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Occupation of Poland (1939–1945)

Poland

n addition to about 2.9 million Polish Jews (mostly killed in Operation Reinhard), about 2.8 million non-Jewish Polish citizens perished during the course of the war. Two million were ethnic Poles, the remaining 500,000 were mainly ethnic minority Ukrainians and Belarusians living in Poland.

The majority of those killed by Nazi Germany were civilians (exceeding military deaths nearly 10:1).

From the start of the war against Poland, Germany intended to realize the plan laid-out by theNazi leader Adolf Hitler in his 1926 book Mein Kampf. The aim of this plan was to turn Eastern Europe into part of greater Germany, the so-called German Lebensraum ("living space"). Nazi ideology had viewed Slavs as a racially inferior group. On August 22, 1939, on the invasion of Poland, Hitler gave explicit permission to his commanders to kill "without pity or mercy, men, women, and children of Polish descent or language". 

Genocide was conducted systematically against Polish people: on September 7, 1939 Reinhard Heydrich stated that all Polish nobles, clergy and Jews are to be killed, on September 12 Wilhelm Keitel added intelligentsia to the list, at the end of 1940 Hitler demanded liquidation of "all leading elements in Poland" and on March 15, 1940, 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 considers the elimination of all Polish people as its chief task.

1939 September Campaign

About 150,000 to 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the one-month September Campaign, characterized by the indiscriminate and often deliberate targeting of civilians by the invading forces of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Many of the them were killed in the Luftwaffe's terror bombing operations (including the bombing of Frampol  and Wielu?,). Massive air raids were conducted on these, and other towns which had no military infrastructure. Columns of fleeing refugees were systematically attacked by the German fighter and dive-bomber aircraft.

From the first day of the war, the round-ups and summary executions of Poles commenced by Wehrmacht, SS and Selbstschutz. Several thousand Polish POWs were also murdered.

 

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Einsatzgruppen Killings

During the 1939 German invasion of Poland, "special action squads" of the SS and police (the Einsatzgruppen) were deployed behind the front lines, arresting and killing civilians considered, by virtue of their social status, to be capable of abetting resistance efforts against the Germans.

Soon after the German invasion of Poland, lasting from fall of 1939 till spring of 1940 in first action of mass killings known as Intelligenzaktion, tens of thousands of former government officials, military officers in hiding, landowners, clergy, and members of the intelligentsia according to the "enemies lists" - Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen. Action was a part of Operation Tannenberg - early measure of the Generalplan Ost. Poles as well as Jews were either murdered in mass executions by death squads or sent to prisons and concentration camps. "Whatever we find in the shape of an upper class in Poland will be liquidated," Hitler had ordered. Only in Intelligenzaktion Pommern – regional action in Pomeranian Voivodeship was killed 23 000 of Poles, It was continued by the German AB-Aktion operation in Poland. In the mid-1940s, the AB-Aktion saw several thousand more killed or imprisoned (including the massacre of Lwów professors and the executions in Palmiry forest). The Einsatzgruppen were also responsible for the murder of Jews and Poles during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

 

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Terror and Pacification Operations

A mass execution of Polish hostages in Palmiry-The German execution of 51 Polish hostages in retaliation for an attack on a Nazi police station by the underground organization "White Eagle"

During the occupation, communities were held collectively responsible for Polish attacks against German troops and mass executions were conducted in reprisal. In the area in and around Bydgoszcz, about 10,000 non-Jewish Polish civilians were murdered in the first four months of the occupation (see Bloody Sunday). German army and paramilitary units composed o fVolksdeutsche also participated in executions of civilians.

The Nazis took hostages by the thousands at the time of the invasion and all during 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 the 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.

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Cultural Genocide

As part of the plan to destroy Poland, the Germans engaged in cultural genocide in which they destroyed or closed universities and high schools, libraries, museums and national monuments as well as scientific institutes and laboratories. 

Millions of books were destroyed, 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 so that a 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.

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Plans for the "Final Solution"

In the same document, Himmler promised to eventually deport all Slavic Poles to Russia. In other statements, he mentioned the future killing fields in the Pripet Marshes where all were intended to die during the cultivation of the swamps. Plans for the mass transportation and creation of slave labor camps for up to 20 million Poles were made. According to Himmler, "All Poles will disappear from the world. [...] It is essential that the great German people should consider it as its major task to destroy all Poles."

Expulsion of Polish population Expulsion of Poles from villages in Zamo?? Region by SS in December 1942. Main articles: Expulsion of Poles by Germany and World War II evacuation and expulsion

Germany planned to completely remove the indigenous population of Poland. According to theLebensraum ideology, their place was to be taken by the German military and civilian settlers. During the occupation, more than one million Poles were expelled by German authorities, including 923,000 Poles ethnically cleansed from territories Germany annexed into the Reich.

These expulsions were carried out so abruptly that ethnic Germans being resettled in the homes with half-eaten meals on tables and unmade beds where small children had been sleeping at the time of expulsion. Members of Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were assigned the task of overseeing such evictions to ensure that the Poles left behind most of their belongings for the use of the settlers.

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Concentration Camps & Extermination

Concentration camps ?apanka in Warsaw in 1941. Main article: Nazi concentration camps

Hundreds of thousands of Poles were prisoners in the extensive concentration camp system in German-occupied Poland and the Reich. An estimated 30,000 Poles died at Mauthausen-Gusen; 150 000 at Auschwitz, 20,000 each at Sachsenhausen and Gross-Rosen; 17,000 at Neuengammeand 10,000 at Dachau.

About 17,000 Polish women died at Ravensbrück. A major concentration camp complex at Stutthof, east of Gda?sk, existed from September 2, 1939, to the end of the war, where an estimated 20,000 Poles died. Many Poles died in Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin.

In addition, tens of thousands of Polish people were executed or found their deaths in the dozens of other camps, prisons and other places of detention inside and outside Poland. There were even special camps for children such as the Potulice concentration camp. According to some modern research, in the years 1943–1944, the Warsaw concentration camp was used as a death camp in an attempt to depopulate the Polish capital Warsaw.

Auschwitz I concentration camp

Auschwitz became the main concentration camp for Poles on June 14, 1940.

By March 1941, 10,900 prisoners were registered at the camp, most of them gentile Poles. In September 1941, 200 ailing prisoners, most of them Poles, along with 650 Soviet POWs, were killed in the first Zyklon-B gassing experiments.

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 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.

Indiscriminate executions Public execution of Polish civilians by the Nazi Germans in ?ód? in 1942. Public execution near P?aszów-Prokocim train station on June 26, 1942. (Krakow)

Non-Jewish ethnic Poles in Poland were targeted by the ?apanka 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 ?apanka. 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.

Extermination of hospital patients

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 action of this type took place on September 22, 1939, at a large psychiatric hospital in Kocborowo (Gda?sk region).

The total number of psychiatric patients murdered by the Nazis in occupied Poland between 1939–1945 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.

Beyond execution by firing squad, more heinous methods of mass murder were also employed. In October 1939, 1,000 patients of a psychiatric hospital in Owi?ska were transported to a military fortress in Pozna?; there, in the bunkers of Fort VII, children as well as adults were gassed with carbon monoxide.

Other Owi?ska hospital patients were gassed in sealed trucks using carbon monoxide from the exhaust fumes of vehicles. The same method was utilized in theKochanówek hospital near ?ód?, where 2,200 persons were killed in 1940. This was the first "successful" test of the mass murder of prisoners using poison gas.

This technique was later perfected on many other psychiatric patients in Poland and 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 executed. They were killed mostly in Chelmno extermination camp.

Forced labor in Germany ?apanka - captured civilians on the streets in Warsaw

Between 1939 and 1945, at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were transported to the Reich into forced labor, many of them teenage boys and girls. Although Germany also used forced laborers from Western Europe, Poles and other Eastern Europeans who were viewed as racially inferior were subjected to intensified discriminatory measures.

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, most Polish laborers were compelled to work longer hours for lower wages than Western Europeans.

In many cities, they 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.

Germanization See also: Germanization

In Reichsgau Wartheland, the annexed territories of Greater Poland, the Nazis' goal was complete Germanization: assimilation politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich. This did not mean old style of Germanization—Germanizing the inhabitants by teaching them the language and culture—but settling them with Germans, which would include only a small fraction of those living there, as most were not ethnical German.

Germans closed elementary schools where Polish was the language of instruction. Streets and cities were renamed (?ód? becameLitzmannstadt, etc). Tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, were seized from their owners. 

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.

Crimes against children

At least 20,000 children in occupied Poland were also kidnapped by the Nazis to be subjected to German indoctrination. These children were screened for "racially valuable traits" and sent to special homes to be Germanized. They were then placed for adoption if the Germanization was effective. Many of them, 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 worked 1943-1944 in ?ód?.

Persecution of Catholic clergy Maximilian Kolbe statue (left),Westminster Abbey

The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed in the annexed territory of Reichsgau Warthelandmore harshly than elsewhere. Churches were systematically closed, and most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported to the General Government.

 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 Wroc?aw (Breslau), 49% of its Catholic priests were killed; in Che?mno, 48%. One hundred and eight of them are regarded as blessed martyrs. Among them, Maximilian Kolbe was canonized as a saint.

1944 Destruction of Warsaw Polish civilians murdered by German troops during Warsaw Uprising. Memorial to the Wola massacre

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 district where, at the beginning of August 1944, at least 40,000 civilians (men, women, and children) were methodically rounded-up and executed by the Einsatzkommando of the Sicherheitspoliz i under Heinz Reinefarth's command and the amnestied German criminals from Dirlewanger.

Other similar massacres took place in the areas of ?ródmie?cie(City Centre), Stare Miasto (Old Town) and Marymontdistricts. In Ochota district, 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 Powi?le and Mokotów districts.

Between 150,000 and 180,000 civilians, and thousands of captured insurgents, were killed in the suppression of the uprising. 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.)

Germanization See also: Germanization

In Reichsgau Wartheland, the annexed territories of Greater Poland, the Nazis' goal was complete Germanization: assimilation politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich.[39] This did not mean old style of Germanization—Germanizing the inhabitants by teaching them the language and culture—but settling them with Germans, which would include only a small fraction of those living there, as most were not ethnical German.

Germans closed elementary schools where Polish was the language of instruction. Streets and cities were renamed (?ód? became Litzmannstadt, etc). Tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, were seized from their owners. 

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.

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Crimes Against Children

Crimes against children See also: Kidnapping of Polish children by Nazi Germany and Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte

At least 20,000 children in occupied Poland were also kidnapped by the Nazis to be subjected to German indoctrination. These children were screened for "racially valuable traits" and sent to special homes to be Germanized. They were then placed for adoption if the Germanization was effective. Many of them, 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 worked 1943-1944 in ?ód?.

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Kidnapping of Eastern European Children by Nazi Germany

Kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany (PolishRabunek dzieci), part of the Generalplan Ost (GPO), involved taking children from Eastern Europe and moving them to Nazi Germany for the purpose of Germanization, or conversion into Germans.

Occupied Poland had the largest proportion of children taken, but children were abducted throughout Eastern Europe, several hundreds of thousands in total.

The aim of the project was to acquire and "Germanize" children with purportedly Aryan traits who were considered by Nazi officials to be descendants of German settlers that had emigrated to Poland. Those labeled "racially valuable" were forcibly Germanized in special centers and then sent to German families and SS Home Schools. 

In the case of older children used as forced labor in Germany those determined to be racially un-"German" were sent to extermination camps and concentration camps, where they were either to be murdered or forced to serve as living test subjects in German medical experiments and thus often tortured or killed in the process.

In a well-known speech to his military commanders at Obersalzberg on 22 August 1939, Adolf Hitler condoned the killing without pity or mercy of all men, women, and children of Polish race or language."

On 7 November 1939, Hitler decreed that Heinrich Himmler, whose German title at that time was Reichskomissar für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums, would be responsible for policy regarding population on occupied territories. The plan to kidnap Polish children most likely was created in a document titled Rassenpolitisches Amt der NSDAP.

On 25 November 1939, Himmler was sent a 40-page document titled (in English translation) "The issue of the treatment of population in former Polish territories from a racial-political view."

The last chapter of the document concerns "racially valuable" Polish children and plans to forcefully acquire them for German plans and purposes:

we should exclude from deportations racially valuable children and raise them in old Reich in proper educational facilities or in German family care. The children must not be older than eight or ten years, because only till this age we can truly change their national identification, that is "final germanization". A condition for this is complete separation from any Polish relatives. Children will be given German names, their ancestry will be led by special office.

On 15 May 1940, in a document titled (in German) Einige Gedanken ueber die Behandlung der Fremdenvoelker im Osten ("A Few Thoughts about the Treatment of Racial Aliens in the East"), and in another "top-secret memorandum with limited distribution, dated 25 May 1940", titled (in English translation) "The Treatment of Racial Aliens in the East", Himmler defined special directives for the kidnapping of Polish children.  Himmler "also outlined the administration of incorporated Poland and the General Government, where Poles were to be assigned to compulsory labor, and racially selected children were to be abducted and Germanized."

Among Himmler's core points:

  • In the territory of Poland, only four grade schools would remain, in which counting would be taught only till 500, writing one's name, and teaching that God commanded Poles to serve Germans. Writing was determined to be unnecessary for the Polish population.

  • Parents who desired to educate their children better would have to apply for a special permit to the SS and police. On the basis of the document specialists would check if the children were deemed "racially valuable". If the children were so deemed, then they would be taken away to Germany to be Germanised. 

  • Even then, the fate of each child would be determined by loyalty and obedience to serve the German state by his or her parents. A child determined to be "of racially little value" would not receive any further education.
  • Annual selection would be made every year among children from six to ten years old according to German racial standards; those children that would pass it, would be taken away to Germany where they would be further Germanised after changing their names. The aim of the plan was to destroy "Polish" as a race, and leave within Poland a considerable slave population to be used within 10 years (eventually Poles would be removed completely within 15–20 years).

On 20 June 1940, Hitler approved Himmler's directives, ordering copies to be sent to chief organs of the SS, to Gauleiters in eastern German-occupied territories, and to the governor of General Government, and commanding that the operation of kidnapping Polish children in order to seek Aryan descendants for Germanisation be a priority in those territories.

Between 1940 and 1945, according to official Polish estimates, approximately 200,000 Polish children were abducted by the Nazis

Large numbers of children were also abducted from places other than Poland: about 20,000 children were taken from the Soviet Union and about 10,000 children were taken from Western and South Eastern Europe.

Himmler mused on initiating similar projects in German-occupied FranceHitler's Table Talk records him expressing his belief that "theFrench problem" would be best solved by yearly extractions of a number of racially healthy children, chosen from "France's Germanic population". He preferred they be placed in German boarding schools, in order to separate them from their "incidental" French nationality, and to make them aware of their "Germanic blood".

Hitler responded that the "religious petit-bourgeois tendencies of the French people" would make it almost impossible to "salvage the Germanic elements from the claws of the ruling class of that country". Martin Bormannbelieved it to be an ingenious policy, noting it in the document record as a [sic] "sinister theory!".

Many children were kidnapped during expulsions of Poles made by Germans. For example in Zamo?? County, Germans expelled 30,000 children, out of which 4,445 were chosen for Germanisation and sent to the German Reich. Over 10,000 children died in camps atZwierzyniecZamo??AuschwitzMajdanek or during transport in cattle wagons used normally to move livestock. Thousands of them were sent by railway to GarwolinMrozówSobolew?osiceChe?m and other cities. As one witness reported: "I saw children being taken from their mothers, some were even torn from the breast. It was a terrible sight: the agony of the mothers and fathers, the beating by the Germans, and the crying of the children."

The conditions of transfer were very harsh, as the children did not receive food or water for many days. Many children died as a result of suffocation in the summer and cold in the winter. Polish railway workers, often risking their lives, tried to feed the imprisoned children or to give them warm clothes.

