LIBERTAS INAESTIMABILIS RES EST LIBERTY IS AN INESTIMABLE GOOD WOLNOŚĆ JEST RZECZĄ BEZCENNĄRoman law cited on the column of the Supreme Court 528-532 AD Digestia Justiniana (D), Book 50, Title 17, Fragment 106. W lustrze odbija się Katedra Polowa Wojska Polskiego pod wezwaniem Najświętszej Maryi Panny Królowej Polski, odwiecznej orędowniczki wolności Polaków, której Polska wielokrotnie zawdzięczała cudowne ocalenie. The Field Cathedral of the Polish Army is reflected in the mirror, the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Queen of Poland, the eternal intercessor for the Poles' freedom, to whom Poland owes being miraculously saved many times. Warsaw, Poland. Fine Art Photography by Zbigniew Halat
|Polska - kraj wolnych ludzi.|
|Poland: Land of the Free.|
Third Partition, sealed by treaty in January 1797 but dating in
practice from 1795, ended the independence of Poland. The Commonwealth
vanished from the map of Europe. Austria took Kraków and the
surrounding region, Prussia occupied central Poland as far east as
Warsaw, the Russians advanced their frontiers to a line which - in its
northern trace - ran close to the present Polish-Soviet border along
the Bug river . A secret clause in the Partition treaty - the first of
many such secret clauses in Poland's history - laid down that 'the name
or designation of the Kingdom of Poland . . . shall remain suppressed
as of now and for ever'.|
A hundred and twenty-three years were to pass before a sovereign Polish state reappeared. Poland had 'descended into the grave', as the Romantic poets were to put it, but it was an unquiet grave. Poland was not dead, and it was not only the Poles who tried to resurrect her.
France, at war with all Europe, did not abandon the Polish cause, though ruthless calculation was as important as fraternal emotion in French actions. Napoleon allowed General Jan Henryk Dabrowski to raise two legions of Polish exiles in Italy (their 'March, march, Dabrowski' song became Poland's national anthem) and another legion was organised in Germany. They served France loyally, in part by helping to combat the national insurrection in Spain, and in 1807 Napoleon established the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a satellite state carved out of the Polish territories annexed by Prussia which soon included not only Warsaw but Kraków and a part of the Austrian zone. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
Third Partition, sealed by treaty in January 1797 but dating in
practice from 1795, ended the independence of Poland. The Commonwealth
vanished from the map of Europe. Austria took Kraków and the
surrounding region, Prussia occupied central Poland as far east as
Warsaw, the Russians advanced their frontiers to a line which - in its
northern trace - ran close to the present Polish-Soviet border along
the Bug river . A secret clause in the Partition treaty - the first of
many such secret clauses in Poland's history - laid down that 'the name
or designation of the Kingdom of Poland . . . shall remain suppressed
as of now and for ever'.|
A hundred and twenty-three years were to pass before a sovereign Polish state reappeared. Poland had 'descended into the grave', as the Romantic poets were to put it, but it was an unquiet grave. Poland was not dead, and it was not only the Poles who tried to resurrect her.
Although the Grand Duchy seemed to Poles only a prelude to the restoration of full independence, the great process of reform which had begun in the time of King Stanisław August Poniatowski was revived and carried further. The Napoleonic Civil Code of law was imported from France, and has shaped the Polish legal and administrative tradition ever since. Serfdom was again abolished, and a modern constitution gave equal rights to all but the poorest peasants. Hope returned; Napoleon seemed a liberator; and the Poles gave their treasure and their young men to help his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812.
But with Napoleon's defeat, Poland again left the map. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 changed the Partition boundaries: the Prussians fell back some way to the west, Kraków became a 'free city' in practice subject to the partitioning powers, and most of the old Grand Duchy of Warsaw, including the capital, became a semi-autonomous region of the Russian Empire, the so-called 'Kingdom of Poland'.
Abroad, all those who opposed the Holy Alliance, the block of three reactionary powers which not only suppressed Poland but seemed to threaten liberty throughout Europe, gave at least sentimental support to the Polish cause. It was the sense of belonging to a 'liberal international' that encouraged a series of Polish national conspiracies, especially in the Congress Kingdom.
Matters came to a crisis in 1830; the July Revolution in France spread waves of democratic unrest and turbulence across the Continent, while the Tsar prepared to send Russian troops (with Polish regiments) to suppress the new and liberal state of Belgium.
The November Rising began on the night of 29 November 1830 when a small party of officer-cadets attacked the Belvedere Palace, residence of the Russian viceroy, and another group captured the Arsenal with the assistance of the Warsaw population. The rising rapidly developed into a national insurrection, and the armies of the Congress Kingdom fought Russian troops in open warfare for almost a year before going down to defeat. But the leadership of the rising, ill-prepared, proved divided and confused; the liberal nations of the West, Britain and France, did not come to Poland's aid, although thousands of Poles secretly crossed frontiers to join the insurrection; and the strategy of the generals did not match the courage and professionalism of their soldiers. Warsaw was recaptured by the Russians in September 1831, and by late October organised resistance was over.
The consequences of the November Rising were grim and long-lasting. General Paskievitch in the Kingdom and General Muraviev in lithuania carried out their own versions of 'pacification': hundreds were executed, and some 180,000 Poles were deported, many in irons to Siberia. The civil service was purged, and the Kingdom lost its relative autonomy, to be ruled by decree. Polish institutions like the Bank, the army, the Sejm and the Commission for National Education were systematically abolished. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
'Great Emigration' was Poland's response to the failure of the November
Rising. Most of the intellectual and political elite of Poland fled
abroad, some 10,000 in all, establishing their exile centre in Paris
around Prince Adam Czartoryski in the Hotel Lambert. This outflow of
politicians, writers, musicians, philosophers and generals was the most
extraordinary block of talent ever to transfer itself from one country
to another until the Jewish intellectual emigration from Germany and
Austria to the United States a hundred years later.|
Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Slowacki wrote verse and drama, mystical and moral and yet intensely political, that still suffuse and inform the Polish imagination; Joachim lelewel wrote Poland's history; Frederic Chopin composed; Cyprian Kamil Norwid developed a new poetry whose innovation and genius was only recognised in the following century.
This was a Romantic culture. Neither the old Age of Reason nor the optimistic, liberal mood of the contemporary West could answer the questions the Poles now put to themselves: why had Heaven allowed the martyrdom of their country when it sought only justice, and how - when - could it be resurrected from the tomb? Against the background of intense Catholic faith, there developed the haunted idea of Messianism which - in its extreme form presented Poland as the collective Christ, crucified to redeem the nations, one day to be resurrected by a new embodiment of the Holy Spirit.
At home, the earth continued to heave over the buried nation. Another national rising was planned for 1846, but ended in multiple disaster. In Prussian Poland, the leaders were arrested; Krakow rose, but the rebellion was rapidly crushed by Austrian and Russian troops. In Galicia, the portion of southern Poland held by Austria which stretched from Krakow eastwards to the fortress city of Lwow and on into the Ukraine, 1846 did not just fail but turned into a slaughter of Poles by Poles. In this overcrowded province, nearly five million Polish and Ukrainian peasants worked the lands of a tiny class of great landowning magnates. As the rising began, the Austrians were able to provoke a peasant rebellion against the landlords which turned into a massacre; some two thousand estate owners and their families were murdered, and their manors burned down.
The fiasco of 1846 was a turning-point in the history of the Partitions. From Kosciuszko's rising onwards, Polish leaders had been able to rely on peasant support, promising an end to rural servitude in return for military service. Now, after Galicia, the Powers saw that they could cut off this source of strength by exploiting social divisions in Polish society. In 1848, Count Franz von Stadion, the Austrian governor of Galicia, offered the peasants possession of their own land and the abolition of feudal labour services. The Russians took a similar course in 1864.
As a result of the failure two years before, the Polish national leaders were too demoralised and disorganised to take a major part in the liberal revolutions which blazed across Europe in 1848. Minor rebellions in Kraków and Lwów were bombarded into surrender by the Austrians. In Prussian Poland, a National Committee sprang up in Poznań seeking autonomy within Prussia, but the movement was suppressed a few months later as the Hohenzollern monarchy regained control in Berlin. But Polish exiles fought 'for your freedom and ours' in almost every other nation in Europe during 1848-9. The poet Mickiewicz raised a legion in Italy, General Ludwik Mierosławski (who had led the ill-fated 1846 rising in Poznań) fought in Sicily and in southern Germany, General Henryk Dembiński and the legendary General Józef Bem commanded armies in the Hungarian national revolution. In the 1848 'springtime of nations', European sympathy with the Polish cause - rising all through the idealistic and revolutionary movements of the first half of the century - reached a peak, from which it then declined. Europe now entered a period of huge wars between empires and of internal class struggle, in which the fate of a 'failed' nation-state seemed steadily less relevant. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
O Lithuania, my country, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till now
How precious, till I lost thee. Now I see
The beauty whole, because I yearn for thee.
O Holy Maid, who Czestochowa's shrine
Dost guard and on the Pointed Gateway shine
And watchest Nowogrodek's pinnacle!
As Thou didst heal me by a miracle
(For when my weeping mother sought Thy power,
I raised my dying eyes, and in that hour
My strength returned, and to Thy shrine I trod
For life restored to offer thanks to God),
So by a miracle Thou 'lt bring us home.
Meanwhile, bear off my yearning soul to roam
Those little wooded hills, those fields beside
The azure Niemen, spreading green and wide,
The vari-painted cornfields like a quilt,
The silver of the rye, the whetfields' gilt;
Where amber trefoil, buck-wheat white as snow,
And clover with her maiden blushes grow,
And all is girdled with a grassy band
Of green, whereon the silent peear trees stand.
Such were the fields where once beside a rill
Among the birch trees beside a hill
There stood a manor house, wood-built on stone;
From far away the walls with whitewash shoe,
The whiter as relieved by the dark green
Of poplars, that the autumn winds would screen.
It was not large, but neat in every way,
And had a mighty barn; three stacks of hay
Stood near it, that the thatch could not contain;
The neighbourhood was clearly rich in grain;
And from the stooks that every cornfield filled
As thick as stars, and from the ploughs that tilled
The black earthed fields of fallow, broad and long,
Which surely to the manor must belong,
Like well-kept flower beds -- everyone could tell
That plenty in that house and order dwell.
The gate wide open to the world declared
A hospitable house to all who fared.
English translation by Kenneth R. Mackenzie
Based on the bilingual (Polish-English) edition
of Pan Tadeusz by The Polish Cultural Foundation, London, 1986.
write about 'Polish history' in this period inevitably distorts
proportions. There was a common language, a common Polish version of
Catholicism, a common culture whose strength and content could vary
greatly between regions and social classes. There were 'Polish events',
generally conspiracies which with great effort and luck could be made a
shared experience for some Poles in two, if not always three, of the
Partitions. But most of the 'history' that Poles made or suffered in
the nineteenth century was - naturally enough an aspect of the history
of Austria, Prussia or Russia. And these were very distinct experiences.|
The Austrian Partition - Galicia and Austrian Silesia - was the most lenient. Here the ever-changing efforts of a multinational empire to reach a stable relationship with its subjects - Germans, Czechs, Magyars, Croats, Poles and Ukrainians, to name only the larger population groups - allowed the Poles to acquire considerable autonomy in Galicia where they numbered about three million, almost half the population of the province. They - or rather the highly conservative Polish landowners - ran their own internal affairs, fostered Polish culture without much hindrance, and for much of the period used Polish as an official language. As the Empire was itself Catholic, Polish religion raised no problems. Galicia was economically backward and rural, and the Polish nobility, nervous both about peasant radicalism and the rise of the Ukrainian minority (about forty-one per cent of the province's population in 1880), relied on the Austrians to protect them and became thoroughly nervous about ideas of national resurrection.
In Prussia, by contrast, the Poles - just under three million of them - were a minority. Up to the 1848 crisis, they had been handled with tolerance. But in the second half of the century, as the policy of Germanisation set in, they were treated increasingly as a threat.
Their position became far more exposed in 1871, when Germany united into an empire under Prussian leadership. Bismarck, who had been the chief minister to the Prussian King, now became the first Chancellor of the Hohenzollern Empire. Within a few years, the Prussian Poles were embroiled in the Kulturkampf - Bismarck's attempt to break the influence of the Vatican and bring the Catholic Church throughout the German dominions under the control of the state. Bismarck did not launch the Kulturkampfsimply to break the national spirit of the Catholic Poles - though he certainly hoped for such a result. Neither did he attack the Church simply because he, like the rest of the Prussian ruling class, was a Lutheran Protestant. His central purpose was to destroy or at least disable any institution which challenged the absolute authority of the German state. But the effect of Bismarck's onslaught against their church, coupled with his violent contempt for the very idea of Poland, faced the Poles in Prussia with the most serious danger to their cultural survival that they had yet encountered.
They became the target of campaigns not only against their faith but against their education and finally against their land. Government-financed waves of German farmer-colonists were sent east to buy out the Poles and settle. On all three fronts the Poles of the Poznań region and West Prussia successfully defended themselves through a generally defiant Catholic leadership (Cardinal Ledóchowski was imprisoned for two years ), and through a network of self-help organisations which not only blocked the German colonisation plans but in some areas bought back farms that had been purchased from Poles.
Bismarck regarded Poland as a 'seasonal state', a sort of sandbank which appeared in times of international crisis but which had no title to be considered a nation. The keystone of his European strategy was the maintenance of peace between the German and Russian Empires through their common interest in the partition of Poland. After his fall in 1890, when he was succeeded by Chancellor Caprivi, German policy changed towards a hostility to Russia that was to reach its climax in 1914, but this brought no relief to the Prussian Poles, now regarded as a security risk in a military frontier zone. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
all three fragments of Poland, the Russian partition was easily the
most oppressive. It contained the largest block of Poland's former
population: there were over five million Polish subjects of the Tsar,
of whom about 4.3 million lived in the 'Kingdom of Poland' and the
remainder either in the old lithuanian territories or in the eastern
After 1831, the Kingdom was in effect under military occupation. Polish culture was treated as subversive, and the Catholic religion was regarded as a disqualification from official employment. The modest political liberty allowed in Prussia and still more in Galicia was unthinkable in Russian Poland. Polish politics, to the extent that there were any beyond an unfocused hatred of anything Russian, could only develop as conspiracies prepared to use violence to maintain themselves and armed revolution to achieve their ends. Between the Russian tradition of total, utterly centralised and despotic authority and Poland's history of free speech and limited power, no stable compromise was possible.
After the Russian setback in the Crimean War (1854-6), conspiracies were formed among the thousands of Polish students studying at Russian universities and there was a new restiveness in the Kingdom. The new Tsar Alexander II, who had come to the throne in 1855, warned the Poles that they would win no concessions, but in 1860 patriotic demonstrations took place in Warsaw, followed by more in the following year which were crushed by the gunfire of Russian troops. Plans were laid for another national insurrection, which exploded prematurely in January 1863. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
January Rising was in some ways a contrast to the rebellion of 1830-31.
Politically it had been carefully prepared and its underground
leadership was highly organised, but its military strength was weak.
There was no collision of armies; instead, partisan bands fought a
guerrilla war throughout the Kingdom which soon spread to the huge
forests of Lithuania and regions of Byelorussia and the Ukraine. The
partisans were supported by an 'underground state', running central and
local government, foreign policy, a press and an arms industry.|
The odds, however, were hopeless. Feeble attempts by France, Britain and Austria to mediate with the Tsar were ignored. As in 1830, thousands of Poles came from Austria and Prussia and from all the emigrations in the west to fight and die, but the Rising itself did not spread beyond the Russian partition. After fifteen months of desperate courage, the insurrection crumbled away, and its last leadership, headed by Romuald Traugutt, was hanged outside the w arsaw Citadel.
The January Rising failed mainly because, without the intervention of a foreign power , partisans could not defeat a Russian army which came to number nearly 350,000 men. But its collapse was hastened by a clever stroke of politics. The underground 'government' had - as usual - promised the peasants full ownership of their land and an end to labour duties for the landlord. But in March 1864, Alexander II proclaimed a version of these reforms as his own, on behalf of the Russian government, depriving the Rising of much of its appeal to the rural poor. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
thick darkness of repression now fell on the Kingdom. Again, there were
executions; again, thousands of Poles were herded off in long convoys
to Siberia. The Kingdom lost its name and its last shreds of autonomy,
becoming the 'Vistula Territory' of the Russian Empire. Poles were
excluded from almost all official positions; Russian became the
language of education and government; the Catholic Church was
persecuted and the spread of the Orthodox faith encouraged; a stream of
Russian bureaucrats, teachers and policemen moved in. The policy of
'Russianisation', the deliberate extermination of the Polish identity,
was applied even more severely after the murder of Alexander II in 1881.|
Under the Partitions, two broad strategies were open to patriotic Poles. One was the Romantic tradition of armed insurrection, a course which turned out to be hopeless in practical terms unless there was full-scale support from other European nations - which never materialised. The other was to preserve and build up the cultural and economic strength of the nation, which involved a degree of compromise and collaboration with the partitioning Powers.
This second strategy, known as 'Organic Work', dominated the decades after the failure of the 1863 Rising. In Galicia, the agrarian slum of Europe, there was little industrial development before the end of the century. In Prussian Poland, the self-help policies of the Poles, combined with the economic dynamism of Germany, gave them a prosperous farming interest and useful experience in finance and industry . But it was in Russian Poland, in spite of ferocious political and cultural suppression, that the most vigorous changes took place.
Polish society there had been shattered as much by the land reforms of 1864 as by the defeat of the Rising. The easy-going old life of the rural gentry came abruptly to an end, with the loss of unpaid labour. A part of the petty nobility left the land and moved to Warsaw where - barred from any responsible post they became the embryo of the turbulent, independent Warsaw intelligentsia that survives today. Others, however, went to Russia itself, to study, to work as managers and - often - to encounter the new Russian generation of revolutionary conspirators. Professor Leslie records that the Polish population of St Petersburg rose from 11,000 in 1864 to 70,000 by 1914.
In 1851, the tariff barrier between Russia and the Kingdom had been abolished; in the years after 1863, Russia's protectionist policies cut off the supply of industrial goods from the West. This was the opportunity for Russian Poland, still economically far more advanced than the rest of the Empire. There were few Polish capitalists, but German investment poured in to finance industrial development; large-scale industry appeared not only in the boom town of Lódź, whose textiles clothed all Russia, but in the coal and iron basin of the Dabrowa and in Warsaw in the form of heavy and light engineering.
By 1900, Poland accounted for an eighth of all Russian production. Organic Work, at a first glance, seemed to be paying off. But in fact it was already a discredited creed.
There were two reasons for this. One was social: the new Polish working class was underpaid and atrociously housed, and - in Russian Poland - almost totally deprived of trade union protection until 1906. Revolutionary socialist ideas spread rapidly , accelerated by the slump at the end of the century. On the land, the end of serfdom and land reform had only created further problems as a rural population with a soaring birth rate tried to fend off starvation on tiny plots of soil. Many gave up the struggle and emigrated, from Prussian Poland to the United States and to the Ruhr in western Germany, then from the old Kingdom, and finally in an enormous exodus from overcrowded Galicia which took over one million - Poles, Jews and Ukranians - abroad, mostly to the Americas, between l870 and 1914.
The second reason for the fading of the Organic Work strategy was political. If it was not to degenerate into mere opportunism, only making life easier for those with money and position, it had to show returns - an appreciative readiness of the partition Powers to allow the Poles to run their own affairs. But the opposite was true: in Russia and Germany, above all, imperialist russianising and germanising policies were growing rapidly more oppressive. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
was at this stage in Polish history that Jozef Pilsudski entered the
struggle. As the nineteenth century ended, the Poles looked back on a
hundred years of humiliation and martyrdom and swore that there would
not be another hundred. Internationally, the outlook for restoring an
independent Poland was bleak. But the tightening vice of foreign
repression, added to the miseries of the economic slump, was breeding
up a fresh militancy in all the Polish lands. The emergence of coherent
political movements, like the Polish Socialist Party, gave resistance
and struggle a quite new staying-power. Pilsudski was typical of the
young Polish generation, impatient to renew the struggle, hoping
against all reason for a sign of weakness in one of its imperial
Józef Piłsudski was born in a country manor in Lithuania, to a family of the Polish squires who had dominated that country for centuries, only four years after the suppression of the last great Polish insurrection which began in January 1863. He grew up in a land helplessly exposed to the Russian vengeance that followed the January Rising: executions, torturings, arrests, deportation to Siberia, the confiscation of estates, the suppression of Polish culture and language, and the persecution of the Catholic Church. At school, Piłudski's teachers were Russians who sneered at his Polishness and treated him as an alien in his own country. Józef Piłsudski acquired a hatred and fear of Russia which never left him. The Polish gentry in Lithuania were little affected by the doctrines of compromise, of a sort of patriotic adaptation to foreign rule, which became widespread in other parts of the divided nation in the years after l863. They remained true to the older tradition of romantic conspiracy, which looked to yet another armed insurrection to liberate Poland. (...)The situation at the turn of the century was a strange one. Poland had lost its independence just over a hundred years before, and remained partitioned between Russia, Austria-Hungary and the German Empire, which had inherited the conquests of Prussia. On the one hand, the profound discouragement which had fallen upon the Poles after the failure of the January Rising in 1863 was rapidly wearing off. The sober doctrines which gained support in the decades after the Rising, suggesting that the true patriotism was to avoid head-on conflict with the occupiers and build up the economic and cultural strength of the nation by hard work, agricultural improvemem and social organisation - this cautious approach was out of fashion. Political parties were being founded, some operating openly in the relatively tolerant conditions of the Austrian partition, others underground. Higher education, some of it clandestine, was reviving even under the Russians. In the Prussian partition, a vigorous and quite successful struggle was being waged on the land to resist German colonisation. The economic turn-down at the end of the century, which had reached the dimensions of a severe slump in Russia, was spreading bankruptcies and unemployment and undermining the case for patient, constructive work. The new generation, which had not experienced the devastating consequences of 1863, was disinclined to be patient. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
Three key persons decisive for the victory over Marxism in 1920: The Most Holy Virgin Mary, Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, Father Ignacy Skorupka. Trzy kluczowe osoby, które zadecydowały o zwycięstwie nad marksizmem w 1920 roku: Najświętsza Maryja Panna, marszałek Józef Piłsudski, ks. Ignacy Skorupka. Memorial commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw by Czeslaw Dzwigaj, Strzelecki Park, Krakow. In mid-August 1920, Poland again saved European civilization from barbaric hordes. Fine Art Photography by Zbigniew Halat
|Poland Resurrected: 1900-1921|
1914, the novelist Joseph Conrad decided to take his family on a continental holiday. He wanted to show his English wife and children the city of Kraków, where he had grown up and where he had buried his father, the revolutionary Apollo Korzeniowski. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, successor to the imperial Austro-Hungarian throne, had been shot at Sarajevo a few weeks before. Like most ordinary Europeans, Conrad paid little attention to this. As a result, the outbreak of the First World War caught the Conrads in Krakow, in what was now the enemy territory of Austria-Hungary, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that they managed to escape internment and make their way back to Britain.
On the night of the general mobilisation, as army cars rushed hooting through the streets and crowds of unwilling young men slouched to the barracks to have their hair cut off and their uniforms fitted, Conrad and a group of Polish friends gathered in the smoking-room of his hotel and contemplated the future.
'The big room was lit up only by a few tall candles, just enough for us to see each other's faces by. I saw in those faces the awful desolation of men whose country, torn in three, found itself engaged in the contest with no will of its own, and not even the power to assert itself at the cost of life. All the past was gone, and there was no future, whatever happened; no road which did not seem to lead to moral annihilation.' Conrad, recalling the scene a year later, wrote: 'I am glad I have not so many years left me to remember that appalling feeling of inexorable fate, tangible, palpable, come after so many cruel years, a figure of dread, murmuring with iron lips the final words: Ruin - and Extinction. (Joseph Conrad, Notes on Lifes and Letters, J. M. Dent & Sons, London, 1921, p. 229, P.238)
Four years later, Poland regained her independence. The war which seemed to promise only ruin and extinction led to the collapse of all the three partitioning empires. But there are lessons in that memory of Conrad's which should never be forgotten. Only hindsight or the bravest contemporary guess could identify those baleful days of 19l4 with the beginning of Poland's resurrection. Only the most absurd nationalism could attribute that resurrection to the actions of the Poles themselves. There was nothing inevitable about Poland's revival in 1918, which was the result of an incredible stroke of fortune. In 1914, there was no lack of Polish politicians struggling for the independence of their country, openly or underground, at liberty or in prisons. But Conrad in that Kraków hotel, like most Poles, shared only their aspirations, not their optimism.
In the gap between the end of the war and the beginning of Versailles, the new Polish frontiers were already being set. Fighting had broken out between Poles and Ukrainians at Lwów in November 1918, ending with all Galicia under Polish control seven months later. In December 1918, there was a victorious Polish rising in the German province of Poznań. The Lithuanian capital of Wilno was taken first by the Bolsheviks and then by the Poles. Czechs and Poles fought each other in the Cieszyń region, the small industrial area which had been Austrian Silesia. That struggle ended in July 1920 when the Allied powers enforced a partition - a solution never accepted by the 140,000 Poles who found themselves on the Czechoslovak side of the frontier.
The toughest problem on the western borders was Upper Silesia. With its concentration of coal-mines, many producing high-grade coking coal, and its iron and steel mills, this was the most valuable industrial area in central Europe. Under German rule, its population had become a dense mixture of Catholic Poles and Catholic German Silesians under a crust of Prussian Lutheran administrators and industrial capitalists who were usually German or German-Jewish. Many 'Germans' were of Polish descent and had relations who considered themselves Polish. .
About the only problem modern Poland has been spared is regionalism. Minorities of other nationalities are a different matter; the Poles themselves share a remarkably uniform culture. The exception was - and to some extent still is - Upper Silesia, separated from the Polish state long before the Partitions and conscious of a distinct identity. The Polish mining villages had given their hearts to the charismatic Wojciech Korfanty, who had represented them in the German Reichstag and who was to be the only politician in independent Poland with a local support so strong that he could defy the influence of Warsaw. Korfanty belonged to the Christian Democrats, a Catholic party formed in 19°2 to block the advance of socialism in the working class.
Nobody was going to abandon Upper Silesia without a fight. The economy of central and eastern Germany depended on it; but without Upper Silesia, Poland would be a poor rural country lacking a primary industrial base. After two Polish insurrections in the region, the Allies intervened and held a plebiscite. This produced a German majority of votes, inflated but not decided by trainloads of Germans ferried in for the poll. The result, on 3 May 192 I, was a third Polish rising led by Korfanty and helped by the passive support of the French occupation troops, which ended after several months of savage fighting with the Poles in possession of most of Upper Silesia. The League of Nations drew a final partition line in October, giving the best part of the industrial districts to Poland.
These fights around the frontier were overshadowed by the Polish-Soviet war of 1920-21, an event which for a brief but terrifying moment seemed to threaten the whole of Europe and whose baleful consequences were to determine not only the nature of the Polish state but the fate of the next generation.
Here, Piłsudski was the moving spirit. It is still often said that he attacked Russia in order to suppress Bolshevism, that he acted as mere tool of Britain and France who had already intervened on the White side in the Russian civil war. But this is a false account both of what happened and of Piłsudski' s motives. Paderewski in Paris had once suggested that Polish armies could be used to overthrow Lenin, but nothing had come of it. Piłsudski' s aim, in contrast, had always been to restore something akin to the old Common-wealth, by detaching the Ukraine from Russia and bringing it into a federation with Poland. He failed to reach any agreement with the Whites, who could see no point in helping Poland to demolish the empire they hoped to restore.
Ever since the Armistice, the Germany army stranded in the east had formed a buffer between Poland and Russia. In February 1919, it finally withdrew, and Polish and Bolshevik units began to collide. Slowly the old Commonwealth outlines began to reappear, as Polish troops took Wilno in April 1919 and Minsk, the main city of Byelorussia, in August. The Bolsheviks, preoccupied with the civil war, we re ready to be flexible over frontiers with the Poles, but talks between the two sides broke down in December. Meanwhile, the Allies were becoming alarmed by Piłsudski's march to the east. They had no love for Bolshevik Russia, but neither had they expected Poland to turn into the enormous revival of historical dominions, which was now taking shape.
Piłsudski turned his attention to the Ukraine, which had a precarious government of its own under the Hetman Petlura. He was able to force Petlura to agree that eastern Galicia - in spite of its Ukrainian majority in population- should be merged into Poland, in return for Polish protection for Petlura's authority in the rest of the Ukraine. But t e deal did not stick; most Ukrainian patriots rejected the surrender of Galicia as unpardonable treachery. However, Polish troops supported by Petlura's forces went ahead with their attack on the Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, on 8 May 1920.
By now the Bolsheviks saw the Polish advance as a threat to the survival of the Revolution itself. A huge army was assembled, and in the summer of 1920 a double counter-offensive, led by Budyonny's cavalry army in Galicia and the talented young General Tukhachevsky in the north, burst through Piłsudski's defences and poured westwards towards Poland.
It seems to have been Lenin, normally the coolest of men, who decided -against the, opinions of his colleagues, including Trotsky and Stalin - that this offensive should go forward until it carried the Revolution into the heart of Europe. Tukhachevsky proclaimed: 'Over the corpse of White Poland lies the road to worldwide conflagration.' By August, the offensive was nearing Warsaw; Cossack cavalry crossed the Vistula north of the capital, and the Bolsheviks we re approaching the German frontiers of East Prussia. If Poland fell, the way to Berlin would be open. ,
Confident of victory, the Soviet government had set :up a revolutionary committee, the nucleus of a Polish government, at Białystok under Julian Marchlewski, a Polish Communist who had been one of the SDKPiL leaders.
