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Approximately six million Polish citizens, divided nearly equally between non-Jewish and Jewish, perished during World War II. Most were civilians killed by the actions of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Unionmarker and their allies. At the Nuremberg Tribunalmarker, three categories were established. These categories were waging war, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This article details war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in occupied Poland during WWII or the origin of the crime started in occupied Poland.

The German and Soviet occupation (September 1939 to June 1941)



Following the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 by Germany and their Soviet ally on 17 September 1939, Poland was divided between them. Germany annexed 91,902 square kilometres with 10 million citizens and controlled the so-called General government which consisted of a further 95,742 kilometres with 12 million citizens. The Soviet Union occupied 202,069 square kilometres with over 13 million citizens. There were many similarities between the two zones of occupations e.g. both shot civilians and POWs.

The Soviet occupation

Only a very small minority of Polish citizens welcomed the Soviet invasion. The Soviets looked to destroy Polish self-rule using deportation of hundred of thousands of Polish citizens and forcing their system of government upon them.

Effect on Polish culture

The Soviets set out to remove a thousand years of Polish cultural influences. Polish was replaced in official usage. Schools spread Soviet indoctrination and religious education was forbidden. Monuments were destroyed, street names changed, bookshops closed, libraries burned and publishers shutdown. Soviet censorship was strictly enforced. Even the ringing of church bells was banned.

Effect on economy

Taxation was raised forcing religious institutions to close. The Soviets replaced the Zloty with the worthless ruble, but gave them equal value. Businesses were mandated to stay open and sell at pre-war prices, hence allowing Soviet soldiers to buy goods with rubles. Entire hospitals, schools and factories were moved to the USSR.

Internment of Polish citizens (Gulag)

Polish prisoners of war
Amongst the first to suffer were the Border Defence Corps. Many officers were murdered. General Olszyna-Wilczyński was shot. In the Wilno area and Polesie the officers were murdered.

In Lvivmarker the troops, including the Police force, surrendered after agreeing to terms that allowed them to travel to neutral countries (Rumania and Hungary) but the Soviet administration reneged on their agreement and they were sent to Soviet POW camps including 2,000 officers.

Soviet estimated the total captured as 9,350 officers and 181,233 soldiers.

Deportations
Monument to the deported in Warsaw


The Soviet used the same process of subjugation used against their own citizens especially deportation. In 1940 and the first half of 1941, the Soviets deported more than 1,500,000 Poles, most in four mass deportations. The first deportation took place February 10, 1940, with more than 220,000 sent to northern European Russia; the second on April 13-15, 1940, sending 300,000 to 330,000 primarily to Kazakhstan; a third wave in June-July 1940 totaled more than 240,000 perhaps 400,000; the fourth occurred in June, 1941, deporting 200,000. The fourth wave contained a large number of children. Upon resumption of Polish-Soviet diplomatic relations in 1941, it was determined based on Soviet information that more than 760,000 of the deportees had died—a large part of those dead being children, who had comprised about a third of deportees.

As well as deporting Polish citizens, Polish men were drafted into the Soviet army. It has been estimated that 210,000 were drafted.

Katyn massacre
Katyn is one notorious massacre by the NKVD. The Katyn Forest is the site where 4,443 were murdered by the Soviets. Most were reserve Polish officers including political leaders, government officials, and intellectuals. The name Katyn is now associated with the systematic execution of up to 21,768 Polish citizens.

The German occupation



From the start, the war against Poland was intended as a fulfilment of the plan described by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf. The main axis of the plan was that all of Eastern Europe should become part of the greater Germany, the so-called German Lebensraum ("living space"). The German Army was sent, as stated by Adolf Hitler in his Armenian quote: "with orders to kill without mercy and reprieve all men, women and children of the Polish race". This could be seen as an attempt to destroy the entire nation. The German saw Poles as inferior to them. Also the Germans had encountered assimilated Jews therefore the Polish Jews appeared alien to them.

Atrocities during the invasion of Poland (1939)

The Germans carried out massacres and executions from the start. It is estimated that 200 executions were carried out daily. Typically, the executions were in a public place such as the town square.

Location, date and numbers of Polish citizens murdered:



As well as civilians, Polish soldiers were massacred; even on the first day of fighting, 1 September, Polish POWs were murdered at Pilchowice, Czuchówmarker, Gierałtowice, Bojków, Lubliniecmarker, Kochcice, Zawiść, Ornontowice and Wyrymarker.



