January 23, 2011

Polish Victims of the Holocaust

The Holocaust was the most horrible of atrocities to have ever occurred in the history of mankind, though there were many cases of genocide before and since.  Nothing parallels that which befell the Jews during World War II.  Though the Jews were the primary victims of Hitler's "Final Solution", they were not the only  targets of the Holocaust.  Six million Jews perished in the ghettos,concentration camps and death camps.  But there were another five million people who were also murdered, among whom were Polish Christians, many other nationalities, the Roma, homosexuals, people with physical and mental disabilities, resistance fighters, and dissident Germans. The Nazis considered the Polish people as  "untermenschen", that is, subhuman.  It was Hitler's plan to destroy Poland, and all Poles, both Jews and Christians, to make room for the so-called aryan race. 

As painful as the memory of the Holocaust is to survivors and their families, the tragedy of the Holocaust is further compounded by the failure of nations to honour the memory of the other victims, in particular the Poles. Millions have been forgotten.  In many articles and books written on the subject of the Holocaust, most have given only fleeting mention, if at all, to Polish losses. The time has come to redress this omission and recognize that Polish Christians were also victims of the Holocaust and to pay due respect to their memory, as well as to all the victims.

Central Poland was delineated by the Nazis as the "General Gouvernment". Though Poles were not interned in ghettos like the Jews, they were nevertheless inmates of what was in essence a vast penal colony. Poles were frequently rounded up and executed by Nazi squads. Many others were interned in concentration camps and death camps. The first inmates at Auschwitz were Polish Christians, though later Jews would make up the majority of its prisoners there and elsewhere.

Auschwitz was one of the largest of the German concentration camps, and was the German name given to the Polish town of Oswiecim. It consisted of a network of adjoining camps which included Auschwitz I (the Stammlager, or base camp), Auschwitz II-Birkenau (Vernichtungslager or exterminaton camp); and Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a labor camp, as well as 45 satellite camps.

Auschwitz I was the original camp which was used as the Nazi administrative center.  At this location there were 16 one-story buildings which had previously been constructed and used as barracks for the Polish Army Artillery.  The Nazis evicted the townspeople, as well as some 1,200 people who were living around the vicinity of the army barracks.  From 1940 to 1941, the Nazis expelled about 17,000 Polish and Jewish residents from western districts of Oswiecim and from the vicinity of the concentration camp. People from the nearby towns were also evicted, namely,  Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Plawy, Harmeze,  Bor, and Budy rendering the area completely isolated from public scrutiny.  About 300 Jewish residents of Oswiecim were forced to lay foundations for the Camp.

The first inmates were 30 German criminals transferred from the Sachsenhausen camp and who were appointed as functionaries of the camp system. The first shipment of prisoners arrived on June 14, 1940 consisting of 728 Polish prisoners, of which only 20 were Jewish.  From then on the camp population increased rapidly with the addition of thousands of Poland's intelligentsia, dissidents, and members of the Polish Resistance. However, as time went on, Jews comprised 90% of the Auschwitz inmates.

On September 3, 1941, the deputy camp commander Fritzsch began a series of experiments using  highly lethal levels of cyanide-based pesticide, Zyklon B.  The first victims to be gassed were 600 Russian POWs and 250 Polish inmates. They were assembled in the basement of the infamous Block 11 and gassed to death. By 1942, over 60,000 inmates were killed in this way.

Auschwitz II was designed by Heinrich Himmler, and designated as the location to conduct the "final solution of the Jewish question in Europe".  From 1942 to 1944, Jews were deported from all over Nazi-occupied Europe and transported by train to Auschwitz gas chambers.

Rudolph Hoss, the camps first commander, confirmed in his testimony at the Nuremburg Trials that up to 3 million people had died there; 2.5 million were exterminated and 500,000 from disease and starvation. Also deported to Auschwitz were 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet POWs  and tens of thousands of other nationals.  70,000- 100,000 Poles died in Auschwitz.
Auschwitz III-Monowitz was the largest of the Auschwitz work camps and was developed into an industrial camp by 1943. It initially produced synthetic rubber and liquid fuel at the Buna Werke plant, owned by
IG Farben.  Among the slave laborers, about 7,000 worked at chemical plants and 8,000 in the mines. 
About 40,000 worked in labor camps nearby.  Nazi doctors made regular visits to select the weak and the sick for gas extermination.