Sometimes the German guards could be bribed by jewelry or gold to allow the supplies to go through, in other cases they sold some of the children to Poles. In Bydgoszcz and Gdynia, Poles bought children for 40 Reichsmarks. In some places the German price for a Polish child was 25 zlotys

The children were kidnapped by force, often after their parents had been murdered in concentration camps or shot as "partisans", including a handful of the children of Lidice

These children would not be permitted to remain even with other living relatives. Some were purportedly from German soldiers and foreign mothers, and others were declared "German orphans" who had been raised by non-German families. Indeed, orphanages and children's homes, along with children living with foster parents, were among the first groups targeted, in the belief that Poles deliberately and systemically Polonized ethnically German children. German foster parents were later told that children had been received false Polish birth certificates to rob them of their German heritage.

Later the children were sent to special centers and institutions or to, as Germans called them, "children education camps" (Kindererziehungslager), which, in reality, were selection camps where their "racial values" were tested, their original metrics of birth destroyed, and their Polish names changed to German names, as part of Germanisation. Those children who were classified as "of little value" were sent to Auschwitz or to Treblinka

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Selection & Germinization

Selection Kinder-KZ inside Litzmannstadt Ghetto map signed with number 15; where Polish children were selected.

The children were placed in special temporary camps of the health department, or Lebensborn E.V., called in German Kindererziehungslager ("child camps"). Afterwards they went through special "quality selection" or "racial selection" — a detailed racial examination, combined with psychological tests and medical exams made by experts from RuSHA or doctors from Gesundheitsamt. A child's "racial value" would determine to which of 11 racial types it was assigned, including 62 points assessing body proportions, eye colour, hair colour, and the shape of the skull.

During this testing process, children were divided into three groups (in English translation):

  • "desired population growth" (erwünschter Bevölkerungszuwachs);
  • "acceptable population growth" (tragbarer Bevölkerungszuwachs); and
  • "undesired population growth" (unerwünschter Bevölkerungszuwachs).

The failures that could result in a child, otherwise fitting all racial criteria, into the second group included such traits as "round-headed" referring the skull shape. Children could be declared the third group for tuberculosis, "degenerate" skull shape, or "Gypsy characteristics". A girl who was later identified by a small birthmark would have been rejected had the birthmark been much larger.

These racial exams determined the fate of children: whether they would be killed, or sent to concentration camps, or experience other consequences. For example, after forcibly taking a child away from his or her parents, "medical exams" could be performed in secret and in disguise.

Many Nazis were astounded at the number of Polish children found to exhibit "Nordic" traits, but assumed that all such children were genuinely German children, who had been PolonizedHans Frank summoned up such views when he declared, "When we see a blue-eyed child we are surprised that she is speaking Polish." Among those children thought to be genuinely German were children whose parents had been executed for resisting Germanization.

Germanization

Once selected, the children between six and twelve were sent to special homes. Their names were altered to similar sounding German ones. 

They were compelled to learn German and beaten if they persisted in speaking Polish. They were informed their parents were dead even if they were not. Children who would not learn German or remembered their Polish origin were sent back to youth camps in Poland. 

In some cases, the efforts were so successful that the children lived and died believing themselves to be Germans. Very young children, between two and six, were sent to Lebensborn homes, which had originally been instituted to provide shelter for unwed mothers and illegitimate children deemed racially valuable. There, they would be observed for a period

In either case, if they were not disqualified at the respective institution, they were placed for adoption. The Nazis would devise German names and new birth certificates to hide their pasts. In the process, they were referred to as "Polonized German children" or "Children of German descent" or even "German orphans. Orders forbade making the term "Germanizable Polish children" known to the public. 

This was to prevent their being viewed as Poles by the people they met, and so stigmatized. Some parents were informed that the children's birth certificates had been falsified, to show them as Poles and rob them of their German heritage. The authorities were reluctant to let the children be officially adopted, as the proceedings might reveal their Polish origin. Indeed, some children were maltreated when their adoptive parents learned that they were Polish.

Adoption was also problematic because surveillance or more information might reveal problems with the child. When it was learned that Rosalie K's mother was epileptic, for instance, it was immediately concluded, despite the wishes of her German foster parents, that Germanization, education and adoption were therefore not justifiable.

When adoptive parents demanded adoption certificates, such records were forged for them.

 

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Experiments & Death

Murder of Zamo?? children in Auschwitz Czes?awa Kwoka-one of many Polish children murdered in Auschwitz by Germans

At Auschwitz concentration camp 200 to 300 Jewish Polish children from the Zamo?? area were murdered by Germans by phenol injections. The child was placed on a stool, occasionally blindfolded with a piece of a towel. The person performing the execution then placed one of his hands on the back of the child's neck and another behind the shoulder blade. As the child's chest was thrust out a long needle was used to inject a toxic dose of phenol into the chest. The children usually died in minutes.

A witness described the process as deadly efficient: "As a rule not even a moan would be heard. And they did not wait until the doomed person really died. During his agony, he was taken from both sides under the armpits and thrown into a pile of corpses in another room… And the next victim took his place on the stool."

To trick the soon-to-be murdered children into obedience Germans promised them that they would work at a brickyard. However another group of children, young boys by the age of 8 to 12, managed to warn their fellow child inmates by calling for help when they were being killed by Germans: "'Mamo! Mamo!' ('Mother! Mother!'), the dying screams of the youngsters, were heard by several inmates and made an indelible haunting impression on them.'"

Some of the children were also murdered in Auschwitz gas chambers; others died as a result of the camp conditions.

German medical experiments on kidnapped children

Those children who did not pass harsh Nazi exams and criteria and who were therefore selected during the operation, were sent as test subjects for experiments in special centers. Children sent there ranged from eight months to 18 years.

Two such centres were located in German-occupied Poland. One of them, Medizinische Kinderheilanstalt, was in Lubliniec in Upper Silesia – in this centre children were also subject to forced euthanasia; while the second was located in Cieszyn.

Children were given psychoactive drugs, chemicals and other substances for medical tests, although it was generally known that the true purpose of those procedures was their mass extermination.

Weaker children subject to experiments usually died in a relatively short time from doses of drugs, and those that survived brought great curiosity; all side effects were recorded as well as their behavior.

As most died, the documentation was forged to conceal traces of experiments, for example, giving the cause of death as from a lung infection or a weak heart. Based on statistics of deaths in the special camp in Lublin, it was estimated that from the 235 children between ages 10 to 14 who received shots of the barbiturate Luminal, 221 died. From August 1942 until November 1944, 94 percent of children who had been subjected to German medical experiments died.

Heu-Aktion

In a plan called "Heu-Aktion", described in a "top secret" memorandum submitted to German Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler on 10 June 1944, SSObergruppenfuehrer Gottlob Berger — Chief of the Political Directing Staff (head of the SS main leadership office in Berlin), a co-author of Himmler's pamphlet Der Untermensch, and a promoter of the pamphlet Mit Schwert und Wiege (With Sword and Cradle) for the recruitment of non-Germans — proposed that the German 9th Army "evacuate" 40,000–50,000 children between 10 and 14 from the "territory of Army Group 'Center' " to work for the Third Reich.

Heu-Aktion was not widely implemented, due in part perhaps to the following arguments against it: "The Minister [Himmler] feared that the action would have most unfavorable political consequences, that it would be regarded as abduction of children, and that the juveniles did not represent a real asset to the enemy's military strength anyhow. . . .

The Minister would like to see the action confined to the 15–17 year olds." Between March and October 1944, however, 28,000 children between the ages of 10 and 18 were deported from Belarus for work at the Luftwaffe and in the arms industry supplying the Wehrmacht, which also unofficially included the Waffen-SS.

Post-war

The extent of the program became clear to Allied forces over the course of months, as they found groups of "Germanized" children and became aware that many more were in the German population. Locating these children turned up their stories of forcible instruction in the German language and how the failures were killed. Teams were constituted to search for the children, a particularly important point when dealing with institutions, where a single investigator could only interview a few children before all the rest were coached to provide false information.

 Many children had to be lured into speaking the truth; as for instance complimenting their German and asking how long they had spoken it, and only when told that a nine-year-old had spoken German for four years, pointing out that they must have spoken before then, whereupon the child could be brought to admit to having spoken Polish. Some children suffered emotional trauma when they were removed from their adoptive German parents, often the only parents they remembered, and returned to their biological parents, when they no longer remembered Polish, only German. 

The older children generally remembered Poland; ones as young as ten had forgotten much, but could often be reminded by such things as Polish nursery rhymes; the youngest had no memories that could be recalled and suffered the most.

Allied forces made efforts to repatriate them. However, many children, particularly Polish and Yugoslavian who were among the first taken, declared on being found that they were German. Russian and Ukrainian children, while not gotten to this stage, still had been taught to hate their native countries and did not want to return. While many foster parents voluntarily brought forth well-cared-for children, other children proved to be abused or used for labor, and still others went to great efforts to hide the children.

After the war, The United States of America v. Ulrich Greifelt, et al., or the RuSHA Trial, the eighth of the twelve Nuremberg Trials, dealt with the kidnapping of children by the Nazis. Many children testified, although many of their parents were afraid to let them return to Germany. From 1947 to 1948, the Nuremberg Trials ruled that the abductions, exterminations, and Germanization constitutedgenocide.

Only 10 to 15 percent of those abducted returned to their homes. When Allied effort to identify such children ceased, 13,517 inquiries were still open, and it was clear that German authorities would not be returning them.

Also after the war, a memorial plate was made in Lublin dedicated to railway workers who tried to save Polish children from German captivity

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Mass Killings

Soon after the German invasion of Poland, lasting from fall of 1939 till spring of 1940 in first action of mass killings known as Intelligenzaktion, tens of thousands of former government officials, military officers in hiding, landowners, clergy, and members of the intelligentsia. Action was a part of Operation Tannenberg - early measure of the Generalplan Ost. Poles as well as Jews, were either murdered in mass executions by death squads or sent to prisons and concentration camps.

?apanka - captured civilians on the streets in Warsaw

Public execution near P?aszów-Pokocim train station on June 26, 1942. (Krakow)

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Polish Civilian Victims

Polish civilian victims of the Nazi collaboratonist UPA in Volhynia… their only “crime” was to be “Polish”… thank God, the voters in the Ukraine totally repudiated the legacy of these thugs.

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Polish Women in German Concentration Camps

AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE WOMEN’S CAMP AT OSWIECIM – BRZEZINKA (Birkenau)

Autumn 1943, to Spring 1944

At the outset I want to say that the details given below are strictly true and authentic. They are not dictated by any desire for propaganda, by hatred, or love of exaggeration.

On the contrary, instead of making the picture more glaring, I shall try to tone it down, to make it more credible. For the reality I have to write about is so horrible that it is difficult to expect that anyone who hasn’t seen it should believe it. Yet it is the reality. Please believe this short account of that reality, and believe my words as you would believe someone returned from the dead.

The women’s concentration camp at Oswiecim has officially no connection whatever with the men’s camp. They are two separate worlds. The data concerning either of them do not apply to the other.

Founded a year or more after the men’s camp had been started, the women’s camp is at present passing through that same process of successive horrors which the men’s camp has already experienced. The results are still more terrible, for women have less powers of resistance and are more helpless than men.

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REPORT MADE BY A GIRL FIFTEEN YEARS OLD

The concentration camp for women at Oswiecim is really at Brzezinka (Birkenau) not far from Oswiecim, but the address for both men and women is the same: “Auschwitz Konzentrationslager.”

The men and women’s camps at Brzezinka are newer, and are much worse than the men’s camp at Oswiecim, because of the lack of organisation.

The women’s camp occupied a large area, and consists of thirty blocks – or barracks – both brick and timber. The locality is unhealthy, swampy. The camp is surrounded by wire charged with high-tension electric current. The men’s camps have two rows of this type of fencing.

Guards huts are placed at intervals along the wire, the guards are equipped with both ordinary and hand-machine guns. Similar huts are scattered quite thickly about the area outside, for a distance of several kilometres from the camp. The blocks inside the camp consist of barracks for living accommodation, hospitals, warehouses for storing the prisoners’ belongings, baths, tailors’ shop and kitchen.

Women and children walk past Krema III gas chamber.

Of the living barracks, one is set aside as a punitive block – No. 25 and one for better conditions- No.12. This last barrack is occupied by office workers (political officials), workers in the warehouses and members of the camp band.

A normal block contains from 800 to 1,000 and more women. Such a block is a very long barrack; in it are three rows (lengthways), of three –tiered bunks, or rather compartments. On each compartment sleep from five to eight people, each compartment is three times as broad as a prison bed.

The bedding consists of straw palliasses and two blankets for three persons. It depends on ones ingenuity whether one gets more blankets. Most of the prisoners sleep in their clothes. All they possess, e.g. packets of food, and small personal belongings, is stored under the palliasse, in a hole of the roof etc.

The barrack has many windows in the walls and roof, in the winter there are two iron stoves for the entire barrack, buckets for the usual purposes stand in the yard outside the barrack. One is allowed to go out to them at night.

In Block No 12 each person has her own bed, sheet, blankets and the block is clean. Accommodation is better than usual in the punitive block, for there is more room, but the block is completely isolated from all the others and one cannot have any contact with others, which is quite easy in the case of prisoners in other blocks.

Inhabitants of Block No.12 do not go outside the camp to work, but do particularly hard work inside, such as digging trenches, carrying soil without regard to the weather.

A commandant is in charge of the camp with German wardresses in uniform under him. They guard the camp area inside and take the roll-calls. The guards huts are serviced by men – many of them Ukrainians. In addition there are “posts” consisting of youngsters in Gestapo uniform, who supervise work in the fields – these are not to be feared.

There are also men in charge of various sectors, known as commands, who are specialists on the work which they supervise. In addition to these German authorities there are the minor authorities drawn from the women prisoners themselves.

One is the senior in the camp, and under her are the block supervisors, known as “blocks,” who are in general authority over the particular barrack, with the added privilege of being allowed to beat their charges, which they are fond of doing.

Under these are the “stubes” who are responsible for sections of the block, the “block” has her own room attached to the barrack, the “stubes” sleep with the other prisoners.

There are also women prisoners who supervise during labour, these usually being German criminals. The “stubes” wake up the prisoners at about 4a.m. at five a.m. there is coffee, and at 5.30 the prisoners go outside the block for roll-call, which is at six a.m.

After it there is the march to work, dinner is taken at the place of work from twelve to two o’clock. Work ends at five o’clock, there is the march back to the camp, and at six o’clock the roll-call and supper.

After the supper the prisoners are left to themselves until nine p.m. – after which there must be silence - and the lights in the barracks are turned off. The entire area of the camp is brilliantly lit up all night      

Inside of the women's block at Birkenau

Most of the prisoners work in the open, the weaker go to collect medical herbs, work in the tailor’s shop and twist ropes. Most of them are older women. The doctor decides whether a prisoner is to be assigned lighter work. The food each day is: morning only coffee, dinner tinned soup or with margarine; supper, coffee, two hundred grams of bread with jam or margarine, or something similar.

Twice a week each prisoner gets half a loaf of bread additional. Food parcels can be received even every day – they arrive unbroken. Bread and food constitute the currency with which one can buy anything, from warm clothing to the regards of the “block” or even hospital nurse. It is a fundamental condition of survival that the prisoner must have a large quantity of food sent to the camp.

The parcels may contain soap, tooth-powder, tooth-brushes, toilet paper, but no clothing, prisoners may write once a month and receive letters several times a month. Prisoners are sent to the hospital on developing a temperature of 38 degrees C, but the prisoners are afraid of the hospital owing to the ease with which infectious diseases can be picked up there.

A separate barrack for infectious diseases has now been established, there are an average of two thousand sick in a camp of twelve thousand. Half of them are infectious, with typhus, typhoid and dysentery. Almost all who have been any time in the camp have had all these.

Formally the daily mortality was 200, but now it averages fifteen to fifty, the hospital is overcrowded with three patients on each bed. A German doctor is in charge, but under him are some thirty women doctors, prisoners of various nationalities.

Owing to the in-sanitary and un-hygienic conditions the camp is dirty and lousy, there is nowhere to wash and nothing to wash with. There is a bath and change of clothes once a month, a new washing place has now been made, and maybe things are better.

When a transport of prisoners arrives it goes to the transit barracks. There political women officials – themselves prisoners – take down personal details and tattoo numbers on their arms (it is not very painful) then others shave all heads (this is done only once, and afterwards one may grow one’s hair).

