December 18, 2018




Hitler Ordered Extermination of Jews:  On December 18, 1941, Himmler asked Hitler, "What to do with the Jews of Russia?". Hitler replied "als Partisanen auszurotten" ("exterminate them as partisans").  According to Yehuda Bauer, an Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer, Hitler's remark is as close as historians will ever get to a clear, definitive order from Hitler for the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.  (Note:  From June to December 1941, Hitler embarked on an ill-conceived and unprepared invasion of the Soviet Union.  Code-named "Operation Barbarossa",  Hitler planned to conquer western Soviet Union, seize the oil reserves of the Caucasus, repopulate Soviet territories with German settlers, and use Slavs, in particular Poles, as slave labour for the Reich.)


Nazi Germans destroyed Polish palace:  On December 18, 1944, the Nazi Germans deliberately and completely destroyed Bruhel Palace (also known as Sandomierski Palace)  shortly after the Warsaw Uprising.  The Palace use to be situated at Piłsudski Square. It was one of the largest palaces in Poland, and one of the most exquisite examples of rococo architecture in pre-World War II Warsaw.  The palace was built between 1639-42 by Lorenzo de Sent for Crown Grand Chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński in Mannerist style, and adorned with sculptures - an allegory of Poland above the main portal, four figures of kings of Poland in the niches and a statue of Minerva crowning the roof.  ( Warsaw’s municipal government has decided to rebuild the Brühl Palace according to its historic shape, but adapting the interiors to either office space, a hotel, or as suggested by the National Bank of Poland, its base of banking operations in Warsaw.)


Polish Pilot Breaks Sound Barrier: Janusz Żurakowski was a Polish test pilot for Canada's AVRO.  On December 18, 1952, he broke the sound barrier diving the CF-100 fighter jet - the first straight-winged jet aircraft to ever achieve this feat.  During World War II, he saw combat during the invasion of Poland by Germany in September 1939, "Black September".  Żurakowski had his combat debut on September 2, 1939 flying an outdated PZL P.7 trainer against a squadron of seven German Dornier 17s over Deblin.  He was able to damage one of the Do17s but was forced to break off combat when his guns jammed. (During the interwar years, the PZL was state-of-the-art construction, and one of the first all-metal monoplane fighters in the world) He flew with several RAF squadrons during the Battle of Britain, shooting down enemy Nazi planes and often escorted USAAR bombers during daylight bombing raids. He was awarded the Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish honor, in 1943. He also received the Polish Cross of Valor and Bar (1941) and Second Bar (1943).


The Institute of National Remembrance– Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation IIPN) was founded on this day. It is a Polish government-affiliated research institute with lustration prerogatives, as well as prosecution powers. It was created by legislation enacted by the Parliament of Poland. The Institute specialises in the legal and historical examination of the 20th century history of Poland in particular. IPN investigates both Nazi and Communist crimes committed in Poland between 1939 and the Revolutions of 1989, then documents its findings and disseminates the results of its investigations to the public. Since its inception, the IPN has collected over 90 kilometres (56 mi) of archives, released 1,794 publications, organized 453 exhibits, held 817 conferences, and launched 30 educational internet portals. In the same period, the Institute researchers held interviews with over 103,000 witnesses and interrogated 508 individuals charged with criminal offences, leading to 137 sentences by the courts of justice.

December 17, 2018




Germans and Nuclear Fission:  Nuclear fission of heavy elements were discovered by Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann, on December 17, 1938.  Hahn was a chemist and pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry. He is considered the father of nuclear chemistry; he and Strassman were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944,  for the discovery and the radiochemical proof of nuclear fission.  He was opposed to Hitlers national socialism, and of persecution of the Jews by the Nazi Party. Albert Einstein (who was born six days after Hahn) wrote that Hahn was "one of the very few who stood upright and did the best he could in these years of evil". After World War II, Hahn became a passionate campaigner against the use of nuclear energy as a weapon. Fritz Strassman resigned from the Society of German Chemists in 1933  when it became part of a Nazi-controlled public corporation. When he was blacklisted he stated that  "despite my affinity for chemistry, I value my personal freedom so highly that to preserve it I would break stones for a living." During WWII, Fritz and his wife Maria Heckter hid a Jewish friend in their apartment for months, putting themselves and their three-year-old son at risk.  In 1985 Fritz Strassmann was recognized by Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem as Righteous Among the Nations for his courageous act.


German Cruiser Admiral Graff Spee was scuttled:  On December  17, 1939, Hans Langsdorff, commander of the Admiral Graff Spee gave the order to destroy all important equipment aboard the ship as well as disperse the ammunition supply throughout the ship, in preparation for the scuttling.  The next day, Langsdorff and 40 other men aboard the vessel were moved to the outer roadstead and an Argentine tug took the crew members.  At 20:55 the ship was scuttled before a crowd of 20,000 spectators. Multiple explosions occurred from the munitions set off jets of flames shooting high into the air and created a large cloud of smoke. The smoke was so dense that it obscured the ship which burned in the shallow water for the next two days. On December 20, Langsdorf shot himself in his Buenos Aires hotel room. He was in full dress uniform and lying on the ship's battle ensign.


Malmedy Massacre:  Members of the Nazi Kampfgruppe Peiper massacred 84 American prisoners of war at the Baugnez crossroads, near Malmedy, Belgium. The Germans responsible were part of the 1st SS Panzer Division, a combat unit, during the Battle of the Bulge. On December 17, 1944 sometime between noon and 1 pm, German units advanced towards the Baugnez crossroads, two miles south-east of Malmedy.  At the same time an American convoy of about thirty vehicles, was turning right heading towards Ligneuville and St. Virth.  The American units of B Battery of the 285th Artillery Observation Battalion, joined forces with the 7th Armored Division. When the German group spotted the American convoy they immediately opened fire, immobilized the first and last vehicles of the column to a halt.  The Americans surrendered. About 120 American troops were assembled in the open field when the SS troops suddenly opened fire with machine guns on the prisoners. The Americans tried to flee but were shot down.  43 managed to survive. When American troops recaptured the area on January 13, 1945, they located the scene of the massacre, and recovered the bodies. The memorial at Baugnez bears the names of the murdered soldiers.

December 16, 2018




Assassination of Polish President:   Just five days after taking office, Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated on December 16, 1922, while attending an art exhibit in the National Gallery of Art “Zachęta”. The assassin was a painter, Eligiusz Niewiadomski, who had connections with the right wing National Democratic Party, He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. He was executed outside the Warsaw Citadel on January 31, becoming a martyr to right-wing extremists.  During the elections in 1922, Narutowicz was supported by the center-left, in particular the Polish People's Party and by national minorities. He was subjected to harsh criticism from the National Democrats and far-right Endecja party. Strong zealots, ultra-Catholic unions and nationalists accused him of political indifference and for sympathy towards the Jews. Upon defeating the lead candidate Maurycy Zamoyski, Gabriel Narutowicz was elected the first president of the Second Polish Republic. In the first days of his presidency, Narutowicz knew that he did not have a majority government and as a gesture offered the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs to his rival Zamoyski.


Zbigniew Eugeniusz Religa (dob) was a Polish cardiac surgeon and politician. Religa performed the first successful heart transplant in Poland in 1987. The patient was Tadeusz Żytkiewicz (who died in 2017) outliving the surgeon who gave him a new heart.  Dr. Religa passed away on March 8, 2009.  The surgery lasted for 23 hours. After the surgery an American photographer, James Stanfield from National Geographic, captured the famous, gripping photograph of Religa monitoring his patient's vitals on medical equipment. Religa pursued a career in politics. In 1993, he became a member of the Polish senate and was re-elected in 2001. As the centre and right wing of the Polish political landscape has been in constant flux ever since democracy was reinstated, Religa was a member of several parties and organizations. In 1993, he co-founded the Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (BBWR) which gathered behind president Lech Wałęsa and was its leader in 1994. In 1995, Religa became the chairman of the short-lived party "The Republicans" founded by renegade BBWR members who refused to back Wałęsa in the presidential elections of 1995. However, Religa refused to run for president himself, and the Republicans eventually disintegrated when they failed to enter the Sejm in 1997.


Nazi German Cabinet Meeting.  During a cabinet meeting, Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, stated - "Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourselves of all feeling of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is possible in order to maintain there the structure of the Reich as a whole..."  Hans Frank was Nazi Germany's chief jurist in the occupied Poland "General Government" territory. He was directly responsible for the mas murder of Jews during World War II.  He was captured by American troops on May 3,1945, at Tegernsee in southern Bavaria.   During the trial he converted, guided by Fr Sixtus O'Connor OFM, to the Roman Catholic faith, and claimed to have had a series of so-called religious experiences. Frank voluntarily surrendered 43 volumes of his personal diaries to the Allies, the contents of which were used against him as evidence of his crimes. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed.

