The Holocaust in Poland
Top, clockwise: Warsaw Ghetto burning, May 1943 • Einsatzgruppe shooting of women from the Mizocz Ghetto, 1942 • Selection of people to be sent directly to the gas chamber right after their arrival at Auschwitz-II Birkenau • Jews captured in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising led to the Umschlagplatz by Waffen SS • Łódź Ghetto children deported to Chełmno death camp, 1942
Map of the Holocaust in occupied Poland during World War II with six extermination camps marked with white skulls in black squares: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór and Treblinka; as well as remote mass killing sites at Bronna Góra, Ponary, Połonka and others. Marked with the Star of David are selected large Polish cities with the extermination ghettos. Solid red line denotes the Nazi–Soviet frontier – starting point for Operation Barbarossa of 1941.
|Period||September 1939 – April 1945|
|Territory||Occupied Poland, also present day western Ukraine and western Belarus among others|
|Units||SS-Totenkopfverbände, Einsatzgruppen, Orpo battalions, Trawnikis, BKA, OUN-UPA, TDA, Ypatingasis būrys|
|Killed||three million Polish Jews, scholars disagree on the classification of three million ethnic Polish victims|
|Survivors||50,000–120,000; or 210,000–230,000; or a total of 350,000.|
|Jewish uprisings||Będzin, Białystok, Birkenau, Częstochowa, Łachwa, Łuck, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Mizocz, Pińsk, Poniatowa, Sobibór, Sosnowiec, Treblinka, Warsaw, Wilno|
The Holocaust in German-occupied Poland was marked by the construction of death camps by Nazi Germany in Poland. The Third Reich's World War II genocide, known as the Holocaust, took the lives of three million Polish Jews, half of all Jews killed during the Holocaust. Scholars disagree on whether to also classify up to three million ethnic-Polish victims of German genocide as Holocaust victims. The extermination camps played a central role in Germany's systematic murder of over 90% of Poland's Jewish population.
Every branch of the sophisticated German bureaucracy was involved in the killing process, from the Interior and Finance Ministries to German firms and state-run railroads. German companies bid for contracts to build crematoria in concentration camps run by Germany in the General Government and in other areas of occupied Poland and beyond.
During the German occupation, many ethnic Poles, at the greatest risk to themselves and their families, succeeded in saving Jews from the Germans. Polish rescuers represent the greatest number of persons, of any nationality, who saved Jews during the Holocaust.. The State of Israel has recognized 6,863 individuals as Polish Righteous among the Nations. 
A small percentage of Polish Jews survived World War II within German-occupied Poland or escaped east, beyond reach of the Germans, into the territories of Poland that had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, only to be deported to forced labor in Siberia along with up to 1 million of Poland's non-Jewish citizens.
- 1 Background
- 2 Nazi ghettoization policy
- 3 Holocaust by bullets
- 4 Final Solution and liquidation of Ghettos
- 5 Armed resistance and ghetto uprisings
- 6 Poles and the Jews
- 7 Ethnic Poles as victims of the Holocaust
- 8 National minorities' role in the Holocaust
- 9 Rate of survival
- 10 Border changes and repatriations
- 11 Holocaust memorials and commemoration
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 References
Following the 1939 invasion of Poland, in accordance with the secret protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland into occupation zones. Large areas of western Poland were annexed by Germany. The Soviets had attempted to deceive the Poles into believing that they had invaded eastern Poland to help Poland fight Germany and took over some 52% of Poland's territory. The entire Kresy (eastern Poland's borderlands) macroregion – inhabited by between 13.2 and 13.7 million people, including majority-Ukrainian and -Belarusin populations and 1,300,000 Jews – was annexed by the Soviet Union in an atmosphere of terror surrounding a mock referendum staged by the NKVD and the Red Army. Within months, Polish Jews in the Soviet zone who refused to swear allegiance were deported deep into the Soviet interior along with ethnic Poles. The number of deported Polish Jews is estimated at 200,000–230,000 men, women, and children.
Both occupying powers were hostile to the existence of a sovereign Polish state and endorsed policies of genocide. However, Soviet possession was short-lived because the terms of the Nazi–Soviet Pact, signed earlier in Moscow, were broken when the German army invaded the Soviet occupation zone on 22 June 1941 (see map). From 1941 to 1943, all of Poland was under Germany's control. The semi-colonial General Government, set up in central and southeastern Poland, comprised 39 percent of occupied Polish territory.
Nazi ghettoization policy
Prior to World War II, there were 3,500,000 Jews in Poland, living predominantly in cities; about 10% of the general population. Database of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews provides information on 1,926 Jewish communities across the country. Following the conquest of Poland, and the 1939 murder of intelligentsia, the first German anti-Jewish measures involved the policy of expulsion of Jews from the territories annexed by the Third Reich. The westernmost provinces of Greater Poland and Pomerelia were turned into brand new German Reichsgaue named Danzig-West Prussia and the Wartheland, with the intention of their complete Germanization through settler colonialism (Lebensraum). Annexed directly to the new Warthegau district, the city of Łódź absorbed the influx of some 40,000 Polish Jews forced out from the surrounding areas. A total of 204,000 Jewish people passed through the ghetto in Łódź. Initially, they were to be expelled to the Generalgouvernement. However, the ultimate destination of the massive removal of Jews was left open until the Final Solution was set in motion two years later.
Persecution of Polish Jews by the German occupation authority began immediately after the invasion, particularly in major urban areas. In the first year and a half, the Nazis confined themselves to stripping the Jews of their valuables and property for profit, herding them into makeshift ghettos, and forcing them into slave labor for public works and the war economy. During this period, the Germans ordered Jewish communities to appoint Jewish Councils (Judenräte) to administer the ghettos and to be "responsible in the strictest sense" for carrying out orders. Most ghettos were set up in cities and towns where Jewish life was well organized. For logistical reasons, the Jewish communities in settlements without railway connections in occupied Poland were dissolved. In a massive deportation action involving the use of freight trains, all Polish Jews had been segregated from the rest of society in dilapidated neighborhoods (Jüdischer Wohnbezirk) adjacent to the existing rail corridors. The food aid was completely dependent on the SS. Initially, the Jews were legally banned from baking bread; they were sealed off from the general public in an unsustainable manner.
The Warsaw ghetto contained more Jews than all of France; the Łódź ghetto more Jews than all of the Netherlands. More Jews lived in the city of Kraków than in all of Italy, and virtually any medium-sized town in Poland had a larger Jewish population than all of Scandinavia. All of southeast Europe – Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece – had fewer Jews than the original four districts of the General Government.
The plight of Jews in war-torn Poland could be divided into stages defined by the existence of the ghettos. Before their formation, the escape from persecution did not involve extrajudicial punishment by death. Once the ghettos were sealed off from the outside, death by starvation and disease became rampant, alleviated only by the smuggling of food and medicine, described by Ringelblum as "one of the finest pages in the history between the two peoples". In Warsaw, up to 80 percent of food consumed in the Ghetto was brought in illegally. The food stamps introduced by the Germans, provided 9 percent of the calories necessary for survival. In the two and a half years between November 1940 and May 1943, some 100,000 Jews died in the Warsaw Ghetto of starvation and disease; and around 40,000 in the Łódź Ghetto in the four-and-a-quarter years between May 1940 and August 1944. By the end of 1941, most ghettoized Jews had no savings left to pay the SS for further bulk food deliveries. The 'productionists' among the German authorities – who attempted to make the ghettos self-sustaining by turning them into enterprises – prevailed over the 'attritionists' only after the German attack on the Soviet positions in eastern Poland, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. The most prominent ghettos were stabilized through the production of goods needed at the front, and death rates among the Jewish population began to decline (at least temporarily).
Holocaust by bullets
Following the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, Himmler assembled a force of some 11,000 men to pursue, for the first time, a program of physical annihilation of Jews. Also during Operation Barbarossa, the SS had recruited collaborationist auxiliary police from among Soviet nationals. The local Schuma provided Germany with manpower and critical knowledge of local regions and languages. In what became known as the "Holocaust by bullets", the German police battalions (Orpo), SiPo, Waffen-SS, and special-task Einsatzgruppen, along with Ukrainian and Lithuanian auxiliaries, operated behind front lines, systematically shooting tens of thousands of men, women, and children, independently of the army.
