Crimes against the Polish nation committed by Nazi Germany and collaborationist forces during the invasion of Poland, along with auxiliary battalions during the subsequent occupation of Poland in World War II, consisted of the systematic extermination of Jewish Poles and the murder of millions of (non-Jewish) ethnic Poles. The Germans justified these genocides on the basis of Nazi racial theory, which depicted Jews as a constant threat and regarded Poles and other Slavs as racially inferior Untermenschen. By 1942 the Nazis were implementing their plan to kill every Jew in German-occupied Europe, and had also developed plans to eliminate the Polish people, through mass murder, ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination through labor, as well as the assimilation into German identity of a small minority of Poles regarded as racially valuable. During World War II the Germans not only murdered millions of Jewish and non-Jewish Poles, but ethnically cleansed millions more ethnic Poles through forced deportation, supposedly to make room for racially superior German settlers.
The genocides claimed the lives of 2.7 to 2.9 million Polish Jews and 1.8 to 2.77 million non-Jewish ethnic Poles, according to the Polish government-affiliated Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and various academics.[a] These extremely large death tolls, and the absence of substantial civilian deaths among non-Jews in "racially superior" occupied countries such as Denmark and France, attest to the genocidal policies directed against the Poles.
The genocidal policies of the German government's colonization plan, Generalplan Ost, were the epicenter of German war crimes against the Polish nation, and crimes against humanity, committed from 1939 to 1945. The original assumptions of the Nazi master plans entailed the expulsion and mass extermination of some 85 percent (over 20 million) of Poland's ethnically-Polish citizens, with the remaining 15 percent to be turned into slave labor. In 2000, by an Act of the Polish Parliament, dissemination of knowledge on World War II Nazi German and Stalinist Soviet crimes in Poland was entrusted to the Institute of National Remembrance, formed in Warsaw two years prior.
From the start of the war against Poland, Germany intended to realize Adolf Hitler's plan, set out in his book Mein Kampf, to acquire "living space" (Lebensraum) in the east for massive settlement of German colonists. Hitler's plan combined classic imperialism with Nazi racial ideology. On 22 August 1939, just before the invasion of Poland, Hitler gave explicit permission to his commanders to kill "without pity or mercy, all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language."
Ethnic cleansing was to be conducted systematically against the Polish people. On 7 September 1939 Reinhard Heydrich stated that all Polish nobles, clergy, and Jews were to be killed. On 12 September Wilhelm Keitel added Poland's intelligentsia to the list. On 15 March 1940 SS chief Heinrich Himmler stated: "All Polish specialists will be exploited in our military-industrial complex. Later, all Poles will disappear from this world. It is imperative that the great German nation consider the elimination of all Polish people as its chief task." At the end of 1940 Hitler confirmed the plan to liquidate "all leading elements in Poland".
|Nazi crimes against the Polish nation|
|Cause||Invasion of Poland|
|Participants||Wehrmacht, Gestapo, SS, Orpo, Selbstschutz, Trawnikis, Sonderdienst, BKA, UPA, TDA|
|5.470 million to 5.670 million[a]
Part of a series
World War II crimes in occupied Poland
Soviet repressions of Polish citizens (1939–46)
Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia
Less than a year before the outbreak of war, on 1 October 1938 the German Army rolled into the Sudetenland in accordance with the Munich Agreement. The operation was completed by 10 October. Two weeks later, on 24 October 1938 Ribbentrop summoned Polish ambassador to Berchtesgaden and presented him with Hitler's Gesamtlösung regarding the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig. Ambassador Lipski refused. Three days later, the first mass deportation of Polish nationals from Nazi Germany began. It was the eviction of Jews who settled in Germany with Polish passports. On 9–10 November 1938, the Kristallnacht attack was carried out by the SA paramilitary forces; thousands of Jews holding Polish citizenship were rounded up and sent via rail to the Polish border and to the Nazi concentration camps. The round-up included 2,000 ethnic Poles living and working there.
Also, before the invasion of Poland, the Nazis prepared a detailed list identifying more than 61,000 Polish targets (mostly civilian) by name, with the help of the German minority living in the Second Polish Republic. The list was printed secretly as the 192-page-book called Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Special Prosecution Book–Poland), and composed only of names and birthdates. It included politicians, scholars, actors, intelligentsia, doctors, lawyers, nobility, priests, officers and numerous others – as the means at the disposal of the SS paramilitary death squads aided by Selbstschutz executioners. The first Einsatzgruppen of World War II were formed by the SS in the course of the invasion. They were deployed behind the front lines to execute groups of people considered, by virtue of their social status, to be capable of abetting resistance efforts against the Germans. The most widely used lie justifying indiscriminate killings by the mobile action squads was (always the same) made-up claim of purported attack on German forces.
In total, about 150,000 to 200,000 Poles lost their lives during the one-month September Campaign of 1939, characterized by the indiscriminate and often deliberate targeting of civilian population by the invading forces. Over 100,000 Poles died in the Luftwaffe's terror bombing operations, like those at Wielun. Massive air raids were conducted on towns which had no military infrastructure. The town of Frampol, near Lublin, was heavily bombed on 13 September as a test subject for Luftwaffe bombing technique; chosen because of its grid street plan and an easily recognisable central town-hall. Frampol was hit by 70 tonnes of munitions, which destroyed up to 90% of buildings and killed half of its inhabitants. Columns of fleeing refugees were systematically attacked by the German fighter and dive-bomber aircraft.