The Nazi Germans created the Brześć Ghetto on December 16, 1941. By mid-October of the following year, most of the approximately 20,000 Jewish inhabitants of Brześć were murdered.  On the orders of Karl Eberhard Schongarth,  over 5,000 were executed at the Brest Fortress while the rest were sent to the secluded forest of the Bronna Góra extermination site, under the guise of 'resettlement'. (Note:  In September 1939 during the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, the town of Brześć (Brest) was invaded by the German troops who promptly handed the town over to the Russians during the German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk  (September 22, 1939). The entire province was soon annexed by the Soviet Union following mock elections by the NKVD secret police. The mass deportations of Poles and Jews to Siberia followed.  At the close of WWII, Stalin demanded that Poland's borders be redrawn and that Brześć be incorporated into the Belorussian SSR of the Soviet Union. The remaining Polish population was expelled and resettled back to a new Poland before the end of 1946. The Jewish community was never restored.


The Monument to the fallen Shipyard Workers 1970  was unveiled on December 16, 1980 near the entrance to what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland. It commemorates the 42 people killed during the Coastal cities events in December 1970. It was created in the aftermath of the Gdańsk Agreement and is the first monument to the victims of communist oppression to be erected in a communist country. Lech Walesa, leader and founder of Solidarnosc, referred to this enormous steel structure as “a harpoon driven through the body of a whale. No matter how hard the whale struggles, it can never get rid of it.”  The monument is marked by a poignant quote by Czeslaw Milosz, a famous Polish poet. It reads, "You who have harmed simple man, mocking him with your laughter, you kill him, someone else will be born, and your deeds and words will be written down". (Read December 14, 1970)


The Pacification of Wujek:   On December 16, 1981,  three days after the imposition of martial law in Poland, the Polish police and army converged on the Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice, Poland,  to put a stop to the strike action taken by the miners. It culminated in the massacre of nine of the striking miners.  Pro-Solidarity miners were demonstrating against the declaration of the martial law ordered by General Jaruzelski, and were dispersed by the troops of the Polish army and police.  The forces consisted of eight companies of riot police (ZOMO, supported by ORMO (police reservists) and NOMO) equipped with seven water cannons, and three companies of military infantry fighting vehicles (each of 10 vehicles) and one company of tanks. The miners tried to fight them off using only their tools. During the melee, many strikers were injured but managed to injure 41 of the troops, including 11 severely.  Ultimately, a special platoon of ZOMO was called in and were ordered to open fire and "shoot to kill" the strikers.  Nine strikers died - Jan Stawisiński, Joachim Gnida, Józef Czekalski, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Bogusław Kopczak, Andrzej Pełka, Zbigniew Wilk and Zenon Zając. and 21 others were wounded. One of the miners died in hospital 20 days later from severe head wounds. (nb:  In consequence, on December 23, 1981, the United States imposed economic sanctions against the People's Republic of Poland. In 1982 the United States suspended most favored nation trade status until 1987 and vetoed Poland's application for membership in the International Monetary Fund.)


Polish Doctor Saved Jews:  Dr. Eugene Lazowski born Eugeniusz Sławomir Łazowski died on December 16, 2006.  He was a Polish medical doctor who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by creating a fake epidemic which played on German phobias about hygiene.  He risked the death penalty, imposed by the Germans on Poles who try to help the Jews.  He used a medical discovery by Matulewicz, by which healthy people could be injected with a vaccine that would make them test positive for typhus, but without experiencing the disease. Dr. Lazowski applied this technique and created a fake outbreak of epidemic typhus in and around the town of Rozwadow (now in Stalowa Wola). The Germans quanrantined the area, thus saving about 8,000 Polish Jews from certain death in the concentration camps.

December 15, 2018




Creator of Esperanto:  Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof (dob) was a Polish-Jewish medical doctor, inventor, and writer. He is most widely known for creating Esperanto, the most successful constructed language in the world. He grew up fascinated by the idea of a world without war and believed that this could happen with the help of a new international auxiliary language, which he first developed in 1873 while still in school.  In 1905 Zamenhof received the Légion d'honneur for creating Esperanto, and in 1910 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, he did not win, as the prize was granted to the International Peace Bureau.  Streets and buses in Warsaw have been named after Zemenhof, or "Esperanto".


Hero of the Warsaw Uprising:  John Ward (dob) was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force decorated twice for bravery. During World War II he was a member of a bomber crew shot down and taken prisoner but escaped. He was recruited by Stefan and Zofia Korbonski to prepare English reports for transmission to London via Morse Code. He prepared 64 eyewitness reports of the fighting as a war correspondent for London's The Times. Ward participated in the clandestine activities of Armia Krajowa and the Polish resistance movement's "Błyskawica" (Lighting) radio station during the Warsaw Uprising, airing the English-language broadcasts, in addition to contributing over 100 reports. He proudly wore the red and white armband of the Polish underground, and the Polish cap eagle of the Polish Home Army. He was wounded in action in the thigh by mortar shrapnel.  The Polish forces decorated him with the Cross of Valour for his bravery, awarded personally by General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski.


Eichmann Hanged.  On  December 15, 1961, Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death by hanging.  He was a Nazi German SS officer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, managing the logistics of the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and Nazi German extermination camps throughout Europe during WWII. Eichmann was captured by the Mossad in Argentina on May 11, 1960 and put on trial in a widely publicised trial in Jerusalem. He was convicted on 15 counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in a criminal organisation.  He was deemed responsible for the inhumane conditions on board the deportation trains and for obtaining Jews to fill those trains. He was also found guilty of crimes against the Poles, Slovenes and Gypsies. He was found guilty of membership in three organisations that had been declared criminal at the Nuremberg trials: the Gestapo, the SD, and the SS.  When considering the sentence, the judges concluded that Eichmann had not merely been following orders, but believed in the Nazi cause wholeheartedly and had been a key perpetrator of the genocide. He was hanged a few minutes after midnight on June 1, 1962.

December 14, 2018




Polish King Elected.  The Polish Parliament elected Stephen Bathory as King of Poland on December 14, 1575.  He was the son of Stephen VIII Báthory of the noble Hungarian Báthory family and his wife Catherine Telegdi.  Báthory faced opposition to his election by Emperor Maximilian, who was responsible for fostering internal opposition and who was prepared to take military action against Bathory.  Initially, the representatives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania refused to recognize Báthory as Grand Duke, and demanded concessions - that he return the estates of his wife Anne to the Lithuanian treasury, hold Sejm conventions in both Lithuania and Poland, and reserve the highest governmental official offices in Lithuania for Lithuanians. Bathory accepted the conditions and was recognized as Grand Duke of Lithuania, Duke of Ruthenia and Samogitia. However, with Maximilian's sudden death, Báthory's situation improved markedly. But the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) still refused to recognize his election without significant concessions. It resulted in the Danzig rebellion. Most armed opposition collapsed when the prolonged Siege of Danzig by Báthory's forces was lifted, as an agreement was reached. The Danzig army was defeated in a field battle on April 17, 1577. But since Báthory's armies failed to take the city by force, a compromise was reached. In exchange for some of Danzig's demands being favorably reviewed, the city recognised Báthory as ruler of Poland and paid the sum of 200,000 zlotys in gold as compensation.


Poland's Transfer of Power:  On December 14, 1922 at the Belweder Palace, Josef Piłsudski officially transferred his powers as Chief of State to his friend Narutowicz, who had been elected President, on December 9.  On December 16, 1922, Narutowitz was assassinated by a right-wing painter and art critic, Eligiusz Niewiadomski. The gunman originally intended to assassinate Piłsudski but had changed his target, influenced by National Democrat anti-Narutowicz propaganda.  The assassination was a major shock to Piłsudski, who had believed  that Poland could function as a democracy.  It changed his perspective and made him support government with an iron hand. He became Chief of the General Staff and, together with Minister of Military Affairs Władysław Sikorski, managed to stabilize the situation, quelling unrest with a brief state of emergency.


The Polish 1970 protests:  As a result of a sudden spike in the prices of food and consumer items, massive protests occurred in northern Poland between December 14 and 19, 1970.  Gomułka's right-hand man, Zenon Kliszko, made matters worse by ordering the Polish People's Army and Citizen's Militia, to open fire on workers as they tried to return to their factories. Apparently the communist regime suspected that a wave of sabotage was occurring, thus legitimizing a brutal government crackdown on protesters.  The action resulted in the deaths of at least 42 people, and more than 1,000 wounded.  In Gdynia the soldiers were under orders to stop workers from returning to work and on December 17 they fired right into the crowd of workers emerging from their trains - hundreds of workers were killed or wounded. The protest movement then spread to other cities, leading to strikes and occupations. The government mobilized 5,000 members of special squads of police and 27,000 soldiers equipped with heavy tanks and machine guns.  The crisis led to a meeting of the Party leadership in Warsaw where they agreed that a massive working-class revolt was inevitable unless drastic steps were taken.  Gomulka, Kliszko and other leaders were forced to resign, and Moscow drafted Edward Gierek as the new Polish leader. Price increases were reversed, wage increases announced, and sweeping economic and political changes were promised. Gierek went to Gdańsk and met the workers, apologising for the mistakes of the past and promised a political renewal. He confided to the workers that as a worker himself he would now govern for the people.

