POLISH GREATNESS TRAFFIC

May 11, 2018

MAY 11 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 11

1943

Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide on this day to protest the indifference of the Allied governments in the face of the Holocaust.  Zygielbojm was a Jewish-Polish socialist politician, leader of the Bund, and a member of the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile. After Poland was invaded by Germany on September 1, 1939,  he returned to Warsaw to join the defense committee during the Siege of Warsaw, and participated in the defense of the city.  When the Nazis occupied Warsaw, they demanded 12 hostages from the population to prevent further resistance.  A city official, suggested that they give Ester Iwinska as a hostage, but Zygielbojm volunteered to take her place.  Upon his release, the Nazis placed him as a member of the Judenrat. (The Judenrat was a Jewish council created by the Nazis whose members were ordered to create a ghetto within Warsaw, and carry out internal administration according to Nazi directives)  Zygielbojm was openly opposed to the order,and escaped to Belgium.  In early 1940, he spoke before the Labour and Socialist International in Brussels, describing the initial stages of persecution of the Jews.  After the Nazis invaded Belgium in May 1940, he escaped to France, and shortly after, fled to the U.S. He spent more than a year trying to convince Americans of the perilous situation facing Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. In March 1942, he went to London and joined the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile. He was only one of two Jewish members (the other was the Zionist Ignacy Schwarzbart). He continued to speak publicly about the fate of the Polish Jews, attended a meeting of the British Labour Party and gave a speech which was broadcast on BBC Radio on June 2, 1942.  Before his suicide, Zygielbojm produced a booklet, titled, "Stop Them Now. German Mass Murder of Jews in Poland". It was his final attempt to make the world acknowledge the plight of the Jews in Europe.  The following is an excerpt from this booklet: "....I must mention here that the Polish population gives all possible help and sympathy to the Jews. The solidarity of the population in Poland has two aspects: first it is expressed in the common suffering and secondly in the continued joint struggle against the inhuman occupying Power. The fight with the oppressors goes on steadily, stubbornly, secretly, even in the ghetto, under conditions so terrible and inhuman that they are hard to describe or imagine.... The Polish and Jewish population keep in constant touch, exchanging newspapers, views and instructions. The walls of the ghetto have not really separated the Jewish population from the Poles. The Polish and the Jewish masses continue to fight together for common aims, just as they have fought for so many years in the past..."


1944

Battle of Monte Cassino: It one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. In a series of four battles the Allies eventually broke through the impenetrable German strongholds on their way to Rome, and victory. The first assault was launched at 23:00 on May 11 to 12, 1944 on Cassino. A multi-national force - British, Americans, Poles, New Zealanders, South Africans, and the French, launched a massive artillery bombardment - 1,060 guns on the German Eighth Army front,  and 600 guns on the Fifth Army front. In just half an hour, the Allied assault was in full motion, and Allied troops succeeded in making the crossing, though American units made little progress. Point 593 on Snakeshead Ridge was taken by the Poles, but was recaptured by German paratroops. The fighting between Polish and German forces continued for three days, with heavy losses on both sides. The 2nd Polish Corps lost 281 officers and 3,503 other ranks in assaults against Oberst Ludwig Heilmann's 4th Parachute Regiment, then called off further attacks. The Germans succeeded in driving off attacks with just eight hundred troops.  By the morning of May 12, the Polish infantry divisions were met with "such devastating mortar, artillery and small-arms fire that the leading battalions were all but wiped out."


1945

German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW)—the German Armed Forces High Command), not all commanders did so. The largest contingent were Army Group Centre under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30, in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria; the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11. The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 eventually, and sporadically surrendered.


1960

Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina by the Israeli secret service. After Germany's defeat in 1945, Eichmann fled to Austria. He lived there until 1950, when he moved to Argentina using false papers. Information collected by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, confirmed Eichmann's location in 1960. A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial on 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people. During the trial, Eichmann did not deny the veracity of the Holocaust or his role in organizing it, but claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system. Found guilty on all charges, he was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on June 1, 1962



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