Chaos as the Germans begin to depart eastern Poland

Vinnytsia residents welcome Soviet soldiers-liberators. Vinnitsa city was under German occupation from July 21, 1941. Was released on March 20, 1944 the troops of the 38th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front during Proskurovo-Chernovtsy operation.

Vinnytsia residents welcome Soviet soldiers-liberators. Vinnitsa city was under German occupation from July 21, 1941. Was released on March 20, 1944 the troops of the 38th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front during Proskurovo-Chernovtsy operation.

The Red Army advance through the Ukraine was making rapid progress despite the muddy weather. Now they were approaching the borders with Poland. Here German ‘settlers’ who had taken over land and property in the area found themselves on the move again. It was less than three years since Poles had been evicted to make way for them.

In 1942, Zamość County, due to its fertile black soil, had been chosen for further German colonization in the General Government as part of Generalplan Ost. The town of Zamość itself was intended to become Himmlerstadt – Himmler Town. There would have been little room for the Poles. The Nazis planned to limit them to only an elementary education and use them as serfs.

In the town of Szczebrzeszyn the local hospital doctor Dr Klukowski was keeping an eye on things for his diary:

In Zamosc there is complete chaos. Here our Volksdeutscb and Stammdeutsch face a dilemma: What to do? To escape or stay? Where to go? How to provide for one’s self?

Some Poles are fearful of the time between the German pullout and the arrival of Russian troops or the Home Army because they think the Ukrainians will start a massacre.

Overall there is a happy feeling here. The days of our slavery are now numbered. We see Germans escaping. This is the day we have been waiting for years to see.

March 19

Since early morning the traffic in town has been heavy. From every direction horse-drawn wagons carrying German settlers have been arriving. Here in town Germans are looking for wagons and horses.

To save the hospital horses from being requisitioned, I had the hospital administrator take them to Brody, with the hope that his family can take care of them. But around 6 pm the Dorrfuhrer arrived requesting the horses for German physicians. When he learned that our horses were gone, he told me I had one hour to provide him with horses, otherwise I would be shot.

There was nothing else to do but bring the horses back and give them to the German physician. Now, another problem: who would drive the wagon and horses? Finally hospital foreman Gurski agreed to go. I told him I would pay 1,000 zloty if he would bring the horses back to the hospital.

Loaded wagons were staged on both sides of Zamojska Street and also in the marketplace. Yesterday the Germans were sure that they would go to Zamosc, but earlier today it appeared that Bilgoraj and Zwierzyniec would be their destination.

Now the situation has changed once again. The road to Zamosc and Lublin is cut off, as is the road to Bilgoraj. Mayor Kraus left town this morning, with his family, by train to either Lubaczow or Jaroslaw.

The Germans are burning the files at city hall. The local Volksdeutsch have not yet been ordered to move out. If they decide to escape on their own, they must supply horses and wagons. So far only a few have begun packing.

The Germans are selling their belongings, even cows and pigs, for very low prices. Our own people are busily buying. I am sure the Germans will not survive the road without big surprises.

Now they are to travel to Radom, and later to Lodz.

Today’s picture of German misery makes us all feel good. We have come to the day when we can see Germans escaping from Neue Deutsche Stadt Szczebrzeszyn (new German city of Szczebrzeszyn).

See Zygmunt Klukowski: Diary from the Years of Occupation.

Images courtesy Russian War Albums

Zamość is now a UNESCO world heritage site and well worth visiting if you ever get the chance. Fortunately it escaped the Nazi plans for general destruction under its ‘scorched earth’ retreat. Sadly few traces of the important Jewish community that once thrived there now remain.

Panzers abandoned in the town of Proskurov during the spring of 1944.

Panzers abandoned in the town of Proskurov during the spring of 1944.

Zamosc is a perfect example of a late-16th-century Renaissance town. It has retained its original layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, under the Nazis the Poles would have been evicted and replaced with German settler.

Zamosc is a perfect example of a late-16th-century Renaissance town. It has retained its original layout and fortifications and a large number of buildings that combine Italian and central European architectural traditions.
Now a UNESCO world heritage site, under the Nazis the Poles would have been evicted and replaced with German settlers.

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