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Map of the Holocaust in occupied Poland during World War II with six extermination camps: Chełmno, Bełżec, Majdanek, Sobibór, Treblinka and Auschwitz-Birkenau; as well as mass killing sites at Bronna Góra, Ponary and others. Marked with the Star of David are selected cities with the extermination ghettos

The Holocaust, also known as Shoah (Hebrew: השואה‎), was a genocide officially sanctioned and executed by the Third Reich during World War II. It took the lives of three million Polish Jews, over 90% of the pre-war Jewish population of Poland. Only a small percentage survived or managed to escape beyond the reach of the Nazis. The Holocaust in German-occupied Poland involved the implementation of German policy of systematic and mostly successful destruction of the indigenous Polish-Jewish population.[1][2] The official Nazi term for the extermination of Jews during their occupation of Poland was the euphemistic phrase Endlösung der Judenfrage (the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question"). Every arm of the sophisticated German bureaucracy was involved in the killing process, from the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry; to German firms and state–run trains for deportation to the camps.[3] German companies bid for the contracts to build the crematoria in concentration camps run by Nazi Germany in the General Government and other parts of occupied Poland.[1][4]

Throughout the German occupation, many Poles – at great risk to themselves and their families – engaged in rescuing Jews from the Nazis. Grouped by nationality, Poles represent the biggest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.[5][6] To date, 6,135 Poles have been awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel – more than any other nation.[5]

The German Nazi extermination policy

Prior to Second World War there were 3,500,000 Jews in the Polish Second Republic, about 10% of the population, living predominantly in the cities. Between the 1939 German invasion of Poland, and the end of World War II, over 90% of Polish Jewry perished.

Persecution of the Jews by the Nazi occupation government began immediately after the invasion, particularly in urban areas. In the first year and a half, the Germans confined themselves to stripping the Jews of their valuables and property for profit,[1] herding them into ghettoes and putting them in forced labor in war-related industries. During this period the Germans forced Jewish communities to appoint Jewish Councils (Judenräte) to administer the ghettos and to be "responsible in the strictest sense" for carrying out German orders. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, German police units, especially the Einsatzgruppen, operated behind the front lines to shoot "dangerous elements" (Jews and political opponents of Nazism). About 2 million Jews were shot and buried in mass graves, many in the areas of eastern Poland which had been formerly annexed by the Soviets in 1939. The survivors were incarcerated in newly created ghettos.

At the Wannsee conference near Berlin on 20 January 1942, Dr Josef Bühler urged Reinhard Heydrich to begin the proposed "final solution to the Jewish question". Accordingly, in 1942, the Germans began the systematic killing of the Jews, beginning with the Jewish population of the General Government. Six extermination camps (Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór and Treblinka) were established in which the most extreme measures of the Holocaust, the mass murder of millions of Jews from Poland and other countries, was carried out between 1942 and 1944. The camps were designed and operated by Nazi Germans and there were no Polish guards at any of the camps,[7] despite the sometimes used misnomer Polish death camps. Out of Poland's prewar Jewish population of 3,500,000, only about 50,000-120,000 survived the war.[6]

Ghettos and the extermination program

The entrance to Camp I at Auschwitz, with the sign on the gate reading Arbeit macht frei compared with Auschwitz-Birkenau, the real death factory nearby.

File:The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied.pdf

The plight of Jews in war-torn Poland can be divided into stages defined by the existence of the ghettos. Before their formation, the escape from persecution did not involve extrajudicial punishment by death. Once the ghettos were created however, death by starvation and disease became rampant, alleviated only by smuggling of food and medicine described by Ringelblum as "one of the finest pages in the history between the two peoples".[8] The escape from the ghettos became the only chance for survival once their brutal liquidation began.

The liquidation of Jewish ghettos across Poland was closely connected with the formation of highly secretive killing centers built at about the same time by various German companies including I.A. Topf and Sons of Erfurt, and C.H. Kori GmbH.[9][10][11] Civilians were forbidden to approach them. The Chełmno extermination camp (Kulmhof), situated 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Łódź, was built first. It was a pilot project for the development of the remaining sites. The killing center consisted of a vacated manorial estate for undressing, and a large forest clearing used for open-pit cremation of corpses.[12] In the final extermination phase, ashes mixed with crushed bones were trucked to the nearby river in sacks every night. At least 180,000 Jews deported from the Łódź Ghetto were killed in the camp with the use of mobile gas vans (Sonderwagen, see Chełmno Trials for supplementary data) with poisons added to gasoline. Proper gas chambers and industrial-scale crematoria were in the process of being constructed.[13][14]

Unlike other Nazi concentration camps where prisoners were exploited for the war effort, German death camps – part of Operation Reinhardt – were designed exclusively for the rapid elimination of Polish Jews in ghettos. Their German overseers reported directly to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler in Berlin, who kept control of the extermination program, but delegated the work in Poland to SS-Obergruppenführer Odilo Globocnik. The selection of sites, construction of facilities and training of personnel was based on a similar (Action T4) "racial hygiene" program of mass killings developed in Germany.[15][16][17]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-F0918-0201-001, KZ Treblinka, Lageplan (Zeichnung) II.jpg

