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Bydgoszcz-rozstrzelanie zakładników 9.09.1939.jpg
Public execution of twenty-five Polish prominent citizens of Bydgoszcz on 9 September 1939 in front of the Municipal Museum in the historic Market Square.[1][2] The bodies were kept on display for six hours to terrorize the town's population.[3]
Location Occupied Poland
Date 1939 - 1940
Target Polish intellectuals, civic officials, and the upper classes.
Attack type
Weapons Automatic weapons
Deaths 100,000 [4] (61,000 from lists) [5]
Perpetrators Germany Nazi Germany

Intelligenzaktion (German pronunciation: [ɪntɛliˈɡɛnt͡s.akˌt͡sjoːn], intelligentsia action) was a highly secretive genocidal action of Nazi Germany against Polish elites (primarily intelligentsia; teachers, doctors, priests, community leaders etc.) in the early stages of World War II. It was conducted as part of attempted complete Germanization of western regions of occupied Poland before their planned annexation. The operation took the lives of 100,000 Poles according to Institute of National Remembrance.[4] Most victims were massacred in remote locations in mass disappearances, and buried in clandestine grave pits. Selected few were executed openly in order to inflict terror on the general population before expulsions. The executioners from Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD and Selbstschutz worked under the guise of elimination of potentially dangerous elements.[4]

The German Intelligenzaktion was a major step in the implementation of the Sonderaktion Tannenberg (Operation Tannenberg a.k.a. Unternehmen Tannenberg) of installing Nazi officials from SiPo, Kripo, Gestapo and SD at the helm of an administrative machine in occupied Poland, leading to the Generalplan Ost colonization.[6] Some 61,000 Polish targets came from special lists created in advance.[5] The Intelligenzaktion took place soon after the German invasion of Poland, lasting from fall of 1939 till spring of 1940. It was continued by the murderous German AB-Aktion operation in Poland.[7]


Adolf Hitler himself decreed that the Polish elites might cause Poles to disobey their new German masters and therefore had to be eliminated beforehand.[8]

Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen book - lists of 60,000 targets in Intelligenzaktion.
Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen - letter "G". Shortcuts EK (Einsatzkommando) and EGr (Einsatzgruppen)

Once more the Führer must point out that the Poles can only have one master, and that is the German; two masters cannot and must not exist side by side; therefore all representatives of the Polish intelligentsia should be eliminated [umbringen]. This sounds harsh, but such are the laws of life. — Adolf Hitler [9]

The elite of Polish society were regarded by Nazi racial theories as being most likely of German blood, because their dynamic leadership contrasted with Slavonic fatalism,[10] but the eradication of such elements was seen as necessary because their patriotism would prevent full-scale Germanization of the populace.[11] Furthermore, the German blood would not be used in the service of a foreign nation.[8] Their Polish children were targeted for abduction and Germanization.[8] Such programs, the Nazis believed, would prevent a resurgence of a next generation of Polish intelligentsia.[10]

Method of realization[edit]

The action was realized by SS paramilitary death squadsEinsatzgruppen and the paramilitary organization of the German minority in PolandVolksdeutscher Selbstschutz.[12] The units involved were instructed by their commanders that their role would be far more difficult than merely fighting in battle, having to suppress obstructive populations or carry out executions.[13]

The Führer must emphasize once again that for Poles there is only one master and he is a German, there can be no two masters beside each other and there is no consent to such, hence all representatives of the Polish intelligentsia are to be killed ... The General Government is a Polish reservation, a great Polish labour camp. — Martin Borman, note from the meeting of Dr. Hans Frank with Adolf Hitler, Berlin 2 October 1940.[14]

The aim of this action was the elimination of Polish society's elite, defined very broadly as: Polish nobles, intelligentsia, teachers, entrepreneurs, social workers, military veterans, members of national organisations, priests, judges, political activists, and anyone who had attended secondary school.[13] People were arrested according to an "enemies of the Reich list" - Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen prepared before the war by members of the German minority in Poland in cooperation with German Intelligence.

Regional actions[edit]