They collect all the clothing, see the prisoners through the baths and issue camp clothing: a shirt, drawers, an overall, an apron, kerchief, socks or stockings, boots and foot-wraps. One can keep one’s own house slippers, but all others are taken. The clothing issue in the winter is the same, plus a ragged cowl and a cotton kerchief.

The new arrivals when dressed are placed in a quarantine block, whence, however, they go out to normal work the next day, after three weeks they are transferred to the permanent blocks.

The Jewesses have a special mark on their arms, the German women are not tattooed or shaved, the prisoners have triangular badges on their arms: red to indicate political prisoners, green for criminal prisoners, black for prostitutes. Jewesses have badges sewn on their chest. All the types of work have special clothing.  

In the winter the women work exactly like the men, they pull down houses, uproot tree stumps, shift snow – all useless work, the only reason for it is to tire out the prisoner. Every day several women frozen to death are brought in.

Eduard Wirths -SS Doctor

The morning and evening roll-calls last several hours, and are held in the frost outside the barrack, the sick were carried out to the roll-call and it was forbidden to cover them with anything. (The hospital has no roll-call whatever now.) There were no separate hospital blocks whatever, and the sick lay together with the well. Hospital blocks were organised only in February – March.

Now things are still better, for three branches have been organised in the hospital; for light illnesses and inflammation of the lungs, typhus and dysentery – formerly they were all kept together.

There were no closets whatever in the winter, one had to relieve oneself beyond and between the blocks, this together with the swampy ground created an un-crossable mire of filth, which the prisoners were ordered to clean up with their bare hands, without any implements.

There was no water whatever, water was brought from Oswiecim for the soup and coffee, there was no means of washing at all. The dirt and lice were appalling. From time to time a general roll-call was held and this meant standing for several hours, sometimes up to twenty in the frost.

And then every tenth woman or women picked at a glance, or through caprice, or those who were not strong enough to run at full speed to the block after the roll-call, were transferred to the punitive block, at that time this simply meant a wait of a few days before transfer to the gas chamber. Such roll-calls were quite frequent.

At that time every fifth man was taken, one night at 2a.m. a roll-call was held to be spent on the knees and it lasted till nine a.m. It was held outside the block in the frozen filth.

Now the roll-call lasts an hour at the most. In the winter the average daily mortality is between two and three hundred. Of prisoners brought to the camp some time ago only an average of ten to twenty percent remained alive.

Recent transports of prisoners have a relatively low mortality, the majority of the deaths are Jewesses, or Greek women, who cannot stand the climate. Apart from this almost all the prisoners suffer from dysentery, probably owing to the complete non-observance of cleanliness.

 

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MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS

Report on Block 10 in Women’s Camp at Oswiecim – Brzezinka

For nearly twelve months – the writer is reporting in March 1944 – block number 10 has been set apart for experiments. It holds about 450 women who are the patients of Professor Schumann, Professor Glansbeg*, Doctor’s Wirt** and Weber.

The first experiments were made by Professor Schuman on young girls aged between fifteen and eighteen, the experiments consisted of sterilization by light and later operations for the incision of ovaries were performed.

In recent months no new operations have been performed, the last operations were performed three months ago on ten girls who were previously given the light treatment. One of the patients died immediately, probably from internal haemorrhage, owing to a faulty operation. Of the other nine, two are still seriously ill and the others still have to lie in bed.

Auschwitz SS doctor

Horst Schuman

At the moment Professor Glansberg has 175 women patients, one cannot say for certain what he is doing to them. All that is known is that he injects a fluid, which he alone knows the nature of, into the womb, in order to fill the ovary ducts, then he takes Roentgen photographs.

It is probable that he is testing a new method of taking Roentgen ray photographs of the womb and ovary ducts, which in general is not injurious to the health. These operations are repeated again and again (four to five times) on the same women at different periods of time 

Glansberg detains the women on whom he is making these experiments, and sees that no other experiments are made on them. It is not known what intentions he has for them in the future. He performs all the operations himself with the assistance of untrained personnel, who have no idea what he is doing.

Some four months ago Dr Samuel carried out an operation on the instruction of Dr Wirths; incision of the mucous membrane at the entrance of the womb. This is intended as part of a series of investigations into early diagnosis of cancer. The operation itself is a light one, with no lasting ill-effects.

But it frequently leads to later flooding as the result of a clumsy operation. Dr Samuel adopted a rapid tempo in operating (three or more a day) which was not at all required by him. The operated patients were sent by the next transport to Brzezinka.

These experiments have been discontinued for the past four months. In order to keep his post Dr Samuel torments a large number of women with daily gynaecological investigation and photography (ceroscopy).

The Hygiene Laboratory No. 1 has established the blood groups of almost all the women and have taken blood samples from those suitable. The blood served for the preparation of test serum, necessary in establishing the blood group.

Blood samples have been taken from 150 women in six months. The quantity averaged 100 to 150 cm. These women receive additional soup and one additional ration of bread and sausage.

Other experiments are now being made: the saliva is being examined in order to establish an element in the blood group. This is being done by Dr Munch. It consists of a subcutaneous injection of diluted streptococcal toxin, which is aimed at proving whether there is any inflammatory centre in the organism. These experiments are innocent enough.

At present the following experiments are continuing:

(a)  Professor Glansberg’s injections

(b)  Dr Samuels colcoscopy

(c)  The Hygiene Laboratory’s experiments           

From the scientific aspect these experiments are senseless, but they affect the women’s state of health, namely:

  1. Professor Schumann’s patients are mutilated for the rest of their lives.

  2. Glansberg’s patients do not subjectively feel any immediate reaction (apart from small exceptions). But it is not known what will happen to them later.

  3. The patients operated on by Dr Samuel are no longer in this block, the others serve for further experiments

  4. The experiments conducted by the Hygienic Laboratory do not leave any permanent traces.

Short Biography of Medical Personnel Named in Above Report

Professor Dr Carl Clauberg – Reserve SS Major General – was born in 1898 into an artisan family in Wupperhof, Germany. An infantryman in World War One, he later studied medicine and advanced to head doctor at the women’s university clinic in Kiel.

Carl Clauberg

In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party and was quickly considered a fanatical representative of its Weltanschauung. The same year he was appointed professor of gynaecology at the University of Konigsberg.

In 1942 he approached Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuhrer – SS who was already interested in Clauberg’s research and he asked Himmler for an opportunity to perform sterilization experiments on a broad scale.

In December 1942 Clauberg came to Auschwitz and in April 1943 obtained Block 10 for his experiments. Looking for a “cheap and efficient method” of making women sterile, he injected corrosive liquid into the uterus without using anaesthesia.

Clauberg fled from the advancing Red Army to Ravensbruck concentration camp where he continued his experiments, it is estimated that he conducted sterilization experiments on about 700 women.

In 1948 he was tried in the Soviet Union and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison, however, he was freed in an amnesty in 1955 and returned to Kiel, boasting of his “scientific achievements.”

Only after the Central Council of Jews denounced him was he arrested in November 1955, he died in 1957 shortly before his trial was due to commence.  

Horst Schumann M.D – First Lieutenant of the Luftwaffe and SS Major – was born in 1906, the son of a general practitioner in Halle on the Saale. A member of the Nazi Party since 1930 and in the SA since 1932, Schumann received his medical degree in Halle in 1933 and was employed in the health office in Halle in 1934.

When the Second World War began in 1939 he was conscripted as a subordinate physician in the Luftwaffe. Summonsed in 1935 by Viktor Brack, department head of Operation T4, to participate in the euthanasia programme as a doctor, Schumann accepted.

In January 1940 he became director of the Euthanasia Institute of Grafeneck in Wurttemberg, where people were killed by engine exhaust. In the summer of 1940 he became director of the Sonnenstein Institute near Pirna.

As a member of the secret operation known as 14f-13 Schumann belonged to a committee of doctors who selected prisoners in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenburg, Gross Rosen, Mauthausen, Neuengamme and Neiderhangen, who were especially weak and incapable of working, and who were subsequently taken to euthanasia institutes and gassed.

On the 28 July 1941 Schumann went to Auschwitz for the first time where he selected 575 prisoners to be taken to Sonnenstein where they were put to death by gassing.

On the 2 November 1942 he returned to Auschwitz to test a “cheap and rapid” mass sterilization method for both men and women using x-rays. He carried out his experiments on young healthy good looking Jewish men, women and girls whom he chose himself.

Hardly any of his numerous victims survived, the people died from burns, from additional surgical procedures, exhaustion or psychic shock.

In 1944 before he left Auschwitz he reported to Heinrich Himmler that “castration of men in this way is pretty much ruled out, or an expense is required that is not worthwhile.”

In October 1945 he surfaced in Gladbeck, where he registered with the police and was made municipal sport physician. With a refugee grant he opened his own practice in 1949 and did not attract the attention of the authorities as a wanted Nazi criminal until 1951.

Since 21 days elapsed between his identification and the attempt to arrest him – and in addition he was probably warned by the Gladbeck municipal physician’s council – Schumann had already escaped when the police showed up at his house.

According to his own account in subsequent years he served as a ship’s doctor and worked in the Sudan after 1955, escaping from there in 1959 through Nigeria and Libya to Ghana.

Not until 1966, after the fall of Nkrumah did Ghana extradite Schumann to West Germany, and four years later the trial against Schumann began, but due to his poor health it was stopped a year later.

Schumann died on the 5 May 1983   

Eduard Wirths, M.D. – SS First Lieutenant was born in Wurzburg in 1909, he came from a Catholic family associated with Democratic Socialism and worked as a rural doctor after he completed his medical studies.

In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party and the SA, and he undertook official health related assignments as well as maintaining his practice. He became a member of the Waffen-SS in 1939 and served with troops in Norway and the Soviet Union.

Because of a heart ailment he was designated unfit for front-line service in April 1942 and was sent briefly to the Dachau and Neuengamme concentration camps, and in September 1942 was sent to Auschwitz camp as Garrison Doctor.

All SS Camp doctors were subordinate to him; he deployed them on the selection platform according to a hierarchical principle – he himself regularly participated in selections – so as to cultivate the discipline and self-image of his subordinates.

Wirths himself was subordinate to Office D-III for Sanitation and Camp Hygiene in the WVHA in Berlin, which was directed after 1942 by the physician Enno Lolling. But he was also subordinate to the Commandant of Auschwitz with whom he dealt daily.

It was Wirths who, within the camp hierarchy, insisted that an order from Berlin be followed that only doctors should carry out selections. Hence Wirths had not only control over selections, he organised the system.

Wirths “scientific experiments” were aimed at the early detection of cervical cancer, he himself never appeared personally at the experiments, which were frequently fatal to the subjects.

In 1945 Wirths was arrested by the British Army and committed suicide.      

 

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Polish Resistance Movement in World War II

The Polish resistance movement in World War II, with the Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance in all of Nazi-occupied Europe, covering both German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish defence against the Nazi occupation was an important part of the European anti-fascist resistance movement. It is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State.

Organizations Soldiers from Kolegium "A" of Kedyw on Stawki Street inWola district - Warsaw Uprising 1944 Polish partisans from Kielce area - unit "J?drusie" 1945

The largest of all Polish resistance organizations was the Home Army (in Polish,Armia Krajowa or AK), loyal to the Polish government in exile in London. The AKwas formed in 1942 from within the Union for Armed Combat (Zwi?zek Walki Zbrojnej or ZWZ, created in 1939) and incorporated most other Polish resistance groups (except for the communists and some far-right groups). It was the military arm of the Polish Secret State.

From 1943 the AK was increasingly in competition with the communist resistance People's Army (Polish Armia Ludowa or AL), backed by the Soviet Union and controlled by the Polish Workers' Party (Polish Polska Partia Robotnicza or PPR). After the fall of France Poles who were not involved in the regular Polish Army in France and combatants who not escaped to Britain created the Polish resistance in France.

“ "Within the framework of the entire enemy intelligence operations directed against Germany, the intelligence service of the Polish resistance movement assumed major significance. The scope and importance of the operations of the Polish resistance movement, which was ramfied down to the smallest splinter group and brilliantly organized, have been in (various sources) discclosed in connection with carrying out of major police security operations"" ”

— Heinrich Himmler, 31 December 1942

Membership

By 1944 the AK had some 380,000 men, although not all of them were armed: the AL was much smaller, numbering around 30,000. By the summer of 1944 Polish underground forces numbered more than 300,000 with some estimates of over 400,000-500,000.

Actions, operations and intelligence 1939-1945

1939

Witold Pilecki - founder of TAPorganisation and the secret agent of Polish resistance in Auschwitz

On November 9, 1939, the two soldiers of Polish army Witold Pilecki and Major Jan W?odarkiewicz founded the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska, TAP), one of the first underground organizations in Poland after defeat.

Pilecki became its organizational commander as TAP expanded to cover not only Warsawbut SiedlceRadomLublin and other major cities of central Poland. By 1940, TAP had approximately 8,000 men (more than half of them armed), some 20 machine guns and several anti-tank rifles. Later, the organization was incorporated into the Union for Armed Struggle (Zwi?zek Walki Zbrojnej), later renamed and better known as the Home Army (Armia Krajowa).

1940 Major Henryk Dobrza?ski aka "Hubal" "Hubal" and his partisan unit - winter 1940

In March 1940, a partisan unit of the first guerrilla commanders in the Second World War in Europe under Major Henryk Dobrza?ski "Hubal" completely destroyed abattalion of German infantry in a skirmish near the village of Huciska.

A few days later in an ambush near the village of Sza?asy it inflicted heavy casualties upon another German unit. To counter this threat the German authorities formed a special 1,000 men strong anti-partisan unit of combined SSWehrmacht forces, including a Panzer group. Although the unit of Major Dobrza?ski never exceeded 300 men, the Germans fielded at least 8,000 men in the area to secure it.

In 1940, Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish resistance, presented to his superiors a plan to enter Germany's Auschwitz concentration camp, gather intelligence on the camp from the inside, and organize inmate resistance. The Home Army approved this plan, provided him a false identity card, and on September 19, 1940, he deliberately went out during a street roundup in Warsaw - ?apanka, and was caught by the Germans along with other civilians and sent to Auschwitz. In the camp he organized the underground organization -Zwi?zek Organizacji Wojskowej - ZOW. From October 1940, ZOW sent its first report about the camp and the genocide in November 1940 to Home Army Headquarters in Warsaw through the resistance network organized in Auschwitz.

During the night of January 21–22, 1940, in the Soviet-occupied Podolian town of Czortków TheCzortków Uprising started. It was the first Polish uprising during World War II. Anti-Soviet Poles, most of them teenagers from local high schools, stormed the local Red Army barracks and a prison, in order to release Polish soldiers kept there.

On the end of 1940 Aleksander Kami?ski created Polish youth resistance organization - "Wawer". It was part of the Szare Szeregi (the underground Polish Scouting Association). Organisation provided many minor sabotage operations in occupied Poland and its first action was series of graffiti in Warsaw around the Christmas Eve of 1940, commemorating the Wawer massacre. Members of the AK Wawer "Small Sabotage" units painted "Pom?cimy Wawer" ("We'll avenge Wawer") on Warsaw walls. At first they painted the whole text, then to save time they shortened it to two letters, P and W. Later they invented Kotwica -"Anchor" - who became the symbol of all Polish resistance in occupied Poland.

1941 Poster spread by Operation N

From April 1941 the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Union for Armed Struggle startedOperation N headed by Tadeusz ?enczykowski. It involved sabotagesubversion and black-propagandaactivities.

From March 1941, Witold Pilecki's reports were forwarded to the Polish government in exile and through it, to the British and other Allied governments. These reports informed the Allies about the Holocaust and were the principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz-Birkenau for the Western Allies.

On March 7, 1941, two Polish agents of the Home Army killed Nazi collaborator actor Igo Sym in his apartment in Warsaw. In reprisal, 21 Polish hostages were executed. Several Polish actors were also arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, among them such notable figures as directors Stefan Jaraczand Leon Schiller.

In July 1941 Mieczys?aw S?owikowski (using the codename "Rygor" — Polish for "Rigor") set up "Agency Africa," one of World War II's most successful intelligence organizations. His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ci??ki. The information gathered by the Agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November 1942 Operation Torch landings in North Africa. These were the first large-scale Allied landings of the war, and their success in turn paved the way for the Allies' Italian campaign.

