Destruction of Kalisz
||The neutrality of this article's introduction is disputed. (January 2013)|
The destruction and sacking of the city of Kalisz (Polish: zburzenie Kalisza) occurred in August 1914. It was perpetrated by the German Empire troops. From August 2 until August 22, 1914 at the beginning of World War I, one of the oldest towns in Poland (then under foreign Partitions), was shelled, bombed and burned down. The event is also known as Pogrom of Kalisz or Poland’s Louvain (see Schrecklichkeit atrocities).
Kalisz was founded in the 13th century on an ancient site encircled by Prosna river. It has a typical mediaeval urban structure. On February 13, 1793, Kalisz and the Kalisz region was annexed by Prussia during the partitions of Poland; but after Napoleon's defeat on the Eastern front, it was taken over by the Imperial Russia, which subsequently controlled the city for more than 100 years – from February 14, 1813, till August 2, 1914. The Prussian army invaded Kalisz from the nearby Ostrów Wielkopolski on August 2, 1914. Major Hermann Preusker, the commander of the second battalion of 155 Infantry Regiment gave an order to burn down the city. As a result, 95% of Kalisz was completely destroyed. Most of the houses within the mediaeval town area were levelled to the ground. Only churches and public offices survived. A significant number of citizens were shot. After the war, Kalisz which before the war had 65,000 citizens, was left with 5,000 inhabitants following the August exodus.
The recovery took years; however, even before the war ended, the Town's Council already decided to rebuild Kalisz in such a way as to reflect its long history. The reconstruction was based on a design which won the 1916 competition, though the German authorities opposed it. After the town was liberated from Germany in 1918 and became part of the reborn sovereign Poland, the reconstruction was pursued in energetic and enthusiastic way.
Outbreak of World War I 
The first information of the war reached Kalisz when the nearby border with the German Empire was closed at Nowe Skalmierzyce and train movement across the border to Germany was stopped. Russian officials started evacuating the city alongside military personnel. On August 2, 1914, at dawn, the Russian military retreated from the city without fighting, after setting fire to military warehouses near the railway station. The railway station was set afire as well as the trains and transport wagons. A civic committee was established by the citizens of the town which started administrating the city. Additionally, the Civil Guard was established to keep order in the city, while railway workers tried to put down the fire at the railway station.
First German soldiers appear 
Around 14:00, on August 2, first German patrols appeared along the railway tracks. As the patrols increased, the public crowds gathered. Altogether the atmosphere was neutral, although some unfavourable comments could be heard among the citizens of Kalisz. When a German officer arrived, mayor Bukowiński gave him keys to the city as symbolic gesture. After ensuring that there were no Russian forces present, the German patrols retreated to Szczypiorno. In later hours, German soldiers started to arrive on bicycles. Many of them were Poles from the nearby town of Ostrzeszów, and there was no hostility between them and the local Polish population. The German soldiers of Polish extraction (about 30 in number) quickly separated from the rest of the Germans and went to the market where they engaged in conversation with local population and drank beer together. German soldiers remained separated and struggled to engage in conversations which were carried out in Polish.
Arrival of the main German forces 
Only on the night of 2 and 3 of August around midnight did the main German forces come from Fifth Company of 155 regiment of infantry in Ostrów. The commander, Captain Keild, immediately demanded lodgings for his troops and summoned the mayor of the city. On the same night, forces of major Hermann Preusker came to the town from 2nd Battalion of infantry. Preusker immediately took the power in the city and named himself the commandant. At the selection of quarters, the commandant Preusker showed great displeasure and demanded building of Musical Society and Christian Craftsmen in the city instead of Russian military barracks.
On the dawn of 3 August, mortars were brought into the city. At the same time, major Preusker started arguing with the city council, despite the fact that it had fulfilled his every request. Some believed he was disappointed with the lack of resistance and indifferent attitude to German soldiers from the Polish population, which started to establish personal connections with the ethnic Polish soldiers from the German-controlled part of the partitioned country. Some of those soldiers did not show any support for the war and even condemned the conflict.
