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GoPoland!: History of Poland: Black Clouds Again: Second World War

 The War
Skipping over the obvious, some lesser known facts about Poland's role during World War II may prove illuminating. First, it supported a resistance movement larger than any other in Europe. Sensitized by the Partitions, Poles possibly felt they were fighting for their country in a way no other European could appreciate. Second, the worst of the camps existed and the greatest number of victims were claimed here. This horrific distinction rests on the simple fact that Poland's long history of religious and cultural tolerance resulted in the largest Jewish population in Europe. In contrast to received opinion, Poles did aid and abet their neighbors and friends, to the degree that such aid was punishable by death. That distinction was also unique to Poland.

Third, the Soviet Union skillfully played its expansionist card throughout the war. With a mind to move westward, the Russians rounded up Poles and carted them off to the east, or simply shot the more promising types - 4,231 Polish officers - at the Katyn massacre in 1940. On the political front, Stalin established a pseudo-Polish communist party which later served as the backbone for the emergent Polish Worker's Party. Yet the most troublesome of his antics took place near the end of the war. In 1944, Soviet soldiers sat by while the cream of the Polish military exhausted itself against the Nazis for the better part of three months in the Warsaw Uprising. Defeated, Poles helplessly watched as the now retreating German army systematically destroyed 85% of Warsaw over the next two months. Having been camped across the river for the better part of 6 months, the Soviet army finally crossed it to enter Warsaw in January of 1945. The brutal self-interest behind such a decision is still difficult to accept.

Last, Poland lost more than any other country involved in the War: 25% of its population, its capital in ruins, its previously diverse population now almost 100% Polish, and its political future determined without so much as one free vote.

Short History of Poland
Beginning of Nation
Rise to Glory
First Republic & Partitions
Erased But Not Forgotten
Rise from Ashes: Second Republic
Black Clouds Again: Second World War
Under Communist Yoke

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