1942 Polish partisan Zdzis?aw de Ville "Zdzich", member of AK "J?drusie" with Polish version of the M1918 BAR

On 20 June 1942 took place the most spectacular escape from Auschwitz concentration camp. UkrainianEugeniusz Bendera and three Poles, Kazimierz PiechowskiStanis?aw Gustaw Jaster and Józef Lempartmade a daring escape. The escapees were dressed as members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, fully armed and in an SS staff car. They drove out the main gate in a stolen Rudolf Hoss automobile Steyr 220 with a smuggled report from Witold Pilecki about the Holocaust. The Germans never recaptured any of them.

In September 1942 "The Council to Aid Jews ?egota" was founded by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz ("Alinka") and made up of Polish Democrat as well as other Catholic activists. Poland was the only country in occupied Europe where there existed such a dedicated secret organization. Half of the Jews who survived the war (thus over 50,000) were aided in some shape or form by ?egota. Most known activist of ?egota was Irena Sendler head of the children's division who saved 2,500 Jewishchildren by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children's homes outside the Ghetto.

In 1942 Jan Karski reported to the Polish, British and U.S. governments on the situation in Poland, especially the Holocaust of the Jews. He met with Polish politicians in exile including the prime minister, as well as members of political parties such as the PPSSNSPSLJewish Bund and Poalei Zion. He also spoke to Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, and included a detailed statement on what he had seen in Warsaw and Be??ec.

The Zamo?? Uprising was an armed uprising of Armia Krajowa and Bataliony Ch?opskie against the forced expulsion of Poles from theZamo?? region under the Nazi Generalplan Ost. Germans attempting to remove the local Poles from the Greater Zamo?? area (through forced removal, transfer to forced labor camps, or, in some cases, mass murder) to get it ready for German colonization. It lasted from 1942 until 1944 and despite heavy casualties suffered by the Underground, the Germans failed.

On the night from 7 to 8 October 1942 Operation Wieniec started. It targeted rail infrastructure near Warsaw. Similar operations aimed at disrupting German transport and communication in occupied Poland occurred in the coming months and years. It targeted railroads, bridges and supply depots, primarily near transport hubs such as Warsaw and Lublin.

[edit]1943

In early 1943 two Polish slave janitors of Peenemünde's Camp Trassenheide provided maps, sketches and reports to Polish Home Army Intelligence, and in June 1943 British intelligence had received two such reports which identified the "rocket assembly hall', 'experimental pit', and 'launching tower'. When reconnaissance and intelligence information regarding the V-2 rocket became convincing, theWar Cabinet Defence Committee (Operations) directed the campaign's first planned raid (the Operation Hydra bombing of Peenemünde in August 1943) and Operation Crossbow.

On March 26, 1943 in Warsaw Operation Arsenal was launched by the Szare Szeregi (Gray Ranks) Polish Underground The successful operation led to the release of arrested troop leader Jan Bytnar "Rudy". In an attack on the prison van Bytnar and 24 other prisoners were freed.

In 1943 in London Jan Karski met the then much known journalist Arthur Koestler. He then traveled to the United States and reported to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His report was a major factor in informing the West. In July 1943, again personally reported to Roosevelt about the situation in Poland.

During their meeting Roosevelt suddenly interrupted his report and asked about the condition of horses in occupied Poland. He also met with many other government and civic leaders in the United States, including Felix Frankfurter,Cordell HullWilliam Joseph Donovan, and Stephen Wise. Karski also presented his report to media, bishops of various denominations (including Cardinal Samuel Stritch), members of the Hollywood film industry and artists, but without success. Many of those he spoke to did not believe him, or supposed that his testimony was much exaggerated or was propaganda from the Polish government in exile.

In April 1943 the Germans began deporting the remaining Jews from the Warsaw ghetto provoking the Warsaw Ghetto Rising, April 19 to May 16. Some units of the AK tried to assist the Ghetto rising, but for the most part the resistance was unprepared and unable to defeat the Germans.

One Polish AK unit, the National Security Corps (Pa?stwowy Korpus Bezpiecze?stwa), under the command of Henryk Iwa?ski("Bystry"), fought inside the ghetto along with ?ZW. Subsequently, both groups retreated together (including 34 Jewish fighters). Although Iwa?ski's action is the most well-known rescue mission, it was only one of many actions undertaken by the Polish resistance to help the Jewish fighters. 

In one attack, three cell units of AK under the command of Kapitan Józef Pszenny ("Chwacki") tried to breach the ghetto walls with explosives, but the Germans defeated this action. AK and GL engaged the Germans between April 19 and April 23 at six different locations outside the ghetto walls, shooting at German sentries and positions and in one case attempting to blow up a gate. After the failure of the uprising, the Jewish leaders knew they would be crushed, but they preferred to die fighting than wait to be deported to their deaths in the concentration camps.

AK members recovering V-2 from the Bug River.

In August 1943 the headquarters of the Armia Krajowa ordered Operation Belt who was one of the large-scale anti-Nazi operations of the AK during the war. By February 1944, 13 German outposts were destroyed with few losses on the Polish side.

Operation Heads started - action of the serial assassinations Nazi personnel sentenced to death by the Special Courts for crimes against Polish citizens in occupied Poland.

On September 7, 1943, the Home Army killed Franz Bürkl during Operation Bürkl. Bürkl was a high-ranking Gestapo agent responsible for the murder and brutal interrogation of thousands ofPolish Jews and resistance fighters and supporters. In reprisal, 20 inmates of Pawiak were murdered in a public execution by the Nazis.

From November 1943, Operation Most III started. The Armia Krajowa provided the Allies with crucial intelligence on the German V-2 rocket. In effect some 50 kg of the most important parts of the captured V-2, as well as the final report, analyses, sketches and photos, were transported to Brindisi by a Royal Air Force Douglas Dakota aircraft. In late July 1944, the V-2 parts were delivered to London.

1944 Polish resistance soldiers from Batalion Zo?ka during 1944 Warsaw Uprising "Gray Wolf" with Polish national flag - German armored fighting vehicle SdKfz 251captured by the Warsaw insurgents- 8-th "Krybar" Regiment, on August 14, 1944 from 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking.

On 11 February 1944 the Resistance fighters of Polish Home Army's unit Agat executed Franz KutscheraSSand Reich's Police Chief in Warsaw in action known as Operation Kutschera. In a reprisal of this action 27 February 140 inmates of Pawiak - Poles and Jews were shot in a public execution by the Germans.

May 13–May 14, 1944 the Battle of Murowana Oszmianka the largest clash between the Polish anti-NaziHome Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) and the Nazi Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force a Lithuanian volunteer security force subordinated to Nazi Germany. The battle took place in and near the village of Murowana Oszmianka in Generalbezirk Litauen Reichskommissariat Ostland. The outcome of the battle was that the 301st LVR battalion was routed and the entire force was disbanded by the Germans soon afterwards.

On June 14, 1944 took place Battle of Porytowe Wzgórze between Polish and Russian partisans, numbering around 3000, and the Nazi German units consisted of between 25000 to 30000 soldiers, with artillery, tanks and armored cars and air support.

On 25–26 June 1944 the Battle of Osuchy - one of the largest battles between the Polish resistance and Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, continuation of the Zamo?? Uprising.

During 1943 the Home Army built up its forces in preparation for a national uprising. The plan of national anti nazi uprising on areas of prewar Poland was code-named Operation Tempest. Preparation began in late 1943 but military actions start in 1944. Its most widely known elements were Operation Ostra BramaLwów Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising.

On July 7 started Operation Ostra Brama Approximately 12,500 Home Army soldiers attacked the German garrison and managed to seize most of the city center. Heavy street fighting in the outskirts lasted until July 14. In Vilnius' eastern suburbs, the Home Army units cooperated with reconnaissance groups of the Soviet 3rd Belorussian Front. The Red Army entered the city on July 15, and the NKVD started to intern all Polish soldiers. On July 16, the HQ of the 3rd Belorussian Front invited Polish officers to a meeting and arrested them.

On July 23 started The Lwów Uprising the armed struggle started by the Polish Home Army(Armia Krajowa) against the Nazi occupiers in Lwów, during World War II. It started on, 1944 as a part of a plan of all-national uprising codenamed Operation Tempest. The fights lasted until July 27 and resulted in liberation of the city. However, shortly afterwards the Polish soldiers were arrested by the invading Soviets and either forced to join the Red Army or sent to the Gulags. The city itself was occupied by the Soviet Union.

In August 1944, as the Soviet armed forces approached Warsaw, the government in exile called for an uprising in the city, so that they could return to a liberated Warsaw and try to prevent a communist take-over. The AK, led by Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski, launched the Warsaw Uprising. Soviet forces were less than 20 km away but on the orders of Soviet High Command they gave no assistance. Stalin described the rising as a "criminal adventure". The Poles appealed for the western Allies for help. The Royal Air Force, and the Polish Air Force based in Italy, dropped some arms, but it was almost impossible for the Allies to help the Poles without Soviet assistance.

The fighting in Warsaw was desperate. The AK had between 12,000 and 20,000 armed soldiers, most with only small arms, against a well-armed German Army of 20,000 SS and regular Army units. Bór-Komorowski's hope that the AK could take and hold Warsaw for the return of the London government was never likely to be achieved. After 63 days of savage fighting the city was reduced to rubble, and the reprisals were savage. The SS and auxiliary units were particularly brutal.

After Bór-Komorowski's surrender the AK fighters were treated as prisoners-of-war by the Germans, much to the outrage of Stalin, but the civilian population were ruthlessly punished. Overall Polish casualties are estimated to be between 150,000–300,000 killed, 90,000 civilians were sent to labor camps in the Reich, while 60,000 were shipped to death and concentration camps such as RavensbrückAuschwitzMauthausen and others.

The city was almost totally destroyed after German sappers systematically demolished the city. The Warsaw Uprising allowed the Germans to destroy the AK as a fighting force, but the main beneficiary was Stalin, who was able to impose a communist government on postwar Poland with little fear of armed resistance.

1945

In March 1945 staged trial of 16 leaders of the Polish Underground State held by the Soviet Union took place in Moscow - (Trial of the Sixteen). The Government Delegate, together with most members of the Council of National Unity and the C-i-C of the Armia Krajowa, were invited by Soviet general Ivan Serov with agreement of Joseph Stalin to a conference on their eventual entry to the Soviet-backed Provisional Government. They were presented with a warrant of safety, yet they were arrested in Pruszków by the NKVD on 27 and 28 March.

Leopold OkulickiJan Stanis?aw Jankowski and Kazimierz Pu?ak were arrested on 27th with 12 more the next day. A.Zwierzynski had been arrested earlier. They were brought to Moscow for interrogation in the Lubyanka. After several months of brutal interrogation and torture they were presented with the forged accusations of "collaboration with Nazi Germany" and "planning a military alliance with Nazi Germany" 

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Continued

In the latter years of the war, there were increasing conflicts between Polish and Soviet partisansCursed soldiers continued to oppose the Soviets long after the war. The last cursed soldier - member of the militant anti-communist resistance in Poland was Józef Franczak who was killed with pistol in his hand by ZOMO in 1963.

On May 5, 1945 in Bohemia Narodowe Si?y Zbrojne brigade liberated prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp in Holiszowo, including 280 Jewish women prisoners. The brigade suffered heavy casualties.

On May 21, 1945, a unit of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK), led by Colonel Edward Wasilewskiattacked a NKVD camp located in Rembertów on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The Soviets kept there hundreds of Poles, members of the Home Army, whom they were systematically deporting to Siberia. However, this action of the pro-independence Polish resistance freed all Polish political prisoners from the camp. Between 1944-1946 cursed soldiers attack many communist prisons in Soviet occupied Poland - Raids on communist prisons in Poland (1944–1946).

On May 7, 1945 in the village of Kury?ówka, southeastern Poland The Battle of Kury?ówka started. It was the biggest battle in the history of the Cursed soldiers organization - National Military Alliance (NZW). In battle against Soviet Union's NKVD units anti communist partisans shot 70 NKVD agents. The battle ended in a victory for the underground Polish forces.

From June 10 up to June 25, 1945 Augustów chase 1945 (Polish Ob?awa augustowska) took place. It was a big operation undertaken by Soviet forces of the Red Army, the NKVD and SMERSH, with the assistance of Polish UB and LWP units against former Armia Krajowa soldiers in Suwa?ki and Augustów region in Poland.

The operation also covered territory in occupied Lithuania. More than 2,000 Polish allegedanticommunist fighters were captured and detained in Russian internment camps. 600 of the "Augustów Missing" are presumed dead and buried in an unknown location on the present territory of Russia. The Augustów Roundup was a part of an anti-guerilla operation in Lithuania.

Below: "Hubal" and his partisan unit - winter 1940

Below: Polish partisans from Kielce area - unit "J?drusie" 1945

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Jan Roman Bytnar

Jan Roman Bytnar (codenames: Rudy, Czarny, Janek, Krokodyl, Jan Rudy;

born 6 May 1921, KolbuszowaPoland - died 30 March 1943, WarsawPoland) was a Polish Scoutmaster (harcmistrz), Polish Scouting resistance activist and Second Lieutenant of the Armia Krajowa during the Second World War. The son of Stanis?aw Bytnar and Zdzis?awa Rechulówna, Jan Bytnar is a leading character of both Aleksander Kami?ski's Kamienie na szaniec and Barbara Wachowicz's Rudy, Alek, Zo?ka.

He was arrested by the German Nazis on 23 March 1943 and rescued by the Grupy Szturmowe of the Szare Szeregi three days later during the so-called Arsenal actionon 26 March. He died on 30 March from injuries sustained by the Gestapo, aged 21.

The extremely brutal interrogation of Bytnar was conducted by SS RottenführerEwald Lange and SS Obersturmführer Herbert Schultz. Both were assassinated by Grupy Szturmowe of Szare Szeregi. Schultz was shot dead on 6 May 1943 byS?awomir Maciej Bittner (aka "Maciek") and Eugeniusz Kecher (aka "Kolczan"). Lange was shot dead on 22 May 1943 by Jerzy Zapadko (aka "Dzik").

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Kazimierz Piechowski

Kazimierz Piechowski (Polish pronunciation: [ka??imj?? pj??x?fsk?i];

born October 3, 1919 Rajkowy, Poland) is a retired engineer, a Boy Scout during the Second Polish Republic, a political prisoner of the Nazis at Auschwitz concentration camp, a soldier in the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) then a prisoner for seven years of the communist government of Poland. He is known for his famous escape from Auschwitz I along with 3 other prisoners, dressed as members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, fully armed and in an SS staff car. They drove out the main gate in a stolen automobile, a Steyr 220 belonging to Rudolf Höss.

After the collapse of Polish resistance to the German invasion, Piechowski along with fellow Scout Alfons "Alki" Kiprowski (prison no. 801) were captured in their hometown of Tczew and impressed into a work gang clearing the destroyed sections of the blown-up bridge over the Vistula, by the German occupiers. Polish Boy Scouts were among the groups targeted by the Gestapo and the Selbstschutz. They decided to leave Tczew on November 12, 1939 and attempted to get to France to join the free Polish Army.

While crossing the border into Hungary they were caught by a German patrol. They were first sent to a Gestapo prison in Baligrod. They were told by the Gestapo "Actually, we should shoot you, but we have for you something much more interesting." They were sent to a prison in Sanok next, then to Montelupich Prison in Kraków. Their last stop before Auschwitz was a prison in Wi?nicz.

Piechowski was sent to Auschwitz as a political prisoner; as the Polish Boy Scouts were labeled a criminal organization in Occupied Poland. Piechowski was among a transport of 313 Polish deportees to Auschwitz on June 20, 1940, it was the next transport after the initial one from Tarnów. Among this Tarnów group was another Pole who would escape in an SS uniform; Edward Galinski. Galinski's escape was short-lived.

Piechowski received prison number 918. He credits Kapo Otto Küsel (prison no. 2) one of the original 30 German deportees fromSachsenhausen with his survival by assigning him lighter work. Piechowski was in the Leichenkommando, assigned to bringing corpses to the crematorium, including those shot at the "Black Wall" by SS-Rapportfuhrer Gerhard Arno Palitzsch.

