Volksdeutsche/anti-Polish atrocities in 1939

German campaigns and battles 1919-1945.

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Richard Hargreaves
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Volksdeutsche/anti-Polish atrocities in 1939

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Jan 17, 2007 11:56 am

Is there a dispassionate book in German or English on the atrocities committed by both sides (ie Germans against Poles and Poles against Volksdeutsche) in the run-up to war?

I have Jochen Bohler's excellent books on atrocities committed during the Polish campaign by troops, but I find it almost impossible to penetrate the propaganda of both sides to get even remotely close to the truth about how many were killed on both sides of the border.

I'm inclined to think that the numbers were probably very low. I've seen a figure of 2,000 quoted for Volksdeutsche killed throughout the campaign by Poles.

This is a touchy subject and I know posts on Bromberg for example tend to lurch into violent anti-German/anti-Pole rants, so please only sensible, reasoned rational answers please.
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Post by derGespenst » Wed Jan 17, 2007 2:40 pm

I strongly suspect that, unless you write it yourself, you'll never find one.

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Post by TimoWr » Wed Jan 17, 2007 3:35 pm

It is interesting to note that the Germans investigated the murders in 1939 - only weeks after the invasion of Poland - and also allowed an international committee to do the same. The reports are filed in th Bundesarchiv: "Dokumentation der Verschleppungsmärsche und polnische Kriegsverbrechen im September 1939", No. 12, BA, Ost. Dok. 7

On September 8, 1939, the Deutsche Rundschau first named the "Bromberger Blutsonntag". According to the report of the international committee, 3841 etnical Germans were killed by Polish soldiers and civilians. This was the result of hearing 593 survivors. They counted less than 200 victims in Bromberg. In October 1939 an official report bij the Auswärtigen Amt mentions - for Poland (not just Bromberg) 5437 murdered etnical Germans. A report from the German Army dated November 1939 came to the same conclusion.

But the German propaganda machine changed all that. On February 7, 1940, in a classified decree the Reichsministerium decided that from then on all media and publications had to use an official number of 58,000 victims. This figure came out of the blue and it seems a propaganda team simply decided to tenfold the actual number. All books written after that date give that number. Also in this decree, Jewish bolshevists are named as the murderers instead of Polish soldiers and civilians.

A good example of such a publication is "Polish Acts of Atrocities Against the German Minority in Poland.". Often quoted by revisionists to proof the terrors of Polish purges against etnic Germans - and as a legitimate reason for the Germans to invade Poland. The revisionists never mention the full title:

"Polish Acts of Atrocity Against the German Minority in Poland"; Compilation founded on Documentary Evidence and published for the German Foreign Office; Second Edition with Important Addenda. Berlin, Volk und Reich Verlag & New York, N.Y., German Library of Information, 1940.

The primary addendum of the "important addenda" in the second edition is the new figure of 58,000 victims. This publication of the German Foreign Office and the German Library of Information strictly followed the doctrine of February 7.

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Thu Jan 18, 2007 1:27 am

Thanks Timo for the info. Unsurprisingly I've been extremely sceptical of the 1939-1940 books by the AA. The Deutsche Rundschau was the Bromberg paper? I have this extract from it from 9/9/39:

Bartholomäusnacht in Bromberg

Der Sonntag begann mit herrlichem Sonnenschein. Klare Septemberluft über der Stadt. Ab und zu Fliegeralarm. Und dann gegen 10 Uhr entstand in der Stadt eine entsetzliche Panik. Die Danziger Strasse herunter nach dem Theaterplatz zu kamen polnische Truppen in wilder Hast. Die ganze Strassenbreite war besetzt von Wagen, Reitern, Lastautos, Strassenlaternen wurden umgerissen, Wasserhydranten umgebrochen. Die Zivilbevölkerung flüchtete in die Häuser. Rufe "die Deutschen kommen" hallten durch die Strassen. Auch in den Parallelstrassen setzte die allgemeine Flucht ein. Die Offiziere waren nicht in der Lage, die Soldaten zum Halten zu bringen. Ihre Rufe gingen unter in dem Gerassel der Wagen, in dem Geschrei der Menschen. Schliesslich griffen sie zur Waffe, um ihren Befehlen Nachdruck zu verleihen. Schüsse fielen, aber die wilde Flucht ging weiter. Lähmender Schrecken lag über der Stadt. Die Sonne, die so schön aufgegangen war, sollte nun über einem furchtbaren Blutgericht scheinen, denn nach Minuten schon, als man sich überzeugt hatte, dass die Deutschen noch nicht einrückten, schrie der Mob: Die deutsche Bevölkerung Brombergs habe auf die polnischen Soldaten geschossen
Und was nun einsetzte war "Polowanie na Niemców",* die Jagd auf die Deutsche. Auf der Strasse aufgegriffen, mit Kolben bearbeitet, aus den Häusern gezerrt, in engen Räumen zusammengepfercht, stets bedroht von waffenstarrenden Horden - das war das Schicksal eines Teils unserer deutschen Volksgenossen. Andere wurden auf der Stelle erschossen, erschlagen, bzw gepeinigt und gefoltert. Über das Schicksal einer ungeheuerlich langen Reihe von Volksgenossen ist bis jetzt noch nichts bekannt

