In late August of 1939, Hitler signed non-aggression pact with Stalin which, effectively, was an agreement between the two of them to divide Poland. When the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Polish people hardly knew what the Nazis had in store for them. According to the Nazi grand design for the solution to the need for "lebensraum," (living space), the whole of Polish territory was to be gradually cleared of its native population for the colonization by German ethnic populations and eventually incorporated into the Greater German Reich.
Thus, unfortunately, the Poles themselves were the next target of the Nazis, and the plan was to play the Poles against the Jews to effect their mutual destruction.
The Germans considered the Poles to be an inferior race as they did other Slavic nations. So, according to the plan, the Poles were to be sorted according to strictly racist criteria. Those Poles with German ancestry were to be reclassified as ethnic Germans. The transformation of Poland into a German province was to be carried out over a short period of twenty-five or thirty years. Hence, no mercy was to be shown to this population. And, to guarantee the success of this fast despoliation, the intelligentsia was to be liquidated. "It sounds cruel," Hitler reportedly told Hans Frank, "but such is the law of life."
The Polish language was banned, and Polish towns and cities were given German names. In the Eastern Zamosc region, some 110,000 Poles were evacuated from villages and replaced with 25,000 German colonists.
In other words, the whole of Poland was to be treated as a concentration camp.
The premeditated and constant harassment of the Polish population led to an unremitting reign of terror which lasted the full duration of the occupation. Individual arrests were conducted on a massive scale, and street roundups for labor in Germany became a common, frightening reality.
And, it must be remembered, this was directed against Poles in general, and not merely Jews! Of the 11 million human beings killed by the actions of the Nazis, 6 million were Polish citizens. Half of these were Jews and half were NOT. Jews and non-Jews alike were made prisoners in their own country; no one was allowed out.
The overwhelming documentary evidence and the accounts of eyewitnesses points to the fact that the Poles, in general, did NOT realize that they were next in line, as a population, for the death camps. They did not realize fully that they were living on the edge of a Black Hole that, once it had finished devouring the Jews, would begin to suck in all that was around it. Yet, any Poles who wanted to render aid to Jews were hampered by the fact that doing so was a capital offense. They could even be shot for giving a Jew a lift in a vehicle of any sort! Thus, Poles, in order to do anything at ALL, had to overcome greater pressures and fears than their counterparts in other Nazi occupied countries. So, those Poles who DID rescue Jews, or any others targeted by the Nazis for death, deserve a special place of respect, for they displayed a courage and honor unequaled in other countries. Of such is the stuff of legends.
Lutsk, Poland, with its rich past was part of this prime real estate that was coveted by both Stalin and Hitler. Hitler had no real intention of letting Stalin keep it, but he did want to assure himself that the USSR would not join forces with Britain against him when he took Poland.
So, seventeen days after Hitler invaded Poland from the West, the USSR invaded from the East. Stalin's "Scorched Earth" policy called for the evacuation of industries, factories, machinery, skilled workers and livestock - all to be moved East to Russia. Almost 200 major industrial plants were moved to Russia from Ukraine in two months. And, more than that, Stalin also saw it as necessary to annihilate the intelligentsia of Ukraine.
In a speech give by Lech Walesa, President of the Republic of Poland, at the Cemetery of Polish officers in Katyn, June 4th, 1995, the following was noted (translated by Chester A. Kisiel):
"In September 1939 their world collapsed. Everything went to pieces: independence, law, joy in building their country, domestic tranquility. An onslaught from the West fell upon isolated Poland, soon followed by one from the East. [...] Many of them [became Soviet prisoners of war] such as the defenders of Lvov, [and were] assured nothing bad would happen to them, that they had been interned only temporarily, that they would be allowed to return to their homes. [...] How could they know that on the 5th of March, 1940, a few signatures on a short document sentenced to death more than twenty thousand innocent people? This document instructed: 'decide the cases without summoning the prisoners and without presenting charges; the sentence: to be shot.'Over twenty thousand of the brightest and best of the genetic pool of Ukraine were dead with one action. But, this was only the tip of the ice-berg. For example, the population of Kiev, in 1940 was 900,000. In 1945 it was only 186,000.