Tukhachevsky's armies surging across northern Poland were leaving an undefended flank, and the Poles -outmanoeuvred but not defeated - took their chance. A strike force was hastily put together, and on 13 August it tore across Tukhachevsky's rear and cut him off. A hundred thousand prisoners were taken, and the Soviet armies fled out of Poland with Piłsudski's men at their heels.
Marian Żebrowski was a young cavalry officer; his regiment headed the Polish counter-offensive as it hit the left flank of Tukhachevsky's advance. 'Army people know what it means when one is attacked across the line of one' s advance. That means the complete destruction of an offensive - and that's just what happened. The third and fourth squadrons destroyed everything ahead of them. The second squadron rode round the right wing, crossed a bridge and covered our right. The first squadron was sent to deliver a cavalry charge on the left, where larger groups of the enemy had been seen. In the last phase of its attack, the squadron got into some marshland and in this marshy ground there we re small units of the enemy. Our men fired on them, but the horses began to sink into the soft ground and the charge came to a standstill. The enemy redoubled their fire, and the squadron took heavy casualties . . . My friend, an officer-cadet called Suchodolski - his horse was killed and he fell, and was stabbed seven times with a bayonet. I helped to carry him to the ambulance cart and he just said to me: "Marian, we won such glory today, though I won't see the results of it . . .'"
This was the battle of Warsaw, or the 'Miracle on the Vistula'. It was one of the most dazzling operations in European military history. It saved Poland' s independence, and it forced Soviet Russia to abandon for ever the idea that November 1917 had been only the prelude to world revolution; from now on, Lenin was to adopt a more defensive policy which was to end in Stalin's formulation of 'socialism in one country'. Many people, then and now, have concluded that in 1920 Poland saved Europe from Communism. It would be more prudent to say that the 'Miracle' probably saved Germany from Soviet invasion. The revolutionary tide in Germany was ebbing fast by the summer of 1920, and any Red Republic established there by Soviet troops would have been swept away by the combined armies of the West. (...) "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
World War II
Germany occupied all Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. Simultaneously, the Germans issued an ultimatum to Poland over Danzig, and Poland responded by moving troops up to the frontier.
On 31 March the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced that Britain would guarantee Polish independence in the event of attack. Beck flew to London, and the guarantee was made formal in April. Hitler retorted by renouncing his 1934 pact with Poland.
On 23 August, to the stupefaction of the world, Ribbentrop and Molotov signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of Non-Aggression. A secret protocol to the pact provided for the partition of Poland and the Baltic States between Germany and the Soviet Dnion. Once again, the main dish at the feast of friendship between Poland' s historic enemies proved to be Poland's independence. A few days later, Britain signed a more specific alliance, making it clear that a German attack would lead to war with Britain as well as with Poland.
On 1 September 1939, with no deelaration of war, German troops crossed the Polish frontier. On 3 September, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Precisely a fortnight later, on 17 September, the Red Army entered Poland from the east. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
is a country where brilliant ideas have been bom, but seldom nursed up
to full application. Nicolaus Copernicus, from Toruń, showed that the
earth revolved round the sun; Michał Kalecki was a pioneer of modern
socialist economics; Polish mathematicians from Poznań broke the secret
of the German 'Enigma' coding machine. But it was not Poland that
conquered the cosmos, ran a successful welfare stafe or won the 'secret
war' of cryptography between 1939 and 1945. |
Other countries put these ideas into practice. So it was with Blitzkrieg, the concept of waging offensive war with fast-moving columns of armour or motorised infantry, concentrating maximum force to punch through a minimum sector of enemy line. This theory came into the mind of a young French officer named, Charles de Gaulle as he witnessed the rapid thrusts of the Polish-Soviet War, utterly unlike the broad-front offensives which had gained so little at such hideous cost on the Western Front a few years before. What if those cavalry armies could be replaced by tanks built for speed?
But it was British and German military thinkers who developed the idea of mobile warfare, years before de Gaulle finally put his thoughts on paper. And itwas the Germans who first tested his theory, in the campaign against Poland in September 1939. Poland was attacked from three sides at once by Panzer divisions, and mobile units followed through the gaps they made. The German ranks outnumbered the Polish by at least ten to one, and with an airforce five rimes as large as that of Poland - the Germans immediately seized command of the air.
It should have been an easy victory, but it was not. The Germans afterwards regarded it as a hard-fought campaign, and were disconcerted by the capacity of the Poles to keep fighting and regrouping in spite of such hopeless weriority in weapons. The casualties Germany took were heavier than in the longer campaign in France the following year.
The extraordinary thing about the Polish soldiers was the self-reliance: their capacity to reorganise into ever-smaller units, as all coherent command from above vanished, and to go on fighting. Part of the Polish navy had already escaped and reached British and French ports, ready to continue the war, and as resistance collapsed about a hundred Polish aircrat - all that remained - flew to Romania.
At 3.30 on the morning of 17 September 1939, the Polish ambassador m Moscow was summoned from his bed and handed a 'Note'. The Soviet Union announced that as the Polish state had ceased to exist (which was not true) steps had become necessary to protect the Ukrainian and Byelorussiai minorities in the 'former' Polish territories. An hour later, Soviet troops crossed the frontier.
At first, the incredulous Poles imagined that the Red Army might be come to their assistance. There was little resistance to the invasion, the eastern border being almost unprotected, but the truth became rapidly plain as the Soviet forces moved across eastern Poland to a demarcation line along the rivers Bug and San. A Fourth Partition of Poland was taking place. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
SEPTEMBER 1939-JUNE 1941
THE POLlSH MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
FOREWORD TO FIRST EDITION
8. War damage in Warsaw in September 1939
|Poland on August 31, 1939|
|Poland Occupied by the German State before the Germans invaded their Soviet allies|
|- annexed to the Reich|
|- so called 'General Government'|
|- area occupied by Slovakia|
|Poland Occupied by the Soviet Union before the Germans invaded their Soviet allies|
|- Ukrainian Soviet Republic|
|- Byelorussian Soviet Republic|
|- area occupied by Lithuania|
|Poland's Territory and Citizens |
|Post War Poland in new borders* on February 14, 1946 (census)|
(* excluding more than all Western Territories of the Polish - Lithuanian Commonwealth,
in fact the tripartite Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian Commonwealth and including the Polish part of the Dominium Maris Baltici plus Silesia and Great Poland,
the cradle of the Polish State regained after several hundred years of German domination as a form of partial reparation of Poland's World War II Losses)
was no surrender. In Poland, the fighting went on. The siege of Warsaw,
its people starving and its buildings crumbling under bombs and
artillery bombardment, cost tens of thousands of dead. Zofia Kolarska
remembers: 'We alllived in cellers, taking beds, mattresses and
whatever we could with us. The army was there, so there were many
horses: women would go up to the dead horses with sharp knifes and we'
d cut off chunks of meat, and that helped us to live through those
Warsaw's 'President' (mayor), the much-loved Stefan Starzyński, finally agreed to surrender on 27 September. Incredibly, the small Polish garrison on the Hel peninsula near Danzig, now hundreds of miles behind the lines, held out until 2 October, and the last shots of the campaign were fired at Kock, in central Poland, on 5 October.
For all their faults and errors in the past, the men who had governed Poland never contemplated an armistice. Poland had not ceased to exist and would not cease to fight simply because its armies had been defeated and its territory was occupied by the enemy. The problem was how to carry on the struggle; Romania, under extreme pressure from both Germany and the Soviet Union, had interned the Polish military and political leadership. However, the Romanians did not detain General Władysław Sikorski. As an old critic of the Sanacja regime, he had not held command in the September campaign and was allowed to leave Romania for France, where the Polish ambassador in Paris - on his own authority - charged him with raising a new Polish army out of refugees and Poles living in France. From Romania, President Mościcki managed to send to Paris a message announcing his resignation. The group of Polish leaders who had already reached France accepted it, but rejected his ideas for a successor. They chose instead Władysław Raczkiewicz, a respected provincial governor who had not been tainted by too close an association with the Sanacja. Under the guise of a 'correct' transfer of power, a discreet revolution was now overthrowing the Sanacja. President Raczkiewicz took the oath in the Paris embassy on 30 September, and at once appointed Sikorski as prime minister. Kazimierz Sosnkowski reached France a few days later, sank old animosities and joined the new government. Finally, the absent Śmigły-Rydz was induced to resign in November, and Sikorski became commander-in-chief as well as head of the government in exile.
France and Britain at once recognised the new administration, followed by the still-neutral United States. In some ways, this had all happened before. After the 1830 Rising, the Great Emigration had transferred Poland' s cultural and political capital to Paris. In the 1914-18 war, Roman Dmowski's National Committee had become a recognised government in waiting, also in Paris. Now again, with a deftness and confidence that only a nation accustomed to disaster and occupation could achieve, Poland had ensured its international survival.
Physical survival, for the Polish people at home, seemed less certain. The war had already cost the lives of 60,000 members of the armed forces and of many more civilians. Nearly half a million prisoners were in German hands and another 200,000 in Soviet camps. Much of Warsaw had been ruined, ani bombing had scorched the heart out of towns and villages along the track of the armies. And yet, as the fighting ended, the sufferings of Poland in the Second World War had scarcely begun.
In the Soviet-occupied zone, the policy of the conquerors was at first erratic. Many Poles, then and now, see the secret protocol of the Nazi-Soviet pact and the 'stab in the back' of 17 September as the realisation of a coldly planned design, a natural expression of Russia's attitude to the existence of an independent Poland ever since the Russian state had been bom. But in 1939 Stalin was probably less concerned with Poland itself than with Germany. Through the pact with Hitler, he had bought time and space. The Soviet occupation of eastern Poland at least kept the Germans 600 miles frorn Moscow; if Stalin had left all Poland to Hitler, the Nazi tanks would be only 400 miles from the Kremlin.
The new 'demarcation line' - which Stalin intended to make a permanent frontier - pushed 'the imperialist West' several hundred miles further away. This corrected Lenin's frontier compromise with Pilsudski at the Treaty of Riga eighteen years before, which the Soviet Union had always intended to revise when it was strong enough. No doubt Stalin in 1939 shared traditional Russian suspicion of Poland as a country dedicated to the break-up of Russian empires whether Tsarist or Soviet. But a stronger motive was his concern to end the partition of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian populations between the USSR and a foreign state. He wanted those unlucky peoples all to himself.
The Soviet authorities carried out an immediate round of arrests and deportations, principally of Polish local leaders.Then there was a pause while the institutions of 'Sovietisation' were put in place. Rigged elections in November produced dummy assemblies of Ukrainians and Byelorussians who voted unanimously for their incorporation into the Soviet Union. There was some land reform, some nationalisation. Poles were everywhere removed from official posts.
By Soviet standards-, this initial phase was deliberately mild. Stalin did not occupy all the Polish territory offered to him by the Nazi-Soviet Paces secret protocol, but accepted instead 'influence' over, Lithuania. Soviet troops entered Polish Lithuania and took Wilno on 18 September, but then restored the city and its region to the Lithuanian state. For a few months more, the Poles in Wilno were able to organise themselves and live in relative freedom. In Byelorussia and the Ukraine, religious education in schools was forbidden and monasteries commandeered, but religion itself - Uniate or Catholic - was not suppressed. However, the Soviet Union made it elear that the events of September implied not only the end of Polish rule in western Byelorussia and Ukraine but the final, irreversible abolition of Polish independence. Molotov announced that 'nothing is left of Poland, that hideous offspring of the Versailles Treaty'. On 28 September, the USSR and Nazi Germany signed a further 'Friendship and Frontier Agreement', whose secret clauses committed each power to suppress Polish agitation against the other, and to inform one another about 'suitable measures' for dealing with the Poles. .
In late November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland. Stalin intended a rapid campaign to push the Finnish frontier back from the approaches to Leningrad, but the 'Winter War' developed into a long, bloody struggle which disgusted the world and brought Britain and France to the verge of military intervention on the Finnish side. These setbacks may have prompted the Soviet Union to 'secure' its new western frontier.
In February 1940, there began the first of a series of huge and brutal deportations of Poles. Families in the occupied areas were driven from their homes and packed into unheated cattle-trucks, which headed slowly for Siberia and the Soviet far east while their occupants stifled, starved or froze to death. One survivor, Aleksandra Rymaszewska, recalls: 'We came to the long line of trains and the hordes and hordes of people being pushed into cattle trucks . . . there was nothing, just bunks from one wall to the other, a small barred window, the hole in the floor that was supposed to be our toilet. After a few days we were put in different trains which we re on wider tracks, and these tracks, we knew, were leading into the depths of Russia.'
The deportations lasted until July 1940, and were followed by another round-up in June 1941. Between one and a half and two million Poles were herded into the trains, to be employed as slaves or forced labourers in mines and lumber camps near the Arctic Cirele, or to be dumped in the steppes of Kazakhstan. No political distinctions were made, and Polish Communists from the abolished KPP (Communist Party of Poland) worked and perished alongside Catholic priests and university professors, farmers and railwaymen. Tens of thousands of Poles who had held official posts were 'tried' and consigned to long sentences in prisons or camps. No reliable figures exist on their fate, but it is estimated that anything between a third and a half of the deported Poles were dead by the time of Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. The 200,000 captured soldiers remained in Soviet custody, while.the officers we re segregated into separate camps. Some 10,000 of these Polish officers, held in camps in the Smolensk region, remained in intermittent touch with their families until about March 1940. Then all contact with them suddenly ceased.
After July 1940, another change came over Soviet policy towards the Poles under Soviet occupation. The three Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were invaded in June and in July annexed to the Soviet Union. But in Byelorussia and the Ukraine, the deportations were suspended, and cautious contact was made with some of the remaining Polish personalities in Lwów. The reason for this, fairly certainly, was Soviet alarm at the scale and ease of the Nazi victory over France and Britain in the west, beginning with the German offensive in May and end ing with the surrender of France and the evacuation of the defeated British in June. Facing the possibility that Hitler would now tum his aggression eastward, the Soviet Union wavered between the existing policy of treating the Poles under Soviet control as a menace to security in a frontier region, and the need for allies where they could be found. A group of Polish officers, including Colonel Zygmunt Berling, was invited to discuss the possibility of raising a Polish division for the Red Army. Meanwhile Wanda Wasilewska, a Polish Communist who had survived in Lwów on her wits and through her connections with Stalin and his inner circle, was allowed to publish a magazine and to press for the restoration of a Polish Communist Party.
The treatment of the Poles by the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1941 is still an unfamiliar story to foreigners. News of what was going on came only scantily to the West at the time, and later in the war, when Britain and the United States became the allies of the USSR, discussion of the episode was judged tactless and was discouraged. The true story emerged only in fragments during the post-war years, and was understandably overshadowed by the more spectacular and better-publicised savageries of the Nazi occupation of Poland and the rest of Europe. Yet in its brutality and the sheer scale of its cold-blooded attempt to obliterate the Polish nation physically and culturally, this 21-month Soviet occupation far outdid all, the crimes committed against Poland during the century-and-a-quarter of Russian occupation under the Tsars.
The recent memory of Soviet behaviour in Poland was the greatest single obstacle facing the new Communist authorities in Poland after the war. They had to conciliate a people for whom a Soviet-backed government seemed to threaten not only the abolition of private property and farms, and the suppression of the Catholic faith, but transportation to almost certain death in Siberian labour camps, probably to be followed by yet another cancellation of Polish independence.
The Germans controlled the heartland of Poland, with a population of nearly twenty-two million. They made no secret of their intentions. Hitler who took the salute at a victory parade in Warsaw on 5 October 1939, spoke on the 'artificial' and 'unviable' Polish state which was the 'foster-child of Western democracy and deserved its fate: 'to be swept off the face of the earth'. A few days later, the whole of northern and western Poland, including Poznań, Danzig and its hinterland, and Polish Silesia, was annexed to the Reich. The rest of the German-controlIed area became the so-called 'General Government': in reserve under martial law to be exploited for its resources and labour without consideration for the consequences. Its 'capital' was at Kraków, Warsaw being designated for eventual destruction and replacement by a small German colony. Hans Frank, a senior Nazi jurist with a princely lifestyle, became Governor-General and established his court at Kraków in the ancient Wawel Palace.
The Germans lost no time in showing the Poles what their occupation would mean. Behind the advancing front-line troops came the Einsatzgruppen, special execution squads drawn from the SS and the police, whose task was not only to crush resistance and opposition in the civilian population but to slaughter whole categories - the political and intellectual elite, the mentally sick, the leaders of Polish communities - as potential sources of racial or political infection.
Sometimes they shot, sometimes they merely arrested and terrorised. The first great atrocity of the occupation ceńtred on the town of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg in German), where - the facts are still not established - a group of fanatical German civilians appear to have opened fire on retreating Polish troops during the September Campaign, leading to an outbreak of violence against Germans in which many lost their lives. An official German report in November 1939 wrote of some 5 400 German residents in Poland killed or missing in this and similar incidents elsewhere. In February 1940, the German press was instructed to revise this figure to 58,000. The Einsatzgruppen had already undertaken a reprisal for the Bromberg Massacre and had shot nearly 20,000 Poles.
In the regions annexed to the Reich, the Nazi intention was to carry through once and for all the colonisation policy which Prussian and German governments had failed to complete. The Polish inhabitants, numbering between eight and nine million, were to be removed and replaced by Germans. While this was being organised, these regions were subjected to a 'Germanisation' process: the Polish language were forbidden in public, special limited shopping hours were imposed on Poles, and all education over primary level and cultural activity were forbidden. In September 1940, a decree confiscated all Polish property in land or commerce. The Catholic Church was closely persecuted, and in October 1941 several hundred priests were arrested and sent to concentration camps, while only a handful of churches were permitted to remain open.
The colonisation programme began in December 1939 with a round-up of 90 000 Poles and Jews, mostly from the 'possessing classes', who were transported to the General Government - the Jews being sent to the newly established ghettos. The next category to suffer were the small farmers, often given less than an hour to leave their villages while SS men tore down the crucifixes and holy pictures from their walls. Most of them also went eastward to the General Government, though some were conscripted as forced labour for war industry in Germany. Meanwhile, as a part of the Nazi-Soviet understanding, the ethnic German groups living in the newly acquired territories of the USSR - the Baltic states, Volhynia, Bessarabia - were expelled 'home to the Reich' and resettled on the abandoned Polish farms.
For all its root-and-branch vigour, this colonisation project was not much more successful, even in the short-term, than its predecessors. Deportations were broken on in the spring of 1941 and never resumed. About half a million Poles had been removed, not much more than six per cent of the total in the annexed territories, while som e 350,000 Volksdeutschen from the east arrived to replace them. At the end of the war, alI were driven out of Poland for ever.
What was new about this episode of German repression was its almost unimaginable savagery and cruelty - an entirely new quality of method. Between 1939 and 1944, the Nazis murdered something like 330,000 Poles in these annexed regions alone. But the policies themselves were familiar to any Pole who had heard his father describe the Bismarck period: colonisation, expulsion, the simultaneous attack on the language and the Church. EqualIy familiar was the German assumption that the ruling class in Poland and above all the intelligentsia, were incurable patriots, to be dealt with only by force. The Prussians had been saying this back in the 1880s. The Nazis found their own solution to the problem of the Polish intellectuals: systematic extermination.
In the General Government, with a population of over twelve million, a few weeks of weird calm folIowed the arrival of the Germans; theatres reopened and the universities prepared for the new academic year. But things changed instantly when Hans Frank took office. Stefan Starzyński, President of Warsaw, was arrested; the professors of alI higher education in Kraków were invited to a meeting, seized and sent to concentration camps where many of them were shot. Similar purges took place in all the cities, as the massacre of the intellectual class began. During the Nazi occupation, Poland lost half its doctors and more than half its lawyers, forty per cent of its university professors, half its engineers and eighteen per cent of its priests. Frank told a German police conference in Kraków: 'The Fuehrer has told me that the leading groups in Polish society already in our hands are to be liquidated, and whoever appears to replace them is to be detained and after an appropriate interval exterminated . . . Gentlemen, we are not murderers. But as National Socialist these times lay upon us all the duty to ensure that no further resistance emerges from the Polish people.'
The policy for the General Government was that this region, too, would eventually be Germanised. AlI education above primary and technical level was abolished; all museums and libraries were closed; cultural and artistic activities were forbidden; paintings and sculptures were removed to the Reich, and monuments to great figures in Polish history were demolished. An universal, indiscriminate reign of terror descended on the Polish population, while the Jews, many thousands of whom had already been tormented in public and shot out of hand, were herded into walled-off ghetto quarters in the principal towns. Factories and offices were placed under German direction, to serve the war effort, and wages were frozen. At the same time, a rapid inflation began, reducing the purchasing power of ordinary Poles to a fraction of its pre-war level. The food rationing system that was eventually introduced allowed 2,613 calories a day to a German, but a mere 669 to a Pole. This was a frankly genocidal policy. Like the Jews, but on a slower time scale, the Poles had been designated as an inferior, vermin race to be eliminated from physical existence.
Especially after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the General Government was used as a reservoir of forced labour for the war industries and to replace German manpower called up for military service from the farms. By 1942, about a million Poles had been deported to work in Germany. Growing resistance to the mass round-ups, which required increasing numbers of police and troops and drove thousands of young men and women to seek refuge with the partisan bands in the forests, persuaded Hans Frank to question the whole policy. But he was overruled by the SS, now becoming an autonomous empire within the Reich which not only ran the concentration camps but possessed its own army - the Waffen-SS - and its own industrial economy. Village after village was burned and their inhabitants murdered for real or imagined resistance; as the historian Norman Davies has pointed out, the famous tragedy at Lidice in Czechoslovakia, where a village was destroyed and its inhabitants massacred, was repeated in some three hundred Polish villages during the Nazi occupation.
In November 1942, Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuehrer of the SS, ordered that the colonisation policy should now be applied to the General Government. In the district of Zamość, near Lublin, some 40,000 Poles were driven from their villages, to be replaced by German settlers from Bessarabia. Their children were torn from them. A farmer' s daughter who was there, Wacława Kędzierska, saw how 'children up to the age of fourteen, even those as young as six weeks, were taken away. When their mothers didn't want to hand them over, the Germans hit the parents. And then they started to hit the children . . . a lot of the children we re thrown into the mud, even into the cesspit. They killed them. They took them by their legs and hit them against the corner of the barrack.'
The children were screened for Aryan characteristics. Those suitable for germanisation were held in SS orphanages where many died of hunger or disease, and most were never seen again. The parents were either sent to concentration camps or deported for labour to the Reich.
The Zamość action was foIlowed in early 1943 by a new series of manhunts in Warsaw and the main cities of the General Government. Streets were blocked, cinemas, streetcars or even churches surrounded, and all those caught within the cordon transported. This time their destination was the concentration camps. The SS had begun to exploit the unpaid labour of the camps, numbering many hundreds of thousands, by inviting German industry to settle in 'enterprise zones' around the camp peripheries. This was proving a great success, from the SS point of view, but the turn-over of labour was inconveniently rapid (the average life expectancy at Auschwitz, for those not at once sent to the gas chambers, was about twelve weeks) and needed constant replenishment.
On this occasion, one of the supreme officers of the SS, 'Gestapo' Muller, laid down a target of 35,000 prisoners for the round-ups in the Polish cities, but insisted that they must be fit for work, 'as otherwise and contrary to intentions the concentration camps will be overstrained'. In practice, chaos developed as German security forces grabbed everyone, fit or unfit, without papers or even with a German work permit, male or female, in order to filI Muller's quota. Those unfit for slave labour we re picked out in the camps themselves. 'Overstrain' usually came to mean overloading the crematoria with their corpses.
For the Poles, life in the cities of the General Government slowly developed its own rules and expectations. Physical survival was the issue. There was no safety from the haphazard nature of Nazi terror. At any moment, one might be seized for a labour round-up, arrested as a hostage, or shot in the countless street executions - the inhabitants ordered to stay away from the windows; the victims, their mouths often stuffed with plaster-of-paris to stifle their screams, hustled up against the wall and machine-gunned to death.
These places instantly became shrines. General Bór-Komorowski, later the commander of the Warsaw Rising, describes in his memoirs how his wife Renia, 'with her baby in the pram, passed Senatorska Street where an execution had just taken place. The corpses had already been taken away, but blood was splashed all over the pavement and bits of brains were sticking to the walls. People were kneeling all around, and in a few seconds the whole place was covered with red and white flowers and burning candles. Flowers were put in every bullet-hole in the wall. My sister stopped to pray. German police appeared and she made off. When she looked back, they were shouting and beating people up - all in vain, for after a moment the crowd was back again and new flowers and new candles had appeared.
To stay alive required not only luck but law-breaking, and most of the population was involved in black-marketeering, rackets in stolen German supplies, theft from German-run factories and offices, bribery and the forgery of every kind of document. The peasants were besieged by town dwellers seeking food in exchange for jewellery, gold or furniture. Władysław Baran, a small farmer, recalls: 'People started to come to me from Warsaw, on bicycles. They could carry fifty kilos on a cycle; they weren't well dressed, their cycles were falling apart, and they pushed them on foot from Warsaw. Each took a few kilo s of wholemeal flour or potatoes; they were a picture of poverty . . .'
The only Germans in close contact with the city Poles were the German carpet-baggers and fortune-hunters who flocked to the General Government. They sold precious supplies and identity papers, but they were always dangerous and unreliable. An intense solidarity developed among Poles, who devised elaborate alarm systems and code-words to warn each other of nearby Germans or of a lapanka (round-up) in the next street. The exception was the odious class of Jew-hunters, who made a living by spotting and blackmailing Jews who had escaped from the ghettos and were trying to pass themselves on as gentiles. The Resistance imposed a death penalty for this crime, but the trade thrived throughout the occupation.
The Poles remain proud that - alone in Nazi-occupied Europe - they produced no 'Quislings', no regime to coliaborate with the Germans. However, this was partly the result of German policy, oriented towards the genocide of the Polish nation rather than towards establishing any client state.
Lack of food and medicines, and the shortage of clothes and especially shoes (many families wore wooden clogs in winter and went barefoot in summer), led to a collapse of public health; deaths from tuberculosis, for example, rose almost fourfold in Warsaw between 1939 and 1941. Self-help committees, tolerated by the Germans but backed by the resistance, ran soup kitchens and relief centres. Cultural life survived as best it could. The Germans took over all cinemas - the resistance mounted a rather unsuccessful movie boycott - but underground theatres flourished in many towns. One of these, the Rhapsodic Theatre in Kraków, featured a young actor named Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II.
In the midst of these events, the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century was taking place on Polish soil. The 'Final Solution of the Jewish Problem', the systematic annihilation of the Jews of Europe, took place partly in the Baltic states and Nazi-dominated Russia, where it was carried out by the firing-squads of the Einsatzgruppen. But the central horror, the extermination of millions of human beings by industrial methods, was carried out in the gas chambers of concentration camps built on the territory of the General Government.
Intermittent massacres of Jews had markedp the first months of Nazi occupation. There followed a series of decrees which stripped Jews of all human and economic rights, reduced their rations to starvation level and - in the course of 1940 - herded them into walled-off ghettos within the larger cities and towns. The penalty for leaving the ghettos or for sheltering Jews was death. The Jewish Councils (judenrate), set up by the Germans, struggled to protect the ghetto populations by a series of ever-retreating compromises with the German authorities, but their task was hopeless. By 1941, over 100,000 Polish Jews had died or been murdered. Nightmarish conditions existed in typhus-ridden ghettos like that of Warsaw, where skeletal children prowled the streets and the corpses of those who had died of hunger or disease lay about the pavements.
The exact 'when' - and even the 'why' - of Hitler's secret order to carry out the methodical murder of European Jewry is not known. The order seems to have been given in late 1941, and was only confirmed by the infamous Wannsee Conference in Berlin on 20 January 1942.
For all the screaming rhetoric of 'extermination' and 'wiping-out', Nazi policy towards the Jews was impromptu and erratic. The first idea, forced emigration, was frustrated by the 'closed-door' attitude of the West, especially of Britain in Palestine, and then by the outbreak of war. The next plan seems to have been the deportation of Europe's Jews to Asian territories conquered from the Soviet Union, where they would be separated by sex to prevent breeding and then worked to death. The massacres by the Einsatzgruppen, who killed over a million Jews behind the advancing German armies, were seen as a mere clearing of the ground for what was to follow.
It has been argued that the halting of the German armies before Moscow in December 1941 determined the final form that the 'Solution' took. There was now no prospect of a rapid conquest of vast and empty Soviet territories; the war in the east would be long and hardo Meanwhile, the conditions in the ghettos and camps where Polish and other European Jews were being dumped were growing so appalling that the orderly German mind was alarmed. The time, space and resources for a 'working to death' policy were no longer available. An end had to be put to the 'Jewish problem', quickly and on the spot.
