BEHIND THE WALL
JOSEPH P. JUNOSZA
Editor's note: Dr. Joseph P. Jitnosza, 42-year-old Polish educationist, escaped from Poland in October, 1940. He was called from Lisbon to London by General W. Sikorski, Polish premier, to report on conditions in their invaded nation. What he saw during thirteen terrible months in occupied Poland, he has set down here for readers of Maclean’s Magazine. Told without emotion or false coloring, these are the facts of life in German-occupied Poland. They are a warning of what a Hitler victory would mean to the world.
I WAS in Poland during the first thirteen months of the German occupation.
During that period I saw many things, but this is what I saw one day in Warsaw:
It is 9.30 a.m. The street traffic is heavy, mostly pedestrian. Warsaw is overcrowded. For months the Germans have been deporting Christian Poles and Jews from Poland’s former western provinces to the Warsaw area. Everywhere, one hears the clatter of wooden shoe soles, so characteristic of present-day conditions.
Suddenly, big military trucks make their appearance. Streets are closed off. No escape is possible. Gestapo agents armed with light machine guns alight from the lorries and quickly form a chain. They march through the streets and arrest all men between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five. They raid coffeehouses, stores, street cars. When anyone tries to escape, the Gestapo fires into the crowd without warning.
Sixteen thousand men were seized in Warsaw that day— September 19, 1940.
Nazi Policy: “Exterminate”
T)OLAND is an emphatic and expressive example of what -L a nation subjugated by the Germans may expect.
Following the partition of Poland by Germany and Russia, Germany took 75,000 square miles west of the Bug river, with a population of twenty-two millions. Of this territory about one half, the western half, was immediately incorporated into the Reich. The other half, with the cities of Warsaw, Cracow, Lublin and Radom, was made into a so-called autonomous state, or rather reservation, for Poles and Jews. It received the ridiculous name of “Deutsches General Gouvernement Polen.” The entire administration of the territory, beginning with General Gouverneur Dr. Frank, down to the employees in districts, counties, and communes, is German. The local population does not participate in the administration of the country
it inhabits. They have nothing to say. Their only rights and duties are obedience.
The provinces incorporated into the Reich, in which the Poles will not be permitted to live and whence they are being forcibly deported, as well as the so-called Polish “reservation,” are treated as a sphere of interest of the Greater Reich. They both belong to the German lebensraum (living space) which has to become a sterberaum (death space) for the Poles.
Germany’s Polish policies are absolutely clear. They may be defined in one word—ausrotlen (exterminate). The Poles obstruct the path of the German push eastward. They are a young and active race and their birth rate before the outbreak of this war was one of the highest in Europe. The fertile plains of Poland are needed by the Germans for their lebensraum. Thus far about 35,000 square miles of that area, having a population of more than nine million Poles, have been “incorporated” into the Reich. According to the German plan divulged by Gauleiters Foerster of Danzig and Greiser of Poznan, the territory will be colonized by Germans within the next ten years.
The first stage of that colonization has already taken place. Last winter more than one million Poles were deported from it in the most ruthless manner. Many of the deportees died of starvation, cold and epidemics. The evacuated farms and city dwellings were given to some six hundred-thousand Germans brought from the Baltic countries, from Lithuania, Volhynia, South-Eastern Poland, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Dobrudja. Every family of these German rural settlers received a farm of from forty to 150 acres, or four times as much as the average area of Polish peasant farms.
From behind the wall of silence around conquered Poland an eyewitness of the Nazi terror comes to tell of the new Dark Age whose slogan is "exterminate"
In the “incorporated” provinces; the Germans now dispose of about 20,000 square miles of arable land. This corresponds to about 250,000 farms which are and will be settled by two-and-a-half millions of Germany’s farmers. There are twenty-five million people in Germany, which belong to that class. Hence, about ten per cent of them will have their land hunger appeased the Hitler way. A part of them will settle in Lorraine. For ten years, at least, the problem of the lebensraum will be solved. In the meantime, 40,000 square miles of the so-called General Gouvernement will be prepared for further German colonization.
Gestapo Spreads Terror
JEWS ARE not included in these German plans. Their presence in the German lebensraum territory is temporary. At the first opportunity they will be deported from the “Polish reservation” to Africa or Asia. As for the Poles, inasmuch as all of them cannot be deported, they will be exterminated.
This planned extermination is already in its first stage. Its first victims are the Polish “intelligentsia.” Deported wholesale to concentration camps, arrested, imprisoned or shot, the intellectual elite of Poland are perishing by the thousands. Further extermination is being accomplished by unemployment, poverty, starvation, cold and disease. The intellectual classes in Poland are perishing and they cannot be replaced.
Only a few public and trade schools have been left open in Poland—high schools, colleges and universities have been closed. Schoolbooks have been destroyed. Museums, collections, laboratories, libraries have been pillaged or razed. University professors have been arrested and put in concentration camps. In November, 1939, one hundred and eighty professors of one of the oldest universities of the world, the Jagiellonian university in Cracow, were arrested. Thirty of them have already died a martyr’s death.