"The NKVD carried out their orders precisely and methodically. A separate bullet for each condemned man... hour after hour, day after day after day; the procession of death continued. In the end, there was one common, nameless pit. There were no crosses, no names, no prayers."
"Then followed decades of concealing the truth. Lies, subterfuge and persecutions. In totalitarian Poland, the word 'Katyn' was an anti-State word. The threat of severe penalties hung over anyone who dared to place a candle under a cross with such an inscription. The families of the Katyn victims had to conceal keepsakes of their loved ones."The murder of the educated classes was blamed on the Germans by the Russians, and on the Russians by the Germans. The truth is, both were guilty. It is through the elimination or suppression of free thinkers that any oppressive regime takes hold.
But, the rapid advance of the German Wehrmacht did not allow Stalin enough time to completely empty Ukraine, so the retreating Russians decided to burn whatever they could not take.
Two years later, when the Germans retreated from the Russians, they looted and removed to Germany all art works, folk art collections, rare books, whole libraries, sculptures and museum collections. Anything that could not be moved was to be destroyed and many libraries were dumped outside and burned. The German occupation destroyed a total of 19,200 libraries in Ukraine. The Soviets stripped Ukraine of industry, the Germans stripped the cultural wealth.
When Poland was invaded, the entire Polish government had been refugeed to France where they continued to operate as a diplomatic organ for their German occupied country. With the fall of France to the Germans, the Polish government relocated to London where they continued to work to assist in the freeing of their country and the reestablishment of Polish rights and nationhood.
On July 4, 1943, the president of Poland, General Sikorski was killed in a plane crash just off Gibraltar as he was returning to Britain from a tour of the Polish Second Army corps in the Middle East. It has never been established whether this was an accident or the result of sabotage. There was a Polish commission of Inquiry, and also a British one. The latter declared that there was no evidence of sabotage, but could not establish the cause of the crash. The Czech pilot, who was the only one to survive, always claimed that the elevator controls of his Liberator jammed and caused the catastrophe, and, the Soviets had the opportunity and the means to damage the plane.
The new Polish Prime Minister was Stanislaw Mikolajczyk. He was the émigré head of the largest political party in prewar Poland, the Peasant Party, and had been Deputy Prime Minister under Sikorski. Mikolajczyk was very anxious to re-establish good relations with Stalin, just as Sikorski had been. But, just like Sikorski, he could not afford to simply accept Soviet frontier demands. Neither Polish opinion, nor the Polish Army would accept such a solution, especially the soldiers and officers of Anders Second Corps, most of whom came from Eastern Poland, and had survived Soviet prisons and labor camps.
However, Stalin had his own agenda for Poland and he was implementing it with all the guile and cunning of a fox.
On July 12, 1943, the first unit of the new Polish Army in Russia came into existence. This was the Kosciuszko Division, recruited from the masses of Poles deported to the USSR. Since Polish officers were scarce (why are we not surprised?!), most of the ones in the new army were Russians. Many of these had Polish names and had been selected for this reason. They were the descendants of Polish exiles deported to Russia in the 19th century. The soldiers were subjected to intensive "political re-education" by Polish communists who served as political officers. Part of the propaganda was that pre-war Poland had been "feudal, " reactionary toward Russia, and "anti-Soviet." They explained that the true future of Poland lay with a close alliance with her "real" friend, Soviet Russia. The object was to make this army the decisive force in postwar Poland.
The first of the "Big Three" conferences between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, was held at Tehran, Iran, on November 28-December 1, 1943. The three leaders spent a lot of time discussing strategy and devoted much time to discussing the future of Poland.
Many historians see this conference as the decisive one regarding the future of Poland and Eastern Europe. Roosevelt kept repeating that everything must be done to keep Stalin friendly since it was obvious that Russia was emerging as the dominant power in Europe. Also, there was a need to focus on the Pacific theatre, so it was claimed that there would be less cost in terms of time and resources with Russia as an ally.
Roosevelt reportedly said to Francis Spellman, archbishop of Boston, in September of 1943, "There is no point to oppose the desires of Stalin, because he has the power to get them anyhow. So better give in gracefully."
He assuaged his conscience by telling others (and perhaps, himself) that the population of eastern Poland "wants to become Russified." And, he hoped that "in ten or twenty years the European influences of Poland would bring the Russians to become less barbarian."