The Luftwaffe also took part by strafing refugees on the road. The number of civilians wounded or killed by aerial bombing is put at over 100,000. The Luftwaffe dropped their bombs on open cities against the civilians in them. Amongst the Polish cities and towns to be bombed were

  • Brodnica
  • Bydgoszcz
  • Chełm
  • Ciechanów
  • Cracow
  • Częstochowa
  • Grodno
  • Grudziądz
  • Gydnia
  • Janów
  • Jasło
  • Katowice
  • Kielce
  • Kowel
  • Kutno
  • Lublin
  • Lviv
  • Olkusz
  • Piotrkówmarker
  • Płock
  • Płońsk
  • Poznań
  • Puck
  • Radom
  • Radomsko
  • Sulejów
  • Warsaw
  • Wieluń
  • Wilno
  • Zamość


Over 156 towns and villages were attacked by the Luftwaffe. Warsaw suffered particularly severely with a combination of aerial bombardment and artillery fire reducing large parts of the historic centre to rubble. The Soviet Union assisted the Germans by allowing them to use a radio beacon from Minsk to guide their planes.

The Bydgoszcz incidents

The Germans as part of their anti-Polish campaign used the Bydgoszcz incidents as propaganda. Germans living in the town took anti-Polish actions including shooting at Polish soldiers. Polish soldiers shot a number of Germans for various reasons including possession of weapons. The Nazi German government claimed wholesale slaughter of Germans. Norman Davies estimated that 20,000 Poles were murdered in reprisal.

Terror and crimes against intelligentsia and clergy

During the German invasion of Poland , special action squads of SSmarker and police (the Einsatzgruppenmarker) were deployed in the rear, and arrested or killed civilians caught offering resistance against the Germans or considered capable of doing so, as determined by their position and social status. Tens of thousands of government officials, landowners, clergy, and members of the intelligentsia — teachers, doctors, journalists, and others (both Poles and Jews) — were either murdered in mass executions or sent to prisons and concentration camps. German army units and "self-defense" forces composed of Volksdeutsche also participated in executions of civilians. In many cases, these executions were reprisal actions that held entire communities collectively responsible for attacks on German forces or the murder of ethnic Germans. One of the first examples was deportation to concentration camps in November 1939 of 180 professors from the university of Cracow. The German occupiers launched AB-Aktion in May 1940 a plan to eliminate the Polish intelligentsia and leadership class. More than 16,000 members of the intelligentsia were murdered in Operation Tannenberg alone.

The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed in Wartheland more harshly than elsewhere: churches were systematically closed; most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported to the General Government. In the General Government, Hans Frank’s diary shows he planned a “war on the clergy”. The Germans also closed seminaries and convents and persecuted monks and nuns. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 2,801 members of the Polish clergy were murdered (in all of Poland); of these, 1,926 died in concentration camps (798 of them at Dachaumarker). One hundred and eight of them are regarded as blessed martyrs, Maximilian Kolbe as a saint.

Cultural genocide and the preparations for the final solution

As part of a wider effort to destroy Polish culture, the Germans closed or destroyed universities, schools, museums, libraries, and scientific laboratories. Polish academic institutions were turned into German establishments. Polish children were forced to attend and obey with strict punishment used. They demolished hundreds of monuments to national heroes. To prevent the birth of a new generation of educated Poles, German officials decreed that the schooling of Polish children should end after a few years of elementary education.

"The sole goal of this schooling is to teach them simple arithmetic, nothing above the number 500; writing one's name; and the doctrine that it is divine law to obey the Germans. I do not think that reading is desirable,"


At the end of October 1939, the Germans induced the death penalty for disobedience to the German occupation.

It was the German plan to move Poles to Siberia. Himmler wrote a memorandum in May 1940. In it he promised to deport all Poles to the east [Russia]. Plans for mass transportation and slave labor camps for up to 20 million Poles were made. All were intended to die during the cultivation of the swamps.

During the war, Himmler in his capacity as Reich Commissioner oversaw the kidnapping of Polish children to be Germanized. The German also took approximately 50,000, some estimate are as high as 200,000, Polish children from their families. They were sent to the Reich to be subject to "Germanisation". Many of the children were not recovered and remained in Germany.

German massacres



  • Otorowomarker 20 October - 5 Poles or 19 Poles
  • Szamotułymarker 20 October - 5 Poles
  • Warsawmarker 22 November - 53 Jews
  • Wawermarker 27 December – 106 murdered or 107 murdered
  • Palmirymarker December 1940 to July 1941 - 2,000 Poles
  • Kościanmarker - 50 Poles including parish priest
  • Kościanmarker - 75 Poles
  • Gnieznomarker - 15 Polish citizens including Father Zabłocki
  • Bydgoszczmarker - 136 Polish school boys with about 6,000 others by end of 1939
  • Lesznomarker - 250 Poles
  • Śremmarker - 118 Poles
  • Wolsztynmarker - A group of Poles
  • Kórnikmarker - 16 Polish citizens
  • Trzemesznomarker - 30 Polish citizens
  • Mogilnomarker - 30 Polish citizens or 39 Poles and one Jew
  • Antoninek - 20 Polish citizens


Other sites include: Rawiczmarker, Grodzisk Wielkopolskimarker, Nowy Tomyślmarker, Międzychódmarker, Żninmarker, Wrześniamarker, Chełmnomarker, Chojnicemarker, Kaliszmarker and Włocławekmarker.