December 13, 2018




Edmund Louis Gray Zalinski (dob) was a Polish-born American soldier, military engineer and inventor. He is famous for the development of the pneumatic dynamite torpedo-gun.  Zalinski was born in Kórnik, Prussian and emigrated with his parents to the United States in 1853. He attended school in Seneca Falls, New York and high school in Syracuse until 1863. He dropped out at the age of 15 and lying about his age, enlisted in the United States Army. He served during the American Civil War as aide-de-camp on the staff of General Nelson A. Miles from October 1864. In February 1865, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Second New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, and was recommended for promotion for gallant and meritorious conduct at the Battle of Hatcher's Run, Virginia. He continued on General Miles's staff until the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in April 1865.


Neuengamme Concentration Camp:  On December 13, 1938, the Nazi SS established the Neuengamme concentration camp, as a subcamp to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and transported 100 prisoners from Sachsenhausen as forced laborers to begin constructing the new camp and operate the brickworks.  Heinrich Himmler inspected the site in January 1940 and assessed Neuengamme brick production below standard. By spring of the same year, the SS and the city of Hamburg signed a contract for the construction of a larger, more modern brick factory, an expanded a connecting waterway, and a direct supply of bricks and prisoners for construction work in the city. Within months,the Neuengamme concentration camp became an independent camp,  and transports began to arrive from all over Germany and soonafter the rest of Europe. Between 1940 and 1942, the death rate had risen greatly, and was dealt with by the construction of  a crematorium onsite.  After the war in Stalingrad, the Nazis imprisoned Soviet prisoners of war in the camp. By the end of 1944, the total number of prisoners grew to about 49,000 ( 12,000 in Neuengamme and 37,000 in the subcamps)  including roughly 10,000 women in the various subcamps for women.  The  SS practice had a policy of “extermination through labour”. Prisoners were forced to work for 10-12 hours per day and were killed as a result of brutal beatings at the hands of the guards, or due to inhumane condition, malnourishment, and disease.


Martial Law in Poland:   On December 13, 1981, Polish General Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland in an attempt to crush the rise of the Solidarity movement. Jaruzelski claimed that martial law had to be instigated in order to save Poland from the potential military intervention by the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Warsaw Pact countries (as had occurred in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968). Thousands of opposition activists were arrested and imprisoned, 91 were killed. Civil liberties were drastically reduced. Consumer prices skyrocketed leading to an economic crisis. It reduced real wages by 20% or more and forced the Polish people to ration even the most basic of foodstuffs. Over 700,000 Poles left Poland for the West between 1981 and 1989. Though martial law was lifted on July 22, 1983,  many of the political prisoners were not released until a general amnesty in 1986.

December 12, 2018




German Handmaids:   The Lebensborn e. V. (e.V. stands "fount of life", was created on December 12, 1935, in an effort to  counteract falling birth rates in Germany, as well as to promote the concept of Nazi eugenics.  The organization, located in Munich, was a division of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and served as a society for Nazi German leaders. The organization also provided welfare to its mostly unmarried mothers, encouraged anonymous births by unmarried women at their maternity homes, and mediated adoption of these children by likewise "racially pure and healthy" German parents, particularly SS members and their families.  German women who gave birth to the most Aryans, racially pure German babies, were awarded the Cross of Honour.  The Nazis legalized abortion and eugenics to dispose of deformed or disabled babies.  By 1939, the Lebensborn began its destruction of the children of other nations by kidnapping children right out of the arms of their parents - children mainly from Yugoslavia and Poland, but also Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Norway.  Himmler was reported to have said the following, ".....It is our duty to take [the children] with us to remove them from their environment... either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people or we destroy this blood....."


Struma Cast Adrift:  On December 12, 1941, the MV Struma, a British vessel, departed from the port of Constanta, Romania, and planned to reach Palestine, with 10 crew and 769 Jewish refugees aboard. The vessel was chartered by the New Zionist Organization, and Betar Zionist Youth Movement. The diesel engine was not working so a tug had to pull Struma out to sea. But she drifted throughout the night as the crew tried desperately to fix it.  On the night of the 13th december, the Struma transmitted distress signals because the diesel engine could not be repaired. The tug returned and its crew offered to repair the engine in exchange for gold wedding rings of the passengers as payment.  The vessel was soon on its way, but the engine gave out again two days later, and the Struma had to be towed to Istanbul. Turkish authorities detained the vessel in Istanbul but in February 1942, forced the ship back out to sea and cast her adrift.  In February 1942, the Struma was intercepted by a Russian submarine and sunk as an "enemy target."

Hitler on the Destruction of Jews:  On December 12, 1941, a secret meeting took place in the Reich Chancellery between Hitler and the highest ranking officials of the Nazi Party. At this meeting, Hitler declared the ongoing extermination of the Jewish race, but unlike the Wannsee Conference (January 1942), there were no official records about it.  However, certain entries written in the diaries by Joseph Goebbels and Hans Frank confirmed this is fact. Goebbels made the following entry in his diary on the same day of the meeting: (translated to English) ".....Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. He prophesied to the Jews that, if they yet again brought about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation. That was not just a phrase. The world war is here, and the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary consequence...." (note:  The Jews did not start the world war.  Hitler was enraged with the military restrictions placed on Germany by the terms of Treaty of Versailles, at the close of World War One, that he began a massive secret re-militarization of the German war machine, far exceeding all limitations.  He wanted to destroy Poland, in particular the Jews, and he possessed a Napoleonic obsession of invading and conquering Russia - as well as the rest of the world.)

December 11, 2018




Gabriel Narutowicz became the first President of the Second Republic of Poland when it regained its sovereignty after World War I.   Narutowicz held office for only five days from December 11 to December 16,  1922 when he was assassinated.  During the elections in 1922,  having defeated the leading opponent Maurycy Zamoyski, Narutowicz gained support from the center-left, in particular, the Polish People's Party, and by national minorities. However, he was harshly criticized by members of the right-wing National Democrats and far-right Endecja party. The Ultra-Catholic unions and nationalists also targeted him for what they considered political indifference on his part, and for his sympathy towards the Jews.   Five days after being elected President, Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated by oppositionist Eligiusz Niewiadomski while viewing paintings at the Zachęta Art Gallery.  The assassin was a painter who had ties to the National Democratic Party.  He was sentenced to death and executed outside the Warsaw Citadel on January 31.  Narutowicz'  funeral was attended by almost 500,000 people. It  was a manifestation of the peoples desire for peace which had a direct effect of diminishing the power of the far-right movement in the upcoming years. Narutowicz was buried with honors on December 22, 1922 in the vault of St. John's Cathedral in Warsaw.


King Edward Abdicated Throne of British Empire.  On the night of December 11, 1936, Edward made a radio broadcast to explain his decision to abdicate in which he professed his love for Wallis Simpson. He said, ".....I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love....." Henceforth,  Edward departed Britain for Austria the following day alone. He could not join Simpson until her divorce became final several months later.  His brother, the Duke of York, succeeded to the throne as George VI. George VI's elder daughter, Princess Elizabeth, became heir presumptive. (Editors note:  The British government surely had to be relieved upon the news of the abdication, since Edward was openly a Nazi-sympathizer. Edward and Wallis had socialized with Hitler and were very cordial towards him, a liaison that gave the Nazi Germans great anticipation of acquiring England as an ally in the war to come.)


Hitler declared war on the United States:  On December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States declaration of war against the Japanese Empire, Nazi Germany declared war against the United States. Hitler's declaration was unilateral with barely any prior consultation, and alleged that the US government was responsible for a series of provocations.  On the same day,  the United States declared war on Germany.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt then requested Congress for a declaration of war on Germany saying, "Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization."  America had to commit almost ninety percent of its military resources during the war to defeat Nazi Germany.

December 10, 2018




The Nobel Prize for Physics was presented on this day in 1903.  It was divided, one half awarded to Antoine Henri Becquerel "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity", the other half jointly to Pierre Curie and Marie Curie, née Sklodowska "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel".  (Note:  Marie Curie was born in Poland and became a naturalized French citizen. She is renown for her work in chemistry and physics, and conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.  Curie always identified herself as Marie Skłodowska Curie, preferring to use both surnames. She never abandoned her Polish roots. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland.  She named the first chemical element that she discovered in 1898 "polonium" after her beloved native country.


The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Henryk Sienkiewicz "because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer"   He is best remembered for his historical novels, especially for his internationally known best-seller Quo Vadis (1896).  Sienkiewicz was born into an impoverished Polish noble family in Russian-ruled Congress Poland. In the late 1860s he began publishing journalistic and literary pieces. In the late 1870s he traveled to the United States, sending back travel essays that increased his popularity among Polish readers. In the 1880s he began serializing novels that further increased his popularity and soon became one of the most popular Polish writers of the 19th - 20th centuries, achieving international renown.