The first experiments in gassing were carried out at Chełmno in 1941. Early in the following year, extermination camps with gas chambers were constructed at Treblinka, Sobibór and Bełżec, in the General Government, and in the winter of 1942-3 the concentration camp at Auschwitz, in Silesia, was extended to take a battery of immense gas chambers and crematoria which could - and did - slaughter and consume up to 15,000 people within twenty-four hours. Not only the Jews but the gypsy nation was condemned to genocide, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of others from almost every country in Europe. Auschwitz alone accounted for nearly 3 million dead. About 2.8 million Polish Jews perished in the extermination camps, with another million Jews brought to the gas chambers by train from all over the continent. Over 5 million Jews of all nationalities died in occupied Poland, in the camps or outside them. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
Rota przysięgi Armii Krajowej – obowiązująca od lutego 1942:
„Przyjmowany: W obliczu Boga Wszechmogącego i Najświętszej Maryi Panny, Królowej Korony Polskiej kładę swe ręce na ten Święty Krzyż, znak Męki i Zbawienia, i przysięgam być wiernym Ojczyźnie mej, Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, stać nieugięcie na straży Jej honoru i o wyzwolenie Jej z niewoli walczyć ze wszystkich sił – aż do ofiary życia mego. Prezydentowi Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej i rozkazom Naczelnego Wodza oraz wyznaczonemu przezeń Dowódcy Armii Krajowej będę bezwzględnie posłuszny, a tajemnicy niezłomnie dochowam, cokolwiek by mnie spotkać miało. Tak mi dopomóż Bóg. Przyjmujący: Przyjmuję Cię w szeregi Armii Polskiej, walczącej z wrogiem w konspiracji o wyzwolenie Ojczyzny. Twym obowiązkiem będzie walczyć z bronią w ręku. Zwycięstwo będzie twoją nagrodą. Zdrada karana jest śmiercią.”
A Home Army soldier giving the oath: "Before God Almighty and Mary the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the Polish Crown, I pledge allegiance to my Fatherland, the Republic of Poland. I pledge to steadfastly guard Her honour, and to fight for Her liberation with all my strength, even to the extent of sacrificing my own life. I pledge unconditional obedience to the President of Poland, the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Poland, and the Home Army Commander whom be appointed. I pledge to resolutely keep secret whatever may happen to me. So help me God! A Polish Underground State official receiving the oath: "I welcome you into the ranks of the Polish Army, fighting with the enemy in the underground for the liberation of the homeland. It will be your duty to fight with weapons in hand. Victory will be your reward. Betrayal is punishable by death. "
Godło Armii Krajowej to orzeł w zamkniętej koronie zwieńczonej krzyżem. Według znawców heraldyki korona zamknięta w średniowieczu przysługiwała jedynie cesarzowi, królowie używali koron otwartych. Z czasem niejeden król poczuł się cesarzem we własnym kraju, przyjmując, że sprawuje w swoim państwie władzę w pełni suwerennie i nie ma nad sobą zwierzchników. Korona zamknięta oznacza więc niezawisłość państwową, a zwieńczenie jej pałąków krzyżem jest manifestacją przekonania, że naród nie toleruje żadnej innej władzy zwierzchniej nad człowiekiem wybranym na króla czy prezydenta niż władza Pana Boga.
The emblem of the Home Army is an eagle with a closed crown and a cross. According to heraldry experts, in the Middle Ages, only the emperor closed the crown, kings used open crowns. Over time, many of kings felt like an emperor in their own countries, assuming that he exercised power in his country with full sovereignty and no superiors. A closed crown means, therefore, state independence, and crowning its headbands with a cross is a manifestation of the belief that the nation does not tolerate other than God any supreme authority over a man chosen as king or president.
The Auschwitz Extermination Camp Part I V. Prisoners
The first prisoners in the concentration camp at Auschwitz were 30 professional German criminals, who were brought to Auschwitz at the beginning of June 1940, after having spent many years in other concentration camps in Germany. SS-men had chosen them as the executors of their criminal plans, and in the first place as instructors in the laws and regulations of the camp. They had received special instructions on how they must treat Polish political prisoners. They could beat and torture them and were not responsible to anyone. These prisoners filled the posts of camp seniors (Lagerälteste) foremen of working companies (Blockälteste) roomorderlies (Stubendienst) Capo and Obercapo and Foremen (Vorarbeiter). They did not disappoint the hopes which had been placed in them, and they grafted their ideas of morality upon whole series of other keepers, whom they chose from among the most brutal individuals and professional criminals.
On the 14th VI. 1940 the first transport of Poles arrived at Auschwitz. Innumerable others followed which in the first period of the existence of the camp brought Poles exclusively, and later on Poles and citizens of all the conquered nations, and citizens of other countries, found in the occupied countries during the German invasion.
From the fragments of records which were found, and particularly bundles of questionnaires amounting to about twenty undestroyed by the Germans it appears that the following nationals were found among the prisoners: Americans, Austrians, Belgians, Bulgarians, Chinese, Croats, Czechs, French, Greek, Dutch, Spaniards, Serbs, Lithuanians, Latvians, Germans, Norwegians, a Persian, Poles, Russians, Roumanians, Slovaks, Swiss, Turks, Hungarians, Italians, Jews from Palestine and one Egyptian.
Among the citizens of so many different countries mentioned here indubitably the most numerous group was formed by Polish citizens (Poles and Jews) next the Russians, Serbs and French, but in general the majority of the prisoners were of other nationalities than Polish - prisoners of Jewish origin, Especially numerous among the Jews from abroad were Hungarian, Czech and Slovak Jews, and Jews from Germany, Greece and Holland.
Source: German Crimes in Poland. Volume 1. Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Warsaw, 1946 full text
|In July 1942, the Germans began to deport the population of the Warsaw Ghetto to the gas chambers at Treblinka. Against the prevailing mood of hopeless fatalism, a Jewish Fighting Organisation was set up, and managed to make contact with the Home Army outside. Bunkers and petrol bombs were prepared, and when the SS entered the almost empty ghetto for the final round-up on 19 April 1943, the Jewish resistance went into battle. It was a fight which the ghetto warriors knew they must lose; the odds were crushingly against them, and the Home Army and the Communist underground were able to do little to help. But this was a tight not for victory but for honour, and for the future of the Jewish people. The handful of men and women held out against tanks and artillery for almost a month, while the smoke of burning buildings and the stink of burning bodies drifted across Warsaw. Before he committed suicide with his comrades, Mordechai Anielewicz, the leader of the Ghetto Rising, said: 'I have seen Jewish self-defence in all its glory.' Out of 3.35 million Polish Jews, about 340,000 were alive by the end of the war, most of them refugees in the Soviet Union.(...) "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson|
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE IN A PROMISED LAND
Of all the minority groups in Poland, the Jews, ever since the rise of the Polish Commonwealth to a high rank, have created the most eventful racial problem. How they reached that peak of importance in Poland is a matter of brief analysis of the European situation in the Middle Ages.
In all Christian nations in western Europe, the Jews were despised as the "accursed race." They were barred from possessing land, farming, from professions, and from trade. Business and banking or usury were left to them alone. As a result of the Crusades, however, many knights and adventurers were tempted to enter the business field; these commercial Christians laid heavier restrictions upon the Jews selling merchandise, to the extent that the Hebrews, in some countries, were limited to loaning money. Because of charging high rates, - Shakespeare illustrated Jewish usury through his creation of Shylock, they were disliked by royalty and nobility; while masses of people hated and persecuted them as non-believers. Even the Church recognized this racial difference, when Pope Innocent III ordered, in 1215, all Jews within the Christian realm to wear badges in public. Jewish ancient mores, their attire, long beards, their adherance to old and utmost contempt for new customs antagonized the Christians. On various occasions there were terrible massacres in France, England, and Germany. Finally all Jews except the wealthiest ones, were expelled from France (1254) and England (1290).
The mass of Jewish paupers found shelter in hospitable Poland. Kazimierz the Great confirmed the autonomous privileges offered to the Jews by Boleslaw the Pious. According to this law, Jews were considered as slaves of the ruling prince. This measure was necessary to safeguard them from exploitation by other social classes such as knights and robbers. The privileges extended them protected the Jews against maltreatment and massacre. In fact, the Christians were compelled by royal decree to defend the Israelites in case of attacks upon them.
Since other classes monopolized the trades and professions, the Jews were limited to banking. They owed their choice of bank¬ing as an occupation to the Church law which forbade Christians to loan money on interest. Jewish traders and artisans supplied the needs of their own people. The Church, furthermore, pre¬scribed certain sections of the cities where the Jewry could live.
These sections produced the Ghetto, and the Ghetto type of Jews.
At no time were the Jews persecuted in Polish towns. Occassionally the Cracow "zaks" (students) perturbed a bearded patriarch, but there were no wholesale massacres. While western Europe severely persecuted them, the Jews in Poland enjoyed peace and protection.
The persecution of Jews in Germany and their final expulsion in 1426 more than doubled the Jewish population in Poland, were they sought relief. They lived in their own communes, enjoying their religious, commercial and educational liberty. Representatives of these communes met frequently in their dealings with the Polish government. At the head of these meetings presided the elders composed primarily of the richest merchants, - the Jewish aristocracy. The elders were the official spokesmen of the Jews as to matters of taxation, commerce, justice, and the like.
Jewish social life did not extend beyond the Ghetto. The patriarch and his brethren wore and still wears a long high-buttoned shapeless coat; his pale face was outlined by a straggling beard and long curls before the ears. The Yiddish jargon, - a corruption of a low German dialect with an admixture of Polish words, - was written in Hebrew characters; constant reading of Hebrew sacred books, - the Talmud and the Torah; the old dalapidated buildings found in the poorest sections of cities; the squalor of the people, - characterized, as they characterize today, the Jews in Poland. Very few accumulated
wealth ; and these were half-way, if not entirely assimilated together with other minorities like the Germans and Armenians. Semitic customs did create a feeling of mistrust and hostility in regard to Poles.
Jewish communes negotiated with town councils certain opportunities in business and trade for themselves. When the towns were on the decline, the Jews gained more privileges.
The object of the voievodes in royal towns and the lords in private towns was to exploit the Jewish weakness for business privileges. Although the Szlachta felt contemptuous toward the Jews they utilized the Chosen People's ambition to the detriment of the bourgeoisie who practically disappeared under the disadvantageous struggle. The Jews by helping the lords to rise in strength and wealth, helped themselves as well, to increased business opportunities in business. A prolific race, the Jews multiplied in towns very rapidly, and by the eighteenth century almost every city had one hundred Jew, to everyone thousand inhabitants in some towns like Kazimierz, in still greater proportion; and villages also numbered the sons of David among their inhabitants. The manored lord of the village employed Jews as his agents and factors. With the help of their Jewish henchmen, stooped to the meanest levels in order to please their masters, the lords exploited the poor peasants, bringing them down, finally, to practical enslavement. Thus the Jews, by the favor of their lords, became renters of inns (karczmy) and saloonkeepers on manor property. To promote business, they demoralized the unsuspecting peasants who were encouraged to drink heavily.
In Polish Ukraine, besides holding a monopoly on liquor, the Jews held great estates as managers for the absentee owners. Extension of their power into courts and parliament was just a step forward. In Ukraine, it was because the Jewish exploitation, their lack of ethic, in business that the Cossacks deplored Polish suzerainty: "The Poles enslaved us to the accursed Jewish race." Subsequent rebellions in Ukraine, subsidized by Russian gold, vented the Cossack wrath mercilessly upon the defenseless Jews.
Due to stubborn Hebraic resistance to world progress, and the passionate and sentimental naivete with which they clung to their ancient customs, the status of Polish Jewry evolved slowly. However, some of them became assimilated and proved to worthy citizens of Poland, in the realm of commerce, profession and even in literature. The real quarrel between the Pole and the Jew has arisen from the Polish attempt to free the peasant from Jewish monopoly and exploitation. The real representative of Polish Jew is becoming sociable and friendly toward Polish institutions; it is the Litwak, the Russian Jew in Poland with his contemptuous attitude towards the new government, his fanatical adhesion to Russian doctrine who is causing all the racial turmoil in Poland.
After the downfall of Poland and the partition of the country, the majority of the Jews found themselves incorporated into the hated Russian Empire. Not satisfied in creating the "pale" districts for the Jews in Russia, the czars propelled the Jewish population towards Poland, until that country faced another immigration of Jews into cities already teaming with them, Furthermore, to prevent any political understanding between thr Poles and the Jews, the Russian tried to provoke animosity by harping upon their racial traditions: it was playing off the Jew against the Pole, and vice-versa. Though the work of the foreign press, this idea proved practicable, though disastrous to Poland, particularly by reason of the vast numbers of Jews harbored in Poland. Without any basic, scientific facts to prove this offensive propaganda Poland was accused of numerous atrocities and racial inequalities.
However, despite the unfavorable propaganda of the Jewish owned German and American press, the Jews in Poland are satisfied with their lot and political minority rights. Complaints do not emanate from them. Many of those who emigrated to Palestine returned to Poland, the realized "promised land," where they have complete recognition, religious freedom, and social and political equality.
POLAND AND HER PEOPLE BY Dr. Jerome I. Pawlowski, B. Sc., M. So. DETROIT, MICH., FIRST EDITION, 1929 This Book is dedicated to those who, guided by altruism, a sense of justice, and benevolence, had offered their friendship, personal service, and material aid to Poland in the dark hour of her resurrection from a hundred and fifty year enforced political death.
July 1943, the hinge of the war began to turn. At the biggest tank
battle in history, Hitler's offensive near Kursk was brought to a
standstill and then driven back. The Red Army began to move westward,
in a slow advance which was to end in Berlin almost two years later. In
January 1944, the first Soviet troops crossed the line which had been
the old Polish frontier in 1939.|
Much had happened to the Poles, both to the London government and its resistance within the country. In April 1943, after the discovery of the bodies of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyń forest, near Smolensk, the Polish government had accused the Soviet Union of their murder, and Stalin had broken off relations with Sikorski. A month later, he had begun to recruit a Polish army under Soviet command. In July, Sikorski had been killed in an air crash at Gibraltar. After his death, his combined powers were divided between two of his senior colleagues in London: Stanisław Mikołajczyk, the Peasant Party leader, who became prime minister, and General Sosnkowski, who took command of Poland' s armed forces.
In Poland, Rowecki had been arrested and was succeeded as AK commander by Bór-Komorowski, a cavalry officer of conservative outlook. Meanwhile, the Communists and their allies were preparing for the arrival of the Red Army, and setting up what looked like the foundations for a pro-Soviet government.
The 'London' resistance clung on to the hope - or illusion - that Poland might be liberated from the west, or at least by Anglo-American and Polish forces arriving at the same time as the Red Army. In late 1943, however, the Warsaw leadership faced the growing possibility that this would not happen. If Poland were to be occupied by the Soviet Union alone, what should the resistance do to maintain and assert Poland' s independence, and to prevent the reduction of Poland to a Soviet protectorate?
Instructions arrived from London that the whole structure - the AK, the Government Delegate and all the rest - should stay concealed as the Soviet armies rolled over Poland and await further orders. Bór-Komorowski and his colleagues found this absurd and dishonourable. Instead, they planned an active policy. As the Soviet forces drew near, one AK unit after another would launch an insurrection against the disintegrating Germans, liberate its region, and meet the Red Army as 'host' in a manifestly free Polish state whose government would soon return from London.
This was 'Operation Tempest'. !ts weaknesses sprang from the ignorance of the underground leaders about the balance of power and priorities in the anti-Hitler coalition. In the first place, 'Tempest' assumed that the Soviet forces could be made to respect the pre-war frontiers. In fact, they had no intention of doing so, considering the lands acquired in September 1939 as integral regions of the USSR, while the British and Americans had shown that they would not risk a breach with Stalin by insisting that Poland should regain its old borders. Secondly, 'Tempest' was based on the belief that Stalin would accept the fait accompli of an anti-communist government in Poland with Western support. Again, this overlooked the Teheran meeting in November/ December 1943, at which Roosevelt and Churchill had extracted no guarantee from Stalin that he would recognise a post-war Polish government that refused to accept the new Soviet frontier along the 'Curzon Line' - roughly, the partition line between Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.
So 'Tempest' ran its doomed course. In February 1944, the AK in Volhynia launched a local rising and joined forces with the advancing Soviet troops. At first, the Soviet officers were affable and cooperative, though they declined to make any political statements about frontiers. However, in April the new 'allies' we re defeated by a German counter-attack, and many of the Polish survivors were forced to enlist in the Soviet-commanded Polish army under General Berling. In July 1944, AK units helped the Red Army to drive the Germans out of Wilno, but a few days later their officers were arrested and their men either interned or drafted into the Berling army. Later in July, 6,000 AK troops joined Soviet forces in a stiff battle for Lwów. The outcome was much the same; the AK commander was to told that Lwów was a Soviet city and his men were given the choice of joining the Red Army or the Berling forces. When the pattern was repeated yet again near Lublin, within the Polish borders as the Soviet Union understood them, it was plain that 'Tempest' had failed. In military terms, the Home Army had fought well and gained glory. Politically, the attempt to make the Soviet commanders recognise its authority as the army of Poland's legal government was completely ineffective.
On 22 July, the authority of the London government over Poland had been formally challenged. The Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation issued its July Manifesto in Moscow, proclaiming a programme of democratic reforms and friendship with the Soviet Union. A few days later, it moved to newly liberated Lublin, and was reeognised by the USSR as the legitimate authority in Poland. Meanwhile, the forward troops of Marshal Rokossowsky's First Byelorussian Army reaehed the Vistula on 25 July. The guns of the approaehing Red Army eould be heard in Warsaw, where the Germans began a frantie evaeuation. It seemed obvious that Soviet forces would be in Warsaw within a few days.
Bór-Komorowski and his offieers deeided for a rising in Warsaw. Indeed, given the wild exeitement boiling up in the eapital, they might not have been able to prevent one. All their calculations - about enemy strength, about relief by the Red Army, about Allied support, about the political effeets of the rising - proved quite wrong. There began on 1 August 1944 the biggest, the most heroic, and by far the bloodiest, urban insurrection that Europe has ever seen. It ended in disaster - a disaster in whieh not one of its survivors has ever regretted taking part.
In 1940, Winston Churchill broadcast to the Polish nation. He spoke from a Britain under siege, carrying on the war against Hitler alone - but not quite alone, for in the streets of London, between the German air raids, there could be seen soldiers in foreign uniforms, some of them wearing the 'Poland' shoulder-flash. He said: 'This war will be lon g and hard, but the end is sure. The end will reward all toil, alldisappointment, all suffering, in those who faithfulIy serve the cause of European and world freedom.'
No nation served that cause more faithfulIy than the Poles. They fought Hitler from the first day of war to the last, on land, at sea and in the air. Polish troops fought in Poland itself, in Russia and North Africa, in Norway, Italy, France and the Low Countries. They were in at the kill in Germany, and Polish troops helped to conquer Berlin. The Polish navy was in action, on the surface and in submarines, through the Battle of the Atlantic, in the North Sea and the English Channel. Poland's airmen took part in the Battle of Britain, in the bombing offensive against Germany, and in the support of the armies over every front. One in five of the entire population of Poland perished in the conflict. They gave new meaning to the old slogan of the Polish exiles who fought in every revolution for democracy throughout Europe in the nineteenth century: 'For your freedom and ours!' But in the end it was true to say that, while no nation suffered so much, none gained so little.
The end of the war turned out a poor reward for 'all toil, all disappointment'. Poland in 1939 was an independent sovereign state. It was no longer a parliamentary democracy and the colonels' regime of the Sanacja after Pilsudski's death was disliked by most of the population, but these were private problems which the Poles intended to solve within the family. In 1945, a ruined and decimated Poland had regained its formal independence, but was tied closely to the foreign policies of the Soviet Union and controlled by Polish Communists whose ideology was alien to the great majority of Poles.
Allies had withdrawn recognition from the legal government to which most Poles had given allegiance throughout the German occupation, and had forced upon the nation the loss of its eastern territories, granting in exchange the German provinces as far west as the rivers Oder and Neisse. A ruthless civil conflict was being waged between pro-Communist forces, aided by the Red Army, and the remnants of the wartime Home Army resistance in the hills and forests.
This was hardly the 'independence' that the British guarantee to Poland in 1939 had sworn to restore. Tens of thousands of Polish soldiers in the West, who had for six years told themselves that every pace in their march through so many foreign countries was a step on the way home, now chose to stay abroad as exiles. )
Many things might have been different, but only in detail. The outlines of what was to happen to Poland became inevitable on 22 June 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. This had two results, both inescapable. The first was to ensure the eventual defeat of Germany, which had broken the fundamental precept of German strategy: to avoid a war on two fronts. The second was to bring Russian power permanently in to the heart of Europe, something which statesmen had been trying to prevent for over a hundred years. Everything else followed. There was no chance that the armies of the West, weaker and led with less resolution than the Red Army, could liberate Poland before the Soviet Union. There was no chance that Britain and the United States would risk the collapse of the anti-Hitler coalition in the middle of the war by defying Stalin over the future of Poland - and even if they had dane so, no chance that their defiance would have been effective. Finally, although Stalin seems to have been at first flexible about the nature of the internal regime he preferred for Poland, there was no chance that he would permit the Polish state to regain the freedom of action it had possessed before the war.
In 1940, none of this was apparent. The Soviet Union was Hitler's ally, supplying him with trainloads of grain and oil. The United States was neutral, though hostile to Germany. In France, the British and French armies waited cautiously for the inevitable German offensive to begin. Their prime ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, still clung to the hope that the war might not last long, and could end in a negotiated peace.
With great difficulty, some 43,000 Polish officers and men, determined to carry on the war, had made their way to France from Romania and Hungary. Another 40,000 men were recruited from the large Polish community in France, mostly from the coal-mining regions of the north. Sikorski's army saw action in April 1940, when the Germans invaded Norway and Denmark; a Polish brigade landed with the Aliied force near Narvik, only to be evacuated again a few weeks later.
On 10 May the German armies attacked in the west. Holland surrendered after five days, Belgium was rapidly overrun, and General von Rundstedt achieved complete surprise as his Panzer divisions thrust through the Ardennes, outflanked the Maginot Line defences and drove deep into France. Within ten days, the British had been cut off and were preparing to evacuate across the Channel through Dunkirk. The French in the north-east were in chaotic retreat.
The Poles were stationed further to the south. By the time they went into action, in early June, the campaign was lost. Though the Poles fought hard, they were driven into retreat as the French divisions around them fell to pieces. Some 13,000 men were forced back against the Swiss frontier; they beat off German attacks, but - in a hopeless situation - decided to cross the border and seek refuge in neutral Switzerland. Other units retreated across France until they reached the Atlantic coast, where some were able to board ship for Britain. Out of his army of 80,000, Sikorski was left with about 25,000, counting the air force and the navy. Between a quarter and a fifth were officers; at the end of the September Campaign in 1939 many ordinary soldiers had chosen to stay in Poland rather than cross the borders into exile. The broken remains of the Polis h regiments were now sent to Scotland, where they prepared to defend the east coast against the expected German invasion.
Winston Churchill had become the British prime minister and formed an all-party government on the day that the German offensive began. Now he assured Sikorski of his full support, ordering the heads of his armed forces to give the Poles every assistance. The Polish government reassembled in London, setting up its General Staff in the Rubens Hotel.
In August 1940, the Battle of Britain opened, as the Germans began the air offensive against southern England and London which was intended to break the Royal Air Force and elear the way for a sea-borne invasion across the Channel. Eighty-one Polish pilots fought in the RAF, and two Polish fighter squadrons - 302 Poznań and 303 Tadeusz Kościuszko - took part in the battle. The Polish fighter pilots became a legend in wartime Britain for their ferocity, skill and recklessness, and accounted for one in six of ali German aircraft shot down in the four months of the Battle. But it was more than thirty years later that Britain revealed another, secret Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain and to eventual Aliied victory. By 1940, the British had broken the code of the German 'Enigma' enciphering machine and were able to read Nazi radio traffic. This was only made possible by a--'pre-war feat of Polish military intelligence, aided by a group of brilliant young mathematicians: they had worked out the 'Enigma' system, built a replica, and passed all its results to the French and the British.
As the threat of German invasion receded, the Poles in Britain were given a badly needed pause. In Scotland, the army trained and exercised, striking up a warm friendship with the Scottish people. General Sosnkowski regained contact with the underground in Poland, and from February 1941 couriers and agents were parachuted into the German-occupied areas. The only land fighting was in North Africa, where in December 1940 the British attacked and destroyed a far larger Italian army. The Polish Carpathian Brigade, composed of troops who had escaped from Romania, was nearby in Palestine, but did not take part in the offensive for the bizarre reason that Sikorski had forgotten to declare war on Italy. This was hastily remedied.
The European war became a world war on 22 June 1941, when German armies stormed across the demarcation line in Poland and attacked the Soviet Union. Churchill at once offered Stalin unconditional support. This put Sikorski in a delicate position, dependent as he was on British hospitality. He issued a statement rejoicing at the outbreak of war between Poland' s enemies and suggesting that any Polish-Soviet alliance should be conditional on Soviet recognition of the 1939 frontiers and the release of Poles in captivity within the USSR. Combined British and Soviet pressure, however, showed Sikorski that he would have to shelve the frontier problem, and on 30 July a Polish-Soviet agreement was signed in London. It was too much for several members of the Polish government, including Sosnkowski, who assumed that the Soviet Union would be rapidly crushed by Hitler and saw no reason to make concessions to Stalin. They resigned.
The agreement promised mutual support in the war, arranged for the formation of a Polish army under the London government on Soviet soil, and declared that Poles captive in the Soviet Union should receive 'amnesty' (although they had committed no crime save that of being Polish). On frontiers, the pact merely stated that territorial changes under the Nazi-Soviet pact were no longer valid. To comfort Sikorski, the British issued a declaration that they did not recognise changes in Poland's borders after August 1939.
Whatever its political shortcomings from the Polish point of view, the Polish-Soviet agreement was utterly justified in human terms. Slowly and reluctantly, the gates of the Siberian and Asian prison camps swung open, and hundreds of thousands of Poles - soldiers, women, officials, priests, even orphaned children - began to make their way towards the centres where the new Polish army was being gathered. Many had already died; many we re not released. But the rest set out on the journey by rail, sledge, river raf t, or on foot. In the chaos of wartime, the Soviet authorities gave them little assistance or food, and thousands perished on the way. Aleksandra Jarmulska was in an Arctic labour camp when the news came of the Polish-Soviet agreement. We slept in a communal hut just on wooden planks, and there was no cruelty: we were just told that we can't escape from there; we would be eaten by polar bears or die in the snows if we did, but if we worked and earned some money. we could survive.' When they were released, Aleksandra and her companion made a raf t for their river journey to find their army. 'The river started freezing at the banks, and sometimes the raft couldn't get through and we just had to cm pieces of the supports away to negotiate ourselves along. And sometimes the raft would stick in the shallows, and then whoever was on it had to get into the river to push.'
The army commander chosen by Sikorski, Genera1 Władysław Anders, had spent the last two years in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Energetic and aggressive, Anders was intensely anti-Russian, and was personally convinced that the Soviet Union was losing the war against Hitler. He set up his headquarters at Buzuluk, between the Volga and the UraI mountains. By December 1941, he had 40,000 Polish soldiers, and 70,000 by March 1942. This was hard to correlate with Polish records which showed that some 180,000 men had been taken prisoner by Soviet forces in 1939. Stranger still was the absence of officers. Only a few hundred arrived in the early months, although some 15,000 had been made Soviet prisoners-of-war.
On 30 November, Sikorski himself arrived in the Soviet Union, welcomed on the snowy airfield by Vyacheslav Molotov, the man whose signature on me Nazi-Soviet pact had condemned Poland to extinction. On 3 December, he and Anders met Stalin and were guests at a banquet the following day. There were arguments about the slow pace of the releases of Poles, about the missing officers, about inadequate rations and about the Polish frontiers. On all these problems Stalin was evasive. But before the newsreel cameras, Stalin and Sikorski signed a joint declaration proclaiming their intention to fight Germany to the end. Sikorski went on to Buzuluk, where he inspected the troops, confirmed to his satisfaction their impatience to get back into battle against the Germans, and saw the mass of Polish civilians and families around the camps being slowly fed and nursed back to health.
Many of those who had reached the Anders army were too far gone to recover. Aleksandra Jarmulska, who had made the journey from the Arctic by raft and train, found starvation even in the army camps.The civilians were still being denied Soviet food ration cards. 'One morning, I just woke up and couldn't wake my mother. And then I realised she had died in her sleep . . . There we re so many people dying there at that time and the soldiers who were assigned to the job of burying them were like the ghosts of an army. They just couldn't cope with it.'
Scenes like these, coupled with his impressions of the Soviet leaders, left Sikorski with no illusions about Soviet-Polish relations in the past and their problems for the future. But he remained convinced that there was no alternative to the pact with Stalin if Poland were to revive, victorious and independent, after the war. '
But the problems grew worse, not better. The Polish forces under Anders were moved eastward to new camps near the Caspian Sea. Their rations were cut by the Soviet authorities, and disease broke out. Early in 1942, Anders refused a Soviet request to send a division to the front on the plausible grounds that his men were under-armed and unfit. This refusal, later made much of by Soviet propaganda as evidence that the Poles were reluctant to fight the 'Hiderites', covered a serious disagreement now emerging between Sikorski and Anders.
Sikorski continued to stand by his agreement with Stalin that the Polish forces in the Soviet Union would fight on the Eastern Front alongside the Red Army. But Anders, whose distrust of Russians had grown even stronger, now pressed Sikorśki to allow his forces to be evacuated to Iran, which was under British control.
At first, Sikorski would not hear of this. He allowed Anders to evacuate those he could not feed because of the ration shortage. But he had three powerful reasons for keeping Polish troops in the Soviet Union. He would retain some leverage over Stalin, the army would continue to act as magnet and refuge for hundreds of thousands of Poles still missing, and - above all - a free Polish army under his command would help to liberate Poland from the east, frustrating any Soviet attempt to bring Poland under Soviet domination. Unfortunately, Stalin understood this last reason perfecdy well.