Germanisation of Polish land

Germanisation of annexed Polish land
In the Wartheland, the Nazis' goal was complete Germanization: to assimilate the territories politically, culturally, socially, and economically into the German Reich. Germans closed elementary schools where Polish was the language taught. Streets and cities were renamed so that Łódźmarker became Litzmannstadt, for example. Tens of thousands of Polish enterprises, from large industrial firms to small shops, were seized without payment to the owners. Signs posted in public places warned: "Entrance forbidden for Poles, Jews, and dogs."

The Germans planned to change ownership of all property in the land incorporated into the Third Reich. In a speech to German colonist, Arthur Greiser said "In ten years there will not even be a peasant smallholding which will not be in German hands". This force resettlement affected 2 million Poles. Families were made in the severe winter of 1939-40 to leave behind almost everything without any recompense. As part of Operation Tannenburg alone, 750,000 Polish peasants were forced and their property given to Germans. A further 330,000 were murdered.

Jews were treated slightly differently as they were gathered together into ghettos in the cities. Heinrich Himmler ordered all Jews in the annexed lands to be deported to central Poland. In winter 1939-40, about 100,000 Jews were thus deported.

Extermination of psychiatric patients

In July 1939, a Nazi secret program called T-4 Euthanasia Program was developed with the intention of exterminating psychiatric patients. During the German invasion of Poland, the programme was put into practice in the occupied Polish territories. Initially, it was implemented according to the following plan: a German director took control over the psychiatric hospital; under the threat of execution, no patient could be released from the hospital; and all patients were counted and transported by trucks to an unknown destination. Each truck was accompanied by armed soldiers from special SS detachments who returned without the patients after a few hours. The patients were said to be transferred to another hospital, but evidence showed that they had been killed. The first action of this type took place in Kocborowo, at a large psychiatric hospital in the Gdańskmarker region on September 22, 1939. Along with their patients, six hospital employees, including a deputy director, were murdered by a firing squad. By December, 1,800 patients from Kocborowo had been murder and buried in the forest of Szpegawski. In total, 7,000 were buried in the forest of Szpegawski. Similar exterminations took place in October 1939 in a hospital in Owińska, near Poznańmarker, where 1,000 patients (children and adults) were killed.

In addition to the executions by firing squad, other methods of mass murder were also used. Patients at a psychiatric hospital in Owińska were transported to a military fortress in Poznań where, in Fort VII bunkers, they were gassed by carbon monoxide, approximately 50 persons at a time. Other Owińska hospital patients were gassed in sealed trucks by the carbon monoxide of the exhaust fumes. The same method was performed in Kochanówek Hospital near Łódź where, between March-August 1940, 2,200 persons were killed. This was the first "successful" test of mass murder using gas poisoning and this "technique" was later used and perfected on many other psychiatric patients in occupied Poland and Germany and, starting in 1941, on inmates of the extermination camps. The total number of psychiatric patients murdered by the Nazis in occupied Poland between 1939-1945 is estimated to be more than 16,000, with an additional 10,000 patients who died of malnutrition. Additionally, approximately 100 out of 243 members of the pre-war Polish Psychiatric Association, met the same fate as their patients. Nazi terror was aimed at the complete reconstruction of society. Jews were to disappear; Poles were to become slaves of Greater Germany. Therefore the leadership of Poles: political, economic and religious, were to be murdered, while the bulk of the population were stripped of any rights and given no education or health care. To explain the policy of terror for German society at home and abroad, some pretext was necessary. Some of the alleged causes were revenge for Bloody Sunday, reaction to Polish resistance activities and the political agenda of the fanatical Nazi leadership.

Forced labour

All Polish males were required to perform forced labor. Between 1939 and 1945, at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were transported to the Reich for forced labour, against their will. One estimate has 1 million (including POWs) from annexed lands and 1.28 million from the General Government. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes the figure was more than two and half million during the war. Many were teenage boys and girls. Although Germany also used forced labourers from Western Europe, Poles, along with other Eastern Europeans viewed as inferior, were subject to especially harsh discriminatory measures. They were forced to wear identifying purple Ps sewn to their clothing, subjected to a curfew, and banned from public transport. While the treatment of factory workers or farm hands often varied depending on the individual employer, Polish laborers as a rule were compelled to work longer hours for lower wages than Western Europeans and, in many cities, they were forced to live in segregated barracks behind barbed wire. Social relations with Germans outside work were forbidden and sexual relations with them were considered "racial defilement", punishable by death. During the war, hundreds of Polish men were executed for their relations with German women.