Executions and repressions 
In late evening, a single shot was heard, which started confusion and panic among the city population, after it was followed by a series of machine gun fire. After this short event, peace returned to the city. During the night shots intensified. Due to the night cover, German soldiers started to shoot at each other, probably thinking that they were surrounded by Russian forces. Despite the fact that civilians stayed at homes, 21 civilians and 6 soldiers were dead and 32 soldiers were wounded. Major Preusker claimed that it was the local population that performed the shooting.
On 4 August, Preusker declared repressions towards the city inhabitants, arrest of 6 civilians as hostages, 50,000 rubles of contribution, the police-hour, ban on publishing newspapers, and threat of taking further hostages and executions. Despite this and following of the orders by population, the Germans continued with further repressions and executions. Civilians were brutally beaten, often with rifle butts, at any sign of resistance people were shoved against the wall and shot. Many executions happened near the hospital where wounded people were held up. Several corpses were left on the streets. Many pedestrians were mistreated and any signs of opposition executed with such brutally and under such conditions that there were cases where soldiers refused to follow the orders of their officers. Up to 20 people were murdered in this way.
Shelling and raids into the city 
After taking hostages with them, the Germans started to retreat from the city in late afternoon. An hour after their retreat, artillery fire was laid down on the city from nearby hills. It was very efficient as Kalisz is located in deep valley. Additionally, the Germans had ordered the day before that all citizens should illuminate their homes which helped in directing the fire. This continued for several days, with Germans staging short raids into the city. As the shelling started fires, a general panic broke out, and even as Germans threatened to kill anybody escaping, people tried to escape by whatever means they had. Large crowds of panicked people, children, elderly with any possessions they could grab were running from the city, which became almost deserted. Just on 5 August, 10,000 people fled the shelled town. The Germans took additional hostages, mistreating them and even killing some. Only after the intervention of the Catholic Church were some released and others sent to POW camps in Cottbus.
Massacre of civilian population 
As the situation seemed to calm down, new forces from Saxony arrived, while major Preusker's soldiers were withdrawn. Soon another incident happened, on 7 August on Main Market Square, a lone horse started to run free, and German soldiers as a result started shooting in disorganised way, which led to death of some soldiers. Artillery was positioned within the city and Germans started to fire at civilian buildings for over an hour. Circa 100 civilians died in this incident. Afterwards, the German soldiers searched for survivors and when they found wounded civilians, they stabbed them to death with bayonets.
During the afternoon, the City Hall was set on fire, and officials executed. Afterwards Germans retreated and new shooting was started which continued during the whole night between 7 and 8 August. On Saturday morning, Germans returned to the city, taking 800 men prisoner and executing 80 of them on a nearby hill. The following day Germans started to systematically burn down the city and destroy it. It is mentioned that in cases civilians tried to stop the fire, they were murdered by German soldiers.
Shootings, murderer, plunder of shops and homes as well as burning down of the whole city lasted until 22 August, when the last home was burned on Nowoogrodowska street.
The Polish press in all territories of Partitions reported heavily on the event, some calling it "monstrous madness, that is unbelievable". The damages in Kalisz constituted 29,5% of the losses in the entire Congress Poland during World War I. The destruction has been compared to the massacre of Louvain, where a city was destroyed in similar manner by the Germans. Before the war Kalisz had 65,000 citizens; after the war, only 5,000.