It is difficult for this writer to understand the manipulations of FDR. He has been quoted as saying: "Nothing in politics happens by accident; if it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." There are numerous historians today who, with rather extensive evidence, claim that Japan was induced to attack Pearl Harbor by certain machinations of the American diplomatic corps. The ostensible reason for this was to engender the support of the American people for the U.S. to enter the war. If that is so, then it makes the laissez faire attitude that Roosevelt had toward the idea of half of Europe coming under Communist domination even more puzzling! Not to mention the fact that Japan was a tiny island as opposed to the entire continent of Eurasia! After all, the Manhattan project to build the atomic bomb was in the works, and it seems that it would have been far more useful to have dropped it on Hitler and/or Stalin and thereby assuring the defeat of Communism, than to focus so much energy on Japan, a nation already defeated BEFORE the bomb was dropped.
(Yes, we know the claims about shortening the war and so forth that were behind the decision to use the A-bomb on the Japanese, but what was already happening in Europe under Stalin was a far worse crime against humanity, and it went on for years and years and years with incalculable cost in terms of human life and resources! Was Roosevelt REALLY that stupid?!)
In any event, Roosevelt continued to whine and complain about needing to make Stalin happy so that Stalin would help him fight the Japanese, and he lied and manipulated everything and everybody in sight, including Winston Churchill and the British nation.
The U.S. solved the problem by washing their hands of the matter saying that Polish-Soviet relations were the exclusive concern of the parties involved. Stalin demonstrated his pleasure that things were moving his way when Ambassador Hull told him the Soviets would occupy East Germany. He took Hull's hand in both of his own and smiled broadly.
On November 28, at Tehran, Churchill proposed to Stalin that Poland should "move westward, that she should be shifted bodily to the west. Stalin, of course, agreed and said that Poland's western frontier would be on the Oder River.
Three days later, Roosevelt talked secretly to Stalin on December 1st. FDR told the Soviet dictator that U.S. presidential elections were due in late 1944, and that he might have to run again. There were, he told Stalin, some 6 to 7 million Americans of Polish extraction and, "as a practical man, he did not wish to lose their vote."
Churchill tried very hard to settle the Polish issues fairly, but Roosevelt's agenda undermined Churchill's efforts. Molotov had suggested to Roosevelt that a new Polish government might include three Polish-Americans, Lange, Orlemanski, and Krzycki, who were all pro-Soviet. These three, an economist, a priest, and an industrialist, traveled to Moscow to hobnob with the Communists.
When this was reported in the U.S. press, there was a tremendous outcry from the Polish-American community. They established the Polish-American Congress which met and condemned Lange and Orlemanski, and expressed its support for the Polish government exiled to London. Since the Congress would have a great influence on most Polish-American voters, Roosevelt made a show of support for the Polish government by meeting with Mikolajczyk. (Mikolajczyk had been asking to see the president since January without any success. Now, all of a sudden, Roosevelt could see him!)
However, Roosevelt tried to persuade Mikolajczyk to accept the Soviet demands - that is, to give up eastern Poland and "reorganize" the Polish government a la Stalin. In exchange, Roosevelt was going to try to get Lwow and the adjoining oil fields for Poland.
It is significant that even the PPR (Polish Communists) in occupied Poland resisted Moscow's pressure to publicly recognize the Curzon line as Poland's eastern frontier. Even they realized well that most Poles would not accept the loss of eastern Poland willingly.
Stalin refused to consider this. The Red army crossed the prewar Polish-Soviet frontier in January, 1944, but did not move into Eastern Europe until July-September. On July 22, 1944, the Red Army crossed the Bug River and began moving into what Stalin recognized as Polish territory. On that day, the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN), proclaimed its existence in the city of Chelm and issued a "manifesto" to the Polish people. This manifesto, (called the "Lublin Manifesto" because the PKWN almost immediately moved to that city), was very carefully worded so as to attract maximum support in Poland. It promised land reform and new Polish frontiers in the west.
As for the Polish-Soviet frontier, the manifesto stated it was to be settled on the base of "self-determination." This gave the false impression that it might be decided by a plebiscite, thus leaving the predominantly Polish areas, especially Lwow and Wilno, in Poland.
