November 15, 2018




The Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk) was a semi-autonomous city-state that was created on November 15, 1920  in accordance with the terms of Article 100 (Section XI of Part III) of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I.  The city region comprised of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland), and about 200 towns and villages in the surrounding areas. The Free City was to be represented abroad by Poland and was to be in a customs union with it. The German railway line that connected the Free City with newly created Poland was to be administered by Poland, as were all rail lines in the territory of the Free City.  A separate Polish post office was established, besides the existing municipal one.  However, the territory was under the mandate of the League of Nations, and the role of High Commissioner was held by various representatives of member nations. The city existed until 1939 when WWII broke out, and Germany annexed the City into the German Reich.  During the interwar period the Germans openly attacked the Polish minority with racist slurs and harassment. German students attacked the Polish consulate, and were praised for it by the Nazi authorities.  Several disputes between Danzig and Poland arose; the Germans of the Free City protested against the Westerplatte depot, the placement of Polish letter boxes within the City,  and the presence of Polish war vessels at the harbour.


Anti-Nazi demonstration at Czech funeral for Jan Opletal.  Opletal was a medical student at Charles University in Prague, who was shot by the Nazis on October 28, 1939 during an anti-Nazi demonstration during Czechoslovak Independence Day.  He died two weeks later from severe injuries.   On November 15, 1939 his funeral procession made its way through Prague. There were more than 3,000 students present during the memorial and chapel services. Hundreds of students followed his casket afterwards, with more citizens joining along the way.  By the time the procession reached the station for transport to his native village in Moravia, the crowd had swelled to thousands of people, chanting the Czech hymn Kde domov můj.   But upon arrival to Charles Square, the mourners were confronted by the Czech police, and had to find safety in one of the campus buildings.  The authorities permitted them to leave only in small groups under close surveillance, but the students later rallied together in a procession of several thousand students, and attempted to break through the city center, in another anti-Nazi demonstration.  Consequently, the Reichsprotektor Konstantin von Neurath, the Nazi-representative heading the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,  instigated the so-called Sonderaktion Prag on November 17, 1939. He ordered all Czech universities and colleges to be closed, had 1,850 students arrested and ordered the execution of nine student leaders, including František Skorkovský.  More than 1,200 Czech students were interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  The murder of Jan Opletal and closure of the Prague University led to solidarity demonstrations at the University of Belgrade on November 18,  1939.  Today International Students' Day is observed every November 17 in remembrance of the students who were killed or sent to concentration camps for opposing the Nazis.


The Nazi Germans closed the Warsaw Ghetto on November 15, 1940.  The wall reached a height of 3 metres and topped with barbed wire.  Any Jews caught trying to escape from the ghetto were shot on sight.  German policemen from Battalion 61 held victory parties on days when large numbers of Jews were murdered at the ghetto wall.  The borders of the ghetto were gradually reduced as the imprisoned Jews began to succumb to the ravages of infectious diseases, starvation, and frequent executions.  Over 400,000 Jews were imprisoned within the ghetto walls. In an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), an average of 9 people were crammed into each room, barely subsisting on meager food rations.  An average daily food ration in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw was restricted to 184 calories, compared to 699 calories allowed for the gentile Poles and 2,613 calories for the Germans  From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi German death camps. In the summer of 1942, under the guise of "resettlement"  at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp.   At least 300,000 Jews of the ghetto were killed by bullet or by gas, in addition to the 92,000 victims who perished from starvation and related diseases.


Gypsies were deported to concentration camps. Himmler declared that Gypsies and  those who were of mixed Gypsy heritage were to be considered on “the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps.”  The Nazi plan was the elimination from Germany, and from all annexed territories, people of races which were considered inferior, such as gypsies, Jews, Slavs, and hardened criminals.  The camp authorities segregated the Roma people in a section of the camp called, the "Gypsy family camp." They were forced to wear brown or black triangular patches, symbolizing "asocials", or green patches symbolizing professional criminals.   Approximately 23,000 Roma, Sinti and Lalleri were deported to Auschwitz.  Just as there were organized Jewish resistance in almost every large ghetto and concentration camp, the Roma also attempted to resist Nazis attempts to exterminate them. A documented case occurred at Auschwitz in May 1944, when Nazi SS guards attempted to liquidate the Gypsy Family Camp. They were "met with unexpected resistance". The Roma refused to come out when ordered to do so, and were armed with crude makeshift weapons, such as shovels, and iron pipes that were used during forced labor.  The SS withdrew for several months, rather than confront them directly.  Instead the SS transferred about 3,000 Roma to Auschwitz I, and other concentration camps, and then moved in against the remaining 2,898 prisoners, exterminating nearly all of them, mostly the ill, the elderly, women and children in the gas chambers at Birkenau.  At least 19,000 of the 23,000 Roma sent to Auschwitz were murdered there.

No comments:

Post a Comment