Sketch of KZ Treblinka from the 1967 Franz Stangl trial in West Germany

Treblinka extermination camp located 80 kilometres (50 mi) northeast of Warsaw,[18] became operational on July 24, 1942. There were two barracks near the railway tracks for storing belongings of prisoners; one disguised as a railway station complete with a wooden fake clock to prevent new arrivals from realizing their fate.[19] Their valuables were collected for "safekeeping". The shipping of Jews from the [[Capital capital – plan known as the Großaktion Warschau – began immediately.[20][21][22] During the two months of summer 1942, about 254,000 Warsaw Ghetto residents were exterminated at Treblinka (or at least 300,000 by different accounts).[23] On arrival, stripped victims were forced into chambers disguised as showers, and gassed in batches of 200 with the use of exhaust fumes generated by a tank engine.[24][25][26] The gas chambers, expanded in August–September 1942, were able to kill 12,000 to 15,000 victims every day,[27] with the maximum capacity of 22,000 executions in twenty-four hours.[28] The dead were initially buried in large mass graves, but the stench from the decomposing bodies could be smelled up to ten kilometers away. As a result, later, the Nazis began burning the bodies on open-air grids made of concrete pillars and railway tracks.[29] The number of people killed at Treblinka in the next year ranges from 800,000 to 1,200,000.[30][31] The camp was officially closed by Globocnik on October 19, 1943 soon after the Treblinka prisoner uprising,[32] with the murderous Operation Reinhard nearly completed.[30]

Auschwitz concentration camp located 50 kilometers west of Kraków was fitted with the first gas chamber at Auschwitz II Birkenau in March 1942, and the gassing of Jews with Zyklon B,[33] following a "selection", began almost immediately. By early 1943 Birkenau was a killing factory with four crematoria working around the clock. More than 20,000 people were gassed and cremated there each day. Auschwitz II extermination program resulted in the death of over one million Jews from across Europe,[34] among them, 200,000 from Poland,[35] delivered in cattle trucks from liquidated ghettos in Bytom (February 15, 1942), Kraków (March 13, 1943),[36] Sosnowiec (June–August 1943),[37] and many other cities and towns including Łódź (August 1944),[38][39] where the last ghetto in Poland was liquidated. Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria were blown up on November 25, 1944 in an attempt to destroy the evidence of mass killings, by the orders of SS chief Heinrich Himmler.

This document, the so-called Höfle Telegram, confirms at least 434,508 Jews killed at Belzec in 1942.

Belzec extermination camp created near the railroad station of Bełżec in the Lublin district, began operating officially on March 17, 1942 with three temporary gas chambers, later replaced with six – made of concrete – enabling the facility to handle over 1,000 victims at a time. At least 434,500 Jews were exterminated there. The lack of verified survivors however, makes this camp much less known.[40] The bodies of the dead, buried in mass graves, swelled in the heat as a result of putrefaction making the earth split, which was resolved with the introduction of crematoria. The last shipment of Jews (including those who had already died in transit) arrived in Bełżec in December 1942.[41][42] The remaining 500 Sonderkommando, witnesses of the mass exterminations who dismantled the camp and incinerated leftover corpses, were murdered in Sobibór extermination camp in the following months.[43][44]

Sobibór extermination camp, disguised as a railway transit camp not far from Lublin, began mass gassing operations in May 1942.[45][46] As in other extermination centers, Jews taken off the trains from liquidated ghettos and transit camps (Izbica, Końskowola) were forced to hand over their valuables, split into groups and strip. Oberscharführer Hermann Michel, dressed in a medical coat gave the command for prisoners’ disinfection. They were led to gas chambers which were disguised as showers. Carbon monoxide gas was released from the exhaust pipes of tank engines. Their bodies were burned in open pits partly fueled by human body-fat, and turned into seven "ash mountains". The total figure of Jews murdered there is estimated at a minimum of 250,000.[46] Heinrich Himmler ordered the camp dismantled following a prisoner revolt on October 14, 1943.[47][48]

The ovens inside the crematorium on display at the Majdanek State Museum

The Majdanek forced labor camp, also on the outskirts of Lublin, was reopened in March 1942, after a typhus epidemic, as a place of extermination of large Jewish populations from south-eastern Poland (Kraków, Lwów, Zamość, Warsaw).[49] It served as storage depot for valuables stolen from the victims at the killing centers in Belzec, Sobibór, and Treblinka,[50] before it became a killing ground for Polish Jews, with gas chambers constructed in late 1942.[51] The gassing was performed in plain view of other inmates, without as much as a fence around the buildings. According to witness's testimony, "to drown the cries of the dying, tractor engines were run near the gas chambers" before they took the dead away to the crematorium. Majdanek was the site of death of 59,000 Polish Jews (from among its 79,000 victims).[52][53] By the end of Operation Harvest Festival in early November 1943 (the single largest German massacre of Jews during the entire war),[54] Majdanek had only 71 Jews left.[55]

The "resettlement"