The Polish Home Army had orders from the Polish government in London to cooperate with the Red Army. So, as the Red Army advanced westward, Home Army units came out into the open, helping the Soviets fight the Germans on the territories of former eastern Poland. Thus, the Polish Home Army hoped that their actions would manifest the Polish claim to these lands.
On each occasion, the Red Army accepted cooperation, but then arrested the officers and men, ordering them to join the Polish Army commanded by Berling. The officers who refused were either shot or deported to Russia, while the rank and file were forcibly conscripted.
Meanwhile, Mikolajczyk decided to go to Moscow for talks. An uprising against the Germans was being planned, and it was decided to leave the timing up to the Commander-in-Chief of the home Army, General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski.
The original plan was for the Home Army to rise up consecutively in different parts of the country, just as the Germans were pulling out. Warsaw and other big cities were not to rise so as to avoid civilian losses.
In summer 1944, however, there was a new situation which had both military and political aspects. From the military point of view, the Polish government and the Home Army Command assumed that the Russians would soon enter Warsaw. It was the key road and rail center between Moscow and Berlin. It was thought that the Red Army would need full speed to get to Berlin before the Western Allies in order to have the upper hand. From the political point of view, it was assumed that if the Home Army helped the Russians free Warsaw, the Russians would have to recognize the Home Army and the Council of National Unity which was loyal to the legitimate government in exile. In this way, it was hoped that the anti-Communist Poles - who were the vast majority - would have a voice in deciding the future of their country. And last, the political and military leaders in Warsaw expected an agreement of military cooperation to ensue from the forthcoming meeting between Stalin and Mikolajczyk.
Therefore, the government in exile authorized the Home Army in Warsaw to choose the moment for the uprising. However, the Home Army Command did not exclude the possibility that the Russians would accept their help in liberating Warsaw, and then turn against them, as had been their pattern up to that moment. In that case, the Home Army planned to defend itself to the end. They also planned to make this as public an event as possible so as to reveal to the rest of the world the true intentions of Stalin regarding Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe. The western powers were then expected to oppose the Soviet domination of this whole area because this would be an obvious threat to Western Europe as well. After all, the Polish Home Army leaders reasoned, Britain went to war with Germany when it invaded Poland in September 1939, so she would not now abandon Poland to the USSR.
But, Poland did not count on the strange hidden agenda of FDR and Stalin. When Mikolajczyk saw Stalin, he told him that Warsaw would rise against the Germans. Stalin was skeptical, but said he expected the Red Army to enter the city soon. It is not clear whether Mikolajczyk knew that Polish language broadcasts from Soviet radio stations were calling on the people of Warsaw to help the Red Army. But, if he did know, this was all the more reason to secure Soviet help for the insurgents.
In Warsaw, General Bor-Komorowski and his staff decided on the afternoon of July 31st that the rising would begin the next day. This was, more or less, a forced decision.
The Germans, who seemed to be in full retreat a few days earlier, had recovered somewhat and demanded that 100,000 people report for work on fortifications on August 1st. The Home Army could not allow this without losing its soldiers. At the same time, Russian guns could be heard east of the Vistula and sightings of Russian tanks were reported. And, there were the endless Soviet radio broadcasts urging all Poles to rise up and fight the German invader!
When the rising broke out in Warsaw in the late afternoon of August 1, the fighting was expected to last a few days, after which the Russians would come in. However, in a devastating maneuver, Stalin not only gave the home Army no help, but also refused permission for Allied planes to land behind Soviet lines after flying from Italy and dropping supplies to the Home Army in Warsaw!
What were his motives?
It seems that Stalin might have been willing to help the Warsaw insurgents if Mikolajczyk had accepted his territorial demands and joined the Polish Committee of Nation Liberation PKWN, which would then have become the new Polish Government. However, Mikolajczyk did not have powers to accept either territorial changes, or the offer of the post of deputy premier along with a miserably small number of ministerial posts for his Peasant Party which was, after all, the largest party in Poland. He left Moscow saying he would transmit Stalin's proposals and the PKWN offer of a few seats to his Cabinet in London.
As soon as Mikolajczyk had departed on August 9, the Soviet press and radio, which had kept silent on the Warsaw rising, condemned it as a "political racket" and blamed the Polish Government in London!!