Among the 45 satellite camps, prisoners were forced to work in the German armaments industry, nine camps functioned in the capacity of metal works, six camps were located near coal mines, six camps supplied prisoners for chemical plants, and three for the light industry.

Countless numbers of Polish Christians were murdered in Camps such as Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek,Stutthof, Plaszow, Gross-Rosen, Dachau, Budzyn, Janowska, Poniatowa, Skarzysko Kammiena, Starachowice,Trawnicki, and many others. When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, they captured 400,000 Polish prisoners of war, many of whom were imprisoned in labor camps in Poland and Germany. Their numbers reached well over 1.5 million spread across 440 labor camps.  Many POW camps were also established by the Nazis, the largest at Torun and Lodz.  Among the smaller labor camps located within the General Gouvernment were Stalag 307 (Biala Podlaska and at Deblin), Stalag 315 (Przemysl), Stalag 319 (Chelm),  Stalag 325 (Zamosc and at Rawa Ruska), Stalag 327 (Jaroslaw), Stalag 328 (Lwow),  Stalag 333 (Ostrow-Komorowo), Stalag 359 (Poniatowa), Stalag 366 (Siedlce), Stalag 369 (Krakow and at Kobierzyn).  In areas annexed to Germany there were many more labor camps as follows;

Stalag I B: Hohenstein / Olsztynek
Stalag I F: Sudauen / Suwalk
Stalag 56: Prostken / Prostki
Stalag II B (313): Hammerstein-Schlochau / Czarne Czluchowski
Stalag II D: Stargard Stargard / Szczecinski
Stalag II H: Raderitz Nadarzyce Walecki
Stalag 302 and 323 and Oflag II D: Gross-Born / Borne Szczecinecki
Stalag 351: Berkenbrugge / Brzezinj
Oflag II B: Arnswalde / Choszczno
Oflag II C: Woldenberg / Dobiegniew Strzelecki
Stalag Luft IV: Gross-Tychow / Tychowo
Stalag III C: Alt-Drewitz / Kostrzyn P
Stalag XX A (312): Thorn / Torun
Stalag XX B: Marienburg / Malbork
Stalag XXI A: Schildberg / Ostrzeszow
Stalag XXI B: Thure / Turek
Stalag XXI B, Oflag XXI B and Oflag 64: Schubin / Szubin
Stalag XXI C/H: Wollstein / Wolsztyn
Stalag XXI D: Posen / Poznan
Oflag XXI A and Oflag XXI C: Schokken / Skoki
Oflag XXI C: Schildberg / Ostrzeszow
Oflag XXI C/Z: Grune bei Lissa / Leszno

This is only a small list of what was massive network of camps.That there were about 2,000 concentration camps in Poland is testament to fact that the Nazi planned the annihilation of the Poles - both Christians and Jews.  Sadly, the world knows little or nothing about the Polish Christians who were also  victims of the Holocaust. Few survived. And of those even fewer have given their testimonies. But among those who survived - as well as those who perished, their names read like a list from Who's Who of Polish society.  It is chilling evidence of the determination of the Nazis to try to decapitate Polish government and society and render it completely powerless.

The Holocaust was a tragedy of the Jewish people, and we are behooved to render our deepest respect to their memory.  But so too do we need to remember the "Other Victims" who perished. This is not meant to diminish the enormous calamity that befell the Jewish people nor refute the events of history.

The following is a list of just some of the Polish Christians who died, or by miracle survived the nightmare of Nazi concentration camps,death camps and labor camps. I have included a few, with their names and photos in order to give a tangible and indelible credibility to the fate of so many Polish Christians and lift them out of the din of what has been an eternal obscurity.  Though the names and faces of many Polish victims will never be known, it is certain that they were the second largest group of victims of the Holocaust.