Massacres were committed in over 30 locations across the formerly Soviet-occupied parts of Poland, including in Brześć, Tarnopol, and Białystok, as well as in prewar provincial capitals of Łuck, Lwów, Stanisławów, and Wilno (see Ponary). The survivors of mass killing operations were incarcerated in the new ghettos of economic exploitation, and starved slowly to death by artificial famine at the whim of German authorities. Because of sanitation concerns, the corpses of people who had died as a result of starvation and mistreatment were buried in mass graves in the tens of thousands. Gas vans were made available in November 1941. By December, over 439,800 Jewish people had been murdered, both in the eastern half of Poland and in the Soviet westernmost republics. The 'war of destruction' policy in the east against 'the Jewish race' became common knowledge among the Germans at all levels. Within two years, the total number of shooting victims in the east had risen to between 618,000 and 800,000 Jews. Entire regions behind the German–Soviet Frontier were reported to Berlin by the Nazi death squads to be "Judenfrei".
Final Solution and liquidation of Ghettos
On January 20, 1942, during the Wannsee conference near Berlin, State Secretary of the Government General, Josef Bühler, urged Reinhard Heydrich to begin the proposed "final solution to the Jewish question" as soon as possible. The industrial killing by exhaust fumes was already tried and tested over several weeks at the Chełmno extermination camp in the then-Wartheland, under the guise of resettlement. All condemned Ghetto prisoners, without exception, were told they were going to labour camps, and asked to pack a carry-on luggage. Many Jews believed in the transfer ruse, since deportations were also part of the ghettoization process. Meanwhile, the idea of mass murder by means of stationary gas chambers was discussed in Lublin already since September 1941. It was a precondition for the newly drafted Operation Reinhard led by Odilo Globocnik who ordered the construction of death camps at Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka. At Majdanek and Auschwitz, the work of the stationary gas chambers began in March and May respectively, preceded by experiments with Zyklon B. Between 1942 and 1944, the most extreme measure of the Holocaust, the extermination of millions of Jews from Poland and all over Europe was carried out in six extermination camps. There were no Polish guards at any of the Reinhard camps, despite the sometimes used misnomer Polish death camps. All killing centres were designed and operated by the Nazis in strict secrecy, aided by the Ukrainian Trawnikis. Civilians were forbidden to approach them and often shot if caught near the train tracks.
Systematic liquidation of the ghettos began across General Government in the early spring of 1942. At that point the only chance for survival was escape to the "Aryan side". The German round-ups for the so-called resettlement trains were connected directly with the use of top secret extermination facilities built for the SS at about the same time by various German engineering companies including HAHB, I.A. Topf and Sons of Erfurt, and C.H. Kori GmbH.
Unlike other Nazi concentration camps where prisoners from all across Europe were exploited for the war effort, German death camps – part of secretive Operation Reinhardt – were designed exclusively for the rapid elimination of Polish and foreign Jews, subsisting in isolation. The camp's German overseers reported to Heinrich Himmler in Berlin, who kept control of the extermination program, but who delegated the work in Poland to SS and police chief Odilo Globocnik of the Lublin Reservation. The selection of sites, construction of facilities and training of personnel was based on a similar (Action T4) "racial hygiene" program of mass murder through involuntary euthanasia, developed in Germany.
The "resettlement" program
The scale of the Final Solution would not have been possible without the Reichsbahn. The extermination of Polish and foreign Jews depended on the railways as much as on the secluded killing centres. The Holocaust trains sped up the scale and duration over which the extermination took place; and, the enclosed nature of freight cars also reduced the number of troops required to guard them. Rail shipments allowed the Nazi Germans to build and operate bigger and more efficient death camps and, at the same time, openly lie to the world – and to their victims – about a "resettlement" program. In one telephone conversation Heinrich Himmler informed Martin Bormann about the Jews already exterminated in Poland, to which Bormann screamed in response: "They were not exterminated, only evacuated, evacuated, evacuated!"
Unspecified number of deportees died in transit during Operation Reinhard from suffocation and thirst. No food or water was supplied. The Güterwagen boxcars were only fitted with a bucket latrine. A small barred window provided little ventilation, which oftentimes resulted in multiple deaths. A survivor of the Treblinka uprising testified about one such train, from Biała Podlaska. When the sealed doors flew open, 90 percent of about 6,000 Jewish prisoners were found to have suffocated to death. Their bodies were thrown into smouldering mass grave at the "Lazaret". Millions of people were transported in similar trainsets to the extermination camps under the direction of the German Ministry of Transport, and tracked by an IBM subsidiary, until the official date of closing of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in December 1944.
Death factories were just one of a number of ways of mass extermination. There were secluded killing sites set up further east. At Bronna Góra (the Bronna Mount, now Belarus) 50,000 Jews died in execution pits; delivered by the Holocaust trains from the ghettos in Brześć, Bereza, Janów Poleski, Kobryń, Horodec (pl), Antopol and other locations along the western border of Reichskommissariat Ostland. Explosives were used to speed up the digging process. At the Sosenki Forest on the outskirts of Równe in prewar Wołyń Voivodeship, over 23,000 Jews were shot, men, women, and children. At the Górka Połonka forest (see map) 25,000 Jews forced to disrobe and lay over the bodies of others were shot in waves; most of them were deported there via the Łuck Ghetto. The execution site for the Lwów Ghetto inmates was arranged near Janowska, with 35,000–40,000 Jewish victims killed and buried at the Piaski ravine.
While the Order Police performed liquidations of the Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland, loading prisoners into railcars and shooting those unable to move or attempting to flee, the collaborationist auxiliary police were used as a means of inflicting terror upon the Jewish people by conducting large-scale massacres in the same locations. They were deployed in all major killing sites of Operation Reinhard (terror was a primary aim of their SS training). The Ukrainian Trawniki men formed into units took an active role in the extermination of Jews at Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka II; during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (on three occasions, see Stroop Report), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lwów, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek, Auschwitz, the Trawniki concentration camp itself, and the remaining subcamps of KL Lublin/Majdanek camp complex including Poniatowa, Budzyń, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa, and also during massacres in Łomazy, Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations, augmented by members of the SS, SD, Kripo, as well as the reserve police battalions from Orpo (each, responsible for annihilation of thousands of Jews). Mass executions of Jews (as in Szebnie) was part of regular training of the Ukrainian Waffen-SS Division soldiers from the SS-Heidelager troop-training base in Pustków in south-eastern Poland. In the north-east, the "Poachers' Brigade" of Oskar Dirlewanger trained Belarusian Home Guard in murder expeditions with the help of Belarusian Auxiliary Police. By the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, over 90% of Polish Jewry perished.
Death camp at Chełmno
The Chełmno extermination camp (German: Kulmhof) was built as the first-ever, following Hitler's launch of Operation Barbarossa. It was a pilot project for the development of other extermination sites. The experiments with exhaust gases were finalized by murdering 1,500 Poles at Soldau. The killing method at Chełmno grew out of the 'euthanasia' program in which busloads of unsuspecting hospital patients were gassed in air-tight shower rooms at Bernburg, Hadamar and Sonnenstein. The killing grounds at Chełmno, 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Łódź, consisted of a vacated manorial estate similar to Sonnenstein, used for undressing (with a truck-loading ramp in the back), as well as a large forest clearing 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) northwest of Chełmno, used for the mass burial as well as open-pit cremation of corpses introduced some time later.
All Jews from the Judenfrei district of Wartheland were deported to Chełmno under the guise of 'resettlement'. At least 145,000 prisoners from the Łódź Ghetto perished at Chełmno in several waves of deportations lasting from 1942 to 1944. Additionally, 20,000 foreign Jews and 5,000 Roma were brought in from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. All victims were killed with the use of mobile gas vans (Sonderwagen), which had exhaust pipes reconfigured and poisons added to gasoline (see Chełmno Trials for supplementary data). In the last phase of the camp's existence, the exhumed bodies were cremated in open-air for several weeks during Sonderaktion 1005. The ashes, mixed with crushed bones, were trucked every night to the nearby river in sacks made from blankets, to remove the evidence of mass murder.
