by Waclaw Szymanowski. The most valuable part of the Goluchow collection was plundered at Sieniawa, as already described. It is reported that the German Frontier Guard (Grenzschutz) destroyed many works by Polish artists which they found on the spot, and carried off the rest; but this information has not yet been checked. In numerous private collections at country residences great losses have been caused by the Germans installed there in lieu of the rightful owners, for they relegate family relics and Polish works of art to the attics, or simply destroy them. An estate near Wloclawek may serve as an illustration of their proceedings. Here the pictures were cut out of their frames and taken away, antique furniture was used for firewood, and the family archives (which comprised valuable collections from the rising of 1863) were turned to household use. Another instance is to be found in an estate near Inowroclaw, whence a valuable special library (history of art) was taken away to be sold as waste paper.
Our description has been devoted mainly to the losses
largest collections, but those of PROVINCIAL MUSEUMS have also been
About a hundred of them, created by public effort, and belonging to
and topographical societies, have not only been deprived of all .care
attention, but also partly destroyed by dispersal. The former Polish
is denied access ; they are turned out of their own premises, their
are at the mercy of German administrative officials and
The DAMAGE TO BUILDINGS for housing collections is very considerable, and is the more painful in that Poland had during the twenty years before 1939 sought passionately to remedy the shortage and neglect occasioned by the period of foreign rule. The great building of the National Museum in Warsaw, which had been opened in 1938, was much damaged and in part destroyed. In the year 1941 some of it was occupied by troops. The eighteenth-century building of the Ethnographical Museum was burnt down, as was also "The Blue House" which had housed the Zamoyski Library and Museum. The building of the Przeździecki Museum and Library was also wholly destroyed by fire, and the Raczynski residence, which had been devoted entirely to that family's fine collections, suffered the same fate. Then there are the losses suffered by the stoppage of work on museums in process of building, such as the National Museum in Cracow and the Pomeranian Museum at Torun. The existing walls and fittings are subjected to the effects of the weather and arc being gradually ruined.
We have already shown how museum collections have suffered not only through hostilities, but by the barbarous methods of the German authorities. The expulsion of museums from their premises, and the enforced transference to other quarters by the most primitive means of transport, at short notice and under quite unsuitable conditions, occasion a certain proportion of loss in the .collections, so that we must consider that even those which have not suffered any confiscation have yet sustained damage if they have had to be moved from their usual place. Such is the case with the Pilsudski Museum, turned out of the Warsaw Belvedere in December 1939, with the National Museum in Cracow, the Ethnographical Museum there, the State Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw, and a number others. Those collections, which have been confiscated, arc bound also to suffer a diminution of their value, even if they are rescued and returned to their owners, for they have been transported carelessly and inexpertly under bad weather conditions, and later often kept in unsuitable places, without proper expert care, so that their state of preservation is likely to deteriorate rapidly. Such treatment lowers the value of works of art, sometimes very considerably.
It is scarcely possible to stress sufficiently the extent of the loss suffered by the destruction of such magnificent museum units as the Warsaw Castle. the Zamoyski and Przeździecki Museums and Libraries, which were of paramount importance in the history of Polish civilization. In them, whole pages of that history have been destroyed, and sources of knowledge closed for ever to students of the past. Many other collections have been broken up by confiscation, which not only means the loss of individual works of art but also causes irreparable damage to collections as such .
We have not hitherto mentioned damage caused to church paintings during hostilities. One by Eleterius Siemiginowski in the Church of the Holy Rood can be quoted as an instance, as well as a number of pictures in the Church of All Saints. The losses in nineteenth and twentieth-century paintings are very great. Several large paintings by Matejko have disappeared, his Constitution of the Third of May has probably been destroyed, a number of smaller pictures has been burnt. Many other pictures by eminent Polish artists have been burnt or ruined, including works by Michalowski, Kossak, the Gierymski brothers, and so on.
.• .• .•
Art collections and relics at manor-houses and country
doubtless been in great part destroyed, particularly in territory"
in the Reich."
And it is unfortunately impossible to claim that only the Hitler gang is responsible. We have shown that it is not Gestapo officials and the highest German authorities alone, who take part in pillaging Polish museums and collections, in their wilful and deliberate destruction. The work is directed and carried out by German scholars, university professors and museum specialists.
Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals
Judgement : War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
In the administration of the occupied territories the concentration camps were used to destroy all opposition groups. The persons arrested by the Gestapo were as a rule sent to concentration camps. They were conveyed to the camps in many cases without any care whatever being taken for them, and great numbers died on the way. Those who arrived at the camp were subject to systematic cruelty. They were given hard physical labour, inadequate food, clothes and shelter, and were subject at all times to the rigours of a soulless regime, and the private whims of individual guards. In the report of the War Crimes Branch of the Judge Advocate's Section of the 3rd U.S. Army, under date 21st June, 1945, the conditions at the Flossenburg concentration camp were investigated, and one passage may be quoted:
" Flossenburg concentration camp can be described as a factory dealing in death. Although this camp had in view the primary object of putting to work the mass slave labour, another of its primary objects was the elimination of human lives by the methods employed in handling the prisoners. Hunger and starvation rations sadism, inadequate clothing, medical neglect, disease, beatings, hangings, freezing, forced suicides, shooting, etc., all played a major role in obtaining their object. Prisoners were murdered at random, spite killings against Jews were common, injections of poison and shooting in the neck were everyday occurrences; epidemics of typhus and spotted fever were permitted to run rampant as a means of eliminating prisoners, life in this camp meant nothing. Killing became a common thing, so common that a quick death was welcomed by the unfortunate ones."A certain number of the concentration camps were equipped with gas chambers for the wholesale destruction of the inmates, and with furnaces for the burning of the bodies. Some of them were in fact used for the extermination of Jews as part of the " final solution " of the Jewish problem. Most of the non-Jewish inmates were used for labour, although the conditions under which they worked made labour and death almost synonymous terms. Those inmates who became ill and were unable to work were either destroyed in the gas chambers or sent to special infirmaries, where they were given entirely inadequate medical treatment, worse food if possible than the working inmates, and left to die.
