POLAND, 1939 -
THE GRAVEYARD OF EUROPE
Makeshift Polish soldiers' cemetery in the Soviet
Late September, 1939
In the six weeks of the Polish Campaign of 1939, Poland lost close to
200 000 of her citizens, killed or murdered by the Nazi-Soviet aggressors
- military personnel, paramilitary and civilians. Although there are
known, sporadic cases of Polish POWs being murdered by the Nazis
(Dabrowa near Ciepielow, Zwierzyniec), the Soviets were notorious.
They murdered thousands in just the first three weeks of the Soviet
invasion of Poland. Augustow... Augustowka... Bijary... Brzostowice...
Chodorow... Dabrowica... Gaje... Grabowiec... Grodno... Komarow...
Kosow Poleski... Lwow... Mokrany... Molodeczno... Oszmiana... Rohatyn...
Sarny... Szack... Swislocz... Wolkowysk... Zloczow... and hundreds
other places, still unknown... Makeshift cemeteries became an
overwhelmingly common feature of Poland's landscape under Soviet
Among those killed, or murdered were many Polish soldiers and officers
of Belorussian and Ukrainian origin. Not only did they wear Polish
Army uniforms and fought for Poland - their hearts were with Poland,
REGISTRATION - FOR ONE'S OWN MURDER
"Former" Polish Army officer's registration
certificate, issued by the NKVD to 2Lt. Bronislaw Grajewski.
Lwow, Oct. 9, 1939
Shortly after flooding Poland's eastern territories, the Soviets
ordered (Oct. 3, 1939) that from October to December, 1939, all Polish Armed
Forces and Police officers must register with the NKVD.
Those, who complied, became instantly sitting ducks with no time to spare.
Of the few options left to them (crossing the Rumanian, or Nazi occupation
zone borders, joining the Underground, or just hiding), all were risky
and dangerous, but waiting for what happens next was deadly - those, who made
that choice, were arrested by the NKVD within few days following
the registration, and few months later ended up in the dumping sites of
Katyn, Kharkov, Mednoye, Bykovnia and other, still unknown locations.
As usually, the NKVD knew "intuitively" and well in advance, how to act
- the official Central Committee Politburo's Resolution No. P8/151,
ordering the arrest of all registered "former" Polish Army officers,
was passed on Dec. 3, 1939.
BETWEEN STALIN'S SKYLLA
AND HITLER'S CHARYBDIS
Refugee certificate, issued in Soviet-occupied
Stryj (Voiv. Stanislawow) to Waleria Burska and her son, Zbigniew, states
that they are refugees from Nowy Sacz, a Polish town in the Nazi occupation
On the reverse - a prewar Polish State Railroad STRYJ station round stamp,
dated Oct. 24, 1939, may indicate that she and her son were allowed to
Stryj, Oct. 20, 1939
The Polish Campaign of 1939 was over. And those, who hoped to find shelter from
the advancing Nazis in the eastern parts of Poland, found themselves in the
hands of even more murderous Soviets. Some of the refugees have managed to
return home (now in the Nazi occupation zone), as the NKVD was still not in
full control over the refugee tide.
Not for long - as soon as the Nazi-Soviet border solidified, the NKVD
tightened the grip. Thousands, perceived by the Soviets as enemies,
ended in the mass graves of Katyn, Kharkov, Mednoye, Bykovnia and other, still
unknown locations. Many more were deported, including refugees from
the western parts of Poland (decision from Apr. 10, 1940).
IN THE NAME OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND COMRADE STALIN
An official expropriation document, issued by
a Soviet representative to the Wolfarth family for their small estate
in Wiktorowka (Distr. Brzezany, Voiv. Tarnopol).
Wiktorowka, late 1939
Whatever land the Soviets laid their hands on, the inhabitants were
stripped of their earthly possessions (if not their lives) with a
lightning speed and efficacy matched only by the speed and efficacy
of the Red Army savages robbing, raping and murdering their friend
On many occasions, as in the case of the Wolfarth family's estate,
the procedure was slowed down to a few hours due to the poor
penmanship of the Soviet official in charge of the robbery.
BLESSING FROM HELL
Soviet "passport", issued by the NKVD to a
"former" Polish citizen, Bronislaw Skorny.
Lwow, May 9, 1940
By the Supreme Soviet Presidium's Decree of Nov. 29, 1939, all
Polish citizens residing in the Soviet occupation zone were stripped
of their Polish citizenship and branded with the Soviet. Subsequently
to that unprecedented and invalid in the court of law violation of
the international legislation, "former" Polish citizens were being
issued Soviet "passports".