The Auschwitz concentration camp was the largest of the German Nazi extermination centers. Located 64 kilometres (40 mi) west of Kraków, Auschwitz processed an average of 1.5 Holocaust trains per day. The overwhelming majority of prisoners deported there were murdered within hours of their arrival. The camp was fitted with the first permanent gas chambers in March 1942. The extermination of Jews with Zyklon B as the killing agent began in July. At Birkenau, the four killing installations (each consisting of coatrooms, multiple gas chambers and industrial-scale crematoria) were built in the following year. By late 1943, Birkenau was a killing factory with four so-called 'Bunkers' (totaling over a dozen gas chambers) working around the clock. Up to 6,000 people were gassed and cremated there each day, after the ruthless 'selection process' at the Judenrampe. Only about 10 percent of the deportees from transports organized by the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) were registered and assigned to the Birkenau barracks.
Auschwitz II extermination program resulted in the death of 1.3 to 1.5 million people. Over 1.1 million of them were Jews from across Europe including 200,000 children. Among the registered 400,000 victims (less than one-third of the total Auschwitz arrivals) were 140,000–150,000 non-Jewish Poles, 23,000 Gypsies, 15,000 Soviet POWs and 25,000 others. Auschwitz received a total of about 300,000 Jews from occupied Poland, shipped aboard freight trains from liquidated ghettos and transit camps, beginning with Bytom (February 15, 1942), Olkusz (three days of June), Otwock (in August), Łomża and Ciechanów (November), then Kraków (March 13, 1943), Sosnowiec, Będzin, Dąbrowa (June–August 1943), and several dozen other metropolitan cities and towns, including the last ghetto left standing in occupied Poland, liquidated in August 1944 at Łódź. Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria were blown up on November 25, 1944, in an attempt to destroy the evidence of mass killings, by the orders of SS chief Heinrich Himmler.
Designed and built for the sole purpose of killing people, Treblinka was one of only three such facilities in existence; the other two were Bełżec and Sobibór. All of them were situated in wooded areas away from population centres and linked to the Polish rail system by a branch line. They had transferable SS staff. There was a railway platform constructed alongside the tracks, surrounded by 2.5 m (8 ft) high barbed-wire fencing. Large barracks were built for storing belongings of disembarking victims. One was disguised as a railway station complete with a fake wooden clock and signage to prevent new arrivals from realizing their fate. Passports and money were collected for "safekeeping" at a cashier's booth set up by the "Road to Heaven", a fenced-off path leading into the gas chambers disguised as communal showers. Directly behind were the burial pits, dug with a crawler excavator.
Located 80 kilometres (50 mi) northeast of Warsaw, Treblinka became operational on July 24, 1942, after three months of forced labour construction by expellees from Germany. The shipping of Jews from the Polish capital – plan known as the Großaktion Warschau – began immediately. During two months of the summer of 1942, about 254,000 Warsaw Ghetto inmates were exterminated at Treblinka (by some other accounts, at least 300,000). On arrival, the transportees were made to disrobe, then the men – followed by women and children – were forced into double-walled chambers and gassed to death in batches of 200, with the use of exhaust fumes generated by a tank engine. The gas chambers, rebuilt of brick and expanded during August–September 1942, were capable of killing 12,000 to 15,000 victims every day, with a maximum capacity of 22,000 executions in twenty-four hours. The dead were initially buried in large mass graves, but the stench from the decomposing bodies could be smelled up to ten kilometers away. As a result, the Nazis began burning the bodies on open-air grids made of concrete pillars and railway tracks. The number of people killed at Treblinka in about a year ranges from 800,000 to 1,200,000, with no exact figures available. The camp was closed by Globocnik on October 19, 1943 soon after the Treblinka prisoner uprising, with the murderous Operation Reinhard nearly completed.
The Bełżec extermination camp, set up near the railroad station of Bełżec in the Lublin District, began operating officially on March 17, 1942, with three temporary gas chambers later replaced with six made of brick and mortar, enabling the facility to handle over 1,000 victims at one time. At least 434,500 Jews were exterminated there. The lack of verified survivors however, makes this camp much less known. The bodies of the dead, buried in mass graves, swelled in the heat as a result of putrefaction making the earth split, which was resolved with the introduction of crematoria pits in October 1942.
Kurt Gerstein from Waffen-SS, supplying Zyklon B from Degesch during the Holocaust, wrote after the war in his Gerstein Report for the Allies that on August 17, 1942 at Belzec, he had witnessed the arrival of 45 wagons with 6,700 prisoners of whom 1,450 were already dead inside. That train came with the Jewish people of the Lwów Ghetto, less than a hundred kilometers away. The last shipment of Jews (including those who had already died in transit) arrived in Bełżec in December 1942. The burning of exhumed corpses continued until March. The remaining 500 Sonderkommando prisoners who dismantled the camp, and who bore witness to the extermination process, were murdered at the nearby Sobibór extermination camp in the following months.
The Sobibór extermination camp, disguised as a railway transit camp not far from Lublin, began mass gassing operations in May 1942. As in other extermination centers, the Jews, taken off the Holocaust trains arriving from liquidated ghettos and transit camps (Izbica, Końskowola) were met by an SS-man dressed in a medical coat. Oberscharführer Hermann Michel gave the command for prisoners' "disinfection".
New arrivals were forced to split into groups, hand over their valuables, and disrobe inside a walled-off courtyard for a bath. Women had their hair cut off by the Sonderkommando barbers. Once undressed, the Jews were led down a narrow path to the gas chambers which were disguised as showers. Carbon monoxide gas was released from the exhaust pipes of a gasoline engine removed from a Red Army tank. Their bodies were taken out and burned in open pits over iron grids partly fueled by human body-fat. Their remains were dumped onto seven "ash mountains". The total number of Polish Jews murdered at Sobibór is estimated at a minimum of 170,000. Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp dismantled following a prisoner revolt on October 14, 1943; one of only two successful uprisings by Jewish Sonderkommando inmates in any extermination camp, with 300 escapees (most of them were recaptured by the SS and killed).
The Majdanek forced labor camp located on the outskirts of Lublin (like Sobibór) and closed temporarily during an epidemic of typhus, was reopened in March 1942 for Operation Reinhard; first, as a storage depot for valuables stolen from the victims of gassing at the killing centers of Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, It became a place of extermination of large Jewish populations from south-eastern Poland (Kraków, Lwów, Zamość, Warsaw) after the gas chambers were constructed in late 1942.
The gassing of Polish Jews was performed in plain view of other inmates, without as much as a fence around the killing facilities. According to witness's testimony, "to drown the cries of the dying, tractor engines were run near the gas chambers" before they took the dead away to the crematorium. Majdanek was the site of death of 59,000 Polish Jews (from among its 79,000 victims). By the end of Operation Aktion Erntefest (Harvest Festival) conducted at Majdanek in early November 1943 (the single largest German massacre of Jews during the entire war), the camp had only 71 Jews left.
Armed resistance and ghetto uprisings
There is a popular misconception among the general public that most Jews went to their deaths passively. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jewish resistance to the Nazis comprised not only their armed struggle but also spiritual and cultural opposition which gave the Jews dignity despite the inhumane conditions of life in the ghettos. Many forms of resistance were present, even though the elders were terrified by the prospect of mass retaliation against the women and children in the case of anti-Nazi revolt. As the German authorities undertook to liquidate the ghettos, armed resistance was offered in over 100 locations on either side of Polish-Soviet border of 1939, overwhelmingly in eastern Poland. The uprisings erupted in 5 major cities, 45 provincial towns, 5 major concentration and extermination camps, as well as in at least 18 forced labor camps. Notably, the only rebellions in Nazi camps were Jewish.