Jan Komski (at left, standing)

Jan Baras-Komski
Polish Painter
He fought in the Polish Resistance. Was sent to Auschwitz. Escaped in 1942 but was captured and sent to Montelupich prison. He was moved to Auschwitz, then to Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen Hersbruck
and Dachau. He survived and after the war immigrated to the United States.
Died July 20, 2002 in Virginia, USA

Norbert Barlicki
Polish Lawyer, Publicist, Politician
Died in Auschwitz, September 27, 1941 

Kazimierz Bartel
Polish Mathematician
Served as Prime Minister of Poland three times (1926-1929)
The Nazis arrested him shortly after invasion of Poland and made him an offer to act as Prime Minister of a Polish Puppet government. He refused and on the order of Himmler, was executed at Brygidki prison on July 26, 1941 (after the mass murder of his colleagues).

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski
Imprisoned in Auschwitz September 22, 1940 to April 8, 1941
Was a member of Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army) and
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland after 1989 (twice)

Tadeusz Borowski
Polish writer
Survived Dachau and Auschwitz.
Died July 1, 1951 

Tadeusz Boy-Zelenski
Polish gynecologist, writer, poet, critic, and translator of over 100 French
literary classics into Polish.  He was arrested by the Nazis in Lwow
and murdered for being a Soviet spy.
Massacre of Lwow Professors July 4, 1941

Antoni Cieszynski
Polish physician, dentist, surgeon.
Murdered by German in Massacre of Lwow Professors.
on July 4, 1941

Jozef Cyrankiewicz
Survived Auschwitz
Was Prime Minister of Poland after the war from
February 6, 1947 to November 20, 1952 and again
March 18, 1954 to December 23, 1970.
and Chairman of Polish Council of State 1970-1972.
Died on January 20, 1989

Bronislaw Czech
Polish skier
Polish champion 24 times.
Participated in Winter Olympics of 1928, 1932, and 1936.
He was murdered in Auschwitz 1944.

Wladyslaw Dobrzaniecki
Polish physician and surgeon
Murdered by Germans in Massacre of Lwow Professors
on July 4, 1941

Xawery Dunikowski
Polish sculptor and artist; famous for neo-romantic sculptures
and Auschwitz-inspired art.  He survived Auschwitz
Died January 26, 1964. 

Wladyslaw Fejkiel
Polish prisoner and chief physician for camp infirmary.
Block 20, main camp of Auschwitz 1944.

Stefan Wicenty Frelichowski
Polish priest
imprisoned at Stutthof,  Grenzdorf, Sachsenhausen.
Died at Dachau  February 23, 1945
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 7, 1999

Franciszek Gajowniczek
Polish Army Sergent
Survived Auschwtiz. His life was saved when Maximilian Kolbe took his place.
Died March 13, 1995

Edward (Edek) Galinski
Served in the Polish Army after Invasion of 1939
Was POW at Tarnow Prison and transferred to Auschwitz
On June 24, 1944 Edek escaped wearing a stolen SS uniform together with Mala Zimetbaum (to whom he was romantically linked). The Nazis did not detect their absence until later that evening. They were re-captured on July 6, 1944 as they were trying to cross the border into Slovakia and were transferred to the notorious Block 11 where they were tortured, but neither implicated the other.  In August or September 1944 (date cannot be verified) Edek was publicly hanged together with five other male prisoners.  HIs last words were " Long Live Poland!"

Jozef Garlinski
Survived Auschwitz
He became best selling Polish writer of books about Auschwitz and WWII,
including book, "Fighting Auschwitz"
Died November 28, 2005

Witold Hulewicz
During the Nazi occupation, he was Chief Editor of the underground Polish magazine, Polska Zyje.
He was arrested by the Nazis in 1940. A year later he was executed.
Name of concentration camp is not known.

Stefan Jaracz
Polish actor and theater director
He survived Auschwitz but died of TB on August 11,1945.
A Polish theatre is named after him. The Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Lodz. 

Stanislaw Ketrzynski
Polish historian and diplomat
Survived Auschwitz
Died May 26, 1950 

Antoni Kocjan
Polish glider instructor, and contributed to Polish intelligence
network for the Polish Home Army.
Murdered by Gestapo August 13,1944 in Auschwitz

Maximilian Kolbe
He volunteered to die in the place of a stranger in Auschwitz. on August 14, 1941
He was canonized October 1, 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Zofia Kossack-Szczucka
Polish writer, and Resistance fighter
Co-founder of Zegota
Was interned at Auschwitz and released through intervention by Polish underground
Died April 9, 1968

Jozef Kowalski

Oldest Military Veteran In The World (born 1900) and the only living veteran
from the Polish Soviet War. He fought in the September Campaign, was
captured by the Nazi and interned in a concentration camp.
He resides in Tursk, near Sulecin in a care home.

