They had only fifteen minutes to leave their homes. Half an hour. In some cases – a few or a dozen of hours. Depending on which region. They could take only their personal items. Sometimes warmer clothes, featherbed, a few pots. No more than 200 zlotys. The rest of their things had to be left for the Germans. Taking a bigger number of items was punished with death penalty. For, it was called a robbery of the Reich
Parents, children or siblings, accentuating their patriotism with their attitude, were arrested by the German and Soviet occupants in the first place. They never returned their homes. They were killed in the first weeks of the war in mass executions. Their families were imprisoned in resettlement camps, as particularly dangerous. Kept in inhuman conditions, they were killed in mass. Because the German-Soviet agreement called Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact looked so.
On 6 October 1939, in his speech in Reichtstag, Hitler said, among the others: ‘The task of far-sighted arrangement of the European life demands resettlements. (…). Germany and the Union of Soviet Republics decided that they would support one another in this respect. If Germany and Soviet Russia undertake this healing work, they can invoke the fact that an attempt of solving problems with the methods of Versailles irrevocably was in vain’.
The consequences of the agreement were crimes done by the Germans and the Soviets on areas conquered by them. After a detailed selection, the arrested were put in front of execution squads and killed. Especially the Polish elite. Crimes were committed in haste. Very often secretly – because at that time care was taken to prevent what was done by criminal from getting to the international public opinion. The symbol of the homicide today is are crimes committed by the Soviets in Katyń, whereas by the Germans in Piaśnica. But these are only popular symbols. Both the Germans and the Soviets murdered elites I many small Polish towns, which is proved today by monuments on squares and stones in Jewish graveyards in Ciechanów, Łowicz, Płock, Płońsk, Pułtusk, Przasznysz, Sieradz.
Only on the first days of October 1939, the Germans murdered nearly 30 thousand Poles in Pomerania during ‘Intelligenzaktion’. Not only Polish Intelligence was persecuted but also ‘people who were very popular among local inhabitants’, as it was written in German orders. Separate repressions were directed against priests and monks.
Families of the murdered during the action of destroying the Polish intelligence, were repelled from their households into a different area of Poland. They were also often sent to slave work in German villages. Similar murders and resettlements were done by the Soviets on the areas of Eastern lands of the Polish Republic. Both the first and the latter aggressors had exterminated Poles before there was a formal invasion of Polish lands. It was so in the mid of September 1939 on the area of Gdańsk and Gdynia. It was similar – on the Eastern areas of Poland: in villages, small towns or big cities – like in Lvov.
Deporting the others
The first deportations from the Soviet ‘sphere of influences’, that is, invasion, took place in October. Another one was in: February, April and from May to July 1940. Next, in May and June 1941. After a few years of break of deportations there were others in: 1944 and 1945. It is not known till now how many Poles were deported by the Soviets. Only under the decision signed by Beria on 29 December 1939, on the first days of the war around 150 thousand Poles were deported into far backwoods of the Soviet Union. At the beginning of 1940 – other 60 thousand Poles were deported. Also about 80 thousand people of the Jewish society. It results from the incomplete data that in four Soviet deportations, till June 1941 nearly million Poles were deprived of their households and deported onto the area of USSR. During the second occupation, in the years 1944-45 there was another million. There were 140 thousand inhabitants of Lvov. The Belarusians and Ukrainians were generally settled down in the place of Poles.
Forcing others to destructive work
There was a worse situation on the areas occupied by the Third Reich. Just after the invasion into Gdańsk and Gdynia, a few and later a dozen thousand Poles were put in front of execution squads. Soon, nearly 2 million people were exiled from their households, among the others, from: Gdańsk, Gdynia, Bydgoszcz, Toruń. Similarly on the areas of the Great Poland Province or Northern Mazowsze. Expulsions and resettlements were done within ‘General siedlungsplan’, that is, General Resettlement Plan. For, the Germans intended to create a ‘racially homogeneous’ society, according to which Poles were supposed to be a small group of about half a million of working force. Whereas, ‘racially more pure’ Polish groups were to be subordinated to Germanization. German settlers from Germany were brought into Polish houses in October. They were also brought from the area of the Soviet Union. These ‘Germanization, removal of the Jewishnation and de-Polonization were possible thanks to the good help of our Russian brothers - socialists’ as German experts of ‘resettlements’ emphasize, regarded a few years later as war criminals by the Treaty of Nuremburg: Neinrich Himmler, Robert Ley and Albert Forster.