The murder and ill-treatment of civilian populations reached its height in the treatment of the citizens of the Soviet Union and Poland. Some four weeks before the invasion of Russia began, special task forces of the SIPO and SD, called Einsatz Groups, were formed on the orders of Himmler for the purpose of following the German armies into Russia, combating partisans and members of Resistance Groups, and exterminating the Jews and communist leaders and other sections of the population. In the beginning, four such Einsatz Groups were formed, one operating in the Baltic States, one towards Moscow, one towards Kiev, and one operating in the south of Russia. Ohlendorf, former chief of Amt III of the RSHA, who led the fourth group, stated in his affidavit:
" When the German army invaded Russia, I was leader of Einsatzgruppe D, in the southern sector, and in the course of the year during which I was leader of the Einsatzgruppe D it liquidated approximately 90,000 men, women and children. The majority of those liquidated were Jews, but there were also among them some communist functionaries."In an order issued by the defendant Keitel on the 23rd July, 1941, and drafted by the defendant Jodl, it was stated that:
" in view of the vast size of the occupied areas in the East the forces available for establishing security in these areas will be sufficient only if all resistance is punished, not by legal prosecution of the guilty, but by the spreading of such terror by the armed forces as is alone appropriate to eradicate every inclination to resist among the population . . . Commanders must find the means of keeping order by applying suitable draconian measures."The evidence has shown that this order was ruthlessly carried out in the territory of the Soviet Union and in Poland. A significant illustration of the measures actually applied occurs in the document which was sent in 1943 to the defendant Rosenberg by the Reich Commissar for Eastern Territories, who wrote:
" It should be possible to avoid atrocities and to bury those who have been liquidated. To lock men, women and children into barns and set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause, and hurts our reputation severely."The Tribunal has before it an affidavit of one Hermann Graebe, dated 10th November, 1945, describing the immense mass murders which he witnessed. He was the manager and engineer in charge of the branch of the Solingen firm of Josef Jung in Spolbunow, Ukraine, from September, 1941, to January, 1944. He first of all described the attack upon the Jewish ghetto at Rowno:
". . . Then the electric floodlights which had been erected all round the ghetto were switched on. SS and militia details of four to six members entered or at least tried to enter the houses. Where the doors and windows were closed, and the inhabitants did not open upon the knocking, the SS men and militia broke the windows, forced the doors with beams and crowbars, and entered the dwelling. The owners were driven on to the street just as they were, regardless of whether they were dressed or whether they had been in bed.... Car after car was filled. Over it hung the screaming of women and children, the cracking of whips and rifle shots."Graebe then described how a mass execution at Dubno, which he witnessed on the 5th October, 1942, was carried out:
". . . Now we heard shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks, men, women and children of all ages, had to undress upon the orders of an SS man, who carried a riding or dog whip.... Without screaming or crying, these people undressed, stood around by families, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for the command of another SS man, who stood near the excavation, also with a whip in his hand.... At that moment the SS man at the excavation called something to his comrade. The latter counted off about 20 persons, and instructed them to walk behind the earth mound.... I walked around the mound and stood in front of a tremendous grave; closely pressed together, the people were lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. The excavation was already two-thirds full; I estimated that it contained about a thousand people.... Now already the next group approached, descended into the excavation, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot."The foregoing crimes against the civilian population are sufficiently appalling, and yet the evidence shows that at any rate in the East, the mass murders and cruelties were not committed solely for the purpose of stamping out opposition or resistance to the German occupying forces. In Poland and the Soviet Union these crimes were part of a plan to get rid of whole native populations by expulsion and annihilation, in order that their territory could be used for colonisation by Germans. Hitler had written in " Mein Kampf " on these lines, and the plan was clearly stated by Himmler in July, 1942, when he wrote:
" It is not our task to Germanise the East in the old sense, that is to teach the people there the German language and the German law, but to see to it that only people of purely Germanic blood live in the East."In August, 1942, the policy for the Eastern Territories as laid down by Bormann was summarised by a subordinate of Rosenberg as follows:
" The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die. Therefore, compulsory vaccination and Germanic health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable."It was Himmler again who stated in October, 1943:
" What happens to a Russian, a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take. If necessary, by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur, otherwise it is of no interest to me."In Poland the intelligentsia had been marked down for extermination as early as September, 1939, and in May, 1940, the defendant Frank wrote in his diary of " taking advantage of the focusing of world interest on the Western Front, by wholesale liquidation of thousands of Poles, first leading representatives of the Polish intelligentsia." Earlier, Frank had been directed to reduce the " entire Polish economy to absolute minimum necessary for bare existence. The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater - German World Empire." In January, 1940, he recorded in his diary that "cheap labour must be removed from the General Government by hundreds of thousands. This will hamper the native biological propagation." So successfully did the Germans carry out this policy in Poland that by the end of the war one third of the population had been killed, and the whole of the country devastated.
It was the same story in the occupied area of the Soviet Union. At the time of the launching of the German attack in June, 1941, Rosenberg told his collaborators:
" The object of feeding the German people stands this year without a doubt at the top of the list of Germany's claims on the East, and here the southern territories and the northern Caucasus will have to serve as a balance for the feeding of the German people.... A very extensive evacuation will be necessary, without any doubt, and it is sure that the future will how very hard years in store for the Russians."Three or four weeks later Hitler discussed with Rosenberg, Goering, Keitel and others his plan for the exploitation of the Soviet population and territory, which included among other things the evacuation of the inhabitants of the Crimea and its settlement by Germans.
