Connecting true geography and detailed unfolding of wide variety of crimes perpetrated by German/Ukrainian Nazis and communist Soviet Union on the Polish nation.
Fortune governs human affairs unfairly. There are countries in Europe, such as Sweden or Switzerland, where dramatic historical events happen rarely. At the same time, there are European countries where disasters strike frequently. Poland belongs to this second, less fortunate group. During the last three hundred years, every generation in Poland went through either a devastating war, or a bloody uprising, or a merciless occupation and genocide. During some periods of this unhappy era, the Poles faced major historical challenges every ten or twenty years. In this long list of national tragedies, one experience stands out as the most horrific: World War II, which destroyed a large part of the Polish cultural heritage, devastated the economy, demoralized the Polish people, and left them with a fear that would last for a long time. To most Americans and West Europeans, World War II constitutes the proverbial ancient history: vague and remote. Few of those who were directly affected are still alive, everything is rebuilt and there are few reminders of the war. For most East Europeans, including the Poles, the war is a vivid memory, the emotional wounds are still fresh, and serious consequences, rooted in the World War II tragedy, continue to affect them.
Most Westerners, even those who are well educated and well read, know next to nothing about this subject. They operate with stereotypes and fragmented information taken out of context. Paradoxically, because of changes in historical education and the passing away of the war generation, the tiny group of people who do know about the Polish tragedy in and after 1939, is getting increasingly smaller. More and more frequently, the Poles face an unpleasant dilemma: they often hide their sensitivity and swallow their pride, or appear overly idealistic and nationalistically biased.
Fighting for freedom and independence dominated the previous two hundred years of Polish history. After the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, the Poles were downgraded to an unhappy class of stateless people. While other, more successful nations built their modern political systems and economies, the Poles had to concentrate on simply surviving as an ethnic entity. They were denationalized, economically exploited, and deported. Their desperate uprisings ended with displays of bloody vengeance on the part of their conquerors. Occupied by three powerful empires, Russia, Austria, and Germany, the Poles asked themselves if they would be able to save their national identity, language, and culture, and if they ever could rebuild their state.
At last, in 1914, a great “war of nations” began. This war delivered a miracle. Germany, Austria, and Russia became enemies, they fought on two different sides of the front and, finally, each of the three found themselves on the losing side of the war and Poland regained its independence.
It was not an easy independence. Reborn Poland had to stop Soviet aggression onto the West in 1919, which in fact saved Europe from Soviets expansion. Poland’s situation was greatly improved. There is no doubt that without the short inter-war period of independence there would be no free and independent Poland today, and possibly a communist Europe.
Unfortunately, by the 1930s, the post-war political vacuum in East Central Europe that was essential for Poland’s development disappeared.
Hitler’s annexation of Austria resulted in a revision of the Treaty of Versailles that had originally been drawn up in 1919. It was from this success that he deduced he would be able to invade Poland successfully, as he saw weakness in the Western Powers of France and Britain. Both countries had already accepted rearmament from Germany in 1935 and, in 1938, had reluctantly agreed to the transfer of Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany. Germany had quickly become an intimidating force and this was reinforced by the inaction of the Allied powers.
The historical enemies of Poland, Germany and Russia, had recovered their strength and began to reconstruct their empires. Their foreign ministers, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, signed the sinister German-Soviet non-aggression pact of August 23, 1939, agreeing to divide East Central Europe and Poland into two “spheres of influence” controlled by the Germans and the Soviets. Stalin and Hitler decided that Poland – in Molotov’s words, “this bastard of the Versailles treaty” – should cease to exist once and for all. It was an opportunity of revenge for both, the Germans (sadly without the consideration that Poland saved Europe for communists expansion in 1919) and the Soviet Union.
The news that Hitler and Stalin had reached an agreement came as a surprise to many. Hitler’s disdain for the Slavs, his loathing of Bolshevism, and his numerous declarations that the German nation required the land and resources of the Western parts of the Soviet Union were well known in Moscow.
