moja polska zbrojna
Od 25 maja 2018 r. obowiązuje w Polsce Rozporządzenie Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady (UE) 2016/679 z dnia 27 kwietnia 2016 r. w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (ogólne rozporządzenie o ochronie danych, zwane także RODO).

W związku z powyższym przygotowaliśmy dla Państwa informacje dotyczące przetwarzania przez Wojskowy Instytut Wydawniczy Państwa danych osobowych. Prosimy o zapoznanie się z nimi: Polityka przetwarzania danych.

Prosimy o zaakceptowanie warunków przetwarzania danych osobowych przez Wojskowych Instytut Wydawniczy – Akceptuję

No Polish Extermination Camps During World War II

During World War II on the territory of Poland the only camps there existed were those built and operated by Germans. Repeating that these were “Polish concentration camps” is a deliberate distortion of historical truth. Neither the Polish government nor the structures of the Polish Underground State were in any way engaged in the creation and functioning of these camps – says Anna Jagodzińska, PhD, a historian at the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

When were the first German Nazi concentration camps built?

The first such camp was built in Germany on March 22, 1933 near Dachau in Bavaria. It was a model camp for all other concentration camps. It was established to exterminate Germans – those who were against Nazism, criminals, Jews, gays, and – since 1938 – also Poles living in Germany, particularly members of Polish organizations in Germany. Later, there were camps built, among others, in Oranienburg near Berlin, in Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Flossenburg, Ravensbrück (for women), and after annexation of Austria (Anschluss) the Mauthausen-Gusen (in August of 1938) camp in Austria (and others). Gusen I camp since 1940 was designed to destroy Polish intelligentsia.

Following September 1, 1939, Germans built their concentration camps also in occupied Poland…

When invading Poland, German Third Reich had a prepared plan of liquidation of not only Polish state by annexing some of its western parts, but also of extermination of Polish nation. Poles fighting for independence, the intelligentsia, and the clergy were to be killed, others –  turned into the non-qualified forced workforce. To achieve that, the invader built on the Polish soil German camps – concentration, extermination, and prison and labor camps. Stutthof near Gdańsk was the first German camp to where the first Poles were interned from Gdańsk area as early as in September of 1939. In January 1942, it became German concentration camp. KL Posen in Poznań Fort (Fort VII with the first gas chamber) was built on October 10, 1939. In May 1940, KL Auschwitz was constructed. In 1941 – KL Lublin in Majdanek; KL Birkenau – functioned as Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp; in Rogoźnica – KL Gross-Rosen. Later in 1942, German Nazi occupier built following extermination camps on the territory of Poland: in Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The Nazis would kill Jews from all over Europe there, as well as Romani (Gypsies), Soviet prisoners of war, or Poles aiding Jews. It should be remembered that Germans built their concentration camps in almost every country they invaded, and some of them were constructed by governments collaborating with Germany, for example by Vichy government in France.

Why so many camps were established here, in German-occupied Poland?

Poland was one of the first countries invaded and occupied by Germany, and these camps were designed to exterminate mainly Poles, Polish intelligentsia, Polish clergy. However, economic factors were also crucial, and these were Poland’s location in the center of Europe and good rail connection between our territory and other countries from where Jews and people of other nationalities were collected. Germans also bore in mind the fact that at the moment of WWI outbreak, almost 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland, and with majority of camps located on the territory of occupied Poland, they did not had to be deported at long distances.

From time to time, the wording “Polish concentration camps” or “Polish death camps” can be heard.

This is an erroneous wording used by some mass-media, particularly those in West Europe, in publications or even historical essays when referred to German Nazi located within the boundaries of occupied since 1939 Poland.

Where such phrase was used?

About “Polish concentration camps” wrote German press, for example “Der Spiegel”, “Die Welt”, “Die Zeit”, “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, but it was also used by American “New York Times”, British “The Guardian”, or American ABC News and CBS News TV channels. A notorious use of this phrase occurred when US President Barrack Obama made the comment while awarding in 2012 the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.

Why are people talking about “Polish concentration camps”?

The authors usually claim that this is a shortcut for geographical location of concentration camps on the territory of occupied Poland. Such was the explanation of “Die Welt” and Barrack Obama’s in 2012. However, such wording can implicate that it is not only about geographical location of these camps. It rather suggests that Poles were co-creators of the camps and all atrocities done there, and places them in the company of murderers and being accomplice to the crime of genocide.

But this was not the case…

Of course, not. During World War II on the territory of Poland, the only camps there existed were concentration, extermination, forced labor, internment, and Germanisation camps built and operated by Germans. Repeating that these were “Polish concentration camps” or “Polish extermination camps” is a deliberate distortion of historical truth. On the Polish areas annexed by Nazis, Germany established a German zone of occupation called General Government (or General Governorate) with German administration. Other Polish territory – Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), Pomeranian and Silesian regions – became incorporated in the Third Reich. Neither the Polish government in London nor the Polish Underground State were in any way engaged in the creation and functioning of these camps. Moreover, in occupied Poland, there never existed pro-Nazi government of Poles, and Poland as a state never collaborated with Germany.

Is it possible that those talking about “Polish concentration camps” merely have faint historical knowledge on the subject?

Yes, it is quite often so. However, some researchers say this wording was introduced as an element of deliberate historical policy conducted by Germans after the war, which was to obfuscate the truth and hold Poles co-responsible for German war crimes.

How can we defend against this?

Polish diplomacy intervenes every time. It should be continuously emphasized that these were not “Polish concentration camps”, but camps operated by Germans on the territory of German-occupied Poland. Polish embassies have been advised to inform whenever such wording is used, protest against it and react fast by correcting it. Some cases even end up in court. How effective German historical policy is can be proved by the fact that in time the word “German” in reference to concentration camps or war crimes committed in those camps has gradually been eliminated. Today, in many publications, even Polish ones, or in presentations at academic conferences, it is replaced by “Nazi”, which in fact takes the responsibility for these war crimes off Germans. My friend, who lived in Warsaw during German occupation, best commented on this phenomenon when said that at that time the signs in Warsaw trams said “Nur für Deutsche” (“Only for Germans”), and not “Nur für Nazi” (“Only for Nazis”).

Anna Dąbrowska

autor zdjęć: Arch. PZ

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