Stalin decided that this alien presence on his own soil was more trouble than it was worth; the German thrust at Moscow had been beaten on in December 1941, and his military situation was no longer desperate. He began to encourage Anders in his plans to leave. In London, Churchill - now desperate in turn for troops to stem the German offensive against Egypt, which began under General Rommel in June 1942 - also started pushing the Polish government to let Anders come out of Russia. Sikorski was in no position to defy this combined pressure, and in August 1942 ships carrying Polish troops set out across the Caspian Sea for the Iranian shore.
In all, Anders was able to lead some 115,000 soldiers and civilians out of the Soviet Union. In the safety of Iran, they were at last given sufficient food and clothing by the British, and the troops were issued with new weapons. At the last moment Anders had beaten on a Soviet objection to the departure of soldiers and their families who had Polish citizenship but not Polish 'nationality' - which meant Jews. They came tao. But over a million Poles remained in the Soviet Union. With the army gone, the Polish embassy in Moscow had little leverage to use in persuading Stalin to release them. The evacuation to Iran was seen by many Poles as a divine mercy, a flight from Babylonian captivity. For Sikorski, however, it was his worst diplomatic defeat, a calamity for his plans.
Deprived of a presence on the Eastern Front, the weakness of Sikorski' s position became steadily more painful. In Decemher 1942, he flew to the United States and urged Roosevelt to think seriously about an invasion of the Balkans. He hoped that an Anglo - American force could reach Poland through Jugoslavia and Hungary, and lay the foundations of a free Central European Federation before the Red Army arrived. Roosevelt gave him only vague answers. A few weeks later, in January 1943, the Soviet Union informed the Polish government in London that all Poles who had been living in the territories seized in 1939 were now Soviet citizens. This not only deprived the Polish embassy in Moscow of its right to help Poles left in the Soviet Union; it revealed beyond all doubt that Stalin intended to keep those territories after the war.
But all Sikorski's efforts to preserve at least a working relationship with the Soviet Union were about to be smashed apart. On 13 April 1943, German radio announced the discovery of mass graves near the village of Katyń, in the district of Smolensk. Katyń was Soviet territory, but it had been occupied by the Nazis since the summer of 1941. In the graves lay the bodies of Polish officers, their hands tied behind their backs, their skulls shattered by pistol-shots from behind. The first Nazi broadcast claimed there were 10,000 of them. In fact, some 4,300 bodies were finally dug up.
The Germans proclaimed that the Polish officers had been 'murdered by the Bolsheviks'. At first, the Poles hesitated. They instinctively rejected murder charges made by mass murderers like the Nazis. They could see the deadly diplomatic trap into which Nazi propaganda intended to push them. They found it hard to believe that even the Russians could have committed a crime so revolting. But the evidence was too strong. Papers found on the bodies, their condition and the degree of vegetation growth above them, left little room for doubt. These were the officers from Kozielsk, one of the three Soviet camps for officer-prisoners established in 1939, and they had been shot between April and early June 1940. Now the Poles recalled all their enquiries about the missing 15,000 officers in 1941 and 1942, whose letters had stopped so suddenly in the spring of 1940. They remembered Stalin' s queer, evasive answers to Sikorski and to Anders: 'They escaped to Manchuria', or just, 'Things sometimes happen. . .'
Two days later, Radio Moscow announced that the Germans had committed the atrocity in 1941, after capturing Smolensk. Nearly fifty years later, this is still the Soviet version of events. Almost nothing supports it; all the evidence accumulated since points even more directly at Soviet guilt. Few Poles, in Poland or abroad, believe anything different.
There had been about 5,000 officers in the Kozielsk 'special camp'. No trace has ever been found of the 4,000 officers in Starobielsk camp or of the 6,500 prisoners at Ostashkov. Both camps were 'wound up' in Apil l 940. After that, there is only silence and darkness. One account, circulating years later in gulags, said that the Poles were locked inside barges which were deliberately sunk in the White Sea.
The Katyn Massacre
Why? Nobody knows that either, outside the Kremlin. It looks like an act of selective genocide against a part of the Polish national elite, closely parallel to Hitler's order to exterminate the Polish intellectual class. For Stalin, this act have been a small affair compared to some of his other slaughters. Some think it was simply an error by the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB), was misunderstood an order to 'liquidate' the special camps.
The Polish government, in spite of Churchill' s warnings to Sikorski demanded a Katyń enquiry by the International Red Cross. For the first time an open split had appeared in the anti-Hitler coalition. German propaganda rejoiced over its triumph. On 24 April, the Soviet Union broke off diplomatic relations with the Polish government in London, accusing it of a 'treacherosu blow to the USSR' and of trying to 'please Hitler's tyranny'.
Stalin now moved rapidly to set up a new and menacing Polish policy of own. In May, the nucleus of a Polish army under Soviet command was formulated by Colonel General- Zygmunt Berling. Its political guidance from the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP), a grouping of pro-Soviet Poles headed by Wanda Wasilewska. It was not long before volunteers began to pour into the Berling army's camps. Most of them were Poles who had not been able to reach the Anders army in time; they had no affection for the Soviet Union, but here, at least, was a chance both to return home and to fight the Nazis. They had to swear an oath to the Soviet Union as well as to Poland, but the Polish flag was flown, the national anthem sung, and there was even a priest to say Mass. By July 1943, they already numbered over 14,000. By early 1944 Berling and his second-in-command, General Karol Świerczewski, who had fought as the illustrious 'General Walter' in the Spanish Civil War, had nearly 44,000 men behind them.
In the aftermath of the Katyń affair, while the British still reproached the Poles for provoking a breach in the alliance, Sikorski flew to the Middle East. He met General Anders and visited his troops, now in Iraq and about to be formed into the Second Polish Corps to take part in the invasion of Italy. He set oH home, and made a landing at Gibraltar. The next day on 4 July 1943, his aircraft took off from the Gibraltar airfield, at once lost height, and crashed into the sea. All but the Czech pilot died.
Władysław Sikorski's body was brought back to Britain and buried in the Polish mili tary cemetary at Newark, deep in the English countryside. A British enquiry found no traces of sabotage in the aircraft wreck, concluding that a rudder had probably failed. But in their grief the Poles fell prey to many suspicions: that Soviet agents or Sikorski' s political rivals or even Churchill had engineered his death. No serious evidence for any of these theories has emerged.
The death of Sikorski was both tragic and disastrous. Upright, austere, not without arrogance, Sikorski possessed a heroic authority which had held the exile factions together; only he would have been capable of forcing through a policy of alliance with the Soviet Union which broke with the Pilsudskian tradition of hostility to Russia and went against the deep emotional reactions of Poles to the events of 1939. Even after Katyń, he had been planning to overcome the breach with Stalin. Now the Polish leadership divided. General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, the restlessly suspicious officer who mistrusted both the Russian and Anglo-American intentions for Poland, took over Sikorski' s post as commander-in-chief. The office of prime minister went to Stanisław Mikołajczyk, leader of the Peasant Party, a stubborn but radical politician who was determined to carry forward the ideas of his dead predecessor.
Sosnkowski and Mikołajczyk, never close, now become bitter adversaries. There were periods when the two leaders of Poland refused even to speak to one another, and diverted their energies into blocking each other's intentions. On the whole, though, Mikołajczyk prevailed. In the east, the Red Army was now on the offensive, heading towards Poland. Mikołajczyk knew that some relationship with the Soviet Union must be rebuilt. If he did not try to achieve that, he would be abdicating all responsibility for his country.
At the end of November 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Teheran. Their central purpose was to reach agreement on how to carry forward the war. Stalin and Roosevelt rejected Churchill' s argument for an invasion of the Balkans, which might have forestalled the Soviet liberation and occupation of at least part of eastern Europe, and it was agreed instead that the Americans and the British would land in northern France and fight their way towards Germany.
Near the end of the conference, there was a discussion on the future of eastern Europe. The Big Three accepted that there would be predominant Soviet influence in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the annexed Baltic states and Jugoslavia. Poland was more complicated. Stalin repeated his promise that he would establish a 'strong and independent' Poland, a promise which in his own way he kept: Polish fears that he intended to absorb the whole of Poland as a new republic of the Soviet Union were groundless. But the three men at Teheran decided, in secret and without consulting Mikołajczyk, that the Polish state would be moved bodily several hundred miles to the west. The Soviet Union would absorb the old eastern territories, in which Poles were a minority, and set its frontier along the 1920 Curzon Line. In the west, Poland would take over almost the whole of Germany east of the rivers Oder and Neisse: Silesia with its mineral wealth and industries and the great city of Breslau, Pomerania with a long stretch of Baltic coast including Danzig, and the southern part of East Prussia.
Churchill thought he could persuade the Polish government in exile to accept an outline of these terms. After all, they offered Poland a strong state which would be ethnically much more united - once the Germans had been expelled from their lost provinces - and economically stronger. Stalin had his doubts, and reserved the right to set up a government which would consent to these terms if the London Poles refused. Stalin was right. Mikołajczyk's government rebelled. They could hardly reject the offer of expansion to the west - an ambition harboured by many Poles before the war - but would not recognise the new Western Territories as 'compensation' for lands lost in the east. The Curzon Line was the sticking-point. There now followed months of wrangling over the frontier between the London Poles and an increasingly exasperated British government. The Poles suggested in February 1944 that (they could renounce some of the old eastern lands, but absolutely refused to give up the ancient Polish centres of Lwów and Wilno. Churchill and his foreign secretary Anthony Eden, obliged to spend precious hours and days arguing over 'obscure' place-names in eastern Europe, came to consider the London Poles as unrealistic and unreasonable.
There was a failure of imagination here. The British could not understand why the Poles seemed unable to divorce the two issues of independence and frontiers, which appeared to the pragmatic Churchill quite separate.
The problem was history: the history of the Partitions. Every loss of territory inflicted by Poland's neighbours had led at once to a reduction of Poland' s independence, and to an internal weakening of the Polish state. The Polish government in London and the Delegation and Home Army command in Warsaw were unanimous: a surrender of territory to Russia would mean that the future Poland would be a Soviet puppet, and 'compensation' elsewhere was irrelevant.
Mikołajczyk, however, refused to give up the struggle. He was determined to find a way of renewing relations with the Soviet Union which would be acceptable to his more obstinate colleagues in the Polish government, who now began to suspect him of 'pro-Soviet' weakness. In June 1944, he met Roosevelt once more, in the very days that the Allies were landing on the Normandy beaches. He was welcomed like a great statesman - Roosevelt had his eye on the Polish vote in the approaching election. The President, good-natured but evasive, told his guest that he would see that Poland kept the city of Lwów and much of Galicia after the war, but doubted whether Stalin could be persuaded to give up Wilno. This was a grass deceit on the part of Roosevelt, who at Teheran had agreed in secret talks that Poland' s frontier would be the Curzon Line - granting Lwów and eastern Galicia to the Soviet Union.
In Poland itself, events were beginning to slip out of Mikolajczyk's contra. The Red Army was closing on Warsaw, accompanied by the Berling army which had grown in size and prowess since its first hard-fought batde at Lenino in September 1943. 'Operation Tempest', the attempt by the Home Army to liberate regions of Poland before the Soviet troops arrived, was failing. The Communist-dominated Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) installed itself at Lublin in late July; if Mikolajczyk was to prevent the PKWN becoming the provisional government of Poland, he had little time left.
Churchill urged him to find some way of merging the London government with the PKWN, accepting a Communist element in the future Polish regime as the price for retaining some influence over events. On 29 July, Mikołajczyk and his foreign minister, Tadeusz Romer, flew to Moscow for a visit that lasted a fortnight. It was the last hope for the London government.
Two days after Mikołajczyk's arrival, the Warsaw Rising began. Taken by surprise and suspicious of its motives, Stalin reproached Mikołajczyk for not informing him in advance - although Soviet broadcasts to Warsaw had been calling for an insurrection for days before it broke out. He refused to consider any other eastern frontier than the Curzon Line, which put both Lwów and Wilno on the Soviet side of the border, and urged the Polish prime minister to talk to the PKWN. A meeting was arranged, and Mikołajczyk found himself facing some of the unknown men and women who were about to tak e power in his country: Wanda Wasilewska, Bolesław Bierut, a loyal supporter of Stalin and a Communist, and Edward Osóbka-Morawski, an obscure member of the Polish Socialist Party. They offered him a coalition government in which they would have fourteen seats in the Cabinet and London would have only four, although Mikołajczyk would become prime minister. Mikołajczyk, angry and agonised over Soviet reluctance to help the Warsaw Rising, turned them down and returned to London on l0 August.
By now, Polish soldiers on all fronts we re becoming aware of the outlines of the Teheran decisions, and of a proposed change of frontiers. For many of them, these changes meant that they would never see their homes again, unless they chose to become Soviet citizens after the war. The men of Berling's army, recruited from those imprisoned or deported in 1939, came almost entirely from the eastern territories. But so, for the same reasons, did the Polish Second Corps under General Anders, now fighting in Italy. And a large part of the Polish forces in Britain, who crossed the Channel to enter the Normandy baules in August 1944, were also easterners who had been with the regiments that took refuge in Romania and Hungary in 1939 or had been evacuated from me Soviet Union in 1942.
There was bitter talk, in the officers' messes and in the ranks. But the Poles, loyal to their alliance even when they saw that they were losing their country, fought on. In May 1944, the Second Corps - at an appalling cost in dead and wounded - succeeded where the British and Americans had failed and stormed the Italian monastery of Monte Cassino. In France, the Polish First Armoured Division helped to inflict on the Germans the disastrous defeat at Falaise; under General Maczek, the divison drove on through the Low Countries and liberated the Dutch city of Breda in October. A Polish paratroop brigade commanded by General Sosabowski took part in the airborne landings at Arnhem in September 1944, a noble but avoidable failure.
Given a choice, they would all have preferred to be in Warsaw, fighting and dying with their own people. The Rising, intended to last only a few days before the Soviet forces arrived, went on for two months of desperate street fighting which cost about 200,000 lives and left most of the capital an uninhabited wilderness of ruins.
General Bór-Komorowski and his commanders had some 30,000 men and women in their forces, mostly from the Home Army but including formations from the NSZ and the Communist People's Army. They had no heavy weapons and just over 700 automatic weapons, including machine-pistols. For an action lasting less than a week, against the rearguard of a departing enemy, this might have been enough.
But everything went wrong, not always through the mistakes of the Rising's leaders. In the first days, in glorious festivals of patriotic rejoicing, much of the city was liberated. Meanwhile, however, the German retreat had stopped, and armoured divisions moved across the Vistula to inflict a sharp defeat on the Soviet forces approaching the city. The Red Army fell back, but even when it had reorganised itself, made no further move to come to Warsaw's rescue. The Soviet aircraft which had been seen over the city every day now suddenly vanished. German reinforcements arrived, closed a ring around Warsaw, and - with the help of units from General Vlasov' s renegade Russian army - began to fight their way back street by street.
The temporary setback before Warsaw does not explain the fact that the Soviet forces now sat passively in their trenches, week after week, while the Germans crushed the Rising. Stalin cabled Mikolajczyk that the Rising was a 'reckless adventure' which he would not assist. On 12 August, Roosevelt and Churchill asked him to permit Western aircraft dropping supplies to Warsaw to land on Soviet airfields. Stalin refused. Only on 12 September did he allow American bombers to land at Poltava in the Ukraine, and order some Soviet airdrops to the insurgents. By then, Warsaw was hidden by smoke and the insurgents had been driven back into a small perimeter; most containers of arms and supplies fell into German hands. Stalin dismissed the Rising as a 'mindless brawl mounted by adventurers'. But in fact he could read all too clearly the minds of those who had launched it, and knew that the Rising was intended to confront him with the accomplished fact of a free capital city controlled by the representatives of a non-Communist government. He had no intention of helping this design to succeed.
So the Poles in Warsaw fought and died at their barricades and cursed the Russians for doing nothing, while the German bombers - unchallenged - steadily reduced the town to rubble. A few days after the start of the Rising, the Germans counter-attacked with tanks and artillery and cut the liberated area into several pieces. As they advanced, they methodically drove civilians in to the courtyards, machine-gunned them and then set fire to the buildings. The siege of the Old Town lasted until 1 September, when the surviving defenders
escaped through the sewers to another bastion of resistance in the modern centre of Warsaw.
The British and Americans had not been warned of the Rising any more than the Soviet Dnion. Six days before it broke out, General Bór-Komorowski appealed for the Polish Paratroop Brigade to be dropped into the city. Nobody had given serious thought to the reinforcement problems of a prolonged insurrection, and this idea was completely impractical; there was no way that an armada of slow-moving gliders and towing aircraft could reach Warsaw, even if they we re not shot down on the way. But the Allies made efforts to supply the Rising, even without the use of Soviet airfields. Polish, British and South African squadrons flew missions from Brindisi in Italy, a 1,700-mile return flight. Their losses in men and aircraft were suicidal, and - counting the later American mission - only 44 out of 149 parachuted containers reached the insurgents.
On l0 September, the Soviet forces to the east of the Vistula at last mounted an attack and reached the bank of the river in the Warsaw suburb of Praga. Among them were Polish troops of the Berling army, who could now see the burning city across the water and hear the noise of battle. Some Polish units managed to cross the Vistula, but the Germans now held the other shore in strength, and they were forced to give up their bridgeheads with heavy losses. The army group commanded by Marshal Rokossovsky, to which the Poles belonged, made no attempt at a full-scale river crossing.
District by district, the last pockets held by the Rising began to fall. The Germans drove unarmed Polish civilians before their troops as they advanced, to screen them from fire. The execution squads, somb from the SS, some composed of drunken Russian deserters, slaughtered their way from house to house. Home Army hospitals, when captured, were burned with patients, doctors and nurses still inside. Hungry, filthy, exhausted and almost without ammunition, the defenders felI back from cellar to cellar, women and children attacking German tanks with home-made petrol-bombs, the dead buried in gardens and bomb craters.
The final surrender did not come until 2 October 1944. The Home Army survivors were granted the status of combatants and made prisoners-of-war; the entire remaining civilian population was marched out of the city to internment camps. Hitler ordered the complete razing of Warsaw, so that no settlement would ever arise there again, and demolition squads set to work with flame-throwers and dynamite among the silent, gutted streets. When they had finished, ninety-three per cent of the city's buildings were destroyed or beyond repair.
The Warsaw Rising of 1944 is one of the supreme events of Polish history. It brought to an awful climax the romantic tradition of armed uprising which stretched back to 1794. It convinced most of the generation who took part in it that in modern conditions that tradition no longer had a place: after another such rising, there would be no Poland left. But the Warsaw Rising was also a time of freedom, a 63-day revelation of how Poles could act and feel and behave to one another, which left a hot residue of pride to keep the nation warm through the bleak years that followed.
The Rising was not just a military action, but a community of the people with their soldiers, a community with its own songs and newspapers, its radio and theatres, its own film unit and cinemas. Even children took a full part. All who took part remember with love the laczniczki, the girls who ran with messages for the insurgents and died in their hundreds and the Szare Szeregi (Grey Ranks), the boys and girls of the Scout movement who fought to the end. Like many Polish upheavals, the Rising also left a moral legacy behind it.
Many older citizens of Warsaw today still try to measure their own behaviour by the devotion, purity and generosity which they remember from the summer of 1944.
The best historian of the Warsaw Rising, Jan Ciechanowski, concludes that its political motives and its military motives could never have been reconciled. 'In view of the total absence of liaison with the Russians, and the lack of reliable data concerning their deployment and intentions, the Home Army leaders were militarily unjustified in embarking on an insurrection against the Germans.' The predicament of Bór- Komorowski was this; 'to fight against the Germans successfully he had to cooperate with the Russians militarily, yet he was unable to do so wholeheartedly because he wished to oppose them politically.
The Warsaw Rising of 1944
August 1, 1944
The failure of the Rising was a fatal and decisive defeat both for the Home Army and for the Polish government in London. With its leadership dead or imprisoned, and the capital destroyed, much of the fighting spirit went out of the Home Army. Some units ceased active operations, allowing many of their men to bury their weapons and return home. A few prepared for a new armed struggle against Soviet forces and the Communist authorities. In the liberated areas, where the PKWN now announced conscription, many thousands of ex-Home Army soldiers allowed themselves to be drawn into the Berling army, which numbered 290,000 by the end of 1944.
Stalin's decision in September to give the Rising some assistance, though too little and too late, inspired Churchill to make one last effort to solve what he called, in moments of despair, 'the Polish imbroglio'. In London, General Sosnkowski had been dismissed from the post of commander-in-chief after an outburst in which he accused Britain of betraying Poland; Churchill hoped that Mikołajczyk, free of his implacably anti-Russian rival, might now find it possible to bargain with Stalin. In October 1944, Churchill and Eden flew to Moscow, and Mikołajczyk followed them on 12 October.
There took place in Moscow a tragic, Shakespearian confrontation. It was a collision between Churchill and Mikołajczyk, two men who shared the same political values of liberty and democracy, whose stubborn temperaments were similar, and who at heart regarded one another with real affection. Stalin and Molotov scarcely took part. Mikołajczyk brought with him his Cabinet's final offer: an all-party government for post-war Poland in which the Communists would have a fifth of the ministries, and a redrawing of the eastern frontier which would leave Wilno and Lwów, with the nearby Galician oilfields, in Poland. Stalin turned this down. When Mikołajczyk retorted that Roosevelt had told him that Lwów should stay Polish, Molotov revealed to him that the President had agreed to the Curzon Line at Teheran, ten months earlier.
Deeply shaken, Mikołajczyk now met Churchill and Eden in private. Churchill reproached him: if he had only agreed to the Curzon Line frontier earlier in the year, Stalin would not have set up a rival 'government' in the form of the Lublin Committee - the PKWN. Mikołajczyk bitterly reminded him of Britain's pledges to Poland. Churchill shouted at him that he wanted to start a third world war. 'You're a callous people who want to wreck Europe. I shall leave you to your own troubles. You have only your miserable, petty, selfish interests in mind!'
He threatened to withdraw recognition of the London government, and added that Mikołajczyk ought to be in a lunatic asylum. Beside himself with rage and misery, Mikołajczyk demanded permission to be parachuted into Poland, so that he could perish in battle with the Home Army. 'I prefer to die fighting for the independence of my country, rather than to be hanged later by the Russians in fulI view of your British ambassador!'
At this Churchill marched out of the room. Both men were close to tears. After some moments, Churchill returned and put his arm round the Pole's shoulders. But they had reached the end of a line, and they knew it. A last suggestion by Mikołajczyk that Poland could give up Wilno if Lwów could be saved was put to the Kremlin. Stalin, no doubt aware of this highly satisfactory quarrel through well-placed microphones, placidly refused.
Stanisław Mikołajczyk went back to London. There he told his colIeagues candidly that there was no longer any room for manoeuvre. If they wanted to have any share of the future government, they would have to swalIow the Soviet terms and the Curzon Line. He urged them to do so, reminding them of the rich new territories promised to Poland in the west. But it was too much for most of the London Poles, and on 24 November Mikołajczyk resigned.
This was the end of the Polish exile government as a force in international politics. From now on, world statesmen acted as if it no longer existed. In December, the PKWN proclaimed itself the provisional government of Poland, with Osóbka-Morawski as prime minister, Bolesław Bierut as head of state and Władysław Gomułka as a deputy premier. It was recognised by the Soviet Union a few days later.
On 12 January 1945, the Soviet armies on the Vistula resumed the offensive. The German defences broke, and the Red Army drove rapidly across central and western Poland towards the German frontier. The men of the Berling army entered Warsaw on 17 January, stepping in horrified silence through a desert of frozen rubble. Behind them, welI wrapped up against the savage frost, came a group of men whom most Poles had never heard "of - the new government. After more than five years of Nazi occupation, liberation had come at last, but wearing a uniform woven of irony.
In early February 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at Yalta in the Crimea. They planned the final phase of the war and the joint administration of occupied Germany in the interval before the peace conference. But no peace conference has ever taken place to make a formal settlement of the Second World War, and in its absence the agreements reached by the Big Three at Yalta have been treated as the charter for the division of Europe into 'zones of influence'. At Yalta, many now believe, Britain and the United States betrayed all the principles for which the war had been fought by handing over Europe east of the river Elbe to Joseph Stalin.
Yalta does not really deserve this bad name. In the first place, there was little Churchill and Roosevelt could do to prevent Soviet domination of the areas liberated by the Red Army, short of threatening a fresh war. Secondly, Yalta for the most part only ratified decisions taken earlier, especially at Teheran. As far as Poland was concerned, the West did attempt - in a callous, casual way - to ensure that Poland- would not become a Communised puppet of the Soviet Union, and that the political will of the Polish people would be freely expressed. The worst that can be said about Churchill and Roosevelt on this occasion is that they willingly deceived themselves about Stalin' s intention to keep his promises.
The three leaders agreed that Poland would be run by a provisional government including 'alI democratic and anti-Nazi elements', until free elections could be held. This temporary government was to include Poles from the London camp. On frontiers, Yalta again confirmed the Curzon Line in the east, but there was no precise agreement on how much of Germany would be added to Poland in the west.
Stanisław Mikołajczyk decided to accept the Yalta blueprint. It was a frightening gambIe. The London government in exile had instantly denounced Yalta as a new Partition. In March, sixteen leaders of the resistance in Poland we re invited to a 'meeting' with Marshal Zhukov, kidnapped and imprisoned in the Lubyanka in Moscow to await trial for - among other grotesque charges - collaborating with the Germans. In the Polish forests and villages, remnants of partisan bands were beginning to clash with Soviet security forces. But Mikołajczyk felt that if the Soviet assurances at Yalta meant anything at all, he stood a chance of rallying the Peasant Party within Poland and leading a non-Communist block of parties to victory in the elections.
On 2 May, Berlin fell to Soviet and Polish troops. On 8 May, the war in Europe ended. "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
Mały Powstaniec Klein Aufständisch Юной Повстанец The Little Insurgent Antek, age 13, killed August 8, Warsaw Uprisig August 1 - October 2, 1944, Warschauer Aufstand, Варшавское восстание. Fine Art Photography by Zbigniew Halat
Paintings and drawings
The lesson of heroism in front of the monument of the Warsaw Uprising 1944. Polish youth always ready to struggle for freedom of the Polish nation, and all humanity. Let Poland rely on her allies. Never more Western betrayal again. Fine Art Photography by Zbigniew Halat. Lekcja heroizmu przed pomnikiem Powstania Warszawskiego 1944. Polska młodzież zawsze gotowa do walki o wolność Narodu Polskiego i całej ludzkości. Niech Polska polega na swoich aliantach. Nigdy więcej zdrady Zachodu.
|European History Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 3, 429-464 (2005)|
From Africa to Auschwitz: How German South West Africa Incubated Ideas and Methods Adopted and Developed by the Nazis in Eastern Europe
Benjamin Madley, Yale University, USA
The German terms Lebensraum and Konzentrationslager, both widely known because of their use by the Nazis, were not coined by the Hitler regime. These terms were minted many years earlier in reference to German South West Africa, now Namibia, during the first decade of the twentieth century, when Germans colonized the land and committed genocide against the local Herero and Nama peoples. Later use of these borrowed words suggests an important question: did Wilhelmine colonization and genocide in Namibia influence Nazi plans to conquer and settle Eastern Europe, enslave and murder millions of Slavs and exterminate Gypsies and Jews? This article argues that the German experience in Namibia was a crucial precursor to Nazi colonialism and genocide and that personal connections, literature, and public debates served as conduits for communicating colonialist and genocidal ideas and methods from the colony to Germany.
Key Words: Herero • Holocaust • Konzentrationslager • Lebensraum • Nama
The Nazi Kultur in Poland by several authors of necessity temporarily anonymous. Written in Warsaw under the German Occupation and published for the POLISH MINISTRY OF INFORMATION by HIS MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE, LONDON 1945, Chapter VIII, MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS
IN Poland, as in all the countries of Western Europe, the collector's spirit was first awakened by the interest which ruling houses and their courts began to take in works of art about the middle of the sixteenth century. The last kings of the Jagelllonian dynasty (1386-1572) were already the possessors of splendid specimens of Renaissance art like the famous collection of tapestries known as the Wawel Arrases. .
In the first half of the seventeenth century King Sigismund III and his successors, Ladislas IV and John Casimir, brought together in Warsaw works of art which, by their quality and number, deserved to be regarded not merely as part of the castle furnishings, but as an independent collection important enough almost to rank as a museum. Ladislas IV owned a great number of antique sculptures (which were under the care of a special curator), and he collected paintings by contemporary artists. We know that during his foreign travels he made purchases in person from Rubens and Guido Reni, and that after the death of Rubens the king's representative bought so many pictures from the sale of his works that Ladislas figures as the third most important purchaser, after the German emperor and the French king. These collections were dispersed before the century was out. During the Swedish wars many treasures were looted and carried off; and there were continual losses to other foreign countries for similar reasons.