“If I had the Ural Mountains with their incalculable store of treasures and raw materials, Siberia with its vast forests, and the Ukraine with its tremendous wheat fields, Germany and the National Socialist leadership would swim in plenty,” he told a Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg in September 1936. Overy says it was similarities between the dictators that made an accord possible. “Quite a lot unites them. And I think that, in the end, is what made it possible for Hitler to reach an agreement with Stalin,” he says. In addition, both Germany and the Soviet Union felt deeply aggrieved by the political settlements following the end of World War I. Russian diplomatic historian Sergei Sluch believes this played a role in the genesis of the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement. Soviet Russia and Germany were among the losers of World War I.
“Hitler felt he understood a fellow dictator, somebody else who was equally ruthless as he was, who would tear things up, turn things upside down,” he adds. “But at the back of Hitler’s mind, of course, was always the idea that even if you did that, eventually a confrontation with Stalin was inevitable.”
Thus, on September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and seventeen days later, the Soviet Union followed suit.
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact only postponed the seemingly inevitable conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union. In June 1941, Hitler broke the pact and launched a massive surprise invasion.
“The Poles,” wrote the British historian Nicholas Bethell, “were fighting the Germans to the last man, believing that this was a decisive battle of the war, that the allies would organize an offensive to prevent Poland from being conquered.”2 Unfortunately, a short-sighted self-interest prevailed in France and Great Britain. Their governments betrayed Poland, breaking their pre-war promises. London and Paris accepted Poland’s deadly struggle as a “useful diversion providing a breathing space. The Polish army surrendered after 35 days of bloody fighting. Warsaw was the only European capital besieged by the Germans during the war and defended itself for several weeks. The city paid a high price for its resistance: 10 per cent of Warsaw was destroyed as early as September 1939. The Polish army, which under French and British pressure had not started its mobilization until August 30, was crushed by the troops of two hostile and powerful totalitarian giants.
Poland was the only country attacked at the same time by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1939 there was no power in the world that could have stopped this deadly coalition. Most people in the West do not realize how tragic Poland’s situation was in 1939 and how heroic the Polish defense was.
There still is no satisfactory account in English of the German-Polish War of 1939, which precipitated the general outbreak. The Polish army –- almost completely un-mechanized, almost without air support, almost surrounded by the Germans from the outset and, shortly, completely surrounded when the Red Army joined the aggression – fought more effectively than it has been given credit for. It sustained resistance from September 1 until October 5, five weeks, which compares highly favorably with the six and a half weeks during which France, Britain, Belgium, and Holland kept up the fight in the West the following year.
The Germans also initiated a propaganda war against Poland. The best known element of this propaganda war is the legendary Blitzkrieg in Poland. The Allies gladly accepted Goebbels’ version of the “quick war” because it justified their betrayal. After the war, many outstanding western historians, such as John Wheeler-Bennett in his The Nemesis of Power, used the Blitzkrieg interpretation. Several documentary film directors took as authentic material the scenes Goebbels staged for his propaganda film, “Feldzug in Polen.” As a result, many people in the West believe that the Poles did not really fight in 1939, and that the Poles sent the cavalry against the German tanks.
After the September campaign, Poland was partitioned again. Almost 50 per cent of her territory was taken by the Soviet Union, 48.4 per cent by Nazi Germany, and 1.6 per cent by Lithuania. The German occupation in Poland lasted longer than in any other country (leaving aside the much milder occupation of Bohemia) and was the most severe. Historians often divide the German occupational system in Europe into seven categories. The most liberal occupational system was introduced in Denmark, where the German invasion of 1940 barely interrupted normal life. Denmark was controlled by a civilian administration of the German Foreign Office; the Danish king spent the entire war in his palace; and democratic elections were held in 1943. Life in occupied France was also comparatively not bad. In Holland and in Belgium, government administration was carried on by pre-war senior civil servants.