See also 
- Expulsion of Poles by Germany
- Planned destruction of Warsaw
- Rape of Belgium
Notes and references 
- H. Wrotkowski, "Społeczeństwo Kalisza w latach pierwszej wojny światowej i dniach wyzwolenia." Rocznik Kaliski, vol. 3, 1970, p. 165-174
- T. Zarębska, "Sprawa odbudowy zabytkowego centrum Kalisza." Rocznik Kaliski vol. 10, 1977, p. 121-177
- Cz. Łuczak, "Dzieje gospodarcze Niemiec 1871-1949." Poznań 1984, p. 48 8 H. Batowski, "Rozpad Austro-Węgier 1914-1918." Kraków 1982, p. 19
- J. Desmarest, "La Grande Guerre 1914 - 1918." Paris 1978, p. 184
- D. Gayer, "Der russiche Imperialismus Politik 1860 - 1914." Góttinggen 1977, p. 195-196
- T. Nałęcz, "Polska organizacja wojskowa 1914 - 1918." Wrocław 1984, pp. 13, 21
- A. Garlicki, "Józef Piłsudski 1867 - 1935." Warszawa 1990, pp. 163–176
- A. Garlicki, "U źródeł obozu belwederskiego." Warszawa 1983, pp. 249, 282
- J. Krasuski, Historia Rzeszy Niemieckiej. Poznań 1986, p. 228
- M. Młynarska, "Proces lokacji Kalisza w XIII i w pierwszej połowie XIV w." XVIII wieków Kalisza. Poznań 1960, vol. 1, p. 108
- J.A. Gierowski, Historia Polski 1764 - 1864. Warszawa 1983, p. 35, 101
- E. Polanowski, "Maria Dąbrowska - w krainie dzieciństwa i młodości." Poznań 1989, p. 204.
- M. Dąbrowska, Noce i dnie. Wiatr w oczy, ch. 2. Warszawa 1972, p. 360
- M. Dąbrowska, Rzemiennym dyszlem. Pisma rozproszone. vol. 1, Kraków 1964, p. 95
- "Kalisz - 1914." Materiały źródłowe red. M. Lisiecka i K. Pawlak, p. 3, Kalisz 1980
- M. Dąbrowska, "Przygody człowieka myślącego." Warszawa 1972 p. 105
- M. Wrotkowska, "Sprawozdanie z sesji popularne-naukowej w dniu 20.10.1984 r. Siedemdziesiąta rocznica zburzenia Kalisza." Referat H. Wrotkowskiego. Rocznik Kaliski vol. 19, 1986, p. 329
- L.J. Flockerzie: Polands Louvain. Documents on the Destruction of Kalisz, August 1914. The Polish Review Nr 4/1983 p. 73-88; also: H. Nowaczyk, "Odwet za bunt wojenny?" Południowa Wielkopolska 1989 nr 3 and: "W świetle konwencji Haskiej." Południowa Wielkopolska 1989 nr 4
- J. Zakrzewska, "Odbudowa Kalisza po wielkiej wojnie." Kalisz 1936, pp. 17, 18
- Verzeichnis der in August 1914 abgebrannten Grundstu'cke in Kalisch. Deutscher Kreischef in Kalisch. Archiwum Państwowe w Kaliszu, sygn. 117, k. 302-306
- H. Nowaczyk, "Artykuł 247 Traktatu Wersalskiego." Ziemia Kaliska 1991
- J. Janczak, "Stosunki ludnościowe." Dzieje Kalisza. Poznań 1977, p. 332
- "Zabytki Urbanistyki i Architektury w Polsce." Odbudowa i konserwacja. vol. 1, Miasta historyczne. Warszawa 1986, p. 168
- Archiwum Państwowe w Kaliszu, "Deutscher Kreischef in Kalisch," sygn. 117, k. 302, Verzeichnis der im August 1914 abgebrannten Grundstucke in Kalisch (Spis spalonych nieruchomości w Kaliszu w sierpniu 1914 r.)
Sources and recommended reading 
- L.J. Flockerzie: "Poland's Louvain. Documents on the Destruction of Kalisz, August 1914". The Polish Review Nr 4/1983
- A series of photos documenting the scale of destruction of Kalisz and following reconstruction
- Na zgliszczach Kalisza: ku wiecznej pamiątce pogromu teutońskiego, dokonanego przez Prusaków w sierpniu 1914 r Bronisław Tomczyk Press, 1915