Unlike passports (or other identity documents) in the civilized World,
the "Soviet passport" served exclusively as an additional tool of the
NKVD control over the population. The "Soviet passport's" owner not
only could not travel abroad - he, or she could not even leave the place
of residence without a special NKVD permit. Unless he, or she was taken
by the NKVD - in such a case no permit for "travelling" was required,
and the "passport" owner was lucky, if survived.
SOVIET JUSTICE: EVERYBODY IS EQUAL IN NOT BEING
A letter sent back home by a young Ukrainian
(a "former" Polish citizen), Iwan Kluszta from Goloskow (Com. Ottynia,
Distr. Tlumacz, Voiv. Stanislawow). He was forced into the Red Army
garb and sent far away - to Lipovtsy (Molotovsky Raj., Ussuriysk Obl.)
in Primorsky Kray.
Lipovtsy, Feb. 15, 1941
Poland's ethnic minorities were victims too - after "liberating" them
from "Polish oppression", the Soviets subjected Belorussians and Ukrainians
to murderous terror almost to the same degree as ethnic Poles. Conscription
to the Soviet army, being one of the instruments of terror, served also
another purpose - the Soviet army always longed for new conscripts,
as they did not last long while in service. This was due to a brutal
treatment and their commanders' complete disregard for human life.
The intricate folding of the letter resulting in its final triangular
shape, was not the aim in itself. It provided the letter with compactness
needed in the absence of an envelope. Not to mention an easy access for
the watchful Soviet military censor.
SPOILS OF VICTORY
Members of the Soviet horde documenting proudly
the extent of their victory over Poland - wearing men's and women's wrist
watches stolen from Polish soldiers and civilians, and Polish Army
officer's handgun, Vis.
Late September, 1939
As the Polish Army's High Command ordered all units not to fight the
invading Soviets, they were, despite occasional fierce resistance, virtually
unopposed, and could focus almost entirely on robbing and murdering
at will. Also, never before having an opportunity to see the civilized
World, they could now take full advantage of its "decadence". And so they
did - it was not that uncommon to see the Soviets wearing several wrist
watches at the same time, enjoying a drink from a bidet, or washing
themselves in a toilet bowl.
The indulgence in Western 'decadence' culminated on Dec. 31, 1939
at the New Year's Eve dances, when many elegant wives of Soviet officers
appeared in the ball rooms sporting slips, 'acquired' from Polish women,
as their evening dresses.
Workers Guards unit's identity card.
Lwow, Oct. 10, 1939
Soviet occupation created for anti-Polish elements within ethnic
minorities an excellent opportunity to settle their imaginary grievances
against Poland and Poles. Units of Workers Guards in Polish towns and
Peasants Guards in the country were formed - from eager Jewish and
Ukrainian collaborationists mostly. They provided the NKVD with
information on Polish resistance, denounced members of the Polish military,
police and other "enemies" in hiding, and were instrumental in the
preparation of proscription and deportation lists.
The Poles, in general, kept a united front against the Soviet regime. Some,
however - communists and opportunists - joined the ranks of renegades and
volunteered to the Guards.
SMUDGING STREAKS DARKER THAN BLACK
Molotov's Report at the Fifth, Extraordinary
Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR:
... Beginning August 23, when the Soviet-German nonaggression pact was
signed, the abnormal relations, which lasted for many years between the
USSR and the Reich, ended ...
... Further improvement of these new, good relations was reflected in the
Soviet-German boundary treaty, signed in Moscow on September 23 ...
... Due to the Polish leaders' complete bancruptcy, the war between Germany
and Poland ended quickly. As it is known, the Poles were helped neither by
the English, nor the French guaranties ...
... As anyone understands, reconstruction of the old Poland can not be
... Because of that, the continuation of the present war under the flag of
reconstruction of the old Polish state is completely pointless ...
Moscow, Oct. 31, 1939
Polish language version of Molotov's report was widely distributed throughout
Soviet-occupied Polish territories in form of pamphlets and loose leaflets
(Poland-related excerpts), with one apparent goal - to crush Polish morale,
resistance, and all hopes.
ALL-UNION COMMUNIST PARTY (MURDERERS)
Politburo of the Central Committee, All-Union
Communist Party (Bolsheviks) - Resolution No. P13/144 ordering the NKVD to
murder 25 700 Polish citizens - ...obdurate and incorrigible enemies
of the Soviet rule.