Poland was on the opposite side of the spectrum of occupational systems: there was no other country in Europe where the Germans were so cruel and consistently hostile towards the local population. The Poles were ranked by the Nazis as the second lowest racial group in Europe next to the Jews and the Gypsies. As a result, over 6 million Polish citizens were killed during the war, the highest casualty rate among the European states. Millions were deported to Germany and Russia or left in the territories taken by the Soviet Union after the war. Poland’s citizens were killed not only by the Germans. The Soviet occupation resembled German rule in many respects; indeed most scholars believe that “In the Soviet occupation zone conditions were only marginally less harsh than under the Germans. For their part, many Poles believe that the Soviet occupation was worse. Both the Soviets and the Germans cooperated against the Poles after September 1939.
The Germans partitioned their booty into two segments. The entire northwestern part of Poland and a portion of central Poland were incorporated directly into the Reich and became an integral part of Germany, which meant, among many other things, that young Poles were conscripted into the Wehrmacht. The remaining part of central and southern Poland was transformed into a colony of the Third Reich: the Generalgouvernment fur die besetzen Polnischen Gebiete (the Generalgovernment for the occupied Polish territory). The Soviets divided their spoils between Soviet Belorussia and Soviet Ukraine, and gave the small region of Vilna to Lithuania, still free in 1939 but occupied by the Soviets in 1940.
Moreover, the population of Poland was divided on both sides of the Ribbentrop-Molotov line.
The Slavs, including the Poles, were the Untermenschen, (the “subhumans”) largely destined to be labourers for the Reich. The exceptions were those who were considered suitable for Germanization. Ultimately, most Slavs were destined for “extermination through labour or for deportation to the East.
The Soviets also built a similar social ladder. On its top were Soviet people sent to the newly incorporated areas from the pre-war Soviet territories. Next were native communists and lower classes of the local population, mostly representatives of the non-Polish people ( mainly Jews) who, at least initially, were happy that the Polish state had disappeared.
Both the Soviets and the Germans did their best to deepen the abyss between the various groups within the local population and contributed greatly to the previous Polish-Jewish, Polish-Ukrainian, and Polish-Belorussian conflicts. Some stereotypes and lies, invented by the Germans and the Soviets to aggravate inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts in Poland, are still believed today.
On both sides of the Ribbentrop-Molotov line, the most savage and devastating attack organized by the invaders was against the elite of Polish society. Both the Germans and the Soviets were determined to kill “the best and the brightest” and, to a large extent, they succeeded in doing this. During World War II, the Polish nation was decapitated: the most promising youth, the most patriotic intelligentsia, and the most outstanding intellectuals were killed. Eighty per cent of Polish intellectuals fell into deep poverty and after the war many of them never returned to their pre-war intellectual activities.
The Soviets were killing “the best and the brightest” too. In March 1940, Stalin decided to execute about 22,000 Polish war prisoners, including over 15,000 officers from the three POW camps in Kozielsk, Starobielsk, and Ostaszkow. The Poles were executed in April and May 1940 in Katyn, near Kharkov and near Tver. Most of the victims were reserve officers, the elite of the Polish nation. In Katyn alone, 21 university professors, 300 physicians, and hundreds of lawyers, teachers, and engineers; 57 per cent of her lawyers, over 15 per cent of her teachers, 40 per cent of university professors and over 18 per cent of her clergy were killed.
The Soviets also led a very efficient propaganda campaign against Poland furiously attacking the Polish Government-in-Exile, the Polish Army, and Polish institutions in the West.