  1. Intelligenzaktion Pommern, regional, highly secretive murder operation in Pomeranian Voivodeship; 23,000 Poles were killed. Selected individuals were executed publicly in order to inflict terror on the general population, the rest vanished after arrests.[4]
  2. Intelligenzaktion Posen with 2,000 victims from Poznań.
  3. Intelligenzaktion Masovien, regional action in Masovian Voivodeship in 1939/1940; 6,700 victims from Ostrołęka, Wyszków, Ciechanów, Wysokie Mazowieckie, Giełczyn near Łomża were killed.
  4. Intelligenzaktion Schlesien, regional action in Silesian Voivodeship in 1940; 2,000 Poles were killed
  5. Intelligenzaktion Litzmannstadt, regional action in Łódź, 1939, resulted in 1,500 people being shot.
  6. Sonderaktion Krakau, rounded up 183 professors from Jagiellonian University were deported to Sachsenhausen.
  7. Zweite Sonderaktion Krakau
  8. Sonderaktion Tschenstochau in Częstochowa
  9. Sonderaktion Lublin, regional Lublin action in which 2,000 people were killed, most of them were priests.
  10. Sonderaktion Bürgerbräukeller in Łódź Voivodeship
  11. Professorenmord, Czarny Las Massacre in Stanisławów, the Kresy region, some 250–300 Polish academics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jerzy Ślaski, Polska walcząca, vol. 2, 3rd ed., augm., Warsaw, Oficyna Wydawnicza Rytm, 1999, p. 554. ISBN 8387893315.
  2. ^ Janusz Kutta, "Rola Kościoła katolickiego w dziejach Bydgoszczy" (The Role of the Catholic Church in the History of Bydgoszcz), Kronika Bydgoska, vol. 19, ed. W. Jastrzębski, et al., Bydgoszcz, Towarzystwo Miłośników miasta Bydgoszczy, 1998, p. 14. ISSN 0454-5451.
  3. ^ Ryszard Wojan, Bydgoszcz: niedziela 3 września 1939 r., Poznań, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie (Towarzystwo Rozwoju Ziem Zachodnich. Rada Okręgu Bydgoskiego w Toruniu), 1959, p. 68.
  4. ^ a b c d Maria Wardzyńska (2009). Był rok 1939. Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion [The year was 1939. Operation of German security police in Poland. Intelligenzaktion] (PDF file, direct download 2.56 MB) (in Polish). Institute of National Remembrance, IPN (Portal edukacyjny Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej). pp. 1/356. ISBN 978-83-7629-063-8. Oblicza się, że akcja „Inteligencja” pochłonęła ponad 100 tys. ofiar. Translation: It is estimated that Intelligenzaktion took the lives of 100,000 Poles.[p. 8, or 10 in PDF] 
  5. ^ a b Dr. Jan Moor-Jankowski, Holocaust of Non-Jewish Poles During WWII. Polish American Congress, Washington.
  6. ^ Prof. Dietrich Eichholtz (2004), »Generalplan Ost« zur Versklavung osteuropäischer Völker. PDF file, direct download 74.5 KB.
  7. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's Holocaust: ethnic strife, collaboration with occupying forces and genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, McFarland, 1998, p. 25.
  8. ^ a b c International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Office of the United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Nuremberg 1946. Chapter XIII. Germanization and Spoliation.
  9. ^ Linda Jacobs Altman (2005), Adolf Hitler: Evil Mastermind of the Holocaust (Google Books, snippet view) Enslow Publishers, ISBN 0766025330. Page 111.
  10. ^ a b Richard C. Lukas, Did the Children Cry? Hitler's War against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939-1945. Hippocrene Books, New York, 2001.
  11. ^ Northwestern University, Hitlers Plans for Eastern Europe 2012.
  12. ^ Andrzej Szcześniak, Generalplan Ost. Plan Zagłady Słowian. Radom: Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, 2001. ISBN 83-88822-03-9.
  13. ^ a b Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust, p. 8. ISBN 0-781-80528-7.
  14. ^ Adamska, Jolanta & Sziling, Jan (2009). "Man to man... : destruction of the Polish intelligentsia in the years 1939-1945". Catalogue for the exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the Royal Castle in Warsaw (English version). Warsaw: Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites (Rada Ochrony Pamięci Walk i Męczeństwa): 11. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Maria Wardzyńska, "Intelligenzaktion" na Warmii, Mazurach oraz Północnym Mazowszu. Główna Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu. Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej nr. 12/1, 2003/2004, ss. 38-42.
  • Andrzej Szcześniak, Generalplan Ost. Plan Zagłady Słowian, Radom: Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, 2001. ISBN 83-88822-03-9
  • Anna Meier, Die Intelligenzaktion. Die Vernichtung Der Polnischen Oberschicht Im Gau Danzig-Westpreusen, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller. ISBN 3-639-04721-4; ISBN 978-36-3904-721-9
  • Maria Wardzyńska, Był rok 1939 Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion, IPN Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2009. ISBN 978-83-7629-063-8

External links[edit]

  • Elżbieta Grot, Ludobójstwo w Piaśnicy z uwzględnieniem losów mieszkańców powiatu wejherowskiego ("Genocide in Piaśnica with a discussion of the fate of the inhabitants of Wejherow county"), Public Library of Wejherowo, [1]
  • Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland's holocaust: ethnic strife, collaboration with occupying forces and genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, McFarland, 1998, p. 25, [2]
  • Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944,Hippocrene Books; Third edition (September 1, 2012),[3]
  • (Polish) Intelligenzaktion, Encyklopedia WIEM
  • (Polish) Intelligenzaktion, Encyklopedia PWN