Piechowski was present when Polish priest and fellow Auschwitz prisoner Maximilian Kolbe offered to exchange places with a fellow Pole who was among a group of ten sentenced to be starved to death. The sentence was in retribution for a perceived escape attempt of a prisoner.

Steyr 220, similar to car used in escape

On a Saturday morning on June 20, 1942 Piechowski escaped from Auschwitz I along with two other Poles, Stanislaw Gustaw Jaster (b. 1921: no.6438) veteran of Invasion of Poland in rank of first lieutenant from Warsaw, Józef Lempart (b. 1916; no.3199) a priest from Wadowice, and Ukrainian Eugeniusz Bendera (b. 1906; no. 8502) an auto mechanic from Czortków Ukraine.

They left through the main Auschwitz camp through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate. They had taken a cart and passed themselves off as a Rollwagenkommando, a work group which consisted of between four and twelve inmates pulling a cart instead of horses.

Bendera went to the motorpool, Piechowski, Lempart and Jaster went to the warehouse in which the uniforms and weapons were stored. They entered via a coal bunker which Piechowski had helped fill. He had removed a bolt from the lid so it wouldn't self latch when closed.

Once in the building they broke into the room containing the uniforms and weapons. Bendera arrived in Rudolf Höss' Steyr 220. As a mechanic he was often allowed to test drive cars around the camp.

He entered the building and changed into SS uniform like the others. They then all entered the car, Bendera driving Piechowski in the front passenger seat, Lempart and Jaster in the back, and drove toward the main gate. Jaster carried a report that Witold Pilecki had written for Armia Krajowa headquarters. When they approached the gate they became nervous as it had not opened. Lempart hit Piechowski in the back and said to do something. With the car stopped he opened the door and leaned out enough for the guard to see his rank insignia and yelled at him to open the gate. They then drove off.

After the escape Flag of the Armia Krajowa

Kazimierz Piechowski escaped to Ukraine, but was unable to find refuge there due to anti-Polish sentiment. Forging documents and a false name, he returned to Poland to live in Tczew where he had been captured. He soon found work doing manual labor on a nearby farm, where he made contact with the Polish Home Army and took up arms against the Nazis.

His parents were arrested as revenge, and died in Auschwitz; the policy of tattooing prisoners was also allegedly introduced in response to his escape. After the war he attended the Gda?sk University of Technology and became an engineer, and then found work in Pomerania. He was denounced to the communist authorities for being a member of the Home Army and sentenced to 10 years, he served 7. At the end of his sentence, he was 33; he reports thinking, "They have taken away my whole youth – all my young years."  He worked as an engineer for the communist government for some decades.

After the democratic transition, he refused to accept the Order of the White Eagle when Maciej P?a?y?ski tried to award to him. In 1989 he sold land he owned near Gda?sk and travelled with his wife to various parts of the world, visiting over 60 countries. He currently lives in Gda?sk.

Piechowski's associates

Piechowski's kapo Kurt Pachala from Breslau (prisoner no. 24) was tortured and then sent to the standing cell in Block 11 where he died of thirst and hunger on January 14, 1943. His treatment and death were recounted at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials in 1965 which formed the basis for the 1965 play Die Ermittlung (The Investigation) by Peter Weiss

Eugeniusz (Gienek) Bendera: He settled in Warsaw after the war and died in the 80's.

Józef Lempart: left the priesthood. His mother was deported to Auschwitz in reprisal for his escape and killed. He married and had a daughter. On May 1, 1971 he died after being run over by a bus, while crossing a street in Wadowice.

Stanis?aw (Staszek) Jaster: In Warsaw he reported to the Home Army High Command about the resistance in Auschwitz, was a soldier in the Osa and Kosa Home Army units and became a personal emissary of Witold Pilecki. His parents were deported to Auschwitz in reprisal for his escape, where both died. He was accused of collaboration with the Gestapo and executed in 1943 by members of the Home Army

 

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Jan Karski

Jan Karski in 1944

Jan Karski, a courier for the Polish underground during World War II and an early witness to the Holocaust, was awarded the second Wallenberg Medal in Ann Arbor in September 1991. Karski’s experiences as a spy for the Polish government-in-exile and for the underground resistance movement in Poland are so amazing and terrifying that they could be the product of a great novelist’s imagination. Fortunately, Karski’s deeds were fact, not fiction.

In 1939, after joining the Polish army, Karski was taken prisoner by the Red Army and sent to a Russian camp. He escaped from the camp, returned to German-occupied Poland and joined the anti-Nazi underground. A brilliant and well-educated young Polish Catholic, Karski spoke many languages and had a photographic memory.

He was used as a courier between the government-in-exile in London and the underground authorities in Poland, making numerous secret and dangerous trips between France, Great Britain and Poland. In 1940 he was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo in Slovakia, and they tortured him. He was rescued by the Polish underground, and after receiving medical treatment he resumed his mission as a courier.

In the late summer of 1942 Karski was visited by two leaders of the Jewish underground who had left the Warsaw ghetto briefly to tell him about what they called “Hitler’s war against the Polish Jews.” They informed him that an estimated 1.8 million Jews had already been killed by the Germans and that more than half of the 500,000 Jews jammed into the Warsaw ghetto had been deported to a village some distance from Warsaw where the Germans had set up a death camp. Karski was able to infiltrate both the Warsaw ghetto and a German concentration camp. He observed first-hand the horrifying truth told to him by the two men from the Jewish underground, who had begged him to take the terrible news to Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Karski was given a key whose soldered shaft contained microfilm images of hundreds of documents. Traveling on local trains through dangerous territory, he eventually reached London.

Jan Karski speaking in Ann Arbor, 1991

Karski relayed the first eyewitness account of the Holocaust to an incredulous and dismissive West. “In February 1943 I reported to Anthony Eden,” he later wrote. “He said that Great Britain had already done enough by accepting 100,000 refugees.” In July 1943 Karski arrived in the United States. Americans offered sympathy when Karski told them what was happening to European Jews. Karski left a secret meeting with Roosevelt believing that his story had not moved the president. But Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board as a result of meeting Karski. The policy of the United States changed overnight from indifference to action. Raoul Wallenberg’s mission to Budapest was instigated and financed by the War Refugee Board.

Jan Karski at his home in Washington, D.C., 1992

Karski learned a profound lesson as the result of his efforts to bring the news of the Holocaust to the world. “The common humanity of people, not the power of governments, is the only real protector of human rights,” he said during his Wallenberg Lecture in Ann Arbor. “I learned also that people in power are more than able to disregard their individual conscience if they come to the conclusion that it stands in the way of what they see as their official duty.”

Karski was so disillusioned when the war ended and Allied leaders began expressing shock and surprise at the discovery of the Nazi death camps that he ceased to speak about what he had seen. “I was disgusted,” he said in Ann Arbor. He stayed silent for thirty-five years until Elie Wiesel prevailed on him to speak out in 1981.

Karski never returned to Poland to live. He became an American citizen and earned a doctorate from Georgetown University, where he had a long and distinguished career as a professor of government. Karski was made an honorary citizen of Israel and treasured the medal presented to him at Yad Vashem, where he is listed among the Righteous Gentiles. This principled and courageous man, one of the great heroes of World War II, died in July 2000.

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Auschwitz

On 14th June 1940 the Germans entered Paris and that very same day the gates to a German extermination camp were opened at Auschwitz. The first transport of 728 prisoners was made up exclusively of Polish prisoners, predominantly young men who had been caught trying to get to France, where a new Polish Army was being formed.

In September 1940 Lt Witold Pilecki arrived at the camp in a transport of prisoners from Warsaw. He was a member of the ‘Secret Polish Army’ (which later became part of the Polish Home Army – AK) who had deliberately allowed himself to be taken in a street roundup and thus be sent to Auschwitz, where he planned to set up an underground organisation. He arrived at the camp with false papers and was known there as Tomasz Serafinski.

In a report he wrote after the war the aims of his mission were summarised as follows:

‘The setting up of a military organisation within the camp for the purposes of:


keeping up the morale among fellow inmates and supplying them with news from the outside,


providing extra food and distributing clothing among organization members,


preparing our own detachments to take over the camp in the eventuality of the dropping of arms or of a live force [i.e. paratroops]’

Pilecki’s secret organization, which he called the ‘Union of Military Organization’, was composed of cells of five prisoners who were unknown to one another with one man designated to be their commander. These cells were to be found mainly in the camp hospital and camp work allocation office.

Once the first cells were established, contact with Warsaw became essential It so happened that at the time, by exceptionally fortuitous circumstances, a prisoner was released from the camp who was able to take Pilecki’s first report. Later reports were smuggled out by civilian workers employed in the camp. Another means was through prisoners who had decided to escape.

Meanwhile, other Poles were forming their own organizations that had similar aims to Pilecki’s. It was therefore necessary for these to unite, and so on Christmas Eve 1941, when the SS quite extraordinarily left the inmates unattended in their quarters but nonetheless still under great danger, a meeting was held in Block No. 25. The several Polish underground groups represented there included the socialists, nationalists and moderates. The meeting was a success: there were no betrayals and mutual understanding and cooperation were achieved.

Col. Kazimierz Rawicz, known in the camp as Jan Hilkner, became the overall commander of these groups. When in mid 1942 he was transferred to another concentration camp, his place was taken by Group-Captain Juliusz Gilewicz.

Apart from the Poles, other national groups began to set up their own resistance organizations. In January 1942 Pilecki established contact with Jan Stranski, the leader of the Czech group. That same year he also established contact with the Russians and later also with the French and Austrians.

The socialist Józef Cyrankiewicz was brought to the camp in September 1942. Although still relatively young at 31, he had far reaching ambitions. He joined the underground PPS and thus also became a member of Pilecki’s organization. Cyrankiewicz met Pilecki personally on a number of occasions.

In the autumn of 1942 the SS uncovered part of the Polish underground network, arrests followed and around 50 prisoners were executed.

From the very start Pilecki’s principal aim was to take over Auschwitz concentration camp and free all the prisoners. He envisaged achieving this by having Home Army detachments attacking from the outside while cadre members of his Union of Military Organization, numbering around a thousand prisoners, would start a revolt from within. All his reports primarily concerned this matter. However, the Home Army High Command was less optimistic and did not believe such an operation to be viable while the Eastern Front was still far away.

Pilecki therefore felt it necessary to present his plans personally. This meant that he would have to escape from the camp, which he succeeded in doing with two other prisoners on 27th April 1943. Before the breakout Pilecki passed on his position within the camp organization to fellow inmate Henryk Bartoszewicz. However, neither his subsequent report nor the fact that he presented it in person altered the high command’s opinion.

Meantime, in May 1943 the communists set up their own network in Auschwitz. The initiative of uniting all the small groups came from the Austrian [communists], who included barely a hundred prisoners, but usually ones holding good posts in the camp. They established contact with the French and the Polish socialists, who were now led by Cyrankiewicz.

Thus a new organization was formed: the Kampfgruppe Auschwitz, which was headed by an Austrian [communist], but also included in the command structure the extremely ambitious Cyrankiewicz. A very important point in this group’s ideological declaration related to the situation on the Eastern Front and stated that: ‘Friendship with the Soviet Union is the guarantee of victory and peace.’

The Kampfgruppe, however, lacked any real power without broader support from the Poles, who included the vast majority of the main camp’s inmates. Therefore it was essential to reach an understanding with Pilecki’s organisation.

Talks ended successfully in the spring of 1944 with the founding of the Camp Military Council, headed by Henryk Bartoszewicz and Bernard ?wierszczyna from Pilecki’s organization and Józef Cyrankiewicz and Herman Langbein from theKampfgruppe. The plan was to take over the camp and the agreement was therefore put at the disposal of the Home Army Silesia District commander.

There was also a strong group of Russian prisoners who maintained contact with the Union of Military Organization and were prepared to fight, but remained independent.

The only circumstance under which the Home Army High Command would agree to an open revolt in Auschwitz was if the SS began murdering all the prisoners, but that eventuality never occurred. And it was only Pilecki’s organization which maintained contact with the Home Army partisans in the area around the camp.

The SS began evacuating Auschwitz on 17th January 1945. They drove most of the prisoners west on foot, while leaving behind several thousand prisoners who were deemed too sick to go. When on 27th January Red Army detachments took over its compound, the 1,680-day history of Auschwitz concentration camp ended.

After many vicissitudes Witold Pilecki found himself in post-war Poland on a mission for the Polish Second Corps stationed in Italy. In 1948 he was arrested by the Polish People’s Republic authorities and charged with being ‘a paid agent of Gen. Anders’s intelligence network’. He was subsequently tried, sentenced to death and executed. Meantime Józef Cyrankiewicz, who had returned to Poland [after his liberation from Mauthausen concentration camp], put the PPS under the control of Boles?aw Bierut, Stalin’s appointed leader of Poland, and went on to become Poland’s prime minister, a job he was to hold for 20 years. In those years Cyrankiewicz let it be known in Poland that it was he who founded the resistance movement in Auschwitz.

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The Warsaw Rising

The Warsaw Rising was a struggle by the Polish resistance movement organization Polish Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) to liberate Warsaw from Nazi German occupation during World War II. The Uprising began on 1 August 1944, as part of a nationwide rebellion, Operation Tempest. It was intended to last for only a few days until the Soviet Army reached the city. The Soviet advance stopped short, however, while Polish resistance against the German forces continued for 63 days until the Polish surrendered on 2 October.   Civilians being force marched out of Warsaw by German troopsIn the course of the Warsaw Rising and its suppression, the Germans deported approximately 550,000 of the city’s residents and approximately 100,000 civilians from its outskirts, sending them to Durchgangslager 121 (Dulag 121), a transit camp in Pruszków set up especially for this purpose. The security police and the SS segregated the deportees and decided their fate. Approximately 650,000 people passed through the Pruszków camp in August, September, and October. Approximately 55,000 were sent to concentration camps, including 13,000 to Auschwitz.

 

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1st Battalion of the 1st Legions Home Army Regiment

[Picture: 1st Battalion of the 1st Legions Home Army Regiment, from the Kielce-Radom Armia Krajowa inspectorate]

Armia Krajowa the dominant Polish resistance movement in World War II German-occupied Poland was formed from Service for the Victory of Poland and over the next two years incorporated most other Polish underground forces.

One of its major roles was in Warsaw Uprising.

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Polish Underground of WWII (info graphic)

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?egota

?egota "The Council for Aid to Polish Jews"
Hans Stanislav Kopec -Gdansk  English language revisions by Carmelo Lisciotto

Poland was the principal focus of military transport for the Germans after June 1941. The country acted as a conduit for the front in Russia. Therefore, there were many targets for the Polish resistance movement and from June 1941 to December 1941, they destroyed 1,935 railway engines, derailed 90 trains, blew up three bridges and set fire to 237 transport lorries.

However, such success came at a cost as the reprisals by the Germans was savage in the extreme. In fact, so extreme was the German reaction, that the Polish resistance all but ended its work for about 10 months in 1942. The SOE in London could not effectively assist the Poles because the distance was simply too great for operation teams to overcome.

But by 1942, there was little doubt among the leaders of the Polish Underground and the younger members of the Jewish Underground that the Germans planned nothing less than the total extermination of the Jewish people.

Warsaw Ghetto

Help for the Jews had to be coordinated, organized and supported on a larger scale occurred seemingly at once and spontaneously to a number of Polish resisters. They realized that the support of personal friends, or unplanned and unsupported help of strangers, was far from enough. But more help would not be easy.

By this time, the Polish population had been impoverished. Working for ridiculously low wages, limited to very small rations, and living in a police state, their ability to help was severely restricted.

Yet there existed people capable of extraordinary courage and altruism who tried to help as much as they could. It required a selfless devotion to look after people in hiding. Consider the difficulties. The rescuers had to undertake total care for those under their protection. They had to procure food secretly because the Jews in their care were entitled to no rations; this food, bought on the black market (i.e., illegally), was very expensive.

They had to prepare their food, wash their laundry, and, depending on the hiding place, even provide toilet buckets, empty them, and clean them. Then, there was the psychological stress of dealing with fear—their own and that of the Jews in their care, thus ?egota was born.

