Review of Helga Hirsch (1999). Zemsta Ofiar: Niemcy w obozach w Polsce 1944-1950. Warsaw. Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis — see Amazon.com
“2 Million German Expellee Dead in Poland” Off by a Factor of 100
THE REVENGE OF THE VICTIMS: GERMANS IN POLISH CAMPS 1944-1950, is the title of this book, whose author is a German (p. 199) and whose own father was a German expellee. (p. 5). The title is misleading, as the perpetrators were not random Poles but Polish Communists and Jewish Communists. In fact, the Soviet-imposed Communist authorities, well aware of their own unpopularity, commonly fanned hatred of Germans for political purposes (p. 93-94). (See also the Afterword, by Andrzej Paczkowski: p. 198).
Soon after the 1939 German attack on Poland, some 10,000 local Germans, according to German estimates, were deported by Polish authorities further into Poland. (p. 37). This comprised a tiny fraction of Poland’s German population, and was done for security purposes.
Hirsch’s treatment of the events of Bloody Sunday (Blut Sonntag) at Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) is rather naïve. She repeats the absurdity about the Poles imagining a German fifth column and shooting at each other. She suggests that Polish forces tearing-up German properties in search for weapons were engaging in irrational acts of desperation. Actually, the fifth column is proved by many local specific-named Germans identified among the captured snipers, and the need for destructive searches is proved by the sophisticated nature of the hiding places used for weaponry, and sometimes the snipers themselves. (See the Peczkis Review of Dywersja niemiecka i zbrodnie hitlerowskie w Bydgoszczy na tle wydarzen w dniu 3 IX 1939 (Polish and German Edition)).
Otherwise, Hirsch cites German scholar Hugo Rasmus, who cites a figure of 422 German civilian dead in Bydgoszcz itself, 518 total including all Bydgoszcz province, and a grand total of 5,000 in all of Poland. (p. 46). This is nowhere near the 58,000 of Goebbels’ Nazi propaganda. [I knew an eyewitness, Mr. Stefan Marcinkowski, who denied the existence of any massacre of German civilians by Poles in Bydgoszcz. The German dead were active fifth-columnists].
There were 4 classes of Volksdeutsche recognized by the Nazi occupants. The first two were obviously German. The third consisted of German-descent Poles bearing some pro-German orientation, as well as entire peoples bearing transitional Polish-German characteristics (Silesians, Masurians, and Kashubians). The fourth class, a small one, consisted of strongly Polonized Germans and Poles of German descent. They could only become candidates for German citizenship. (p. 170).
Unlike Warthegau Gauleiter Arthur Greiser, Danzig Gauleiter Albert Forster was willing to go beyond Masurians in unilaterally accepting as Volksdeutsche those East Prussians who had been Germanophones and culturally German for many generations. (p. 50). Otherwise, prospective Volksdeutsche had to posses and prove at least 3 of the following 5 to qualify: German ancestry, Reich relatives, good work habits, an absence of criminality, evident German characteristics (e. g., cleanliness of the home). (pp. 50-51).
Those qualified Polish citizens who lived in the Reich-annexed provinces but who did not become Volksdeutsche joined ethnic Poles in getting expelled to the General Government (p. 50), and were henceforth to be punished after the war as “the worst enemies of the Reich”. (p. 51). Not surprisingly, this terrorized many qualified Polish citizens into protecting themselves by becoming Volksdeutsche.
It has been argued that the Nazi gas chambers had been reserved exclusively for Jews. This is incorrect. Some 35,000 Poles suffering from T.B. were gassed in the Warthegau area alone. (p. 92).
After the Red Army had driven out the Germans out of Poland, the Soviet NKVD set up concentration camps, and later turned the authority over to the Polish Communist security forces (UB, U.B., known as the hated Bezpieka). The Communist camps included Zimna Woda, Legnow, Makla, Potulice, Swietochlowice, Sztum, Jaworzno, Auschwitz, and Birkenau (p. 178, 185). Yes, the Communists re-used former Nazi concentration camps. The Germans incarcerated in these camps were primarily Reichsdeutsche and Volksdeutsche from Poland as defined by her pre-1939 borders. (p. 165). (Those Germans living in East Prussia, Pomerania, and Silesia were mostly expelled directly.)
The Communist camps were commonly staffed by sadistic Communist Poles and sadistic Communist Jews. The latter included Isidore Cederbaum (Ignacy Cedrowski) of Zimna Woda (p. 83-on) and Solomon Morel of Swietochlowice. (p. 157-on). Morel’s work was described by American Jack Sack in his AN EYE FOR AN EYE. For his part, Morel, hiding in Israel, dismissed Sack as an American Jew out to make some money. (p. 158). Interestingly, the Communist authorities themselves sometimes arrested camp leaders for mistreatment of the prisoners. (e. g., p. 154).
The total number of victims of the Communist camps, mostly victims of starvation, is on the order of 25,000. (p. 185). Note that this is two orders of magnitude smaller than German revisionist claims. A caution: Hirsch mentions Poles incarcerated in the camps (p. 74), but it is unclear how many of the victims were actually Poles.
Hirsch avoids attempting to relativize Nazi German crimes. She notes (pp. 7-8) that 6.03 million Polish citizens, half of them Jews, perished at the hands of the Germans. 100 out of every 108 Polish families lost at least one family member. 640,000 Polish soldiers died. There were about 500,000 crippled Poles, 2.5 million Poles sent to the Reich for forced labor, 900,000 Poles expelled from their homes, 860,000 Poles in prisons and concentration camps, and up to 150,000 Polish civilian dead in the Warsaw Uprising.