The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Madame Curie,  "in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element." (see also December 10, 1903)


The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Wladyslaw Reymont "for his great national epic, The Peasants" Reymont's last book, Bunt (Revolt), published in 1924, describes a revolt by animals which take over their farm in order to introduce "equality". The revolt quickly degenerates into abuse and bloody terror.  The story was a metaphor for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and was banned in communist Poland from 1945 to 1989, along with George Orwell's similar novella, Animal Farm (published in Britain in 1945). It is unknown whether Orwell knew of Reymont's Revolt thaat was published  two decades earlier.


Polish Government Reported the Holocaust to the world:  A report was published by the Polish Government In Exile to its allies, entitled, " The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland ".  This was the first official government-documented alert about the Holocaust and genocide of Poles addressed to the governments of the United Nations. This report was made possible by Jan Karski, a Polish underground resistance fighter, who witnessed first-hand the Nazi German atrocities against his Polish-Jewish compatriots. In 1942 Karski was appointed  by Cyryl Ratajski, the Polish Government Delegate's Office in Poland, to carry out a secret mission. Karski was to contact Sikorski as well as various other Polish politicians and inform them about Nazi German atrocities being committed in occupied Poland.   To gather evidence, Karski was smuggled by Jewish underground leaders into the Warsaw Ghetto to witness what was happening to the Jews. On another mission, Karski was disguised as an Estonian camp guard, probably at Bełżec death camp. During an interview with Hannah Rosen in 1995, Karski said about the failure to rescue most of the Jews from mass murder. The following is an excerpt:  "........It was easy for the Nazis to kill Jews, because they did it. The Allies considered it impossible and too costly to rescue the Jews, because they didn't do it. The Jews were abandoned by all governments, church hierarchies and societies, but thousands of Jews survived because thousands of individuals in Poland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Holland helped to save Jews. Now, every government and church says, "We tried to help the Jews", because they are ashamed, they want to keep their reputations. They didn't help, because six million Jews perished, but those in the government, in the churches they survived. No one did enough....."


The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created and ratified on December 10, 1948, listing 30 Articles which specify basic, fundamental rights of human beings around the world. Article 1 stipulates that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." It forms the basic framework around which all the other Articles are built.  Though it was not a treaty, it established a fundamental basis of human rights, which were elaborated in subsequent international treaties, constitutions and other laws. It officially came into force in 1976. Some legal experts have surmised that invoking the UDHR for more than 50 years, has made it binding according to customary international law. However, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, concluded that the UDHR "does not of its own force impose obligations as a matter of international law." Other national courts agree that th UDHR is not a part of domestic law. 48 countries voted in favor of the declaration, while 8 countries abstained (Byelorussian SSR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR, Yugoslavia, Saudi Arabia, Union of South Africa.)


The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Tadeusz Reichstein, Edward Calvin Kendall, and Philip Showalter Hench  "for their discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects" In 1933, Reichstein succeeded in synthesizing vitamin C  in what is now called the Reichstein process.


The Nobel Prize for Physiology was awarded to Dr. Andrzej Viktor "Andrew" Schally and Roger Guillemin "for their discoveries concerning the peptide hormone production of the brain"  In September 1939, when Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Schally escaped along with Poland's President Ignacy Mościcki, Prime Minister and the whole cabinet to then neutral Romania, where they were interned. Schally was born in Wilno, Second Polish Republic (since 1945 Vilnius, Lithuania). He was the son of Gen. Brigadier Kazimierz Schally, who was Chief of the Cabinet of President Ignacy Mościcki of Poland, and Maria (Łącka).


The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Isaac Bashevis Singer "for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life".  Singer was a fervent vegetarian.When asked if he became a vegetarian for health reasons, he responded, " I did it for the health of the chickens."


The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Czeslaw Milosz "who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man's exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts".  Milosz was a Polish poet, prose writer, translator and diplomat. He defected to the West in 1951 and published The Captive Mind (1953) which became a classic of anti-Stalinism.  During World War II, Miłosz remained in Warsaw, under Nazi Germany's "General Government".  He attended underground lectures by Władysław Tatarkiewicz, the Polish philosopher and historian of philosophy and aesthetics. He did not join the Polish Home Army's resistance or participate in the Warsaw Uprising, partly due to his impulse for self-preservation and partly because he saw perceived its leadership as too right-wing. He died on August 14, 2004 at the age of 93.  Miłosz is honoured as one of the "Righteous Among Nations" by Israel's Yad  Vashem.  A poem by Miłosz appears on a Gdańsk memorial to protesting shipyard workers who had been killed by government security forces in 1970.


The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Roald Hoffman, and Kenichi Fukui "for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions" Hoffman was born in  Złoczów, Poland (now Ukraine), to a Jewish family. After the Germans invaded, his father was arrested and imprisoned in a labor camp and later tortured and killed (the Nazi Germans found out he was planning to supply armaments to the camp inmates). Most of his family perished in the Holocaust.


The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Lech Walesa.  "....For he is a victor in the eyes of the ordinary worker or farm labourer; he is a victor in the eyes of the people and their church. And he is one of the great spokesmen in the world today for the longing for freedom that can never be silenced. (He) has made humanity bigger and more inviolable. His ambivalent good fortune is that he has won a victory which is not of this, our political, world. The presentation of the Peace Prize to him today is a homage to the power of victory which abides in one person's belief, in his vision and in his courage to follow his call." Lech Walesa worked as an electrician at the Lenin shipyards and became a trade-union activist. He co-founded and headed Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995


The Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Georges Charpak "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber". In 1959, he had joined the staff of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, where he invented and developed the multiwire proportional chamber. The chamber was patented and that quickly superseded the old bubble chambers, allowing for better data processing. This new creation had been made public during 1968. Charpak  was a Polish-born, French physicist from a Polish Jewish family.


The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Sir Joseph Rotblat KCMG CBE FRS, and to Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms". Rotblat believed that scientists should always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work. He became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race.


The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Wisława Szymborska,  "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality".  Like that of other intellectuals in post-war Poland Szymborska adhered to the People's Republic of Poland's (PRL) official ideology early in her career, she gradually became estranged from socialist ideology, and finally left membership in the party in 1966.


During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Alfreda and Bolesław Pietraszek were Polish couple who sheltered several Jewish families.  A total of 18 Jews from five families hid in their attic: the Miedżyńskis, the Solerszes, the Lenders, the Przepiarkas and the Kopytas – a young couple with a baby.  Theyremained in the Pietraszeks’ home for almost two years. After the liberation of Poland,  the Pietrazek' asked them not tell anyone about their part in saving them, for fear of retribution on the part of Polish nationalists. In fact, this fear was well grounded. Just on the mere suspicion that they had helped Jews resulted in a grenade being thrown into the Pietraszeks’ house. Bolesław was wounded, but survived.


The Nobel Prize for Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Leonid "Leo" Hurwicz (with Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson) For Hurwicz, in pioneering the field and for having " introduced some of the key perspectives and concepts in the notion of  incentive compatibility. Hurwicz was educated and grew up in Poland, and became a refugee in the United States after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. In 1941, Hurwicz worked as a research assistant for Paul Samuelson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oskar Lange at the University of Chicago. He was among the first economists to recognize the value of game theory and was a pioneer in its application. He developed models to illustrate the interactions of individuals and institutions, markets and trade.

December 9, 2018




Roosevelt Radio Message:  In his fireside chat, US President Roosevelt addressed the American people on radio,  informing them that America was going to war. "...........Your Government knows that for weeks Germany has been telling Japan that if Japan did not attack the United States, Japan would not share in dividing the spoils with Germany when peace came. She was promised by Germany that if she came in she would receive the complete and perpetual control of the whole of the Pacific area—and that means not only the Far East, but also all of the islands in the Pacific, and also a stranglehold on the west coast of North, Central, and South America..........We know also that Germany and Japan are conducting their military and naval operations in accordance with a joint plan. That plan considers all peoples and Nations which are not helping the Axis powers as common enemies of each and every one of the Axis powers.......We are now in the midst of a war, not for conquest, not for vengeance, but for a world in which this Nation, and all that this Nation represents, will be safe for our children. We expect to eliminate the danger from Japan, but it would serve us ill if we accomplished that and found that the rest of the world was dominated by Hitler and Mussolini." (NB. Roosevelt's fireside chat of September 3, 1939 was quite the opposite when he said, "This nation will remain a neutral nation.")


The Doctor's Trial:  The trial was the first of 12 trials conducted by the United States Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (not to be confused with the Nuremberg Trials). It was also called the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials". At the Doctor's Trial,  23 Nazi German SS doctors and scientists were put on trial for crimes against humanity. They were accused of conducting human experimentation that led to murder of prisoners. Sixteen were found guilty, but only 7 of them were hanged. Twenty of the 23 defendants were medical doctors (Viktor Brack, Rudolf Brandt, and Wolfram Sievers were Nazi officials).  Josef Mengele, one of the leading Nazi doctors was an insane, psychopathic killer, and had evaded capture. Among the defendants, 7 were acquitted, 7 received death sentences while the remainder received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.