Moscow, Mar. 5, 1940
The Resolution came in response to Lavrenty Beria's (Head of the NKVD)
recommendation that such a measure be taken. Resolution supported
unanimously by members of the Politburo: Lazar KAGANOVICH, Mikhail KALININ,
Anastas MIKOYAN, Vyacheslav MOLOTOV, Kliment VOROSHILOV and the Secretary
- Josef STALIN. Executions commenced on Apr. 5, 1940, when the first 343
Poles from the Ostashkov concentration camp were murdered in Kalinin
(Tver). From that day, up to 600 people were murdered daily at various
locations, and by mid-May, 1940, they all disappeared without a trace.
It was not until the Spring of 1943 that one of the victims bodies' dumping
sites - Katyn, was unearthed. Some others - Kharkov, Mednoye and Bykovnia
became known more than half a century later. Some are still unknown. The
atrocity became known under a collective, symbolic name - KATYN FOREST
NAZI-SOVIET FRIENDLY BORDER
Photograph, taken secretly by Polish Underground
several months after the September 1939 Nazi-Soviet invasion split Poland
into two occupation zones.
This Nazi-Soviet border post may look relatively harmless and innocent, but
crossing the border was illegal for Poles. For approximately fifty thousand
of those, who attempted it and were caught by the Soviets, that was the
beginning of their journey through hell. After spending several weeks or
months in overcrowded local prisons, they were either murdered, imprisoned
for three to eight years or disappeared, deported to the wastes of Soviet
SOVIET JUSTICE: EVERYBODY IS EQUAL
IN HAVING THE RIGHT
TO OWN AND NEED NOTHING
Property confiscation document, issued to Helena
Klein by the Bialystok Oblast Operational Group of the UNKGB. Property
confiscated: a cupboard, couch, book shelf, sewing machine, bed, wooden
table, copper samovar, seven chairs, kitchen table, kitchen utensils
and two radios.
Bialystok, Jun. 20, 1941
She would not need those "luxuries" anyway, as she and her son were
deported the very same night to a far away location - Yaminsky Sovkhoz
(Yeltsovsky Raj., Biysk Obl.) in Altaysky Kray. Her husband was already
undergoing "resocialization by work" in the "Tolokmianka" Corrective
Labour Camp (Ivdelsky Raj., Sverdlovsk Obl.) in the Urals.
ONE OF THE THOUSANDS
Polish Army reservist, Cpl. Stefan Borek, re-called for
military duty in 1939, was murdered by the Soviets only because he was a Polish
State Railways employee in civilian life.
ON THE BRINK
Employment certificate, issued to Halina Skotnicka
by the Provisional Administration of Baranowicze (Voiv. Nowogrodek), states
that she is an accountant in the Department of Electricity.
On Apr. 13, 1940, she was deported to Nikolaevka, where she remained until
repatriation to Poland in 1946.
Baranowicze, Sep. 30, 1939
CHEATING THE DEVIL
Refugee certificate, issued by the Committee of
Refugees from Kielce in Lwow, states that Zbigniew Miarczynski is a refugee
from that city in the Nazi occupation zone.
Lwow, Oct. 11, 1939
In fact, he was a permanent resident in Lwow. Caught by the Soviets at
random in a street round-up, he managed to escape from the convoy to the
city's prison, before being interrogated. The certificate which he obtained
afterwards, made him to some extent immune from Soviet harassment as it
indicated that its owner "belongs" to the Nazi occupation zone.
As the Nazis and Soviets quickly joined their efforts at the tightening
the grip on the Polish population in their hands (Gestapo-NKVD conferences
in Cracow and Zakopane - starting in October, 1939), documents like this
lost their usefulness shortly.
RUBBING MORE SALT INTO FRESH WOUNDS
A ballot for the municipal election to the Soviet
of Workers' Deputies. Issued to Helena Pelc with her name, number of
the ballot and the name of the winning candidate too - all, apparently,
for the sake of "convenience". The candidate and winner (the results in
Soviet elections were known in advance) was a Polish Jew - Comrade
Genya Izaakovna Fiszer, recommended on the ballot as ... a loyal
daughter of the Soviet nation.