The accusations leveled against them most frequently were anti-Sovietism, anti-Semitism, political irresponsibility, and chauvinism. A group of British communist and labour parliamentary deputies, for example, tried to stop the establishment of the Polish Armed Forces in England in 1940. Another successful aspect of Soviet propaganda was that many people in the West, including numerous university history professors, journalists, and writers, accepted the Soviet lie about Katyn and truly believed that the Polish officers were murdered by the Germans. Until the 1980s, many American intellectuals considered the true version of the Katyn crime to be a glaring example of Polish anti-Sovietism, intellectual conservative backwardness, and chauvinism.
In destroying the elite of the Polish nation, the occupiers waged war on Polish culture. “The Poles,” announced Hans Frank, the Governor of the Generalgouvernement, “do not need universities or secondary schools; the Polish lands are to be changed into an intellectual desert.”9 In order to do this, the Germans closed all Polish scientific, artistic, and educational institutions with the exception of simplified primary schools. The Germans destroyed many historical buildings, scientific and art collections, and libraries. Most museums, public and private art collections, archives, and scientific laboratories were pillaged. Many outstanding German professors and scholars were involved in the robbery of the cultural heritage of Poland. The German struggle against this heritage included as well a carefully planned destruction of the monuments to Polish kings, heroes, writers, and scholars. The publication of Polish books was forbidden and the Polish press, numbering over 2,200 periodicals before the war, was reduced – leaving aside the underground press – to a few dozen titles fully controlled by the Germans. The bookstores were forbidden to sell English and French books, dictionaries, handbooks, newspapers and periodicals. A list of about 3,000 forbidden books was published and the mere possession of these publications was illegal. The Germans also initiated an organized struggle against the Polish language. In the territories incorporated into the Reich, the German authorities ordered the removal of all public notices and inscriptions in Polish, they Germanized Polish place names, and banished the Polish language from public use, including in the Church. Frequently, people who spoke Polish in the streets were insulted and beaten. To some degree, this Germanization operation was extended to the Generalgouvernement. The German administration not only tried to deprive the Poles of education and culture, they did their best to lower the intellectual and moral level of Polish society, to corrupt and demoralize it, and to promote drunkenness and collaboration.
he Soviets, in a similar campaign, also destroyed Polish monuments, removed Polish street signs, and closed Polish bookshops, publishing houses, and newspapers. Ukrainian and Belorussian became the languages of instruction in schools and universities. Russian became compulsory, Polish textbooks were removed, the teaching of religion was banned, and religious life was paralysed. The campaign against Polish culture was presented as a rebuilding of Belorussian and Ukrainian cultures unfairly suppressed by the Poles. Soviet propaganda showed the Polish population in the former Eastern Polish provinces as a small group of colonizers and exploiters, although, out of 13 million people living in the territories occupied by the Soviets, the Poles numbered 5 million, the Ukrainians 4.5 million, the Belorussians 1.5 million and the Jews 1.5 million.
Mass deportations were the most efficient Soviet method of de-Polonizing the territories newly incorporated into the USSR. The deportations started immediately after September 1939 and lasted until the very day of the German attack on the Soviet Union. Altogether, the Soviets deported about 1.5 million people, mostly Poles, to Siberia, to the Arctic regions of European Russia, and to Central Asia. Probably about 30 per cent of those deported died in the Soviet Union, and some survivors, or their descendents, are still there, being unable either to return to Poland or to escape abroad. The Soviet deportation constituted a successful case of ethnic cleansing. Six hundred years of Polish contribution to the development of the territories of Ukraine and the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania were wiped out almost completely.
A similar deportation and de-Polonization plan was implemented by the Germans. In the winter of 1939-1940, under extremely harsh conditions, about one million Poles were deported to the Generalgouvernement from the territories incorporated into the Reich. Those expelled were allowed to take with them only a little cash and a few possessions, and their property was confiscated by the Germans. Thousands of the deportees died during the transportation in unheated freight trucks or immediately after they were dropped off in the Generalgouvernment. Later, the Germans decided that some areas of the Generalgouvernment should also be Germanized. The Nazi authorities brutally deported local populations from several attractive regions, such as the Zamosc region, and tried to colonize them with German settlers. More than 200,000 Polish children were kidnapped and taken to the Reich for Germanization.