Having previously refused permission for the landing of Allied aircraft, Stalin now allowed one landing by American flying fortresses which flew from London and dropped supplies over Warsaw in mid-September. These supplies were dropped from a great height at a time when the insurgents held only a small part of the city, so most of the material fell into German hands!
Rokossovsky's troops took east bank Warsaw in mid-September. At this time, Soviet planes made some supply drops to the insurgents, but without parachutes, so that most of the supplies were destroyed!
Somehow, the present writer finds it difficult to believe that this was not planned this way by an agreement between FDR and Stalin. I can't believe that such incompetent actions were just "accidents." But, the result was that both parties could say that they "tried to help," even if they did it in a way that was doomed to be no help at all!
It was also at this time that the Soviets put out feelers again to Mikolajczyk in London, suggesting he join the PKWN. The only attempt from the Soviet side to give direct help to the Home Army was the landing of a battalion of infantry from Berling's Polish Army in west bank Warsaw. However, they did not get adequate Soviet artillery support and had to retreat back across the Vistula with heavy losses. Although Berling was, for a long time, blamed for this action which was thought to have caused his dismissal shortly thereafter, it is unlikely that he could have moved without Moscow's consent. It is likely that this was a Communist ruse to pretend to help the insurgents because the fact is, Berling soon after criticized the Polish communist leadership in a letter to Stalin. Directly afterward, came his dismissal!
The Home Army Command, bereft of support, surrendered to the Germans on October 2, 1944, after 63 days of fighting. By that time, the insurgents held only small parts of the city, they had no ammunition, the people had no food, water, and no electricity. Large parts of Warsaw had been reduced to rubble.
After the surrender, Hitler ordered the evacuation of the remaining civilians to special camps from which many were taken as forced labor (slaves) to Germany. The soldiers were taken to POW camps, and then the final destruction of the city was ordered. The Germans methodically burned and dynamited everything they could in the heart of the city and surrounding districts. They destroyed libraries, ancient palaces, museums and churches without regard for historic value.
Some have compared the destruction of Warsaw to that of Dresden and Hiroshima. And, that is not to mention the losses in terms of human life. It is estimated that some 250,000 people lost their lives in the Warsaw uprising. Of the quarter million dead, only some 10 000 were Home Army soldiers. Most of the victims were civilians who were either killed while helping the army in the fighting, or were massacred by SS and Ukrainian units, or died in the cellars where they had taken refuge as the houses collapsed over them.
For years, as Warsaw was being rebuilt, workers continually found remains of people killed in the summer and autumn of 1944.
What is the truth about the destruction of Warsaw?
At this time, the Soviet media were maintaining absolute silence about the Warsaw rising, while Soviet military superiority over the Germans in this sector of the front was overwhelming, particularly in the air. Added to this was the refusal to allow Allied planes to land, so that those who risked flying from Bari, Italy, and back without landing risked almost certain death. Instead of advancing, Rokossovsky's army group sat on the eastern bank of the Vistula, and then occupied east bank Warsaw in mid-September. In fact, Rokossovsky did not "liberate" what was left of the city until January 17, 1945.
In the meantime, the Red Army had entered and taken Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, and was driving into northern Yugoslavia and Austria. It was also fighting the Germans in East Prussia. On January 24, 1945, its main forces stood on the Oder River preparing to advance on Berlin.
So, it seems that Stalin's attitude toward Warsaw was dictated by political considerations. He very likely deliberately allowed the Germans to destroy both the Home Army and the Polish capital because Mikolajczyk refused his demands.
In Moscow, Mikolajczyk learned officially for the first time that Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed to Stalin's terms, and he tried to salvage what he could of the Polish government in exile by getting them to agree to such demands. They refused and Mikolajczyk resigned. He could do nothing more. He was succeeded by Tomasz Arciszewski, an old Polish socialist.
We should remember that, just before the presidential elections of November 1944, Roosevelt assured Polish-American leaders that he would work for a strong and independent Poland. He even received a delegation of the Polish-American Congress in the White House and posed with them in front of a large map of prewar Poland, clearly indicating that he supported the reestablishment of the prewar Polish-Soviet frontier. He assured the Polish Americans that he would uphold the principles of the Atlantic Charter with regard to Poland. He made this pledge one week before the elections with no apparent intention of keeping it. But, not long after he was elected, he was dead. Karma?