Poland's Presidential Election:  Lech Wałęsa won Poland's 1st direct presidential election:  On December 9, 1990 in the second round of elections, Wałęsa won, defeating Prime Minister Mazowiecki and other candidates to become Poland's first freely-elected head of state in 63 years, and the first non-Communist head of state in 45 years.  In 1993 he founded his own political party, the Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (BBWR); the acronym paralleled that of Józef Piłsudski's "Nonpartisan Bloc for Cooperation with the Government," of 1928–35. (During his presidency, Wałęsa guided Poland through economic privatization and transition to a free-market economy (the Balcerowicz Plan), Poland's first completely free parliamentary elections in 1991,  and a period of redefinition of the country's foreign relations. He succeeded in the negotiation of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Poland, and successfully negotiated a substantial reduction in foreign debts and supported Poland's entry into NATO and the European Union. (Note: In August 2017, ten Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Lech Wałęsa, urged Saudi Arabia to stop the executions of 14 young people for participating in the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests.)

December 8, 2018




The Curzon Line defined Poland's Eastern Border: The Curzon Line had its beginnings after the end of World War I, when the Supreme War Council  on December 8, 1919 formally established a temporary demarcation line between the eastern border of the re-emerged Second Republic of Poland and its neighbour Russia. The Allies made the decision at their discretion, as per Article 87 of the Versailles Treaty. The Line was later named after the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon of Kedleston, however no mention was made that it might become a permanent boundary. The ensuing Polish-Russian War was fought with neither side accepting the proposed Line. Stalin anticipated that the war would end in total Polish capitulation, however, Poland ultimately won the war.  The final Peace of Riga (or Treaty of Riga) provided Poland with almost 135,000 square kilometres (52,000 sq mi) of land that was, on average, about 250 kilometres (160 mi) east of the Curzon line. (When Poland was invaded by Germany and Russia in September 1939, Russia seized territory according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but it did not follow the Curzon Line, but farther beyond it, annexing it to Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR.


Polish Pilots in the RAF. The first contingents of Polish pilots reached Great Britain on December 8, 1939.  More transports followed until by early June 1940 there were a total of 2,164 Polish air personnel in Britain where they were assigned to various squadrons of the RAF.  By the end of July 1940, an additional  6,220 Polish air personnel reached Britain,  bringing the total of Polish airmen in Britain to 8,384 men.   When Poland was invaded by the Nazi Germans on September 1, 1939 the Polish defences were severely strained under a powerful German assault. Polish armies collapsed shortly after September 17, 1939, when the Soviets launched a surprise invasion from the east. Polish forces fought with great courage , but were crushed in a matter of five weeks. The Polish government and armed forces evacuated en masse from Poland and made their way to France, through Hungary and Romania, in order to continue the fight against the Nazis and the Soviets. But when France fell on May 10, 1940, the Poles evacuated to Great Britain, which they perceived as the last Island of Hope.


The Krupp Trial was the tenth of 12 trials of the United States Military Tribunal at Nuremberg (not to be confused with the Nuremberg Trials). It was also called the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials". The trial was held from December 8, 1947 to July 31, 1948.  The accused were twelve former directors of the Krupp Group,who were responsible for arming the German military forces, and for using slave labor in their companies. The main defendant was Alfried Krupp, CEO of the Krupp Holding.  One defendant (Pfirsch) was acquitted, while the others received prison sentences between three and twelve years. The main defendant Alfried Krupp was ordered to sell all his possessions.  His company had used 100,000 people as slave labor, which included 23,000 POWs.

December 7, 2018




Gestapo-NKVD Conferences:  From December 6 to 7, 1939 the Gestapo and Soviet NKVD held conferences in Krakow, located in the General Gouvernment in central Poland (Nazi-German administrative center). The second round of conferences were held from December 8 to 9, 1939 in  Zakopane, a resort town in the Tatra Mountains of southern Poland.  Top officials from the Gestapo and NKVD met to discuss mutual cooperation the tactics to use for dealing with Polish resistance and the exchange of prisoners of war. There were seven Gestapo-NKVD Conferences; the first was held on September 27, 1939 in Brzesc, and the last in March 1940 in Krakow. The German-Soviet alliance was established with the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on August  23, 1939. On September 1, Nazi  Germany invaded Poland on three fronts, and on September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east.


Nazi German Commander of Chelmno Death Camp.  On December 7, 1941, Herbert Lange became the first commandant of the Chelmno, a Nazi German Death Camp. He organized this camp by orders of Himmler and Greiser. According to some sources, it was Lange who selected Chelmno as the location. The Death Camp was situated about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the Polish city of Lodz, which the Nazi Germans renamed Litzmannstadt.  It operated from December 8, 1941, coinciding with Operation Reinhard during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, and again from June 23, 1944 to January 18, 1945.  Up to 340,000 men, women, and children were gassed at Chelmno. On January 17, 1945 Russian troops captured the town of Chełmno but by then, the Nazi Germans had destroyed evidence of the camp's existence, leaving no prisoners behind.

Pearl Harbor Attack:  On December 7, 1941, without any formal declaration of war, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service launched a suprise attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. Twenty-one American ships were attacked and either lost or damaged during the attack. Of the 402 American aircraft stationed in Hawaii, 188 were destroyed and 159 damaged, 155 of them on the ground. Hardly any aircraft were ready to defend the base except for eight Army Air Forces pilots. They succeeded in getting airborne during the attack and each of them were credited with downing at least one Japanese aircraft during the attack: 1st Lt. Lewis M. Sanders, 2nd Lt. Philip M. Rasmussen, 2nd Lt. Kenneth M. Taylor, 2nd Lt. George S. Welch, 2nd Lt. Harry W. Brown, and 2nd Lt. Gordon H. Sterling Jr. Sterling was shot down by Lt. Fujita over Kaneohe Bay and is listed as Body Not Recovered (not Missing In Action). Lt. John L. Dains was killed by friendly fire returning from a victory over Kaawa. Of 33 PBYs in Hawaii, 24 were destroyed, and six others damaged beyond repair. (The three on patrol returned undamaged.) Friendly fire brought down some U.S. planes on top of that, including five from an inbound flight from Enterprise. Japanese attacks on barracks killed additional personnel.  American casualties were 2,335 killed,  and 1,143 wounded. The next day the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan, and the US entered WWII.


Treaty between West Germany and Poland:  On December 7, 1970, the Treaty of Warsaw was signed by Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany and Prime Minister Jozef Cyrankiewicz of the People's Republic of Poland. (It was ratified by the German Bundestag on May 17,1972.)  West Germany and Poland agreed to the stipulations of the Warsaw Treaty,  that is, the acceptance of the existing border between Germany and Poland - the Oder-Neisse line, which was imposed on Germany by the Allied powers after the end of World War Two at the Potsdam Conference.  The subject had been a very sensitive topic since 1945, as Poland was concerned that a German government might attempt to reclaim some of the former eastern territories.  Willy Brandt was vehemently criticised by the conservative CDU/CSU opposition, who preceived his policy as a betrayal of German national interests, but were consoled with the belief that the Treaty was not a final arbiter.  According to Article IV of the Warsaw Treaty, it stated that previous treaties, such as the Potsdam Agreement, were not superseded by this latest agreement. Therefore the provisions of this treaty could be changed by a final peace treaty between Germany and the Allies of World War II—as provided for in the Potsdam Agreement.

Warschauer Kniefall:  On December 7, 1970 German Chancellor Willy Brandt visited the monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  After Brandt laid a wreath at the monument, he surprised everyone present when he knelt before the monument, and remained silent (for about half a minute).  During the Nazi German occupation, Willy Brandt had actively resisted the early Nazi regime, and had been in exile most of the time. Brandt's visit to Poland at the time was for the signing of the Treaty of Warsaw between West Germany and the People's Republic of Poland, guaranteeing German acceptance of the new borders of Poland. The treaty was one of the Brandt-initiated policy steps (the 'Ostpolitik') to ease tensions between West and East during the Cold War.  At the time positive reactions may have been limited, but his demonstration of  humility was an important step in bridging the gaps World War II had left between Germany and Eastern Europe. Brandt's act was remarkable and thought to be one of the reasons he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971.