King John Sobieski (1674-96) brought together numerous fine specimens of decorative art at Wilanow, particularly from the East; and the last king of Poland, Stanislas Augustus (1764-95) organized a museum on modern lines in the Castle of Warsaw. The great families of the nobility followed these royal examples and formed their own collections: the Szydlowieckis at Opatów and Sandomierz, the Zamoyskis at Zamosc, the Lubomirskis at Wisnicz, the Radziwills at Nieswiez, the Potockis at Brzezany and Tulczyn, the Czartoryskis at Pulawy, the Ossolinskis in Warsaw, and so on. Besides such private collections there came into being in Western Europe towards the end of the eighteenth century public collections, created and provided for by the State, as, for example, the British Museum in England (1759) and the Louvre in France (1791). For Poland, at that time in the throes of a political crisis which ended in her loss of independence, this period brought a development in art-collecting wholly different from that in other nations. The duty of the State rationally to develop and to protect artistic and scientific collections, now fell to the nation in the persons of its more enlightened members. Large classes of the Polish people soon became conscious that works of art and historic relics carefully assembled by preceding generations represent a nation's cultural level as vitally as any other manifestation of intellectual life. The specific and most characteristic features of this new phase for Poland's collectors was the continual need to rescue the evidence of ancient history and culture from the destructive policy of the partitioning Powers. This explains the distinctively indigenous and historical bias of many collections. During the first decades of the nineteenth century, collecting was chiefly the privilege of the great families of the nobility, the Poniatowskis, Tyszkiewicz, Mniszechs, Czartoryskis, Radziwills, Lubomirskis, Dzieduszyckis, Raczynskis, and others, who formed the independent class of the nation.
The idea of creating public art collections, which Stanislas Augustus had been unable to carry out, was taken up in the nineteenth century by the Warsaw Philomatic Society, founded in the year 1800, and in 1817 enriched by a substantial legacy from Gen. H. Dąbrowski. About the same time university collections came into being, the most important part of which were the prints and drawings. The richest of these, that of the University of Warsaw, had, since 1818, owned the large collection of some 100,000 prints and drawings bought from the heirs of Stanislas Augustus, and these were soon afterwards increased by a gift from Stanislas Potocki, then Minister of Education. In the year 1817 the Ossolinski Institute (Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich) was founded at Lwow. This Society collected books, manuscripts and graphic art, and in 1823 it was united with the Lubomirski art collection. In 1818 the Picture Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts was founded in Cracow. The reprisals which followed the defeat of the 1830-31 insurrection in Tsarist-annexed Polish territory were also visited upon the collections of Warsaw University and the Warsaw Philomatic Society, Both of them were carried away to Russia. But in the second half of the nineteenth century (almost on the eve of a new armed rising) two new important institutions for the furthering of art and collecting were formed in Warsaw: the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych) in 1861, and the Museum of Fine Arts in 1862. The organization of the Museum, however, was arrested in its earliest stages by the outbreak of the insurrection, and the period of increased oppression which followed it did not favour the development of the institution. Reprisals from the Tsarist Government affected all parts of the "Congress Kingdom" as well as the former eastern provinces of the ancient Polish Commonwealth. Both private and public collections were confiscated and were taken away to Russia. Since then collectors have been most active in the lands under Austrian rule, mainly in Cracow. Their work was also much helped by numerous Polish emigres abroad. In France, the Czartoryski collection from Pulawy was housed in the Hotel Lambert in 1831, and the Polish Library was founded in Paris in 1838. In Switzerland a Polish Museum was founded by WI. Plater at Rapperswil in 1870.
In the second half of the nineteenth century there was a marked increase of intellectual activity in all three parts of Poland, whether under Russian, Prussian or Austrian rule. This vitality expressed itself in the founding of new scientific societies, like the Wilno Archreological Committee with the Museum of Antiquities in 1855, the Poznan Philomatic Society in 1857, the Cracow Academy of Science and Letters, which arose from the old Philomatic Society, in 1872, and so on. At the same time municipal authorities in towns and provinces became aware of and interested in the existence of these collections. Results of this were the creation of the Municipal Museum of Torun in 1861, the Municipal Industrial Museum of Cracow in 1868, the Municipal Museum of Applied Art at Lwow in 1874, the municipally-owned National Museum of Cracow in 1879, the Municipal Historical Museum of Lwow in 1892-93, the Provincial Museum (later called the Muzeum Wielkopolskie) at Poznań in 1893, which is owned by the Provincial Federation of Poznania and the municipality of Poznan, the Town National Gallery at Lwow in 1894 and the Historical Museum at Cracow in 1898. The creation of institutions like these was possible only under Prussian and Austrian rule; the territories annexed by Tsarist Russia lacked all municipal organization and the few existing collections were entirely dependent on public generosity-though that was never appealed to in vain. It created the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in 1875, for instance, the Museum of Crafts and Applied Art in 1891, and the Majewski Museum of Archeology, also in 1891all of them in Warsaw. In this part of Poland the first decade of the twentieth century stimulated still further a strong instinctive interest in collections of an ethnographic and prehistoric character, and these were also fostered both by scientific associations and by the numerous branches of the Topographical Society (Towarzystwo Krajoznawcze) organized throughout the country. All these activities were, of course, carried on quite independently of the ruling authorities. .
A separate group, and one which does not fall under the head of" collections" in the strict sense of the word, was that formed by church treasuries, some of them very rich, particularly those belonging to cathedrals and monasteries. These were great storehouses of ecclesiastical art, and of treasures of decorative art destined for liturgical use. In the nineteenth century these riches, which were for the most part free gifts, partly fell a prey to the church policy of the partitioning Powers. They were either confiscated by the Tsarist Government after the Polish risings, along with the property of public institutions, or dispersed when the religious houses were abolished by the Prussian Government in 1819, and by the Russians in the "Congress Kingdom" in 1819 and 1864.
More recently hostilities, which in Polish territory lasted without a break for almost seven years (1914-21), had devastating effects on collections and museums. It was only after peace was concluded that a new era of development in the restored Polish State could be hoped for. That State's first act in the matter was the Treaty of Riga, signed with Soviet Russia in 1921, which contained an article stipulating that the Soviet Government should restore to the Republic of Poland all cultural possessions such as archives, libraries, works of art, which had been forcibly carried away to Russia between 1772 and 1920. This article of the treaty was, however, never fully carried out. Nevertheless, what Poland regained after 1921 formed the nucleus of the State Art Collections, comprising in the main: the furnishings of the Warsaw Castle and the Lazienki Palace (some 5,000 items), militaria originally taken from Government buildings, the Arsenal, Churches and so on (housed after their return in the Army Museum and in the castles of Warsaw and Cracow), well over a hundred Brussels tapestries of the middle sixteenth century (Cracow Castle), the Gallery of Modern Polish Painting (some 1,000 items, in Warsaw), the numismatic collections (some 22,000 items, in Warsaw), collections of graphic art, bronze pieces, sculptures, paintings, and other valuable works of art.
During their short existence of less than a score of years these State art collections were considerably enlarged, and Government purchases for them may be grouped under three main headings: (1) the further furnishing of the historic castles of Warsaw and Cracow by works of Gothic, Renaissance, and Early Baroque art (including decorative arts); (2) the creation of a collection of modern Polish painting and graphic art; (3) the enrichment of the collection of militaria illustrating the history of Polish arms. Apart from these collections, which were mostly grouped in Cracow and Warsaw, the State also owned a number of others-like the Silesian Museum of Katowice (founded in 1928, and in 1934 already in possession of collections totalling 64,000 items) and the Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw.
According to the data for 1936, which correspond fairly well with the state of things in 1939, Poland had, inclusive of scientific university collections, twenty Government museums, thirty-five municipal, sixty-two which belonged to public institutions, eight diocesan and eleven private museums accessible to the general public-in all 134. Municipal museums and those owned by public institutions thus far outnumbered those owned by the State, this being a natural consequence of the conditions of development previously mentioned. Until recently, also, municipal and private collections by the sheer quality of their exhibits took first place. For among the richest museums in Poland, with interests comprising not only the entire artistic life of the country but also the cultural achievements of the whole world, two were municipal institutions, the National Museums of Warsaw and Cracow, and two were private property, the Czartoryski Museums at Goluchów and Cracow. But the important Government purchases made for the Warsaw and Cracow Castles somewhat redressed the balance.
The most characteristic feature of museum history in Poland during the last twenty pre-war years of peace and comparative prosperity was an enthusiastic development which found expression in (1) new foundations and the enlargement of old ones; (2) a tendency to work for the rational unification of homogeneous collections; (3) the reorganizing of museum work on modern scientific lines; (4) training of qualified museum staffs; (5) publications and exhibitions. The most visible proof, however, of the favourable conditions for museum work in independent Poland is to be found in the erection of a number of new modern museum buildings, undertaken within a few years by four institutions: the National Museum of Warsaw (1922), the Silesian museum at Katowice (1928), the National Museum of Cracow (1934), and the Museum of Polish Pomerania at ToruIi (1936). The National Museum of Warsaw had already achieved its aim and transferred itself to the new edifice in 1936 ; the others were in process of building, and on the eve of completion, when the war broke out.
The history of museums and collections in Poland thus shows that great efforts were made in this direction by royalty and the great families of the nobility in the old days, by the whole people together with the State and municipal authorities in modern times; so that if Poland could not boast collections as rich as those of mightier European States, it was not for lack of endeavour, but because her possessions were again and again looted and destroyed, as has been the case in this war.
BOTH Government and private circles had, for several years before the German invasion, devoted much attention to the question of SAFEGUARDING, MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS in the event of a war. A plan for the international protection of memorials and works of art, which had been drawn up by the Office International des Musees, and had in July 1937 been accepted by the Commission Internationale de Cooperation Intellectuelle, was the startingpoint of their considerations. This plan the Assembly of the League of Nations had, in August 1938, turned over to the Netherlands Government, which had undertaken to conduct negotiations with other governments and to call a diplomatic conference. The plan was based on the idea that all States are equally interested in the preservation of art treasures, and that the loss of a work of art, belonging to any nation whatever, is a gap in the spiritual heritage of all mankind. The new convention, to be based on The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, was made necessary by the altered conditions of modern warfare. It was to lay upon all Governments an obligation to ensure respect for works of art and memorials by the issue of special instructions to their troops, by preventing pillage, and so on. The plan provided for the creation of special storehouses for works of art and national treasures, these storehouses to be under the control of international commissions, and to be immune from offensive action during hostilities, and from any other activities of an occupying Power. In particular, the convention stipulated that no national treasure or work of art could be made an object of enemy reprisals. Unfortunately, this convention was not signed by the year 1939, so that at the outbreak of war Poland had not been able to form the intended special storehouses under international control, since their formation before the signature of the convention might have meant the dispersal of the whole country's most valuable art treasures. Each museum therefore sought to safeguard its collections individually and in accordance with local conditions. The Silesian Museum was evacuated to Lublin, at the outbreak of war; the Czartoryski Museums of Cracow and Goluchow sent their most valuable possessions (including pictures by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt, jewels, goldsmiths' work and coins) to Sieniawa in the voivodship of Lwow, and there walled them up in previously prepared underground vaults. Part of the collection of Kórnik near Poznan (miniatures, illuminated manuscripts, and so on) were taken to the Zamoyski Library in Warsaw, some of the objects from the Gniezno Cathedral Treasury and Library were entrusted to the Dominican Friars at Lublin, a Rubens from the church of St. Nicholas at Kalisz was sent to the National Museum in Warsaw. The famous high altar of Our Lady's church in Cracow, the work of Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz), among the city's most valuable treasures, was taken to pieces - the larger sculptures were carried in three barges to Sandomierz and were there deposited in the cathedral, while the smaller fragments were hidden in private houses in Cracow. Many other collections and works of art were similarly treated. Numerous private collections in western and south-western Poland were taken to the central provinces; for example, the Tarnowski family's collections from Sucha, Dzikow and Dukla, the Bninskis' collection from Samostrzele, the Skorzewski's from Czerniejewo, the Potockis' from Krzeszowice, and so on. Many privately owned objects were entrusted to the National Museum in Warsaw, the National Museum in Cracow, and the Lubomirski Museum in Lwow; others were placed in the houses of related families. No plan was made to send such objects abroad, and we know only two cases of such exportation: (1) The eleventh-century Coronation sword and the magnificent collection of 125 arrases made for King Sigismund Augustus in 1556, as well as a number of valuable historical relics, all belonging to the Polish State collections, have left the country, as also (2) a number of valuable objects from the Sanguszko residence at Gumniska. The remaining museums and collections, whether public or private, did their best to safeguard their buildings and property on the spot. The National Museum in Warsaw packed a great part of its collections in hundreds of previously prepared cases and stored them in its cellars. The same was done with the collections of the National Museum in Cracow, with the treasury of the Cracow Cathedral, the Lubomirski collections at Przeworsk, and the Branickis' at Wilanow. Other private collections in country residences such as Nieborow and Jablonna, were left in their usual places, as also were some in towns-for instance, those of the Zamoyski, Krasinski and Przeździecki families in Warsaw.
• • •
The LOSSES OCCASIONED BY HOSTILITIES are enormous and irreparable, although the chief public and private collections were comparatively little effected.
The losses directly due to hostilities were greatest in Warsaw. At the ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM fire destroyed practically the whole of a collection consisting of several thousand objects brought together in the course of decades by scientists and collectors from all corners of Poland, and truly representative of the whole nation. It had contained a rich selection of all branches of popular art and handicrafts ; dresses and textiles, embroideries, pottery, paintings on glass, objects of wood, metal and leather, musical instruments, household goods, furniture, ceremonial objects, and so on. The museum's inventories, with their drawings, water-colours, photographs, and manuscript catalogues were also destroyed. The destruction of the collections representative of foreign and exotic ethnography must also be accounted a serious loss. The museum had possessed good Spanish, Rumanian, Jewish, and Gipsy sections, not only valuable in themselves, but also because they were the fruit of Polish scientists' and collectors' work. Part had even been contributed by exiles in Siberia. All this was burnt during the last days of the September bombardment, when salvage work was impossible owing to lack of water and the- overcrowding of the museum building by refugees from the Old Town quarter.
The most serious loss suffered by Polish art and science is the tragic destruction of the Zamoyski and Przeździecki collections, which also fell a prey to fire in the last days of the bombardment. The ZAMOYSKI MUSEUM with the Zamoyski archives and library not only gave a picture of the family's splendid patronage of science and art ever since the middle of the sixteenth century, but also bore witness to great pages in the nation's political, educational and scientific history. The museum had contained relics of the Zamoyski family, particularly of Chancellor Jan Zamoyski (1541-1605), of the kings: Sigismund Augustus, Stephen Bathory, Sigismund III and John Sobieski, of the hetmans: Zolkiewski and Czarniecki, and of the national heroes: Kosciuszko and Prince Joseph Poniatowski. In addition to this, the museum had possessed an armoury comprising a number of rare pieces and a valuable collection of decorative art, more particularly a splendid selection of pottery. In the numismatic section were to be found almost complete sets of coins of the Piast and Jagellonian dynasties, some of them unique, a large collection of imprints from antique gems and a valuable set of medals. The section of graphic art contained a rich collection of art publications and eighteenth century prints.
All this, together with the archives, formed an invaluable source for the study of four centuries of Polish culture. Only a small part of the material had hitherto been utilized, so that many pages of that history will now never be written.
The PRZEZDZIECKI COLLECTION also formed a whole, complete with library and archives, giving a picture of many aspects of Polish history and more particularly of that of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. They contained a gallery of pictures by Polish and foreign artists, some of which were saved, though they are so much damaged that their artistic value has been almost entirely destroyed. The fire also destroyed the furnishings; bronzes, clocks, chandeliers, furniture, carpets, collections of Dresden, Berlin, Viennese and Polish china-mostly museum pieces, as well as a collection of militaria and a collection of some 10,000 important prints and drawings.
The new buildings of the NATIONAL MUSEUM in Warsaw suffered considerable damage through incendiary and explosive bombs, as well as through artillery action. The bulk of its collections which had been placed in the cellars was saved, but losses were nevertheless severe, especially as regards antique furniture, Far Eastern art, and Egyptian antiquities.
The building of the Warsaw SOCIETY FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF FINE ARTS (usually called tbe "Zachęta") was seriously damaged by an explosive bomb and by artillery shells. Several score of pictures belonging to the Society (nineteenth-century Polish art) and a number of private deposits were destroyed.
The collections of the Warsaw MUSEUM OF ARTS AND CRAFTS were almost wholly destroyed by artillery action. They had consisted mainly of a large collection of Polish pottery comprising rare and unique specimens. The antique furniture and the collection of metal-work were also lost and the building itself was seriously damaged. .
The collection belonging to COUNT EDWARD RACZYNSKI, Polish Ambassador in London, was destroyed almost entirely, together with the beautiful house which was its home, and with which it had formed a splendidly blended whole. It had been, as it were, a memorial of the cultural traditions of several eminent Polish families, the Czapskis, the Malachowskis, Krasinskis and Raczynskis, from the middle of the eighteenth century onward. The finest part of the collection was the picture gallery, containing some 300 works by Holbein, Murillo, Ribera, Guercino, Spagnoletto, Jordaens, Teniers, Bloomert, Honthorst, Netscher, Bol, G. Metsu, Van Dyck and others. Unfortunately it had never been exhaustively catalogued or studied by art historians.
The collection of DR. BRYNDZA-NACKI, the beginnings of which dated back to the second half of the eighteenth century, and whose Flemish and Dutch pictures were particularly interesting, was totally destroyed by fire. It contained paintings by F. Mieris, P. Claes, Hondius, Fyt, A. van Ostade, Ruysdael, and others. The pictures of EDWARD NATANSON met with the same fate. It was only a small collection-some ninety paintings, but it was graced by the works of Bronzino, Guido Reni, P. Breughel, Boucher, a portrait of A. K. Czartoryski by Gainsborough (painted in 1761), and a number of valuable Polish pictures by Brodowski, Michalowski, Chelmonski, Grottger, Siemiradzki, Wyspianski and others.
It is quite impossible to register here all the collections destroyed in the bombardment of Warsaw. The larger ones are numbered by tens, the smaller ones by the hundred. We have named only some of the largest and finest.
Not only lack of space but also the impossibility of securing reliable information at the present time forbids our making any attempt at listing the damage caused by hostilities in the country-in smaller towns, in country residences and manor-houses. We will content ourselves with noting the considerable losses suffered by the museum of the WILNO PHILOMATIC SOCIETY during the shelling of the city by the Germans in June 1941.
1. Nazi Policy in the" Generalgouvemement"
That the Germans possessed a detailed plan concerning Polish public and private museums and collections, as well as other art treasures, was abundantly proved even during the first months of ENEMY OCCUPATION. The studies carried on for so many years by German scholars, especially those of Breslau and Koenigsberg, appeared in a new light. At Koenigsberg Professor Dr. Karl Heinz Clasen had with his university collaborators made a special study of Poznanian and Pomeranian art. At Breslau Professor Dr. Dagobert Frey had organized a university institute for the study of Eastern European art and had shown a particular interest in Silesia, central, southern, and eastern Poland. Both these scientists had considerable means at their disposal and their many journeys to Poland had given them a detailed knowledge of the country's art treasures. In the domain of prehistoric research similar studies were diligently pursued by a group of scholars headed by Professor Dr. Ernst Petersen, Director of the Institute of Prehistoric Studies at Breslau and recently professor of Rostock University.
It seems that these gentlemen must have been nominated to their war functions even before the outbreak of hostilities, for they appeared in Poland immediately on the occupation of her territory. Professor Frey at once arrived in Cracow and then toured the "Generalgouvernement" territory, giving detailed information on its art possessions, issuing instructions for the removal to Germany of such objects, and then collaborating in the organization of the Institut fur Deutsche Ostarbeit (Institute for German Work in the East) in Cracow, in April 1940. At its inauguration he gave a lecture on German architecture in Poland. In museums and collections Professor Frey made no bones about exploiting his pre-war research, occasionally demanding the laying before him of objects as yet uncatalogued to which he had been given access as a student. Professor Clasen took over the task of turning Poznan University into a German one and simultaneously accepted the duties of State Curator of museums and antiquities for Poznania and Polish Pomerania. Professor Petersen carried out an inspection of archaeological museums and in November 1939 supervised the removal of the collections of the Warsaw State Museum of Archaeology. Breslau scientists form an important proportion of the collaborators in the Office of the" Special Commissioner for Requisitioning and Safeguarding Works of Art" (Der Sonderbeauftragte fuer Erfassung und Sicherstellung der Kunstgegenstaende). Apart from those already named, the most eminent member of that office is Dr. Gustav Barthel, Director of the Breslau Museums and editor of the periodical Die Hohe Strasse (Schlesische Jahrbuecher fuer deutsche Art und Kunst im Ostraum) ("Silesian Yearbook of German Life and Art in the Eastern Space”).
The attempt to safeguard collections by evacuation and hiding as Polish authorities and private owners had done proved on the whole unsuccessful, both because of the occupation of the entire territory of the country and because of German brutality and a widely developed spy service. At Sandomierz the Germans demanded the Veit Stoss altar of Our Lady's church from Cracow as early as the middle of September, and they brought with them those who had been employed in packing it. At Sieniawa a sworn mason told the Gestapo representatives the hiding-places of the Czartoryski collection and the Goluchow treasures as soon as the first German units appeared. All the valuables were immediately stolen, and it proved impossible to find out which units had committed the act, so that later searches gave no results, even though they were conducted by the German authorities. This must be accounted one of the most grievous losses sustained, for the plunder included objects of quite exceptional value, such as a set of famous twelfth to sixteenth-century Limoges enamels and a magnificent collection of antique, mediaeval and Renaissance goldsmiths' work, coins, invaluable Polish historical relics, and a large number of engravings by Duerer, L. van Leyden, and others. The pictures and other remaining objects were later brought to Cracow to be confiscated and stored. The collections of the Silesian Museum were fetched from Lublin by Dr. F. Pfutzenreiter, Director of the Beuthen (Bytom) Museum, who had in his possession the bills of carriage from Katowice. The Tarnowskis at Sucha were forced by threats to disclose the fact that their collections were at Kozłówka.
Apart from losses directly due to hostilities, Polish collections suffered considerably from depredations committed by German police, military persons and administrative officials, both during hostilities and for some months after. We mean here such acts of pillage as were done for private profit, and which still occur at the moment of writing, although on a more limited scale. We shall discuss these at more length when treating of individual collections. In addition to this, there were losses arising from wilful destruction, which we shall also discuss later. Losses by private pillage are the more grievous in that probably only a small part of the stolen objects will be rediscovered in the future. The names of the pillagers are unknown, and it will not be easy to find out what has become of their booty.
The previously mentioned Office, at whose head is der Sonderbeauftragte fuer Erfassung und Sicherung der Kunst-und Kulturschuetze (Special Commissioner for the Requisitioning and Safeguarding of Treasures of Art and Culture), is the German Government's official medium for the official pillage of Polish public and private collections. It forms part of the civil administration, and the Commissioner, Staatsekretaer (Secretary of State) Dr. Kai Muehlmann, though attached to the Governor-General's office in Cracow, has autonomous powers.
His permanent and chief collaborator is Dr. Gustav Barthel, of Breslau, already mentioned. Others were (or are) Dr. Mayer (Breslau), Dr. Kuedlich (Vienna), Dr. Polhammer and Dr. Demmel, both of Vienna; also Dr. Troschke, who was at the same time acting as one of the inspectors of the Oświęcim concentration camp. The office in Cracow directed activities in general, and also carried out the seizure of collections in that town and in the south of the "Generalgouvernement." For Warsaw and the north, an assistant commissioner was nominated, Dr. Josef Muehlmann of Linz, brother of the Special Commissioner. He was helped by an antique dealer, Dr. Kraus of Vienna. During the first three months of German occupation (the main seizures of public collections having then been already for the most part effected), activities in Warsaw and in the immediate vicinity were mainly carried on by Gestapo officials, one of them being Dr. Paulsen, university professor of prehistoric studies and Untersturmfuehrer of the Gestapo. The methods of the Gestapo men were marked by particular and systematic brutality towards collections, museum staffs, and private owners. There is not the slightest doubt that they are utterly devoid of any scruple concerning their share in the work of pillaging and plundering Polish museums and collections. Their actions are flagrantly contrary not only to international law, but also to the basic principles of museum theory, so that they can only be explained (a) by rapacity on behalf of German collections, (b) by political instructions aimed at destroying all traces of Polish culture. There is no similarity between their acts and, let us say, the restoring of the Van Eyck altar to Ghent by the Versailles Treaty, for the objects confiscated in Poland had never been carried off from Germany, and had in most cases no connection whatever with that country. A particularly plain instance of this is the carrying off from Cracow of the Veit Stoss altar, which had been carved in Cracow for a church in that town.
Pillage and destruction of Polish collections were the obvious programme of the German authorities from the very first days of their entry, often without any regard to German profit. At first no effort was even made to create some semblance of legality. No receipts were given, and protests of owners or curators against such methods met with the retort that totalitarian war is waged in every field. Reprisals were also a frequent answer.
The creation of a semblance of legality was first attempted by the issuing of the Governor-General's decree of November 15th, 1939, which announced the confiscation of the "former Polish State's property" throughout the "Generalgouvernement" (Verordnungsblatt des Generalgouverneurs, Nr. 6). This decree included State property in the form of art and national relics, contrary to the stipulations of clause 56 of The Hague Convention of 1906, which regulates the rights and usages of land warfare, and requires such objects to be treated like private property, even when they belong to the State. A month later, on December 16th, 1939, the Governor-General issued a decree concerning the confiscation of works of art, including decorative arts (Verordnung ueber die Beschlagnahme von Kungstgegenstaenden im Generalgouvernement). This decree says:
All publicly-owned objects of art in the Generalgouvernement which are not already subject to the ruling of the decree of November 15th, 1939, concerning the confiscation of the property of the former Polish State, are herewith confiscated for purposes conducing to the common weal.
Apart from “art collections and objects of art which formed the property of the former Polish State." the following are also considered "publicly-owned objects of art": (1) private collections designated by the Special Commissioner fuer die Erfassung und Sicherung der Kunst- und Kulturschaetze ; (2) all objects of art owned by churches, with the exception of those needed for daily service. (Verordnungsblatt des Generalgouverneurs, Nr. 12). The decree further ordered all owners and curators of such objects or collections to notify their possessions within three months, threatening severe penalties for noncompliance. The first executive decision for this decree, dated January 15th, 1940 (Verordnungsblatt des Generalgouverneurs, Teil H., Nr. 6), shortened the time-limit for registration to February 15th, 1940, and declared that all objects of artistic value dating before 1850 come under its ruling. The following objects were specified more particularly:
(a) Paintings; (b) sculptures; (c) products of decorative art such as antique furniture, china, glass, goldsmiths' and silversmiths' work, tapestries, carpets, needlework, lace, vestments, etc.; (d) drawings, engravings and woodcut prints, etc.; (e) rare manuscripts, music manuscripts, autographs, hand-painted books, miniatures, prints and books, bookbindings, etc. ; (f) weapons, pieces of armour, etc.; (g) coins, medals, seals, etc.
Two later decrees also partly affect museums and collections. They are: the decree of July 23rd, 1940 (Verordnungsblatt des Generalgouverneurs, Teil 1., Nr. 48) concerning societies, and that of August 1st, 1940 (Verordnungsblatt des Generalgouverneurs, Teil 1., Nr. 50) concerning the law on foundations. By these, almost all Polish societies have been dissolved, and an end has been put to the activity of foundations. Their large collections are to become the property of the "Generalgouvernement," which means that they are exposed to dispersal, or even to destruction.
The decree of December 16th is an even more glaring violation of the rulings of The Hague Convention than that of November 15th, 1939. Clause 52 of the Convention expressly limits an occupying Power's requisitioning rights to objects needed by the army, thus of course excluding all works of art. Clause 46 forbids the confiscation of private property. Clause 56 states; "Municipal, ecclesiastical, charitable, educational, artistic and scientific objects shall be treated like private property, even if they belong to the State" ; that is to say they may not be confiscated. Furthermore:" Any seizure, destruction, or intentional degradation of such institutions, of historical monuments, of works of art or science, is forbidden and must be punished." Thus everything is reversed. The Hague Convention had granted even State collections the rights of private property in order to safeguard cultural values; but the Governor-General's decree treats even private and Church property as public. Since the Hague Convention was also signed by Germany, these decrees and the resulting action must be regarded as wholly lawless.
It must be stressed that the major confiscations were carried out before the issuing of these decrees. The National Museum and the Czartoryski Museum of Cracow, the National Museum, the Army Museum, the State Museum of Archaeology, the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts (all of these in Warsaw), and many others, were already despoiled between October and December 1939. The Veit Stoss altar was also carried off at this time. These acts were not based on any written orders to the owners and curators, nor even on any specific oral declaration. People were simply informed that such and such objects or parts of a collection would be removed. No explanation was given as to whether this was to be a confiscation or a provisional seizure. The decrees themselves also contain contradictions and doubtful passages. They order confiscation, but the chief of the confiscating office bears the title of "Special Commissioner for the Requisition and Safeguarding of Works of Art and Culture." There may have existed some vague idea of providing for a future attempt at justification by representing the matter, not as confiscation and pillage within the meaning of international law, but as a real safeguarding of works of art and national memorials in time of hostilities; but the Cracow collections did not need to be transferred from their buildings for such a purpose, since these had not sustained any damage and the presence of the entire museum staff was sufficient guarantee of proper care. As for the Warsaw museum buildings, these had suffered damage, more or less, but, nevertheless, the collections were best safeguarded by their own staffs, who were thoroughly acquainted with them, had remained on the spot during the siege, and continued at their posts after the entry of the occupying forces. Besides, the buildings had received proper attention, and those collections which had survived were in no danger there. German methods of packing and transport are proof enough that their actions were not dictated by any solicitude for the fate of art treasures and relics. Museum pieces were placed in leaky cases and transported in open lorries during wet autumn and winter weather. They were packed by inexpert hands, which caused much damage. Often objects were heaped in cars unpacked and quite unprotected. In many instances no list was made, and reprisals were threatened for any attempt to make one. The selection was frequently made simply by Gestapo men.