Amongst the Polish cities and towns bombed at the beginning of war were: Brodnica, Bydgoszcz, Chelm, Ciechanów, Czestochowa, Grodno, Grudziadz, Gdynia, Janów, Jaslo, Katowice, Kielce, Kowel, Kraków, Kutno, Lublin, Lwów, Olkusz, Piotrków, Plock, Plonsk, Poznan, Puck, Radom, Radomsko, Sulejów, Warsaw, Wielun, Wilno, and Zamosc. Over 156 towns and villages were attacked by the Luftwaffe. Warsaw suffered particularly severely with a combination of aerial bombardment and artillery fire reducing large parts of the historic centre to rubble, with more than 60,000 casualties. The Soviet Union assisted the Germans by allowing them to use a radio beacon from Minsk to guide their planes.
In the first three months of war, from the fall of 1939 until the spring of 1940, some 60,000 former government officials, military officers in reserve, landowners, clergy, and members of the Polish intelligentsia were executed region by region in the so-called Intelligenzaktion, including over 1,000 POWs. Summary executions of Poles were conducted by all German forces without exception including, Wehrmacht, Gestapo, the SS and Selbstschutz in violation of international agreements. The mass killings were a part of the secretive Operation Tannenberg, an early measure of the Generalplan Ost settler colonization. Polish Christians as well as Jews were either murdered and buried in hastily dug mass graves or sent to prisons and German concentration camps. "Whatever we find in the shape of an upper class in Poland will be liquidated," Hitler had ordered. In the Intelligenzaktion Pommern, a regional action in Pomeranian Voivodeship 23,000 Poles were killed. It was continued by the German AB-Aktion operation in Poland in the mid-1940s. The AB-Aktion saw the massacre of Lwów professors and the executions of about 1,700 Poles in the Palmiry forest. Several thousand civilian victims were executed or imprisoned. The Einsatzgruppen were also responsible for the indiscriminate killing of Jews and Poles during the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Communities were held collectively responsible for the purported Polish counter-attacks against the invading German troops. Mass executions of hostages were conducted almost every day during the Wehrmacht advance across Poland. The locations, dates and numbers include: Starogard (2 September), 190 Poles, 40 of them Jews; Swiekatowo (3 September), 26 Poles; Wieruszów (3 September), 20 Poles all Jews. On 4 September 1939 the 42nd Infantry Regiment(46th Infantry Division (Wehrmacht)) committed the Czestochowa massacre with 1,140 citizens or more (150 of them Jews) murdered in wild shooting actions in several city locations.[b] In Imielin (4–5 September), 28 Poles were killed; in Kajetanowice (5 September), 72 civilians were massacred in revenge for two German horses killed by German friendly fire; Trzebinia (5 September), 97 Polish citizens; Piotrków (5 September), Jewish section of the city was set on fire; Bedzin (8 September), two hundred civilians burned to death; about 300 were shot to death in Turek (9 September)  Klecko (9–10 September), three hundred citizens executed; Mszadla (10 September), 153 Poles; Gmina Besko (11 September), 21 Poles; Kowalewice (11 September), 23 Poles; Pilica (12 September); 36 Poles, 32 of them Jewish; Olszewo (13 September), 13 people (half of the village) from Olszewo and 10 from nearby Pietkowo including women and children stabbed by bayonets, shot, blown up by grenades, and burned alive in a barn; Mielec (13 September), 55 Jews burned to death; Piątek (13 September), 50 Poles, seven of them Jews. On 14–15 September about 900 Polish Jews in parallel shooting actions in Przemysl and in Medyka. Roughly at the same time, in Solec (14 September), 44 Poles killed; soon thereafter in Chojnice, 40 Polish citizens; Gmina Klecko, 23 Poles; Bądków, 22 Poles; Dynów, two hundred Polish Jews. Public executions continued well beyond September, including in municipalities such as Wieruszów County, Gmina Besko, Gmina Gidle, Gmina Klecko, Gmina Ryczywół, and Gmina Siennica, among others.
In and around Bydgoszcz, about 10,000 Polish civilians were murdered in the first four months of the occupation (see Bloody Sunday, and the Valley of Death). German Army and Selbstschutz paramilitary units composed of ethnic German Volksdeutsche also participated.
The Nazis took hostages by the thousands at the time of the invasion and throughout their occupation of Poland. Hostages were selected from among the most prominent citizens of occupied cities and villages: priests, professors, doctors, lawyers, as well as leaders of economic and social organizations and the trade unions. Often, however, they were chosen at random from all segments of society and for every German killed a group of between 50 and 100 Polish civilians were executed. About 20,000 villagers, some of whom were burned alive, were killed in large-scale punitive operations targeting rural settlements suspected of aiding the resistance or hiding Jews and other fugitives. Seventy-five villages were razed in these operations. Poland was the only country in occupied Europe where the penalty for hiding a Jew was death for everyone living in the house; other laws were similarly ruthless.