A somewhat similar fate was planned for Czechoslovakia by the defendant von Neurath, in August, 1940; the intelligentsia were to be "expelled," but the rest of the population was to be Germanised rather than expelled or exterminated, since there was a shortage of Germans to replace them.
In the West the population of Alsace were the victims of a German " expulsion action." Between July and December, 1940, 105,000 Alsatians were either deported from their homes or prevented from returning to them.
A captured German report dated 7th August, 1942, with regard to Alsace states that:
" The problem of race will be given first consideration, and this in such a manner that persons of racial value will be deported to Germany proper, and racially inferior persons to France."THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for ten minutes.
(A recess was taken.)
THE PRESIDENT: I now ask General Nikitochenko to continue the reading of the judgment.
General NIKTOCHENKO: Article 49 of the Hague Convention provides that an occupying power may levy a contribution of money from the occupied territory to pay for the needs of the army of occupation, and for the administration of the territory in question. Article 52 of the Hague Convention provides that an occupying power may make requisitions in kind only for the needs of the army of occupation, and that these requisitions shall be in proportion to the resources of the country. These Articles, together with Article 48, dealing with the expenditure of money collected in taxes, and Articles 53, 55 and 56, dealing with public property, make it clear that under the rules of war, the economy of an occupied country can only be required to bear the expenses of the occupation, and these should not be greater than ,the economy of the country can reasonably be expected to bear. Article 56 reads as follows:
" The property of municipalities, of religious, charitable, educational, artistic and scientific institutions, although belonging to the State, is to be accorded the same standing as private property. All pre-meditated seizure, destruction. or damage of such institutions historical monuments, works of art and science, is prohibited and should be prosecuted."The evidence in this case has established, however, that the territories occupied by Germany were exploited for the German war effort in the most ruthless way, without consideration of the local economy, and in 53 consequence of a deliberate design and policy. There was in truth a systematic " plunder of public or private property ", which was criminal under Article 6 (b) of the Charter. The German occupation policy was clearly stated in a speech made by the defendant Goering on the 6th August, 1942, to the various German authorities in charge of occupied territories:
" God knows, you are not sent out there to work for the welfare of the people in your charge, but to get the utmost out of them, so that the German people can live. That is what I expect of your exertions. This everlasting concern about foreign people must cease now, once and for all. I have here before me reports on what you are expected to deliver. It is nothing at all, when I consider your territories. It makes no difference to me in this connection if you say that your people will starve."The methods employed to exploit the resources of the occupied territories to the full varied from country to country. In some of the occupied countries in the East and the West, this exploitation was carried out within the framework of the existing economic structure. The local industries were put under German supervision, and the distribution of war materials was rigidly controlled. The industries thought to be of value to the German war effort were compelled to continue, and most of the rest were closed down altogether. Raw materials and the finished products alike were confiscated for the needs of the Germany industry. As early as the 19th October, 1939, the defendant Goering had issued a directive giving detailed instructions for the administration of the occupied territories, it provided:
" The task for the economic treatment of the various administrative regions is different, depending on whether the country is involved which will be incorporated politically into the German Reich, or whether we will deal with the Government-General, which in all probability will not be made a part of Germany. In the first mentioned territories, the . . . safeguarding of all their productive facilities and supplies must be aimed at, as well s a complete incorporation into the Greater German economic system, at the earliest possible time. On the other hand, there must be removed from the territories of the Government-General all raw materials, scrap materials, machines, etc., which are of use for the German war economy. Enterprises which are not absolutely necessary for the meagre maintenance of the naked existence of the population must be transferred to Germany, unless such transfer would require an unreasonably long period of time, and would make it more practicable to exploit those enterprises by giving them German orders, to be executed at their present location."As a consequence of this order, agricultural products, raw materials needed by German factories, machine tools, transportation equipment, other finished products and even foreign securities and holdings of foreign exchange were all requisitioned and sent to Germany. These resources were requisitioned in a manner out of all proportion to the economic resources of those countries, and resulted in famine, inflation and an active black market. At first the German occupation authorities attempted to suppress the black market, because it was a channel of distribution keeping local products out of German hands. When attempts at suppression failed, a German purchasing agency was organised to make purchases for Germany on the black market, thus carrying out the assurance made by the defendant Goering that ,it was " necessary that all should know that if there is to be famine anywhere, it shall in no case be in Germany."
In many of the occupied countries of the East and the West, the authorities maintained the presence of paying for all the property which they seized. This elaborate presence of payment merely disguised the fact that the goods sent to Germany from these occupied countries were paid for by the occupied countries themselves, either by the device of excessive occupation costs only forced loans in return for a credit balance on a " clearing account " which was an account merely in name.
In most of the occupied countries of the East even this presence of legality was not maintained, economic exploitation became deliberate plunder. This policy was first put into effect in the administration of the Government-General in Poland. The main exploitation of the raw materials in the East was centred on agricultural products and very large amounts of food were shipped from the Government-General to Germany.
The evidence of the widespread starvation among the Polish ,people in the Government-General indicates the ruthlessness and the severity with which the policy of exploitation was carried out.
The occupation of the territories of the U.S.S.R., was characterised by premeditated and systematic looting. Before the attack on the U.S.S.R., an economic staff -Oldenburg- was organised to ensure the most efficient exploitation of Soviet territories. The German armies were to be fed out of Soviet territory, even if "many millions of people will be starved to death." An OKW directive issued before the attack said:
" To obtain the greatest possible quantity of food and crude oil for Germany- that is the main economic purpose of the campaign."Similarly, a declaration by the defendant Rosenberg of the 20th June, 1941, had advocated the use of the produce from Southern Russia and of the Northern Caucasus to feed the German people, saying:
" We see absolutely no reason for any obligation on our part to feed also the Russian people with the products of that surplus territory. We know that this is a harsh necessity, bare of any feelings."When the Soviet territory was occupied, this policy was put into effect; there was a large scale confiscation of agricultural supplies, with complete disregard of the needs of the inhabitants of the occupied territory.