The Nieśwież Ghetto insurgents in eastern Poland fought back on July 22, 1942. The Łachwa Ghetto revolt erupted on September 3. On October 14, 1942, the Mizocz Ghetto followed suit. The Warsaw Ghetto firefight of January 18, 1943, led to the largest Jewish uprising of World War II launched on April 19, 1943. On June 25, the Jews of the Częstochowa Ghetto rose up. At Treblinka, the Sonderkommando prisoners armed with stolen weapons attacked the guards on August 2, 1943. A day later, the Będzin and Sosnowiec ghetto revolts broke out. On August 16, the Białystok Ghetto uprising erupted. The revolt in Sobibór extermination camp occurred on October 14, 1943. At Auschwitz-Birkenau, the insurgents blew up one of Birkenau's crematoria on October 7, 1944. Similar resistance was offered in Łuck, Mińsk Mazowiecki, Pińsk, Poniatowa, and in Wilno.
Poles and the Jews
Only 10 percent of Poland's Jews survived the genocide which is less than in any other occupied country save for Lithuania. However, Polish nationals account for the majority of rescuers with the title of Righteous Among the Nations, as honored by Yad Vashem. According to Paulsson it is probable that these recognized Poles, over 6,000, only "represent only the tip of the iceberg" of Polish rescuers. Some Jews received organized help from Żegota (The Council to Aid Jews), an underground organization of Polish resistance in German-occupied Poland.
On 10 November 1941, capital punishment was extended by Hans Frank to Poles who helped Jews "in any way: by taking them in for a night, giving them a lift in a vehicle of any sort", or "feeding runaway Jews or selling them foodstuffs." The law was publicized with posters distributed in all major cities. Similar regulations were issued by the Germans in other territories they controlled in the Eastern Front. Capital punishment meted out to entire families was the most draconian penalty ever imposed. Over 700 Polish Righteous among the Nations received that recognition posthumously, having been murdered by the Germans for aiding or sheltering their Jewish neighbors. Many of the Polish Righteous recognized by Yad Vashem came from the capital. In his work on Warsaw's Jews, Gunnar S. Paulsson demonstrated that despite the much harsher conditions, Warsaw's Polish citizens managed to support and hide the same percentage of Jews as did the citizens of cities in reportedly safer German-occupied countries of Western Europe.
Polish antisemitism was deeply rooted, with two formative motifs: claims of defilement of the Catholic faith; and Żydokomuna (Jew-communism). During the 1930s, Catholic journals in Poland paralleled western European social-Darwinist antisemitism and the Nazi press. However, church doctrine ruled out violence, which only became more common in the mid-1930s. Unlike German antisemitism, Polish antisemites rejected the idea of genocide or pogroms of the Jews, advocating mass emigration instead The German and Soviet occupations brought a sudden upsurge of Polish antisemitism. The Polish narrative was based on a notion of "Jewish collaboration" with the communists and hatred of the Polish nation. The szmalcownik practice of extorting and denouncing Jews to the German authorities was also carried out by ordinary Poles who were acting the traditional "other" who were outside the national consensus. Poles attacked and killed Jews in the 1941 Jedwabne pogrom and other locations in Eastern Poland in the wake of Operation Barbarossa. The question of Jewish property, taken over by Poles, was a driving factor behind the beating and murdering of Jews by Poles between summer 1944 and 1946, including the Kielce pogrom.
Rescue and aid
The vast majority of Polish Jews were a "visible minority" by modern standards, distinguishable by language, behavior, and appearance. In the 1931 Polish national census, only 12 percent of Jews declared Polish as their first language, while 79 percent listed Yiddish and the remaining 9 percent Hebrew as their mother tongue. In the labour market of many cities and towns, including Poland's provincial capitals, the presence of such large, mostly non acculturated minority, was a source of competitive tension. Here is where the temptation to jump to conclusions with regard to Polish-Jewish relations in wartime should be resisted, wrote Gunnar Paulsson: "leaving aside acts of war and Nazi perfidy, a Jew's chances of survival in hiding were no worse in Warsaw, at any rate, than in the Netherlands" once the Holocaust began.
Toward the end of the ghetto-liquidation period, the largest number of Jews managed to escape to the "Aryan" side, and to survive with the aid of their Polish helpers. During the Nazi occupation, most ethnic Poles were themselves engaged in a desperate struggle to survive. They were in no position to impede the German extermination of Jews. Between 1939 and 1945, nearly 2.8 million gentile Poles died at the hands of the Nazis, and 150,000 due to Soviet repressions. About one fifth of the prewar population of Poland perished. Their deaths were the result of deliberate acts of war, mass murder, incarceration in concentration camps, forced labor, malnutrition, disease, kidnappings, and expulsions. There were, however, many Poles who risked death to hide entire Jewish families or otherwise help Jews on compassionate grounds. Polish rescuers of Jews were sometimes exposed by those very Jews if the Jews were found by the Germans, resulting in the murder of entire helper networks in the General Government. The number of Jews hiding with gentile Poles, quoted by Żarski-Zajdler, was about 450,000. Possibly a million gentile Poles aided their Jewish neighbors. Historian Richard C. Lukas gives an estimate as high as three million Polish helpers; an estimate similar to those cited by other authors.
The Polish Government in Exile was the first (in November 1942), to reveal the existence of German-run concentration camps and the systematic extermination of the Jews. The genocide was reported to the Allies by Lieutenant Jan Karski, as well as Captain Witold Pilecki who volunteered to be imprisoned at Auschwitz in order to gather intelligence and subsequently wrote an official Report of over 100 pages for the West.
In September 1942, with financial assistance from the Underground State, the Provisional Committee to Aid Jews was founded (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy Żydom) on the initiative of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, for the purpose of rescuing Jews. It was superseded by the Council for Aid to Jews known by the code-name Żegota (Rada Pomocy Żydom) chaired by Julian Grobelny. It is not known how many Jews were helped by Żegota, but at one point in 1943 it had 2,500 Jewish children under its care in Warsaw alone under Irena Sendler. Żegota was granted nearly 29 million zlotys (over $5 million) from 1942 onwards for relief payments to thousands of extended Jewish families in Poland. The government in exile also provided special assistance – funds, arms and other supplies – to Jewish resistance organizations like ŻOB and ŻZW.
Opportunism and collaboration
No Polish collaborative government was ever formed during World War II. As noted by Piotrowski, the "Poles never produced either a Quisling or any specifically Polish SS divisions. In contrast, almost all other European countries provided Nazi Germany with both." The Polish Underground State strongly opposed collaboration in anti-Jewish persecutions and threatened death to all informers against them, on behalf of the Polish military tribunals of the Home Army. However, the continued brutality of war led to the breakdown of traditional social norms and values. There were people who betrayed Jews in hiding along with the Poles who protected them. The number of notorious blackmailers is estimated at around several thousand, based on the number of death sentences for treason by Poland's Special Courts. Gunnar S. Paulsson in his comment stated that he would probably tag 20,000 Poles with "monstrous deeds". The Holocaust testimonies confirm that, trapped in the ghettos, some Jews took advantage of inside information about the socio-economic standing of other Jews as well (see Group 13).
The phenomenon of Polish collaboration was described by John Connelly and Leszek Gondek as marginal, when seen against the backdrop of European and world history. The crossing of moral boundaries had first occurred under the Soviets with the participation of the Jewish militia (so-called opaskowcy) armed by the NKVD, in the mass deportations of Polish families from the east to Siberia in 1940 and 1941 after the Soviet takeover, and again, at the onset of the German-Soviet war, when over 300 Jews perished in Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, locked in a barn set on fire by a group of Polish men in the presence of German Ordnungspolizei (IPN Final Findings). The circumstances surrounding the incident in Jedwabne are still debated, and include the ominous presence of the Einsatzgruppe Zichenau-Schroettersburg under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper deployed in Bezirk Bialystok, as well as German Nazi pressure, but also widespread resentment over the Jewish warm welcome given to the Red Army in 1939.
