Galicia District

The district of Galicia, established in August 1941, comprised the Stanislav and Tarnopol provinces and the eastern part of the Lvov province, and consisted of 16 counties. The 1931 census report indicated a Jewish population in this area of 500,000. As a result of the great influx of refugees from Nazi-occupied Poland in the fall of 1939, the number of Jews had considerably increased, and it is estimated that at the outbreak of German-Soviet hostilities, there were 600,000-650,000 Jews in the area, taking into account the natural increase from 1931 to 1941. The German invasion was accompanied from the very beginning by the mass murder of Jews, initiated and perpetrated by local Ukrainians with the support and participation of the Einsatzkommandos and the German army. Pogroms took place in Lvov (on the "Petlyura Days," July 25 and 27), in Tarnopol, Zolochev, and Borislav. Many of the Jews living in the countryside, about 25% of the total Jewish population, were murdered in this period.

In the part of Galicia temporarily occupied by the Hungarian army (Kolomyya, Borshchev, and Gorodenka), the situation was quite different, the Hungarian commanders taking the Jews under their protection and preventing murders from taking place. During the short period of German military occupation, until Aug. 1, 1941, when its civilian administration took over, several tens of thousands of Jews were killed. The civilian administration immediately introduced the anti-Jewish legislation applying to the General Government. In fact, some of the provisions of this legislation were applied even before a "legal" framework was created. The first ghettos were set up in the beginning of October at Stanislav (for about 30,000 Jews) and Tarnopol (18,000). These were followed in the spring of 1942 by ghettos in Kolomyya and Kolomyya county, and at Chortkov. By the second half of 1942, ghettos existed in all the cities and towns, and a large part of their population had already been deported to Belzec. The last ghetto to be established was the one at Lvov, in August-September 1942, after several postponements. This came after the great Aussiedlung action, 36,000 surviving out of a population of about 150,000. Krüger's decree of Nov. 10, 1942, provided for 32 ghettos in the Galicia district, in Lvov, Stanislav, Tarnopol, Chortkov, Stry, Drogobych, Sambor, Borshchev, Zholkva, Brody, Rava-Russkaya, Rogatin, and Skalat.

Large-scale physical extermination campaigns began in the second half of 1941 and were initially directed mainly against Jews in the professions and intellectuals. During the High Holiday period, on Oct. 12, 1941, about 10,000 Jews were shot to death at the Jewish cemetery of Stanislav. In November numerous executions took place in Lvov, when the first attempt was made to organize a ghetto there, and mass shootings occurred in Kolomyya county in December of that year. This is only a partial listing and it is estimated that some 100,000 Jews were murdered in July 1941-March 1942. In the latter month, the extermination camp at Belzec went into operation and from then until the end of 1942, about 300,000 Jews – 50% of the Jewish population of the district – were deported to Belzec or shot on the spot, or taken away for execution in the forests. The others remained for a short while in the ghettos and labor camps, and by June 1943 they were all liquidated. According to SS-Gruppenführer Fritz Katzmann's report on the "Final Solution" in Galicia, only 21,000 Jews were left in Galicia, distributed in over 21 camps, the largest of which was the Janowska Street camp in Lvov. Selected workers from liquidated ghettos were transferred to this camp in Lvov, while those who were no longer fit for work were executed in the vicinity. In the second half of 1943, nearly all the Jewish labor camps were liquidated and their inmates murdered. In this period, several thousand Jews who had been engaged in agricultural work were also murdered.

Bezirk Bialystok

This district, created in July 1941, was attached to but not incorporated in East Prussia. The chief of the East-Prussian provincial government was also appointed head of the civilian administration of the Bialystok district and the central provincial organs at Königsberg were responsible for all district affairs. The area of the district, practically identical with Bialystok province, was divided into seven counties: Bialystok, Grodno, Bielsk Podlaski, Grajewo, Lomza, Sokolka, and Volkovysk. The Bialystok district suffered two eruptions of war, on Sept. 1, 1939, and June 22, 1941. The first German occupation was restricted to the western part of the district and lasted only a fortnight, after which the area was turned over to the Soviets. The Soviet occupying forces imposed far-reaching changes in the economic, social, and political life of the Jews. The Jewish population of the district in September 1939 was estimated at 240,000-250,000. Later on, the district was flooded by a stream of refugees from the western and central part of Poland. Among the officials and specialists brought in from the Soviet Union, there were also a considerable number of Jews, and the total increase in population is estimated at 100,000. It may therefore be assumed that in June 1941 the district had a Jewish population of about 350,000.