In addition to the seizure of raw materials and manufactured articles, a wholesale seizure was made of art treasures, furniture, textiles and similar articles in all the invaded countries.
The defendant Rosenberg was designated by Hitler on the 29th January 1940, Head of the Centre for National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, and thereafter the organisation known as the " Einsatzstab Rosenberg" conducted its operations on a very great scale. Originally designed for the establishment of a research library, it developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. On the 1st March, 1942, Hitler issued a further decree, authorising Rosenberg to search libraries lodges and cultural establishments, to seize material from these establishments, as well as culture treasures owned by Jews. Similar directions were given where the ownership could not be clearly established. The decree directed the cooperation of the Wehrmacht High Command, and indicated that Rosenberg's activities in the West were to be conducted in his capacity as Reichsleiter, and in the East in his capacity as Reichsminister. Thereafter, Rosenberg's activities were extended to the occupied countries. The report of Robert Scholz, Chief of the special staff for Pictorial Art, stated:
"During the period from March, 1941, to July, 1944, the special staff for Pictorial Art brought into the Reich 29 large shipments, including 137 freight cars with 4,174 cases of art works."The report of Scholz refers to 25 portfolios of pictures of the most valuable works of the art collection seized in the West, which portfolios were presented to the Fuehrer. Thirty-nine volumes, prepared by the Einsatzstab, contained photographs of paintings, textiles, furniture, candelabra and numerous other objects of art, and illustrated the value and magnitude of the collection which had been made. In many of the occupied countries private collections were robbed, libraries were plundered, and private houses were pillaged.
Museums, palaces and libraries in the occupied territories of the U.S.S.R. were systematically looted. Rosenberg's Einsatzstab, Ribbentrop's special " Battalion ", the Reichscommissars and representatives of the Military Command seized objects of cultural and historical value belonging to the people of the Soviet Union, which were sent to Germany. Thus, the Reichscommissar of the Ukraine removed paintings and objects of art from Kiev and Kharkov and sent them to East Prussia. Rare volumes and objects of art from the palaces of Peterhof, Tsarskeye Selo, and Pavlovsk were shipped to Germany. In his letter to Rosenberg of the 3rd October, 1941, Reichscommissar Kube stated that the value of the objects of art taken from Byelorussia ran into millions of roubles. The scale of this plundering can also be seen in the letter sent from Rosenberg's department to von Milde-Schreden in which it is stated that during the month of October, 1943, alone, about 40 box-cars loaded with objects of cultural value were transported to the Reich.
With regard to the suggestion that the purpose of the seizure of art treasures was protective and meant for their preservation, it is necessary to say a few words. On the 1st December, 1939, Himmler, as the Reich Commissioner for the " strengthening of Germanism ", issued a decree to the regional officers of the secret police in the annexed eastern territories, and to the commanders of the security service in Radom, Warsaw and Lublin. This decree contained administrative directions for carrying out the art seizure programme, and in Clause 1 it is stated:
" To strengthen Germanism in the defence of the Reich, all articles mentioned in Section 2 of this decree are hereby confiscated.... They are confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich, and are at the disposal of the Reich Commissioner for the strengthening of Germanism."The intention to enrich Germany by the seizures, rather than to protect the seized objects, is indicated in an undated report by Dr. Hans Posse, director of the Dresden State Picture Gallery:
" I was able to gain some knowledge on the public and private collections, as well as clerical property, in Cracow and Warsaw. It is true that we cannot hope too much to enrich ourselves from the acquisition of great art works of paintings and sculptures, with the exception of the Veit-Stoss altar, and the plates of Hans von Kulnback in the Church of Maria in Cracow . . . and several other works from the national museum in Warsaw "SLAVE LABOUR POLICY
Article 6 (b) of the Charter provides that the " ill-treatment ,or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose, of civilian population of or in occupied territory" shall be a war crime. The laws relating to forced labour by the inhabitants of occupied territories are found in Article 52 of The Hague Convention, which provides:-
" Requisition in kind and services shall not be demanded from municipalities or inhabitants except for the needs of the army of occupation. They shall be in proportion to the resources of the country, and of such a nature as not to involve the inhabitants in the obligation of taking part in military operations against their own country."The policy of the German occupation authorities was in flagrant violation of the terms of this Convention. Some idea of this policy may be gathered from the statement made by Hitler in a speech on 9th November, 1941:-
" The territory which now works for us contains more than 250,000,000 men, but the territory which works indirectly for us includes now more than 350,000,000. In the measure in which it concerns German territory, the domain which we have taken under our administration, it is not doubtful that we shall succeed in harnessing the very last man to this work."The actual results achieved were not so complete as this, but the German occupation authorities did succeed in forcing many of the inhabitants of the occupied territories to work for the German war effort, and in deporting at least 5,000,000 persons to Germany to serve German industry and agriculture.