The scale of the Final Solution would not have been possible without mass transport. The extermination of Polish Jews depended on the railways as much as on the remote killing centres. The Holocaust trains sped up the scale and duration over which the extermination took place, and, the enclosed nature of cattle wagons also reduced the number of troops required to guard them. Rail shipments allowed the Nazi Germans to build and operate bigger and more efficient death camps and, at the same time, openly lie to the world – and to their victims – about a "resettlement" program.[3][56] In one telephone conversation Heinrich Himmler informed Martin Bormann about the Jews already exterminated in Poland, to which Bormann screamed in response: "They were not exterminated, only evacuated, evacuated, evacuated!"[57] Unspecified number of deportees died in transit from suffocation and thirst. The Waffen-SS officer Kurt Gerstein wrote in his Gerstein Report that at the Belzec extermination camp on August 18, 1940 he had witnessed the arrival of 45 wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were already dead.[58] That train came with the Jews of the Lwów Ghetto,[59] less than a hundred kilometers away.[60] Millions of people were transported to the extermination camps in trains organised by the German Transport Ministry and tracked by an IBM subsidiary until the official date of closing of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in December 1944.[61][62]

Death factories were just one of a number of ways of mass extermination. From September 1941 until July 1944,[63] the SS recruited collaborationist auxiliary police (Hiwis) from among Soviet nationals in the Eastern regions conquered by the Wehrmacht.[64] They were known as "Trawniki men" (German: Trawnikimänner) for deployment in all major killing sites of Operation Reinhard – it was the primary purpose of their training. Trawnikis took an active role in the executions of Jews at Belzec, Sobibór, Treblinka II, during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (on three occasions, see Stroop Report), Częstochowa, Lublin, Lwów, Radom, Kraków, Białystok (twice), Majdanek, Auschwitz, as well as the Trawniki concentration camp itself,[63] and the remaining subcamps of KL Lublin/Majdanek camp complex including Poniatowa, Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa, and also during massacres in Łomazy, Międzyrzec, Łuków, Radzyń, Parczew, Końskowola, Komarówka and all other locations, augmented by members of the SS, as well as the Reserve Police Battalion 101 formation of Ordnungspolizei (alone, responsible for the annihilation of at least 83,000 Jews). The Order Police performed liquidations of the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland shooting everyone unable to move or attempting to flee.[54][65] Mass executions of Jews (as in Szebnie) was part of regular training of the auxiliary Ukrainian 14th Waffen SS Division soldiers from the SS Heidelager troop-training base in Pustków in south-eastern Poland.[66][67]

Poles and the Jews

German Nazi poster announcing the death penalty for any Pole giving help to Jews (Warsaw, 1942).

The relations between Poles and Jews during World War II present one of the sharpest paradoxes of the Holocaust. Only 10% of the Jews survived, less than in any other country; yet, Poland accounts for the majority of rescuers with the title of 'Righteous Among the Nations', people who risked their lives to save Jews. The Poles honored by Yad Vashem certainly represent only a fraction of the true number of cases of Poles assisting Jews.[68] The nature of this paradox was debated by historians on both sides for more than fifty years often with preconceived notions and selective evidence.[68]

Many Jews, persecuted by the Nazis, received help from the Poles; help, ranging from major acts of heroism, to minor acts of kindness involving hundreds of thousands of helpers acting often anonymously. This rescue effort occurred even though ethnic Poles themselves were the subject to capital punishment at the hands of the Nazis if found offering any kind of help to a person of Jewish faith or origin.[68][69][70]

On November 10, 1941, the death penalty was expanded by Hans Frank to apply to Poles who helped Jews "in any way: by taking them in for the night, giving them a lift in a vehicle of any kind" or "feed[ing] runaway Jews or sell[ing] them foodstuffs." The law was made public by posters distributed in all major cities. Capital punishment of entire families, for aiding Jews, was the most draconian such Nazi practice against any nation in occupied Europe.[7][71][72] In total, some 30,000 Poles were executed by the Nazis for hiding them.[73][74] Over 700 Polish Righteous among the Nations received their award posthumously, having been murdered by the Germans for aiding or sheltering their Jewish neighbors.[75] Many of the Polish Righteous awarded by Yad Vashem came from the capital. In his work on the Jews of Warsaw, Gunnar S. Paulsson has demonstrated that despite the much harsher conditions, Polish citizens of Warsaw managed to support and hide the same percentage of Jews as did the citizens of cities in reportedly safer countries of Western Europe.[76]

Children of the Warsaw Ghetto

At the end of the ghetto liquidation period, the largest number of Jews managed to escape to the 'Aryan' side,[68] and to survive with the assistance of their Polish neighbors. In general – during the German occupation – most Poles were engaged in a desperate struggle for survival. They were in no position to oppose or impede the German extermination of the Jews even if they had wanted to. There were however many Poles risking death to hide Jewish families and in various ways assist the Jews on compassionate grounds. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands, or even a million Poles, aided their Jewish neighbors.[6][77] The number of Polish Jews kept in hiding by non-Jewish Poles was around 450,000.[6] To put these numbers in perspective, three and a half million Jews lived in Poland before the war, out of a total population in Poland of about 27 million people.[6]