          

Zofia Kossak-Szczucka                                                                              W?adys?aw Bartoszewski

It was under such conditions that ?egota [The Council for Aid to Jews] was organized in Warsaw in 1942. ?egota was the continuation of an earlier secret committee set up for this purpose, called the Provisional Committee for Aid to Jews (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy ?ydom), founded in September 1942 by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka and Wanda Krahelska-Filipowicz. 

It was the only government-financed organization in Europe set up specifically to aid Jews. The people who founded ?egota were all rescuers on their own, so they realized that the magnitude of the task required an organization to bring financial and logistical help, as well as moral support and encouragement, to Jews in hiding and to their rescuers.

Since the founders of ?egota were also members of the Polish underground (resistance movement), they had contacts with secret organizations that forged identification documents for their own operatives. These were forgeries of the highest quality, and ?egota was able to get them free.

There is a need for a reminder, that in accordance with paragraph 3 of the decree of October 15, 1941, on the Limitation of Residence in General Government  Jews leaving the Jewish Quarter without permission will incur the death penalty.

?egota was set up by people who were already helping Jews individually and who knew the great difficulties with which rescuers had to cope. The founders were also members of the Polish underground and had contacts that enabled them to provide specialized help. ?egota's primary purpose was to provide social welfare, such as money, housing, and medical aid—not military help.

Another well-known member was W?adys?aw Bartoszewski, later Polish Foreign Minister (1995, 2000). Made up of democratic Polish Catholic activists, the Provisional Committee had 180 persons under its care within a short time. ?egota, founded in December of 1942, was a brainchild of Henryk Woli?ski. It included Jewish organizations, represented on the central committee by Adolf Berman and Leon Feiner.

For that reason, Kossack-Szczucka withdrew from participation. She had wanted ?egota to be an example of pure Christian charity and argued that the Jews had their own organizations. Kossack-Szczucka went on to act in the Social Self-Help Organization (Spo?eczna Organizacja Samopomocy - SOS) as a liaison between ?egota and Catholic convents and orphanages.

Social welfare was ?egota's primary concern, but since the organization had established contact with Jewish activists, Poles were also in a position to transmit messages from Jewish leaders to the outside world. The Polish underground used secret radio transmitters to beam the news about the atrocities committed against the Jewish people and, in 1942, their couriers carried news about the genocide to leaders in England and the United States. 

Those Jews who could not take on a Christian identity and tried to live a normal, though terrifying, life in the area outside the ghetto walls (then called the "Aryan" side) could only survive outside the ghetto by getting help from non-Jews, usually by being hidden. That was another challenge altogether.

Besides the obvious difficulties of hiding someone under the crowded conditions of the occupation and the constant surveillance of German soldiers and police, there was an automatic death penalty imposed on Polish Christians and their families if they were caught helping Jews. Names of the executed Poles were published to serve as a warning to others.

Nazi conducted arrest in the Warsaw Ghetto

Of vital importance also was to coordinate efforts with the Jewish Underground and thus establish a liaison with the Jewish community. This already existed at a party level, and contacts had already been made with the AK by the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), a resistance group formed by the younger members of the Jewish Underground.

Some of the Jewish leaders were already living on the Aryan side and the two most prominent, Dr. Adolf Berman and Dr. Leon Feiner, were invited to join in the first discussions of the Konrad ?egota Committee in Warsaw. (Konrad ?egota was a pseudonym used as cover for the groups activities).

No conversations about anything to do with Jews could be risked, and "?egota" was used not only in discussions, but on all documents, receipts, and memos. In time, "?egota" came to signify all activities involving help to Jews. 

Although every member of ?egota knew they could not stop the murder campaign of the Nazi government, that they could not intercept and help every Jew who escaped from the ghetto, and that they could not even guarantee the security of those Jews who did come under their wing. Nevertheless, they were able to rescue and succor thousands of people otherwise destined for death.

The organizations played almost no part in arranging the escape of Jews from ghettos, camps and deportation trains: its activities were largely confined to those already in hiding. Escape occurred mostly spontaneously through personal contacts, and most of the help that was extended to Jews in Poland was similarly personal in nature.

Since Jews in hiding preferred to remain well-concealed, ?egota had trouble finding them. Its activities  therefore did not develop on a larger scale until late in 1943. The financial resources needed to save even one Jewish life ranged from 6,000 to 15,000 zlotys.  The monthly budget of ?egota ranged from 500,000 to 2 million zlotys - not even close to the money required to meet the  demands of the organization. 

Despite this lack of cash, ?egota distributed about 50,000 sets of false identification documents that were provided by secret forgery units of the underground. ?egota agents looked for homes and hiding places, including emergency shelters, to enable escaping Jews to get off the streets as quickly as possible.

Medical attention for the Jews in hiding was also made available through the Committee of Democratic and Socialist Physicians. By utilizing a network of underground doctors who were willing to risk seeing Jewish patients or to offer temporary shelter in hospitals, often by diagnosing a communicable disease and putting the person in a hospital isolation ward.

?egota had ties with many ghettos and camps. It also made numerous efforts to induce the Polish Government in Exile and its Delegator to appeal to the Polish population to help the persecuted Jews, however their policy was not to solicit help without revealing for whom it was intended and what the risks were. They agreed that it would be immoral to endanger another's life without consent.

     

Children in the Warsaw Ghetto

However, there were a few instances when this was done – in the case of children and out of desperation. A special section of ?egota was organized to get children out of the Warsaw Ghetto after locating homes for them. The children also required false documents and stories to match. If they were old enough, they had to memorize new identities. ?egota rescued about 2,500 children in the city of Warsaw. Irena Sendlerova played a leading role in the rescue and hiding of Jewish children

By the spring of 1944, the Polish resistance was thought to number 400,000. The government in exile played a key part in running the non-communist resistance in Poland – far more freedom than any other government in exile within Britain was allowed. The Polish resistance was very well organized and at one time there were over 100 radio stations broadcasting in occupied Poland.

?egota also involved the Polish Home Army in decreeing a death penalty on those Poles who  blackmailed or betrayed Jews. When these sentences were carried out, the Home Army published the names of the executed as a deterrent to others.

?egota Memorial

?egota members who remained in Poland after the war suffered under the new communist regime, which condemned them as fascists. In in the mid-1960s the organization was honored by Yad Vashem for its rescue work.

In 1995, a monument was erected in Warsaw by the American Friends of ?egota to honor these extraordinary people who went beyond personal resistance and were prepared to lay down their own lives so that others may live.

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THE POLISH RESISTANCE PHOTOS


Officers of the partisan group "Ponury" at Radom-Kielce, 1943 Secret listening post of the Underground
Polish Underground manufacturing bombs
Youth member of Underground
Polish Underground radio station
Polish insurgent shooting from behind barricade.
Group of Polish Home Army Soldiers (Armia Krajowa)
Leaflet of Polish Underground Resistance
Polish-Jewish Underground Resistance Fighters
German transport trains derailed by Polish Underground
Street Barricades Warsaw

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Irena Sendler

 

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"Jolanta"

 

Irena Sendler, known to the Jews as Jolanta, was a woman of incredible strength and self sacrifice. Surrendering her life to the cause and understanding the risks of death, she was able to save 2,500 Jewish children from pending death. Irena joined the Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance, Obtaining a pass from the Warsaw Epidemic Control Department to enter the Warsaw Ghetto, she smuggled in food, medicine, and clothing.

Realizing that she was not doing much good, and with 5,000 Jews dying a month, she decided that the most help could be done in rescuing the children. She was put in charge of a team of 25 to smuggle the children out of the Ghetto, forge documents, and find them homes.

For every child she rescued she wrote the names and new identities on cigarettes papers or tissue papers and placed the papers in a glass jar which she kept buried under an apple tree. Although she was arrested and tortured, she never gave any names of any member in the Zegota, she was sentenced to die by firing squad but a guard was bribed to help her escape and fraudulently placed her name on the death list, she lived in hiding for the remaining of the war much like the children she had rescued. After the war she was able to reunite the some of the children with their families, though not every member survived, they were reunited with extended families.

 

"After the Second World War it seemed that humanity understood something, and that nothing like that would happen again," Sendler said. "Humanity has understood nothing. Religious, tribal, national wars continue. The world continues to be in a sea of blood." But she added, "The world can be better, if there's love, tolerance, and humility."

Irena SendlerIrena Sendler (also called Irena Sendlerowa in Polish language) (born 15 February 1910 in Warsaw). Polish social worker. During World War II she was an activist of Polish Underground and  Polish anti-Holocaust resistance in Warsaw, where she helped to save
about 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto by providing them false documents and hiding places in individual and group children houses out of the Ghetto.

During the World War II German occupation of Poland, she lived in Warsaw while working for the city's Social Welfare Department. She started helping Jews long time before the Warsaw Ghetto was established. Helping Jews was very risky — in German-occupied Poland, all household members were punished by death if a hidden Jew was found in their house. This was the most severe legislation in occupied Europe. In December of 1942, the newly created Zegota, a council to aid Jews, nominated her (under her cover name Jolanta) to head its
children's department.

As an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto, where she wore a Star of David as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish
people and so as not to call attention to herself. She cooperated with the Children's Section of the Municipal Administration, linked with the RGO (Central Welfare Council), a Polish Relief Organization tolerated under German supervision.

She organized the smuggling of Jewish children from the Ghetto, carrying them out, and placing them with either Polish families, the Warsaw orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary, or Catholic convents such as the Sisters Little Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary (L.S.I.C.) at Turkowice [2] and Chotomow [3]. She kept lists of the names, hidden in jars, in order to keep track of original and new identities.

Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, she was severely tortured and sentenced to death. Zegota saved her by bribing the German guards on the way to her execution. Officially, she was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. Even in hiding, she continued her work for the Jewish children.

IRENA SENDLEROWA
has passed away
Today (12.05.2008) Irena Sendler died at 8:45 in a Warsaw hospital on P?ocka

The hero of the time of the Holocaust is gone.

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Nazi Persecution of Poles

A total of about 3 million Polish citizens of non-Jewish religion were murdered during the Holocaust. (Lucaire) In fact, the Poles were the first group of persons to be subject to the horror. Edward Lucaire, a late U.S. Army veteran, had done research on the government’s role in the Holocaust before his death in 2002.

His message is forthright and powerful on the fact that the Polish victims have been left out of the majority of publications. Lucaire said that “…of the first 611 people who died at Auschwitz, 591 were Poles and 20 were Jews.” (Lucaire)

Just before the start of World War II, Adolf Hitler announced “Kill without pity or mercy, all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space [lebensraum] we need." (Lucaire) The need for extra living space became the Germans primary motivation for Polish extermination.

The Germans viewed the Poles as an inferior race, so they wanted to bring down the Polish government and leaders, their religions, and every aspect of normal living. The other part of the plan was to avoid resistance by the Poles toward Nazi destruction throughout Europe.


Poland was invaded in September of 1939 by the German army, and was declared defeated in terms of war. The Poles had their homes invaded, were murdered for the slightest signs of weakness or resistance, and were sent to do harsh work for the Germans.

 

For many years after the invasion, the Poles were forced to labor in concentration camps. Children were stripped from their families, and the intent there was to “Germanize” these people (USHMM).

__________________________________________

A story told by a man of his mother’s experience during the Holocaust tells of a Polish underground. His mother, Janina was a teacher, and many residents of her hometown, Krzemiemiac, along with other teachers from the University in Warsaw, were a part of this coalition that transported messages across the Soviet-run Polish areas. (Gladun) By 1940, this group was found out and all members were arrested.

Janina was sent to Soviet prisons and worked in a harsh labor camp, where she became the final female prisoner of Polish decent before she was released by order of a national amnesty from Joseph Stalin. (Gladun) Her father, Jan, was arrested for helping Poles escape from capture. He was murdered, but letters he wrote to his wife, Natalia, are available through the site that Janina’s son has created. So many other families were left disassembled and broken just as they were post-war.

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Leaflet of Polish Resistance

Leaflet of Polish resistance movement concerning mass executions conducted by the nazis in Warsaw

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Igo Sym

Igo Sym Handsome and athletic Austrian-Polish actor Igo Sym (1896-1941) played classy gentlemen, aristocrats and army officers in Polish, Austrian and German films of the 1920’s. After the German Invasion of Poland he decided to co-operate with the Nazis and in 1941 he was killed by members of the Polish resistance movement.


German postcard by Ross Verlag, nr. 4540/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Harlip, Berlin.

Karol Juliusz ‘Igo’ Sym was born in 1896 in Innsbruck, Austria. It is not known why Sym, settled in Poland and when it happened. During World War I he served in the Austrian Army, becoming a lieutenant. After the war, he served in the Polish infantry until 1921, then took up the job of a civil servant. 

German postcard by Ross Verlag, nr. 4739/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Ufa.
Unexpectedly, he then concentrated on stage work in Warsaw’s theatres. He would play in revues and operettas, singing, dancing and accompanying himself by playing the singing saw. When the Deutsches Reich invaded Poland in 1939, Sym signed the Reichliste and took part asVolksdeutscher in re-structuring the Polish theater life. He became in charge of the German theatres in Warsaw. Sometime in late 1939, Sym also became a Gestapo agent. According to preserved documents, the actor had been cooperating with Berlin before 1 September 1939. At the beginning of the war he helped to organize a trap, in which Hanna ‘Hanka’ Ordonówna was caught Ordonówna had been Sym’s pre-war partner on the screen and his friend from Warsaw’s theaters. She was hiding for the Nazis but arranged one day to meet Sym at her old residence. There she was arrested by the waiting Gestapo. They put her in prison in Pawiak, but she would survive the war and died in 1950. Polish resistance quickly found out Sym’s involvement, and a group of agents, led by Teatr Komedia actor Roman Niewiarowicz, started to trace his activities.

Collaborator
In 1940 Igo Sym successfully tried to win Polish actors to play in the baiting propaganda film Heimkehr/Homecoming (1941, Gustav Ucicky). He didn’t appear in this production himself but he did play secondary roles in Zlota maska/The Golden mask (1939, Jan Fethke) and Zona i nie zona (1939, Emil Chaberski). In early 1941, the headquarters of the underground Polish resistance group Zwi?zek Walki Zbrojnej (ZWZ) decided to liquidate the collaborator. Sym’s behavior was loudly trumpeted by the Nazis, and his assassination would show the Poles that the underground movement was active, always ready to punish all traitors. At first, the ZWZ planned to poison the actor, but later decided to shoot him instead. At 7:10 a.m. on March 7, 1941, two Polish agents knocked at the door of Sym’s apartment in Warsaw. They told Sym that they were mailmen, carrying a dispatch. One of the agents shot Sym with a Vis pistol. Igo Sym, struck in the heart, died on the spot. On the same day, German loudspeakers on the streets announced that hostages had been taken as revenge for Sym’s death. Then, posters appeared on the walls stating that more hostages would be taken and curfew would be enforced from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Nazis threatened to shoot all hostages unless those responsible for the assassination were found. All theatres were closed, and about 120 people were arrested, including teachers, physicians, lawyers and actors. The population of Warsaw was given three days to find Sym's murderers. As nobody was found, on March 11 in Palmiry, 21 hostages were executed. Several actors were also arrested and sent to Auschwitz, among them such notable figures as directors Stefan Jaracz and Leon Schiller.

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Poland~Post War

The year 1945 for Poland meant not only the end of the Second World war but also an entry into the sphere of the Soviet system. Already before, in Poland’s eastern areas, the Soviets formed a Communist government headed by Boles?aw Bierut and issued a manifesto of the new rule which was expanding its influence along with the progress of the Soviet offensive. 

Poland got out of the War not only with huge losses and damage but also with a diminished area and borders moved westwards, which resulted in massive migrations of the population. The early post-war years constituted a transitory, interim period in every respect – a time of suspension between the old and the new. The people, tormented by the war, tried to come back to normal life, even though many still remained in the underground waiting for true liberation. The Communists were preparing to take a full monopoly of power but with a faint support of the nation they needed time to do so. 

In spring 1945, in Moscow, talks were held with various Polish political groupings about the formation of the Provisional Government of National Unity. At the same time, the trial of Polish underground leaders arrested by the NKVD was held there. The establishment of a “coalition” government in Poland and prison sentences for the “sixteen” were announced on the same day, June 21, 1945. 