In the next phase of expulsions there was Zamojszczyzna, hence in the years 1942-43 over 100 hundred Poles were deported, whereas the city was to be named Himmlerstadt. The purpose of the far-reaching German plan whose implementation was assumed from 3 to 5 years, was resettlement of over 80 per cent of Poles onto deserted areas of Siberia.
Death penalty for speaking Polish
However, the biggest havoc was done by the Germans in the Greater Poland province and part of the land of Łódź, called ‘A country of Warta’ (Warthegau). As one of the creators of the crime program, Robert Ley said: ‘In 50 years there will be a blooming German country here, where no Pole, nor a Jew will be here! This is the truth. If somebody asks me where they will be, I will say: I do not know. (…) But here only German people will!’.
Originally there were attempts to expel about 4 million of people from there. However, it turned out to be impossible for technical reasons. Whereas, there were no obstacles to use drastic repressions towards Poles in the ‘country of Warta’, which were rarely used in other parts of the occupied country. Even the smallest offenses towards the German law of the invader were punished with a camp, prison and also death penalty. Sanctions were: ‘For public speaking Polish. Using Polish names of towns or streets. Attending bigger parks. Sitting on benches. Using swimming places at the seaside and cottage resorts. Eating (colonial) groceries. Buying vegetables, sweets, sugar. Owning cameras, gramophones, phonograph records’. Moreover, Poles were forbidden to ‘learn at secondary schools – general lower and vocational schools. Visit public places, restaurants, cafes, bars, attend bigger hairdresser’s. Travel by rail without a permit, (…), use fast trains and buses, (…), ride a bike (only to a workplace distanced by at least 5 kilometers and Poles’ bikes are to be marked). Contract marriages before the age of 28 (men), or 25 (women)’. Also Poles were sentenced to death penalty who had Polish books at their homes, entered a conflict with a German man at work or in the street, or were outside without any permit after the curfew.
A still lively pact
These crimes are perfectly shown by the exhibition ‘Expelled 1939…’, by the authors Jacek Kubiak, Małgorzata Schmidt, Janusz Zemer, organized by the Union of Polish Cities, and presented in halls of the Warsaw Institute of the National Remembrance. Composed of a few hundred photos and film chronicles from Polish and German archives, shows the enormity of Poles’ extermination done by the German and Soviet occupants. Although it had its premiere four years ago, it is still very popular. For, many presented archive materials are shown in Poland for the first time. The exhibition is accompanied by extremely valuable multimedia materials for schools: ‘Warthegau – Blond province. The Greater Poland province 1939 – 1945).
- We really wanted to show the enormity of crime in its historical dimension – says Jacek Kubiak, a co-author of the exhibition, a journalist and a film-maker, who at the times of the Polish People’s Republic was connected with the opposition. – For they concerned the lands joined to the Reich. As long as it is known that the Greater Poland province was joined to the Reich, very few people know that also Kujawy and such towns as Łódź, Kutno were joined to the Reich. Also Northern Mazowsze with Płock, Płońsk, Ciechanów and other smaller towns. We wanted to show two plans of this history. One plan is micro, showing fates of particular families. And another one is macro, saying that the driving mechanism of the whole process was the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact and detailed agreements between USSR and Germany, concerning migration of ethnic Germans from the Soviet sphere of influences to new Reich, that is, mainly to ‘A country of Warta’. Deportations without the Soviet-German cooperation would not have been possible. However, knowledge about resettlements have been in a shadow for many years because of the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact, but also because the most terrible things, like Holocaust were happening, which overshadowed everything. So, at the exhibition, we wanted to show that expulsions from Polish lands were a similar action, like Holocaust, that they were organized according to a plan and by the same group of people who had carried out Holocaust, with Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler at the helm, who were working on deportation of Poles together with the Soviets.