Lwow, Dec. 15, 1939
The response of Polish Jewry to the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland varied,
but only the right-wing Zionists made it clear that Polish Jews, being
Polish citizens, must fulfill their duty to the State and stand up to the
challenge - arm to arm with others. Many did, and many paid with their
lives for loyalty to their motherland - Poland. The majority, however,
remained indifferent - "this is a Polish war". Many Jews welcomed the Nazis,
and about a third of the Jewish population committed something, that
amounted to an ethnically based treason - they enthusiastically and actively
supported the Soviet invaders. Shooting Polish soldiers in the back; spying
for the Soviets; serving as local guides to the Soviet horde and informers
to the NKVD; denouncing or murdering Polish soldiers and officers in hiding;
robbing; raping; desecrating Christian places of worship... When the
invasion was complete, the renegades continued as willing, effective and
trusted collaborationists - an ideal instrument for subduing the Polish,
Belorussian, Ukrainian and even Jewish population on the Polish territories
occupied by the Soviets.
The Soviet of Workers' Deputies was one of the Soviet "self-governed" bodies
which served that purpose well.
GOOD APPLE IN A VERY BAD BARREL
Polish poet and writer, Jozef Kapuscianski (Jozef
Jedlicz), on a photograph in the Soviet "passport", issued to him by the
Lwow, Mar. 23, 1940
In the first few weeks of war, to avoid capture and persecution by the
advancing Nazis, many Polish intellectuals fled Western and Central
Poland to seek refuge in Lwow. The city, eventually, fell under Soviet
occupation. Instead of setting an example of strong moral fibre and
patriotism that would strengthen the morale of the Polish population in
the Soviet occupation zone, the vast majority of them became, without
much pressure, Soviet collaborationists, with Tadeusz (Boy) Zelenski
being the most notable figure in the "scoundrel elite".
Among those few, who refused to betray their country, was Jozef
THE ARRIVAL OF THE PAST
Soviet "passport", issued by the NKVD to a "former"
Polish citizen, Jadwiga Guzkowska from Demnia (Distr. Brzezany, Voiv.
Tarnopol). Her social status is specified as "former landowner".
Brzezany, Sep. 21, 1940
In the Soviet occupation zone and under the Soviet "law", Polish citizens
were not only dispossessed of their earthly belongings - they also lost
their professional and social status to become: former army/police officer,
former judge, former factory owner, etc. In the case of Jadwiga Guzkowska,
she became instantly a "former landowner".
Eventually, the process of bringing Poles from the past to the present
reached the lowest socioeconomic classes, the flesh and blood of the
communist system - workers and peasants - and within a short period of
time all "former" Polish citizens had been reduced to the level of an
average Soviet citizen - a FORMER HUMAN.
THE MURDER-KOMMANDO ARRIVES
NKVD prison guard Anatoliy Mikhailovich Dyachenko
on a photograph in his freshly issued Lvov Oblast NKVD service identity
Lwow, Mar. 12, 1941
Despite the NKVD's experience and efficiency in processing "anti-Soviet
elements"; despite the fact that by the end of 1940 more than a million of
Polish citizens were already deported and many tens of thousands murdered
- the prisons in the Soviet-occupied part of Poland were still overflowing.
The Soviet regime, short of everything except for the means of repression,
accommodated the needs promptly and mightily in the usual, Soviet way - by
bringing in reinforcements of the NKVD - the regime's "best crop".
Soviet "passport", issued by the NKVD
to a "former" Polish citizen, 18 years old Aleksander Popiel from Wlodawka
(Com. Tomaszowka, Distr. Brzesc nad Bugiem, Voiv. Polesie).
Tomaszowka, May 26, 1941
The very next month the Nazis attacked their Soviet ally. This young Pole
was not only spared from the Soviet deportations which wiped out close to
two million Polish citizens from the Soviet occupation zone - at the last
moment he also escaped conscription to the always "victorious" (even, when
in a stampeding retreat, like in 1941) Soviet army - that would be a simple
consequence of becoming a Soviet citizen, whether voluntarily or by force.
CHEATING THE DEVIL
Employment certificate, issued to Czeslaw Roszak
by the Railway Car Maintenance Depot in Brzesc nad Bugiem, states that
he worked temporarily as a metalworker and is on his way home to Koscian
(Voiv. Poznan) in the Nazi occupation zone.
Brzesc nad Bugiem, Oct. 3, 1939
The Polish Campaign was nearing its end. Following disintegration of
the Polish Army, thousands of soldiers, who managed to avoid Soviet
capture, began their journey home. To avoid persecution from the Nazis
and Soviets, many not only changed into civilian clothes, but also
"organized" fictitious documents to somehow justify their presence so
far away from home. Many succeeded, as the Nazis and Soviets were still
too busy slaughtering the remnants of Polish resistance.