Both the Germans and the Soviets terrorized Polish society. The terror started immediately after the Wehrmacht crossed the Polish borders in September 1939. The German Air Force, participating in the September campaign, deliberately bombed civilian targets including civilians escaping from the burning towns and cities. Before October 25, 1939, while the Polish territories were still under the administration of the German Army, the Wehrmacht executed over 16,000 Poles. The occupation authorities began street roundups as early as November 1939, sending the captives to concentration camps or for forced labour in Germany. During the next several years the Germans established over 300 labour, concentration, and extermination camps in Poland. In April 1940, Heinrich Himmler ordered the establishment of a large concentration camp near the town of Oswiecim situated in an area that had previously been incorporated into the Reich and renamed Auschwitz. In June 1940, the first transport of Polish political prisoners was brought to the camp. In March 1941, the camp population reached 11,000. Before long, Auschwitz acquired ill fame as the harshest camp, where the torture and execution of prisoners defined the daily routine. Until the fall of 1941, the Poles constituted a majority among the prisoners of Auschwitz. Later it was filled with jews from all over Europe.
Michael Preisler who was a Polish-Catholic survivor of the German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz (Auschwitz prisoner #22213), has stated on many occasions how the Nazis ridiculed the Polish people as having less then human intelligence. Polish jokes were quite popular among Nazi guards in the parts of the Nazi death camps where there were Polish Catholic prisoners being tortured and killed.
Hitler’s Two Speeches after Invading Poland (parts of speeches)
From Hitler’s speech of Sept. 19, 1939 in Danzig (Gdansk Poland):
At this moment we want to give the Polish soldier absolute justice. At many points the Pole fought bravely. His lower leadership made desperate efforts, his middle-grade leadership was too unintelligent, his highest leadership was bad, judged by any standard. His organization was — Polish…
Note: What Hitler fails to talk about is the tremendous help Nazi Germany got from Soviet Russia in invading Poland. Soviet Russia provided Nazi Germany millions of tons of war aid to be used in Germany’s invasion of Poland as per the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement between Germany and Soviet Russia. Of course Hitler didn’t talk about that or how Polish troops held the Germans back well until Nazi Germany’s ally Russia attacked Poland from the Eastern side.
From Hitler’s speech of Oct 6, 1939:
Towns as well as villages are in a state of neglect. The roads, with very few exceptions, are badly out of repair and in a terrible condition. Anyone who travels in that country for two or three weeks will get the proper idea of the classical German term ‘Polnische Wirtschaft,’ meaning a ‘Polish state of affairs!’
What Hitler failed to say in his speeches about Poland is that much of the problems Poland had in the early part of the 20th century was because of Poland being destroyed and pushed off the map from 1795-1917 by Germany and Russia.
Poland was basically licking its wounds and catching its breath in the early part of the 20th Century when it was back on the map.
Hitler’s Anti-Polish hate was sadly a continuation of Germany’s prejudice towards Poland/Slavic nations although Hitler’s hatred of Poles/Slavic people went far beyond prior German Anti-Polish/Slavic prejudice.
The Soviets also initiated a policy of terror immediately after the Red Army crossed the Polish borders. Frequently, the Soviet army shot prisoners of war on the spot. People’s militias, established by the new authorities and including Ukrainians, Jews, and some demoralized Poles initiated random retribution against Polish officers, policemen, local officials, judges, and any other staff members of the Polish state apparatus.
Both the Germans and the Soviets started a systematic economic exploitation of the conquered Polish territories. Between 1939 and 1944, the Germans deported about two million Poles to the Reich to work in agriculture and industry.
