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Part of the General Government zone of occupied Poland
Goralenvolk 1.jpg
Meeting of Governor Hans Frank in Zakopane with leaders of his Goralenvolk in November 1939
Period1939 – 1943

The Goralenvolk was a geopolitical term invented by the German Nazis in World War II in reference to the Goral highlander population of Podhale region in the south of Poland near the Slovak border. The Germans postulated a separate nationality for people of that region in an effort to extract them from the Polish citizenry during their occupation of Poland's highlands. The term Goralenvolk was a neologism derived from the Polish word Górale (the Highlanders) commonly referring to the people living in the mountains. In order to attempt to make Gorals collaborate with the SS, the Nazis proclaimed that this group were part of the Greater Germanic Race and worthy of separate treatment from the Poles.[1][2]


Nazi ideology falsely claimed that Gorals (Górale) were descended from ethnic Germans who allegedly settled in that region during medieval times in significant numbers. They were considered by the Nazi ideologues to be a part of the "Greater Germanic Race". The concept of the Gorals being from German descent did not originate with the Nazis themselves. For example, the 1885 Meyers Konversationslexikon entry under Goralen stated, that Germans (also) lived in that area in the 11th century but were slavicized.[3]

German occupation[edit]

Peasant Goral couple depicted in a General Government stamp printed in 1944

The region inhabited by Górale (pre-war Polish Nowy Targ County in Podhale) was annexed by Germany immediately after the Invasion of Poland in 1939. Later, the German authorities attempted to assimilate the population into the body of Volksdeutsche, and to encourage their collaboration with the occupying forces. Soon, a small group of local collaborators gathered under the leadership of Reichsdeutscher Witalis Wieder, with Wacław Krzeptowski – a self-proclaimed Goralenführer – and his cousins Stefan and Andrzej Krzeptowski, as well as suspected German spy Henryk Szatkowski, and Józef Cukier from Zakopane. During a visit of Nazi Governor-General Hans Frank to Podhale on November 7, 1939 they proposed to establish a separate state for Goralenvolk. Most fled to Germany at the end of the war except for Krzeptowski himself, who decided to hide in the mountains (at na Stołach) in a secluded shack. He was apprehended by the Polish Armia Krajowa unit under Lieutenant Tadeusz Studziński, charged with high treason and hanged on January 20, 1945.[4]

The implementation of the Goralenvolk action aimed at germanization of the Polish highlanders was actively opposed by the underground Tatra Confederation, a Polish resistance organization founded in May 1941 in Nowy Targ (the historical capital of Podhale), by the poet and partisan, Augustyn Suski (nom-de-guerre Stefan Borusa) with Tadeusz Popek (Wacław Tatar) as his deputy and Jadwiga Apostoł (nom-de-guerre Barbara Spytkowska) as their administrative secretary. Suski died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Popek was tortured and executed in Zakopane.[2][5][6] A German census conducted in 1940 showed that 72% of the local Goralenvolk population identified themselves as Polish rather than ethnic German. This result was a great disappointment for the Nazi administration.

Failed attempt at recruiting[edit]

In January 1943 the SS Germanische Leitstelle in occupied Zakopane in the heartland of the Tatra mountains embarked on a recruitment drive, with the objective being to create a brand new Waffen-SS highlander division. Some 200 young Goralenvolk signed up after having been given unlimited supplies of alcoholic drinks. They boarded a train to Trawniki, but got off the train in nearby Maków Podhalański, when they had become sober. Only twelve men arrived at the SS training base in Trawniki next to Lublin. At the first opportunity they got into a major fistfight with the Ukrainians, causing havoc. They were arrested and sent away. The whole idea was abandoned as impossible by SS-Obergruppenführer Krüger in occupied Kraków by an official letter of April 5, 1943.[7] The failure has inevitably contributed to his dismissal on November 9, 1943, by Governor General Hans Frank.[8] Krüger committed suicide in upper Austria two years later.[9]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Pod Giewontem. Losy mieszkancow Podhala 1939-1956". Podhalański Portal Informacyjny Podhale24.pl. September 12, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Historia rodziny Apostołów". Lista świadków historii (in Polish). Stowarzyszenie Auschwitz Memento. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
  3. ^ Meyers Konversationslexikon: Band 7, Seite 518: von Göppingen bis Gordianus. Archived June 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Góralski Legion Waffen SS". Polacy po stronie Niemców. Wiedza i Zycie, Inne Oblicza Histori. No. 07 - 02/2005. Last updated: December 13, 2005. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2012. Page archived by Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Góralska Dywizja Waffen-SS". Forum Druga Wojna Światowa dws.org.pl. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "Konfederacja Tatrzańska (with biographies and photographs)". Konfederat Tatrzański. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  7. ^ Rafał Kuzak (12 September 2012). "Jak zrobić z górali esesmanów? Legion Góralski Waffen SS" [How to make highlanders into SS men. The story of Goralenvolk Legion]. Ciekawostki historyczne. Społeczny Instytut Wydawniczy Znak sp. z o.o. (page two).
  8. ^ Thompson, Larry V. (1967). "Nazi Administrative Conflict. The Struggle for Executive Power in the General Government of Poland 1939–1943". Dissertation. University of Wisconsin: 260. OCLC 3417584.
  9. ^ Lester, David (2005). "Who Committed Suicide?". Suicide and the Holocaust. Nova Publishers. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-1-59454-427-9. Retrieved March 3, 2016.

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