Having done that, both aggressors focused immediately on strict
population control within the bilaterally agreed (Sep. 28, 1939)
occupation zones. One of the results was the exchange of thousands of
Poles, whose place of permanent residence was on the other side of the
Nazi-Soviet border - many were, however, subsequently imprisoned,
deported or murdered.
Soviet questionnaire, filled out by Dr. Wlodzimierz
Sawicki (a jurist) of Sadowa Wisznia (Distr. Mosciska, Voiv. Lwow).
Questions: name with date and place of birth, present address, father's
name and social status (profession), property ownership, affiliations,
number of family members. The questionnaire is in Polish, Ukrainian (to
"reach" the ethnically Ruthenian population, which under the Polish
"suppressive" regime enjoyed schooling also in the Ruthenian language),
and Yiddish (to "reach" Poland's Jewish population which, living mostly
in self-imposed separation, quite often did not even care to learn Polish
- country's only official language).
Lwow, Oct. 14, 1939
Within a short period o time, the population in the Soviet occupation
zone was ordered to participate in various mandatory undertakings: a
referendum for the incorporation into the USSR, elections to various
levels of administration and "self-government" bodies, census taking,
replacement of Polish identity documents with Soviet passports, various
registrations and requests for filling out questionnaires. The fine-tooth
comb of information gathering included even advertising fictitious
employment opportunities for professionals.
All that, organized and conducted by the NKVD, served just one and only
purpose - to identify and exterminate "anti-Soviet elements" - with even
small children of those "elements" considered to be as much "anti-Soviet",
as their parents.
Well clothed and healthy?
Send him in!
Should last in the pits for a while...
Polish soldier, Witold Ksiadzyna from Gleboczek
(Distr. Borszczow, Voiv. Tarnopol), taken prisoner of war by the Soviets
- a farmer by profession, forced to work underground in the Soviet ore
mines of Krivoy Rog (Dnepropetrovsk Obl.) in the Ukrainian SSR.
Released from Soviet imprisonment in late 1941, he joined the Polish Army
organized in Soviet Russia by Gen. Wladyslaw Anders and was evacuated from
Russia to the Middle East. He fought in the Italian Campaign in the Polish
2nd Artillery Group.
In his native Gleboczek, three members of his family were murdered in 1944
and 1945 by Ukrainian nationalists.
Krivoy Rog, late 1939
In the Soviet Union, an empire of slave manual labour, every pair of
hands counted. The initial, "erroneous" decision (Oct. 3, 1939) to
release home all Belorussians and Ukrainians - Polish citizens, who
served in the Polish Army as ordinary soldiers - was followed on
Oct. 13, 1939 by a "correction" ordering that 1700 "well clothed and
healthy" prisoners of war be sent to the ore mines in Krivoy Rog.
Eventually, 6766 ended there to struggle underground - mostly Polish,
but also Belorussian and Ukrainian peasants.
Many thousands of others were also ordered to join the Soviet labour
force and slave for... emancipation of the working class and
advancement of humankind.
LOOKING UGLY, FEELING EVEN WORSE
Photograph of a "former" Polish citizen, Jan
Malec, age 20, forced to serve in the Soviet army. He somehow survived
the "privilege" and eventually managed to join the Polish Army in the
The insatiable appetite for more and more recruits, as well as the
relentless effort at breaking Polish individual and collective resistance
to the Soviet oppressor, resulted in about 200 000 Polish citizens
being forced in the Soviet army as early as the beginning of 1940.
Many, nolens volens, participated in the Soviet invasion of
Finland in 1940 - some used that opportunity for parting with the hated
Soviets and defected to the Finns.
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Death Certificate, issued by the NKVD to the family
of Michal Wojciechowski, states that he died of "heart paralysis".
Lwow, Nov. 16, 1940
The certificate's number indicates that under Soviet rule, approximately
500 people died every monthin that city of 350 000 inhabitants. Death
certificates, issued to their families by the NKVD, were rather repetitive
when specifying the cause of death: heart paralysis (cardiac arrest),
or pneumonia. And the NKVD did not lie - if someone is murdered on the
spot, his or her heart in fact, stops; if someone is tortured for weeks -
night after night, with his or her body turning into a pulp, the final
cause of death might be the cardiac arrest, or pneumonia.
The factual causes of death in thousands of cases were, in fact: torture and
murder! Those people were dying either murdered on the spot, or tortured
by the Soviets to death in the city's four prisons.
The very same causes of death were given on death certificates issued
by the Nazi Gestapo and "People's Poland" justice(?) system in thousands
of cases of premeditated, outright murder.