According to politician Stefan Korboński, some members of the National Armed Forces (NSZ), participated in executions of Jews who belonged to the pro-Soviet underground. Historians Richard Lukas and Tadeusz Piotrowski wrote that NSZ units rendered assistance to the Jews and included them in their ranks along with Polish Righteous Among the Nations. The NSZ Holy Cross Brigade rescued 280 Jewish women among some 1,000 persons from the concentration camp in Holýšov. A Jewish partisan from NSZ, Feliks Parry, suggested that most of them "didn't have the slightest notion of the ideological underpinnings of their organization" and didn't care, focused only on resisting the Nazis. In postwar Poland, the communist secret police routinely tortured the NSZ insurgents in order to force them to confess to killing Jews among other alleged crimes. This was most notably the case with the 1946 trial of 23 officers of the NSZ in Lublin. The torture of political prisoners by the Ministry of Public Security did not stop when the interrogations were concluded. Physical torture was also ordered if they retracted in court their forced confessions of "killing Jews".
Ethnic Poles as victims of the Holocaust
The Nazis' long-term plans for eastern Europe included the ethnic cleansing of Poland, which would have resulted by their estimates in the death of some 85% of the Poles. By war's end these plans were mostly unfulfilled.
According to Donald Niewyk and Francis Nicosia, whether to include the Poles and other Slavic groups depends on the question of whether the Holocaust should be defined based on the Nazis' motives, or the degree to which they managed to realize their racial agenda. Those who take the first position argue that the Nazi atrocities in Poland, the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the USSR were "a direct result of Nazi contempt for the 'subhuman'":49; those who take the second position note that these deaths "were far more selective than was the case with Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped", and that it is difficult to distinguish between "racially motivated killings of Poles and Soviet citizens, [and] those that resulted directly or indirectly from German military actions.":49 Niewyk and Niocosia take the second approach.:52
National minorities' role in the Holocaust
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Judaism in Poland
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The Republic of Poland was a multicultural country before the Second World War broke out, with almost a third of its population originating from the minority groups: 13.9 percent Ukrainians; 10 percent Jews; 3.1 percent Belarusians; 2.3 percent Germans and 3.4 percent Czechs, Lithuanians and Russians. Soon after the 1918 reconstitution of an independent Polish state, about 500,000 refugees from the Soviet republics came to Poland in the first spontaneous flight from persecution especially in Ukraine (see, Pale of Settlement) where up to 2,000 pogroms took place during the Civil War. In the second wave of immigration, between November 1919 and June 1924 some 1,200,000 people left the territory of the USSR for new Poland. It is estimated that some 460,000 refugees spoke Polish as the first language. Between 1933 and 1938, around 25,000 German Jews fled Nazi Germany to sanctuary in Poland.
About one million Polish citizens were members of the German minority. Following the invasion of 1939, additional 1,180,000 German speakers came to occupied Poland either from the Reich or from the east with little to lose (the Volksdeutsche). Many hundreds of ethnically German men in Poland joined the Nazi Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz as well as Sonderdienst formations launched in May 1940 by Gauleiter Hans Frank stationed in occupied Kraków. Likewise, among some 30,000 Ukrainian nationalists who fled to polnischen Gebiete, thousands joined the pokhidny hrupy (pl) as saboteurs, interpreters, and civilian militiamen, trained at the German bases across Distrikt Krakau.
The existence of Sonderdienst formations constituted a grave danger to the Catholic Poles who attempted to help ghettoised Jews in the cities which had a sizable German and pro-German minorities, as in the case of the Izbica Ghetto or the Łuck and the Mińsk Mazowiecki Ghettos among numerous others. Anti-Semitic attitudes were particularly visible in the eastern provinces which had been occupied by the Russians following the Soviet invasion of Kresy. Local people had witnessed the repressions against their own compatriots, and mass deportations to Siberia, conducted by the Soviet security apparatus with some of the local Jews forming militias, taking over key administrative positions, and collaborating with the NKVD. Others assumed that, driven by vengeance, Jewish Communists had been prominent in betraying the ethnically Polish and other non-Jewish victims.
Many German-inspired massacres were carried out across occupied eastern Poland with the active participation of indigenous people. The guidelines for such massacres were formulated by Reinhard Heydrich, who ordered his officers to induce anti-Jewish pogroms on territories newly occupied by the German forces. In the lead-up to the establishment of the Wilno Ghetto in the fifth largest city of prewar Poland and a provincial capital Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), German commandos and the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions killed more than 21,000 Jews during the Ponary massacre in late 1941. At that time, Wilno had only a small Lithuanian-speaking minority of about 6 percent of the city's population. In the infamous series of Lviv pogroms committed by the Ukrainian militants in the eastern city of Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), some 6,000 Polish Jews were murdered in the streets between June 30 and July 29, 1941, on top of 3,000 arrests and mass shootings by Einsatzgruppe C. The Ukrainian militias formed by OUN with the blessings of the SS spread terror across dozens of locations throughout south-eastern Poland.
Long before the Tarnopol Ghetto was set up, and only two days after the arrival of the Wehrmacht, up to 2,000 Jews were killed in the provincial capital of Tarnopol (now Ternopil, Ukraine), one-third of them by the Ukrainian militias. Some of the victims were decapitated. The SS shot the remaining two-thirds, in the same week. In Stanisławów – another provincial capital in the Kresy macroregion (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine) – the single largest massacre of Polish Jews prior to Aktion Reinhardt was perpetrated on 12 October 1941, hand in glove by Orpo, SiPo and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police (brought in from Lwów); tables with sandwiches and bottles of vodka had been set up about the cemetery for shooters who needed to rest from the deafening noise of gunfire; 12,000 Jews were murdered before nightfall.
A total of 31 deadly pogroms were carried out throughout the region in conjunction with the Belarusian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian Schuma. The genocidal techniques learned from the Germans, such as the advanced planning of the pacification actions, site selection, and sudden encirclement, became the hallmark of the OUN-UPA massacres of Poles and Jews in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia beginning in March 1943, parallel with the liquidation of the ghettos in Reichskommissariat Ostland ordered by Himmler. Thousands of Jews who escaped deportations and hid in the forests were murdered by the Banderites.
Rate of survival
The question regarding the Jews' real chances of survival once the Holocaust began continues to draw the attention of historians. For one, the Germans made it extremely difficult to escape the ghettos just before deportations to death camps deceptively disguised as "resettlement in the East". All passes were cancelled, walls rebuilt containing fewer gates, with policemen replaced by SS-men. Some victims already deported to Treblinka were forced to write form letters back home, stating that they were safe. Around 3,000 others fell into the German Hotel Polski trap. Many ghettoized Jews did not believe what was going on until the very end, because the actual outcome seemed unthinkable at the time. David J. Landau suggested also that the weak Jewish leadership might have played a role. Likewise, Israel Gutman proposed that the Polish Underground might have attacked the camps and blown up the railway tracks leading to them, but as noted by Paulsson, such ideas are a product of hindsight.
The exact number of Holocaust survivors is unknown. Possibly as many as 300,000 Polish Jews escaped to the Soviet-occupied zone soon after the war started. Some estimates go even higher than that. Notably, a very high percentage of the Jews fleeing east were men and women without families. Thousands of them perished at the hands of OUN-UPA, TDA and Ypatingasis būrys during Massacres of Poles in Volhynia, the Holocaust in Lithuania (see Ponary massacre), and in Belarus. The majority of Polish Jews in the Generalgouvernement stayed put. Prior to the mass deportations, there was no proven necessity to leave familiar places. When the ghettos were closed from the outside, smuggling of food kept most of the inhabitants alive. Escape into clandestine existence on the "Aryan" side was attempted by some 100,000 Jews, and, contrary to popular misconceptions, the risk of them being turned in by the Poles was very small.