In the early stages of the war, manpower in the occupied territories was under the control of various occupation authorities, and the procedure varied from country to country. In all the occupied territories compulsory labour service was promptly instituted. Inhabitants of the occupied countries were conscripted and compelled to work in local occupations, to assist the German war economy. In many cases they were forced to work on German fortifications and military installations. As local supplies of raw materials and local industrial capacity became' inadequate to meet the German requirements, the system of deporting labourers to Germany was put into force. By the middle of April, 1940, compulsory deportation of labourers to Germany had been ordered in the Government General; and a similar procedure was followed in other eastern territories as they were occupied. A description of this compulsory deportation from Poland was given by Himmler. In an address to SS officers he recalled how in weather 40 degrees below zero they had to " haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands." On a later occasion Himmler stated:-
" Whether ten thousand Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished.... We must realise that we have 6-7 million foreigners in Germany.... They are none of them dangerous so long as we take severe measures at the merest trifles."During the first two years of the German occupation of France, Belgium, Holland and Norway, however, an attempt was made to obtain the necessary workers on a voluntary basis. How unsuccessful this was may be seen from the report of the meeting of the Central Planning Board on the 1st March, 1944. The representative of the defendant Speer, one Koehrl, speaking of the situation in France, said:-
" During all this time a great number of Frenchmen were recruited, and voluntarily went to Germany."He was interrupted by the defendant Sauckel:
" Not only voluntary, some were recruited forcibly."To which Koehrl replied:
" The calling up started after the recruitment no longer yielded enough results."To which the defendant Sauckel replied:
" Out of the five million workers who arrived in Germany, not even 200,000 came voluntarily,"and Koehrl rejoined:-
" Let us forget for the moment whether or not some slight pressure was used. Formally, at least, they were volunteers."Committees were set up to encourage recruiting, and a vigorous propaganda campaign was begun to induce workers to volunteer for service in Germany. This propaganda campaign included, for example, the promise that a prisoner of war would be returned for every labourer who volunteered to go to Germany. In some cases it was supplemented by withdrawing the ration cards of labourers who refused to go to Germany, or by discharging them from their jobs and denying them unemployment benefit or an opportunity to work elsewhere. In some cases workers and their families were threatened with reprisals by the police if they refused to go to Germany. It was on the 21st March, 1942, that the defendant Sauckel was appointed Plenipotentiary-General for the Utilisation of Labour, with authority over " all available manpower, including that of workers recruited abroad, and of prisoners of war."
The defendant Sauckel was directly under the defendant Goering as Commissioner of the Four Year Plan, and a Goering decree of the 27th March, 1942, transferred all his authority over manpower to Sauckel. Sauckel's instructions, too, were that foreign labour should be recruited on a voluntary basis, but also provided that " where, however, in the occupied territories the appeal for volunteers does not suffice, obligatory service and drafting must under all circumstances be resorted to. " Rules requiring labour service in Germany were published in all the occupied territories. The number of labourers to be supplied was fixed by Sauckel, and the local authorities were instructed to meet these requirements by conscription if necessary. That conscription was the rule rather than the exception is shown by the statement of Sauckel already quoted, on the 1st March, 1944.
The defendant Sauckel frequently asserted that the workers belonging to foreign nations were treated humanely, and that the conditions in which they lived were good. But whatever the intention of Sauckel may have been, and however much he may have desired that foreign labourers should be treated humanely, the evidence before the Tribunal establishes the fact that the conscription of labour was accomplished in many cases by drastic and violent methods. The " mistakes and blunders " were on a very great scale. Man-hunts took place in the streets, at motion picture houses, even at churches and at night in private houses. Houses were sometimes burnt down, and the families taken as hostages, practices which were described by the defendant Rosenberg as having their origin " in the blackest periods of the slave trade." The methods used in obtaining forced labour from the Ukraine appear from an order issued to SD officers which stated:
" It will not be possible always to refrain from using force.... When searching villages, especially when it has been necessary to burn down a village, the whole population will be put at the disposal of the Commissioner by force.... As a rule no more children will be shot.... If we limit harsh measures through the above orders for the time being, it is only done for the following reason.... The most important thing is the recruitment of workers."The resources and needs of the occupied countries were completely disregarded in carrying out this policy. The treatment of the labourers was governed by Sauckel's instructions of the 20th April. 1942. to the effect that:
" All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure."The evidence showed that workers destined for the Reich were sent under guard to Germany, often packed in trains without adequate heat, food, clothing or sanitary facilities. The evidence further showed that the treatment of the labourers in Germany in many cases was brutal and degrading. The evidence relating to the Krupp Works at Essen showed that punishments of the most cruel kind were inflicted on the workers. Theoretically at least the workers were paid, housed and fed by the DAF and even permitted to transfer their savings and to send mail and parcels back to their native country; but restrictive regulations took a proportion of the pay; the camps in which they were housed were insanitary; and the food was very often less than the minimum necessary to give the workers strength to do their jobs. In the case of Poles employed on farms in Germany, the employers were given authority to inflict corporal punishment and were ordered, if possible, to house them in stables, not in their own homes. They were subject to constant supervision by the Gestapo and the SS, and if they attempted to leave their jobs they were sent to correction camps or concentration camps. The concentration camps were also used to increase the supply of labour. Concentration camp commanders were ordered to work their prisoners to the limits of their physical power. During the latter stages of the war the concentration camps were so productive in certain types of work that the Gestapo was actually instructed to arrest certain classes of labourers so that they could be used in this way. Allied prisoners of war were also regarded as a possible source of labour. Pressure was exercised on non-commissioned officers to force them to consent to work, by transferring to disciplinary camps those who did not consent. Many of the prisoners of war were assigned to work directly related to military operations, in violation of Article 31 of the Geneva Convention. They were put to work in munition factories and even made to load bombers, to carry ammunition and to dig trenches, often under the most hazardous conditions. This condition applied particularly to the Soviet prisoners of war. On the 16th February, 1943, at a meeting of the Central Planning Board, at which the defendants Sauckel and Speer were present, Milch said:
" We have made a request for an order that a certain percentage of men in the Ack-Ack artillery must be Russians; 50,000 will be taken altogether. 30,000 are already employed as gunners. This is an amusing thing, that Russians must work the guns."And on the 4th October, 1943, at Posen, Himmler, speaking of the Russian prisoners, captured in the early days of the war, said:
