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Poland under Nazi Occupation Paperback – 1961
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A most fascinating section are those having to do with the Generalplan Ost, in which the authors provide copious quotes from the Nazi central planners for the destruction of the Polish nation. The Nazi's tortuous descriptions of how the Poles "came to be' Poles in a total re-write of history, is a fairy tale not to be missed. If it wasn't so evil in its intent to justify wiping out an entire people, it would strike one as laughably absurd. Likewise, their goofy logic that had to do with desirable Poles (blond and blue eyed) chosen for Germanization, versus I suppose the rest of us who were born with brown hair and hence undesirable. How they reconciled this insofar as so many of their own leaders did not fit the Superman stereotype, is a subject for a dissertation.
The authors talk about crimes against Polish troops by the German army, in direct violation of the conventions of war and engagement. They also discuss the Warsaw Ghetto, camps for Soviet POWs, the death camps and the concentration camps. They describe the suffering and deaths of both Jewish Poles and non-Jewish Poles of non-Jewish evenly and discuss the plans for the total extermination of Jews and how those plans were carried out.
There is a chapter on the Germanization of Polish children who were taken from their parents to be raised by German families and one on the terrible suffering and atrocities perpetuated by Poles in the Warsaw Uprising.
The book is very well written in accessible and engaging prose and this I am sure is due to the fact that the translator was especially skilled. The accompanying photos are graphic and they add to the narrative like exclamation points. The organization is good overall, with the authors adding background information where it is needed, thereby keeping readers who don't know much about this period needed context within which to understand what took place. They do so with no over-writing or unnecessary prose, which is admirable.
Every now and then an editorial comment seeps in about the horrors that took place or incredulity at the German logic - if it can be called logic. Usually I am pretty critical of this kind of editorializing as unnecessary, but in this case I found the comments to be an acknowledgment of my own reactions,
The Germans murdered large number of Poles by shooting, often in secret places in the woods. The graves (and those of murdered Soviet POWs) were so well disguised (p. 85, 114), that, unless previously marked by a witness (as by axe marks on a nearby tree), they were very hard to find. For this reason, an unknown fraction of such graves have never been found.
The authors list the weights of ashes/bones left after the mass burnings of Poles who had been murdered by the Germans at Wola during the Warsaw Uprising (pp. 213-214). (Parenthetically, this refutes the silly argument of Holocaust deniers, who insist that human bodies are hard to burn in pyres, and require an inordinate amount of fuel to do so.)
The authors devote considerable detail to such things as the re-Germanization of "racially valuable" Polish children, the millions of Polish forced laborers sent to the Reich (including the forced abortions on pregnant Polish women; p. 173), and the mass expulsions of Poles in the Zamosc region. Some proponents of Holocaust uniqueness have tried to make something of the fact that, unlike Jews in general, the "resettled" Zamosc Poles weren't gassed. But so what? Zamosc Poles sent to Auschwitz were killed by cardiac injections, and a false cause of natural death was listed (pp. 156-158). The Germans killed the Poles covertly in order to avoid inflaming Polish guerilla resistance, which by then was considerable.
Although Poles were not generally sent to extermination camps for immediate gassing, they were sent in large numbers to concentration camps, so their deaths were slower but usually no less certain: "But while in Western Europe it was only those who were active opponents of the Nazi regime, or suspected as such, that were sent to the camps, in Poland everyone was a candidate because he belonged to a nation on whom sentence had been passed. The basic job of the concentration camp was to drive the prisoners to a `natural' death after first having exploited them as slave labor." (p. 60)
In addition to all the foregoing, the Germans employed various "passive"-genocidal techniques against the Polish population as a whole, as elaborated by Lemkin. Most Poles got only 600 calories per day (p. 218), leading to epidemics (for instance, over a million excess cases of tuberculosis relative to a similar prewar interval of time (p. 219), and that for a population of only some 25 million). The severe privations faced by Poles help the reader understand why Poles didn't always aid Jews, and why Poles sometimes betrayed or killed fugitive Jews who were suspected of, or known to be, stealing from Poles.
There were long-term German plans to exterminate the Polish people. According to Generalplan Ost, some 51 million Slavs would have to be "resettled" (p. 13). Efforts to cause negative population growth (using modern parlance) among Slavs would continue (p. 19, 28). So would slow deaths in concentration camps. Apropos to this, there were plans to greatly expand the Auschwitz complex to be able to hold 400,000 prisoners simultaneously (p. 81). As for the Auschwitz-Birkenau crematories: "Their deep foundations and concrete walls show that they were intended for long use, undoubtedly longer than that required by the campaign to exterminate the Jews." (p. 80). Moreover, there were plans to build additional crematories (pp. 79-80).