Polish Jews were a 'visible minority' by modern standards, distinguishable by language, behavior and appearance.[68] For hundreds of thousands of them the Polish language was barely familiar.[78] The presence of such large non-Christian, mostly non acculturated minority,[79] was a source of competitive tension in prewar Poland, and periodically of violence between Poles and Jews. Here is where the temptation to jump to conclusions with regard to Holocaust rescue comes into play according to Gunnar Paulsson.[68] As elsewhere in Europe during the interwar period, there was both official and popular anti-Semitism in Poland, at times encouraged by the Catholic Church and by some political parties (particularly the right-wing endecja faction), but not directly by the government. There were also political forces in Poland which opposed anti-Semitism, particularly centered around the tolerant Polish dictator, Józef Piłsudski. In late 1930s after Piłsudski's death, reactionary and anti-Semitic elements gained ground.[80] Nonetheless, "leaving aside acts of war and Nazi perfidy, a Jew's chances of survival in hiding were no worse in Warsaw, at any rate, than in the Netherlands,"[68] once the Holocaust began.

The Polish Government in Exile was the first (in November 1942)[81] to reveal the existence of Nazi-run concentration camps and the systematic extermination of the Jews by the Germans, reported by its courier Jan Karski and the activities of Witold Pilecki, a member of Armia Krajowa who volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz in order to organize a resistance movement inside the camp itself. In September 1942 the Provisional Committee for Aid to Jews (Tymczasowy Komitet Pomocy Żydom) was founded with assistance from the Underground State and on the initiative of Zofia Kossak-Szczucka. This body later became the Council for Aid to Jews (Rada Pomocy Żydom), known by the code-name Żegota. It is not known how many Jews were helped by Żegota, but at one point in 1943 it had 2,500 Jewish children under its care in Warsaw alone. Żegota was granted nearly 29 million zlotys (over $5 million dollars) since 1942 for the relief payments to thousands of extended Jewish families in Poland.[82] The government in exile also provided special assistance – funds, arms and other supplies – to Jewish resistance organizations (like ŻOB and ŻZW).[83] Poland was occupied by the Nazis from 1939 to 1945 and no Polish collaboration government was ever formed during that period. The Polish underground resistance, the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK) and the Communist People's Army (AL) opposed collaboration in German anti-Jewish persecution, and punished it by death.

In some cases, the Germans across Europe were able to exploit the local populace's anti-Semitism, and Poland was no exception. In occupied Poland death was a standard punishment for a Polish person with family and neighbors,[84] for any help given to Jews, one of the many coercive techniques used by Germans.[7] Some persons betrayed hidden Jews to the Germans, and others made their living as "Jew-hunters" (szmalcownik), blackmailing Jews in hiding and Poles who protected them.[85] Estimates of the number of Polish collaborators vary. The lower estimate of seven thousand is based primarily on the sentences of the Special Courts of the Polish Underground State, sentencing individuals for treason to the nation; the highest estimate of about one million,[86] includes all Polish citizens who in some way contributed to the German activities, such as: low-ranking Polish bureaucrats employed in German administration, members of the Blue Police, construction workers, slave laborers in German-run factories and farms and similar others (notably the highest figure originates from a single statistical table of outdated scholarship with a very thin source base).[87] Relatively little active collaboration by individual Poles – with any aspect of the German presence in Poland – took place. All Nazi propaganda efforts to recruit Poles in either labor or auxiliary roles were met with almost no interest, due to the everyday reality of German occupation. The non-German auxiliary workers in the extermination camps, for example, were mostly Ukrainians and Balts. John Connelly quoted a Polish historian (Leszek Gondek) calling the phenomenon of Polish collaboration "marginal" and wrote that "only relatively small percentage of Polish population engaged in activities that may be described as collaboration when seen against the backdrop of European and world history".[87] The unique Polish Underground State considered szmalcownictwo an act of collaboration with the enemy, and with the aid of its military arm, the Armia Krajowa, punished it with the judicatory death sentence. Up to 10,000 Poles were tried by Polish underground courts for assisting the enemy, and 2,500 were executed.[86]

The Republic of Poland was a multicultural country before World War II, with almost a third of its population originating from the minority groups: 13.9% Ukrainians; 10% Jews; 3.1% Belarusians; 2.3% Germans and 3.4% percent Czechs, Lithuanians and Russians. A number of ethnically German men joined the Nazi Sonderdienst formations in May 1940,[88] launched by Gauleiter Hans Frank who stationed in occupied Kraków.[89] The existence of Sonderdienst constituted a grave danger for the non-Jewish Poles who attempted to help ghettoised Jews in the cities, as in the Mińsk Mazowiecki Ghetto among others. Anti-Semitic attitudes were particularly strong in the eastern provinces which had been earlier occupied by the Russians following the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland. Local population had witnessed the repressions and mass deportation of up to 1.5 million ethnic Poles to Siberia,[90] conducted by the Soviet security apparatus, with some of the local Jews collaborating with them. Others assumed that, driven by vengeance, Jewish Communists had been prominent in betraying the ethnically Polish victims.[91][92]