"At that time we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it to-day, as raw material, as labour. What after all thinking in terms of generations, is not to be regretted, but is now deplorable by reason of the loss of labour, is that the prisoners - died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger."The general policy underlying the mobilisation of slave labour was stated by Sauckel on the 20th April, 1942. He said:
" The aim of this new gigantic labour mobilisation is to use all the rich and tremendous sources conquered and secured for us by our fighting armed forces under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, for the armament of the armed forces, and also for the nutrition of the Homeland. The raw materials, as well as the fertility of the conquered territories and their human labour power, are to be used completely and conscientiously to the profit of Germany and her Allies.... All prisoners of war from the territories of the West, as well as the East, actually in Germany, must be completely incorporated into the German armament and nutrition industries.... Consequently it is an immediate necessity to use the human reserves of the conquered Soviet territory to the fullest extent. Should we not succeed in obtaining the necessary amount of labour on a voluntary basis, we must immediately institute conscription or forced labour.... The complete employment of all prisoners of war, as well as the use of a gigantic number of new foreign civilian workers, men and women, has become an indisputable necessity for the solution of the mobilisation of the labour programme in this war."Reference should also be made to the policy which was in existence in Germany by the summer of 1940, under which all aged, insane, and incurable people, " useless eaters," were transferred to special institutions where they were killed, and their relatives informed that they had died from natural causes. The victims were not confined to German citizens, but included foreign labourers, who were no longer able to work, and were therefore useless to the German war machine. It has been estimated that at least some 275,000 people were killed in this manner in nursing homes, hospitals and asylums, which were under the jurisdiction of the defendant Frick, in his capacity as Minister of the Interior. How many foreign workers were included in this total it has been quite impossible to determine.
PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS
The persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi Government has been proved in the greatest detail before the Tribunal. It is a record of consistent and systematic inhumanity on the greatest scale. Ohlendorf, chief of Amt III in the RSHA from 1939 to 1943, and who was in command of one of the Einsatz groups in the campaign against the Soviet Union testified as to the methods employed in the extermination of the Jews. He said that he employed firing squads to shoot the victims in order to lessen the sense of individual guilt on the part of his men; and the 90,000 men, women and children who were murdered in one year by his particular group were mostly Jews.
When the witness Bach Zelewski was asked how Ohlendorf could admit the murder of 90,000 people, he replied:
"I am of the opinion that when, for years, for decades, the doctrine is preached that the Slav race is an inferior race, and Jews not even human, then such an outcome is inevitable."But the defendant Frank spoke the final words of this chapter of Nazi history when he testified in this court:
" We have fought against Jewry, we have fought against it for years: and we have allowed ourselves to make utterances and my own diary has become a witness against me in this connection- utterances which are terrible.... A thousand years will pass and this guilt of Germany will not be erased."The anti-Jewish policy was formulated in Point 4 of the Party Programme which declared " Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently, no Jew can be a member of the race." Other points of the programme declared that Jews should be treated as foreigners, that they should not be permitted to hold public office, that they should be expelled from the Reich if it were impossible to nourish the entire population of the State, that they should be denied any further immigration into Germany, and that they should be prohibited from publishing German newspapers. The Nazi Party preached these doctrines throughout its history. " Der Stuermer" and other publications were allowed to disseminate hatred of the Jews, and in the speeches and public declarations of the Nazi leaders, the Jews were held up to public ridicule and contempt.
With the seizure of power, the persecution of the Jews was intensified. A series of discriminatory laws were passed, which limited the offices and professions permitted to Jews; and restrictions were placed on their family life and their rights of citizenship. By the autumn of 1938, the Nazi policy towards the Jews had reached the stage where it was directed towards the complete exclusion of Jews from German life. Pogroms were organised which included the burning and demolishing of synagogues, the looting of Jewish businesses, and the arrest of prominent Jewish business men. A collective fine of one billion marks was imposed on the Jews, the seizure of Jewish assets was authorised, and the movement of Jews was restricted by regulations to certain specified districts and hours. The creation of ghettoes was carried out on an extensive scale, and by an order of the Security Police Jews were compelled to wear a yellow star to be worn on the breast and back.
It was contended for the Prosecution that certain aspects of this anti-Semitic policy were connected with the plans for aggressive war. The violent measures taken against the Jews in November, 1938, were nominally in retaliation for the killing of an official of the German Embassy in Paris. But the decision to seize Austria and Czechoslovakia had been made a year before. The imposition of a fine of one billion marks was made, and the confiscation of the financial holdings of the Jews was decreed, at a time when German armament expenditure had put the German treasury in difficulties, and when the reduction of expenditure on armaments was being considered. These steps were taken, moreover, with the approval of the defendant Goering, who had been given responsibility for economic matters of this kind, and who was the strongest advocate of an extensive rearmament programme notwithstanding the financial difficulties.
It was further said that the connection of the anti-Semitic policy with aggressive war was not limited to economic matters. The German Foreign Office circular, in an article of 25th January, 1939, entitled " Jewish question as a factor in German Foreign Policy in the year 1938", described the new phase in the Nazi anti-Semitic policy in these words:
" It is certainly no coincidence that the fateful year 1938 has brought nearer the solution of the Jewish question simultaneously with the realisation of the idea of Greater Germany, since the Jewish policy was both the basis and consequence of the events of the year 1938. The advance made by Jewish influence and the destructive Jewish spirit in politics, economy, and culture paralysed the power and the will of the German people to rise again, more perhaps even than the power policy opposition of the former enemy Allied powers of the first World War. The healing of this sickness among the people was therefore certainly one of the most important requirements for exerting the force which, in the year 1938, resulted in the joining together of Greater Germany in defiance of the world."The Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany before the war, severe and repressive as it was, cannot compare, however, with the policy pursued during the war in the occupied territories. Originally the policy was similar to that which had been in force inside Germany. Jews were required to register, were forced to live in ghettoes, to wear the yellow star, and were used as slave labourers. In the summer of 1941, however, plans were made for the " final solution" of the Jewish question in all of Europe. This " final solution " meant the extermination of the Jews, which early in 1939 Hitler had threatened would be one of the consequences of an outbreak of war, and a special section in the Gestapo under Adolf Eichmann, as head of Section B4 of the Gestapo, was formed to carry out the policy.
