May 16, 2018


MAY 16


Battle of Zhovti Vody was the first significant battle of the Khmelnytsky Uprising, between the forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, led by Stefan Potocki, and the Ukrainian Cossacks and Crimean Tatars, under the joint command of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Tuhaj Bej. (The Khmelnytsky Uprising was a cossack uprising within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.) The battle raged on for eighteen days,and resulted in a defeat of Commonwealth forces. The Registered Cossacks initially pledged their allegiance to the Commonwealth,  but after having arrived they unexpectedly sided with the Khmelnytsky forces.  In the attempt to retreat the Commonwealth forces were annihilated just days before reinforcements were expected to arrive.  Stefan Potocki was wounded, taken prisoner, and died from gangrene on May 19, 1648. His military advisor, Stefan Czarniecki, was also taken prisoner though he managed to escape shortly afterwards.


General Wacław Stachiewicz was one of the most promising officers in the Polish army.  He was the brainchild of Plan Zachod (Plan West) which established a defensive plan along the Polish-German border in case of attack from Germany.  (Conversely, he also created Plan Wschod (Plan East) to prepare a defense in case of attack from the Soviet Union.)  When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the headquarters of the Polish commander-in-chief but he was unable to exert influence during the Polish Defensive War, because of lack of communication. Consequently, he and Rydz-Śmigły withdrew to south-eastern Poland. But on September 17, 1939,  they evacuated when Soviets invaded Poland from the east.  Stachiewicz, along with many other Polish military crossed the border into Romania where he and Rydz-Smigly were immediately interned. When Poland was defeated on October 6, 1939, Stachiewicz was accused for having failed in his mission to defend Poland. Plan West was fairly accurate in terms of estimating the location and most directions of attack by German forces, but did not fully develop secondary Polish defensive lines. One of the major faults of the Plan was that Polish forces thought they could hold out for several months during a defensive campaign, but they overestimated their own military readiness, complicated by their expectation that the British and French (who had signed a mutual defense pact with Poland) would join the Poles in launching an offensive from the West.  Moreover, the Poles underestimated  the Germans, whose military strength exceeded that of the Poles, in numbers and technical strength.


Nazi German AB-Aktion in Poland: The AB-Aktion was the second stage in the Nazi campaign of the destruction of the intelligentsia in Poland.  Tens of thousands of Polish elite from towns and cities were arrested  by the Nazis and were never seen again. This cleared the way for Nazis to annex territories, or build concentration camps that would be far from prying eyes.  In the spring and summer of 1940,  of the 30,000 or more Polish people arrested by the Nazi regime, 7,000 of them included community leaders, professors, teachers and priests (all accused of criminal activities) and subsequently massacred at secret locations near Palmiry forest.  Other prisoners were sent to German concentration camps.  According to many historians, including Norman Davies, the action against Polish leaders was coordinated with the authorities of the Soviet Union, who at the same time perpetrated the mass murder of 22,000 Polish military officers at Katyń and other places. (see April 13, 1943)


French Marshal Petain issued a radio broadcast approving collaboration with Hitler, " Frenchmen - You have learned that Admiral Darlan recently conferred with Chancellor Hitler. I had approved this meeting in principle. The new interview permits us to light up the road into the future and to continue the conversations that had been begun with the German Government."


Sobibór extermination camp began mass gassing operations. The camp was fitted with three gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but would later substitute Zyklon-B.  500 prisoners were murdered at a time. The camp was constructed in March and April 1942, soon after the Wannsee Conference. It was located near the Sobibór railway station because of its proximity to the Chełm – Włodawa railway line connecting General Government with Reichs kommissariat Ukraine. (After WW2, SS Kurt Bolender, one of the commanders of the camp, was captured and tried in Hagen, West Germany. He confessed to his crimes and described the killing operations as follows:  "...Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharführer Hermann Michel made a speech to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression he was a physician. Michel announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection, so as to prevent the spread of diseases. After undressing, the Jews were taken through the "Tube", by an SS man leading the way, with five or six Ukrainians at the back hastening the Jews along. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors. The motor was switched on by the former Soviet soldier Emil Kostenko and by the German driver Erich Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the doors were opened, and the corpses were removed by a group of Jewish workers...." (Prior to the end of the trial, Kurt Bolender committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell. In his suicide note, he insisted that he was innocent.)


Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ended:  The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was an act of Jewish resistance that which opposed the Nazi's final effort to deport the remaining Jew to Treblinka. The Uprising started on April 19 when the Ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander Jürgen Stroop. He then ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block.  It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. A total of 13,000 Jews were killed, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated.  German casualties are not known, but were estimated to be at most 300. Of the remaining 50,000 Jews who survived the Nazi action, most were captured and deported to Treblinka.  After the Ghetto Uprising was over, most of the incinerated houses were razed to the ground, and the Warsaw concentration camp complex was established in their place.


Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Eichmann was present to personally oversee and speed up the extermination process. By May 24, an estimated 100,000 had been gassed. Between May 16 and May 31, the SS report collecting 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of the Jewish prisoners who were gassed. By the end of June, 381,661 persons - half of the Jews in Hungary - had been sent to Auschwitz.

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