Concentration camps

Polish citizens, especially Ethnic Poles and Polish Jews, were prisoners in nearly every camp of the extensive concentration camp system in German-occupied Poland and the Reich. A major labour camp complex at Stutthof, east of Gdańsk/Danzig, existed from September, 1939 to the end of the war, where an estimated 20,000 Poles died as a result of executions, hard labour, and harsh conditions. Some 100,000 Poles were deported to Majdanekmarker, and tens of thousands of them died there. An estimated 20,000 Poles died at Sachsenhausenmarker, 20,000 at Gross-Rosenmarker, 30,000 at Mauthausenmarker, 17,000 at Neuengammemarker, 10,000 at Dachau, and 17,000 at Ravensbrückmarker. In addition, tens of thousands of Polish people were executed or died in their thousands in other camps, including special children's camps such as in Łódź and its subcamp at Dzierżan, in prisons and other places of detention inside and outside Poland.

Auschwitz concentration camp


The Auschwitz concentration camp went into operation on June 14, 1940. The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners consisted mostly of schoolchildren, students and soldiers from an overcrowded prison at Tarnówmarker. Within a week another 313 arrived. There were major transports in August of 1,666 and September of 1,705. This so called “Polish” phase lasted until the middle of 1942. By March 1941, 10,900 prisoners were registered at the camp, most of them Poles.

The treatment of Polish Jews

The Ethnic Poles were subject to selective persecution but all Ethnic Jews were targeted. It is estimated that during the first 55 days of the occupation that 5,000 Jews were killed. Still initially Ethnic Poles were murdered at a greater rate than Jews. Polish Jews over the age of 12 or 14 were forced to wear the Star of David.

The Germans inside occupied Poland create some 400 ghettos in which they forced Jews to live. These ghettos were part of the German policy of removing Jews from Europe. The combination of excess numbers, unsanitary conditions and lack of food create a high death rate. The first ghetto was established in October 1939 at Piotrków. Initially the ghettos were open but on 1 May the Łódź ghetto was closed by Germans sealing the Jews inside. The Warsaw ghetto was closed in November 1940. The Germans started a reservation for Jews near Lublin.

The Germans tried to divided the Poles from the Jews using cruel laws such as Poles buying from Jewish shops were subject to execution. Maria Brodacka became the first Pole to be killed by the Germans for helping a Jew. The Germans used the incident to kill 100 Jews being held as hostages. At the start of the war 1,335 Poles were kill for sheltering Jews.

Towards the end of 1942, the mass extermination of Polish Jews had started with deportation to the death camps of others outside Poland.

The German reign of terror (July 1941 to December 1944)

Soviet executions of their prisoners June/July 1941

Following the German attack against Soviet forces in eastern Poland, the Soviet panicked and executed their prisoners. Stalin ordered the execution of those believed to have spied on the Soviet Union. One estimate put the death toll in the prisons at up to 30,000. There may be as many as 100,000 victims at the Soviets hands as they retreated. Another estimate puts the total at 120,000 for those killed in prisons or during the flight. The following is a partial list of prisons and other places were executions took place.

  • Augustow 30
  • Berezwecz Up to 3,000 up to 2,000
  • Białystok Hundreds
  • Boryslaw Dozens
  • Bóbrka 9-16
  • Brzeżany over 220
  • Busk about 40
  • Bystrzyca Nadwornianska
  • Chervenmarker
  • Ciechanowiec around 10
  • Czerlany 180 POWs
  • Czortków
  • Dobromil 400 murdered
  • Drohobycz up to 1000
  • Dubno around 525
  • Grodno under 100
  • Gródek 3
  • Horodenka
  • Jagiellonski
  • Jaworów 32
  • Horodenka
  • Jaworow
  • Kałusz
  • Kamionka Strumilowa about 20
  • Kołomyja
  • Komarno
  • Krzemieniec up to 1,500
  • Lida
  • Lwówmarker Over 12,000 murdered
  • Lopatyn 12
  • Łuckmarker Up to 4,000 murdered
  • Mikolajow
  • Minsk Over 700
  • Nadworna about 80
  • Oleszyce
  • Oszmiana at least 60
  • Ottynia 300
  • Pasieczna
  • Pińsk maybe hundreds
  • Przemyślany up to 1000
  • Równe up to 500
  • Rudki 200
  • Sambor At least 200 up to 720
  • Sarny around 90
  • Sądowa Wisznia about 70
  • Sieniatycze 15
  • Skniłow 200 POWs
  • Słonim
  • Stanislawow About 2,800
  • Stryj at least 100
  • Szczerzec about 30
  • Tarasowski Wood About 100
  • Tarnopol up to 1,000
  • Wilejka Over 700
  • Wilno Hundreds
  • Włodzimierz
  • Wolynski
  • Wołkowysk 7
  • Wołożyn about 100
  • Wolozynek
  • Zalesiany
  • Zaleszczyki
  • Zborów around 8
  • Złoczów up to 750
  • Zołkiew up to 60
  • Zydaczów
  • Zydaczow Zolkiew


It was not only prisoners who were murdered by NKVD as the Soviets retreated. Other Soviet crimes included:

  • Brzeżany – Soviet soldiers threw hand grenades into homes.
  • Czortków – Four priests, three brothers and a tertiary murdered


German massacres

Józefówmarker Massacre – 1500 Jews (elderly, women and children only)

By 1943, it was common for the population to be subject to mass murder.