It is estimated that about 350,000 Polish Jews survived the Holocaust. Some 230,000 of them survived in the USSR and the Soviet-controlled territories of Poland, including men and women who escaped from areas occupied by Germany. Right after World War II, over 150,000 Polish Jews (Berendt) or 180,000 (Engel) were repatriated or expelled back to new Poland along with the younger men conscripted to the Red Army from Kresy in 1940–1941. Their families died in the Holocaust. Gunnar S. Paulsson estimated that 30,000 Polish Jews survived in the labor camps; but according to Engel as many as 70,000–80,000 of them were liberated from camps in Germany and Austria alone, except that declaring their own nationality was of no use to those who did not intend to return. Madajczyk estimated that as many as 110,000 Polish Jews were in the Displaced Person camps. According to Longerich, up to 50,000 Jews survived in the forests (not counting Galicia) and also among the soldiers who reentered Poland with the pro-Soviet Polish "Berling army" formed by Stalin. The number of Jews who successfully hid on the "Aryan" side of the ghettos could be as high as 100,000 wrote Peter Longerich, although many were killed by the German Jagdkommandos. Not all survivors registered with CKŻP after the war ended. Thousands of so-called Convent children hidden by the non-Jewish Poles and the Catholic Church remained in orphanages run by the Sisters of the Family of Mary in more than 20 locations, similar as in other Catholic convents. Given the severity of the German measures designed to prevent this occurrence, the survival rate among the Jewish fugitives was relatively high and by far, the individuals who circumvented deportation were the most successful.
Border changes and repatriations
The Western powers remained unaware of the top secret Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, which paved the way for World War II. The German surrender in May 1945 was followed by a massive change in the political geography of Europe. Poland's borders were redrawn by the Allies according to the demands made by Josef Stalin during the Tehran Conference, confirmed as not negotiable at the Yalta Conference of 1945. The Polish government-in-exile was excluded from the negotiations. The territory of Poland was reduced by approximately 20 percent. Before the end of 1946 some 1.8 million Polish citizens were expelled and forcibly resettled within the new borders. For the first time in its history Poland became a homogeneous one nation-state by force, with the national wealth reduced by 38 percent. Poland's financial system had been destroyed. Intelligentsia was largely obliterated along with the Jews, and the population reduced by about 33 percent.
Due to the territorial shift imposed from the outside, the number of Holocaust survivors from Poland remains the subject of deliberation. According to official statistics, the number of Jews in the country changed dramatically in a very short time. In January 1946, the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP) registered the first wave of some 86,000 survivors from the vicinity. By the end of that summer, the number had risen to about 205,000–210,000 (with 240,000 registrations and over 30,000 duplicates). The survivors included 180,000 Jews who arrived from the Soviet-controlled territories as a result repatriation agreements. Another 30,000 Jews returned to Poland from the USSR after the Stalinist repressions ended a decade later.
Aliyah Bet from Europe
In July 1946 forty-two Jews and two ethnic Poles were killed in the Kielce pogrom. Eleven of the victims died from bayonet wounds and eleven more were fatally shot with military assault rifles, indicating direct involvement of the regular troops. The pogrom prompted General Spychalski of PWP from wartime Warsaw, to sign a legislative decree allowing the remaining survivors to leave Poland without Western visas or Polish exit permits. This also served to strengthen the government's acceptance among the anti-Communist right, as well as weaken the British hold in the Middle East. Most refugees crossing the new borders left Poland without a valid passport. By contrast, the Soviet Union brought Soviet Jews from DP camps back to USSR by force, along with all other Soviet citizens irrespective of their wishes, as agreed to by the Yalta Conference.
Uninterrupted traffic across the Polish borders increased dramatically. By the spring of 1947 only 90,000 Jews remained in Poland. Britain demanded that Poland (among others) halt the Jewish exodus, but their pressure was largely unsuccessful. The massacre in Kielce was condemned by a public announcement sent by the diocese in Kielce to all churches. The letter denounced the pogrom and "stressed – wrote Natalia Aleksiun – that the most important Catholic values were the love of fellow human beings and respect for human life. It also alluded to the demoralizing effect of anti-Jewish violence, since the crime was committed in the presence of youth and children." Priests read it without comments during Mass, hinting that "the pogrom might have in fact been a political provocation."
Approximately 7,000 Jewish men and women of military age left Poland for Mandatory Palestine between 1947 and 1948 as members of Haganah organization, trained in Poland. The boot camp was set up in Bolków, Lower Silesia, with Polish-Jewish instructors. It was financed by JDC in agreement with the Polish administration. The program which trained mostly men 22–25 years of age for service in the Israel Defense Forces lasted until early 1949. Joining the training was a convenient way to leave the country, since the course graduates were not controlled at the border, and could carry undeclared valuables and even restricted firearms.
Holocaust memorials and commemoration
There are a large number of memorials in Poland dedicated to Holocaust remembrance. The Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw was unveiled in April 1948. Major museums include the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the outskirts of Oświęcim with 1.4 million visitors per year, and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on the site of the former Ghetto, presenting the thousand-year history of the Jews in Poland. Since 1988, an annual international event called March of the Living takes place in April at the former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex on Holocaust Remembrance Day, with total attendance exceeding 150,000 young people from all over the world.
There are State museums on the grounds of each of the Operation Reinhard death camps, including the Majdanek State Museum in Lublin, declared a national monument as early as 1946, with intact gas chambers and crematoria from World War II. Branches of the Majdanek Museum include the Bełżec, and the Sobibór Museums where advanced geophysical studies are being conducted by Israeli and Polish archaeologists. The new Treblinka Museum opened in 2006. It was later expanded and made into a branch of the Siedlce Regional Museum located in a historic Ratusz (see also the Siedlce Ghetto). There is also a small museum in Chełmno nad Nerem.
There is a Holocaust memorial at the former Umschlagplatz in Warsaw.
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The 2009 study published by the IPN revised the estimated Poland's war dead at about 5.8 million Poles and Jews, including 150,000 during the Soviet occupation, not including losses of Polish citizens from the Ukrainian and Belarusian ethnic groups.
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—— Second ed. (2006) USHMM / Johns Hopkins Univ Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-8358-3, p. 140.
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Many Jews associated with the Bund, Zionist organizations, religious life, and 'bourgeois' occupations, were deported in April. The third deportation in June–July 1941 consisted mainly of refugees from western and central Poland who had fled to eastern Poland.[p.347]
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The Russians initially stressed that they were the protectors of the Poles and were Poland's `friendly Slavonic neighbour´!
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Both regimes endorsed a systematic program of genocide.
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Further Reading: "Einsatzgruppen," at the Holocaust Encyclopedia.
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Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (1990), Baranowski, Dobroszycki, Wiesenthal, Yad Vashem Timeline of the Holocaust, others.
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Sources: Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege by Adelson, Alan and Robert Lapides (ed.), New York, 1989; The Documents of the Łódź Ghetto: An Inventory of the Nachman Zonabend Collection by Web, Marek (ed.), New York, 1988; The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry by Yahil, Leni, New York, 1991.
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By the end of 1940, the forced-labor program in the General Government had registered over 700,000 Jewish men and women who were working for the German economy in ghetto businesses and as labor for projects outside the ghetto; there would be more.
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Without the auxiliaries, the Nazis' murderous intentions toward the Jewish population on the Eastern Front would not have been nearly as deadly.
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Mass graves resulting from deaths in the ghettos and various places of detention due to mistreatment, starvation ... concern the fate of several hundred thousand Jews. In the Warsaw ghetto alone, more than 100,000 Jews died and were buried in various places.
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—— Deportations to Killing Centers. Archived March 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Ibidem.
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Deportations to Bronna Gora lasted four days beginning October 15, 1942
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As part of Amt IV of the R.S.H.A., the SS, SD, Kripo, and Orpo were responsible for `the rounding up, transportation, shooting, and gassing to death of at least three million Jews.´
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Countries of origin, Selection in the camp, Treatment.
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See Smith's book excerpts at: Hershl Sperling: Personal Testimony by David Adams, and the book summary at Last victim of Treblinka by Tony Rennell.
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In the town of Ostrow, thirteen miles [21 km] away from Treblinka, the stench was unbearable.
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It was a heavy Russian benzine engine – presumably a tank or tractor motor at least 200 horsepower V-motor, 8 cylinders, water cooled (SS-Scharführer Erich Fuchs).