Germany planned to completely remove the indigenous population of Poland beginning with the newly created Reichsgau Wartheland territory in 1939. According to the Lebensraum aim and ideology, formerly Polish lands were to be taken over by the German military and civilian settlers including Eastern European Volksdeutsche. The "Germanizing" of occupied territories by the Reich was repeatedly condemned by Nuremberg Tribunal which stated that the practice of expelling civilians was "not only in defiance of well-established rules of international law, but in complete disregard of the elementary dictates of humanity." During the occupation of Poland, the number of Poles evicted by the German authorities from their homes is estimated at 2,478,000. Up to 928,000 Poles were ethnically cleansed to make way for the foreign colonists.
The number of displaced Polish nationals in four years of German occupation included: from Warthegau region 630,000 Poles; from Silesia 81,000; from Pomerania 124,000; from Bezirk Bialystok 28,000; and from Ciechanów district 25,000 Poles and Jews. In the so-called "wild expulsions" from Pomerelia some 30,000 to 40,000 Polish people were evicted, and from General Government (to German "reservations") some 171,000 Poles and Jews. To create new colonial latifundia, 42% of annexed farms were demolished. Some 3 million Poles were sent to perform slave labor in the Reich. Additional 500,000 ethnic Poles were deported from Warsaw after the Warsaw uprising on top of 180,000 civilian casualties.
The expulsions were carried out so abruptly that the ethnic Germans resettled from Eastern Galicia, Volhynia and Romanian Bukovina were taking over Polish homes with half-eaten meals on tables and unmade beds where small children had been sleeping at the time of expulsions. Members of Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were assigned the task of overseeing evictions to ensure that the Poles left behind most of their belongings for the use of the settlers. Himmler promised to eventually deport all Poles to Russia. He envisioned their ultimate end by exposure, malnutrition and overwork possibly in the Pripet Marshes where all Poles were to die during the cultivation of the marshy swamps. Plans for the mass transportation and possible creation of slave labor camps for up to 20 million Poles were also made.
The best example of Polish resistance, not aimed at hurting the Germans or achieving political aims but at protecting the Poles, was the Zamość Uprising. It was a rare situation where the politically anticommunist Home Army, politically neutral Peasants' Battalions, communist People's Guard, and Soviet Partisans all worked together to protect the Poles from German abuses, mainly forced expulsion, and from mass murder carried out by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army on Polish people. The Uprising greatly slowed the German expulsion of Poles and the area's colonization with Germans. The Germans went so far as to create a buffer zone of villages populated by ethnic Ukrainians friendly to the Germans. The Polish peasants were reluctant to join the armed resistance, but were forced to protect themselves.
Almost immediately following the invasion, both Germany and the Soviet Union began setting up camps in occupied Poland, which included POW camps for some 230,672 Polish soldiers captured during the September campaign of 1939. Within a short period of time, the German zone of partitioned Poland became a virtual prison-island with more than 430 complexes of state organized terror. It is estimated that some 5 million Polish citizens went through them while serving German war economy. The Occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union began in September 1939. The majority of 50,000 Poles imprisoned at Mauthausen-Gusen perished mostly in Gusen; 150,000 at Auschwitz, 20,000 at Sachsenhausen, 40,000 at Gross-Rosen; 17,000 at Neuengamme and 10,000 at Dachau. About 17,000 Polish women died at Ravensbrück. A major concentration camp complex at Stutthof (east of Gdansk), was launched no later than 2 September 1939 and existed till the end of the war with 39 subcamps. It is estimated that 65,000 Poles died there. The total number of Polish nationals who met their deaths in the camps, prisons and places of detention inside and outside Poland exceeds 1,286,000. There were special camps for children such as the Potulice concentration camp, the Kinder-KZ Litzmannstadt for Polish boys, and the forced-labour camp for Polish girls at Dzierżązna (Dzierzazna). According to IPN investigation, in the years 1943–1944, the Warsaw concentration camp was also used in an attempt to depopulate the Polish capital with the number of prisoner victims, according to unofficial reports ranging from 40,000 (claimed by a German member of staff) up to 200,000 proposed by the Society for the Construction of Memorial to the Camp Victims (Stowarzyszenie Komitetu Budowy Pomnika Ofiar Obozu Zaglady KL Warschau).
Auschwitz became the main concentration camp for Poles on 14 June 1940. By March 1941, 10,900 prisoners were registered at the camp, most of them Gentile Poles. In September 1941, 200 ailing Polish prisoners along with 650 Soviet POWs, were killed in the first gassing experiments with Zyklon-B. Beginning in 1942, Auschwitz's prisoner population became much more diverse, as Jews and other "enemies of the state" from all over German-occupied Europe were deported to the expanding camp. Franciszek Piper, the chief historian of Auschwitz, estimates that 140,000 to 150,000 non-Jewish Poles were brought to that camp between 1940 and 1945, and that 70,000 to 75,000 died there as victims of executions, human experimentation, starvation and disease.
Instances of pseudo medical experiments occurred. For example, 74 young Polish women were subjected to medical experiments on bone and muscle transplantation, nerve regeneration and wound infection in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Sulfanilamide experiments were conducted on Polish Catholic priests in Dachau. More than 300 Polish priests died as a result of experiments or torture.
Already in 1939 the Germans divided all Poles along the ethnic lines. As part of the expulsion and slave labor program, Jews were singled out and separated from the rest of civilian population in the newly established ghettos. In smaller towns, ghettos served as staging points for mass deportations, while in the urban centers they became instruments of "slow, passive murder" with rampant hunger and dead bodies littering the streets. The ghettos did not correspond to traditional Jewish neighborhoods. The non-Jewish Poles and members of other groups were ordered to take up residence elsewhere.