Lithuanian collaboration and massacres

Massacres committed by Poles

The Jedwabne pogrom (or Jedwabne massacre) was a massacre of Jewish people living in and near the town of Jedwabnemarker in Poland that took place in July 1941 during World War II. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance say that the crime was "committed directly by Poles, but inspired by the Germans." Jan Gross claims similar events occurred at Radziłówmarker and Wąsosz. A report indicate a pogrom also took place at Tykocin, but contemporary research doesn't support the story.

Some ethnic Poles have also murdered Ukrainians such as the case of Pawłokoma.

There are also claims of massacres of Lithanians with Dubinkimarker being the most infamous.

Ukrainian collaboration and massacres

For many years, the knowledge of Ukrainian massacres of ethnic Poles and Jews comitted by some Ukrainians was suppressed.

Amongst the first to suffer were units of the Polish army fleeing the Germans. However it was not just soldiers attacked during September 1939 campaign examples exist of citizens being murdered and with women being raped.

The killings continued after the Soviet occupation had been completed. 200 Polish refugees were murdered at Nawóz.

With the German attack against Soviet Union, ethnic Ukrainians hoped to establish an independent Ukraine and viewed the Nazi Germany as their liberator from the oppressive communist Soviet regimemarker. Some ethnic Ukrainians were amongst the collaborators and supporters of the Germans in rounding up and murdering Jews.

Numerous sources state that as soon as the Germans arrived at Lviv, some Ukrainians started to murder Jews. It is estimated in this wave of pogroms across 54 cities that 24,000 Jews were killed.

With many Jews already murdered by the Germans, some Ukrainians began to target ethnic Poles. including sometimes pregnant women and children.

Location, date and numbers of Polish citizens murdered by the Ukrainian nationalists:

  • March 15, 1942 - Koszyszcze - Ukrainians police with Germans: 145 Poles, 19 Ukrainians, 7 Jews and 9 Soviets
  • April, 1942 – Antonówska – 9 Poles
  • September, 1942 – Aleksandrówka – 6 Poles
  • November, 1942 – Rozyszcze – 4 Poles
  • December, 1942 – Zalesie – 9 Poles
  • December 16, 1942 – Jezierce – 280 Poles
  • March 3, 1943 – Borszczówka – Ukrainians police with Germans: 130 Poles including 42 children
  • March 18, 1943 – In three locations (Pienki, Pendyki Duze & Pendyki Male) – 180 Poles
  • March 18, 1943 – Melnytsa - Ukrainians police with Germans: about 80 Poles
  • March 25, 1943 – Lipniki – 170 Poles
  • April 13, 1943 – Huta Majdanska – 175 Poles
  • April 22-23, 1943 – Zabara – 750 Poles
  • April 24, 1943 – Huta Antonowiecka – Around 600 Poles
  • May 5, 1943 – Klepachiv – 42 Poles
  • May 7-8, 1943 – Katerynivka – 28 Poles, 10 Jews and 2 mixed Polish-Ukrainian families
  • May 29, 1943 – Stsryki – At least 90 Poles
  • June 2, 1943 – Hurby – about 250 Poles
  • June 22, 1943 – Górna Kolonia – 76 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Rudnia – About 100 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Gucin – Around 140 or 146 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Kalusiv – 107 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 - Wolczak – Around 490 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Orzesyn – 306 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Khryniv – Around 200 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Zablocce – 76 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Mikolajpol – More than 50 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Jeziorany Szlachecki – 43 Poles
  • July 11, 1943 – Krymno – Poles who had gathered for mass were murdered
  • July 22, 1943 – Dymitrivka – 43 Poles
  • August, 1943 – Ternopil – 43 Poles
  • August 1, 1943 – Andrzejówka – Scores of Poles murdered
  • August 14, 1943 – Kisielówka – 87 Poles
  • August 30, 1943 - Budy Ossowski – 205 Poles including 80 children
  • August 30, 1943 – Czmykos – 240 Poles murdered
  • September, 1943 – Ternopol – 61 Poles
  • September 13, 1943 – Beheta – 20 Poles
  • October, 1943 – Ternopil – 93 Poles
  • October 16, 1943 – Lusze – Two Polish families murdered
  • November, 1943 – Ternopil – 127 Poles
  • November, 1943 – A large number of settlements destroyed
  • December 6, 1943 – Stezarzyce – 23 Poles
  • December, 1943 – Ternopil – 409 Poles
  • January, 1944 – Ternopil – 446 Poles


It is estimated that anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 died druring the ethnic cleansing operations.