Cardinal Adam Kozlowiecki
Survived Auschwitz and Dachau
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Lusaka in Zambia
In 1937 he was ordained a Jesuit priest; In 1939 he and 24 of his confreres were arrested
and sent to Auschwitz and then to Dachau until the end of the war. Died September 28, 2007

Janusz Kusocinski
Athlete;  1932  Olympic gold medalist Mens athletics
Executed at Palmiry June 21,1940 

Antoni Lomnicki
Polish mathematician
Murdered by Germans during Massacre of Lwow professors
July 4, 1941

Count Bernhard of Lubienski
Polish nobleman
Died 1942 Auschwtiz

Count Mauritz of Potocki
Polish noble
Died 1942 Auschwitz

Jan Mosdorf
Polish right-wing politician
Director of nationalist organization, "All Polish Youth"
Member of political party "National Radical Camp"
Murdered by Gestapo in Auschwitz on October 11,1943 for helping the Jews.

Igor Newerly
Polish novelist and educator
Survived Auschwitz
Died October 18, 1987

Jozef Noji
Polish track and field athlete
Participated in 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin
Murdered by camp SS guard Auschwitz for allegedly smuggling a letter.
on February 15, 1943

Ignacy Oziewicz
Polish Army Officer
First Commandant of Narodowe Sily Zbrojne
Survived Auschwitz and Flossenberg
Died 1966

Witold Pilecki
Polish soldier
Was the only known person to voluntarily be imprisoned at Auschwitz.
He escaped bringing vital information to the Allies about the atrocities being inflicted upon the Jewish people, but they did not believe him. He was later captured by Soviets and executed May 25,1948.
He was 47

Kazimierz Proszynski
Pioneer of Polish Cinema
improved the cinema projector for Gaumont Company
and invented Aeroscope camera.
Died at Mathausen on March 13,1945 shortly before liberation.

Dawid Przepiorka
Chess player; Chess Olympian
Executed in Palmiry April 1940 (estimated)

Nicolaus Rossini
Famous Polish painter
Executed at Krakow Plaszow in August 1943

Stefan Rowecki
Polish General, journalist, and leader of Armia Krajowa
Imprisoned at Oranienberg. Executed August  2,1944 by order of Himmler

Jan Rubczak
Painter, graphic artist
Murdered on May 27,1942 in Auschwitz

Stanislaw Ruziewicz
Polish mathematician
Murdered by Germans at Massacre of Lwow Professors
July 4, 1941 

Roman Rybarski
Polish historian, economist and politician.
Connected with right-wing National Democracy.
Shot on March 6,1942 in Auschwitz

  Leon Jerzy Wojciech Schiller
Polish theatre and film director, critic and theortician,
composer, and wrote theatre and radio screenplays.
Survived Auschwtiz
Died: March 25, 1954

Wladyslaw Slebodzinski
Polish Mathematician
During WWII he lectured at underground
universities and was imprisoned in several camps.
He survived Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen and Nordhausen.
After the war he became professor at Wroclaw University, and a few
years later, professor at Poznan University of Technology.
Died January 3, 1972

Tadeusz Sobolewicz
Polish actor and author
Survivor of six Nazi concentration camps, Gestapo prison and 9 day death march

Sygmund Sobolewski
He was the 88th prisoner of Auschwitz on the first transport on June 14, 1940.
He was imprisoned because of the anti-Nazi activities of his father (who was mayor
of a small Polish town.)  After the war he settled in Alberta, Canada
He is a strong opponent of Holocaust deniers and has often confronted neo-Nazis and
anti-Semites.In 1967 he wore a facsimile of a Holocaust prison uniform and picketed the appearance
of a neo-nazi leader on Canadian television. Years later he did the same to protest Holocaust-denier,
Jim Keegstra, and in 1990 he picketed Aryan Fest (a neo-nazi festival organized by Terry Long in
Alberta, Canada). He has traveled the world making numerous appearances before audiences, recounting his experiences in Auschwitz and warning of the dangers of Holocaust denial.
His life is retold in the book "Prisoner 88: The Man In Stripes" written by Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum.