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest ghetto in all of Nazi occupied Europe, with over 400,000 Jews crammed into an area of 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), or 7.2 persons per room. The Łódź Ghetto was the second largest, holding about 160,000 inmates. By the end of 1941, most of about 3.5 million Polish Jews were already ghettoized, even though the Germans knew that the system was unsustainable; most inmates had no chance of earning their own keep, and no savings left to pay the SS for any further basic food deliveries.
In October 1939, the Nazis passed a decree on forced labor for Jews over the age of 12 and Poles over the age of 14 living in the General Government. Between 1939 and 1945, some 3 million Polish citizens were transported to the Reich for slave labor, many of them teenage boys and girls. Although Germany also used forced laborers from Western Europe, Poles and other Eastern Europeans viewed as racially inferior were subjected to intensified discriminatory measures. Polish laborers were compelled to work longer hours for lower than the regular symbolic pay of Western Europeans. They were forced to wear identifying purple tags with "P"s sewn to their clothing, subjected to a curfew, and banned from public transportation. While the treatment of factory workers or farm hands often varied depending on the individual employer, in many cities Poles were forced to live in segregated barracks behind barbed wire. Social relations with Germans outside work were forbidden, and sexual relations ("racial defilement") were considered a capital crime punishable by death. During the war, hundreds of Polish men were executed for their relations with German women. Historian Jan Gross estimated "no more than 15 per cent" of all the Poles who went to Germany did so voluntarily.
Mass rapes were committed against Polish women and girls including during punitive executions of Polish citizens, before shooting of the women. Additionally, large numbers of Polish women were routinely captured with the aim of forcing them into serving in German military brothels. Mass raids were conducted by the Nazis in many Polish cities with the express aim of capturing young women, later forced to work in brothels attended by German soldiers and officers. Girls as young as 15 years old, who were ostensibly classified as "suitable for agricultural work in Germany", were sexually exploited by German soldiers at their places of destination.
In Reichsgau Wartheland territories of occupied Greater Poland, the Nazi goal was a complete Germanization of the land: i.e. the assimilation politically, culturally, socially and economically into the German Reich. This did not mean the old style Germanization of the inhabitants – by teaching them the language and culture – but rather, the flooding of the Reichsgau with assumed pure Germans aided only by the fraction of those living there previously, most of whom were not ethnically German. In order to meet the imaginary targets Gauleiter Albert Forster in charge of Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia had decided that the whole segments of Polish population are in fact ethnic German, whilst expelling others. This decision led to some two-thirds of the ethnic Polish population of the Gau being defined as German for the first time in their lives.
German Nazis closed elementary schools where Polish was the language of instruction. Streets and cities were renamed (Łódź became Litzmannstadt, etc.). Tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, were seized from their owners. In October 1939, the Nazi propaganda stated Poles, Jews, and Gypsies were subhumans. Signs posted in front of those establishments warned: "Entrance forbidden for Poles, Jews, and dogs." The Nazi regime was less stringent in their treatment of the Kashubians in the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia. Everywhere, however, many thousands of people were forced to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, a racial documentation which the Nazis used to identify and give priority to people of German heritage in occupied countries.
At least 200,000 children in occupied Poland were kidnapped by the Nazis to be subjected to forcible germanization (Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte). These children were screened for "racially valuable traits" and sent to special homes to be Germanized. After racial tests, those deemed suitable, were then placed for adoption if the Germanization was effective, while children who failed the tests were mass murdered in medical experiments, concentration camps or sent to slave labor. After the war many of the kidnapped children found by Allied forces after the war, had been utterly convinced that they were German.
Children of forced workers were mistreated in Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte, where thousands of them died. A camp for children and teenagers, Polen-Jugendverwahrlager der Sicherheitspolizei in Litzmannstadt ran from 1943–44 in Lódz, with a sub-camp for girls in Dzierżązna, Łódź Voivodeship.
As part of the plan to destroy Poland, the Germans engaged in cultural genocide in which they looted and then destroyed libraries, museums, scientific institutes and laboratories as well as national monuments and historic treasures. They closed down all universities, high schools, and engaged in systematic murder of Polish scholars, teachers and priests. Millions of books were burned, including an estimated 80% of all school libraries, and three-quarters of all scientific libraries. Polish children were forbidden from acquiring education beyond the elementary level with the aim that the new generation of Polish leaders could not arise in the future. According to a May 1940 memo from Heinrich Himmler: "The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans. I do not think that reading is desirable." By 1941, the number of children attending elementary school in the General Government was half of the pre-war number. The Poles responded with the "Secret Teaching" (Tajne Nauczanie), a campaign of underground education.
Ethnic Poles in Poland were targeted by the lapanka policy which German forces utilized to indiscriminately round up civilians off the street. In Warsaw, between 1942 and 1944, there were approximately 400 daily victims of lapanka. It is estimated that tens of thousands of these victims were killed in mass executions, including an estimated 37,000 people at the Pawiak prison complex run by the Gestapo, and thousands of others killed in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto.