The plan for exterminating the Jews was developed shortly after the attack on the Soviet Union. Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD, formed for the purpose of breaking the resistance of the population of the areas lying behind the German armies in the East, were given the duty of exterminating the Jews in those areas. The effectiveness of the work of the Einsatzgruppen is shown by the fact that in February, 1942, Heydrich was able to report that Estonia had already been cleared of Jews and that in Riga the number of Jews had been reduced from 29,500 to 2,500. Altogether the Einsatzgruppen operating in the occupied Baltic States killed over 135,000 Jews in three months.
Nor did these special units operate completely independently of the German Armed Forces. There is clear evidence that leaders of the Einsatzgruppen obtained the co-operation of Army Commanders. In one case the relations between an Einsatzgruppe and the military authorities was described at the time as being "very close, almost cordial "; in another case the smoothness of an Einsatz-commando's operation was attributed to the " understanding for this procedure " shown by the army authorities.
Units of the Security Police and SD in the occupied territories of the East, which were under civil administration, were given a similar task. The planned and systematic character of the Jewish persecutions is best illustrated by the original report of the SS Brigadier-General Stroop, who was in charge of the destruction of the ghetto in Warsaw, which took place in 1943. The Tribunal received in evidence that report, illustrated with photographs, bearing on its title page: "The Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists." The volume records a series of reports sent by Stroop to the Higher SS and Police Fuehrer East. In April and May, 1943, in one report, Stroop wrote:
" The resistance put up by the Jews and bandits could only be suppressed by energetic actions of our troops day and night. The Reichsfuehrer SS ordered therefore on the 23rd April, 1943 the cleaning out of the ghetto with utter ruthlessness and merciless tenacity. I therefore decided to destroy and burn down the entire ghetto, without regard to the armament factories. These factories were systematically dismantled and then burnt. Jews usually left their hideouts, but frequently remained in the burning buildings, and jumped out of the windows only when the heat became unbearable. They then tried to crawl with broken bones across the street into buildings which were not afire.... Life in the sewers was not pleasant after the first week. Many times we could hear loud voices in the sewers.... Tear gas bombs were thrown into the manholes, and the Jews driven out of the sewers and captured. Countless numbers of Jews were liquidated in sewers and bunkers through blasting. The longer the resistance continued, the tougher became the members of the Waffen SS, Police and Wehrmacht, who always discharged their duties in an exemplary manner."Stroop recorded that his action at Warsaw eliminated "a proved total of 56,065 people. To that we have to add the number of those killed through blasting, fire, etc., which cannot be counted." Grim evidence of mass murders of Jews was also presented to the Tribunal in cinematograph films depicting the communal graves of hundreds of victims which were subsequently discovered by the Allies.
These atrocities were all part and parcel of the policy inaugurated in 1941, and it is not surprising that there should be evidence that one or two German officials entered vain protests against the brutal manner in which the killings were carried out. But the methods employed never conformed to a single pattern. The massacres of Rowno and Dubno, of which the German engineer Graebe spoke, were examples of one method, the systematic extermination of Jews in concentration camps, was another Part of the " final solution " was the gathering of Jews from all German occupied Europe in concentration camps. Their physical condition was the test of life or death. All who were fit to work were used as slave labourers in the concentration camps; all who were not fit to work were destroyed in gas chambers and their bodies burnt. Certain concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz were set aside for this main purpose. With regard to Auschwitz, the Tribunal heard the evidence of Hoess, the Commandant of the camp from 1st May, 1940, to 1st December, 1943. He estimated that in the camp of Auschwitz alone in that time 2,500,000 persons were exterminated, and that a further 500,000 died from disease and starvation. Hoess described the screening for extermination by stating in evidence:
" We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavoured to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realised our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under their clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated."He described the actual killing by stating:
" It took from three to fifteen minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one half-hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses."Beating, starvation, torture, and killing were general. The inmates were subjected to cruel experiments at Dachau in August, 1942, victims were immersed in cold water until their body temperature was reduced to 28 Centigrade, when they died immediately. Other experiments included high altitude experiments in pressure chambers, experiments to determine how long human beings could survive in freezing water, experiments with poison bullets, experiments with contagious diseases, and experiments dealing with sterilisation of men and women by X-rays and other methods.
Evidence was given of the treatment of the inmates before and after their extermination. There was testimony that the hair of women victims was cut off before they were killed, and shipped to Germany, there to be used in the manufacture of mattresses. The clothes, money and valuables of the inmates were also salvaged and sent to the appropriate agencies for disposition. After the extermination the gold teeth and fillings were taken from the heads of the corpses and sent to the Reichsbank.
After cremation the ashes were used for fertilizer, and in some instances attempts were made to utilise the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap. Special groups travelled through Europe to find Jews and subject them to the " final solution." German missions were sent to such satellite countries as Hungary and Bulgaria, to arrange for the shipment of Jews to extermination camps and it is known that by the end of 1944, 400,000 Jews from Hungary had been murdered at Auschwitz. Evidence has also been given of the evacuation of 110,000 Jews from part of Roumania for "liquidation." Adolf Eichmann, who had been put in charge of this programme by Hitler, has estimated that the policy pursued resulted in the killing of 6,000,000 Jews, of which 4.000.000 were killed in the extermination institutions.