Stefan Starzynski
Polish politician, economist, statesman, writer
President of Warsaw before and during Siege of Warsaw 1939
At the start of the invasion he refused to leave Warsaw with the other officials and diplomats.
He was a hero and symbol of the Defense of Warsaw and its citizens. His daily radio announcements
are the stuff of legends. He organized the distribution of food, water and supplies and fire fighting brigades, providing shelter for civilian refugees, and maintained the morale of the citizens. On October 27, 1939 he was arrested by the Gestapo and held at Pawiak Prison. It is believed that he was then transferred to Moabit Prison in Berlin and from there to Dachau concentration camp where he died.
His fate is undetermined as is the date: estimated to be October 17, 1943. 

Jozef Szajna
Polish scenery designer, stage director, playwright,
theoretician of the theatre, painter and graphic artist.
Survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald
Died June 25, 2008

Tadeusz Tanski
Polish automobile engineer, and designer of among others
the first Polish car CWS T-1.
Murdered in Auschwitz March 23, 1941

Wlaydslaw Tatarkiewicz
Polish philospher, historian of philosphy and art,
esthetician, ethicist.  He conducted underground lectures
in occupied-Warsaw.
Survived the war. Died April 4, 1980

Count Andreas Pius Cyril of Zoltowski-Romanus
Polish Nobleman
Died in Auschwitz on September 4, 1941. Age 59

"The world rightly knows what happened
to our Jewish brothers and sisters,
but it knows so little about us.  
We should not be forgotten."  

Reverend Jan Januszewski

Sources and Suggested Reading:
Wikipedia List of Inmates and Victims of Auschwitz
Wikipedia List of Holocaust Survivors
Wikipedia Auscwhitz Concentration Camp
Wikipedia List of Victims of Nazism
Wikipedia Nazi Crimes Against Ethnic Poles
Poles - Victims of Nazis (USHMM) (a pdf of booklet for download)


  1. A well written blog! This is a painful and difficult subject. Polish losses during WWII and the Holocaust hardly gets more than a footnote in the average history book. The loss of so many Polish intellectuals,artists, officers, and wonderful people will forever impact on the Polish Nation and Polish people forever. The Nazis murdered millions of innocent Jews as they murdered millions of innocent Poles. Hitler's "Final Solution" planned for the genocide of all Jews by 1945 as well as for the genocide of all Polish people in the world by 1975. The evil they did against the Polish people must never be forgotten. Your blog does an excellent job of documenting both the evil done to the Poles as well as the Poles courage in fighting on all levels against this evil.

  2. The impact of the WWII over Poland resulted in long term consequences like no other country in Europe. The polish nation was too big to be ignored and too determined to fight - and payed the price. Being betrayed by western allies (There was a pact between Britain/France and Poland) in September 1939 left Poles with no choice. Attack of Germans Sept.1st 1939 followed by Russians Sept.17th and occupation of Poland resulted with raising the biggest underground army in the history of world's resistance - the "AK" (Armia Krajowa). It doesn't surprise me that the main goal of occupants was to eliminate everyone who could be the potentially dangerous. doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, writers, artists... After WWII the rest was completed by Soviet Russia. This process took place till 1989! For many poles this is the date when the WWII and it's consequences truly ended in 1989.. Sad.

  3. My Father, Kazimierz Blazak, was a political prisoner (34762P) in Monthaussen. Interned following a show trial with five others in Poznan on 03/09/1943. He was the manager of an agricultural cooperative and his 'crime' was trying to breed cattle that would kill Germans but not affect Poles.

    All five co-defendants were convicted on the confession of a cowgirl with a learning disability and made a pact to last the war on internment. They were detailed to a satellite camp Schwechat-Wien, the site of Vienna airport, building the undercarraige of Heinkell bombers and all did survive being liberated on May 5th 1945, although one of them died two weeks later.