In July 1939, a Nazi secret program called Action T4 was implemented whose purpose was to effect the extermination of psychiatric patients. During the German invasion of Poland, the program was put into practice on a massive scale in the occupied Polish territories. Typically, all patients, accompanied by soldiers from special SS detachments, were transported by trucks to the extermination sites. The first actions of this type took place at a large psychiatric hospital in Kocborowo on 22 September 1939 (Gdansk region) as well as in Gniezno and in Koscian.
The total number of psychiatric patients murdered by the Nazis in occupied Poland between 1939 and 1945 is estimated to be more than 16,000. An additional 10,000 patients died of malnutrition. Approximately 100 of the 243 members of the Polish Psychiatric Association met the same fate as their patients.
Execution of patients by firing squad and by revolver included 400 patients of a psychiatric hospital in Chelm on 1 February 1940. and from Owinska. In Pomerania, they were transported to a military fortress in Poznan and gassed with carbon monoxide in the bunkers of Fort VII, including children as well as women whom the authorities classified as Polish prostitutes. Other Owinska hospital patients were gassed in sealed trucks using exhaust fumes. The same method was utilized in the Kochanówka hospital near Lódz, where 840 persons were killed in 1940, totalling 1,126 victims in 286 clinics.
This was the first "successful" test of the mass murder of Poles using gas. This technique was later perfected on many other psychiatric patients in Poland and in Germany; starting in 1941, the technique was widely employed in the extermination camps. Nazi gas vans were also first used in 1940 to kill Polish mentally ill children.
In 1943, the SS and Police Leader in Poland, Wilhelm Koppe, ordered more than 30,000 Polish patients suffering from tuberculosis to be exterminated as the so-called "health hazard" to the General Government. They were killed mostly at the Chelmno extermination camp.
Historically, the church had been a leading force in Polish nationalism against foreign domination, thus the Nazis targeted clergy, monks and nuns in their terror campaigns—both for their resistance activity and their cultural importance. Of the brief period of military control from 1 September 1939 – 25 October 1939, Davies wrote: "according to one source, 714 mass executions were carried out, and 6,376 people, mainly Catholics, were shot. Other put the death toll in one town alone at 20,000. It was a taste of things to come." According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 1811 Polish priests died in Nazi concentration camps.
Nazi policy towards the Church was at its most severe in the territories it annexed to Greater Germany, where the Nazis set about systematically dismantling the Church – arresting its leaders, exiling its clergymen, closing its churches, monasteries and convents. Many clergymen were murdered.
The Catholic Church was suppressed in the annexed territory of Reichsgau Wartheland more harshly than elsewhere. In the Wartheland, regional leader Arthur Greiser, with the encouragement of Reinhard Heydrich and Martin Bormann, launched a severe attack on the Catholic Church. Its properties and funds were confiscated, and lay organisations shut down. Evans wrote that "Numerous clergy, monks, diocesan administrators and officials of the Church were arrested, deported to the General Government, taken off to a concentration camp in the Reich, or simply shot. Altogether some 1700 Polish priests ended up at Dachau: half of them did not survive their imprisonment." Greiser's administrative chief August Jager had earlier led the effort at Nazification of the Evangelical Church in Prussia. In Poland, he earned the nickname "Kirchen-Jager" (Church-Hunter) for the vehemence of his hostility to the Church.
"By the end of 1941", wrote Evans, "the Polish Catholic Church had been effectively outlawed in the Wartheland. It was more or less Germanized in the other occupied territories, despite an encyclical issued by the Pope as early as 27 October 1939 protesting against this persecution." The Germans also closed seminaries and convents persecuting monks and nuns throughout Poland. In Pomerania, all but 20 of the 650 priests were shot or sent to concentration camps. Between 1939 and 1945, 2,935 members of the Polish clergy (18%) were killed in concentration camps. In the city of Włocławek, 49% of its Catholic priests were killed; in Chelmno, 48%. One hundred and eight of them are regarded as blessed martyrs. Among them, Maximilian Kolbe, who volunteered to die at Auschwitz in place of a stranger, was in 1982 canonized as a saint.
The Holocaust in German-occupied Poland involved the implementation of German Nazi policy of systematic and mostly successful destruction of the indigenous Polish Jewish population, whom the Nazis regarded as "subhuman" (Untermenschen). Between the 1939 invasion of Poland, and the end of World War II, over 90% of Polish Jewry perished. Six extermination camps (Auschwitz, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka) were established in which the mass murder of millions of Polish Jews and various other groups, was carried out between 1942 and 1944. The camps were designed and operated by Nazi Germans and there were no Polish guards at any of them. Of Poland's prewar Jewish population of 3,500,000, only about 50,000–120,000 Jews survived the war.
During the suppression of the 1944 Uprising in Warsaw, German forces committed many atrocities against Polish civilians, following the order by Hitler to level the city. The most notorious occurrence took place in Wola where, at the beginning of August 1944, between 40–50,000 civilians (men, women, and children) were methodically rounded-up and executed by the Einsatzkommando of the Sicherheitspolizei under Heinz Reinefarth's command and the amnestied German criminals from Dirlewanger. Other similar massacres took place in the areas of Śródmieście (City Centre), Stare Miasto (Old Town) and Marymont districts. In Ochota, an orgy of civilian killings, rape and looting was carried out by Russian collaborators of RONA. After the fall of Stare Miasto, during the beginning of September, 7,000 seriously wounded hospital patients were executed or burnt alive, often with the medical staff caring for them. Similar atrocities took place later in the Czerniaków district and after the fall of Powisle and Mokotów districts.