A few German-inspired massacres were carried out in that region, with the help of, or even active participation by, non-Jewish Poles. The guidelines for such massacres were formulated by Reinhard Heydrich,[93] who ordered his officers to induce anti-Jewish pogroms on territories newly occupied by the German forces.[70][94] In the most infamous massacre in Jedwabne, over 300 Jews were died (Institute of National Remembrance's Final Findings),[95] burned alive in a barn set on fire by some of Jedwabne's citizens in the presence of German Ordnungspolizei. The circumstances surrounding these events are still debated and include the ominous presence of the Einsatzgruppe Zichenau-Schroettersburg under SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper deployed in Bezirk Bialystok,[96][97] as well as German Nazi pressure, anti-Semitism, but also resentment over Jewish cooperation with the Soviet invaders during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 as well as the alleged Jewish participation in anti-Polish terror following Soviet 1939 invasion of Kresy.[98]

Some ultra-nationalist National Armed Forces,[99][100] (Narodowe Siły Zbrojne or NSZ) participated in murders of Jews during wartime, wrote Korboński, but other units rendered assistance to them, replied Piotrowski (Poland's Holocaust) and included Jews in their ranks.[101] The NSZ Holy Cross Brigade rescued 280 Jewish women among some 1,000 persons from the concentration camp in Holýšov. A Jewish partisan from NSZ, Feliks Parry, suggested that most of them "didn't have the slightest notion of the ideological underpinnings of their organization" and didn't care, focused only on resisting the Nazis.[101] In postwar Poland, the communist secret police routinely tortured the NSZ insurgents in order to force them to confess to killing Jews among other alleged crimes. This was most notably the case with the 1946 trial of 23 officers of the NSZ in Lublin. The torture of political prisoners by the Ministry of Public Security did not stop automatically when the interrogations were concluded. Physical torture was also ordered if they retracted in court their confessions of "killing Jews".[102]

In 1946, over a year after the end of the war, 42 Jews were massacred in the Kielce pogrom, prompting Gen. Spychalski of PWP to sign a legislative decree allowing the remaining survivors to leave Poland without visas or exit permits.[103] Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to do so upon the conclusion of World War II.[104] Consequently, the Jewish emigration from Poland increased dramatically.[105] Britain demanded from Poland (among others) to halt the Jewish exodus, but their pressure was largely unsuccessful.[106] The massacre in Kielce was condemned by a public announcement sent by the diocese in Kielce to all churches. The letter denounced the pogrom and "stressed that the most important Catholic values were the love of fellow human beings and respect for human life. It also alluded to the demoralizing effect of anti-Jewish violence, since the crime was committed in the presence of youth and children." Priests read it without comments during Mass, "[h]inting that the pogrom might have in fact been a political provocation."[107][108]

Rate of survival

The exact number of Holocaust survivors is unknown. About 300,000 Polish Jews escaped to the Soviet-occupied zone soon after the war started, where many of them perished at the hands of OUN-UPA, TDA and Ypatingasis būrys during Massacres of Poles in Volhynia, the Holocaust in Lithuania (see Ponary massacre), and Belarus,[109][110] but most Polish Jews in the Generalgouvernement stayed put. Prior to the mass deportations, there was no proven necessity to leave familiar places. When the ghettos were closed from the outside, smuggling of food kept most of the inhabitants alive. Escape into clandestine existence on the "Aryan" side was attempted by some 100,000 Jews, and, contrary to popular misconceptions, the risk of them being turned in by the Poles was very small.[68]

The question regarding the Jewish real chances of survival once the Holocaust began continues to draw attention of historians.[68] For one, the Germans made it extremely difficult to escape the ghettos just before "resettlement" to the death camps. All passes were cancelled, walls rebuilt containing fewer gates, with policemen replaced by SS-men. Some victims already deported to Treblinka were forced to write dictated letters back home, stating that they were safe. Around 3,000 others fell into the German Hotel Polski trap. Many ghettoized Jews did not believe what was going on until the very end, because the actual outcome seemed unthinkable at the time.[68] David J. Landau suggested also that the weak Jewish leadership might have played a role.[111] Likewise, Israel Gutman proposed that the Polish Underground might have attacked the camps and blown up the railway tracks leading to them, but as noted by Paulsson, such ideas are a product of hindsight.[68]

It is estimated that about 350,000 Polish Jews survived the Holocaust. Some 230,000 of them survived in the Soviet territory,[112] including eastern half of Poland annexed after the 1939 invasion. Soon after the war ended, some 180,000 to 200,000 Jews took advantage of the repatriation agreement meant to ratify the new borders between Poland and the USSR. The number of Jews in the country changed dramatically, with many Jews passing through on their way to the West. Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah to Mandate Palestine,[104] with Stalin's vexed approval,[113] seeking to undermine British influence in the Middle East. In January 1946, there were 86,000 survivors registered at Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP). By the end of summer, the number had risen to about 205,000–210,000 (with 240,000 registrations and over 30,000 duplicates). Most refugees crossing the new borders left Poland without Western visas or Polish exit permits.[104] Uninterrupted traffic across the Polish borders intensified.[113][114] By the spring of 1947 only 90,000 Jews remained in Poland.[6][70][115]

