October 5, 2018




The Rector of Warsaw Polytechnic ordered the establishment of the institution of Ghetto Benches in the lecture halls. The practice began in 1935 and became widespread by 1937. Jewish students attending Polish universities were forced, under threat of expulsion, to sit at the left-hand side section of the lecture halls which were segregated from the rest of the student body. The majority of Jewish students protested these policies and refused to comply as it violated their civil rights. Some Polish students showed their support of their Jewish classmates by standing in class instead of sitting down.  At some universities, Polish students even attempted to forcibly move Jews to the ghetto benches.


Witness to Mass Executions:  Herman Friedrich Graebe, a German engineer,  provided vital testimony during the Einsatzgruppen Trial, (one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials).  By doing so, Graebe incurred bitter persecution from many of his German compatriots, so much so that he left Germany in 1948, and settled in San Francisco with his family. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a 'Righteous Among the Nations' by Yad Vashem.  (Axel von dem Bussche, a German officer was another witness of the mass executions of October 1942 in Dubno. He was so traumatised by what he had seen, that in 1943, he joined Claus von Stauffenberg and tried to kill Adolf Hitler in a suicide attack in November 1943.)  The following is an excerpt of Graebe's testimony: "...... I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot."


Polish General Stanislaw Sosabowski received a letter from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, commander of the Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group, in which he described the Polish soldiers as having fought bravely in the Battle of Market Garden, and offered meritorious awards to ten of his soldiers. However, on October 14, 1944, Montgomery wrote another letter, this time to the British commanders, in which he scapegoated General Sosabowski for the failure of Market Garden. Sosabowski was accused of criticizing Montgomery, and the Polish General Staff was forced to remove him as the commanding officer of his brigade on December 27, 1944.

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