Some Ukrainians also collaborated being guards at the concentration camps.

The Holocaust in occupied Poland

The first German death camps in occupied Poland were started in late 1941. The Chelmno extermination campmarker used mobile gas vans to murder mostly Jews and Roma. The Germans then set-up killing centres at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

Auschwitz concentration camp

In September 1941, 200 ill prisoners, most of them Poles, along with 600 Soviet POWs, were killed in the first gassing experiments at Auschwitz. Beginning in 1942, Auschwitz's prisoner population became much more diverse, as Jews and other "enemies of the state" from all over German-occupied Europe were deported to the camp.

About 960,000 Jews died at Auschwitz including 438,000 from Hungary and 300,000 Polish Jews. The Polish scholar Franciszek Piper, the chief historian of Auschwitz, estimates that 140,000 to 150,000 Poles were brought to that camp between 1940 and 1945, and that 70,000 to 75,000 died there as victims of executions, of cruel medical experiments, and of starvation and disease.

Łódź Ghetto

From 1940 to 1944, it is estimated starvation and disease caused the death of 43,000 Jews in the ghetto. Most of the rest died in the German death camps.

Warsaw Ghetto

The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the Jewish ghettos located in the territory of General Government during World War II, established by Nazi Germany in Warsawmarker, the prewar capital of Poland. Between 1941 and 1943, starvation, disease and mass deportations to concentration camps and extermination camps such as during the Gross-aktion Warschau, reduced the population of the ghetto from an estimated 445,000 to approximately 71,000. In 1943 the Warsaw Ghetto was the scene of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The ghetto was reduced to rubble.

Warsaw concentration camp

From 1943 until 1944, the Warsaw concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Warschau) worked as a death camp to exterminate the Polish population of Warsawmarker. The Gentile population of Poland was a target of the łapanka policy, in which the forces of SS, Wehrmacht and police rounded up civilians on the street; between 1942 and 1944, there were approximately 400 victims of the łapanka in Warsaw daily. During the existence of the KL Warschau, it is estimated that tens of thousands (IPN [54325]) of people were killed there, most of them Polish citizens of the city. Some estimates put the total at 200,000. Most of them were shot in publicised reprisal executions of hostages or died due to bad health conditions in the camp and a typhus epidemic; some were also gassed. Some historians, such as Maria Trzcińska, also postulate the existence of an enormous gas chamber in a railway tunnel at Bem Street; however, this claim is highly controversial. The very existence of the death camp part of the compound, had been a public secret during the era of Communist rule in Poland. The reason was to inflate numbers of victims of the Warsaw Uprising, initiated by the patriotic Polish Home Army against the Germans in 1944, which was followed by massive civilian casualties inflicted by the Nazis upon the city's population (see below).

The end of German rule and the start of Soviet domination (January 1944 on)

The end of the Nazi crimes

Warsaw Uprising atrocities



During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, German forces committed many atrocities against Polish civilians, following the order by Hitler to raze the city and "turn it into a lake".

The most severe of them took place in Wola district where, at the beginning of August 1944, tens of thousands of civilians (men, women, and children) were methodically rounded-up and executed by Einsatzkommando of Sicherheitspolizeimarker operating within the SS-Gruppenführer Heinz Reinefarth group under the overall command of Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski. Executions in the Wola district, sometimes called the Wola massacre, also included the killings of both the patients and staff of local hospitals. Victims’ bodies were then collected by the members of the Verbrennungskommando, comprising selected Polish men, and burnt. The carnage was so bad that even the German high command were stunned.

Other similar massacres took place in the areas of Śródmieście (City Centre), Old Town, Marymont, and Ochota districts. In Ochota district, civilian killings, rapes, and looting were conducted by the members of Russian collaborators from SS-Sturmbrigade RONA. Until the end of the September 1944, Polish resistance fighters were not considered by Germans as combatants; thus, when captured, they were summarily executed. After the fall of the Old Town, during the beginning of September, the remaining 7,000 seriously wounded hospitals’ patients were executed or burnt alive often with the medical staff caring for them. Similar atrocities took place later in the Czerniaków district. A number of captured insurgents were hanged or otherwise executed after the fall of Powiśle and Mokotów districts as well.