 

Warsaw 1946. Children playing in the ruins of the Old Town. Fot. PAP

A strange time of “people’s democracy” came. Peasant leader Stanis?aw Miko?ajczyk (who decided to come back from exile) was appointed a deputy prime ministers, but his dummies were carried around at May Day parades with hostile slogans.

Communist leader Bierut, acting as a head of state, appeared as a non-party member and participated in religious services still celebrated during state ceremonies then. The Polish Workers’ Party (PPR) headed by W?adys?aw Gomu?ka was not popular, contrary to the oppositionist Polish Peasant Party (PSL). Even so, the Communists consolidated their rule and developed the apparatus of reprisals and propaganda, putting their political opponents into jail and murdering them.

They appointed a Special Committee to send various “enemies of the people” to labor camps. They persistently postponed parliamentary elections until finally they announced the (3 x YES) referendum in June 1946 and falsified its results. With such a “social support” they embarked on the elections in January 1947, falsifying their results, too, and announcing their political victory.

This temporary, poorly known and poorly documented period (1945–47) is the theme of the exhibition, which is a selection from the huge holdings of photographs of the Polish Press Agency, made available to the public only today. The PAP holdings are being systematically studied and transferred to digital carriers. 

Press photographs were to help build Poland’s propaganda image then. Therefore, these photographs must not bee treated as a chronicle of social and political life. Yet, they constitute an extremely suggestive record of the then reality in many, often surprising scenes. First of all, however, they form a collective portrait of the people, who tried to pull themselves together in that other Poland. 

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Maria Wittekówna

Maria Wittekówna who in October 1939 took charge of the Women’s Auxiliary Service – of the 1st Bureau of the Polish Victory Service (S?u?ba Zwyci?stwu Polski – SWP) GHQ

She was born in 1899 in Tr?bki and moved to Kiev where she became the first female student but was first sworn into the Polskiej Organizacji Wojskowej (POW). She briefly took over military command after the arrest of the leadership. 

The Bolsheviks placed a bounty on her head equivalent to her weight in gold. After the arrival of Polish troops (in Ukraine) she joined them and served firstly in the intelligence service headquarters, and then in the Sixth Army, returning to Poland, she took part in the defence of Lwow during the Polish-Bolshevik war, for which he was awarded the Srebrnym Krzy?em Virtuti Militari. (Silver Cross?).

She spend most of the rest of the 1920’s until 1934 training women for service in various Military auxiliary services

During the second world war she was head of communications for the AK also fighting in the Warsaw uprising and avoiding capture.

After the war she was arrested and imprisoned by the communists working the rest of her days in a newspaper kiosk.

Lech Walesa appointed her Brigadier General in 1991

She died in 1997, ten years later a life-size bronze monument of her was unveiled at the Army Museum in Warsaw.

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Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie, KWP - Polish Underground Army

The Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie (Eng. Polish Underground Army - abr. KWP) was one of the most distinguished anti-Communist resistance organizations established after the formal disbanding of the Armia Krajowa (Eng. Home Army) on January 19, 1945. Its units were active in Central and Western Poland, particularly in the kieleckie, ?ódzkie, ?l?skie, pozna?skie voivodeships. Its creator, leader, and chief ideologist, was Captain Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, nom de guerre "Warszyc". Sojczy?ski was a former commanding officer of the First Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment of the Home Army, active in the Radomsko County. The formal establishment of the KWP coincides with “Warszyc’s” order from April 3, 1945, issued to the former Armia Krajowa (Eng. Home Army) soldiers. In this order he wrote:

“[…] Re-establish temporarily inactive contacts with your subordinates, update evidentiary records of your men and locations of your hidden weapons’ caches, reactivate the [conspiratorial] contact points […]”.

Photo: Captain Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, nom de guerre(s) "Warszyc", "Wazbiw".Before World War II, Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski was a teacher. He joined the underground in October 1939. In 1942, he was a Deputy-Commander of the AK District in Radomsko, and was also its Chief of KEDYW. He conducted many successful operations against the Nazis, among them, one on the night of August 7-8, 1943, when his units destroyed the jail in Radomsko, freeing 40 Polish and 12 Jewish prisoners. He was decorated with the Cross of the Virituti Militari - Fifth Class. “Warszyc” was the creator and commanding officer of the Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie (abr. KWP). He was arrested by the Polish Polish secret police , the UB, on June 27, 1946. After a staged “trial” of the leadership of KWP in ?ód? on December 9-16, 1946, he was sentenced to death. Captain Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, nom de guerre(s) "Warszyc" was executed by the Communist regime on February 19, 1947.

In August 1945, “Warszyc’s” battalion consisted of three companies, but only within three months’ time, it grew to nine companies active in several counties. The 1945 “amnesty”, that was to bring about the liquidation of the anti-Communist political and military underground, actually bolstered “Warszyc’s” resolve to continue his fight against the Soviet occupation. It is during this period that Sojczy?ski wrote an “Open Letter to Colonel Rados?aw” (Jan Mazurkiewicz) dated September 12, 1945. Rados?aw, who was arrested by the Polish secret police on August 1, 1945, made a number of appeals to his former subordinates in the resistance to end their conspiratorial activities. On September 8, 1945, Rados?aw published a “Declaration” that he prepared under the UB dictum [Pol. abbr. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa – Security Services].

In this document, he called upon the Armia Krajowa partisans to leave the underground. The AK soldiers, who were to do so, were to retain their military ranks and decorations. Devastated by Rados?aw’s betrayal, Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski wrote in his open letter:

“What you have done is an obvious betrayal […] we feel sorry for some of you, the AK [Pol. abr. Armia Krajowa – Home Army] Majors, Colonels and Generals. For, the deceitful arrest of the 16 AK leaders, and their trial in Moscowunder the circumstances that would bring about the God’s wrath, apparently didn’t teach you gentlemen anything; for, your only response, unbecoming of an officer, was to succumb to panic, and despair. […] [Apparently] the AK [leadership] considers the shameful capitulation at all cost with the renegades and traitors to be its duty, and in turn, sell us, and our accomplishments, out for [meaningless] promises and clichés of ranks and decorations [...]”

Photo: Lt. Ksawery B?asiak, nom de guerre “Albert” - pre-World War II photo. Between December 1945 and March 1945, “Albert” was Captain “Warszyc’s” I Adjutant in the KWP in Radomsko County. He was arrested by the UB on June 29, 1946, and tried along with the command of the KWP in ?ód?, during December 9-16, 1946. He was sentenced to death and was murdered in ?ód? on February 19, 1947.

"Warszyc" continued: "The recognition of military ranks of common AK soldiers by the ‘Reds’, in return for abandoning our fight for our principles, is yet another paradox. These days, when even a common vermin is an officer, and when the bigger the thief the higher the rank, our highest recognition is our certainty, that we remain men of principle, men of honor, and that we remain faithful sons of our Nation.”

Apparently, it was the attitude towards the Communists, shown by some of the higher-ranking AK leaders, that prompted Capt. “Warszyc” not to link-up his unit with any other underground organization. He felt, that his independent activities would be more effective in this way.

The General Staff of the Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polski (KWP) consisted of the following individuals:

Capt. Stanis?aw Sojczy?skinom de guerre(s) "Warszyc", "?wirski", "Wazbiw", "Awr" - Commanding officer, in charge of Fighting with Lawlessness (Pol. Walka z Bezprawiem), Treasurer, Quartermaster.

Lt. Jan Rogólka,nom de guerre"Grot” - Sojczy?ski’s Adjutant until December 1945, and thereafter the Commander of Piotrków Trybunalski County.

Lt. Ksawery B?asiaknom de guerre "Albert" - 1st Adjutant beginning as of December 1945. Lt. Henryk Glapi?ski,nom de guerre "Klinga" - II Adjutant until March 1946, and thereafter the Commandant of Radomsko County. Lt. Czes?aw Kijak,nom de guerre"Romaszewski" – 2nd Adjutant from April 1946. Officer Cadet Stanis?aw ?elanowskinom de guerre(s) "Na??cz", "Wiktor" - Chief of Intelligence from January 1946. Sec. Lt. Maria Szczerbliknom de guerre “Mucha” - Accountant. Lt. Feliks Kasza,nom de guerre“Szczerbiec” - Communications Officer. Reverend Marian Frontczyk - Unit’s Chaplain.

Photo: Capt. Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, “Warszyc” - photo taken by Polish secret police, the UB, after his capture.

In August 1945r, KWP elected to establish two distinctive components. They were, the “S?u?ba Samoobrony i Ochrony Spo?ecze?stwa”, abbreviated SOS (The Self-Defense and Protection of the Society Service), and as needed, its second component organized from within larger units to combat the Communist UB and MO forces. The combat operations were also carried out by special units, called the “Oddzia?y Partyzanckie SOS” (Eng. “Partisan Units SOS”). These were divided into two sections:

1 – Political, codenamed "II K"
2 - Tactical, codenamed "II L"

The KWP also recruited agents from within ranks of the Communist UB and MO (Pol. abr. Milicja Obywatelska – People’s Militia) forces.

The KWP was divided into two primary operational areas, or Okr?gi:

1 - Area ?ód?, which was under the direct command of “Warszyc”. This area consisted of 10 County Commands: Radomsko, Piotrków TrybunalskiWielu?Cz?stochowaSieradz?askZawiercieW?oszczowa, ?ód? i Konin-Ko?o,

2 - Area ?l?sk, which was commanded by Major Gerhard Szczurek, nom de guerre “Erg”. Major Szczurek led 8 County Commands: ytomCieszynGliwiceKatowice-Miasto, Katowice-Powiat, Ko?lePszczyna and Rybnik.

During 1945-1946, the organization had around 3,500 men in its ranks. The most known armed units were: -

- OP SOS "Warsaw" [active in the Cz?stochowa and Radom counties],

OP SOS "O?wi?cim" [active in the area of Wielu? and Kluczborg counties]

The SOS units in the ?l?sk area were:

The "W?drowiec" - active in among other places Cieszy?, Pszczyna, and Rybnik. This was one of the most active KWP units. Its codename can be traced to the name it used during the Nazi occupation. This unit had around 150 soldiers, and conducted several dozen operations against the Communists. It was destroyed in mid-1946,

The "B?yskawica".

Photo: Lieutenant Henryk Glapi?ski, nom de guerre "Klinga". During the Nazi occupation, Glapi?ski was an Armia Krajowa soldier. He was imprisoned at the Nazi concentration camp KL Gross Rosen. Between March-April 1946, he was the commander of the Radomsko County KWP, and was a commanding officer in the SOS “Warsaw” unit active in Radomsko and Cz?stochowa counties. His unit conducted many successful operations against the Communist UB (abbr. Urzad Bezpieczenstwa – Security Service) and KBW (abbr. Korpus Bezpieczenstwa Wewnetrznego – Internal Security Corps) forces. On the night of 19-20 April, 1946, it took part in an operation against the regional PUBP (abbr. Powiatowy Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego – County Office of Public Security), with headquarters in Radomsko. Because of the lack of support from Lt. “Grot” Glapi?ski‘s unit, it wasn’t able to take over the building. During their retreat, “Kling’s” soldiers captured 8 members of Soviet NKVD, who were shot on April 20, 1946 at the forest in Graby. Earlier, in the afternoon, this unit conducted a successful operation against the 200-men pursuit unit from the KBW. Glapi?ski’s 40-man unit completely destroyed the Communist forces. The KBW unit lost several men, and the rest – over 100 soldiers – surrendered. On the following day, “Klinga’s” unit engaged another KBW Company, and again forced it to surrender. Only on April 22, under the pressure from considerable KBW pursuit forces, the unit was forced to disperse. Along with several of his soldiers, “Klinga” fought until September 1946. He was arrested by the UB on September 14, 1946. He was tried and sentenced to death during the trial of the KWP leadership in ?ód? between December 9-16, 1946. Lieutenant Henryk Glapi?ski, nom de guerre "Klinga" was murdered by the Communist regime in ?ód? on February 19, 1947.

As a part of its activities, KWP published an underground publication entitled: "W ?wietle prawdy", (Eng. “In the light of truth”), and also circulated around 30 appeals and flyers, that were for the most part authored by Capt. “Warszyc” himself. In orders issued on August 16, 1945, Capt. Sojczy?ski outlined detailed responsibilities of the armed section of the KWP, including: self-defense, protecting Polish citizens against acts of thievery and rape perpetrated by the Soviet Red Army and its collaborators, combating the most harmful individuals in the Communist administration, secret police, and army, and counteracting common banditism burdening local populations. The military section of the KWP was also assigned tasks of confiscating provisions and procuring financial means necessary for the functioning of the organization. To combat lawlessness, the KWP established a judiciary branch whose task was to prepare formal indictments against individuals whose actions were particularly harmful to Polish society. The first death sentence issued and carried out by the KWP's judiciary branch was one against Jankiel Cukierman, vel. Jankel Cukierman, vel. Jakub Cukierman, the head of the investigative / interrogation department at the PUBP [Pol. abbr. Powiatowy Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego – County Office for Public Security – Communist secret police] in Radomsko. Cukierman was liquidated in August, 1946.

Photo: August 30, 1947 near Mr. Tarczewski’s forester house in the klonowski forest (Klonowa municipality). In the photo, is the leadership of the KWP codenamed “Labirynt” (Eng. “Labyrinth”). From left to right, are: Lt. Jan Kwapisz, nom de guerre “Lis – Kula”, Capt. Jan Ma?olepszy, nom de guerre "Murat", and Lt. Kazimierz Skalski, nom de guerre “Zapora”.

The escalation of Communist terror forced the KWP to intensify its military operations. On March 28, 1946, Capt. “Warszyc” ordered his units to destroy Communist jails and regional UB headquarters, to organize ambushes against UB and KBW pacification units, and to forcibly disperse Communist PPR [Pol. abbr. Polska Partia Robotnicza – Polish Worker’s Party] rallies. Shortly thereafter, he also sanctioned the liquidation of UB functionaries without formally issued sentences.

During the night of April 19-20, 1946, units of KWP under the command of Lieutenant Jana Rogólka, nom de guerre "Grot" took over the city of Radomsko. During this operation, a Communist jail was destroyed and 57 prisoners were freed. The KBW pursuit unit sent against the retreating units of Henryk Glapi?ski, "Klinga” was engaged, destroyed, and its soldiers surrendered. The following day, the same unit of KWP won an engagement against the KWB Company in ?ytno. Some of the KBW soldiers joined the “Klinga’s” unit.

April 19-20, 1946: Military operations to free political prisoners from the PUBP, Polish secret police county headquarters in Radomsko.

Left: A hand-drawn diagram of the Communist secret police PUBP office/ jail, in Radomsko, prepared for the resistance by Urzad Bezpieczenstwa, employee codename "Ryba", who collaborated with "Burat's" KWP unit.

Twelve participants in the operation were ultimately captured by Polish secret police, the UB, and were sentenced to death. They were murdered most likely during the night of May 9-10, 1946 in the PUBP (Pol. abbr. Powiatowy Urzad Bezpieczenstwa Publicznego – County Office for State Security) dungeons in Radomsko. Their bodies were buried in the former Nazi bunker near B?kowa Góra. A week later, the inhabitants of the village and the families of the murdered KWP soldiers buried them at the local cemetery.

Left: Polish secret police investigative jail in Radomsko, Poland. Photo Source: noworadomsk.pl

The 10 soldiers were laid to rest in a mass grave, while their commanding officer, Lt. Jan Rogólka, was laid to rest in Wola Ro?kowa. The youngest one of them, Leopold S?omczy?ski, was buried in Radomsko. The execution of these KWP soldiers was accompanied by unspeakable tortures and mutilation that included: breaking their legs, ribs, and arms, pounding nails into their sculls, cutting off their tongues, and gouging their eyes out ... Read more about Polish secret police, the UB, torture methods here...