Gunnar S. Paulsson estimated that 30,000 Jews survived in the labor camps and up to 50,000 in the forests and among soldiers who returned with the pro-Soviet Polish "Berling army" formed by Stalin ahead of his advance into Germany. The number of Jews who successfully hid on the "Aryan" side individually could be as high as 50,000 according to Paulsson's estimates. Many did not register themselves after the war, as was the case with Jewish children hidden by non-Jewish Poles and the Church.[68] The survival rate among the ghetto escapees was relatively high given the severity of German measures designed to prevent this occurrence, and by far, these individuals were the most successful.[68][116]

Holocaust memorials and commemoration

Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw, April 2013

There is a large number of memorials in Poland dedicated to the Holocaust remembrance. Major museums include the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum with 1.4 million visitors per year, and the nearly-completed Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw. Since 1988, an annual international event commemorating the Holocaust: March of the Living, takes place in April at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex on the Holocaust Remembrance Day, with the total attendance exceeding 150,000 youth from all over the world.[117]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Berenbaum, Michael (2005). "The World Must Know" (Amazon look inside). Hopkins. ISBN 080188358X. Retrieved 19 February 2014. "Reprint: The World Must Know, United States Holocaust Museum, 2006, p. 104." 
  2. Poland's Holocaust by Tadeusz Piotrowski. Published by McFarland.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Aish HaTorah, Jerusalem, Holocaust: The Trains Internet Archive.
  4. American Jewish Committee. (2005-01-30). "Statement on Poland and the Auschwitz Commemoration." Press release.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin January 1, 2009. Statistics
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Lukas, Dr. Richard (1989). Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 201. 5, 13, 111.,%22&hl=en&ei=hlYATfrrKMj4sgbE4fXyDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22The%20estimates%20of%20Jewish%20survivors%20in%20Poland%2C%22&f=false. ; also in Lukas, Dr. Richard (1986, 1997, 2012). The Forgotten Holocaust: Poles Under Nazi Occupation 1939-1944. New York: University of Kentucky Press/Hippocrene Books,. ISBN 0-7818-0901-0. . Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lukas" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lukas" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lukas" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lukas" defined multiple times with different content
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Robert D. Cherry, Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, Rethinking Poles and Jews: Troubled Past, Brighter Future, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, ISBN 0-7425-4666-7, Google Print, p.5 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Cherry" defined multiple times with different content
  8. Emmanuel Ringelblum, Polish-Jewish Relations, p.86.
  9. Dwork, Deborah and Robert Jan Van Pelt,The Construction of Crematoria at Auschwitz W.W. Norton & Co., 1996.
  10. University of Minnesota, Majdanek Death Camp
  11. Cecil Adams, Did Krups, Braun, and Mercedes-Benz make Nazi concentration camp ovens?
  12. Montague, Patrick (2012). "Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler's First Death Camp" (Google Books). University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807835277.,+Hermann+Gielow,+SS-Sonderkommando+Kulmhof&source=bl&ots=3-lUGRISPS&sig=PY1Y-U8wOGDkYi6gYaVp0wLhwIk&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3OWUUfPSHY-byAHlyYGADQ&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Walter%20Piller%2C%20Hermann%20Gielow%2C%20SS-Sonderkommando%20Kulmhof&f=false. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  13. JTA (January 22, 1963). "Jewish Survivors of Chelmno Camp Testify at Trial of Guards". JTA Archive. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  14. Fluchschrift (2013). "01.11.1941. Errichtung des ersten Vernichtungslagers in Chelmno". Heiner Lichtenstein, Daten aus der Zeitgeschichte, in: Tribüne Nr. 179/2006. Fluchschrift - Deutsche Verbrechen. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  15. Gitta Sereny, Into That Darkness, Pimlico 1974, 48
  16. Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, Basic Books 1986, 64
  17. Lanzmann, Claude, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust.
  18. Steiner, Jean-Francois, and Weaver, Helen. Treblinka.
  19. Testimony of Alexsandr Yeger at the Nizkor Project
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  21. (Polish) (English) Barbara Engelking-Boni; Warsaw Ghetto Internet Database hosted by Polish Center for Holocaust Research The Fund for support of Jewish Institutions or Projects, 2006.
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  23. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Last Updated: May 20, 2008.
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  25. Court of Assizes in Düsseldorf, Germany. Excerpts From Judgments (Urteilsbegründung). AZ-LG Düsseldorf: II 931638.
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  28. David E. Sumler, A history of Europe in the twentieth century. Dorsey Press, ISBN 0-256-01421-3.
