Ch. 7 — 2
The Second World War - Part 2
  • The Germans declared their intention of eliminating the Polish race, a task to be completed by 1975, alongside the Jews.
  • This process of elimination, the "Holocaust", was carried out systematically. All members of the "intelligentsia" were hunted down in order to destroy Polish culture and leadership. Originally many non-Jewish Poles were exterminated at Oswiecim - better known by its German name, Auschwitz.
  • Secret universities and schools, a "cultural underground", were formed. The penalty for belonging to one was death. In the General-Gouvernement there were about 100,000 secondary school pupils and over 10,000 university students involved in secret education.

  • The Polish Jews were herded into Ghettos where they were slowly starved and cruelly offered hopes of survival but, in fact, ended up being shot or gassed. In the end they were transported, alongside non-Jewish Poles, Gypsies and Soviet POWs, to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka.
  • At Auschwitz over 4 million were exterminated. 2000 concentration camps were built in Poland, which became the major site of the extermination programme, since this was where most of the intended victims lived.

  • Many non-Jewish Poles were either transported to Germany and used as slave labour or simply executed. In the cities the Germans would round-up and kill indiscriminately as a punishment for any underground or anti-German or pro-Jewish activity.
  • In the countryside they kept prominent citizens as hostages who would be executed if necessary.
  • Sometimes they liquidated whole villages. At least 300 villages were destroyed.

  • Despite such horror the Poles refused to give in or cooperate. There were no Polish collaborators as in other occupied countries.
  • The Polish Underground, called the "Armia Krajowa (AK)" or Homeland Army, was the largest in Europe with 400,000 men.
  • The Jewish resistance movement was set up separately because of the problem of being imprisoned within the ghettos. Both these organizations caused great damage to the Nazi military machine.
  • Many non-Jewish Poles saved the lives of thousands of Jews despite the fact that the penalty, if caught, was death. In fact, Poland was the only occupied nation where aiding Jews was punishable by death.

  • The underground "Homeland Army" was under the command of Gen. Stefan Rowecki (code-named "Grot") and when he was captured by the Germans and executed in 1943, Gen. Tadeusz Komorowski (code-named "Bor") took command.
  • The Army fought a very varied war. At times in open combat in brigade or division strength, at times involved in sabotage, often acting as execution squads eliminating German officials, and often fighting a psychological campaign against German military and civilians. It was a costly war since the Germans always took reprisals.

  • The Intelligence Service of the Homeland Army kept continuous radiotelegraphic contact with the Polish Army General Headquarters in London.
  • The secret agents captured and sent parts of the V1 flying bombs to London for examination, provided information on German military movements (giving advanced warning of the German plan to invade Russia), and gave the RAF full information about factory at Peenemunde, where the Germans were producing V2 rockets.

  • The Soviet crime of Katyn was discovered in 1943 and created a rift in Polish-Soviet relations.
  • From now on, the Homeland Army was attacked by Soviet propaganda as collaborating with the Germans, etc.
  • Secretly, at Teheran, the British and Americans agreed to letting the Russians profit from their invasion of Poland in 1939 and allowing them to keep the lands that had been absorbed. (Rymaszewski's native lands included).
  • The "accidental" death of General Sikorski at this time helped keep protests at a minimum.

  • With advancing eastern war front, when the Russians crossed into Poland, the Homeland Army cooperated with the Soviet Army in the fight against the Germans and contributed greatly to the victories at Wilno, Lwow and Lublin ....
  • .... only to find themselves surrounded and disarmed by their Soviet "comrades in arms" and deported to labour camps in Siberia.

  • On 1st August 1944, with the Russian forces now on the outskirts of Warsaw at the east bank of the Vistula river, the Homeland Army and all civilians rose in Warsaw.
  • It was the WARSAW UPRISING.
  • Heroic street-fighting involving the whole population, using the sewers as lines of communication and escape, under heavy bombardment, lasted for over two months.
  • Not only did the Russians cease to advance and awaited, but they also refused to allow Allied planes to land and refuel on Polish airfields under Russian control after dropping supplies in Warsaw.
  • The city was completely destroyed, 250 000 people died.
  • After surrendering many civilians and soldiers were sent to concentration camps by Germans, some were executed and Warsaw was razed to the ground.
  • The Russians moved in three months later.
  • The defeat in Warsaw destroyed the military and political institutions of the Polish underground and left the way open for a Soviet takeover of Poland as they were planning.
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