Until the end of September 1944, Polish resistance fighters were not considered by Germans as combatants; thus, when captured, they were summarily executed. One hundred sixty-five thousand surviving civilians were sent to labour camps, and 50,000 were shipped to concentration camps, while the ruined city was systematically demolished. Neither Reinefarth nor Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski were ever tried for their crimes committed during the suppression of the uprising. (The Polish request for extradition of amnestied Wilhelm Koppe from Germany was also refused.)
In April 1991, the Polish Parliament changed a statute in force since 1945 about the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland.– "More important than the change of the name was that the activity of the [earlier] commission was... totally controlled by the communists." Jerzy Halbersztadt (31 December 1995). "Main Crimes Commission in Poland". H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences Online.
Also in: Eksploatacja ekonomiczna ziem polskich (Economic exploitation of Poland's territory) by Dr. Andrzej Chmielarz, Polish Resistance in WW2, Eseje-Artykuly.
Wedlug ustalen Czeslawa Luczaka, do wszelkiego rodzaju obozów odosobnienia deportowano ponad 5 mln obywateli polskich (lacznie z Zydami i Cyganami). Z liczby tej zginelo ponad 3 miliony.
Es muss auch der letzten Kuhmagd in Deutschland klargemacht werden, dass das Polentum gleichwertig ist mit Untermenschentum. Polen, Juden und Zigeuner stehen auf der gleichen unterwertigen Stufe. (Propaganda Ministry, Order No. 1306, October 24, 1939.)
From German original Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg: Die Wehrmacht in Polen 1939, ISBN 3596163072.
Publ. in English, and in French as Crimes de guerre en pologne le genocide nazi 1939 1945.
Quote in Polish: "...w tych przypadkach, w których polska ludnosc cywilna podjela walke z Wehrmachtem, lecz ujeta przez wroga mordowana byla w egzekucjach poza sama walka, stawala sie ofiara oczywistych zbrodni wojennych. Konstatacja ta opiera sie takze na art. 6 statutu Miedzynarodowego Trybunalu Wojskowego w Norymberdze z 8 sierpnia 1945 r., który w punkcie b jako postaci zbrodni wojennych wskazuje pogwalcenie praw i zwyczajów wojennych przez morderstwa ludnosci cywilnej i jenców wojennych, a takze zabijanie zakladników oraz rozmyslne i bezcelowe burzenie miast, osad i wsi lub niszczenie nieusprawiedliwione wojskowa koniecznoscia."
Nazi crimes against the Polish nation [included] death penalty provided for three out of four crimes.
Poland's WWII population losses (in millions). Description. Jewish: 3.1 million. Ethnic Poles: 2.0 million. Other minorities: 0.5 million. Total: 5.6 million.
...the memory of Nazi crimes against the Polish people played a central role" [in] "the development of modern Polish national identity.
Action Saybusch (German: Aktion Saybusch, Polish: Akcja Żywiec) was the mass expulsion of some 18,000–20,000 ethnic Poles from the territory of Żywiec County in Polish Silesia, conducted by the Wehrmacht and German police during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. The main purpose of the forcible displacement of Polish nationals was to create space for ethnically German colonists from across Eastern Europe, after the annexation of western Poland into the Third Reich in 1939.The Action was part of the Adolf Hitler's plan known as Lebensraum which involved Germanization of all Polish areas west of the territory allocated to the General Government. The name of the Action came from the German name of the city of Żywiec – Saybusch. Displacements of the Poles from Żywiec and surrounding villages and towns was led by the occupation authorities under SS-Obersturmbannführer Fritz Arlt, who replaced Bruno Müller from RKF.Aktion Saybusch lasted from September to December 1940, with some 3,200 Volksdeutsche brought in Heim ins Reich (Home into the Empire) from Romanian Bukovina. The process of expulsions continued thereafter. In total, between 1940 and 1944, around 50,000 Poles were forcibly removed from the region and replaced with about 4,000 settlers from Eastern Galicia and Volhynia who were given new latifundia. Before the German attack on the Soviet Union, their transfer was agreed upon by both invaders at the Gestapo–NKVD Conferences. The expulsions from eastern Silesia were the direct responsibility of the SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who was also responsible for instigating them.Amon Göth
"Göth" and "Goeth" redirect here; see Goeth (surname) for a discussion of this and related surnames.Amon Leopold Göth (pronounced [ˈɡøːt]; alternative spelling Goeth; 11 December 1908 – 13 September 1946; audio ) was an Austrian SS functionary during the Nazi era. He served as the commandant of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp in Płaszów in German-occupied Poland for most of the camp's existence during World War II.