Timeline of Massacres during Warsaw Uprising
  • Aug 2 - Rakowiecka Street Prison – about 500 prisoners and Jesuits murdered
  • Aug 2 - Ochota - Germans murder all their hostages
  • Aug 2 - Old Town - 300 patients are murdered
  • Aug 4 - Ochota – Start of massacre residents
  • Aug 5 - Wola – Start of massacre of residents. In total 10,000, 20,000 or 40,000 residents murdered.
  • Aug 5 - Wolski Hospital – about 360 patients and personnel murdered
  • Aug 5 - St. Lazarus Hospital – about 1,000 patients and personnel murdered
  • Aug 6 - Karola i Marii Hospital – over 100 patients murdered
  • Aug 8 - Old Town - Germans set fire to historic buildings in the Old Town
  • Aug 10 - Ochota - Brigade SS-RONA are continuing to kill residents
  • Aug 13 - Old Town – Explosion kills 350, mostly civilians
  • Aug 28 - Polish Security Printing Works - Injured, field hospital staff and civilians sheltered in the basement are murdered
  • Aug 29 - Unknown - Germans murder old people and invalids from a captured municipal shelter
  • Sep 2 - Old Town – 7,000 civilians are murdered


More than 200,000 Poles were killed in the uprising. Out of 450,000 surviving civilians, 150,000 were sent to labour camps in Germany, and 50,000 to 60,000 were shipped to death and concentration camps. After the rising had ended, the Germans continued to systematically destroy the city. The city was left in ruins. Neither Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski nor Heinz Reinefarth were ever tried for their Warsaw Uprising atrocities.

The role of Soviets is debated by historians. Questions are asked about the Soviet halting their advance on the city and denying the use of their airfields to the RAF and US air force.

List of internment sites for Polish citizens (German concentration and death camps)

Below is an incomplete list of sites, where Polish citizens, detained, imprisoned, forced into slave labour, and exterminated were found both on Polish territory and outside it.



Extermination camps
The German government established seven extermination camps in occupied Poland.

These camps were as follows:



Concentration camps adjoining extermination camps
There were also concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka and Warsaw.

Concentration camps
The concentration camps in occupied Poland were:



Labour camps
This list includes only camps with at least 100 prisoners.



Prisoners of war camps
Prisons

Return of the Soviet terror

More deportations

With the return of the Soviets, the killings and deportations started again. Stalin assumed the AK (Home Army) would try to stop his goal of controlling Poland hence set out to destroy them. They were accused of having Germans spies in their ranks, trying to take control of the Polish units fighting with the Red army and causing desertions.

Home Army units which fought against the Germans in support of the Soviet advance had their officers and men arrested. At Wilno and Nowogrodek the Soviets shipped to camps 1,500 officers and 5,000 other ranks.

The Home Army was made illegal. As a result it is estimated up to 40,000 Home Army were deported and many others persecuted.

In the Lublin area more than 50,000 Poles were arrested between July 1944 and June 1945.

More Soviet massacres

It is suspected that the NKVD carried out killings in the Turza Wood. 17 bodies have been found. Estimates put the total at 600.

At Baran Wood 13 bodies have been found but witnesses claim hundreds. Records show 45 of the 61 death sentences were carried out and other records 37 in October 1944 alone.

List of internment sites for Polish citizens (Gulags, other concentration camps and prisons)

Jewish collaboration and massacres

Polish Jews suffered amongst the most of any during WWII but still accusions exist against them. The most famous are the massacres at Koniuchy and Naliboki.

Casualties

Poland is now estimated to have lost between 4.9 and 5.1 million citizens at the hands of the Germans. Over 1 million more died at the hands of the Soviets. In total, over 6 million Polish citizens died.

The vast majority were civilians. The daily average in Polish lives was 2,800. Poland’s professional classes suffered higher than average causalities with Doctors (45%), lawyers (57%), University professors (40%), technicians (30%), clergy (18%) and many journalists.

It was not only Polish citizens who died at the hands of the occupying powers but many others. One estimate is 2 million people from 29 countries died in occupied Poland. This includes 1 million Jews and 784,000 Soviet POWs.

See also



External links



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Further reading

  • World War II crimes in Poland
    • God's Playground Volume II by Norman Davies, Oxford University Press 1986 ISBN 0-19-821944-X Chapter 20 Poland in the Second World War
    • Poland in the Second World War by Jozef Garlinski, Macmillian ISBN 0-333-39258-2 Chapter 3
    • The War of the World by Niall Ferguson, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-713-99708-7 Chapters 12-13


  • The Soviet occupation
    • Blank Pages by G.C. Malcher, Pyrford 1993
    • Civil War in Poland, 1942-1948 by Anita Prazmowska, Palgrave 2004
    • Fate of Poles in the USSR 1939-1989 by Tomasz Piesakowski, Gryf Publications 1990
    • Poland’s Holocaust by Tadeusz Piotrowski ISBN 0-7864-0371-3 Chapter 1 Soviet Terror


