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Sonderaktion Krakau was the codename for a German operation against professors and academics from the University of Kraków and other Krakówmarker universities at the beginning of World War II.

It was carried out as part of the action plan to exterminate the Polishmarker intellectual elite, especially in those centres, such as Kraków, which were slated by the Nazis to become culturally German.

On November 6, 1939, Obersturmbannf√ľhrer SSmarker Bruno M√ľller commanded Prof. Tadeusz Lehr-SpŇāawiŇĄski, then the University's rector, to require all professors to attend a lecture on German plans for Polish education. The rector agreed and sent an invitation throughout the university. When 144 Jagiellonian University professors and assistants arrived at 12:00 at room 66 of the Collegium Novum building, no lecture was conducted. They were instead imprisoned under the pretext that the university was working without German consent. Twenty-one professors from the Mining Academy (attending a meeting in a different room), 5 visiting professors, and 13 university employees and students who were in the building were also arrested. All 183 were later sent to Sachsenhausen concentration campmarker and Dachaumarker.

Following loud international protest, 101 of those surviving professors who were older than 40 were released on 8 February 1940. Additional academics were released later. Although university professors were not sent directly to gas chambers, many were elderly and did not survive even a short stay under the grim living conditions in the camps where dysentery was common and warm clothes in winter were rare. 15 died in the camps and another 5 died within days of release. Among the notable professors who died in Sachsenhausen were Ignacy Chrzanowski, StanisŇāaw Estreicher, Kazimierz Kostanecki, Antoni Meyer, and MichaŇā Siedlecki.

In 1942, many of those who survived Sonderaktion Krakau formed an underground university in defiance of German edicts. Among the 800 students of the underground university was Karol WojtyŇāa, the future Pope John Paul II.

Today, there is a plaque commemorating the events of Sonderaktion Krakau in front of Collegium Novum in Krakow. Every 6 November, black flags are hung outside all Jagiellonian University buildings and the Rector of the University personally lays wreaths on the graves of those who suffered.

See also


  • Banach, A.K., Dybiec, J. & Stopka, K. The History of the Jagiellonian University. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press, 2000.
  • Burek, Edward (ed.) ‚ÄúSonderaktion Krakau‚ÄĚ in Encyklopedia Krakowa. Krakow: PWM, 2000.
  • Gawńôda, StanisŇāaw. Uniwersytet JagielloŇĄski w okresie II wojny Ňõwiatowej 1939-1945. Krakow: WLK, 1986.

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