The KWP Soldiers who participated in the operation against the PUBP Office in Radomsko:

Lt. Jan Rogolka,"Grot"
Age 33, executed

Sgt. Józef Kapczy?ski aka Ryszard Kopczynski, "Szary"
Age 24, executed Benedykt Ratajski
Age 23, executed Leopold S?omczy?ski
Age 19, executed Ryszard Nurkowski
Age 20, executed Karol Wieloch
Age 20, executed Ryszard Chmielewski
Age 22, executed Czes?aw Turlejski
Age 19, executed Stanis?aw Wersal
Age 20, executed Piotr Proszowski
Age 23, executed Józef Koniarski
Age 37, executed Adam Laso?
Sentenced to 15 years in prison
(contemporary photo) Józef Zi?ba
Sentenced to 15 years in prison Kazimierz Matuszczyk
Sentenced to 15 years in prison Stanis?aw ?liwi?ski
Sentenced to 15 years in prison Tadeusz Gala
Sentenced to 15 years in prison

“On May 9th [1946], around 21:00, I was summoned by a rector, because a UB [Polish secret police] officer came and said that the condemned men wanted to see the priest. I took 12 communions, and along with the commander, went to the UB building on Ko?ciuszki Street. They were locked up in the basement. There was a broken table there. I laid a Pyx on the table, and they approached me one by one – all twelve of them. After the confession, every one of them grabbed and hugged me, and kissed me, because I knew all of them from the forest. There was an 18-year old boy among them - Leopold S?omczy?ski. The tears were pouring from his eyes when he was saying, “I am not afraid of death. My Dad came with my 4-year old brother. When the visit was over the soldier says – "it’s over!" – and then my brother grabbed my head and didn’t want to let go of it. The soldier dragged his little hands away from my head. The sight of my crying brother and my parents is the suffering before my death”. After confessing all of them, I went upstairs to sign a document about fulfilling my ministry. I told them, “- You shouldn’t be executing an 18-year old boy”, and they said “- this is a military court; there is nothing to discuss”. It was 1:00 a.m. at night when I was leaving this place. I saw that there was a vehicle ready in front of the building. I didn’t know then that it was to transport the bodies. After I left, all the boys were murdered, and were transported to the B?kowa Góra, and were dumped there in the bunker”. An interview with Reverend Stanis?aw Piwowarski, confessor, recorded on June 16, 2001.

Above: August 30, 1947 near Mr. Tarczewski’s forester house in the Klonowski forest. In the photo is unit of Captain “Murat”: Command of the Oddzia?y Le?ne KWP Teren 731 (Eng. Forest Units of KWP, Area 731). From left to right are: (1) Corporal Jan Chowa?ski, “Tadek”, (2) Rifleman 1st Class (st. strz.) Edward Pa?, “Zbyszek”, (3) Rifleman Edward Marcinkowski, “MP’ik”, (4) Officer Cadet / 2nd Lt. Kazimierz Szczepa?ski, “Wicher”, (5) Rifleman Karol Pietrus, “?wierk”, (6) Rifleman Józef Coli?ski, “?bik”, “Zarycz”, (7) Corporal Antoni Stanioch, “Czarny”, (8) Sergeant Stanis?aw Gwiazda, “Witek”, (9) Corporal Stanis?aw Florczak, “Rze?nik”, (10) Sergeant Józef ?l?zak, “Mucha”, (11) Rifleman Stefan Janik, “Warta”, (12) Sergeant Zenon Grzegórski, “Wis?a”, (13) Stefan Krzemianowski, (14) Rifleman 1st Class Stefan Wydrzy?ski, “Zygmunt”. Sitting from the left are: (1) 2nd Lt. Antoni Chowa?ski, “Kuba”, (2) Lt. Kazimierz Skalski “Zapora , (3) Captain Jan Ma?olepszy, “Murat”, (4) Lt. Kan Kwapisz, “Lis-Kula”. Laying down, from left are: (1) Corporal Tadeusz Szyma?ski, “Manifest”, (2) Rifleman Micha? Wojtczak, “Zbigniew”, (3) Corporal Czes?aw Górecki, “Rz?dzian”, (4) Riffleman 1st Class Leon Foriasz, “Longin”, (5) Corporal W?adys?aw Antczak, “Czesiek”, (6) Corporal Zdzis?aw Balcerzak, “Wiktor”, (7) Rifleman 1st Class Kazimierz Ja?d?yk, “?mia?y”, (8) Sergeant Jan Krzywa?ski, “Z?otnik”.

This photo taken by Marcin Jarzyna from Lipicze II in Sieradz County, is from the private collection of Leszek ?ebrowski.

In June 1946, however, the command of the KWP was destroyed as a result of arrests conducted by the UB. Capt. “Warszyc” fell into Communist hands on June 28, 1946 , after he was betrayed by Henryk Brzózka, who was one of his subordinates.

Above: Capt. Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, “Warszyc” and 11 of his men before the Wojskowy S?d Rejonowy [Eng. Regional Military Court] in ?ód?, December 9-14, 1946. From among the accused, Stanis?awa Sojczy?ski, Henryk Glapi?ski, Ksawery B?asiak, Antoni Bartolik, W?adys?aw Bobrowski, Marian Knop, Albin Ciesielski, and Stanis?aw ?elanowski were sentenced to death and executed.

The KWP’s underground units in the ?l?sk area were destroyed as well. Lieutenant Jerzy Jasi?ski, nom de guerre "Janusz", who survived the wave of Communist arrests, undertook the task of rebuilding the KWP structures.

Beginning in August, 1946, he led the 2nd General Staff of the KWP. His second in command, and chief of the SOS units, was Sergeant Wies?aw Janusiak, nom de guerre "Prawdzic", while Roman Alama, nom de guerre "Irys", became his Chief of Intelligence, and Adjutant. The function of the Logistics Officer, and Quartermaster, were assigned to Henryk Brzóska, nom de guerre "Niutek". The 2nd Command of KWP never managed to restore the organization to its previous strength. During this period, the KWP was most influential in the area of Cz?stochowa, Radomsko, and Piotrkow Trybunalski.

Some of the units in the field that survived arrests and were not able to re-establish contact with the 2nd General Staff, would operate independently. A pivotal role in the destruction of KWP was played by the Communist secret police agent, Zygmunt Lercel, codename "Z–24" who collaborated with the Zarz?d G?ówny Informacji Wojska Polskiego [Eng. Main Directorate of Information of the Polish Army (Polish Communist: military police, intelligence, and counter-espionage)].

Some of the members of the KWP General Staff were arrested by UB during the night of December 31, 1946 and January 1, 1947. Lt. Jerzy Jasi?ski, nom de guerre "Prawdzic", who during this time was outside of the Cz?stochowa area, outed himself during the 1947 amnesty. Others remained in the underground and continued to fight against Communism. Sergeant Jan Ma?olepszy “Murat”, who even then still commanded several partisan groups, led them.

He was arrested on November 9, 1947, and was sentenced to death. He didn’t live until the day of his execution, as he was murdered in his cell in the prison in ?ód?.

But, it wasn’t the end of the Konspiracyjne Wojsko Polskie, yet. Some of its units, and smaller armed groups of partisans, survived until 1954.

On September 11, 2009, Capt. Stanis?aw Sojczy?ski, nom de guerre "Warszyc", was posthumously promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, and decorated with the Grand Cross of Polonia Restituta by President of the Republic of Poland, the Honorable Lech Aleksander Kaczynski.

Added by bgill

Zofia Korbonska

A funeral Mass for Zofia Korbonska, a heroine of the Polish underground resistance against Nazi occupation, participant in the Warsaw Rising of 1944, political activist against Communist rule after World War II, and former Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service broadcaster, was held at the Our Lady Queen of Poland Catholic Church in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, September 10, 2010.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Polish-American statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, spoke in Polish about Zofia Korbonska’s deep patriotism, extreme sacrifice, and political wisdom in her long struggle alongside her husband Stefan Korbonski to restore freedom and independence to their beloved Poland.

Zofia Korbonska worked for many years as a writer, editor and announcer in the Polish Service of the Voice of America (VOA). Zofia Korbonska died at her home in Washington, DC on August 16 at the age of 95.

The interment took place at the Cemetery at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday Sept. 11. Zofia Korbonska was burried next to her husband, Stefan Korbonski, who was the Polish Government-in-Exile’s delegate and director of the Directorate of Civil Resistance, which coordinated non-military resistance efforts by the Polish populace against the German occupying forces.

Zofia and Stefan gathered information from the extensive network of the Polish Underground Resistance, and Zofia was the cipher clerk who encoded the messages for transmission to Great Britain.

Among the news first reaching the West by this route were:

information about medical experiments on women prisoners in the Nazi German concentration camp at Auschwitz;

the location of Hitler’s command bunker in East Prussia; the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943;

daily reports on the fighting during the three weeks of that Uprising; the final deportation of ghetto residents and destruction of the ghetto; tests of V-1 and V-2 weapons on Polish territory; daily reports on the fighting during the 63 days of the Warsaw Rising which began on August 1, 1944; the “liberation” by the Soviets which marked the beginning of the next occupation of Poland.

After Zofia Korbonska and her husband escaped from Poland in 1947 to avoid arrest by the communist regime, former U.S. ambassador to Warsaw Arthur Bliss Lane urged Zofia to apply for a job at VOA’s Polish Service. A friend of the Korbonskis, Ambassador Bliss Lane was aware that during World War II the person in charge of U.S. radio broadcasts to Poland was a Polish communist who after the war returned to Poland and became one of the Polish Communist Party’s chief anti-American propagandists.

Ambassador Bliss Lane, who had resigned from the State Department in 1947 in protest against the Yalta Agreements and the lack of sufficient U.S. response to communist repression in Poland, was hoping that Zofia Korbonska would help to change the pro-Moscow tone of U.S. radio programs to Poland.

She and other Polish journalists hired after the war helped to restore accuracy and balance in VOA Polish broadcasts. In his book I Saw Poland Betrayed, Ambassador Bliss Lane described the Soviet domination of Poland and the crushing of the democratic opposition to the Soviet-imposed communist government. He was also critical of U.S. radio broadcasts to Poland during the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations prior to the hiring of Zofia Korbonska and other pro-democratic Polish journalists and writers.

Zofia Korbonska described her work at the Voice of America as “the continuation of the struggle in which she had engaged as a member of the Polish Underground, this time waged from the West against the Soviet Union, the new occupying power in Poland.” She viewed VOA’s mission at that time as corresponding to what she and her husband wanted work for: “the restoration of freedom and independence to the nations in Central and Eastern Europe under the Soviet domination.”

Zofia Korbonska received hundreds of letters and even presents from listeners in Poland. The letters were sent surreptitiously from Poland at some danger to those who sent them. The gifts included an effigy of the Soviet Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky who on Stalin’s orders was put in charge of the Polish communist armed forces.

In attacking Zofia Korbonska’s work at the Voice of America, a communist media commentator in Poland called her “a nightingale in a golden birdcage of American warmongers,” but she and other VOA Polish Service broadcasters had millions of faithful listeners.

At the Voice of America, she originated such regular programs as “Life in Warsaw Under Communist Rule,” “Democratic Institutions in the United States;” “Young Club of Independent Thought;” and “Women in America.” She said, however, that she was most proud of her news reports during critical historical moments: the Polish workers unrest in 1956, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and her live reporting after the assassination of President Kennedy, which she described as one of the most dramatic moments of her radio career.

When I worked with her at VOA in the 1970s and the early 1980s, I remember most vividly Mrs. Korbonski’s constant frustration as a news editor with various attempts by American academics, journalists and some U.S. government officials to whitewash history by promoting such ideas as convergence between Soviet communism and Western democracy or the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine, which urged the Soviets and the Eastern Europeans to seek a more “organic” relationship. She would say that a few days in a Soviet prison might cure them of such silly and dangerous notions.

Zofia Korbonska rejoiced when Ronald Reagan was elected president. With her sharp sense of humor, she made fun of several USIA officials, still employed at the time at VOA in executive positions, who were horrified by some of President Reagan’s blunt statements about the Soviet Union. In a 2001 interview, she described her work at the Voice of America as “a beautiful period in [her professional life]” and as “a contribution to the victory over the Evil Empire.”

After the death of her husband in 1989, Zofia Korbonska founded the Stefan Korbonski Foundation in Washington, with a chapter in Warsaw; its “goals and aims are to clarify and preserve the memory of the true facts of the recent history of Poland, and most specifically of the Polish Underground State in the years 1939-45, of the contribution of Poland to the Allied victory in World War II and of the role in that fight of the Directorate for Civil Resistance, headed by Stefan Korbo?ski.”

In failing health, she became house-bound for the last several years of her life. Her significance to the recent history of Poland was recognized by Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who bestowed on her the high decoration of Grand Cross of Polonia Restituta. During his visit to the United States in February 2006, since she was unable to leave her house, the President came to her humble apartment in Washington to personally present this high honor.

Added by bgill

Stefan Korbo?ski

Stefan Korbonski 

(born 2 March 1901 in Praszka , died. 23 April 1989 in Washington, DC ) - Polish politician peasant movement, lawyer , journalist , activist Polish Underground State ,Government Delegate to the country from 27 March to 28 June 1945, Member of Parliament Legislative from a list of the PSL .

From 1908 he lived in Czestochowa , where he attended the local grammar school (now the High School. Henryk Sienkiewicz). As a student he took part in the defense of Lviv in late 1918 and 1919. Volunteered for the army again during the Polish-Bolshevik War (1920), and in 1921 he participated in the Third Silesian Uprising . He was awarded the Cross of Valor and the Silesian Ribbon of Merit and the Cross of Virtuti Militari .

In the 20 lived in S?upcy , he worked as a teacher in Pyzdrach .

Then he graduated from law , and he was a trainee at the University of Poznan . He worked in the Attorney General in Poznan , and in 1929 opened a law practice in a law firm in Warsaw .

In 1925 he became involved with the peasant movement. He joined the PSL, "Liberation" , and from 1931 worked in the Peasant Party . In 1930 he participated in the Congress Centrolew (Congress of Rights and Freedoms Defense of the People) in Krakow . From 1936 he was chairman of SL in the province of Bialystok .

During the September campaign , he served in 57 Infantry Regiment as a lieutenant. His unit was on the territory of the Republic occupied by Soviet aggression on Poland September 17, 1939 by the Red Army . Korbonski was taken prisoner by the Soviets. He managed to escape, and soon returned to the occupied by the Germans in Warsaw , where he started underground activities in the framework of the ZWZ and AK. At the same time work in the underground Peasant Party "Roch" . 

Korbonski Stefan and his wife Sophie guided radio station, which occupied the country from the area daily conveyed to London to-date information, which were then relayed to the Polish by the broadcaster, "Dawn ". This radio station, located in England until 1944 effectively gave the impression phonic radio, broadcasting from the site of the country (with fast service Korbo?skich) 

Since 1940 was a member of the Political Coordinating Committee , in April 1941 he became head of the Directorate of Civil Resistance . In this position he was organizing civil resistance movement, and also directed the activities of judicial bodies. Since July 1943 he was head of Social Resistance in the leadership of the Underground Struggle .

After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 he was appointed Director of the Department of Home Affairs Delegation of the Polish Government in Exile . After his arrest by the NKVD, Jan Stanislaw Jankowski in March 1945 he became the Polish Government Delegate to the country and held it to arrest by the NKVD in June 1945. He was also a de facto as Chairman of the Council of National Unity

From prison he was released after the establishment of the Provisional Government of National Unity . After his release he returned to practice law and business in the peasant movement, has been a member of the senior executives Polish Peasant Party , the largest opposition political group against the government of communist . In January 1947 he was elected deputy to the Legislative Sejm of the districtof Warsaw .

In connection with the growing threat of repression from the authorities and security authorities, he decided to leave the country. The decision accelerated the flight of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk . At the turn of October and November, along with his wife, Zofia fled to Sweden , then to the USA , where he lived. There he engaged in journalistic activity. 

He was an active participant in the political life of the Polish emigration.Served as chairman of the Polish Council of Unity in the United States, the President of the Polish delegation to the Assembly of Captive European Nations ( ACEN ), several times he was chairman of ACEN, was a member of the Polish Institute of Science in America and the International PEN Club in Exile.

In times of PRL Korbonski was one of the activists of emigration, to enforce the censorship ban mentioning the names in the media.

 

Added by bgill

Rest in Peace

Zofia Korbonska’s interment at the Cemetery at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday Sept. 11, 2010 was provided by Marek Walicki. Zofia Korbonska was burried next to her husband, Stefan Korbonski, who was the Polish Government-in-Exile’s delegate and director of the Directorate of Civil Resistance, which coordinated non-military resistance efforts by the Polish populace against the German occupying forces.

Added by bgill

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