    My name's are Jan Tomasz, my uncle Jan and my Grandfather Tomasz, and others, were randomly selected,lined up and shot by the Nazi's in Szubin on 16th September 1939 in retaliation after 3 SS officers were blown up in an armoured car.

    Thankyou for remembering. Jan (Janblazak@hotmail.com)

  4. Dear Jan: I am very saddened to read about the horrible fate of your uncle, Jan, and your grandfather Tomasz during the war, and the internment of your father, Kazimierz in a Nazi concentration camp. I know how very painful it is for children of Holocaust victims (and survivors) to retell these tragic events. I very much appreciate that you took a moment to share these stories. We must keep alive the memory of all those innocent victims who perished in the war. May God bless their souls.

  5. God Bless Poland.
    God Bless All Poles and their Descendants wherever they may be spread throughout the globe.
    I am one of them.
    God Bless Me.

  6. My great grandfather was born in Dalewo Koznan Poznan and eventually came to America with his family in the early 1900s. In searching for information about his family in Poland I studied some Polish history and discovered that ethnic Poles were also targeted by Hitler. I had not realized the Poland had been so terrorized by the Germans. I just recently discovered that several Ratajczaks from the same area of Poland that he came from were victims of the holocaust and some could be relatives. It makes me so sad to think of it.

  7. My Grand father Adam Hammer immigrated to America in 1907. He left behind his entire family in Bibrka Ukraine(formerly Bobrka Galicia). His father was Jewish and his Mother was Polish. He was only able to regain contact with 1 of his 6 siblings after World War 2. He died in Philadelphia in 1971. I've been trying to find the rest of his family. This Spring I plan to visit my other Grandfather's family in Hoczew Lesko Poland. I will be the 1st generation to return to Poland. My cousin in Poland plans to escort me to Bibrka Ukraine to tour my Grandfather's town. We just recently found one another online. This was such a gift from God. I sat and thought of how many other Polish people never had the same opportunity. My hope is to find some living relatives of my Hammer family some day. If anyone recognizes the name and area please contact me by email. My address is lafrizzle@gmail.com
    Adams parents were: Filip Hammer & Marya Lutecka both from Bobrka.
    Countless families have been affected by Hitler.. We should never forget how many people died at the hands of this monster.
    May God bless all who have been affected by this madman. May God bless Poland and all of those who have suffered!!

  8. It is so unfortunate that even some Jewish people, of which I am a minor part, blame & hate the Poles for the Jewish extermination! I say that, under the circumstances, many Polish people felt likewise threatened, & maintained the attitude of "each man to himself," as they themselves felt they were "Targets" of the superiority minded German Nazis! In my little cleaning store in Chicago, quite a few Polish concentration camp survivors confided in me, telling me their stories, one in particular telling me how his fingers & toes were cut off when resisting SS officers' demands for oral & anal sex! I believe, that after centuries of suffering by the majority Poles, expecting suffering, war & hard labor as a part of life, say little about the WW 2 experience! It may be in the Polish national character to feel the pains, but not to express themselves in an obsessive way! Remember, while some Poles feel that the Jewish people, who held much power & influence in Poland, might have had the financial means & contacts to escape the carnage, whereas the poor commoners in Poland had nowhere to go or hide! To blame the poor, uneducated masses for their misfortune is misplaced! And, many Jews make no mention of the Polish patriots who had little, but fought mightily against the true evil, the German Nazi regime! Millions of Poles died & suffered, and only a few truly understand the breadth of Polish sacrifices & loses!! Long live Poland & all those who suffered over the centuries!! Thanks Tom

  9. Thank you Tom for your comments. During WWII Nazi and Soviet propaganda manipulated the fears, myths and suspicions that the Jews and Poles had of each other - with deadly consequences. More tragic is the fact that still today some Jews do not know the terrible fate of their Polish brethren during the war, nor of the extraordinary sacrifices made by tens of thousands of Polish people in the struggle to save their Jewish compatriots! I praise the Polish people for their incredible courage, their honour and sacrifices! The website Polish Greatness.com and its blog are dedicated to the memory of these and many other great Polish people. My hope is that their stories will live on in the hearts and minds of generations to come! God Bless Poland!