* Hunting the Germans

It sounds like the figures collected in Oct 1939 seem reasonably accurate. Was that report ever published or does it remain at the BA?
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Post by Jan-Hendrik » Thu Jan 18, 2007 1:49 am

Maybe this german article might be interesting for you :

http://www.jf-archiv.de/archiv06/200639092258.htm
Eine unbeachtete Quelle mit historischem Sprengstoff: Die Posener Gräberzentrale über die Morde an Volksdeutschen in Polen 1939
Markus Krämer
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Post by TimoWr » Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:02 am

That's a very detailed link JH. Thank you for posting it!
Die seriösen Forschungsergebnisse von Lück wurden allerdings durch die berüchtigte "Sprachregelung" des Reichspropaganda-Ministeriums aus dem Februar 1940 konterkariert, durch die die Zahl von 5.437 Ermordeten im Weißbuch Nr. 1 nun in der von Hans Schadewald herausgegebenen zweiten Auflage des Weißbuches (Die polnischen Greueltaten an den Volksdeutschen in Polen, Berlin 1940, die erweiterte zweite Auflage erschien unter dem Titel: Dokumente polnischer Grausamkeit) verzehnfacht wurde. Nun war die Rede von 58.000 vermißten und ermordeten Volksdeutschen. Von diesen 58.000 seien 12.857 (die Genesis dieser präzisen Zahl ist ungeklärt) mit Sicherheit identifizierte Ermordete. Die Zahl von 13.000 Ermordeten hielt auch der Generalreferent und Neffe Arthur Greisers, Gauleiter des Warthelandes, in seinen völlig unbeachteten Memoiren (Harry Siegmund: Rückblick. Erinnerungen eines Staatsdieners in bewegter Zeit. Kiel 1999) für durchaus möglich. Daß die Zahl von 58.000 nichts mehr mit der Wirklichkeit gemein hatte, war damals allen nur halbwegs eingeweihten Volksdeutschen bekannt, was allerdings Buchautoren bis heute nicht daran hindert, in rührender Naivität diese absurde Zahl immer wieder aufzugreifen.

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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:04 am

Cheers Jan - very interesting, and dispassionate.
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Post by Prit » Thu Jan 18, 2007 6:57 am

Hitler's Mann in Danzig, by Dieter Schenk, goes into this in some detail, but it's the only source I have on it so I have no idea how dispassionate it is. On the subject of Volksdeutsch deaths, he says:
Die Zahl der Opfer ist in der Literatur unterschiedlich angegeben worden und dürfte zwischen 1500 und 5800 gelegen haben. In dieser Höhe wurde sie von dem Leiter der Mordkommission des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes, Dr Bernhard Wehner, in einer ausführlichen Zeugen-Vernehmung nach dem Kriege beziffert (3479 Tote errechnete Gentzen anhand der Gräber- und Vermisstenkartei). Wehner war mit den Ermittlung in Bromberg beauftragt worden und meldete zunächst die Zahl 5800 Mitte Dezember 1939 dem Auswärtigen Amt, das mit dem Erstellen eines deutschen Weissbuches befasst war. Wehner berichtete: 'Kurze Zeit später erfuhr ich, dass Hitler wegen dieses Weissbuches sehr erregt gewesen sei. Auf seinen Befehl musste die gesamte gedruckte Auflage im Februar oder März 1940 eingestampft werden.' Hitler ordnete an, dass in der von ihm genehmigten Ausgabe die Zahl der Opfer zu verzehnfachen sei. Damit wurde von der deutschen Propaganda die Zahl von 58,000 Mordopfern der 'polnischen Septembermorde' übernommen. Intern korrigierte Wehner später die Gesamtzahl auf 3500 nach unten, nachdem in ehemals polnischen Gebiet deutsche Polizeidienststellen 'ordnungsgemäss' arbeiteten und die Vermisstenfälle erfassten.
My translation of this is:
The number of victims was reported differently in the literature, ranging between 3500 and 5800. On the basis of detailed interviews with witnesses after the war, the head of the RSHA Murder Commission made an estimate after the war (3479 dead on the basis of graves and those recorded as missing, according to Gentzen). Wehner was tasked with investigating events in Bromberg and first, in mid-December 1939, reported a total of 5800 to the Foreign Office, which was handling the creation of a German 'white book'. Wehner reported: 'A short time later, I learned that Hitler had been very agitated about this white book. All copies had to be pulped on his orders in February or March 1940.' Hitler arranged that the approved edition gave a tenfold increase in numbers. The German propaganda thus was given the number of 58,000 victims of the 'Polish September Murders'. Internally, Wehner later reduced the number to 3500 after German police stations in former Polish areas had completed routine investigations and assessed the numbers of those missing.
His sources for this are:

