On why Poland was targeted by both Germany and the Soviet Union. It was also that Poland was reborn in after the end of the First World War, when the Germans and the Russians and the Austrians all collapsed, and the very existence of Poland in the interwar period was seen as it was almost personification of the Treaty of Versailles.
So, both the Germans and the Soviets wanted to revise the Treaty of Versailles to their benefit, and that of course meant dealing with Poland, wiping Poland off the map yet again. We can all remember the stereotypical image of Churchill and Stalin and Roosevelt all sitting together discussing grand strategy. And I think we tend to either whitewash the earlier period or we forget about it entirely or we view it through that prism.
He's not in a formal alliance, but he's in a in a cooperative arrangement we could say with Hitler. And this is and this is part and parcel of that. So, with the Nazi-Soviet pact of August of — which is another aspect that the Western historiography really doesn't talk about as much as it should — the two had effectively made common cause, Berlin and Moscow.
And this was the first expression of that common cause was their effectively joint destruction of Poland. So, the Red Army invades on the 17th of September. It dresses up its engagement as a sort of humanitarian operation or a police operation, claiming that Poland had already collapsed and it was just going in to take care of Belarusian and Ukrainian minorities and so on.
But that was really propaganda eyewash. I think it's a misconception that concentration camps were just for Jews. Anyone that the Nazis considered in any way suspect or someone undesirable — whether racially or politically — would be put into a concentration camp. The original concentration camps incidentally are not for Jews at all. Many Jews would have found themselves in there for other reasons.
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So absolutely, there are huge numbers of gentile Poles [who were] also in the concentration camps on Polish soil and elsewhere. And we have to be careful of course with this phrase, this idea of the concentration camps in anyway being Polish, because they're not run by Poles. They are inhabited by unfortunate poles, but they're certainly not run by them. On what life was like in Poland during German occupation.
The Germans add various parts of Western Poland to Germany itself — are directly annexed — and then other parts are left as a sort of a rump state under German occupation. There's a lot of ethnic cleansing of those territories that are directly annexed. So, there's a general sifting of the population, whether Polish or Jewish, with very difficult consequences for both categories.
And even after that [with] the ongoing occupation, the Poles actually have the largest underground resistance movement in World War II Europe, which is something that again I don't think we fully appreciate. So, they have this tradition of Poland had spent years wiped from the map from up until the end of the First World War, so it was something that they were very used to — actually living under a foreign occupation — and they sort of reverted to that type in and in and did so very well. You could be taken out and shot, for example, for hiding Jews, fugitive Jews.
If you were a Polish family and they found someone in your loft, the entire family would be taken out and shot. So, it's an extremely difficult world for Poles to be living in. Poland has a really fascinating and rich but very, very difficult history really. Of course, World War II, you got this massive sort of sacrifice. Update Location.
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