October 9, 2010


When the Germans invaded on September 1, 1939, they annexed 92,500 square kilometers of territory in Western Poland with a population of 10,000,000 Poles (23.7% area). The rest of Poland was split between the General Gouvernement (95,500 square kilometers, 24.5% area) and the Soviet Union taking 201,000 square kilometers of Eastern Poland. (51.6% area).

The Nazis confiscated all Polish-owned buildings and businesses, money, jewelry, art, furniture and clothing. All executive positions held by Poles and Jews were given to Germans. Jews and Poles were classed as "untermenschen" (subhuman).The Germans had 3 main goals: the reduction of Polish population, expulsion of Poles from annexed areas and forcing them into slave labor, and subjecting the remainder to low-skilled work, reducing them to the level of "serfs". The Nazis forced pregnant women to work up to eight and a half months of their term, in their effort to provoke accidents to cause miscarriages. The Polish language was prohibited, and all schools and cultural institutions were closed. It was forbidden to teach history, literature or geography nor read Polish books, play or listen to music. Polish libraries were closed and books burned. In some areas Germans set up schools teaching nothing to the children except how to count to 500, sign their name, and obey German orders. The children were not taught to read or write and often subjected to hard physical labor.

According to Heinemann between 1939 and 1944 more than 780,000 Poles lost their homes in pre-war Poland. Of these 250,000 were deported to the General Gouvernment, and 310,000 of which were displaced or forced into camps.The others were subjected to forced labor in the occupied territories. But according to Madajczyk there were 987,217 displaced. The details are as follows: according to statistics from Heinemann and Luczak, 81,000 Poles were deported from East Upper Silesia, 22,000 of which were deported to the General Gouvernement. They were replaced with 38,000 ethnic Germans coming mainly from Bukovina. In South East Prussia, 25,000 to 28,000 Poles were "evacuated" as well as another 25,000 to 28,000 from Bialystock. In Reichsgau-Danzig West Prussia,by 1942, 123,000 to 124,000 were displaced - 53,000 of them deported to the General Gouvernement. In Warthegau, 630,000 were displaced (1939 and 1944) and 30,000 to 40,000 expelled from Pomerlia.  By 1942 up to 2 million Germans settled in Poland.

In 1942 there were 827,000 Poles in slave labor camps.  By 1944 that total rose to 1,053,000. Conditions were horrible.  It is estimated that up to 110,000 died of typhus or starvation. Tens of thousands of non-Jewish Poles were sent to concentration camps, mainly at Stutthoff, Thorn, and Elbing.

Before the invasion there were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland, consisting of 10% of the total population of pre-war Poland. By the end of the war over 90% of the Jews perished. (The death rate of Jews from deported to Poland from other European countries was a cumulative total of 3,000,000) At the end of WWII, Poland had lost about 22% of its total population, more than any other European nation.

But another 3,000,000 also perished. These were the Non-Jewish Poles. Many died in the concentration camps, or in slave labor camps, from starvation or illness. Many more were executed by the Nazis as reprisals for their resistance activity against the German occupation.

Polish priests were arrested and put into concentration camps or executed. Churches were destroyed as well as religious icons. Poles were forbidden to attend funerals except for immediate family members.Polish religious hymns were banned, and so were the books they were written it. Attending Mass was forbidden. From the 2,500 priests in the Warthegau region, 752 perished and the remainder survived the war in concentration camps and prisons. In Poznan of 800 Polish priests in 1939, only 34 remained in 1943. In Upper Silesia, the Bishop of Katawice Adamski ordered the Poles to pray in German and identify as Germans (to save them from genocide). Despite his efforts, 43 priests of the town were murdered.

Poles and Jews among other eastern Europeans, were sent to concentration camps. Poles were the first to be interned at Auschwitz. Before the mass extermination of Jews began, the first inmates to be gassed were 300 Poles and 700 Russians prisoners of war.

The September Campaign and subsequent surrender of Warsaw did not spell defeat for the Polish nation and people. Despite the horrific brutality, Poles continued to resist the occupation. The Polish Underground, the largest resistance movement in Europe, succeeded in causing havoc and destruction of German supplies and routes. as well having assassinated several officers of the Gestapo. Jan Karski, was one of the many countless heroes of the Underground. He risked his life to relay information to the outside world of the execution and gassing of Jews in the camps,

The Poles were the First to Fight after the Invasion, and never stopped fighting to the very end. The Warsaw Uprising, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising are testament to the raw courage and desperate determination of the Polish people to take back their freedom and independence. 

As the world celebrated the Allied victory, the Aftermath was not a victory for Poland and along with many other nations ended up behind the Iron Curtain subjected for decades to brutal Soviet totalitarianism.  The tragedy is compounded by the fact that Poland`s closest allies, Britain, France and the United States were in league with each other to sacrifice Poland for their own national security. (this last sentence was added June 26, 2011)

Poland, the 4th largest ally was not invited to the Victory Parade.  The world has since forgotten the immense contribution that Poland made to the war effort.  But history is witness to the truth.  We have only to uncover it.

This brings to an end the special documentary of Invasion of Poland 1939: A Re-Enactment.  The past 38 blogs have been an ambitious endeavour.  I have tried to the best of my ability to "bring to life" a segment of the past, which history books barely even mention, if at all.  It was hoped that the daily news reports (written in the present tense) would impress upon you, the "real World War II" and not some sterilized version written in a textbook.  I urge you to keep searching and keep reading, for there are so many stories yet to uncover.

World War II was the worst catastrophe ever to have occurred in human history. May this terrible episode of human history never be repeated in the world. May we always remember the bravery of the Polish Armed Forces, and the courage of the Polish men, women and children who struggled for their freedom and independence.

They will Never Never Never be forgotten.


No comments:

Post a Comment