  29. Klee, Ernst., Dressen, W., Riess, V. The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. ISBN 1-56852-133-2.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Kopówka, Edward; Rytel-Andrianik, Paweł (2011). "Treblinka II – Obóz zagłady" (in Polish) (PDF file, direct download 20.2 MB). Dam im imię na wieki [I will give them an everlasting name. Isaiah 56:5]. Drohiczyńskie Towarzystwo Naukowe [The Drohiczyn Scientific Society]. pp. 76–102. ISBN 978-83-7257-496-1. Retrieved 9 September 2013. "with list of Catholic rescuers of Jews imprisoned at Treblinka, selected testimonies, bibliography, alphabetical indexes, photographs, English language summaries, and forewords by Holocaust scholars." 
  31. Treblinka - ein Todeslager der "Aktion Reinhard", in: "Aktion Reinhard" - Die Vernichtung der Juden im Generalgouvernement, Bogdan Musial (ed.), Osnabrück 2004, pp. 257-281.
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  33. :: Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu EN::
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  36. Pressac, Jean-Claude and Van Pelt, Robert-Jan "The Machinery of Mass Murder at Auschwitz" in Gutman, Yisrael & Berenbaum, Michael. Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, 1994; this edition 1998, p. 232.
  37. Yizkor book of Sosnowiec
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  40. "Belzec", USHMM. Accessed February 5, 2008.
  41. Belzec by Rudolf Reder – Panstwowe Muzeum Oswiecim – Brezezinka.
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  43. "Archeologists reveal new secrets of Holocaust", Reuters News, 21 July 1998
  44. Belzec, Complete Book and Research by Robin O'Neil
  45. Raul Hilberg. The Destruction of the European Jews. Yale University Press, 1985, p. 1219. ISBN 978-0-300-09557-9
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  47. Schelvis, Jules. Sobibor: A History of a Nazi Death Camp. Berg, Oxford & New Cork, 2007, p. 168, ISBN 978-1-84520-419-8.
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  49. Rosenberg, Jennifer (2008). "Majdanek: An Overview". 20th Century History. ISBN 0-404-16983-X. 
  50. Staff Writer (2006). "Lublin/Majdanek Concentration Camp: Overview". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 
  51. Jewish Virtual Library 2009, Gas Chambers at Majdanek The American-Israeli Cooperative
  52. Kranz, Tomasz (2005). "Ewidencja zgonow i smiertelnosc wiezniow KL Lublin". Lublin: Zeszyty Majdanka. pp. 7–53. 
  53. Reszka, Paweł P. (December 23, 2005). "Majdanek Victims Enumerated". Gazeta Wyborcza. Lublin: 
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  55. Lawrence, Geoffrey; et al., eds (1946). "Session 62: February 19, 1946". The Trial of German Major War Criminals: Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany. 7. London: HM Stationery Office. p. 111. ISBN 1-57588-677-4. 
  56. HOLOCAUST FAQ: Operation Reinhard: A Layman's Guide (2/2) Internet Archive.
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  58. Gerstein Report in: Dick de Mildt, In the name of the people Published by Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 9041101853.
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  67. Terry Goldsworthy (2010). "Valhalla's Warriors" (Google Book preview). A History of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front 1941–1945. Dog Ear Publishing. p. 144. ISBN 1608446395. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  68. 68.00 68.01 68.02 68.03 68.04 68.05 68.06 68.07 68.08 68.09 68.10 68.11 68.12 Gunnar S. Paulsson (Summer–Autumn 1998). "The Rescue of Jews by Non-Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland". Frank Cass, London. pp. 19–44. Retrieved 12 Feb 2014. "Keeping in mind that these cases are drawn from published memoirs and from cases on file at Yad Vashem and the Jewish Historical Institute, it is probable that the 5,000 or so Poles who have been recognised as 'Righteous Among the Nations' so far represent only the tip of the iceberg, and that the true number of rescuers who meet the Yad Vashem 'gold standard' is 20, 50, perhaps even 100 times higher. [p. 23, § 2]" 
  69. Joshua D. Zimmerman. Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. Rutgers University Press, 2003.
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  72. Mordecai Paldiel, Gentile Rescuers of Jews, page 184. Published by KTAV Publishing House Inc.
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  74. Ron Riesenbach, The Story of the Survival of the Riesenbach Family
  75. Chaim Chefer, Righteous of the World: Polish citizens killed while helping Jews During the Holocaust
  76. Unveiling the Secret City H-Net Review: John Radzilowski
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  79. Celia Stopnicka Heller, On the Edge of Destruction..., 1993, Wayne State University Press, 396 pages ISBN 0-8143-2494-0
  80. Joshua B. Zimmerman. Contested Memories: Poles and Jews During the Holocaust and Its Aftermath. Rutgers University Press, 2003.
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  82. David Cesarani, Sarah Kavanaugh, Holocaust Published by Routledge. Page 64.
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  84. "Referenced Material". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  85. Jan, Grabowski (2004) (in Polish). "Ja tego żyda znam!" : szantażowanie żydów w Warszawie, 1939-1943 / "I know this Jew!": Blackmailing of the Jews in Warsaw 1939-1945. Warsaw, Poland: Wydawn. IFiS PAN : Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów. ISBN 83-7388-058-5. OCLC 60174481. 
  86. 86.0 86.1 Klaus-Peter Friedrich. Collaboration in a "Land without a Quisling": Patterns of Cooperation with the Nazi German Occupation Regime in Poland during World War II. Slavic Review, Vol. 64, No. 4, (Winter, 2005), pp. 711-746. Friedrich cites Richard C. Lukas, Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944 for the lower figure and Czeslaw Madajczyk, "'Teufelswerk': Die nationalsozialistische Besatzungspolitik in Polen," in Eva Rommerskirchen, ed., Deutsche und Polen 1945-1995: Anndherungen-Zbliienia (Diisseldorf, 1996) for the one million figure.