The promulgation of the confiscating decrees had specific and highly dangerous consequences: Germans in uniform began to visit private houses and to carry out "confiscations" on their own and for their personal profit, always quoting the published decrees. Mostly they carried away carpets, sometimes pieces of furniture, more rarely works of art proper. The plague of these thefts lasted in Warsaw for about two months.
Despite the duty of registering works of art which the decree sought to enforce, the office of the Special Commissioner received very few notifications, not more than a dozen or so. The owners of some of the requisitioned collections lodged protests with the Governor-General, but they never received any reply. Here, as elsewhere, we find the chaos characteristic of Nazi organization, which is the more striking in that its regulations are usually very detailed and cover a wide field. The confiscation of works of art and historic relics was instituted without any semblance of legal foundation: then decrees were issued in order to create that semblance; and then their rulings were not observed. By these decrees all public collections should be considered confiscated in their entirety; yet it was precisely after their publication that the extent of confiscations was in general no more enlarged. Nor was any action taken to bring about a more complete registration of private collections, and they were plundered only on the basis of information supplied by German historians of art. Then, since approximately the middle of May, 1940, that is, since the attack on Belgium, Holland and France, German interest in Polish possessions of this kind began to dwindle perceptibly and then almost to cease. The possibility of further" legalised" (as the Germans consider it) pillage, of course exists all the time.
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During the first period, which began with the entry of German troops, as well as during the second, which followed the confiscating degrees, there was a marked difference in the treatment meted out to the" Generalgouvernement's" two chief centres of intellectual life, WARSAW AND CRACOW. This is undoubtedly no accident, but the result of explicit instructions. Only Church property suffered greater depredations in Cracow than in Warsaw-public collections were robbed far less brutally here, and private property (with the exception of Jewish belongings) was respected. Not only were there no confiscations at private residences and flats, but no inspection was even made. Warsaw was treated with far greater severity, probably because of its determined resistance in September 1939. The despoiling of museums and public collections was here carried out on unusually extensive scale; all the larger private collections, and even many small ones in private apartments, were affected.
According to information spread by officials of the German administration during the winter of 1939-40, the confiscations carried out in Warsaw had for their purpose the creation of a great central museum of art and culture in Cracow. Warsaw was to be punished by being deprived of all its collections and reduced to the level of a purely commercial centre. In the spring of 1940 these plans were given up, and it is known that at that time the central German authorities planned to organize in Berlin a great exhibition of "Polish War Booty," where the plunder was to be divided among German museums and collections. The confiscated objects were therefore mostly placed in temporary storage centres, in the new building of the University Library of Cracow and in the storerooms of the Warsaw National Museum. It was probably the beginning of systematic air raids on Germany which brought about the postponement of this exhibition till the end of the war, so that the collections have hitherto for the most part remained packed in these two stores. In June 1941, before the outbreak of war with Russia, their contents were transported (again by the Gestapo) to Maehrisch Truebau, under scandalous conditions and not without new thefts. In the autumn of 1941 these collections were brought back to Cracow.
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Conditions of life in Poland under German occupation are such that it is impossible to make a complete inventory of losses caused by hostilities or by confiscation. Terrorism is at such a pitch that many private owners are afraid even to make a list of their losses, let alone give information about them. The fact that no receipts were given and the making of any notes concerning removal forbidden renders any detailed registration impossible, and this is the more mischievous as many private collections and even some public ones had never been fully studied. This is a further loss for Poland, since history will be deprived of even a description or a copy of some of these lost and destroyed possessions. We must also expect the making of any inventory to become more difficult month by month owing to the huge losses of the intelligentsia; people are dying of sickness and exhaustion in prisons and concentration camps, they have lost their memories, such materials as photographs, family documents, letters and so on are dispersed.
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The description of LOSSES OCCASIONED BY CONFISCATION in Warsaw and Cracow collections, which follows here, should be read merely as a sample of the Occupying Power's conduct.
In CRACOW it was the ecclesiastical collections and treasures which suffered the most painful losses. They were the richest in Poland and had the oldest traditions.
The CATHEDRAL was robbed of the so-called Lance of St. Maurice presented to Boleslas the Brave by the Emperor Otto III in A.D. 1000; of a Sicilian reliquary of the twelfth century; of the famous fourteenth-century ivory box which had been the property of Queen Jadwiga; of numerous gold crosses, monstrances, and chalices of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and eighteenth centuries; of a picture of St. George dating back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, a priceless sixteenth-century vestment (that of Piotr Kmita) was carried off, together with a series of eight Brussels and nine Flemish seventeenth century tapestries, a further series of nine tapestries bearing the Swan coat of arms (first half of the seventeenth century), four individual Gobelins, a carpet given by King John Sobieski, and three richly-illuminated parchment manuscripts.
The CHURCH OF OUR LADY was deprived of the Veit Stoss triptych of which we have already spoken. The altar-case itself was not taken away till April 1940, the church having been closed for a week for that purpose. This triptych, on which Veit Stoss worked in Cracow during the years 1477-89, is the artist's finest work, and exercised very considerable influence on the development of art in Poland, Bohemia and Slovakia at the turn of the fifteenth century. Many studies on the subject have been published by Polish art historians, and ten years ago the sculpture was thoroughly overhauled at State expense, on which occasion the magnificent original Gothic colouring was brought to light and restored. This had been painted over during earlier restorations carried out in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thereupon, further studies by Polish scholars were published, such as an album with French text (Le Retable de Notre Dame a Cracovie, by Professor Tadeusz Szydlowski, Paris, 1935). The masterpiece of Veit Stoss was thus not only duly valued and safeguarded, but its beauty was also made familiar to the whole world in various publications. We do not know what has become of it in Germany. In the autumn of 1940 there was an exhibition of photographs of it at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, but no part of the work itself was shown. In addition to this, the church also suffered the loss of nine pictures by Hans Suess of Kulmbach, an act as unwarranted as the first, since Suess, Duerer's best pupil, painted them during his stay in Cracow, about A.D. 1515, as a commission for the Cracow Church. Four fifteenthcentury Gothic chalices and eight seventeenth-century Baroque chalices were taken from the church treasury.
Four further pictures by Hans Suess of Kulmbach (also painted in and for Cracow) were taken from the CHURCH OF ST. FLORIAN, together with the so called Gruenwald Reliquary (Gruenwald is the usual Polish name for Tannenberg) of Commander de Bode, A.D. 1360.
In December 1940, a series of eleven Gothic stained-glass windows, dating back to the turn of the fourteenth century, were taken from the DOMINICAN ABBEY. They had once formed part of the cloisters.
The CHURCH OF THE BERNARDINES was robbed of a carving representing St. Anne with the Virgin and Child by Veit Stoss.
The armoury of the ROYAL CASTLE on Wawel Hill was put in the storerooms of the new building of the University Library. It is not known whether this signifies confiscation or whether it was merely done to make room. The rest of the Castle collections was left untouched, to serve as furnishings for the Governor-General's residence. These furnishings were further supplemented by objects confiscated elsewhere. It seems that some of the furniture from Warsaw Castle found its way here; for instance, a set of Kielce furniture, upholstered in Cordovan leather and dating from the second half of the eighteenth century.
The chief losses suffered by the NATIONAL MUSEUM of Cracow are through confiscations in the section of Polish mediaeval art. The selection was made by Professor Frey. The more important items are: a polyptychon of A.D. J 504 ("St. John the Almoner "), the chief existing work of the Cracow school of painting of that time, which had been brought some years before from the Cracow church of the Augustine Order. Its donor was Marshal Lanckoronski. Then a Gothic polyptychon from the church of St. Giles in Cracow, a number of Madonna sculptures of the Veit Stoss school, and many other pictures and sculptures. The Polish Medireval Art Section of this museum was the largest and most valuable in Poland. (See Plate 7.)
The Feliks Jasienski branch of the National Museum has ceased to exist.
In September 1939, immediately on the entry of German troops into the city, its director was ordered to give up the keys of the building, and since then none of the museum staff has been admitted inside. As far as is known, the collection was "semi-privately" pillaged, so that there is no hope of ever recovering it. It had consisted of some 15,000 items, mainly specimens of Japanese art, and also collections of Polish and other pictures and prints, textiles, and so on.
Nothing remains, either, of the Barącz branch of the Museum, the contents of which have been used to furnish the Potocki residence at Krzeszowice, (See Plate 14.) This has been confiscated and bestowed by Hitler personally on the Governor-General, so that presumably the furnishings are also considered Dr. Frank's private property. This branch of the National Museum had consisted of a rich collection of carpets and other antique textiles, of antique furniture, armour and decorative art.
The Czapski branch, consisting of a famous collection of coins, the largest 1n Poland, was sealed up, and nothing is known of its fate. The inventories and catalogues of the whole of the National Museum were taken away.
Apart from these confiscations and private thefts affecting whole museum sections, there is an endless, persistent and destructive nibbling at the Museum for pictures and objects of decorative art, for the purpose of decorating German offices and private lodgings. The Germans treat the museum as a storage centre of whose contents they dispose at will, not only for themselves, but also for their wives, as, to make an instance, for Frau Waechter, wife of the Governor of Cracow.
The mind of contemporary Germany and its attitude towards art in Poland was well summed up in the ejection of the National Museum from its premises in the Clothiers' Hall in the autumn of 1940. Since the museum had already been deprived of its two other buildings-those of the Barącz and of the Jasienski branches-the collections were taken from the central rooms (those in the Cloth Hall) to the small house of the Czapski branch. Here all the rooms were filled up with packing-cases, so crowded that there is no possibility of access to anything, and unpacking is out of the question. Part of the collections found no room on these premises, and was stored in the Industrial Museum. There is of course no possibility of any museum work, nor even of a simple safeguarding of the collections.
The CZARTORYSKI MUSEUM of Cracow was robbed, not once, but repeatedly.
We have already mentioned the looting of the inestimable collections stored at Sieniawa, which must be considered irretrievably lost. From the Polish point of view, the dispersal by theft of the large collection of Polish royal jewels and relics is a particularly grievous loss. Its gravity may be realized if we recall that over a hundred years ago the Polish regalia were destroyed by the Prussians, who carried them away from the Castle of Cracow and melted them down, after removing the precious stones.
Objects such as pictures left behind by the first German thieves were later taken to Cracow by German officials and there subjected to successive waves of confiscation, one of which occurred soon after this return, others in June and August 1940. Over a dozen paintings by foreign masters were seized, and the most famous: Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, Leonardo's Girl With a Weasel, and Rembrandt's Landscape, were taken to Germany, (See Plate 13.) The most valuable tapestries, carpets, antique weapons, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and so on, were also confiscated. Thus was an institution laid waste which was among the finest private museums in Europe, and was undoubtedly the most valuable collection of foreign art existing in Poland. The magnificent Czartoryski Museum at Goluchów suffered a similar fate.
Seven unusually valuable carpets were confiscated in the INSTITUTE OF THE HISTORY OF ART of Cracow University. It is said that they have been taken to Vienna. Other objects confiscated here include an original drawing by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz), - probably taken to Breslau, as it was selected by Professor Frey and his collaborator, Dr. Sappok - part of the pictures, and mediaeval Polish sculptures, all these being taken to Germany. The rest of the institute's collection was removed to one of the storage centres and there thrown on a heap with the rest.
The POLISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCE AND LETTERS was robbed of part of its prehistoric collection, but part was left untouched. A German curator was, however, appointed, and the Polish staff were given subordinate functions.
The famous and unique Balthasar Behem Codex (known as the Codex pictoratus), dating back to the beginning of the sixteenth century, of which the numerous miniatures illustrate Cracow's contemporary life, has been seized from the UNIVERSITY LIBRARY and carried off to Germany.
The plundering of the Cracow ACADEMY OF FINE ARTs - whose professors had there deposited their private collections - lasted throughout December 1939. The building was closed and the pictures were used for the decoration of offices or stolen for private profit.
At Cracow, collections in private apartments were in general neither confiscated nor even inspected. Nevertheless, one picture - The Massacre of the Innocents (School of Cranach) - was taken away from a private owner in August 1940, and the numerous collections owned by Jews were, of course, plundered wholesale.
In WARSAW the comparatively few works of art confiscated from church property were taken from thr CATHEDRAL and the DIOCESAN MUSEUM. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Warsaw churches possess few specimens of mediaeval decorative art, and the majority of their treasures dates from the Baroque period and after, whereas the Office of the Special Commissioner
devotes its attention more particularly to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. probably under the influence of Professor Frey, who specializes in mediaeval studies.
The painted ceilings of the WARSAW ROYAL CASTLE were stupidly and barbarously destroyed. With the exception of that in the ballroom, representing Chaos, by Bacciarelli, all of them had survived fire and shelling unharmed, but they were smashed to pieces during the demolition of the Castle interior between December 1939 and February 1940. A separate chapter is devoted to this monstrous proceeding. The State Collections in the Castle bad suffered proportionately little loss during hostilities. The most valuable pieces were taken to the National Museum during the fire, and between October and December 1939 the Germans took many of them away to Cracow. But the greater part of the collections had not been moved to the National Museum and had remained in their place. There were hundreds of pictures, much antique furniture (seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries), many objects of decorative art, pottery, glass and the like. The plundering of it all began with the first days of the occupation of Warsaw, and became systematic from October 18th onwards - that is, from the day on which the Governor-General, Dr. Frank. appeared at the Castle with his retinue. More details will be given in the chapter devoted to the Castle. This much may be said here, in order to show the extent of the pillage: that even table-sets, table-linen and kitchen utensils were divided up between various German offices.
The store rooms of the Management of the POLISH STATE COLLECTIONS OF ART, which had been housed in the library wing of the Castle were systematically plundered all through October and November 1939 by the Feldgendarmerie quartered in the Castle and by various German officials - they were finally cleaned out in December of that year. Not a thing remains of several thousand Polish and foreign pictures (including a large part of the Krosnowski Gallery), of engravings, sculptures, manuscripts, archives and the rest. Since the winter of 1939-40 many pictures and antiques from these collections have appeared in the hands of antique dealers and private traders who have acquired them from German functionaries of the lower ranks.
The collections at the LAZIENKI PALACE were, during the siege of Warsaw. mostly transferred to the National Museum, and thence the Germans have taken them to Cracow. Among them were well over a hundred of the most valuable pictures of King Stanislas Augustus, including works by Fr. Bol., B. van der Helst, Fr. Pourbus and others; sculptures, clocks, eighteenth-century furniture, pottery and the like. It is said that Rembrandt's Portrait of a Young Man has been offered as a present to Dr. Frank - nothing is known of the rest. It may well be feared that the collection has been at least in part dispersed, for objects belonging to it are known to be now in private hands at Cracow, having allegedly been bought from antique dealers. Part of the antique furniture of the Palace was parcelled out among German officers' messes and offices, in the autumn of 1939. The chandeliers were taken to the Governor-General's Warsaw residence in the building of the former Czechoslovak Legation.
The works of art in the building of the SEYM and SENATE were in part destroyed, in part stolen, after the German police had taken possession. They had included Matejko's well-known picture, The Constitution of the Third of May.
A collection of plaster casts belonging to the UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW had survived the siege unscathed, but when German police units occupied the university buildings in the first days of October 1939, it suffered much damage, because beds, cupboards and other furniture from a military hospital were stored in the rooms in which it was displayed. In the summer of 1940 this collection was transferred to the main university building and further damaged in the process, quite apart from the damage caused by conditions in its new quarters, which had been rootless since the fire in September 1939. The collection, which had included unusually valuable casts, some of them once owned by King Stanis1as Augustus, must be regarded as wholly destroyed.
The university library's COLLECTION OF PRINTS AND DRAWINGS was in great part taken to Cracow in December 1939. It had been the largest of its kind in Poland, and its importance rivalled that of other European collections. The core of it was the splendid collection of drawings, engravings and architectural designs brought together by Stanislas Augustus, and added to later by such collections as that of the Warsaw Philomatic Society and others.
Confiscations at the Warsaw NATIONAL MUSEUM were far more extensive than at that of Cracow. They were effected between October and December 1939, and the confiscated objects were then sent to Cracow. Nothing certain is known about their further fate. They seem to have been deposited for a time in the building of the University Library, and some of them appear to have been used later for decorating the residence at Krzeszowice. The "legal" side of the matter has not been made clear, for there has been no official decree of confiscation, nor have any receipts been issued.
The collection of Polish mediaeval art, consisting of some scores of pictures and painting, was removed almost without exception.
In the foreign section, about a hundred valuable pictures were carried off. The section of decorative art was despoiled of many thousands of pieces, including fine collections of Italian, Dresden and Polish pottery, or seventeenth century glass-ware, tapestries, textiles, furniture, clocks, snuff-boxes, and so on.
The entire numismatic collection of Polish and foreign coins was carried off.
The foreign section, the finest of its type in Poland, had been one of world-wide importance, and had included Byzantine and Roman coins, as well as Byzantine seals. The Polish section had numbered over twelve thousand specimens, and had been the second most important in Poland, the Czapski collection ranking first. The major part of the prehistoric collection, and all the ethnographic exhibits, were also seized.
In the spring of 1940 the ARMY MUSEUM and the National Museum were fused under the new name of a Warsaw City Museum. Before this, however, in the autumn and winter of 1939, the Army Museum had been deprived of all its antiques, from the oldest up to those of the seventeenth century. These included numerous coats and pieces of armour, firearms and other weapons, many thousand pieces in all. Much was also taken from the Museum Library. Nothing is known of the further fate of these collections. Unfortunately they seem to have been dispersed, part sent to Munich, part to a museum in Bohemia, part left in Cracow. This dispersal renders the possibility of any future reassembling very doubtful.
The STATE MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY was in October 1939 partly occupied by soldiers. At the beginning of November 1939, there appeared Professor Dr. Ernst Petersen of Rostock, formerly curator of the prehistoric collections at Breslau, in company with Herr Schleif, Director of the Olympia Expedition, and closed the museum doors to the Polish staff. In the course of November these two gentlemen removed several thousand exhibits, such as numerous specimens of the Stone Age, a large number of others in iron, copper and bronze, ivory and amber work, pottery, a collection of Roman, Arabic and mediaeval European coins, also the museum cases, the museum and office furniture, the whole library of special literature, comprising some ten thousand volumes, all the museum catalogues, reports, and so on and so on. In addition, they took away the museum archives and all the private scientific materials of the staff. In September 1940 the museum was ejected from its quarters and the remainder of its collections was transferred to the National Museum.
The Museum of the KRASINSKI LIBRARY was, in the winter of 1939-40, robbed of several score pieces, including two valuable pictures and many works of decorative art in gold, silver, ivory, and other media. In the autumn of 1941 the museum was turned out of the library building.
Unknown German authorities, who did not disclose their identity and failed to give any receipt, in the winter of 1939-40 took away from the salvaged remainder of the ZAMOYSKI LIBRARY some fifty illuminated mediaeval manuscripts, the finest of the collection. After a year they were returned. Over a score of other manuscripts were confiscated.
About the middle of October 1939, the Gestapo took away from the WARSAW SOCIETY FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE FINE ARTS (the" Zachęta") several hundred pictures, the greater part of its collection, and transferred them to the National Museum. Part was left behind, including the biggest pictures, which were rolled up. Many other pictures from the collection were taken away for the purpose of decorating German offices and private lodgings, no receipt ever being given. The pictures were carried to the museum under the worst conditions imaginable, in open lorries, without any lists or minutes of the proceedings. The purpose of the action is hard to understand, for these pictures were neither packed nor sent away, but simply left on the spot. Probably this was part of some plan not fully considered and later relinquished-there were many such-but the pictures have not been returned to their owners. In the winter of 1939-40 all the Society's original drawings by foreign artists were confiscated. There were several hundred of them, by French, Italian and Dutch masters. The Society was first closed and then declared to be dissolved.
The MUSEUM OF PHILATELY was confiscated and carried away in its entirety.
As far as we know, this was done by the German postal authorities.
The STATE NUMISMATIC COLLECTION, which numbered many thousand pieces, was confiscated and carried off, after having previously suffered individual acts of pillage.
The whole collection of the CENTRAL INVENTORY OFFICE of the Ministry of Education was taken away. It consisted of twenty to thirty thousand photographic plates, several thousand photographs, many thousand plans of Polish architectural monuments, a card index of all antique immovables in Poland, and a great wealth of material for the study of the history of art in the country. This was in part the collection of the Society for the Protection of Antiquities, in part the twenty years' work of all the Polish curators of antiquities and of many other Polish specialists, commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Only a small part of this great mass of material, accumulated by Polish research work and scientific studies, had been published up to the outbreak of war. It seems that this collection was taken to Cracow. Its materials are utilized for publications by German scientists, the source being naturally not named.
Polish circles have no influence whatever on the fate of works of art in public buildings. It is known that these are frequently moved from place to place, often used to decorate private lodgings, at times later taken away entirely as constituting private property.
Contrary to the state of things in Cracow and other larger towns, in Warsaw and its vicinity many private collections also were confiscated. In some cases receipts were given; often, however, even the regularly constituted official confiscating authorities gave no such receipts, to say nothing of cases of wilful individual robbery. For reasons easily understood, it is not possible to enumerate here the losses thus suffered by private individuals, but they number many thousand items.
Private collections owned by Jews and persons of Jewish origin must for the most part also be considered as having ceased to exist, for only a fraction can have been hidden or transferred to the ghetto-where their tenure IS also extremely uncertain.
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Under present conditions a registration of COL L E C T I O N S plundered or confiscated OUTSIDE WARSAW AND CRACOW is very difficult, and it is only possible to mention the most notorious facts.
Ecclesiastical property has suffered most at Plock and Sandomierz, where goldsmiths' work of the late Gothic and early Renaissance period has been taken away, as also have a number of pictures by Cranach, Hans Suess of Kulmbach, and others. The parish church of Bodzentyn (voivodship of Kielce) has been robbed of its monumental triptych, dated 1510, which showed the figure of its donor, Bishop Konarski. This is perhaps the most important piece of Polish painting of that date extant. Moreover, many provincial churches have been deprived of their most valuable mediaeval and Renaissance relics.
King John Sobieski's ancient residence of Wilanow probably ranks first among private sufferers. Here some 400 objects were confiscated, including a hundred pictures from the picture-gallery, a large collection of porcelain, Dresden vases, Limoges enamels, and so on. All the relics of King John Sobieski were also confiscated, including the magnificent inlaid escritoire presented to him by Pope Innocent IX after the victory of Vienna in 1683.
Amongst other collections which have also suffered are those of Prince RadziwiU at Nieborow, Count M. Potocki at Jablonna, Prince A. Lubomirski at Przeworsk, Prince Czartoryski at Pelkinia, Count J. Tarnowski at Dzikow, and Count H. Tarnowski at Dukla.
Shortly after the occupation of Lwow by the Germans in 1941, Dr. Kai Miihlmann arrived there with his helpers, including Dr. Behrens of the History of Art Section of the Cracow Institut fuer Deutsche Ostarbeit, and robbed the Ossoliński Institute of the whole of its fine collection of original Duerer drawings, which had been published in reproduction some years before the war. At the demand of the local German authorities, it is proposed to organize a private exhibition of all the most valuable objects in the city's museums, ostensibly for their benefit, but it is to be feared that this has no other purpose than to facilitate the selection of items for further confiscation.
2. Nazi Policy in "Territories Incorporated in the Reich”
Museum collections in the territory "incorporated in the Reich" seem in general to have been left undisturbed, but the Polish staff have been dismissed and Germans employed in their stead. In several cases the Polish directors were arrested. As far as we know, at Poznań in the Muzeum Wielkopolskie, the largest piece of Polish monumental sculpture only was destroyed - the Wawel Procession by Waclaw Szymanowski. The most valuable part of the Goluchow collection was plundered at Sieniawa, as already described. It is reported that the German Frontier Guard (Grenzschutz) destroyed many works by Polish artists which they found on the spot, and carried off the rest; but this information has not yet been checked. In numerous private collections at country residences great losses have been caused by the Germans installed there in lieu of the rightful owners, for they relegate family relics and Polish works of art to the attics, or simply destroy them. An estate near Wloclawek may serve as an illustration of their proceedings. Here the pictures were cut out of their frames and taken away, antique furniture was used for firewood, and the family archives (which comprised valuable collections from the rising of 1863) were turned to household use. Another instance is to be found in an estate near Inowroclaw, whence a valuable special library (history of art) was taken away to be sold as waste paper.
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Our description has been devoted mainly to the losses suffered by the largest collections, but those of PROVINCIAL MUSEUMS have also been -considerable. About a hundred of them, created by public effort, and belonging to educational and topographical societies, have not only been deprived of all .care and attention, but also partly destroyed by dispersal. The former Polish staff is denied access ; they are turned out of their own premises, their possessions are at the mercy of German administrative officials and police.
We should add here that even those Polish museums which have not been wholly destroyed or confiscated by the Germans are not accessible to the public. The only exception known to us is the. Tatra Museum at Zakopane. It was never closed for a single day, even during hostilities, and it continues to function unhampered; possibly because it is mainly devoted to the folklore and art of the Polish mountaineers, whom the Germans are endeavouring to credit with a separate nationality.
In S U M M I NG UP the losses caused by hostilities and by German action during occupation, attention must be drawn to several features.
The DAMAGE TO BUILDINGS for housing collections is very considerable, and is the more painful in that Poland had during the twenty years before 1939 sought passionately to remedy the shortage and neglect occasioned by the period of foreign rule. The great building of the National Museum in Warsaw, which had been opened in 1938, was much damaged and in part destroyed. In the year 1941 some of it was occupied by troops. The eighteenth-century building of the Ethnographical Museum was burnt down, as was also "The Blue House" which had housed the Zamoyski Library and Museum. The building of the Przeździecki Museum and Library was also wholly destroyed by fire, and the Raczynski residence, which had been devoted entirely to that family's fine collections, suffered the same fate. Then there are the losses suffered by the stoppage of work on museums in process of building, such as the National Museum in Cracow and the Pomeranian Museum at Torun. The existing walls and fittings are subjected to the effects of the weather and arc being gradually ruined.
We have already shown how museum collections have suffered not only through hostilities, but by the barbarous methods of the German authorities. The expulsion of museums from their premises, and the enforced transference to other quarters by the most primitive means of transport, at short notice and under quite unsuitable conditions, occasion a certain proportion of loss in the .collections, so that we must consider that even those which have not suffered any confiscation have yet sustained damage if they have had to be moved from their usual place. Such is the case with the Pilsudski Museum, turned out of the Warsaw Belvedere in December 1939, with the National Museum in Cracow, the Ethnographical Museum there, the State Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw, and a number others. Those collections, which have been confiscated, arc bound also to suffer a diminution of their value, even if they are rescued and returned to their owners, for they have been transported carelessly and inexpertly under bad weather conditions, and later often kept in unsuitable places, without proper expert care, so that their state of preservation is likely to deteriorate rapidly. Such treatment lowers the value of works of art, sometimes very considerably.
It is scarcely possible to stress sufficiently the extent of the loss suffered by the destruction of such magnificent museum units as the Warsaw Castle. the Zamoyski and Przeździecki Museums and Libraries, which were of paramount importance in the history of Polish civilization. In them, whole pages of that history have been destroyed, and sources of knowledge closed for ever to students of the past. Many other collections have been broken up by confiscation, which not only means the loss of individual works of art but also causes irreparable damage to collections as such .
The full extent of LOSSES SUFFERED BY POLISH PAINTING can be measured by a short summary of the devastation wrought among the monumental paintings so characteristic of Warsaw. We will mention only the two Bacciarelli ceilings in the Ball-room and the Audience Chamber of Warsaw Castle, the ceiling of the Marble Closet painted by Bacciarelli in collaboration with Plersch, the painting by Siemiradzki and Strzalecki in the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, those by Ch. Carelli and J. Glowacki in the Pac Mansion in Miodowa Street.. The paintings by BacciareIli and Plersch in the Łazienki Palace, those by Zebrowski in the Church of the Bernardine Order, and by K. Marconi in the house of the Warsaw Land Credit Society, all suffered damage.
We have not hitherto mentioned damage caused to church paintings during hostilities. One by Eleterius Siemiginowski in the Church of the Holy Rood can be quoted as an instance, as well as a number of pictures in the Church of All Saints. The losses in nineteenth and twentieth-century paintings are very great. Several large paintings by Matejko have disappeared, his Constitution of the Third of May has probably been destroyed, a number of smaller pictures has been burnt. Many other pictures by eminent Polish artists have been burnt or ruined, including works by Michalowski, Kossak, the Gierymski brothers, and so on.
.• .• .•
Art collections and relics at manor-houses and country residences have doubtless been in great part destroyed, particularly in territory" incorporated in the Reich."
The confiscation of collections belonging to persons of Jewish origin would need a chapter to itself.
Lastly, it is necessary to state that museums and collections are all closed, and that any Polish care for them is rendered impossible, so that further damage and loss must be expected.
The museum staffs have from the very first been helpless and at the tender mercies of the Gestapo. We will only mention the case of Dr. Pajzderski. Director of the Muzeum Wielkopolskie of Poznan, who was arrested in November 1939, held prisoner for several months in the Poznan fort, and at last taken to a concentration camp, where he died. He had never played any part in political life, nor had he ever undertaken any anti-German activities. We refrain from mentioning others, for reasons easily understood.
The German attitude towards Polish culture in general, and museums in particular, is shown by the latest decisions concerning the museum buildings of Cracow and Katowice. The new building of the National Museum at Cracow, which was being erected from funds given by all classes of the people. has been sold by the Cracow municipality (naturally directed by Germans at present) to Dr. Frank, the Governor-General, for the sum of three million zlotys, and turned into a club for German officials and employees. This building was nearing completion when the war broke out. At Katowice, the new building of the Silesian Museum, already far advanced, is to be demolished as the work of a Jewish architect! On its site a German public building is to be erected.
