The Germans crack down on ordinary Poles

Heinrich Himmler greets a German 'settler' who is to be given new accommodation in German occupied Poland. 1940.

Heinrich Himmler greets a German ‘settler’ who is to be given new accommodation in German occupied Poland. 1940.

During the course of the war around 3 million Poles of Jewish descent were killed by the Nazis. In addition to these the general non Jewish Polish people were subjected to especially harsh measures, around 2.8 million died during the course of the war.

By mid 1943 in many areas of Poland the Germans had completed their actions against the Jews and their attention moved on to the remaining Poles. One aim was to crack down on acts of resistance – such as assassinations of German troops or people collaborating with the Germans. But it was also a long term Nazi aim to destroy the Polish culture and wipe Poland from the map.

Dr Zygmunt Klukowski was a hospital doctor in the Zamosc county hospital in Szczebrzeszyn. Here he did his best to discreetly help partisan resistance fighters when they were wounded. He also kept a diary of the daily events in the town, chronicling the preparations for the invasion of Russia in 1941, and the area wide hunt for Jews in 1942. Now he saw the Germans turn their attention to ordinary Poles:

July 2

Yesterday around 4 P.M., the town filled with soldiers, Schutz Polizei, and gendarmes. Outside the city several trucks with benches were assembled. The first group of arrested was brought by highway from the direction of Brodzka Gora. Later more men were brought from Brody. Several railroad workers were bunched into a special group.

The Germans were not sure where to assemble everyone. First they were taken to the Pereta flour mill; later they were moved to the old, partially destroyed synagogue. Men from our city were arrested also. The Germans arrested men under sixty years of age from stores, offices, and private homes. A few priests and three physicians, Dr. Jentys, Dr. Spoz, and Dr. Jozwiakowski, were arrested.

In front of the synagogue the gestapo set up two large tables and began the interrogation. IDs were checked and so on. Some people were released, such as the physicians, workers from the sugar refinery, and airfield workers.

Some tried to escape, but this was impossible. The entire town was surrounded by soldiers armed with machine guns. The gendarmes and soldiers continued searching private homes.

Only a small number of people were able to hide. We observed all of this quietly and were ready to be evacuated also. I was dressed and had my rucksack packed and ready with important items.

At the hospital we prepared ourselves for the worst. Because of a warning, “Achtung! Fleckfieber [Spotted Fever]” no one entered the hospital. …

Women were left alone. They walked around the town cursing the Germans.

The Gestapo removed eleven men from those arrested and marked a big letter “W” on their foreheads.

A few minutes after 5 A.M. the Germans formed a marching unit with the eleven men with “W” marks being closely guarded by the Schutz Polizei. Around 1,500 men were assembled. All of them looked healthy. As they passed I tried to recognize friends. I stood behind the hospital wall and had a good view of the street. ln the last group I recognized a few priests: old Rev. Maslowski, Rev. Kowalczyk, and Rev. Winnicki, from Mokra Lipa. A large group of women stood on both sides of the street, cursing the Germans and crying.

Seeing this I was reminded of the Jews marching prior to their liquidation. Everything looked the same, except for one thing: the big difference was attitude. The Jews marched in complete resignation, guarded only by a few gendarmes. Here these marching men showed hatred toward Germans and were being guarded by hundreds of soldiers carrying machine guns.

Around 1 P.M. all the priests and the two hospital workers were released. For several hours townswomen waited on the highway leading to Zwierzyniec for any men who might be released. So far a few hundred have been freed.

The eleven marked men were held in separate barracks. During interrogation they were severely beaten. Rev. Winnicki witnessed these brutalities. We hope that more people will be released.

This morning the city looked as if it had been struck by some major catastrophe. Stores were closed; people were hiding. This afternoon the city began to breathe again. The city is still depressed.

In the following days many hundreds of men were sent off for forced labour. Others were evicted from their homes, including some of Klukowski’s fellow doctors, allowed only to take a few personal possessions with them. Their homes, and all the furnishings within them, were then turned over to German speaking ‘settlers’.

See Zygmunt Klukowski: Diary from the Years of Occupation.

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