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  91. Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, "Jedwabne: The Politics of Apology", presented at the Panel Jedwabne – A Scientific Analysis, Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America, Inc., June 8, 2002, Georgetown University, Washington DC.
  92. Tomasz Strzembosz, “Inny obraz sąsiadów” archived by Internet Wayback Machine
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  94. Paweł Machcewicz, "Płomienie nienawiści", Polityka 43 (2373), October 26, 2002, p. 71-73 The Findings
  95. "Jedwabne Tragedy: Final Findings". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
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  97. Piotr Wróbel (2006). Polish-Jewish Relations. Northwestern University Press. pp. 391–396. ISBN 0-8101-2370-3. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
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  102. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, The Dialectics of Pain Glaukopis, vol. 2/3 (2004-2005). See also: John S. Micgiel, “‘Frenzy and Ferocity’: The Stalinist Judicial System in Poland, 1944-1947, and the Search for Redress,” The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies [ Pittsburgh], no. 1101 (February 1994): 1-48. For concurring opinions see: Krzysztof Lesiakowski and Grzegorz Majchrzak interviewed by Barbara Polak, “O Aparacie Bezpieczeństwa,” Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, no. 6 (June 2002): 4-24; Barbara Polak, “O karach śmierci w latach 1944-1956,” Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, no. 11 (November 2002): 4-29.
  103. Aleksiun, Natalia. "Beriḥah". YIVO. "Suggested reading: Arieh J. Kochavi, "Britain and the Jewish Exodus...," Polin 7 (1992): pp. 161–175" 
  104. 104.0 104.1 104.2 Devorah Hakohen, Immigrants in turmoil: mass immigration to Israel and its repercussions... Syracuse University Press, 2003 - 325 pages. Page 70. ISBN 0-8156-2969-9 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "D-H" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "D-H" defined multiple times with different content
  105. Marrus, Michael Robert; Aristide R. Zolberg (2002). The Unwanted: European Refugees from the First World War Through the Cold War. Temple University Press. pp. 336. ISBN 1-56639-955-6. ""This gigantic effort, known by the Hebrew code word Brichah(flight), accelerated powerfully after the Kielce pogrom in July 1946"" 
  106. Kochavi, Arieh J. (2001). Post-Holocaust Politics: Britain, the United States & Jewish Refugees, 1945–1948. The University of North Carolina Press. pp. xi. ISBN 0-8078-2620-0. 
  107. Natalia Aleksiun, The Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish Question in Poland, 1944-1948. Page 12-13.
  108. Eli Lederhendler; Manuela Consonni, Hebrew University (2005). "The Church and the Memory of the Shoah: The Catholic Press in Italy, 1945–1947". Jews, Catholics, and the Burden of History. Oxford University Press. p. 37: "Notes" (not shown in Google Books preview). ISBN 0-19-530491-8.,%20Catholics,%20and%20the%20Burden%20of%20History&f=false.  [verification needed]
  109. Timothy Snyder. (2004) The Reconstruction of Nations. New Haven: Yale University Press: pg. 162
  110. Józef Turowski, with Władysław Siemaszko, Zbrodnie nacjonalistów ukraińskich dokonane na ludności polskiej na Wołyniu 1939-1945, Warsaw: Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w PolsceInstytut Pamięci Narodowej, Środowisko Żołnierzy 27 Wołyńskiej Dywizji Armii Krajowej w Warszawie (English: Crimes Perpetrated Against the Polish Population of Volhynia by the Ukrainian Nationalists, 1939–1945, published by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in PolandInstitute of National Remembrance, and Association of Soldiers of the 27th Volhynian Division of the Home Army; Warsaw, 1990.
  111. David J. Landau, Caged — A story of Jewish Resistance, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2000, ISBN 0-7329-1063-3. Quote: “The tragic end of the Ghetto [in Warsaw] could not have been changed, but the road to it might have been different under a stronger leader. There can be no doubt that if the Uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto had taken place in August—September 1942, when there were still 300,000 Jews, the Germans would have paid a much higher price.”
  112. Laura Jockusch, Tamar Lewinsky, Paradise Lost? Postwar Memory of Polish Jewish Survival in the Soviet Union, full text downloaded from Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 24, Number 3, Winter 2010.
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  114. Philipp Ther, Ana Siljak (2001). Redrawing nations: ethnic cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 138. ISBN 0-7425-1094-8. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  115. Albert Stankowski, with August Grabski and Grzegorz Berendt; Studia z historii Żydów w Polsce po 1945 roku, Warszawa, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny 2000, pp.107-111. ISBN 83-85888-36-5
  116. Timothy Snyder (December 20, 2012). "Hitler’s Logical Holocaust". New York Review of Books. 
  117. "History of the Holocaust. Remembering the Past, Ensuring the Future". Open registration. International March of the Living 2012-2013. Retrieved January 5, 2013. 


External links

Further reading

  • Gunnar S. Paulsson. Secret City: The Hidden Jews of Warsaw, 1940-1945. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0-300-09546-3, Review

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