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The highest degree of cooperation was achieved when chairmen, or other leading Council members themselves, actively participated in preparing and executing acts of resistance, particularly in the course of liquidations of ghettos. [Prominent examples include Warsaw, Częstochowa, Radomsko, Pajęczno, Sasów, Pińsk, Mołczadź, Iwaniska, Wilno, Nieśwież, Zdzięcioł (see: Zdzięcioł Ghetto), Tuczyn (Równe), and Marcinkańce (Grodno) among others]Also in: Martin Gilbert (1986), The Holocaust: the Jewish tragedy, Collins, p. 828
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- The Holocaust Encyclopedia (2017), Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, archived from the original on August 3, 2017
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Keeping in mind that these cases are drawn from published memoirs and from cases on file at Yad Vashem and the Jewish Historical Institute, it is probable that the 5,000 or so Poles who have been recognised as 'Righteous Among the Nations' so far represent only the tip of the iceberg, and that the true number of rescuers who meet the Yad Vashem 'gold standard' is 20, 50, perhaps even 100 times higher (p. 23, § 2; available with purchase).
- Yad Vashem Shoa Resource Center, Zegota Archived October 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, page 4/34 of the Report.
- Mordecai Paldiel (1993). Gentile Rescuers of Jews. The Path of the Righteous. KTAV Publishing House Inc. p. 184. ISBN 978-0881253764.
- Hunt for the Jews Archived May 11, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, Jan Grabowski, page 55, Indiana University Press
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- Unveiling the Secret City Archived June 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine H-Net Review: John Radzilowski
- This last statement is based on the fact that Polish Antisemitism, even during the war, was not murderous in nature and did not speak in terms of outright liquidation except on its outermost fringes. It expressed extreme messages and unequivocal conclusions–the imperative of mass Jewish emigration from Poland–but did not advocate pogroms or genocideWere These Ordinary Poles? Daniel Blatman "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 20, 2018. Retrieved May 19, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Jews and the Sporting Life: Studies in Contemporary Jewry XXIII (Polish Antisemitism: A National Pshychosis?) Archived May 15, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, Daniel Blatman in volume edited by Ezra Mendelsohn, Oxford University Press, pages 213–225
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Religion and Native Language (total). Section, Jewish: 3,113,933 with Yiddish: 2,489,034 and Hebrew: 243,539.
- Norman Davies (1979), God's Playground, (Polish edition), Second volume, pp. 512–513; Alice Teichova, Herbert Matis, Jaroslav Pátek (2000), Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe, pp. 342–344, ISBN 9781139427654CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link); Gedeon & Marta Kubiszyn, "Business environment in 1926–1929", Jewish history of Radom (in Polish), Virtual Shtetl, page 2 of 6, archived from the original on August 11, 2017CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link); Lubartow during the Holocaust in occupied Poland, Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, archived from the original on February 16, 2012.
- Materski & Szarota (2009), page 9.
- Piotrowski (1998), pp. 305–, 'Poland's losses.'
- Materski & Szarota (2009), page 16.
- Materski & Szarota (2009), page 28. Some 800,000 Poles perished in concentration camps and mass murders.
- Żarski-Zajdler, Władysław (1968). Martyrologia ludności żydowskiej i pomoc społeczeństwa polskiego [Martyrdom of the Jewish people and their rescue by the Polish society]. Warsaw: ZBoWiD. p. 16. ISBN 978-0813143323. [in:] Lucas (2013), p.14. Note 21 to "Introduction.".
- Zajączkowski, Wacław (June 1988). Christian Martyrs of Charity (PDF). Washington, D.C.: S.M. Kolbe Foundation. pp. 152–178 (1–14 of 25 in current document). ISBN 978-0945281009. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 18, 2015.
German military police in Grzegorzówka[p.153] and in Hadle Szklarskie[p.154] (Przeworsk County) extracted from two Jewish women the names of Christian Poles helping Jews – 11 Polish men were murdered. In Korniaktów forest (Łańcut County)[p.167] a Jewish woman caught in a bunker revealed the whereabouts of the Catholic family who fed her – the whole Polish family were murdered. In Jeziorko, Łowicz County,[p.160] a Jewish man betrayed all Polish rescuers known to him – 13 Catholics were murdered by the German military police. In Lipowiec Duży (Biłgoraj County),[p.174] a captured Jew led the Germans to his saviors – 5 Catholics were murdered including a 6-year-old child and their farm was burned. There were other similar cases; on a train to Kraków[p.170] the Żegota courier Irena who smuggled four Jewish women to safety was shot dead when one of them lost her nerve.
- Hans G. Furth One million Polish rescuers of hunted Jews? Journal of Genocide Research, June 1999, Vol. 1 Issue 2, pp. 227–232; AN 6025705.
- Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (2012). Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and a Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other. p. 6. ISBN 978-1612345680.
Approximately 3 million Poles rescued, hid, or otherwise helped Jews during the war, and fewer than a thousand denounced Jews to the Nazis.
- Richard Kwiatkowski (2016). The Country That Refused to Die: The Story of the People of Poland. p. 347. ISBN 978-1524509156.
The number of Poles estimated to be actively involved in the rescue of Jews is estimated between one and three million.
- David Marshall Smith (2000). Moral geographies: ethics in a world of difference. p. 112. ISBN 9780748612789.
It has been estimated that a million or more Poles were involved in helping Jews.
- Lukas (1989), p. 13 – Recent research suggests that a million Poles were involved, but some estimates go as high as three million. Lukas, 2013 edition. Archived July 5, 2018, at the Wayback Machine ISBN 0813143322.
- "Note to the Governments of the United Nations – December 10th, 1942". Republika.pl. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- Pawłowicz, Jacek (2008). Rotmistrz Witold Pilecki 1901–1948 (in Polish). Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN. pp. 254–. ISBN 978-83-60464-97-7.
- Cesarani, David; Kavanaugh, Sarah. Holocaust. Routledge. p. 64.
- Stola, Dariusz (2003), "The Polish government in exile and the Final Solution: What conditioned its actions and inactions?" In: Joshua D. Zimmerman, ed. Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. Rutgers University Press.
- John Connelly, Why the Poles Collaborated so Little: And Why That Is No Reason for Nationalist Hubris. Archived July 5, 2018, at the Wayback Machine Slavic Review, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Winter, 2005), pp. 771–781. In response to article by: Klaus-Peter Friedrich, Collaboration in a "Land without a Quisling": Patterns of Cooperation with the Nazi German Occupation Regime in Poland during World War II. Archived August 18, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Slavic Review, ibidem.
- Piotrowski (1998), p. 84, 'Quisling.'
- Piotr Chojnacki; Dorota Mazek, eds. (2008). Polacy ratujący Żydów w latach II wojny światowej [Poles rescuing Jews during World War II]. Zeszyty IPN, Wybór Tekstów. Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance. pp. 7, 18, 23, 31.
Kierownictwo Walki Cywilnej w "Biuletynie Informacyjnym" ostrzega "szmalcowników" i denuncjatorów przed konsekwencjami grożącymi im ze strony władz państwa podziemnego. [p.37 in PDF] Ot, widzi pan, sprawa jednej litery sprawia ogromną różnicę. Ratować i uratować! Ratowaliśmy kilkadziesiąt razy więcej ludzi, niż uratowaliśmy. – Władysław Bartoszewski [p.7]
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The Jewish looters knew better than anyone else "where to dig for valuables." Testimonies of Anzel Daches, Majer Gdański, Laja Goldman, Mojżesz Klajman, Chana Kohn, Jakub Libman, and Izrael Szerman, dated October 13, 1947; the Jewish Historical Institute Archive, record group 301, number 2932.
- Piotrowski (1998), p. 66. 'Collaborating.'
- Piotrowski (1998), p. 66, "Blackmailers."
- Lukas, Richard C. (1989). Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust. University Press of Kentucky. p. 13. ISBN 978-0813116921. Also in: Lukas, Richard C. (1986). The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939–1944. University Press of Kentucky. p. 120. ISBN 978-0781809016.