F-H Gentzen, Die Legende vom 'Bromberger Blutsonntag' und die deutsche fünfte Kolonne in Polen'

- and transcripts of the evidence against Wehner at his trial

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Post by Pirx » Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:46 am

I can confirm that number of victims is between 2000 - 4000.
Why so huge difference? It depends how to count victims. Generaly victims were:
1. Germans lived in Poland acused for spying (most probably not guilty).
2. Germans from IIIrd reich - real sabouters, spies in civilian clothes or even polish army uniforms.
3. Poles or other nationalities (Lithuanians, Ukrainians) acused for cooperation with Germans.
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Post by sid guttridge » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:30 am

Hi TimoWr,

Excellent post.

Goebbels seems to have specialised in counter-productive tenfold exaggerations. Not only did he multiply for public consumption the Bromberg statistic by ten times that of official German internal returns at the beginning of the war, but he multiplied the known Dresden death toll from official German internal reports by tenfold at the end of the war.

Internal investigations not designed for public consumption tend to be far more honest and accurate, be they Nazi, Communist or other. Thus only primary archive research of the sort you cite can be expected to cut through the deliberate propaganda of the era.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by sid guttridge » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:35 am

Hi Guys,

Thank you all for a model discussion of a contentious subject. It is every bit as "sensible", "reasoned" and "rational" as Halder could have hoped.

Cheers,

An appreciative Sid.

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Post by Njorl » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:56 am

Halder,

I stayed silent, since I know no book in German nor English on the matter, but try contacting IPN (http://www.ipn.gov.pl/) - a state governed institution that researches crimes against Polish Nation.

I hope to receive a copy of their publication, which title translated into English reads as follows "With utmost brutality..." Wehrmacht's warcrimes in Poland in September and October 1939, after Sunday. I suspect it to treat the topic quite generally without indulging into many details, but who knows... Nevertheles I trust it's well researched and of high quality.

Regards,

M
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Post by Richard Hargreaves » Sun Jan 21, 2007 10:10 am

Hi Njorl

Grosse Harte is an excellent book; even better is Bohler's 'sequel', a much more in-depth look at the Wehrmacht in Poland
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Post by sid guttridge » Mon Jan 22, 2007 4:53 am

Hi Njorl,

Similar phrases to "With utmost brutality/severity/ruthlessness...." appear in a good number of Hitler's orders. I was quite surprised to find that his instructions for the Anschluss with Austria included a similar turn of phrase with regards to how to deal with any opposition. Likewise the operational order for the occupation of Hungary in March 1944 includes a similar phrase. Both were supposedly friendly states.

I look forward to your report on the book.

Cheers,

Sid.

pzrmeyer2

Re: Volksdeutsche/anti-Polish atrocities in 1939

Post by pzrmeyer2 » Tue Jan 23, 2007 6:33 am

halder wrote:Is there a dispassionate book in German or English on the atrocities committed by both sides (ie Germans against Poles and Poles against Volksdeutsche) in the run-up to war?

I have Jochen Bohler's excellent books on atrocities committed during the Polish campaign by troops, but I find it almost impossible to penetrate the propaganda of both sides to get even remotely close to the truth about how many were killed on both sides of the border.

I'm inclined to think that the numbers were probably very low. I've seen a figure of 2,000 quoted for Volksdeutsche killed throughout the campaign by Poles.

This is a touchy subject and I know posts on Bromberg for example tend to lurch into violent anti-German/anti-Pole rants, so please only sensible, reasoned rational answers please.

I would strongly suggest Orphans of Versailles, The Germans in Western Poland 1918-1939, by Richard Blanke. It is balanced, well-sourced, and well written. While it does not focus exclusively on real or alleged atrocities, it does cover them well in the context of the complex psychological and political situation of Germans consigned to Poland and the reaction of Polish individuals and goverment to them.

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