In June 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and occupied all the territories of the pre-war Polish state. Now, Poland was divided into three German-held areas: the areas incorporated into the Reich (30.8%); the central area administered as a large labour reserve known as the Generalgouvernement (38.8%); and eastern Poland (30.3%) – formerly occupied by the Soviets – known under German control as Reichskommissariats. After their initial victory in Russia, the Germans assumed even more cruel policies toward the population of Poland.
Poland’s defeat in the September campaign left the Polish population traumatized. After a short and uneasy independence, the Polish state disappeared again.
Thousands of Polish soldiers escaped from occupied Poland. Polish army units were organized in France and in the Middle East. In 1940, Polish soldiers fought the Germans in Norway. They helped defend France. They participated in British naval operations and they fought in the Battle of Britain, Britain’s only ally outside the Commonwealth. The Polish airmen distinguished themselves with a kill ratio twice that of the British. In 1941, the Poles played a crucial role during the defense of Tobruk in Libya. In 1944, Polish troops participated in the Allied invasion of France and distinguished themselves during the battle of Falaise in Normandy. The Second Polish Corps, led by General Wladyslaw Anders, conquered the German stronghold on Monte Cassino and opened the way to Rome in May 1944. By the end of World War II, the Polish Armed Forces were the fourth largest among the Allies, following the armies of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the British Commonwealth.
Working in secrecy, Polish political parties succeeded in uniting the armed underground and merged most of the underground’s units into the Armia Krajowa or AK (Home Army) in 1943. The Home Army reached 380,000 organized and sworn resistance fighters, the largest anti-German underground army in occupied Europe. The Polish underground state included also a clandestine civilian administration, secret educational institutions, and a justice system.
The Polish Secret Service had successfully reconstructed the German coding machine, the “Enigma.” Anticipating a war, Poland delivered a complete duplicate of the “Enigma” to the British in July 1939, enabling them to break the German secret code and to read their secret dispatches during the war. Equally important, the Home Army’s intelligence discovered where the Germans were developing their secret weapons, the V 1 bombs and the V-2 rockets. As a result, in August 1943 Britain sent more than 600 RAF bombers on a successful mission to destroy the development plant. Later, the Home Army and Polish airmen managed to deliver two captured V-2 rockets to London.
To these days the neo-Nazis are angry about it even at post-war born innocent Polish nationals.
Before the summer of 1941, the situation in Poland appeared bleak. She was occupied by two major powers: the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. The United States remained neutral and the British policy towards the USSR was not to antagonize it in any way. Plans for Poland’s future were vague and uncertain.
Following Churchill’s unconditional invitation to the Soviet Union to join the anti-Hitler coalition, the Soviet-British alliance was signed on July 12, 1941. The English cabinet started to press the Polish Government-in-Exile to come to an agreement with Soviet Union. One of Poland’s foes became her potential partner. Because of the extreme conditions created by Hitler’s occupation of Europe – it was argued – any differences and conflicts with the Soviets should be set aside. However, the Polish condition sine qua non was that the Soviets nullify the Ribbentrop-Molotov line of Poland’s partition and guarantee the inter-war Polish-Soviet border, established by the Treaty of Riga in 1921 and confirmed by the Polish-Soviet Non-Aggression Treaty of 1932. The Soviets were ready to announce the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact null and void but they rejected the demand for a return to the inter-war borders. The British also refused to guarantee these borders. With a majority of Polish public opinion in England believing that in this case no agreement with Moscow was possible, several members of the Polish Government-in-Exile resigned before the signing of the Polish-Soviet pact of July 30, 1941. Nevertheless, the pact was signed, because resignation and withdrawal from active international politics was not an alternative for Poland. Meanwhile, Stalin informed the British ambassador in Moscow that the Soviets planned to create a “Polish National Committee” and a large army to fight on the Soviet side. Such a Polish puppet government in Moscow would jeopardize not only the eastern borders of Poland but also her independence. About 180,000 Polish soldiers and close to 1.5 million Polish civilians were languishing in the Soviet Gulag. They could be either saved and used against the Germans or be wasted and killed in the camps. The Prime Minister of Poland and Commander-in-Chief, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, decided that, in view of this situation, Polish territorial questions had to be left for discussion until after the war. He broke the opposition within his government, and signed the treaty. Establishing cordial Polish-Soviet relations was not possible, however, and only some of the treaty’s objectives were translated into reality. Even though an “amnesty” was offered to the Polish people in the Gulag and a Polish army was organized in Russia, not all Polish prisoners were granted amnesty, and not all of those who were released could join the army.