Epilog Norymberski by Jerzy Antczak, 1971
true evidence of German cruelty
On 5 July , Britain and the United States recognised the new provisional government as the legal authority in Poland. Out of twenty-five members, sixteen came from the Soviet-sponsored 'Lublin Committee', including Osóbka-Morawski, now prime minister, and Bierut as head of state. But much of the real strength lay with Władysław Gomułka; he was a deputy premier but also, far more importantly, secretary of the Polish Workers' Party (PPR), the Communists.
The other deputy premier was Mikołajczyk, who also became minister of agriculture. Huge crowds welcomed Mikołajczyk when he flew back to Warsaw, and, with Bierut scowling anxiously in the background, he made a brave speech promising to heal all wounds and restore 'a truly free, independent and sovereign Polish Republic'.
Poland in the summer of 1945 was a land in which everyone was on the move. The cities were mostly in ruins, except for Kraków which became for a while the intelIectual centre of the nation. From the east came much of the by train, cart or on foot towards new homes in the west. From Britain and Germany came return ing soldiers and tattered, emaciated thousands freed from the concentration camps, factories and farms of the Third Reich. From what had been Pomerania, Silesia and East Prussia, about three million Germans had already fled. Now, the first of over three million who remained were being driven out of their homes, most of them to land up in the British zone of Germany; the cities of Breslau and Danzig, both smashed to rubble in the last months of war, became Wrocław and Gdańsk. The surviving railway lines were clogged with Soviet trains crawling eastwards, carrying not only an incredible assortment of personal booty but the machinery and stock of German factories in the new Western Territories which were by right Polish property. It was three years before the great 'resettlements' came to rest.
The war had cost Poland the death of a fifth of its population, and the destruction of over a third of the national wealth. As if that blood-letting had not been enough, Poles were killing each other as remnants of the resistance fought on against the new regime. And yet these first post-war years were also a time of irrepressible energy, even of optimism. Much of the energy was spontaneous, as the Poles threw themselves into the business of building what was almost a new country. The Western Territories, taken from the Germans, were at first a 'Wild West' where the incoming Polish settlers seized what had been left behind, pulled ploughs themselves where there were no horses and organised their own communities long before official authority became effective. Workers took over factories and started production on their own, without waiting for a manager to arrive. The people of Warsaw went back to the ruins and piled bricks together to make shelters; the legend tells that the first shop to open was a boutique for ladies' hats.
Wroclaw, Poland: the capital of Polish Silesia
proud of its Roman - Catholic past, present and future
The English novelist Storm Jameson visited Warsaw in September 1945. She saw 'narrow lanes tracing the lines of vanished streets between the scorched shells of houses, each vomiting its dust-choked torrent of rubble. With only spades and bare hands, men and a few women working headlong to clear them.
After all the half-measures
of the years
a sweeping and radical land reform was carried through. The estates
broken up and distributed to the peasants; only in the Western
did the government keep the big Prussian estates intact, to be used as
state farms. It is one of the ironies of Polish history that it was
policy that turned most of Poland into a patchwork of little private
owned by peasants whose fierce independence and primitive methods have
hampered the planned economy ever since. Basic industries were
and by 1946 the state sector controlled over ninety per cent of
It was an effort which
Gomułka and Bierut now
to make. The Yalta 'free' elections did not take place until January
but the six months that followed the 'Three Times Yes' referendum
an onslaught of official terror against the Peasant Party. Meetings of
the PSL were broken up by mobs, party buildings were destroyed, PSL
were threatened with the loss of their jobs, and there was astring of
kidnappings and murders. In the midst of this violence, a horrific
took place at Kielce in July 1946, when a building sheltering Jews on
way from the USSR to Palestine was attacked and forty of them were
At the time, everybody blamed everyone else for the 'Kielce Pogrom'.
claimed it was a Communist police provocation, while others saw it as a
spontaneous explosion of the anti-Semitism which was, undeniably, a
of the hysterical mood of Poland in the first years after the war. The
Communists said the pogrom was the work of right-wing nationalists. The
right-wingers and several Catholic bishops retorted by pointing out
many of the Communist leaders who had spent the war in the Soviet Union
were Jews, especially in the secret police: a propaganda point which
festered in Polish consciousness ever since.
Polish Underground Soldiers
1944 - 1963
on September 1, 1939
invaded by Soviet Union
on September 17, 1939
on April 6,1941
on October 28,1940
from April 6, 1941
from December 1941
on June 22,1940
( Soviet Union, USSR )
its successor is Russian Federation
on September 17, 1939
and occupied 51,6% of Polish territory
till June 1941
invaded by Germany
|Germany incl. Austria||
DRANG NACH OSTEN
September 1939 - May 1945
"Preußen war in den Augen seiner Gegner der böse Geist Europas und eine Stütze des aggressiven Militarismus
Konrad Adenauer, Februar 1919 im Kölner Rathaus
COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION
JUNE 12 RUSSIA DAY
The dismantling of the monument
to Feliks Dzierzynski,
Warsaw, Poland, November 16, 1989
June 12, 1990 Russia Day
Russia Independence from the Soviet Union
Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian SFSR
Декларация о государственном суверенитете РСФСР
by the First Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian SFSR
As long as acts of hatred against Polish people go unpunished,
some wrongdoers plan, encourage,
and advocate hate crimes and biased policies
against Poles and Poland.
In the 21st century
Those in doubt should
dr Zbigniew Halat, May 1, 2004
END OF PART 4
ALPHABETIC INDEX OF CONTENTS
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