In order to grasp this attitude-unprecedented in modern times-of the Germans towards Polish museums and collections, historic relics and works of art, scientific studies and even scientists, it is necessary once again to emphasize the undoubted fact that the foremost task they have set themselves is the utter destruction of Polish culture and the disorganization of its centres. The intention to profit at Poland's expense ranks second in their plans, and that explains many seemingly incomprehensible actions and apparently senseless orders which cannot result in any immediate gain to the Germans.
Another important characteristic of the present-day German mind is this: that whatever part national interests may play in ordering their actions, they are very much alive to the possibilities of personal profit. The Governor-General himself sets the example, for his "private" residence at Krzeszowice has been furnished and decorated with works of art officially stolen from museums and private owners, which are now considered his "property" Other dignitaries, and even officials of the lower ranks, follow suit.
And it is unfortunately impossible to claim that only the Hitler gang is responsible. We have shown that it is not Gestapo officials and the highest German authorities alone, who take part in pillaging Polish museums and collections, in their wilful and deliberate destruction. The work is directed and carried out by German scholars, university professors and museum specialists.
The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals
Judgement : War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
In the administration of the occupied territories the concentration camps were used to destroy all opposition groups. The persons arrested by the Gestapo were as a rule sent to concentration camps. They were conveyed to the camps in many cases without any care whatever being taken for them, and great numbers died on the way. Those who arrived at the camp were subject to systematic cruelty. They were given hard physical labour, inadequate food, clothes and shelter, and were subject at all times to the rigours of a soulless regime, and the private whims of individual guards. In the report of the War Crimes Branch of the Judge Advocate's Section of the 3rd U.S. Army, under date 21st June, 1945, the conditions at the Flossenburg concentration camp were investigated, and one passage may be quoted:
" Flossenburg concentration camp can be described as a factory dealing in death. Although this camp had in view the primary object of putting to work the mass slave labour, another of its primary objects was the elimination of human lives by the methods employed in handling the prisoners. Hunger and starvation rations sadism, inadequate clothing, medical neglect, disease, beatings, hangings, freezing, forced suicides, shooting, etc., all played a major role in obtaining their object. Prisoners were murdered at random, spite killings against Jews were common, injections of poison and shooting in the neck were everyday occurrences; epidemics of typhus and spotted fever were permitted to run rampant as a means of eliminating prisoners, life in this camp meant nothing. Killing became a common thing, so common that a quick death was welcomed by the unfortunate ones."A certain number of the concentration camps were equipped with gas chambers for the wholesale destruction of the inmates, and with furnaces for the burning of the bodies. Some of them were in fact used for the extermination of Jews as part of the " final solution " of the Jewish problem. Most of the non-Jewish inmates were used for labour, although the conditions under which they worked made labour and death almost synonymous terms. Those inmates who became ill and were unable to work were either destroyed in the gas chambers or sent to special infirmaries, where they were given entirely inadequate medical treatment, worse food if possible than the working inmates, and left to die.
The murder and ill-treatment of civilian populations reached its height in the treatment of the citizens of the Soviet Union and Poland. Some four weeks before the invasion of Russia began, special task forces of the SIPO and SD, called Einsatz Groups, were formed on the orders of Himmler for the purpose of following the German armies into Russia, combating partisans and members of Resistance Groups, and exterminating the Jews and communist leaders and other sections of the population. In the beginning, four such Einsatz Groups were formed, one operating in the Baltic States, one towards Moscow, one towards Kiev, and one operating in the south of Russia. Ohlendorf, former chief of Amt III of the RSHA, who led the fourth group, stated in his affidavit:
" When the German army invaded Russia, I was leader of Einsatzgruppe D, in the southern sector, and in the course of the year during which I was leader of the Einsatzgruppe D it liquidated approximately 90,000 men, women and children. The majority of those liquidated were Jews, but there were also among them some communist functionaries."In an order issued by the defendant Keitel on the 23rd July, 1941, and drafted by the defendant Jodl, it was stated that:
" in view of the vast size of the occupied areas in the East the forces available for establishing security in these areas will be sufficient only if all resistance is punished, not by legal prosecution of the guilty, but by the spreading of such terror by the armed forces as is alone appropriate to eradicate every inclination to resist among the population . . . Commanders must find the means of keeping order by applying suitable draconian measures."The evidence has shown that this order was ruthlessly carried out in the territory of the Soviet Union and in Poland. A significant illustration of the measures actually applied occurs in the document which was sent in 1943 to the defendant Rosenberg by the Reich Commissar for Eastern Territories, who wrote:
" It should be possible to avoid atrocities and to bury those who have been liquidated. To lock men, women and children into barns and set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause, and hurts our reputation severely."The Tribunal has before it an affidavit of one Hermann Graebe, dated 10th November, 1945, describing the immense mass murders which he witnessed. He was the manager and engineer in charge of the branch of the Solingen firm of Josef Jung in Spolbunow, Ukraine, from September, 1941, to January, 1944. He first of all described the attack upon the Jewish ghetto at Rowno:
". . . Then the electric floodlights which had been erected all round the ghetto were switched on. SS and militia details of four to six members entered or at least tried to enter the houses. Where the doors and windows were closed, and the inhabitants did not open upon the knocking, the SS men and militia broke the windows, forced the doors with beams and crowbars, and entered the dwelling. The owners were driven on to the street just as they were, regardless of whether they were dressed or whether they had been in bed.... Car after car was filled. Over it hung the screaming of women and children, the cracking of whips and rifle shots."Graebe then described how a mass execution at Dubno, which he witnessed on the 5th October, 1942, was carried out:
". . . Now we heard shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks, men, women and children of all ages, had to undress upon the orders of an SS man, who carried a riding or dog whip.... Without screaming or crying, these people undressed, stood around by families, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for the command of another SS man, who stood near the excavation, also with a whip in his hand.... At that moment the SS man at the excavation called something to his comrade. The latter counted off about 20 persons, and instructed them to walk behind the earth mound.... I walked around the mound and stood in front of a tremendous grave; closely pressed together, the people were lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. The excavation was already two-thirds full; I estimated that it contained about a thousand people.... Now already the next group approached, descended into the excavation, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot."The foregoing crimes against the civilian population are sufficiently appalling, and yet the evidence shows that at any rate in the East, the mass murders and cruelties were not committed solely for the purpose of stamping out opposition or resistance to the German occupying forces. In Poland and the Soviet Union these crimes were part of a plan to get rid of whole native populations by expulsion and annihilation, in order that their territory could be used for colonisation by Germans. Hitler had written in " Mein Kampf " on these lines, and the plan was clearly stated by Himmler in July, 1942, when he wrote:
" It is not our task to Germanise the East in the old sense, that is to teach the people there the German language and the German law, but to see to it that only people of purely Germanic blood live in the East."In August, 1942, the policy for the Eastern Territories as laid down by Bormann was summarised by a subordinate of Rosenberg as follows:
" The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die. Therefore, compulsory vaccination and Germanic health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable."It was Himmler again who stated in October, 1943:
" What happens to a Russian, a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take. If necessary, by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur, otherwise it is of no interest to me."In Poland the intelligentsia had been marked down for extermination as early as September, 1939, and in May, 1940, the defendant Frank wrote in his diary of " taking advantage of the focusing of world interest on the Western Front, by wholesale liquidation of thousands of Poles, first leading representatives of the Polish intelligentsia." Earlier, Frank had been directed to reduce the " entire Polish economy to absolute minimum necessary for bare existence. The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater - German World Empire." In January, 1940, he recorded in his diary that "cheap labour must be removed from the General Government by hundreds of thousands. This will hamper the native biological propagation." So successfully did the Germans carry out this policy in Poland that by the end of the war one third of the population had been killed, and the whole of the country devastated.
It was the same story in the occupied area of the Soviet Union. At the time of the launching of the German attack in June, 1941, Rosenberg told his collaborators:
" The object of feeding the German people stands this year without a doubt at the top of the list of Germany's claims on the East, and here the southern territories and the northern Caucasus will have to serve as a balance for the feeding of the German people.... A very extensive evacuation will be necessary, without any doubt, and it is sure that the future will how very hard years in store for the Russians."Three or four weeks later Hitler discussed with Rosenberg, Goering, Keitel and others his plan for the exploitation of the Soviet population and territory, which included among other things the evacuation of the inhabitants of the Crimea and its settlement by Germans.
A somewhat similar fate was planned for Czechoslovakia by the defendant von Neurath, in August, 1940; the intelligentsia were to be "expelled," but the rest of the population was to be Germanised rather than expelled or exterminated, since there was a shortage of Germans to replace them.
In the West the population of Alsace were the victims of a German " expulsion action." Between July and December, 1940, 105,000 Alsatians were either deported from their homes or prevented from returning to them.
A captured German report dated 7th August, 1942, with regard to Alsace states that:
" The problem of race will be given first consideration, and this in such a manner that persons of racial value will be deported to Germany proper, and racially inferior persons to France."THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for ten minutes.
(A recess was taken.)
THE PRESIDENT: I now ask General Nikitochenko to continue the reading of the judgment.
General NIKTOCHENKO: Article 49 of the Hague Convention provides that an occupying power may levy a contribution of money from the occupied territory to pay for the needs of the army of occupation, and for the administration of the territory in question. Article 52 of the Hague Convention provides that an occupying power may make requisitions in kind only for the needs of the army of occupation, and that these requisitions shall be in proportion to the resources of the country. These Articles, together with Article 48, dealing with the expenditure of money collected in taxes, and Articles 53, 55 and 56, dealing with public property, make it clear that under the rules of war, the economy of an occupied country can only be required to bear the expenses of the occupation, and these should not be greater than ,the economy of the country can reasonably be expected to bear. Article 56 reads as follows:
" The property of municipalities, of religious, charitable, educational, artistic and scientific institutions, although belonging to the State, is to be accorded the same standing as private property. All pre-meditated seizure, destruction. or damage of such institutions historical monuments, works of art and science, is prohibited and should be prosecuted."The evidence in this case has established, however, that the territories occupied by Germany were exploited for the German war effort in the most ruthless way, without consideration of the local economy, and in 53 consequence of a deliberate design and policy. There was in truth a systematic " plunder of public or private property ", which was criminal under Article 6 (b) of the Charter. The German occupation policy was clearly stated in a speech made by the defendant Goering on the 6th August, 1942, to the various German authorities in charge of occupied territories:
" God knows, you are not sent out there to work for the welfare of the people in your charge, but to get the utmost out of them, so that the German people can live. That is what I expect of your exertions. This everlasting concern about foreign people must cease now, once and for all. I have here before me reports on what you are expected to deliver. It is nothing at all, when I consider your territories. It makes no difference to me in this connection if you say that your people will starve."The methods employed to exploit the resources of the occupied territories to the full varied from country to country. In some of the occupied countries in the East and the West, this exploitation was carried out within the framework of the existing economic structure. The local industries were put under German supervision, and the distribution of war materials was rigidly controlled. The industries thought to be of value to the German war effort were compelled to continue, and most of the rest were closed down altogether. Raw materials and the finished products alike were confiscated for the needs of the Germany industry. As early as the 19th October, 1939, the defendant Goering had issued a directive giving detailed instructions for the administration of the occupied territories, it provided:
" The task for the economic treatment of the various administrative regions is different, depending on whether the country is involved which will be incorporated politically into the German Reich, or whether we will deal with the Government-General, which in all probability will not be made a part of Germany. In the first mentioned territories, the . . . safeguarding of all their productive facilities and supplies must be aimed at, as well s a complete incorporation into the Greater German economic system, at the earliest possible time. On the other hand, there must be removed from the territories of the Government-General all raw materials, scrap materials, machines, etc., which are of use for the German war economy. Enterprises which are not absolutely necessary for the meagre maintenance of the naked existence of the population must be transferred to Germany, unless such transfer would require an unreasonably long period of time, and would make it more practicable to exploit those enterprises by giving them German orders, to be executed at their present location."As a consequence of this order, agricultural products, raw materials needed by German factories, machine tools, transportation equipment, other finished products and even foreign securities and holdings of foreign exchange were all requisitioned and sent to Germany. These resources were requisitioned in a manner out of all proportion to the economic resources of those countries, and resulted in famine, inflation and an active black market. At first the German occupation authorities attempted to suppress the black market, because it was a channel of distribution keeping local products out of German hands. When attempts at suppression failed, a German purchasing agency was organised to make purchases for Germany on the black market, thus carrying out the assurance made by the defendant Goering that ,it was " necessary that all should know that if there is to be famine anywhere, it shall in no case be in Germany."
In many of the occupied countries of the East and the West, the authorities maintained the presence of paying for all the property which they seized. This elaborate presence of payment merely disguised the fact that the goods sent to Germany from these occupied countries were paid for by the occupied countries themselves, either by the device of excessive occupation costs only forced loans in return for a credit balance on a " clearing account " which was an account merely in name.
In most of the occupied countries of the East even this presence of legality was not maintained, economic exploitation became deliberate plunder. This policy was first put into effect in the administration of the Government-General in Poland. The main exploitation of the raw materials in the East was centred on agricultural products and very large amounts of food were shipped from the Government-General to Germany.
The evidence of the widespread starvation among the Polish ,people in the Government-General indicates the ruthlessness and the severity with which the policy of exploitation was carried out.
The occupation of the territories of the U.S.S.R., was characterised by premeditated and systematic looting. Before the attack on the U.S.S.R., an economic staff -Oldenburg- was organised to ensure the most efficient exploitation of Soviet territories. The German armies were to be fed out of Soviet territory, even if "many millions of people will be starved to death." An OKW directive issued before the attack said:
" To obtain the greatest possible quantity of food and crude oil for Germany- that is the main economic purpose of the campaign."Similarly, a declaration by the defendant Rosenberg of the 20th June, 1941, had advocated the use of the produce from Southern Russia and of the Northern Caucasus to feed the German people, saying:
" We see absolutely no reason for any obligation on our part to feed also the Russian people with the products of that surplus territory. We know that this is a harsh necessity, bare of any feelings."When the Soviet territory was occupied, this policy was put into effect; there was a large scale confiscation of agricultural supplies, with complete disregard of the needs of the inhabitants of the occupied territory.
In addition to the seizure of raw materials and manufactured articles, a wholesale seizure was made of art treasures, furniture, textiles and similar articles in all the invaded countries.
The defendant Rosenberg was designated by Hitler on the 29th January 1940, Head of the Centre for National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, and thereafter the organisation known as the " Einsatzstab Rosenberg" conducted its operations on a very great scale. Originally designed for the establishment of a research library, it developed into a project for the seizure of cultural treasures. On the 1st March, 1942, Hitler issued a further decree, authorising Rosenberg to search libraries lodges and cultural establishments, to seize material from these establishments, as well as culture treasures owned by Jews. Similar directions were given where the ownership could not be clearly established. The decree directed the cooperation of the Wehrmacht High Command, and indicated that Rosenberg's activities in the West were to be conducted in his capacity as Reichsleiter, and in the East in his capacity as Reichsminister. Thereafter, Rosenberg's activities were extended to the occupied countries. The report of Robert Scholz, Chief of the special staff for Pictorial Art, stated:
"During the period from March, 1941, to July, 1944, the special staff for Pictorial Art brought into the Reich 29 large shipments, including 137 freight cars with 4,174 cases of art works."The report of Scholz refers to 25 portfolios of pictures of the most valuable works of the art collection seized in the West, which portfolios were presented to the Fuehrer. Thirty-nine volumes, prepared by the Einsatzstab, contained photographs of paintings, textiles, furniture, candelabra and numerous other objects of art, and illustrated the value and magnitude of the collection which had been made. In many of the occupied countries private collections were robbed, libraries were plundered, and private houses were pillaged.
Museums, palaces and libraries in the occupied territories of the U.S.S.R. were systematically looted. Rosenberg's Einsatzstab, Ribbentrop's special " Battalion ", the Reichscommissars and representatives of the Military Command seized objects of cultural and historical value belonging to the people of the Soviet Union, which were sent to Germany. Thus, the Reichscommissar of the Ukraine removed paintings and objects of art from Kiev and Kharkov and sent them to East Prussia. Rare volumes and objects of art from the palaces of Peterhof, Tsarskeye Selo, and Pavlovsk were shipped to Germany. In his letter to Rosenberg of the 3rd October, 1941, Reichscommissar Kube stated that the value of the objects of art taken from Byelorussia ran into millions of roubles. The scale of this plundering can also be seen in the letter sent from Rosenberg's department to von Milde-Schreden in which it is stated that during the month of October, 1943, alone, about 40 box-cars loaded with objects of cultural value were transported to the Reich.
With regard to the suggestion that the purpose of the seizure of art treasures was protective and meant for their preservation, it is necessary to say a few words. On the 1st December, 1939, Himmler, as the Reich Commissioner for the " strengthening of Germanism ", issued a decree to the regional officers of the secret police in the annexed eastern territories, and to the commanders of the security service in Radom, Warsaw and Lublin. This decree contained administrative directions for carrying out the art seizure programme, and in Clause 1 it is stated:
" To strengthen Germanism in the defence of the Reich, all articles mentioned in Section 2 of this decree are hereby confiscated.... They are confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich, and are at the disposal of the Reich Commissioner for the strengthening of Germanism."The intention to enrich Germany by the seizures, rather than to protect the seized objects, is indicated in an undated report by Dr. Hans Posse, director of the Dresden State Picture Gallery:
" I was able to gain some knowledge on the public and private collections, as well as clerical property, in Cracow and Warsaw. It is true that we cannot hope too much to enrich ourselves from the acquisition of great art works of paintings and sculptures, with the exception of the Veit-Stoss altar, and the plates of Hans von Kulnback in the Church of Maria in Cracow . . . and several other works from the national museum in Warsaw "SLAVE LABOUR POLICY
Article 6 (b) of the Charter provides that the " ill-treatment ,or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose, of civilian population of or in occupied territory" shall be a war crime. The laws relating to forced labour by the inhabitants of occupied territories are found in Article 52 of The Hague Convention, which provides:-
" Requisition in kind and services shall not be demanded from municipalities or inhabitants except for the needs of the army of occupation. They shall be in proportion to the resources of the country, and of such a nature as not to involve the inhabitants in the obligation of taking part in military operations against their own country."The policy of the German occupation authorities was in flagrant violation of the terms of this Convention. Some idea of this policy may be gathered from the statement made by Hitler in a speech on 9th November, 1941:-
" The territory which now works for us contains more than 250,000,000 men, but the territory which works indirectly for us includes now more than 350,000,000. In the measure in which it concerns German territory, the domain which we have taken under our administration, it is not doubtful that we shall succeed in harnessing the very last man to this work."The actual results achieved were not so complete as this, but the German occupation authorities did succeed in forcing many of the inhabitants of the occupied territories to work for the German war effort, and in deporting at least 5,000,000 persons to Germany to serve German industry and agriculture.
In the early stages of the war, manpower in the occupied territories was under the control of various occupation authorities, and the procedure varied from country to country. In all the occupied territories compulsory labour service was promptly instituted. Inhabitants of the occupied countries were conscripted and compelled to work in local occupations, to assist the German war economy. In many cases they were forced to work on German fortifications and military installations. As local supplies of raw materials and local industrial capacity became' inadequate to meet the German requirements, the system of deporting labourers to Germany was put into force. By the middle of April, 1940, compulsory deportation of labourers to Germany had been ordered in the Government General; and a similar procedure was followed in other eastern territories as they were occupied. A description of this compulsory deportation from Poland was given by Himmler. In an address to SS officers he recalled how in weather 40 degrees below zero they had to " haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands." On a later occasion Himmler stated:-
" Whether ten thousand Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished.... We must realise that we have 6-7 million foreigners in Germany.... They are none of them dangerous so long as we take severe measures at the merest trifles."During the first two years of the German occupation of France, Belgium, Holland and Norway, however, an attempt was made to obtain the necessary workers on a voluntary basis. How unsuccessful this was may be seen from the report of the meeting of the Central Planning Board on the 1st March, 1944. The representative of the defendant Speer, one Koehrl, speaking of the situation in France, said:-
" During all this time a great number of Frenchmen were recruited, and voluntarily went to Germany."He was interrupted by the defendant Sauckel:
" Not only voluntary, some were recruited forcibly."To which Koehrl replied:
" The calling up started after the recruitment no longer yielded enough results."To which the defendant Sauckel replied:
" Out of the five million workers who arrived in Germany, not even 200,000 came voluntarily,"and Koehrl rejoined:-
" Let us forget for the moment whether or not some slight pressure was used. Formally, at least, they were volunteers."Committees were set up to encourage recruiting, and a vigorous propaganda campaign was begun to induce workers to volunteer for service in Germany. This propaganda campaign included, for example, the promise that a prisoner of war would be returned for every labourer who volunteered to go to Germany. In some cases it was supplemented by withdrawing the ration cards of labourers who refused to go to Germany, or by discharging them from their jobs and denying them unemployment benefit or an opportunity to work elsewhere. In some cases workers and their families were threatened with reprisals by the police if they refused to go to Germany. It was on the 21st March, 1942, that the defendant Sauckel was appointed Plenipotentiary-General for the Utilisation of Labour, with authority over " all available manpower, including that of workers recruited abroad, and of prisoners of war."
The defendant Sauckel was directly under the defendant Goering as Commissioner of the Four Year Plan, and a Goering decree of the 27th March, 1942, transferred all his authority over manpower to Sauckel. Sauckel's instructions, too, were that foreign labour should be recruited on a voluntary basis, but also provided that " where, however, in the occupied territories the appeal for volunteers does not suffice, obligatory service and drafting must under all circumstances be resorted to. " Rules requiring labour service in Germany were published in all the occupied territories. The number of labourers to be supplied was fixed by Sauckel, and the local authorities were instructed to meet these requirements by conscription if necessary. That conscription was the rule rather than the exception is shown by the statement of Sauckel already quoted, on the 1st March, 1944.
The defendant Sauckel frequently asserted that the workers belonging to foreign nations were treated humanely, and that the conditions in which they lived were good. But whatever the intention of Sauckel may have been, and however much he may have desired that foreign labourers should be treated humanely, the evidence before the Tribunal establishes the fact that the conscription of labour was accomplished in many cases by drastic and violent methods. The " mistakes and blunders " were on a very great scale. Man-hunts took place in the streets, at motion picture houses, even at churches and at night in private houses. Houses were sometimes burnt down, and the families taken as hostages, practices which were described by the defendant Rosenberg as having their origin " in the blackest periods of the slave trade." The methods used in obtaining forced labour from the Ukraine appear from an order issued to SD officers which stated:
" It will not be possible always to refrain from using force.... When searching villages, especially when it has been necessary to burn down a village, the whole population will be put at the disposal of the Commissioner by force.... As a rule no more children will be shot.... If we limit harsh measures through the above orders for the time being, it is only done for the following reason.... The most important thing is the recruitment of workers."The resources and needs of the occupied countries were completely disregarded in carrying out this policy. The treatment of the labourers was governed by Sauckel's instructions of the 20th April. 1942. to the effect that:
" All the men must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure."The evidence showed that workers destined for the Reich were sent under guard to Germany, often packed in trains without adequate heat, food, clothing or sanitary facilities. The evidence further showed that the treatment of the labourers in Germany in many cases was brutal and degrading. The evidence relating to the Krupp Works at Essen showed that punishments of the most cruel kind were inflicted on the workers. Theoretically at least the workers were paid, housed and fed by the DAF and even permitted to transfer their savings and to send mail and parcels back to their native country; but restrictive regulations took a proportion of the pay; the camps in which they were housed were insanitary; and the food was very often less than the minimum necessary to give the workers strength to do their jobs. In the case of Poles employed on farms in Germany, the employers were given authority to inflict corporal punishment and were ordered, if possible, to house them in stables, not in their own homes. They were subject to constant supervision by the Gestapo and the SS, and if they attempted to leave their jobs they were sent to correction camps or concentration camps. The concentration camps were also used to increase the supply of labour. Concentration camp commanders were ordered to work their prisoners to the limits of their physical power. During the latter stages of the war the concentration camps were so productive in certain types of work that the Gestapo was actually instructed to arrest certain classes of labourers so that they could be used in this way. Allied prisoners of war were also regarded as a possible source of labour. Pressure was exercised on non-commissioned officers to force them to consent to work, by transferring to disciplinary camps those who did not consent. Many of the prisoners of war were assigned to work directly related to military operations, in violation of Article 31 of the Geneva Convention. They were put to work in munition factories and even made to load bombers, to carry ammunition and to dig trenches, often under the most hazardous conditions. This condition applied particularly to the Soviet prisoners of war. On the 16th February, 1943, at a meeting of the Central Planning Board, at which the defendants Sauckel and Speer were present, Milch said:
" We have made a request for an order that a certain percentage of men in the Ack-Ack artillery must be Russians; 50,000 will be taken altogether. 30,000 are already employed as gunners. This is an amusing thing, that Russians must work the guns."And on the 4th October, 1943, at Posen, Himmler, speaking of the Russian prisoners, captured in the early days of the war, said:
"At that time we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it to-day, as raw material, as labour. What after all thinking in terms of generations, is not to be regretted, but is now deplorable by reason of the loss of labour, is that the prisoners - died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger."The general policy underlying the mobilisation of slave labour was stated by Sauckel on the 20th April, 1942. He said:
" The aim of this new gigantic labour mobilisation is to use all the rich and tremendous sources conquered and secured for us by our fighting armed forces under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, for the armament of the armed forces, and also for the nutrition of the Homeland. The raw materials, as well as the fertility of the conquered territories and their human labour power, are to be used completely and conscientiously to the profit of Germany and her Allies.... All prisoners of war from the territories of the West, as well as the East, actually in Germany, must be completely incorporated into the German armament and nutrition industries.... Consequently it is an immediate necessity to use the human reserves of the conquered Soviet territory to the fullest extent. Should we not succeed in obtaining the necessary amount of labour on a voluntary basis, we must immediately institute conscription or forced labour.... The complete employment of all prisoners of war, as well as the use of a gigantic number of new foreign civilian workers, men and women, has become an indisputable necessity for the solution of the mobilisation of the labour programme in this war."Reference should also be made to the policy which was in existence in Germany by the summer of 1940, under which all aged, insane, and incurable people, " useless eaters," were transferred to special institutions where they were killed, and their relatives informed that they had died from natural causes. The victims were not confined to German citizens, but included foreign labourers, who were no longer able to work, and were therefore useless to the German war machine. It has been estimated that at least some 275,000 people were killed in this manner in nursing homes, hospitals and asylums, which were under the jurisdiction of the defendant Frick, in his capacity as Minister of the Interior. How many foreign workers were included in this total it has been quite impossible to determine.
PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS
The persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi Government has been proved in the greatest detail before the Tribunal. It is a record of consistent and systematic inhumanity on the greatest scale. Ohlendorf, chief of Amt III in the RSHA from 1939 to 1943, and who was in command of one of the Einsatz groups in the campaign against the Soviet Union testified as to the methods employed in the extermination of the Jews. He said that he employed firing squads to shoot the victims in order to lessen the sense of individual guilt on the part of his men; and the 90,000 men, women and children who were murdered in one year by his particular group were mostly Jews.
When the witness Bach Zelewski was asked how Ohlendorf could admit the murder of 90,000 people, he replied:
"I am of the opinion that when, for years, for decades, the doctrine is preached that the Slav race is an inferior race, and Jews not even human, then such an outcome is inevitable."But the defendant Frank spoke the final words of this chapter of Nazi history when he testified in this court:
" We have fought against Jewry, we have fought against it for years: and we have allowed ourselves to make utterances and my own diary has become a witness against me in this connection- utterances which are terrible.... A thousand years will pass and this guilt of Germany will not be erased."The anti-Jewish policy was formulated in Point 4 of the Party Programme which declared " Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently, no Jew can be a member of the race." Other points of the programme declared that Jews should be treated as foreigners, that they should not be permitted to hold public office, that they should be expelled from the Reich if it were impossible to nourish the entire population of the State, that they should be denied any further immigration into Germany, and that they should be prohibited from publishing German newspapers. The Nazi Party preached these doctrines throughout its history. " Der Stuermer" and other publications were allowed to disseminate hatred of the Jews, and in the speeches and public declarations of the Nazi leaders, the Jews were held up to public ridicule and contempt.
With the seizure of power, the persecution of the Jews was intensified. A series of discriminatory laws were passed, which limited the offices and professions permitted to Jews; and restrictions were placed on their family life and their rights of citizenship. By the autumn of 1938, the Nazi policy towards the Jews had reached the stage where it was directed towards the complete exclusion of Jews from German life. Pogroms were organised which included the burning and demolishing of synagogues, the looting of Jewish businesses, and the arrest of prominent Jewish business men. A collective fine of one billion marks was imposed on the Jews, the seizure of Jewish assets was authorised, and the movement of Jews was restricted by regulations to certain specified districts and hours. The creation of ghettoes was carried out on an extensive scale, and by an order of the Security Police Jews were compelled to wear a yellow star to be worn on the breast and back.
It was contended for the Prosecution that certain aspects of this anti-Semitic policy were connected with the plans for aggressive war. The violent measures taken against the Jews in November, 1938, were nominally in retaliation for the killing of an official of the German Embassy in Paris. But the decision to seize Austria and Czechoslovakia had been made a year before. The imposition of a fine of one billion marks was made, and the confiscation of the financial holdings of the Jews was decreed, at a time when German armament expenditure had put the German treasury in difficulties, and when the reduction of expenditure on armaments was being considered. These steps were taken, moreover, with the approval of the defendant Goering, who had been given responsibility for economic matters of this kind, and who was the strongest advocate of an extensive rearmament programme notwithstanding the financial difficulties.