Poland was betrayed again!
A conflict over the Polish Army in Russia ended with the evacuation of the Polish troops to Persia, and Soviet-Polish relations deteriorated even further.
On April 13, 1943, Berlin radio announced the discovery of mass graves of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn, an area formerly under Soviet control. Moscow called this a “fabrication by Goebbels’ slanderers,” but there were so many indications that the officers were in fact executed by the NKVD that the Polish Government-in-Exile asked the International Red Cross to investigate. Using this as a pretext, Moscow broke relations with the Polish government. In January 1944, the Red Army crossed the Polish inter-war borders and, in July 1944, the Soviets entered Polish ethnic territories West of the Curzon Line. The Soviet-controlled Polish Committee of National Liberation was established as a de facto government and started administrating the Lublin area taken by the Soviets in the summer of 1944, where Soviet authorities resumed the methods familiar to the Polish people from the period 1939-41 – arrests, deportations and executions. It was clear that the German occupation would be replaced by Soviet control and terror.
Polish resistance soldiers were ordered to cooperate with the Red Army and help it to break the German lines. The Polish underground administration was not tolerated by the Soviets anywhere. On July 29, 1944, Soviet units appeared in Warsaw’s eastern suburbs. The Germans panicked and started evacuating their institutions in Warsaw. The capture of the Polish capital seemed imminent. The Germans had managed to recover from their panic and ordered the mobilization of 100,000 young people for work on Warsaw’s fortifications. The Wehrmacht was going to reshape the city into a stronghold to stop the Soviet offensive. Therefore, the Home Army commanders believed it was necessary to take Warsaw before its siege.
On August 1, 1944, Warsaw’s units of the Home Army attacked the Germans and gained control of most of the city within three days. Still, only 10 per cent of the Polish fighters were armed. At this point, the Red Army deliberately stopped its offensive and remained idle on the other side of the river. The Soviet Air Force, so active over Warsaw earlier, suddenly disappeared from the skies, allowing the Germans to bomb the city unrestrained. The Red Army not only stopped its advance, but also disarmed detachments of the Home Army marching to Warsaw, and the Soviet government refused to allow the Western Allies to use Soviet air bases to airlift supplies to the fighting Poles. For their part, the Germans sent fresh strong units to Warsaw and, in three weeks, the Nazi forces reached 40,000 well-armed men with artillery, tanks, and planes. On October 2, after 63 days of desperate fighting, the Uprising surrendered. The Home Army Command and about 12,000 insurgents were taken as prisoners-of-war. The Germans deported the remainder of the city’s population to various camps and almost completely destroyed the city. Over 200,000 civilians died, about 18,000 Home Army soldiers were killed, and about 7,000 were wounded. The main body of the Home Army was eliminated. The best representatives of the Polish youth of Warsaw -almost the entire generation – perished.
Poland’s fate was confirmed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The conference was the culmination of a catastrophic consummation of wartime strategic decisions of American and British leaders and a product of their appeasement policies towards Moscow. In the Polish political vocabulary Yalta became a symbol of treason and betrayal, and the Yalta conference is considered a close copy of the Munich conference.
Unfortunately, during the conference, new grave errors and miscalculations were added to the previous ones. The American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, accepted the loss of East Central Europe in exchange for a Soviet agreement on his United Nations plan and a Soviet promise to participate in the final stage of anti-Japanese operations. The Western Allies lost Poland and the entire region of East Central Europe – the key to the western parts of Europe and to international stabilization during the post-war era.