December 6, 2018




Henryk Jarecki (dob) was a Polish composer, conductor and teacher.  He came from a family of musicians and received his first instruction from his father, Jozef Jarecki, then with J. Meller. He pursued formal studies at the Institute of Music in Warsaw where he studied the piano, double-bass and composition, but his name did not appear in any of the graduate lists. For eight years,  Henryk was Stanisław Moniuszko's favorite and outstanding student, who showcased the youth's work in many of his concertos. He played in Paris (December 1882) one of his own works, the overture to Balladyna (with the orchestra Pasdeloup). In March 1883 he returned to the Skarbek Theater having been appointed by the new director J. Dobrzański.  He performed premieres of his operas and of many other works there. Both at the opening concert of the Polish opera in Lviv and after 28 years at the farewell performance, Henryk Jarecki presented himself in a dual role as a composer and conductor. In 1902, Henryk Jarecki was the second conductor in the Lviv Philharmonic alongisde Ludwik Czelański. But after two weeks, Jarecki fell ill due to the many years of exhausting work in the theater, forcing him to resign from his position. From then on he conducted only occasionally with his own works, such as Oda to his youth (1904) concert for the fund for the construction of the Adam Mickiewicz monument), Rapsodem warnym and Pneumella (1905).


Operation Oyster was a bombing raid launched by the RAF on December 6, 1942 on the Philips Works at Eindhoven, Netherlands. The manufacturing plant was a major producer of electronics equipment, that included vacuum tubes for radio communication. In 1940, prior to the Battle of the Netherlands,  Philips had become a leading research firm in infrared and radar technology.  The allies planned a daylight raid in order to insure accuracy and minimize casualties among the Dutch citizens. Medium bombers of 2 Group were given the task of dropping the bombs, while a series of diversionary raids were underway to draw German defenses astray.  It was the largest and most successful raid conducted by 2 Group during the war.


Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński was a Polish poet and well known for the "paradramatic" absurd humorous sketches of the Green Goose Theatre.  Gałczyński's poetry is an inspiration to many authors of popular music. They were used by Olga Lipińska in her TV cabaret among others. At the time of the People's Republic of Poland, his poem Beloved Country (Ukochany kraj) was made into a socialist feel-good song. A musical, Beloved Country, was directed by Janusz Józefowicz at Studio Buffo musical theatre.  Gałczyński was portrayed in the book The Captive Mind (Zniewolony umysł) by Czesław Miłosz; he is Delta.  When WW2 broke out,  Gałczyński received a draft card from the Polish army. He fought during the September Campaign.  On September 17, 1939, he was captured by the invading Russians and imprisoned; he later was captured by the Nazi Germans and spent the remainder of the war in Stalag XI (a POW camp in Altengrabow). Meanwhile he printed his poems secretly. After the war he travelled to Brussels and Paris, and returned to Poland in 1946. He founded The 13 Muses Club in Szczecin in 1948 before moving back to Warsaw, and produced work for many weekly magazines.  He passed away on December 6, 1953 from a heart attack. His name is commemorated - since 1998 a biennial poetry competition has been held in Szczecin, named Gałczynalie in honour of the poet. A Green Goose foundation was formed in Warsaw in September 2007.

December 5, 2018




Jozef Pilsudski (dob) was a Polish statesman. He was Chief of State (1918–22), "First Marshal of Poland" (from 1920), de facto leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic,  and Minister of Military Affairs. He was responsible for the resurgence of Poland after it was reborn in 1918 (after 123 years of oblivion where the nation was occupied by Russia, Austria and Prussia). During the Polish–Soviet War (1919-1921) Pilsudski's forces were on the verge of defeat, until in August 1920 during the Battle of Warsaw, the Polish forces succeeded in throwing back the invading Russians. In 1923, with the government dominated by his opponents, in particular the National Democrats, Piłsudski retired from active politics.  But three years later he returned to power in the May 1926 coup d'état and became the most powerful leader in Poland. From then on until his death in 1935, he concerned himself primarily with military and foreign affairs. Pilsudski believed in a multicultural Poland and recognized the value of numerous ethnic and religious nationalities, and their co-existence in a strong alliance with independent states of Lithuania and Ukraine. Though Pilsudski was born in Zulow, Lithuania, he referred to himself as "Polish-Lithuanian".


Władysław Szpilman was a famous pianist and classical composer of Polish-Jewish descent. Szpilman was widely known as the central figure in the 2002 Roman Polanski film, "The Pianist", which was based on Szpilman's autobiographical account of how he survived the Nazi German occupation of Warsaw and of Hitler's Final Solution, the Holocaust. Szpilman owed his survival to thirty courageous Polish people who risked their lives in order to shelter him.  On October 31, 1940, Władysław Szpilman and his family, along with all the other Jews living in Warsaw, were forced to move into a "Jewish quarter",  the Warsaw Ghetto.  As soon as the Jews were confined, the Nazi Germans constructed a massive wall around the Ghetto to separate them from the rest of the city.  Szpilman managed to find work as a musician to support his family, all of whom were deported in 1942 to the Treblinka extermination camp where they perished. Szpilman remained in the Ghetto as a labourer, and helped smuggle in weapons in preparation for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  He stayed until Feb 13, 1943, shortly before the Nazis liquidated the Ghetto and deported the remaining Jews. From his early Berlin years, Szpilman never lost the will to write music, even when he was living in the Warsaw Ghetto. His compositions include orchestral works, concertos, piano pieces, as well as a vast amount of music for radio plays and films, in addition to about 500 songs. More than 100 of these became beloved hits in Poland, as well as about 40 songs for children, for which he received an award from the Polish Composers Union in 1955.  Szpilman's memoir was widely praised by the British press which described it as "a compelling, harrowing masterpiece" and  "one of the most powerful accounts ever written" of Jewish persecution under the Nazi Germans. In a powerful and poignant description, Szpilman wrote about Janusz Korczak, a famous author and teacher,  who chose to walk alongside the children of his orphanage as they were deported, and join them - ultimately escorting them "into the next world",  as Szpilman related. Wladyslaw Szpilman died in Warsaw on July 6,  2000 at the age of 88.


Operation Crossbow was the code name for the British-American military operations to destroy all phases of the German long-range weapons programmes, which included its development, manufacture, and transport. Also targeted were launching sites, and attempts to intercept V-2 missiles in mid-flight.  In May 1943 Allied reconnaissance surveilled the first of 11 large sites under construction in Northern France,  for secret German weapons, as well as six sites for the V-2 rocket. Months later, the Allies discovered the first of 96 "ski sites" for the V-1 flying bomb. Military command deliberated on the extent of Nazi German weapons supremacy - some officials believed that they were merely decoys, while others suspected they were chemical or biological warheads. By August of 1943,  evidence was overwhelming in favor of launching a series of attacks against the V-2 complex, the first being the Operation Hydra attack on Peenemunde.  On December 5, 1943, another series of attacks were launched, code named "Crossbow Operations Against Ski Sites" - the "Noball" code name used for the targets (e.g., 'Noball 27' was the Ailly-le-Vieux-Clocher site;  "Noball No. 93" was in the Cherbourg area, "Noball No. 107" was at Grand Parc, and "Noball V1 site No.147" was at Ligescourt.

December 4, 2018




Sudetenland Elections: There were elections in Reichsgau Sudetenland, in which 97.32% of the adult population voted for the National Socialist Party. About 500,000 Sudeten Germans joined the National Socialist Party, which was 17.34% of the German population in Sudetenland (the average National Socialist Party participation in Nazi Germany was 7.85%).  This means the Sudetenland was the most pro-Nazi region in the Third Reich. Because of their knowledge of the Czech language, many Sudeten Germans were employed in the administration of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and in Nazi organizations (Gestapo, etc.) The most notable was Karl Hermann Frank, the SS and police general and Secretary of State in the Protectorate.  Nazi German policy was more lenient of the Czechs who had German ancestry, considering them capable of "Aryianization", but it was the exception rather than the rule.  The Nazis classified most Czechs as a mixture of races including that of Jewish ancestry.


Secret Polish Organizations Helped the Jews:  Zegota was created to replace the defunct organization "Council to Aid the Jews" which was dissolved for political and financial reasons. Zegota, supported by the Polish Home Army, operated about 100 secret cells situated mainly throughout Warsaw, though there were smaller branches in Krakow, Vilnius, and Lwow..  Zegota provided the Jews with shelter and hiding places, relief provisions, and fake documents and passports to help them escape.  Approximately 50,000 Jews were saved because of the work of Zegota.  Operatives of Żegota frequently put themselves at risk of arrest, or execution by Nazi authorities. (The Nazis distributed pamphlets in Polish and German warning Polish citizens that helping the Jews would be punishable by instant death. Many Polish people ignored the warning and did what they could to help Jewish people. Often entire Polish families and even neighbors were dragged into the street and shot. The Nazis believed that any Jews hidden by the Poles, had to have considerable collaboration from among friends, family and neighbours. ) Many Polish men, women, and even children went to extraordinary lengths to help the Jews.  Their names have been added to the Righteous Among Nations,, and will forever be remembered for their great courage and sacrifices.  No other nation in Nazi-occupied Europe struggled so diligently to try to save as many Jews as did the valiant Polish people.