It was further said that the connection of the anti-Semitic policy with aggressive war was not limited to economic matters. The German Foreign Office circular, in an article of 25th January, 1939, entitled " Jewish question as a factor in German Foreign Policy in the year 1938", described the new phase in the Nazi anti-Semitic policy in these words:
" It is certainly no coincidence that the fateful year 1938 has brought nearer the solution of the Jewish question simultaneously with the realisation of the idea of Greater Germany, since the Jewish policy was both the basis and consequence of the events of the year 1938. The advance made by Jewish influence and the destructive Jewish spirit in politics, economy, and culture paralysed the power and the will of the German people to rise again, more perhaps even than the power policy opposition of the former enemy Allied powers of the first World War. The healing of this sickness among the people was therefore certainly one of the most important requirements for exerting the force which, in the year 1938, resulted in the joining together of Greater Germany in defiance of the world."The Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany before the war, severe and repressive as it was, cannot compare, however, with the policy pursued during the war in the occupied territories. Originally the policy was similar to that which had been in force inside Germany. Jews were required to register, were forced to live in ghettoes, to wear the yellow star, and were used as slave labourers. In the summer of 1941, however, plans were made for the " final solution" of the Jewish question in all of Europe. This " final solution " meant the extermination of the Jews, which early in 1939 Hitler had threatened would be one of the consequences of an outbreak of war, and a special section in the Gestapo under Adolf Eichmann, as head of Section B4 of the Gestapo, was formed to carry out the policy.
The plan for exterminating the Jews was developed shortly after the attack on the Soviet Union. Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD, formed for the purpose of breaking the resistance of the population of the areas lying behind the German armies in the East, were given the duty of exterminating the Jews in those areas. The effectiveness of the work of the Einsatzgruppen is shown by the fact that in February, 1942, Heydrich was able to report that Estonia had already been cleared of Jews and that in Riga the number of Jews had been reduced from 29,500 to 2,500. Altogether the Einsatzgruppen operating in the occupied Baltic States killed over 135,000 Jews in three months.
Nor did these special units operate completely independently of the German Armed Forces. There is clear evidence that leaders of the Einsatzgruppen obtained the co-operation of Army Commanders. In one case the relations between an Einsatzgruppe and the military authorities was described at the time as being "very close, almost cordial "; in another case the smoothness of an Einsatz-commando's operation was attributed to the " understanding for this procedure " shown by the army authorities.
Units of the Security Police and SD in the occupied territories of the East, which were under civil administration, were given a similar task. The planned and systematic character of the Jewish persecutions is best illustrated by the original report of the SS Brigadier-General Stroop, who was in charge of the destruction of the ghetto in Warsaw, which took place in 1943. The Tribunal received in evidence that report, illustrated with photographs, bearing on its title page: "The Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists." The volume records a series of reports sent by Stroop to the Higher SS and Police Fuehrer East. In April and May, 1943, in one report, Stroop wrote:
" The resistance put up by the Jews and bandits could only be suppressed by energetic actions of our troops day and night. The Reichsfuehrer SS ordered therefore on the 23rd April, 1943 the cleaning out of the ghetto with utter ruthlessness and merciless tenacity. I therefore decided to destroy and burn down the entire ghetto, without regard to the armament factories. These factories were systematically dismantled and then burnt. Jews usually left their hideouts, but frequently remained in the burning buildings, and jumped out of the windows only when the heat became unbearable. They then tried to crawl with broken bones across the street into buildings which were not afire.... Life in the sewers was not pleasant after the first week. Many times we could hear loud voices in the sewers.... Tear gas bombs were thrown into the manholes, and the Jews driven out of the sewers and captured. Countless numbers of Jews were liquidated in sewers and bunkers through blasting. The longer the resistance continued, the tougher became the members of the Waffen SS, Police and Wehrmacht, who always discharged their duties in an exemplary manner."Stroop recorded that his action at Warsaw eliminated "a proved total of 56,065 people. To that we have to add the number of those killed through blasting, fire, etc., which cannot be counted." Grim evidence of mass murders of Jews was also presented to the Tribunal in cinematograph films depicting the communal graves of hundreds of victims which were subsequently discovered by the Allies.
These atrocities were all part and parcel of the policy inaugurated in 1941, and it is not surprising that there should be evidence that one or two German officials entered vain protests against the brutal manner in which the killings were carried out. But the methods employed never conformed to a single pattern. The massacres of Rowno and Dubno, of which the German engineer Graebe spoke, were examples of one method, the systematic extermination of Jews in concentration camps, was another Part of the " final solution " was the gathering of Jews from all German occupied Europe in concentration camps. Their physical condition was the test of life or death. All who were fit to work were used as slave labourers in the concentration camps; all who were not fit to work were destroyed in gas chambers and their bodies burnt. Certain concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz were set aside for this main purpose. With regard to Auschwitz, the Tribunal heard the evidence of Hoess, the Commandant of the camp from 1st May, 1940, to 1st December, 1943. He estimated that in the camp of Auschwitz alone in that time 2,500,000 persons were exterminated, and that a further 500,000 died from disease and starvation. Hoess described the screening for extermination by stating in evidence:
" We had two SS doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. The prisoners would be marched by one of the doctors who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit for work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavoured to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realised our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under their clothes, but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated."He described the actual killing by stating:
" It took from three to fifteen minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about one half-hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses."Beating, starvation, torture, and killing were general. The inmates were subjected to cruel experiments at Dachau in August, 1942, victims were immersed in cold water until their body temperature was reduced to 28 Centigrade, when they died immediately. Other experiments included high altitude experiments in pressure chambers, experiments to determine how long human beings could survive in freezing water, experiments with poison bullets, experiments with contagious diseases, and experiments dealing with sterilisation of men and women by X-rays and other methods.
Evidence was given of the treatment of the inmates before and after their extermination. There was testimony that the hair of women victims was cut off before they were killed, and shipped to Germany, there to be used in the manufacture of mattresses. The clothes, money and valuables of the inmates were also salvaged and sent to the appropriate agencies for disposition. After the extermination the gold teeth and fillings were taken from the heads of the corpses and sent to the Reichsbank.
After cremation the ashes were used for fertilizer, and in some instances attempts were made to utilise the fat from the bodies of the victims in the commercial manufacture of soap. Special groups travelled through Europe to find Jews and subject them to the " final solution." German missions were sent to such satellite countries as Hungary and Bulgaria, to arrange for the shipment of Jews to extermination camps and it is known that by the end of 1944, 400,000 Jews from Hungary had been murdered at Auschwitz. Evidence has also been given of the evacuation of 110,000 Jews from part of Roumania for "liquidation." Adolf Eichmann, who had been put in charge of this programme by Hitler, has estimated that the policy pursued resulted in the killing of 6,000,000 Jews, of which 4.000.000 were killed in the extermination institutions.
5 July , Britain and the United States recognised the new provisional
government as the legal authority in Poland. Out of twenty-five
members, sixteen came from the Soviet-sponsored 'Lublin Committee',
including Osóbka-Morawski, now prime minister, and Bierut as head of
state. But much of the real strength lay with Władysław Gomułka; he was
a deputy premier but also, far more importantly, secretary of the
Polish Workers' Party (PPR), the Communists.|
The other deputy premier was Mikołajczyk, who also became minister of agriculture. Huge crowds welcomed Mikołajczyk when he flew back to Warsaw, and, with Bierut scowling anxiously in the background, he made a brave speech promising to heal all wounds and restore 'a truly free, independent and sovereign Polish Republic'.
Poland in the summer of 1945 was a land in which everyone was on the move. The cities were mostly in ruins, except for Kraków which became for a while the intelIectual centre of the nation. From the east came much of the by train, cart or on foot towards new homes in the west. From Britain and Germany came return ing soldiers and tattered, emaciated thousands freed from the concentration camps, factories and farms of the Third Reich. From what had been Pomerania, Silesia and East Prussia, about three million Germans had already fled. Now, the first of over three million who remained were being driven out of their homes, most of them to land up in the British zone of Germany; the cities of Breslau and Danzig, both smashed to rubble in the last months of war, became Wrocław and Gdańsk. The surviving railway lines were clogged with Soviet trains crawling eastwards, carrying not only an incredible assortment of personal booty but the machinery and stock of German factories in the new Western Territories which were by right Polish property. It was three years before the great 'resettlements' came to rest.
Wroclaw, Poland: the capital of Polish Silesia, proud of its Roman - Catholic past, present and future silesian.eu
The war had cost Poland the death of a fifth of its population, and the destruction of over a third of the national wealth. As if that blood-letting had not been enough, Poles were killing each other as remnants of the resistance fought on against the new regime. And yet these first post-war years were also a time of irrepressible energy, even of optimism. Much of the energy was spontaneous, as the Poles threw themselves into the business of building what was almost a new country. The Western Territories, taken from the Germans, were at first a 'Wild West' where the incoming Polish settlers seized what had been left behind, pulled ploughs themselves where there were no horses and organised their own communities long before official authority became effective. Workers took over factories and started production on their own, without waiting for a manager to arrive. The people of Warsaw went back to the ruins and piled bricks together to make shelters; the legend tells that the first shop to open was a boutique for ladies' hats.
The English novelist Storm Jameson visited Warsaw in September 1945. She saw 'narrow lanes tracing the lines of vanished streets between the scorched shells of houses, each vomiting its dust-choked torrent of rubble. With only spades and bare hands, men and a few women working headlong to clear them.
After all the half-measures of the years before 1939, a sweeping and radical land reform was carried through. The estates were broken up and distributed to the peasants; only in the Western Territories did the government keep the big Prussian estates intact, to be used as state farms. It is one of the ironies of Polish history that it was Communist-inspired policy that turned most of Poland into a patchwork of little private strip-fields, owned by peasants whose fierce independence and primitive methods have hampered the planned economy ever since. Basic industries were nationalised, and by 1946 the state sector controlled over ninety per cent of industrial production.
Poland in 1945 was ready, even impatient, for swift and revolutionary social change. The radical mood which had arisen during the Nazi occupation still prevailed; not only workers and peasants but the surviving intellectuals wanted to create a new, strong, socially just and egalitarian nation, to overcome all the weaknesses which had contributed to the loss of independence in 1939. In another country, this mood would have given a Communist Party its historie opportunity to take the leadership of this hunger for change. But in Poland, where the Communists had been escorted to power by Soviet bayonets, it was a different matter.
As party leader, Władysław Gomułka saw this very clearly. He was unlike most of his colleagues in the PPR leadership in two ways: he was a worker rather than an intellectual, and he had spent the war in the underground in Poland rather than in the Soviet Union. His two predecessors, both parachuted in from Moscow, had died in the war: Marceli Nowotko was murdered in a still-mysterious feud in 1942, and his successor Pawel Finder had been arrested by the Gestapo the following year. Gomułka had led the PPR side in the unsuccessful negotiations for a common military and political platform with the Home Army. As the new secretary of the PPR, he had taken an independent line, helped by an accidental but convenient breakdown in radio contact with Moscow when he took office.
Gomułka was a harsh intolerant personality with a violent temper. His grim, bony skulI, eyes peering at the world through steel-rimmed spectacles, encouraged his opponents to regard him as a pitiless Marxist fanatic. But although he was a convinced Communist, he was never a 'Comintern man' who took orders unquestioningly from the Great Socialist Motherland. The fact that he was in prison at the time probably saved him from the fate of his comrades in the old KPP, who were summoned to Moscow and for the most part murdered in 1938.
This was a crime which Gomulka never forgot. He accepted the need for close alliance between Poland and the Soviet Union, and the Soviet military and political support without which - given the strength of the non-Communist parties in the first years - the Communists would neither have acquired the main share of power nor kept it for more than a few weeks. But he intended to find a 'Polish Road to Socialism' which would avoid the mistakes of the Soviet Union and find gradual acceptance in a Catholic nation whose patriotic tradition was anti-Russian.
In this up hill task, he faced three main problems. The first was Soviet behaviour within Poland, where Soviet 'advisers' had taken command of the security police and where Russian soldiers we re running wild, looting and frequently killing. The second was his own party. The PPR membership had risen from 30,000 at the beginning of 1945 to some 300,000 by April, swamping the party with careerists, half-baked revolutionaries and mere brigands who in some places were threatening to collectivise the land and even announcing that Poland was to become a republic of the Soviet Union.
The third problem, which became dangerous the moment that Mikolajczyk returned to Poland, was the huge revival of non-Communist politics, headed by the Peasant Party. Gomulka might wish to give a democratic appearance as he moved cautiously along his 'Polish Road' but, unless he could smash or cripple these political rivals before the 'free elections' prescribed by Yalta, the PPR would be swept away.
Gomulka made some progress. He ensured that the new government behaved with ostentatious respect towards the Church, and Bierut, as head of state, walked with Catholic bishops in religious processions. The Soviet Union made a faint show of goodwill by imposing only light sentences on the kidnapped resistance leaders in Moscow. More important for Poland's stability was the final Big Three meeting at Potsdam in July 1945, at which Stalin - against British and American doubts - insisted on the demarcation of Poland' s new western border along the rivers Oder and Neisse, including the city of Stettin (Szczecin) on the west bank of the Oder estuary. Final recognition of the Oder-Neisse frontier was deferred to a future peace conference. As for Gomulka's problems with the PPR, the bubble burst soon after Mikolajczyk's return; party membership collapsed to about 65,000 in the summer of 1945 as masses of Poles defected to the Peasant Party and the other revolving groups.
But the bloodshed went on. Although Bór- Komorowski's successor as head of the Home Army, General Leopold Okulicki, had dissolved the AK in January, some Home Army units and many NSZ bands carried on the struggle, raiding towns and villages to murder PPR members and ambushing Soviet convoys on the roads. In return, Polish security troops aided by Soviet regulars carried out their own repressions and atrocities. An amnesty in August 1945 brought 42,000 men and women out of the underground, but Okulicki's successor, Colonel Jan Rzepecki, then organised a new Freedom and lndependence Resistance (WiN), in touch with the exile government in London, and fought on. A separate problem was a desperate and determined army of Ukrainian partisans in the foothills of the Carpathians, whose final success before dissolving and escaping to the West was to ambush and kill General Karol Świerczewski ('General Walter' of the Spanish Civil War) in March 1947.
The fighting - almost a Polish Civil war - cost tens of thousands of lives and poisoned political life with hatred, as Gomułka and Bierut accused Mikołajczyk and his allies of secret contact with the underground. It petered out only in early 1947, when another amnesty brought most of the surviving guerrillas out of the forests. The Ukrainian population of south-eastern Poland suffered savage punishment. Their villages were destroyed; some Ukrainian groups were resettled in the Western Territories and the rest deported to summary execution or labour camps in the Soviet Union.
In June 1946, there was a first trial of strength between the political parties of the new Poland. The Communists needed public evidence that the 'programme of the left' had popular support; ingeniously, they proposed a referendum on three questions to which they knew that most Poles - whatever their politics - would be inclined to answer 'Yes'. The referendum asked the electors whether they approved of the abolition of the Senate (the upper house of parliament), of land reform and the nationalisation of basic industries, and of the new frontiers on the Oder-Neisse line.
These questions put Mikołajczyk in a trap - as they were meant to. His party had supported all three changes. Yet he could not miss this chance to show the world the strength of the PSL. Rather unconvincingly, he launched a campaign for a 'Yes' to the last two points but a 'No' to the abolition of the Senate. The PPR, supported by most of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), toured the country calling for 'Three Times Yes'.
The question on the Senate had become a vote of confidence in the government's domination by the Communists, and the campaign was a chaos of abuse and intimidation. The polling took place on 30 June. Ten days later, the government announced the results: on the vital first question, sixty-eight per cent had voted 'Yes' and only thirty-two per cent 'No'. Jerzy Morawski, then one of the younger Communist leaders, today admits with bitter candour: 'I found out afterwards that the results had been faked. In reality, the situation was probably just the reverse: two-thirds had voted for what Mikołajczyk was asking.' For the inner circle of the PPR (the Communists), who knew the real totals, the referendum was an ugly shock. Morawski recalls: 'It was a warning which showed how strong the influence of Mikołajczyk's opposition was in Poland. It showed how much effort to pressurise, destroy, intimidate and discredit Mikołajczyk's opposition was still needed in order to win the elections.'
It was an effort which Gomułka and Bierut now proceeded to make. The Yalta 'free' elections did not take place until January 1947, but the six months that followed the 'Three Times Yes' referendum brought an onslaught of official terror against the Peasant Party. Meetings of the PSL were broken up by mobs, party buildings were destroyed, PSL members were threatened with the loss of their jobs, and there was astring of arrests, kidnappings and murders. In the midst of this violence, a horrific incident took place at Kielce in July 1946, when a building sheltering Jews on their way from the USSR to Palestine was attacked and forty of them were killed. At the time, everybody blamed everyone else for the 'Kielce Pogrom'. Mikołajczyk claimed it was a Communist police provocation, while others saw it as a spontaneous explosion of the anti-Semitism which was, undeniably, a part of the hysterical mood of Poland in the first years after the war. The Communists said the pogrom was the work of right-wing nationalists. The right-wingers and several Catholic bishops retorted by pointing out that many of the Communist leaders who had spent the war in the Soviet Union were Jews, especially in the secret police: a propaganda point which has festered in Polish consciousness ever since.
In the teeth of the storm, Mikołajczyk fought an erratic campaign. He appealed for international supervision of the elections, but Britain and the United States, now preoccupied with their confrontation with the Soviet Union in occupied Germany, paid no attention. For a time, the key to his victory seemed to lie with the PPS, the Polish socialists, now in tragic disorder. One fraction in the PPS wanted an open struggle against the Communists; even the pliable Osóbka-Morawski, the prime minister, was now rebelling against Gomułka's domineering style. Others, some from a genuine belief that the left must hold together and put through a socialist programme, some because they were fellow travellers planted in the PPS by the Communists or by Soviet intelligence, stood by the government and looked forward to an eventual fusion with the PPR. But when the Polish socialists approached the Peasant Party and asked them to join the (democratic bloc', hoping to keep Communist influence in the next government to a minimum, Mikołajczyk turned them down, refusing a secret offer of a quarter of the Sejm seats which would have made a mockery of the elections before they were even held.
Another body-blow to Mikołajczyk followed in September. Under President Truman, the United States was growing increasingly nervous about Soviet intentions in Europe. The Communist parties in France and Italy were powerful and militant; the western zones of Germany were sinking into a mire of hunger and hopelessness which looked like a breeding-ground for revolution. Conditions might soon be ripe for Stalin to advance his ideology and power to the Atlantic, if he so wished. In this situation, American aims rapidly changed from the hope of keeping Europe united to a policy of drawing a fire-break across the continent which Communism could not surrnount.The first requirement of the new policy was to show the Germans that the United States was not a hostile occupying power but a potential friend.
"The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson
(1901 - 1948)
(1901 - 1948)
(1901 - 1948)
(1901 - 1948)
|Napis głosi||The insciption reads||Написано||Die Platte lautet|
z najodważniejszych ludzi świata, oficer Wojska Polskiego i obywatel
ziemski, uczestnik wojny polsko-bolszewickiej 1920r. oraz wojny
1939r., współzałożyciel Tajnej Armii Polskiej, oficer Związku Walki
Zbrojnej / Armii Krajowej.|
W 1940r. przygotował i wykonał plan przedostania siędo niemieckiego obozu koncentracyhjnego KL Auschwitz. Dobrowolny więzień i organizator obozowej konspiracji, autor przekazywanych na Zachód pierwszych relacji o masowej zagładzie więźniów Auschwitz i o holokauście.
Po ucieczce z obozu w 1943r. Służył w organizacji “NIE” (NIEPODLEGŁOŚĆ), uczestnik Powstania Warszawskiego, żołnierz Korpusu Polskiego we Włoszech.
Jesienią 1945r. Powrócił do Krajum by dokumentować sowiecką okupację Polski.
W 1947r. Aresztowany, skazany na karę śmierci przez władze komunistyczne.
Został stracony 25 V 1948r. W Warszawie i pochowany w nieznanym miejscu,
W 2006r. Pośmiertnie odznaczony Orderem Orła Białego.
Wierny Polsce i idei wolności oddał życie w walce z dwoma totalitaryzmami XX wieku.
***Wewnątrz pomnika-obrączki widnieje fragment listu rotm. Pileckiego: "BO CHOĆBY MI PRZYSZŁO POSTRADAĆ ME ŻYCIE - TAK WOLĘ - NIŻ ŻYĆ, A MIEĆ W SERCU RANĘ"
List wysłany z więzienia w 1947r. adresatem był Józef Różański znany także jako Josek Goldberg, jeden z najbardziej okrutnych i najbardziej bestalskich masowych morderców reżimu stalinowskiego.
was one of the bravest men of this world, an officer of the Polish
Army, a member of the landed gentry, a participant in the Polish-Soviet
war in 1920 and the Second World War in 1939, the co-founderof the
Tajna Armia Polska (Secret Polish Army). In 1940 he arrangedad executed
a plan to infiltratethe German concentration camp Auschwitz. He was a
deliberate prisoner, the organiser of resistance conspiracy in the
campand the author of the first messages sent to the West about the
genocide of prisoners and the holocaust.|
After his escape from the campin 1943, he served in the “NIE” (“NO”, “INDEPENDENCE”) organization. participated in the Warsaw Uprising and was a soldier in the Polish II Corpsin Italy. In autumn of 1945 he returned to his country in order to document the Soviet occupation of Poland. In 1947 he was arrested by the communist authorities and sentenced to death. He was executed on the 25th of May 1948 and buried at an unknown location. In 2006 he was posthumously bestowed the Order of the White Eagle. Loyal to Poland and the idea of freedom, he gave his life battling two totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
Inscribed on the wedding band, is a fragment of a letter by capt. Pilecki: "FOR EVEN IF I WERE TO LOSE MY LIFE, I PREFER IT TO LIVING WITH A WOUNDED HEART"
***Letter sent from prison in 1947. The addressee of the letter was Joseph Rozanski also known as Yozek Goldberg, one of the most brutal and bestial mass murderers of the Stalin regime.
был одним из самых храбрых мужчин этого мира , офицер польской армии ,
члена поместного дворянства , и участника советско-польской войны в
1920 году и второй мировой войны в 1939 году , со- founderof Секретной
Армии Польша ( Польский секретная армия ) . В 1940 году он выполнил
план arrangedad этот infiltratethe немецкий концлагерь Освенцим . Он
был преднамеренным заключенный , организатор сопротивления заговора в
campand автор первых сообщений, отправляемых на Западе о геноциде
заключенных и Холокоста.|
После побега из Campin в 1943 году , он служил в "NO" ( "НЕТ" , "независимость" ) организации. Участвовал в Варшавском восстании и был солдатом в Польский II Corpsin Италии. Осенью 1945 г. он вернулся , что его страна для того, чтобы документировать советской оккупации Польши. В 1947 году он был арестован коммунистическими властями и приговорен к смертной казни . Он был казнен 25 мая 1948 года и похоронен в неизвестном месте . В 2006 году он был посмертно удостоен орденом Белого Орла . Верные Польше и идеи свободы , он отдал свою жизнь боролся два тоталитарных режимов 20-го века .
Включен в обручальное кольцо , является фрагментом письме Кап . Пилецкий : «ЗА ДАЖЕ ЕСЛИ БЫ Я ПОТЕРЯТЬ МОЕЙ ЖИЗНИ, Я ПРЕДПОЧИТАЮ, ЧТОБЫ ЭТО ЖИВУ С РАНЕНОЕ СЕРДЦЕ"
***Письмо отправлено из тюрьмы в 1947 году., адресатом письма был Йосеф Розанский также известный, как Йосек Голдберг, один из самых жестоких и самых зверских массовых убийц сталинского режима.
war einer der mutigsten Männer dieser Welt, ein Offizier der polnischen
Armee , ein Mitglied des Landadels und Teilnehmer an der
polnisch-sowjetischen Krieg 1920 und dem Zweiten Weltkrieg im Jahr 1939
, der Co- founderof der Secret Army Polen (Polnisch Secret Army ) . Im
Jahr 1940 führte er einen Plan arrangedad dieses infiltratethe
deutschen Konzentrationslager Auschwitz . Er war eine bewusste
Gefangener , der Organisator des Widerstands Verschwörung in der
campand der Autor von den ersten Nachrichten in den Westen geschickt
über den Völkermord von Gefangenen und den Holocaust.|
Nach seiner Flucht aus dem campin 1943 diente er in der "NO " ("NEIN" , "Unabhängigkeit" ) Organisation. im Warschauer Aufstand teil und war ein Soldat in der polnischen II Corpsin Italien . Im Herbst 1945 kehrte er , dass sein Land in Ordnung, die die sowjetische Besetzung Polens zu dokumentieren. Im Jahr 1947 wurde er von den kommunistischen Behörden verhaftet und zum Tode verurteilt. Er wurde am 25. Mai 1948 durchgeführt und an einem unbekannten Ort begraben. 2006 wurde er posthum verliehen dem Orden des Weißen Adlers . Loyal zu Polen und der Idee der Freiheit , gab er sein Leben kämpfenden beiden totalitären Regime des 20. Jahrhunderts.
Auf der Hochzeitsband eingeschrieben , ist ein Fragment eines Briefes an capt . Pilecki : "DENN AUCH , WENN ICH MEIN LEBEN VERLIERE , ZIEHE ICH ES LEBEN MIT EINER VERWUNDETES HERZ "
***Brief aus dem Gefängnis im Jahr 1947 gesendet. Der Adressat des Briefes war Joseph Rozanski auch als Yozek Goldberg bekannt , einer der brutalsten und bestialischen Massenmörder des Stalin-Regimes.
|The Second World War losses after the September 1st and 17th, 1939, aggression of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia against Poland|
Second world war losses: total killed per cent of 1939 population (Sleza Society graph)
WW2 second world war losses: civilians killed per cent of total killed (Sleza Society graph)
Poland's Population Second World War (WW2) - Related Loss
on September 1, 1939
invaded by Soviet Union
on September 17, 1939
on April 6,1941
on October 28,1940
from April 6, 1941
from December 1941
on June 22,1940
( Soviet Union, USSR )
its successor is Russian Federation
on September 17, 1939
and occupied 51,6% of Polish territory
till June 1941
invaded by Germany
|Germany incl. Austria|
DRANG NACH OSTEN
September 1939 - May 1945
"Preußen war in den Augen seiner Gegner der böse Geist Europas und eine Stütze des aggressiven Militarismus
Konrad Adenauer, Februar 1919 im Kölner Rathaus
Polish Underground Soldiers
1944 - 1963
The dismantling of the monument to Feliks Dzierzynski, Warsaw, Poland, November 16, 1989
June 12, 1990 Russia Day: Russia Independence from the Soviet Union, Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian SFSR, Декларация о государственном суверенитете РСФСР, by the First Congress of People's Deputies of the Russian SFSR
As long as acts of hatred against Polish people go unpunished,
some wrongdoers plan, encourage,
and advocate hate crimes and biased policies
against Poles and Poland.
In the 21st century anti-Polish hatred and anti-Polonism
Those in doubt should finally realize that
dr Zbigniew Halat, May 1, 2004
quixotic and controversial deputy minister of health, government
sanitary inspector, and chief environmental health officer, Zbigniew Halat MD
is engaged in a personal crusade to shake the health service out of the
spiritual atrophy induced by 45 years of communism. Hard working,
self reliant, aggressive, and abrasively masculine,
this man of Promethean energies put me in mind of a nineteenth century northern mill owner"
Karin Chopin, Letters from Poland: Too many advisers, not enough aid, British Medical Journal, May 30, 1992
Karin Chopin, Letters from Poland; Pollution most foul, British Medical Journal, June 6, 1992;
Karin Chopin, Letters from Poland, Post-totalitarian medicine, British Medical Journal, June 13, 1992
MOVE FOR HEALTH WALK POLAND LAND OF THE FREE
Poles are fiercely independent and stand up for their beliefs. US Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe, Sept 24, 2008
The Fundamental Rights Report 2019 by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA): “FRAs 2012 survey on violence against women remains the only source for EU comparable data”. Why no recent data from Germany, Sweden, UK, and other countries where girls and women are deprived of any protection against rapists?
Girls and women in many countries of Europe were exposed to high levels of violence well before the Soros/Merkel invasion of military age male rapists on Europe. Poland stands up for the value of human dignity and the interest of girls and women. What about you Mr. Timmermans?Global Movement for the Restoration of Human Rights in the European Union
Poland Chapter named after George Ivanov
Globalny Ruch na rzecz Przywrócenia Praw Człowieka w Unii Europejskiej
Oddział Polski imienia Jerzego Iwanowa Szajnowicza
Przed egzekucją wykonaną przez Niemców 4. stycznia 1943 wołał "Niech żyje Polska Niech żyje Grecja"
Γεώργιος Ιβάνοφ Πριν την εκτέλεση από τους Γερμανούς 4 Ιανουαρίου 1943 φώναξε: Ζήτω η Πολωνία, ζήτω η Ελλάδα». Executed on January 4, 1943. Before the execution shouted:"Long live Poland, long live Greece."
Jerzy Iwanow Szajnowicz Γεώργιος Ιβάνοφ George Ivanov
wielki Polak, bohater antyniemieckiego ruchu oporu w Grecji, an agent of British intelligence
his execution by the Germans statue in Thessaloniki
including pieces of
excerpts from "The Struggles for Poland" by Neal Ascherson (the First
American Edition Random House Inc., New