Roosevelt and most of his closest advisers were for the most part ignorant of East European and Soviet history and politics. They did not understand the importance of a free Poland and East Central Europe for the future of Germany and for the whole postwar order. To the Poles such a “postwar division line located somewhat farther east” would have meant freedom. The Poles feel to this day that their country was treated unfairly by the Allies. Poland fought for the longest time in Europe, went through the most vicious occupation, and suffered the heaviest proportional casualties. Polish soldiers fought on most fronts of the war and, during its last year, the Polish military units constituted the fourth strongest allied armed force after the Red Army, American, and British troops. In spite of all that, after the war, Poland was treated in the same way, or worse, than some of Hitler’s East European allies, (for example, Finland). The representatives of the Polish Armed Forces (except for 25 pilots) were not invited to participate in the victory parade in London in June 1946. The British authorities systematically concealed the truth about the Polish contribution to the breaking of the German secret code and to the destruction of the Penemunde V-1 and V-2 development plant. In 1945-1947, the British did their best to get rid of tens of thousands of Polish Armed Forces veterans who were still in England and Scotland.
But by the time the war was over and the Red Army was in Berlin, Hitler’s vision of an all-powerful German nation was in ashes. Instead, the Soviet domination of Central Europe that was sketched on a map in the Kremlin on the night of August 23, 1939, had become the new geopolitical reality of the continent.
The Nazi totalitarian occupation of Poland was replaced by Soviet totalitarian control.
Although the war had officially ended in 1945, the Polish people continued to be deported to the Soviet camps and exterminated. The new oppressor drastically changed the borders of Poland, which lost 20 per cent of her pre-war area and two major centres of Polish national culture: Vilna and Lvov.
The Soviets continued the economic exploitation of Poland and the extermination of the Polish elite. The Poles came to the conclusion that the Western powers, the United States and Great Britain, had cynically surrendered the idealistic principles previously presented by them in the Atlantic Charter.
The Poles felt betrayed by their Western allies.
Were there ever any allies? Or just clever, selfish politic?
Half a century later, communism collapsed.
Poland ‘supposedly’ regained independence.
The judeo infiltrated, post-communist “Polish” Government joined NATO and entered the JEuropean Union, which was strongly supported by Germany. Hmmm….?
Most Polish people understand that integration with Europe and reconciliation with Germany are necessary. Yet, the Poles do not trust.
Putin in 2009 made a key concession to Warsaw by saying that Moscow’s deal with Hitler to carve up Europe was “immoral.”
“Without doubt, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of August 1939 can be fully condemned,” Putin wrote in comments published in Poland’s daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
He said the pact was officially rebuked as early as 1989 when the Congress of Soviets declared it immoral.
But Putin also accused other European nations of leaving the Soviet Union to face Germany alone.
He wrote that France and Britain destroyed hopes for a unified opposition to fascism when they signed the Munich Agreement in 1938, which redirected Hitler’s aggression eastward.
Tadeusz Iwinski, a lawmaker for the Democratic Left Alliance, said Putin’s account was much more balanced than “many disturbing accusations” emanating recently from Russia regarding Poland’s role in World War II. “He made a clear step toward historical reconciliation,” Iwinski said by telephone from Warsaw.
He added that parts of Putin’s remarks, such as an analogy between victims of the Katyn massacre and Russian prisoners of war in the 1920s, were not acceptable. Soviet secret police executed more than 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn in 1940. Putin described the massacre as a “crime” and called for “forgiveness”.
Connecting true geography and detailed unfolding of wide variety of crimes perpetrated by German/Ukrainian Nazis and communist Soviet Union on the Polish nation.
Connecting true geography and detailed unfolding of wide variety of crimes perpetrated by German/Ukrainian Nazis and communist Soviet Union on the Polish nation.
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