The real agent of German terror in Poland is the Gestapo. It is independent of other branches of the administration. Headed by the notorious Himmler, it has gone further in its cruelties than the former Cheka and the present OGPU of Soviet Russia. The Gestapo is a state within a state.
From an American newspaper man who was personally —and by no means pleasantly—acquainted with the methods of the Gestapo in Berlin, I have learned some highly illuminating details concerning the underground power ruling Germany.
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The central office of the Gestapo in Germany’s capital occupies an entire district. Its buildings and offices are connected by subterranean corridors. All the ministries and departments of the Reich administration have there their “shadows.” The number of employees of the Gestapo, and people indirectly connected with it, amounts to several hundred thousand.
In Warsaw, the main office of the Gestapo is in the building of the Polish Ministry of Education. Atrocious things go on in the cellars of that building. Even outside, on the street now called Police Street, one hears the cries and the moaning of the tortured victims.
But the Gestapo is not alone in spreading terror in Poland. It is assisted by the German army, German civilians, state employees and Volksdeutsche (German nationals) residing in Poland. They all participate in terrible acts of violence, certain of impunity. One may, without exaggeration speak of a continuous martyrdom of the Ghristian and Jewish population.
There is no personal safety for the Pole in the German-occupied provinces. Life and health are in constant danger. There is no personal freedom. One may be ousted at any time from one’s apartment, lose all one’s property. One cannot exchange views with one’s neighbor. Movement from place to place is restricted. Human dignity is being trampled upon. All this terror is the result of secret instructions coming from the ruling German factors. It is the result of the program whose slogan is: “ausrotten!” (exterminate).
The population of Poland has no legal means of defending itself against the acts of conquerors, for the Pole has no right to appeal to courts. There are no investigations, no lawyers to defend the victims. No one knows where arrested persons are being held, whether and when they have been executed. People disappear unexpectedly and the German authorities refuse to give any information. The infernal machine of terror works with a gruesome, mysterious secrecy.
Jews Live In Ruins
THE POLES are the chief object of the attack. The attitude of the Germans toward the Jews results from different, nonpolitical motives. It is dictated by racial contempt. This is why the terrorizing of the Jews is less sanguinary. The
Jews are abused, mistreated, and ruined economically. But both. Poles and Jews, are considered by the Germans as lowergrade citizens. Hence, the continuous offending of their human dignity. They are compelled to take off their hats when they meet a German in uniform, they must get out of his way in the streets. They are not permitted to enter certain districts, certain stores and restaurants.
The Jews are compelled to live in ghettos surrounded by walls nine feet high. The living conditions in those ghettos are beyond description. In Warsaw, for instance, half a million Jews have to live in a narrow area where many houses were destroyed during the bombardment of the capital. The Jews are not permitted to leave it; the Poles are forbidden to enter it. The food supply of that concentration camp in the heart of Warsaw is utterly inadequate.
Hygienic conditions are worse. It is safe to predict that sooner or later epidemics will break out and the ghetto will become a great cemetery of Polish Jews. Already, the mortality among the children and aged people there is terrifying. The walls surrounding that part of the city remind one of the darkest Middle Ages. It is hard to believe that such monstrosities may occur in the Twentieth Century of the Christian era.
The extermination of the Polish population is accomplished with extreme bestiality. The man hunts of which I spoke before are not limited to cities. They take place in villages as well. Young villagers, hunted by the police for deportation to Germany to do forced labor, hide in fields and forests. Detachments of the dreaded SS often throw hand grenades while searching for them. Many Polish boys and girls have been burned alive in barns, in fires resulting from grenades thrown by the Nazis. Those caught have been deported to Germany: peasants to do farm work, workingmen to slave in factories—especially in those most exposed to British bombing.
The “intelligentsia” is interned in concentration camps in Dachau, Oranienburg, Mauthausen, Ausschwitz and others, where they die by the thousands, tortured to death.
Thousands of Polish children between the ages of seven and fourteen have also been carried away. No one knows what has happened to them.
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Many older Polish girls also disappear. The German authorities organize them into military brothels, especially in larger cities where there are large military garrisons. These are called by Germans Hilfslager B. In Polish language sheets, published by the Germans, one often reads advertisements from desperate parents searching for their lost daughters.
Die By Thousands
rT"'IIE AIM of all these persecutions and
cruelties is to paralyze the people, to make them panicky, to crush their force of resistance, their reflective and creative capabilities, to decimate their active representatives.
There are two forms of arrest: mass arrest and individual. The purpose of the first is the extermination of the population, especially the “intelligentsia,” or to supply laborers for Germany.
People seized in general man hunts are not questioned. They are simply forwarded to Germany to work as slaves, like cattle.