Göth was tried after the war by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland at Kraków and was found guilty of personally ordering the imprisonment, torture, and extermination of individuals and groups of people. He was also convicted of homicide, the first such conviction at a war crimes trial, for "personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people."Göth was executed by hanging not far from the former site of the Płaszów camp. The 1993 film Schindler's List, where Göth is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, depicts his running of the Płaszów concentration camp.Fort VII
Fort VII, officially Konzentrationslager Posen (renamed later), was a Nazi German death camp set up in Poznań in German-occupied Poland during World War II, located in one of the 19th-century forts circling the city. According to different estimates, between 4,500 and 20,000 people, mostly Poles from Poznań and the surrounding region, died while imprisoned at the camp.German military brothels in World War II
German military brothels were set up by Nazi Germany during World War II throughout much of occupied Europe for the use of Wehrmacht and SS soldiers. These brothels were generally new creations, but in the West, they were sometimes set up using existing brothels as well as many other buildings. Until 1942, there were around 500 military brothels of this kind in German-occupied Europe. Often operating in confiscated hotels and guarded by the Wehrmacht, these facilities served travelling soldiers and those withdrawn from the front. According to records, at least 34,140 European women were forced to serve as prostitutes during the German occupation of their own countries along with female prisoners of concentration camp brothels. In many cases in Eastern Europe, the women involved were kidnapped on the streets of occupied cities during German military and police round ups called łapanka or rafle.German war crimes
The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany ordered, organized and condoned a substantial number of war crimes in World War I and World War II respectively. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of Jews, Poles, and Romani were systematically murdered or died from abuse and mistreatment. Millions also died as a result of other German actions in those two conflicts. The true number of victims may never be known, since much of the evidence was deliberately destroyed by the perpetrators in an attempt to conceal the crimes.Gross-Rosen concentration camp
Gross-Rosen concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager Groß-Rosen) was a German network of Nazi concentration camps built and operated during World War II. The main camp was located in the German village of Gross-Rosen, now the modern-day Rogoźnica in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland; directly on the rail-line between the towns of Jawor (Jauer) and Strzegom (Striegau).At its peak activity in 1944, the Gross-Rosen complex had up to 100 subcamps located in eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the territory of occupied Poland. The population of all Gross-Rosen camps at that time accounted for 11% of the total number of inmates incarcerated in the Nazi concentration camp system.Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank (23 May 1900 – 16 October 1946) was a German war criminal and lawyer who worked for the Nazi Party during the 1920s and 1930s, and later became Adolf Hitler's personal lawyer. After the invasion of Poland, Frank became Nazi Germany's chief jurist in the occupied Poland "General Government" territory. During his tenure throughout World War II (1939–45), he instituted a reign of terror against the civilian population and became directly involved in the mass murder of Jews. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed.July 4
July 4 is the 185th day of the year (186th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 180 days remain until the end of the year. The Aphelion, the point in the year when the Earth is farthest from the Sun, occurs around this date.Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops
The Pastoral Letter of the Polish Bishops to their German Brothers (Polish: Orędzie biskupów polskich do ich niemieckich braci w Chrystusowym urzędzie pasterskim; German: Hirtenbrief der polnischen Bischöfe an ihre deutschen Amtsbrüder) was a pastoral letter sent on 18 November 1965 by Polish bishops of the Roman Catholic Church to their German counterparts. It was foremost an invitation to the 1000 Year Anniversary Celebrations of Poland's Christianization in 966. In this invitation letter the bishops asked for cooperation not only with Catholics but with Protestants as well.
While recalling past and recent historical events, the bishops stretched out their hands in forgiveness and are asking for forgiveness. Here referred to as Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops it is actually only one part of the extensive groundbreaking invitation and letter, where they declared: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness" (for the crimes of World War II).Nazi birthing centres for foreign workers
During World War II, Nazi birthing centres for foreign workers, known in German as Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte (literally "foreign children nurseries"), Ostarbeiterkinderpflegestätten ("eastern worker children nurseries"), or Säuglingsheim ("baby home") were German institutions used as stations for abandoned infants, Nazi Party facilities established in the heartland of Nazi Germany for the so-called 'troublesome' babies according to Himmler's decree, the offspring born to foreign women and girls servicing the German war economy, including Polish and Eastern European female forced labour. The babies and children, most of them resulting from rape at the place of enslavement, were abducted en masse between 1943 and 1945. At some locations, up to 90 percent of infants died a torturous death due to calculated neglect.Nowy Sącz Ghetto
The Nowy Sącz Ghetto known in German as Ghetto von Neu-Sandez and in Yiddish as צאנז (Tsanz; Zanc) or נײ-סאנץ (Nay-Sants; Nojzanc) was a World War II ghetto set up by Nazi Germany for the purpose of persecution and exploitation of Polish Jews in the city of Nowy Sącz pronounced [ˈnɔvɨ ˈsɔnt͡ʂ] during the occupation of Poland (1939–45).The relocation of Jews continued ever since the German army rolled into Nowy Sącz on 6 September 1939 in the first week of the invasion of Poland. Synagogues and prayer houses were devastated and turned into storehouses. The Ghetto was filled with 18,000 prisoners from the city and all neighbouring settlements and closed off from the outside officially in June 1941. It was liquidated one year later with all Jewish men, women and children rounded up and sent aboard Holocaust trains to Bełżec extermination camp in late August 1942.Pacification actions in German-occupied Poland
