[…] Collective Murders and Killings
This principle, discarded by the civilised nations, is contrary to the conception of human justice and right, and certainly to Article 50 of the Hague Regulations. The massacres carried out by the Reich in the name of this principle have taken place not only when the act of repression was the sequel to an offence of a political character, but also when it concerned simple infractions of the common law, without any connection with political activity.[i] In numerous cases the German authorities shot Polish citizens apprehended either among representatives of the intellectual classes, or in compact groups among the population of a given locality, sometimes a very small one. The Polish Government desires in this connection to call attention to some examples, which it has been able to collect from the German press in the occupied territories or on the basis of authentic evidence, and which clearly demonstrate Germany’s utter disregard for human life and the contempt of the German authorities for the sufferings of others. In order to illustrate this the Polish Government wishes to record the following episodes:
In Warsaw 180 out of 300 civilian hostages were massacred when an arrested man broke prison and failed to give himself up voluntarily to the German authorities within 48 hours as fixed by the police.[ii]
In another case, according to a printed report from a German newspaper source, 53 inhabitants of a building in Warsaw were executed for the reason that a Jewish criminal who had a dossier with the Polish police, was living there.[iii]
In a further case, 120 persons were shot in Lublin for no other reason than that a German policeman had been attacked in the district where these people were living; the attack had been made by common criminals who were being pursued by the German authorities at the request of the Polish local non-armed police.[iv]
In the borough of Wawer, near Warsaw, shots were exchanged between some German policemen and a delinquent whom they were pursuing. One of the policemen was killed. The place was surrounded by a detachment of German “Landesschuetzen” and the following night 107 males, aged from 15 to 60 years, were dragged from their homes and killed with machine guns.[v]
Under a similar pretext 62 innocent civilians were murdered in the town of Bochnia, near Kraków. In the market town of Skarzysko, more than 300 working people were murdered; in the municipality of Zywiec approximately 100.
In the town of Wejherowo, the day after the entry of the German troops, more than 300 representatives of the intellectual and commercial classes of the Polish port of Gdynia were executed, including the director of the Port, the directors of the local banks, judges, advocates and the principal industrialists and business men.[vi]
In the district of Tuchola, in Polish Pomerania, ten Poles were executed on the night of November 11-12, 1939, to avenge the death of a “Volksdeutscher,” one named Fritz, who died from a heart attack when his farm had been set on fire.[vii]
It is worth dwelling especially on the so-called “punitive expeditions.” One of them was sent, by order of the German authorities, to the villages of Józefów Mały, Józefów Duży and neighbouring localities. The lorries of the expedition, which had been despatched from Lublin by the “Selbstschutz” under the command of Count Werner von Alvensleben, became stuck in the mire on a side road. The Germans brought eleven peasants from the nearest village in order to extricate the vehicles. As soon as their work was completed they were all shot dead. The Germans then proceeded to carry out further massacres. The male inhabitants of the following villages: Józefów Mały (30), including several boys aged 11, Józefów Duży (14 men), Bronisławów Stary (70), Zakępie (60), Bielany (25), Ruda (18), Nowiny (26), Sereba (13), were arrested and murdered. A so far unascertained number of persons in the villages of Serekomla, Hordzieszów, Okrzeja and other localities were similarly slaughtered. In the course of this expedition the Germans murdered a total of more than 300 persons. The victims, men, women and children, were lined up in three rows and machine gunned. Finally, 17 workers were brought from other localities, made to dig the graves, then also murdered. A number of officials returning from the district offices were shot as an afterthought. Five villages, representing more than 60 homes, were set on fire.
In the district of Końskie, in the Radom area, another punitive expedition was sent against certain villages suspected by the German authorities of having given aid to Polish guerilla detachments. The Germans for this reason set on fire the villages of Hucisko (26 homes), Królowiec, Lelitków, Skłoby (328 homes), Sulki (number unknown), Szałasy (54 homes), Wiśniowiec, also seven villages with 72 homes in the rural district of Miedzieża. In the village of Chlewisko 40 people were hot, at Królowiec 123, at Hucisko and Lelitków 350, in Sulki 42, at Skłoby 360.
In the village of Szałasy all the male inhabitants of over 15 years of age were executed, a number of them shot, while the others were locked into a school, which was set on fire. This “punitive expedition” took to Radom approximately 300 persons, who were subsequently put to death at Firlej. This “punitive expedition” murdered a total of approximately 1,200 persons.
These savageries against the population took place not only during the first months of enemy occupation. It appears from authenticated testimony and reliable accounts emanating from the occupied territories that they assumed even more serious proportions during subsequent months, when they took the form of mass executions either without any trial, or on the basis of sentences imposed by German courts constituted ad hoc, or by German military courts.