Individual arrests of a political character are a different matter. Those arrested in such ’ cases, mainly prominent people, have been held in prisons for a very long time. There is a saying in Poland that people may be divided in three classes: those who were in prison, those who are there now, and those who will be. The treatment they receive is awful. Thirddegree methods are sometimes applied three times daily and are nothing short of medieval tortures. The unfortunate victims are beaten with metal rods, with rubber clubs, have their faces and bare abdomens slapped and boxed. Many of these victims’ heads are covered with wounds. Kidney injuries and even dislocation of the spine are common.
Inmates of concentration camps, on the other hand, are not subjected to investigation; they are simply tortured to death. The work there is often aimless. The prisoners push wheelbarrows filled with stones from early morning until late at night, or are ordered to pull stones out of a river bottom. They stand in the water up to their waists for ten hours regardless of the weather and before they go to their barracks they must throw all the stones back into the water.
They are continuously beaten up, humiliated, insulted, kicked and spat at. Sometimes they are doused with hoses for hours, until they lose consciousness. The results of such tortures arc easy to guess. Many of the victims die. Their families receive but a brief notice that the prisoner has passed away and that his ashes may be obtained upon payment of a few marks.
Those guilty of any offense are whipped. There are three degrees of whipping; twenty-five, fifty and seventy-five lashes. Few can stand fifty lashes. At seventy-five the executioner is usually whipping a bleeding corpse.
Prisoners are seldom released to their homes. Usually they are sent from jail to a concentration camp. Sometimes they are shot individually or wholesale. Mass murder of prisoners or hostages occurs frequently.
Here are a few examples:
In January, 1910, a young man, suspected of belonging to a secret organization, escaped. The Germans arrested 300 hostages and promised a reward of 500 marks for identifying the young man; otherwise they threatened to shoot the hostages. The young man was not found. After twenty-four hours the Germans shot one hundred hostages. Twenty-four hours later they shot another hundred. The last hundred were deported. After six months their families were informed that they' had all died.
Killing Hours—2 to 3
EXECUTIONS, almost of daily occur*-t rence, took place in Warsaw publicly in the park surrounding the Parliament ! building, between 2 and 3 p.m.
The Germans brought all the patients from several insane asylums in Poznan ¡ to an old fort in the suburbs and (X)isoned them with gas, the effectiveness of which was being investigated by Gemían “scientists.”
In Chelmno 300 insane were also killed with poisonous gas. In Poznan, the same was done with sixty prostitutes.
Collective responsibility is a basic principle with the Germans. An offense committed by one inhabitant of a village is punished by burning the whole village. For cutting a military telephone wire all the men inhabiting the house near the wire are shot. For killing two German soldiers in Wawer, near Warsaw, 115 men of the town were shot. A machine gun was found buried in the ground within a village in Lublin province and two hundred peasants of the village were locked up in a bam and burned alive. For having carried food to a detachment of Polish soldiers hiding in the woods near Kielce, the Germans burned fourteen villages, and ¡ machine gunned or burned alive 1,200 men and boys. One could go on reciting this litany of murders indefinitely.
Nor are the Germans satisfied with mere physical, destruction. They destroy everything that the Poles love the most, everything that is the most sacred to man. They are attacking his faith in God, his love for his symbols and ideals, his attachment to freedom.
They destroy everything connected with j Poland’s culture. They have demolished the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the column of ; King Sigismond which was like a symbol of our capital. They have destroyed the monuments of Mickiewicz in Warsaw and ! Ciacow, the monument of the world j famous Polish astronomer Copernicus, that ! of the national hero Kosciuszko, those of President Wilson in Warsaw aixl Cracow, the Chopin monument in the capital, and the monument of Christ in Poznan.
Jail awaits the person who would dare to play Chopin’s music.
The Germans endeavor to destroy the moral values of our nation. They have built up a special organization aimed at the moral depravation of our people. They spread immoral and pornographic books among our youth. Cabarets have their programs approved if they contain any pornographic numbers. In Warsaw, a roulette casino was opened for Poles exclusively. Whoever possesses a ticket to the Casino is permitted to stay out beyond the curfew hour. Peasants are paid one third of the price for the compulsory delivery of agricultural products in vodka.
Never Stop Fighting
THIS is a picture of suffering Poland.
It is unfinished and incomplete, for many details are missing. But amidst indescribable suffering, the spirit of the Polish nation does not break down.
The Germans had their fifth columns in Poland, as in the Netherlands. Belgium, Norway and other occupied countries. Do not forget that we, the nations fighting totalitarianism, now have our fifth column | in Europe, too. Almost the entire population of the occupied countries belong to it. This forces the Germans to maintain in those territories large military garrisons and police forces. Their entire population continuously fights the Germans.
In Poland everybody is fighting—men, ¡ women, aged people and children. There ¡ is an underground life throbbing everyj where. We will never stop fighting, in an i unshakable belief in the ultimate victory j of right over violence.