  • Deportation
    • The Polish Deportees of World War II Edited by Tadeusz Piotrowski, McFarland & Co ISBN 978-0-7864-3258-5
    • Exiled to Siberia: A Polish Child's WWII Journey by Klaus Hergt, Crescent Lake 2000 ISBN 0-9700432-0-1
    • Gulag a History by Anne Applebaum, Penguin Books 2004 ISBN 0-140-28310-2
    • Janek A Story of Survival by Alick Dowing, Ringpress, 1989 ISBN 0-948955-45-6
    • Red Snow by Telesfor Sobierajski, Leo Cooper, 1996 ISBN 0-85052-500-4
    • War Through Children's Eyes Editor Jan Gross, Hoover,1981 ISBN 0-8179-7471-7


  • Katyn massacre
    • Attempt to Identify the Polish Jewish Officers who were prisoners in Katyn by Simon Schochet, Yeshiva University 1989
    • Death in the Forest by J.K.Zawodny, Hippocrene 1988
    • Katyn Massacre by Louis FitzGibbon, Corgi 1989
    • Katyn: A crime without Punishment by Various, Yale University 2007
    • Katyn: Stalin's Massacre and the Seeds of Polish Resurrection by Allen Paul Naval Institute Press, 1996. ISBN 1557506701


  • The German occupation
    • German Atrocities in Poland by J.K. Garvin, Free Europe Pamphlet
    • Poland’s Holocaust by Tadeusz Piotrowski ISBN 0-7864-0371-3 Chapter 2 Nazi Terror


  • Atrocities during the invasion of Poland (1939)
    • Crimes committed by the Wehrmacht during the September campaign and the period of military government by Szymon Datner, 1962.
    • Genocide 1939-1945 by S.Datner by J.Gumkowski and K.Leszczynski, Wydawnictwo Zachodnie 1962 Chapter 2 Crimes of the Wehrmacht


  • The Bydgoszcz incident
    • The German Fifth Column in Poland, Hutchinson, 1940 Chapter 3 – The Truth about the Bydgoszcz Incidents


  • Terror and crimes against intelligentsia and clergy
    • Poland in the Second World War by Jozef Garlinski, Macmillian ISBN0-333-39258-2 Chapter 6


  • Cultural genocide and the preparations for the final solution
    • The Origins of the Final Solution by C.Browning, Arrow Books, ISBN 0 09 945482 3
    • Nazi Rule in Poland 1939-1945 by Tadeusz Cyprian and Jerzy Sawicki, Polonia Publishing House 1961 Chapter XIV Germanization of Children & XVII The Nazi Attitude to Science


  • Forced labour
    • Nazi Rule in Poland 1939-1945 by Tadeusz Cyprian and Jerzy Sawicki, Polonia Publishing House 1961 Chapter XX Forced Labour


  • Auschwitz
    • Auschwitz by Franciszek Piper
    • Auschwitz A History by Sybille Steinbacher, Penguin Book
    • The Bombing of Auschwitz by Various, University Press of Kansas
    • Nazi Rule in Poland 1939-1945 by Tadeusz Cyprian and Jerzy Sawicki, Polonia Publishing House 1961 Chapter XXI-XXIV
    • Primo Levi by Leonardo de Benedetti, Verso, 2006 ISBN 1-84467-092-9


  • Concentration and extermination camps
    • Belzec by Rudolf


  • The treatment of Polish Jews
    • Jews in Poland by Iwo Pogonowski, Hippocrene, 1993 ISBN 0-7818-0604-6


  • Warsaw Ghetto
    • A Cup of Tears by Abraham Lewin, Fontana 1990
    • The Ghetto Fight by Marek Edelman, Bookmarks 1990
    • Nazi Rule in Poland 1939-1945 by Tadeusz Cyprian and Jerzy Sawicki, Polonia Publishing House 1961 Chapter XXVIII The Report of Jurgen Stroop


  • Warsaw Uprising
    • The Warsaw Uprising by George Bruce, Pan Books ISBN 0 330 24096 X
    • Rising ’44 by Norman Davies, Pan books ISBN 0 330 48863 5
    • Seventy Days by Waclaw Zagorski, Frederick Muller 1957
    • Nothing but Honour by J.K.Zawodny, Macmillan ISBN 0 333 12123 6
    • Airlift to Warsaw by Neil Orpen, W.Foulsham ISBN 0-572-01287-X
    • The Warsaw Rising of 1944 by Jan Ciechanowski, Cambridge ISBN 0 521 20203 5
    • The Civilian Population and the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 by Joanna Hanson, Cambridge ISBN 0 521 23421 2
    • Nazi Rule in Poland 1939-1945 by Tadeusz Cyprian and Jerzy Sawicki, Polonia Publishing House 1961 Chapter XXIX The Warsaw Rising



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