In addition, there were numerous cases of individual murders perpetrated by representatives of the occupation authorities, sometimes, as they said, “for amusement…”
The executions referred to were not always dictated by the same motive. In certain cases they bore the character of simple political repression, in others they were impelled by chauvinistic hatred, and in still others they were the outcome of the Reich’s eugenic policy, which, as we know, is peculiar to Germany.
Murder of the Insane and Prostitutes
Thus, for instance, mental cases cared for in asylums, as well as prostitutes, were either machine gunned or murdered with poison gas. In a number of cases the executions were carried out by the German authorities with the utmost bestiality, the victims being locked into a building, such as a stable, hangar, etc., which was then set on fire.
German Courts—the Death Penalty
Apart from the mass executions and the so-called “punitive expeditions” described above, the authorities of occupation are responsible for having without mercy ordered the execution of Polish citizens on the basis of the judgments of special military courts, police courts and special courts (Sondergerichte).[viii] These courts use and abuse the power of imposing the death penalty.
It would be impossible to enumerate here the series of German rules providing for the capital penalty;[ix] let a single one suffice here by way of example. The Governor-General Dr. Frank’s order dated April 13, 1940, concerning the “protection of forests”[x] –the word “protection” sounds ironical in view of the pillage of the Polish forests which are falling down under the invader’s axe—provides in sect. 3, the death penalty for any theft of wood after nightfall; and the order adds that if the thief is under 14 years old, his father (or guardian) may be condemned to forced labour for his negligence.
It is scarcely necessary to add that they do not observe any procedure laid down in advance; the guarantees represented by defence are lacking, and the grounds of judgments are not published. As a rule, no accused escapes with his life from these farcical trials.
It is no exaggeration to say, on the basis of a considerable number of reliable reports and corroborated accounts, that there is no village of any agglomeration of people in occupied Poland which does not bear the bloody traces of the passage of the Germans.
Arbitrary Arrests—Treatment in Prisons
The conduct of the German authorities towards the people of the invaded regions is further characterised by terrorism and cruelty. In this connection the Polish Government is obliged to record an uninterrupted sequence of violations by the Reich of the fundamental terms of Article 46 of the Hague Regulations.
The personal liberty of the Polish citizens is at the mercy of enemy functionaries and soldiers. Mass arrests of representatives of the liberal professions, such as advocates, doctors, as well as of teachers, are common. The same applies to the clergy. These arrests are generally effected without any legal procedure and, in the majority of cases, without any apparent pretext. Thus the arrested people lack all means for their defence, as they are detained without any inquiry or examination. The buildings that serve as prisons are unheated in the winter and devoid of hygienic equipment.
The Polish Government knows of cases in which the same persons have been arrested and incarcerated several times; sometimes entire families have been thrown into jail.
In the jails the evidence of the prisoners is frequently obtained by force. Victims of this procedure have reported some of the means employed in this connection: they were beaten with steel rods in the small of the back or on the head, or with rubber truncheons on the face or chest, or were whipped with leather thongs. Usually, several Germans attended to a victim simultaneously. After the beatings and tortures the prisoners frequently suffer from bruised or broken limbs, injured kidneys, etc. Sometimes their power of resistance fails and they succumb under the blows of the executioners.[xi]
Even women and children are not spared this inhuman treatment.[xii]
Since the beginning of the German occupation cases have been reported of bands of German officers, soldiers or even civilians visiting prisons, selecting some prisoners at random and murdering them on the spot.[xiii]
In addition, Polish citizens of the occupied regions are in their tens of thousands deported and incarcerated in concentration or internment camps. The camps whose names will mark the most horrible pages in the annals of German bestiality are those of Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Oranienburg, Mauthausen and Dachau.
As regards maintenance in the camps, no account is taken of the most elementary hygienic requirements, nor of the needs involved in the labour which the prisoners are forced to perform. In certain camps, in Mauthausen, for example, where the prisoners were employed in stone quarries, the working day was 15 hours without a break. The degree of brutality was no smaller in the camps than in the prisons. The “gymnastic” exercises, which are compulsory in the concentration camps, are devised to exhaust the prisoners and drive them beyond the limit of endurance; fainting during these exercises is not a rare occurrence. The daily roll calls of the internees take place in the open, despite extreme cold and bad weather.[xiv]
The prisoners of the camps are ill-treated and humiliated on every occasion. For example, they are forced to handle mud and excrements with their hands or to clean latrines with their hands.[xv] The guards amuse themselves by making the prisoners participate in some atrocious games; the Germans force them to run round in a circle, while they beat them with sticks or truncheons; or the Germans order the prisoners to run at a very fast pace and jump over obstacles which are so disposed that they cause painful crashes. Above all, however, the unfortunate prisoners are savagely beaten, kicked, pummelled with the fists, thrashed with truncheons and whipped on every occasion under any sort of pretext. The German executioners apparently take a sadistic[xvi] pleasure in making the prisoners suffer, and they appear to have acquired a subtle technique in the various ways of beating their victims so as to cause the most pain. The women have also not been spared.