The pacification actions in German-occupied Poland during World War II were one of many punitive measures designed to inflict terror on the civilian population of local villages and towns with the use of military and police force. They were an integral part of the war of aggression against the Polish nation waged by Nazi Germany since September 1, 1939. The projected goal of pacification operations was to prevent and suppress the Polish resistance movement in World War II nevertheless, among the victims were children as young as 1.5 year old, women, fathers attempting to save their families, farmers rushing to rescue livestock from burning buildings, patients, victims already wounded, and hostages of many ethnicities including Poles and Jews.War crimes committed during pacification actions in occupied Poland were probed by the West German Central Office of Justice in Ludwigsburg in September 1959 and, in accordance with the German Criminal Code (§ 78/3 pt. 2, and § 212), ultimately thrown out as already expired due to German statutes of limitations. No further investigations were conducted until June 1971 when the 1939 crimes of the 1st Panzer Division in Poland (Polenfeldzug) were also thrown out as unlikely after statement by Major Walther Wenck, which was accepted on good faith. The inquiries by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance into massacres in specific locations are ongoing. Historical data collected in Poland confirms the complete destruction of 554,000 farms valued at 6.062 million złoty (1938 level) with 8 million dead cattle and horses, on top of terrible human losses. Several hundred villages were wiped off the map. In just a year and a half between January 1, 1943, and July 31, 1944, the Wehrmacht army alone conducted 1,106 pacification actions in occupied Poland, independent of the killing operations by Einsatzgruppen and auxiliary forces, and the ongoing Holocaust of the Jews.Rotunda Zamość
The Rotunda Zamość or the Museum of Martyrdom of the Zamość region - Rotunda (Polish: Muzeum Martyrologii Zamojszczyzny - Rotunda), is a Polish museum devoted to remembering the atrocities committed at the former Rotunda Zamość Nazi German camp located in Zamość near Lublin. The Nazi German Gestapo camp was set up in occupied Poland during World War II, as part of the Polish extermination program known as the German AB-Aktion in Poland, Ethnic cleansing of Zamojszczyzna by Nazi Germany....Roundup (history)
A roundup (Polish: łapanka, [waˈpanka] (listen); French: rafle or attrapage; Dutch: "razzia") was a widespread German World War II security and economic exploitation tactic used in occupied countries, especially in German-occupied Poland, whereby the SS, Wehrmacht and German police took captive at random thousands of civilians on the streets of subjugated cities. The civilians were captured in groups of unsuspecting passers-by, or kidnapped from selected city quarters that had been surrounded in advance by German forces.Those caught in roundups were most often sent to slave labour in Germany, but were also taken as hostages or executed in reprisal actions; imprisoned and sent to concentration camps; or summarily executed in numerous ethnic-cleansing operations.Rudolf Höss
Rudolf Höss (also Höß, Hoeß or Hoess; 25 November 1901 – 16 April 1947) was a German SS functionary during the Nazi era. He was the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. He tested and implemented various methods to accelerate Hitler's plan to systematically exterminate the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, known as the "Final Solution". On the initiative of one of his subordinates, Karl Fritzsch, Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide into the killing process.Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922 and the SS in 1934. From 4 May 1940 to November 1943, and again from 8 May 1944 to 18 January 1945, he was in charge of Auschwitz, where more than a million people were killed before the defeat of Germany. He was hanged in 1947 following a trial before the Polish Supreme National Tribunal. During his imprisonment, at the request of the Polish authorities, he wrote his memoirs, released in English under the title Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess.The Black Book of Poland
The Black Book of Poland is a 750-page report published in 1942 by the Ministry of Information of the Polish government-in-exile, describing atrocities committed by Germany in occupied Poland in twenty-two months between the invasion of Poland in September 1939, and the end of June 1941. All estimates, presented in the book section by section, are based on data collected while the war in the East was in progress, and the killing of Jews by means of carbon monoxide gas during Operation Reinhard – launched in 1942 for the implementation of the "Final Solution" – only began. All casualties are partially summarized. The book includes documentation proving more than 400,000 cases of deliberate killings at an average of 1,576 per day. It is also considered a follow-up to The Polish White Book of 1941.The Polish White Book
The Polish White Book is a semi-official name of a series of comprehensive reports published during World War II by the Ministry of Information of the Polish government-in-exile in London, England, dealing with Polish-German relations before and after the 1939 German-Soviet aggression against Poland. Each publication, released in English, French, German and Polish between 1940 and 1941, consisted of official documents and affidavits, supplemented with an overview by the Ministry. Notably, the Polish White Book was released in parallel with The Black Book of Poland series by G.P. Putnam's Sons of New York, published in London by Hutchinson & Co under a differing title in 1942.Verbrennungskommando Warschau
Verbrennungskommando Warschau (German: Warsaw burning detachment) was a slave labour unit formed by the SS following the Wola massacre of around 40,000 to 50,000 Polish civilians by the Germans in the early days of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
The purpose of the Verbrennungskommando was to remove evidence of the citywide campaign of mass murder that took place during the Uprising, by collecting corpses into large piles and burning them in open-air pyres on Elektoralna and Chłodna Streets among others. The squad was directly subordinated to SS-Obersturmführer Neumann and was also earmarked for execution after the completion of their work.Wehrmachtsausstellung
The Wehrmachtsausstellung (German for "Wehrmacht Exhibition") was a series of two exhibitions focusing on war crimes of the Wehrmacht during World War II. Both exhibitions were produced by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung); the first under the title "War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944" (Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944), which opened in Hamburg on 5 March 1995 and travelled to 33 German and Austrian cities. It was attended by 800,000 visitors claimed the organizers. The second exhibition – which was first shown in Berlin in November 2001 – attempted to dissipate considerable controversy generated by the first exhibition according to the Institute.
Massacres of ethnic Poles in World War II
|Pre-war Polish Volhynia|
|Polish self-defence centres|