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In dozens of towns and settlements, attacks were carried out by "militias", "self-defence groups" and opaskowcy (called such for the red armbands they wore), which were made up primarily of Jews and Belarussians.[p.151]
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The localities in question include: Grodno, Skidel (see the Skidel revolt), Jeziory, Łunna, Wiercieliszki, Wielka Brzostowica, Ostryna, Dubna, Dereczyn, Zelwa, Motol, Wołpa, Janów Poleski, Wołkowysk, and Drohiczyn Poleski.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
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- Wróbel, Piotr (2006). Polish-Jewish Relations. Dagmar Herzog: Lessons and Legacies: The Holocaust in international perspective. Northwestern University Press. pp. 391–396. ISBN 978-0-8101-2370-0.
- Piotrowski (1998), p. 95, Korboński's 1981 quote verifying claim.
- Piotrowski (1998), p. 96, Verification.
- Piotrowski (1998), pp. 77–142, "NSZ underpinnings."
- Chodakiewicz, Marek Jan, The Dialectics of Pain Archived August 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Glaukopis, vol. 2/3 (2004–2005). See also: John S. Micgiel, "'Frenzy and Ferocity': The Stalinist Judicial System in Poland, 1944–1947, and the Search for Redress," The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies [ Pittsburgh], no. 1101 (February 1994): 1–48. For concurring opinions see: Krzysztof Lesiakowski and Grzegorz Majchrzak interviewed by Barbara Polak, "O Aparacie Bezpieczeństwa," Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, no. 6 (June 2002): 4–24; Barbara Polak, "O karach śmierci w latach 1944–1956," Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, no. 11 (November 2002): 4–29.
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When the Soviets occupied eastern Galicia, some 30,000 Ukrainian nationalists fled to the General Government. In 1940 the Germans began to set up military training units of Ukrainians, and in the spring of 1941 Ukrainian units were established by the Wehrmacht.See also: Marek Getter (1996). "Policja w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie 1939–1945". Przegląd Policyjny nr 1-2. Wydawnictwo Wyższej Szkoły Policji w Szczytnie. pp. 1–22. WebCite cache. Archived from the original on June 26, 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Breitman, Richard (2005). U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis. Cambridge University Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0521617949.
- Lukas (2001), The forgotten Holocaust, page 128.
- Strzembosz (2002), p. 1. Background information: Strzembosz, Tomasz (2001). "A different view of neighbors" [Inny obraz sąsiadów] (31.03.01 Nr 77). Rzeczpospolita. Archived from the original on June 10, 2001 – via Internet Archive. As well as: Paul, Mark (2013). "Neighbours On the Eve of the Holocaust" (PDF). Glaukopis. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 12, 2013.
- Browning (2004), p. 262.
- Michael C. Steinlauf. Bondage to the Dead. Syracuse University Press, p. 30.
- Paweł Machcewicz, "Płomienie nienawiści", Polityka 43 (2373), October 26, 2002, p. 71–73 The Findings Archived March 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- Gross, Jan Tomasz (2002). Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. Princeton University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-691-09603-2.
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- Dr. Frank Grelka (2005). Ukrainischen Miliz. Die ukrainische Nationalbewegung unter deutscher Besatzungsherrschaft 1918 und 1941/42. Viadrina European University: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-3-447-05259-7.
RSHA von einer begrüßenswerten Aktivitat der ukrainischen Bevolkerung in den ersten Stunden nach dem Abzug der Sowjettruppen.For the German administrative divisions of Polish kresy with prominent Jewish communities destroyed under Nazi occupation, see: Bauer, Yehuda (2009), The Death of the Shtetl, Yale University Press, pp. 1–6, 65, ISBN 978-0300152098
- Kuwałek, Robert; Riadczenko, Eugeniusz; Marczewski, Adam (2015). "Tarnopol". Virtual Shtetl. Translated by Katarzyna Czoków and Magdalena Wójcik. pp. 3–4. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017.
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- Talking with the willing executioners. Haaretz.com 18 May 2009 via Internet Archive. A horrific page of history unfolded last Monday in Ukraine. It concerned the gruesome and untold story of a spontaneous pogrom by local villagers against hundreds of Jews in a town [now suburb] south of Ternopil in 1941. Not one, but five independent witnesses recounted the tale.
- Pohl, Dieter. Hans Krueger and the Murder of the Jews in the Stanislawow Region (PDF). Yad Vashem Resource Center. pp. 12/13, 17/18, 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 12, 2014 – via direct download, PDF 95 KB.
It is clear that a massacre of such proportions under German civil administration was virtually unprecedented.
Andrea Löw. "Holocaust Encyclopedia – Stanislawów (now Ivano-Frankivsk)". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. From The USHMM Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
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- Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. Volume III. NYU Press. p. 1627. ISBN 978-0814793787. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013.
- Rossolinski, Grzegorz (2014). Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist : Fascism, Genocide, and Cult. Columbia University Press. p. 290. ISBN 978-3838206844.
- Landau, David J., Caged — A story of Jewish Resistance, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2000, ISBN 0-7329-1063-3. Quote: "The tragic end of the Ghetto [in Warsaw] could not have been changed, but the road to it might have been different under a stronger leader. There can be no doubt that if the Uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto had taken place in August—September 1942, when there were still 300,000 Jews, the Germans would have paid a much higher price."
- Pinchuk, Ben Cion (1989). "Jewish refugees in Soviet Poland". In Marrus, Michael Robert (ed.). The Nazi Holocaust. Part 8: Bystanders to the Holocaust, Volume 3. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1036–1038. ISBN 978-3110968682.
The range of differences in estimates might give us an idea of the problem's complexity. Thus, Avraham Pechenik estimated the number of refugees at 1,000,000.[p.1038]
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- Golczewski, Frank (2000). Gregor, Neil (ed.). Nazism. The impact of National Socialism. OUP Oxford. pp. 329–330. ISBN 978-0191512032. Prof. Czesław Madajczyk ascribed 2,000,000 Polish-Jewish victims to extermination camps, and 700,000 others to ghettos, labour camps, and hands-on murder operations. His stated figure of 2,770,000 victims is regarded as low but realistic. Madajczyk estimated also 890,000 Polish-Jewish survivors of World War II; some 110,000 of them in the Displaced Person camps across the rest of Europe, and 500,000 in the USSR; bringing the number up to 610,000 Jews outside the country in 1945. Note: some other estimates, see for example: Engel (2005), are substantially different.
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- Phayer (2000), pp. 113, 117–120, 250. In January 1941 Jan Dobraczynski placed roughly 2,500 children in cooperating convents of Warsaw. Getter took many of them into her convent. During the Ghetto uprising the number of Jewish orphans in their care surged upward.[p.120]
- Bogner (2012), pp. 41–44.
- Paul (2009), pp. 16, 63–71, 98, 185. Despite the fact that at least several hundred Sisters of the Family of Mary risked their lives to rescue Jews, only three of them, Mother Matylda Getter of Warsaw, Sister Helena Chmielewska of Podhajce, and Sister Celina Kędzierska of Sambor (see: Sambor Ghetto) have been decorated by Yad Vashem.[p. 84].
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The Second Republic was obliterated during the Second World War (1939–1945). As a consequence of seven years of brutal fighting and resistance to Nazi and Soviet military occupation, Poland's population was reduced by a third, from 34,849 at the end of 1938, to 23,930 in February 1946. Six million citizens...perished.[pp.19–20] (See Anti-communist resistance in Poland (1944–46) for supplementary data.)
- Cite error: The named reference
DHak70was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
- Hakohen (2003), p. 70, 'Poland'.
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The decision originated from the military circles (and not the party leadership). The Berihah organization under Cwi Necer was requested to keep the involvement of MSZ and MON a secret.(24 in PDF) The migration reached its zenith in 1946, resulting in 150,000 Jews leaving Poland.(21 in PDF)
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Suggested reading: Arieh Josef Kochavi, "Britain and the Jewish Exodus ... ," Polin 7 (1992): pp. 161–175.
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This gigantic effort, known by the Hebrew code word Brichah(flight), accelerated powerfully after the Kielce pogrom in July 1946
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- Lukas (1989); also in Lukas (2001), p. 13.
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