The Polish Government desires to point out that this treatment is not reserved exclusively for the inmates of the prisons and concentration camps. The population which is “at liberty” also frequently suffers in a similar way, either individually or collectively.
By means of a series of orders and decrees, the occupation authorities have conceived and created an entire system of humiliating procedures tending to lower the human dignity of the Polish citizens.
A decree issued by the German authorities imposes on citizens of the Jewish faith and people of Jewish origin the obligation to wear on their clothes in a visible manner, a mark in the shape of the Shield of David.[xvii] In certain towns and villages Polish citizens of whatever faith must raise their hats to any German citizen they meet in the street; in other cases the use of the pavements is reserved for German citizens, and Poles must walk in the roadway.[xviii] The national emblems are exposed to various insults. Poles deported to work in Germany must wear special marks on their clothes in order to distinguish them from Germans.[xix] A particularly active propaganda in country districts is designed to inculcate in the German farmers hatred for the Poles who are assigned to them as agricultural labourers.[xx]
In order to terrorise and humiliate the population of small towns, the German authorities have frequently resorted to the following procedure: The people of a market town are driven to the market place; there they are made to kneel down in row and beat each other with their fists or with sticks. The Jews, wearing their praying shawls, are forced to execute, for example, dances or high-jumps, while the organisers of this spectacle distribute blows right and left with whips or riding crops.
Polish women are subjected to particularly humiliating and barbarous treatment by German officers, soldiers and functionaries. The Polish Government is in possession of proof that, in some cases, collective rape has been committed.[xxi] The German police have repeatedly organised raids in different towns, in the course of which young women have been abducted, in order to be placed subsequently in brothels frequented by German officers and soldiers. In numerous cases it has been established that young women, arrested in the streets or even in their homes, on the pretext that they would be sent to work, were in reality carried off into brothels for the soldiery in Germany.[xxii] The German authorities themselves have admitted that the consigning of young Polish women to the brothels constitutes a measure of repression which they are applying deliberately.
The Polish Government is of the opinion that the number of young women thus snatched away from their families in order to be thrown into German brothels and condemned to a life of dishonor and ignominy could be checked from the frequency with which advertisements by parents searching for their suddenly vanished daughters appear in the papers.
In the course of numerous searches carried out in the homes of Polish citizens it has happened that the German policemen forced the women to undress, to dance naked, or to scrub, with the underwear torn from their bodies, the stairs or the floor.[xxiii]
Expulsion and Deportation of Civilians
The German Government, which during the war of 1914-1918 carried out in Belgium and France numerous deportations among the civil population, is at present employing the same methods in Poland, but on an infinitely vaster scale.[xxiv] Deportation of the civil population, together with the system of collective terror constitutes the principal weapon which the Germans are using to weaken the Polish nation.
It is necessary to distinguish between the different forms of deportation: first of all, the Reich deports the Polish population from the territories unlawfully incorporated with the Reich; next comes the deportation of agricultural and industrial workers to Germany; then there are the deportations of scholastic youth and children. Finally, the transplantation of certain categories of citizens:
- those who are domiciled in certain cities (such as Kraków);
- those who come from certain districts; and
- those who come from other countries (as Austria) to certain districts reserved for the “Jewish population;” also, people are expelled from certain parts of a city to other parts.
According to a provisional estimate arrived at by the Polish Government, approximately a million and a half of the inhabitants of the Western Provinces (about 92,000 square kilometres), which were unlawfully annexed to the Reich, had been deported by the end of 1940. The people expelled from their homes were transported to other Polish territories occupied by Germany, that is to say, the “Government General.”
According to the public admissions of the German leaders,[xxv] the object of the expulsion of the Polish population from the so-called “incorporated” provinces is a radical de-Polonisation of these territories, the cradle of the Polish nation, which have remained Polish despite a century and a half of Prussian domination; from the ethnographical point of view 94 percent of the population of these provinces is Polish. The German Government has for some time been carrying out measures and procedures, unprecedented in comprehensiveness and cruelty, to clear these territories of their autochthonous population, with a view to make room for various German minorities from other countries, and notably from the U.S.S.R., the Baltic States, Rumania, the Tyrol, and also from other Polish provinces. […]