Heilbrunn Was Bombed.  The largest air-raid during WWII was launched over Heilbrunn on December 4, 1944 by the British Royal Force and the United States Army Air Forces.  About 280 Lancaster bombers of 627 Squadron, accompanied by ten fighter planes flew over the city in loose formation. Despite a cloudy night, the planes dropped flare markers on the city to facilitate accurate bombing.  A flashlight bomb was dropped, exploding at 600 feet, followed by numerous flares, which illuminated the sky bright as day. Numerous incendiary bombs were dropped on the city and fires burned throughout the night.  Within a period of half an hour, over 6,500 people, including 1,000 children under 10 years of age, perished in the raid.  Historical records do not give an exact number of casualties because many corpses were burned beyond recognition. Heilbrunn had been bombed numerous times throughout the war.


French President Mitterrand met with Polish leader Jaruzelski on December 4, 1985 amid a storm of protest. It was Jaruzelski's first visit to the West, and Mitterrand was the first Western leader to receive Jaruzelski.  In an interview conducted by Le Matin, Mitterrand said that he met with Jaruzelski because France had to express its opinions "....on the serious questions between East and West and between Europeans. I add, that all that touches the Polish nation is dear to us...." The French Senate protested the meeting by suspending its session. More than five hundred demonstrators rallied in front of the Polish Embassy, shouting: ″Jaruzelski, Assassin″ and ″Solidarity will live 3/8″ .  The Bateaux Mouches, (the famous tourist boats on the River Seine), refused to allow Jaruzelski aboard for a city cruise.  All France"s largest unions (except the Communist affiliations) issued a joint statement that ″....reaffirmed their entire solidarity with Solidarity and all of the Polish people.....″ and demanded that ″.....All normalization of relations with Poland must be conditional on the respect for human rights, the liberation of detained people and the recognition of union rights and freedoms allowing the exercise of Solidarity’s rights,″.   (NB:  In December 1981, Jaruzelski declared martial law and dealt brutal suppression of the free trade union movement.  The French people believed that the meeting between Mitterrand and Jaruzelski was a betrayal of French support for the Solidarity movement in Poland, and of the Polish people.)

December 3, 2018




Great Polish Writer: Joseph Conrad was born on December 3, 1857.  He was a Polish-British writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. He joined the British merchant marine in 1878, and was granted British nationality in 1886. Though he did not speak English fluently until his twenties, he was a master prose stylist who brought a non-English sensibility into English literature. Many of his stories and novels had a nautical setting, that depicted trials of the human spirit in the midst of an impassive, inscrutable universe.  Conrad is considered an early modernist, though his works still contain elements of 19th-century realism. His narrative style and anti-heroic characters have influenced many authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald,  William Faulkner,  Ernest Hemingway, André Malraux,  George Orwell,  Graham Greene, Gabriel García Márquez, John le Carré, V. S. Naipaul, Philip Roth, J. M. Coetzee, and Salman Rushdie. Many films have been adapted from, or inspired by, Conrad's works.  When Conrad departed from Poland,  it seemed that he wanted to break once and for all with his Polish past. But in a letter dated August 14, 1883 to a family friend, Stefan Buszczyński,  he wrote, "......I always remember what you said when I was leaving [Kraków]: "Remember"–you said–"wherever you may sail, you are sailing towards Poland!"   That I have never forgotten, and never will forget!......"


Nazi Ayrianization Law.  On December 3, 1938 Nazi Germany froze the value of Jewish property at the lowest level. Though they permitted the sale of personal valuables and jewels, it could only be sold through state offices. The systematic impoverishment of the Jewish population made it impossible for the Jews to emigrate, eventually making them the victims of the Final Solution.  Before Hitler came to power Jews owned 100,000 businesses in Germany. By 1938 many of the Jews were forced out of business due to Nazi boycotts, intimidation, violence, vandalism, threats, forced sales and restrictions on professions. According to a report by Yad Vashem, "Of the 50,000 Jewish-owned stores that existed in 1933, only 9,000 remained in 1938.  ( After the war, the Federal Republic of Germany paid restitution for the material losses.)


"Orchestrated Hell"  On December 3, 1943, Edward R. Murrow, a renowned American broadcaster and foreign correspondent,  delivered his classic "Orchestrated Hell" broadcast over CBS Radio, in which he described a Royal Air Force nighttime bombing raid on Berlin. The night before, Murrow was given clearance to ride aboard the Lancaster bomber D for Dog.   Murrow commented at the close of his report that,  "......Berlin was a kind of orchestrated hell -- a terrible symphony of light and flame. It isn't a pleasant kind of warfare. The men doing it speak of it as a job. Yesterday afternoon, when the tapes were stretched out on the big map all the way to Berlin and back again, a young pilot with old eyes said to me, "I see we're working again tonight." That's the frame of mind in which the job is being done. The job isn't pleasant; it's terribly tiring. Men die in the sky while others are roasted alive in their cellars. Berlin last night wasn't a pretty sight. In about thirty-five minutes it was hit with about three times the amount of stuff that ever came down on London in a night-long blitz. This is a calculated, remorseless campaign of destruction........"

December 2, 2018




The Black Procession took place on December 2, 1789. It was a demonstration held during the Great Sejm, by the burghers of Polish royal cities in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was inspired by Hugo Kołłątaj and led by Jan Dekert. Representatives from 141 towns under royal charter, all dressed in black, marched peacefully through the streets of Warsaw from the town hall, to the Royal Castle for an audience with King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. The burghers demanded that they receive similar privileges to those held by the szlachta (the nobility).  Among their demands was the right to buy and own land estates, to be represented in the Polish parliament (Sejm), and reforms to the urban law.  The Black Procession succeeded to influence the Great Sejm. A Commission for the Cities was established, and eventually the urban reforms were enacted with the passage of the Free Royal Cities Act (April 18, 1791).  The Act also granted the Commonwealths' townspeople personal security, the right to acquired property, as well as eligibility for military officers' commissions, public offices and the right for enoblement.


Polish Hero Died. Edward Rydz-Śmigły died on December 2, 1941 due to heart failure.  During the interwar period,  Smigly was greatly respected and admired and was regarded as a national hero for his exceptional record of service as a commander in the Polish Legions and the Polish-Soviet War of 1920. His popularity grew upon his appointment as Commander-in-Chief and Inspector General of the Polish Armed Forces following Marshal Józef Piłsudski‘s death in 1935. Rydz served in this capacity at the start of World War II. During the 1939 German invasion of Poland, Polish leaders and military divisions evacuated Poland through Romania, to reach France, to continue fighting the invaders.  However, Rydz-Smigly was interned  in Romania, along with many other Polish leaders. While there he created the Polish underground comprising officers who were loyal to the memory of Piłsudski.  By October 27, 1939, while still in Romania, he relinquished his post as Commander-in-Chief and Inspector-General of the Armed Forces, and the role was assumed by Władysław Sikorski, who was serving in the Polish government-in-exile in France (and after 1940 in the United Kingdom).  Rydz-Smigly's reputation was mixed:  in Russia and the communist-controlled People's Republic of Poland, he was denounced for his participation in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, for the political repression of his government on far-left elements during the inter-war years, and particularly for his key role in the Polish defeat during the September Campaign in 1939.  In the West, Rydz-Smigly was criticized for having so-called "fled" the battlefield in 1939.  But they gave little or no recognition to the overwhelming circumstances regarding the invasion of Poland (from German and Soviet forces converging from all fronts).  Edward Rydz-Smigly was the recipient of many international awards, as well as Polish decorations, Order of the White Eagle, Commander and Knight of Virtuti Militari, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Officer of Order of Polonia Restituta, four times Cross of Valour, Golden Cross of Merit and Cross of Independence with Swords.


Luftwaffe massive bombing raid.  On December 2, 1943 German aircraft attacked Bari (Italy) killing more than 1,000 people, and sinking 17 ships, including the John Harvey. The large explosion caused  liquid sulfur mustard to spill into the water, resulting in a cloud of sulfur mustard vapor to blow over the city. A total of 628 military victims were hospitalized due to exposure to the mustard gas, and by the end of the month, 83 of them had died. Civilian casualties may have been even greater, but could not be confirmed due to the massive evacuation that took place, as citizens sought shelter outside the city.  In August 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the shipment of chemical weapons containing mustard agent to the Mediterranean theater. By November 18, 1943 the John Harvey, commanded by Captain Elwin F. Knowles, sailed from Oran, Algeria, to Italy, carrying 2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs, each of which held 60–70 lb of sulfur mustard.


This year, the Jewish faithful all over the world are celebrating the festival of lights, Hanukah, on December 2, which lasts for eight days. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a menorah, which is a candelabrum with nine branches.  One branch is placed above and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shamash, "attendant". Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the holiday.  This symbolizes the miracle of the menorah in 169 BC when the Jews rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem.  They only had enough oil for one day, but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.   The lighting of each candle is followed by solemn prayers and hymns to praise God.  Stories are told about the Hanukah miracle, and children play games with the dreidel.  Most notable is the biblical story of Hannah and her seven sons.  They were all arrested, tortured and executed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes for refusing to bow to an idol. The Jewish faith remains an eternal symbol of enduring, steadfast faith and obedience to God.  Polish Greatness (Blog) wishes all its Jewish visitors a Happy Hanukah!

