May 30, 2011


'When We Finish, Nobody Is Left Alive' (Michael Sontheimer, Der Spiegel)

On September 1, 1939, German soldiers marched across the border into neighboring Poland. The vastly superior Wehrmacht forces advanced so quickly that the Polish government was forced to flee to Romania just 16 days later. On September 27, the defenders of the Polish capital, Warsaw, gave up. Nine days later, the last remaining Polish troops laid down their weapons.

Thus begun a nightmarish occupation that would last more than five years. In Poland, the Nazis had more time than in any other occupied country to implement their policies against people they classified as "racially inferior."

The task of implementing Hitler's plan fell to Hans Frank, a 39-year-old lawyer, Nazi Party member and brutal champion of the Nazis' vision of racial purity. Frank was named "Governor-General" of a large chunk of Poland, an area of about 95,000 square kilometers (36,680sq mi), with approximately 10 million inhabitants. This was the western part of Poland that had been annexed by the German Reich, while the eastern half of the country was occupied by the Red Army in accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the 1939 non-aggression treaty between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Frank was unashamedly proud of his ruthless regime, which contrasted with the comparatively lenient system of rule in the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia," as the Nazis called the majority ethnic-Czech region they had occupied. In 1940, Frank told a reporter for the Völkische Beobachter newspaper: "In Prague, for example, large red posters were hung up announcing that seven Czechs had been executed that day." That had made him think: "If I had to hang up a poster every time we shot seven Poles, we'd have to cut down all the Polish forests, and we still wouldn't be able to produce enough paper for all the posters I'd need."

Posted by at May 30, 2011 8:00 AM

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