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WW II Nazi masterplan – a Krakow without Poles…

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 06.09.2011 12:45
Tuesday marks the 72nd anniversary of the Nazi German occupation of Krakow, southern Poland, and the planned elimination of Poles from their city.

Mickiewicz monument, Krakow, 1940

Unlike developments in many other cities in Central Europe, fate would spare the rump of Krakow's architectural heritage from destruction.

However, the city's populace was less fortunate.

“It was clear to the Germans that the occupation would be effective regarding 'forces hostile to the Reich',” historian Andrzej Chwalba has told Polish Radio.

“Above all the Polish intelligentsia, which could be removed or intimidated,” he added.

“Hence the infamous Sonderaktion Krakau (November 1939), which saw the arrest of 183 professors, mainly from the Jagiellonian University, and their deportation to death camps,” he said.

In March 1941, a Jewish ghetto was created in Krakow's Podgorze district, south of the River Vistula (the majority of the city's Jewish population had already been resettled in rural areas).

Of the pre-war city's 70,000 or so Jewish inhabitants, it is estimated that only about 10 percent survived the war, a young Roman Polanski among them.

As Professor Chwalba highlights, a Nazi plan from 1942 foresaw the removal of all Poles from central Krakow to the Podgorze district, following the destruction of the Jews.

Groups of the notorious Hitler Jugend were prone to shouting: “We want Krakow without Poles!”

Meanwhile, Krakow was also a bastion of resistance.

“Krakow became the second centre of resistance after Warsaw,” the professor noted, adding that “it's surprising how little is known about it," Chwalba says.

This encompassed not only military actions, but also the clandestine education of over 1500 students. The future Pope John Paul II himself took part in underground theatrical performances.

Last summer, the city opened a museum devoted to the occupation in the former enamel factory of Oskar Schindler, the German entrepreneur and Nazi-party member who saved over 1000 inhabitants of the ghetto.

Later this autumn, the International Cultural Centre on Krakow's Market Square will be hosting an exhibition entitled 'Hunting Down Modernism: Prohibited Arts in the Third Reich', which includes profiles of Polish artists who were persecuted by the Nazis. (nh/pg)

tags: krakow, WW II
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