December 1, 2018




Polish King John II Casimir made alliance with Habsburgs.  On December 1, 1656, Casimir signed an alliance with Ferdinand III of Habsburg in Vienna, in an effort to break the deadlock of the war between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Kingdom of Sweden.  The declaration was really Ferdinand III's intention to mediate a peace rather than to  provide military assistance. However, the terms did not come into effect until after Ferdinand's death on April 2, 1657. At such time the treaty was renewed and amended on May 27 by Ferdinand's successor Leopold I of Habsburg, who provided John II Casimir with 12,000 troops, albeit, maintained at Polish expense.  In 1655, Charles X Gustav of Sweden invaded and occupied western Poland–Lithuania, the eastern half of which was already occupied by Russia.  The rapid Swedish advance became known in Poland as the Swedish Deluge.


Signing of the Locarno Treaties  The Locarno Treaties were the result of seven negotiations formally signed on December 1,  1925 by Western European Allied powers, and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe. They sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and restore normalizing relations with defeated Germany (the Weimar Republic) following World War I.  The Treaty established European borders to fall into two categories:   western, which were guaranteed by the Locarno treaties, and eastern borders of Germany with Poland, which were open for revision. In addition the  Treaty also stipulated that Germany would never go to war with the other countries.


Eyewitness report of Warsaw Ghetto liquidation. A war time news periodical reported "A Polish Policeman's Story & A Voice of Protest from Poland" (Polish Fort-Nightly Review, edition 57, Dec 1, 1942) reported eye-witness details of the nightmarish events and despair of the Jews trying to survive in the Warsaw Ghetto, and "the monstrous liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto"....  "In order to speed up the liquidation of the Jews “round-ups” in the streets are being largely resorted to, Gestapo men and “White Guards” (i.e. Soviet prisoners of war who have gone over to service with the Germans) drive around the streets, often using for this purpose rickshaws drawn by Jews and fire from their “tommy” guns wherever they see people in any numbers."...." The Jewish Community has to undertake the work of picking out Jews for deportation, but the Jewish police are responsible for seeing that the “contingents” are handed over to the Germans."....All the Polish groups working underground are condemning these monstrous crimes in the secret literature printed illegally. Among other leaflets now in the possession of the Polish Government is one published by the group known as the Front for the Restoration of Poland."...."Everybody is perishing, Rich and poor, old people and women, men, youngsters, infants. Catholics died with the names of Jesus and Mary on their lips, equally with the orthodox Jews. All guilty of having been born in the Jewish nation are condemned by Hitler to extermination."...."we can do nothing, we can save nobody. But from the bottom of our hearts, filled with compassion, loathing and horror, we protest."....."He who does not understand this, he who would dare to connect the proud and free future of Poland with a base rejoicing in the misfortunes of his fellows, is neither a Catholic nor a Pole.”


The Big Three inTehran.  From November 28 to December 1, 1943, the Big Three ( Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin) met at the Tehran Conference:  Among other issues on the agenda, the allies discussed Poland and agreed to Stalin's demand that Poland's eastern border be re-drawn according to the Curzon Line. (Stalin had pressured the allies to accept a revision of Poland’s eastern border with the Soviet Union to coincide with the line set by Lord Curzon in 1920. (Roosevelt excused himself from any discussion about Poland, over concerns on the effects on Polish voters in the USA in his upcoming 1944 election campaign.)  As compensation to Poland, the Big Three agreed to shift the German-Polish border to the Oder and Neisse rivers. This was ratified in the Potsdam Conference of 1945.


Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was received at the Vatican by Pope John Paul II. Among their discussions was the question of religious freedom in the USSR.  The following is an excerpt, translated from the minutes taken at this meeting: (Gorbachev) "....We welcome your mission on this high altar, we are sure that it will leave a great footprint in history. I am familiar with your addresses to the world, with your reflection upon its problems. I even noted that we often use similar expressions. This means that there is agreement at the source—in our thoughts. I do not know why, but I was sure that this meeting would take place. Not only because it is in the interest of humanity, although this is important as we are contemporaries. But first and foremost it is because we have a great deal of unifying thoughts and concerns...."  (John Paul II) "......I would like to speak about the elements related to the word “perestroika,” which has deeply touched all aspects of life for the Soviet people, and not only them. This process allows us together to look for a way to enter a new dimension of people’s common existence, which would reflect to a greater degree the requirements of the human spirit, of different nations, of the rights of individuals and nations. The efforts you are making are not only of a great interest to us. We share of the fundamental human rights is the freedom of conscience, from which stems religious freedom......"

November 30, 2018




Polish Nobel Prize Winner.  Andrzej Viktor "Andrew" Schally was born on November 30, 1926 and is an American endocrinologist. He was born in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania)  as the son of Gen. Brigadier Kazimierz Schally, who was Chief of the Cabinet of President Ignacy Mościcki of Poland, and Maria (Łącka).  Schally was co-recipient with Roger Guillemin and Rosalyn Sussman Yalow, of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He developed greater understanding concerning the brain's control over the body chemistry. His works also addressed birth control methods and growth hormones. Together with Roger Guillemin he described the neurohormone GnRH that controls FSH and LH.  Schally received an honoris causa Doctors degree from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.  In September 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Schally managed to escape along with Poland's President Ignacy Mościcki, Prime Minister and the members of the cabinet to the neutral Romania, where they were interned.  " I was fortunate to survive the holocaust while living among the Jewish-Polish Community in Roumania. I used to speak Polish, Roumanian, Yiddish, Italian and some German and Russian, but I have almost completely forgotten them, and my French in which I used to excel is also now far from fluent."


Mass Shootings Near Riga. On November 30 and December 8, 1941,  about 25,000 Jews were murdered in or on the way to Rumbula Forest, located near Riga, Latvia. The Rumbula Massacre was the largest mass killing of Jews, next to the Babi Yar massacre in Ukraine, until the Nazi operations of death camps were underway.  Approximately 24,000 of the victims were Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto and about 1,000 were German Jews who had been transported to the forest by train.  The perpetrators were the Nazi Einsatzgruppe A,  and local collaborators of the Arajs Kommando who were supported by other Latvian auxiliaries. Friedrich Jeckeln, an SS officer was in charge of the killings,  had previously organized other massacres in the Ukraine. Rudolf Lange, (who would later take part in the Wannsee Conference) also participated in organizing the massacre. Some of the accusations against Latvian Herberts Cukurs are related to the clearing of the Riga Ghetto by the Arajs Kommando.  In 1943, Himmler ordered that the bodies at Rumbula be dug up and burned in an attempt to eliminate evidence of Nazi German atrocities.  He ordered that the work was to be done by a detachment of Jewish slave laborers.  People who were travelling by rail at that time could easily detect the smell of burning corpses.  In 2001,  Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia,  speaking at a 60 year anniversary memorial service, recalled that as a child during WW2, "......We could smell the smoke coming from Rumbula, where corpses were being dug up and burnt to erase the evidence....."


"Schindler's List" premiered on November 30, 1993 in Washington, DC.  The movie, directed and produced by Steven Spielberg,  is based on the courageous efforts by Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, during World War Two who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.   The decision to make the film in black and white was to emphasize the documentary nature of the film .  The only color used in the film was that of a little girl wearing a red coat during the scene depicting the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto.  Later in the film, Schindler sees her dead body, which is only recognizable by the red coat.  Spielberg explained that the scene was meant to symbolize the apathy among the highest government levels in the United States - that they knew very well that the Holocaust was happening but did absolutely nothing to stop it.  Spielberg said,  ".....It was as obvious as a little girl wearing a red coat, walking down the street, and yet nothing was done to bomb the German rail lines. Nothing was being done to slow down ... the annihilation of European Jewry," he said. "So that was my message in letting that scene be in color..."  There is other symbolism in the film, which are also very powerful and moving. Stephen Schiff of The New Yorker called it the best historical drama about the Holocaust, a movie that "will take its place in cultural history and remain there." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as Spielberg's best, "brilliantly acted, written, directed, and seen."  While many Jews felt gratitude for such a film to be produced, others felt that the film had shortcomings.  Mr. Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian-Jewish author,  was a Holocaust survivor and stated that it was impossible for anybody to accurately portray what life was like in a Nazi concentration camp, unless they actually experienced it first-hand.  He noted that the final scene of the movie at the graveyard failed to depict the horrible after-effects of the survivors and implied that they came through emotionally unscathed.  (Editors note:  Imre Kertész died on March 31, 2016 at the age of 86, after suffering from Parkinsons disease for several years.  He had been the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history".  He was the first Hungarian to win the Nobel in Literature. His works dealt with themes of the Holocaust, dictatorship and personal freedom.