The second German invasion was accompanied by mass murders, carried out by the Einsatzkommandos comprising Tilsit police battalions. These operated in the rear of the army and caused the destruction of entire communities (Jedwabne, Kolo, Stawiski, Tykocin, and others). In Bialystok, over 6,000 Jews were murdered between June 27 and July 13, 1941. The great synagogue was burnt down and at least 1,000 Jews who had been forced into it perished in the flames. Special murder campaigns were instituted against Jewish intellectuals. Anti-Semitic elements within the local Polish and Belorussian population, as well as among the Polish police which continued to serve under the occupying power, took an active part in the mass murder of Jews. (Even before the war, the influence of the Polish anti-Semitic parties had been especially strong in this area.) Most of the ghettos were established in August 1941. The larger among these were Bialystok (over 50,000), Grodno (25,000), Pruzhany (12,000), Lomza (10,000), Sokolka (8,000), and Bielsk Podlaski (7,000). Grodno Ghetto consisted of two parts, one inhabited by artisans and skilled workers and their families, and the other by the rest of the Jewish population. Each had its own Judenrat and ghetto police, but the chairman of the Judenrat of the artisans' ghetto had the title of Generalobmann ("chief chairman") and represented both parts vis-à-vis the authorities.

While the ghettos were in the process of formation, "selections" and mass slaughter of Jews often took place. In Szczuczyn, for example, the ghetto was inhabited almost entirely by women and children, most of the men having been killed. The overcrowding in the ghettos was phenomenal. In Czyzow, for example, 200 persons were squeezed into seven tiny houses. Systematic mass annihilation began on Nov. 2, 1942. In a single day, most of the ghettos were wiped out (except for Bialystok, Pruzhany, the first part of the Grodno Ghetto, Krynki, and Sokolka). Before reaching their final destination at the extermination camp of Treblinka, the deportees were kept in assembly camps for a period of three to ten weeks, during which many of them succumbed to the inhuman conditions. In November, 120,000-130,000 Jews were killed in the murder campaign. The Aktionen were renewed in February 1943, after the liquidation of the Pruzhany, Sokolka, and Krynki ghettos. In Bialystok Ghetto, the first "action" took place on Feb. 5-12, 1943, resulting in the death of 13,000 Jews, of whom 1,000 were killed on the spot. Over 40,000 persons were killed in the third phase of the extermination campaign. Bialystok Ghetto was the last in the district to be liquidated (Aug. 16, 1943). Armed resistance, organized by the Jewish Fighting Organization, was suppressed by German military forces, including tanks. Over 30,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz.

Generalbezirk Litauen and Weissrussland

(Lithuania and Belorussia). The Polish parts of these districts, which belonged to Reichkommissariat Ostland, consisted of almost the entire Vilna and Novogrudok provinces and of the northern portion of Polesie province. In 1931 this area was inhabited by over 230,000 Jews. From September to December 1939, a large number of refugees arrived in the area, especially in Vilna. For nearly 11 months (from Oct. 10, 1939, until the end of August 1940), Vilna and its environs formed a part of Lithuania. In August, the entire country was absorbed by the Soviet Union. Under Soviet occupation, thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to distant parts of the Soviet Union, but several thousand escaped to the United States, Palestine, and Shanghai. It is therefore impossible to determine the size of the Jewish population in June 1941. The larger communities in the Lithuania district were Vilna, Vileika, Oshmyany, Svienciany, and Trakai (Troki); in the Belorussian district they were Novogrudok, Baranovichi, Lida, Slonim, Molodechno, and Stolbtsy. Like everywhere else in "Ostland," the military invasion brought in its wake large-scale murder by the Einsatzkommandos, in this case Einsatzgruppe 'A'. In many places they had the assistance of locally recruited "Hiwis" (Hilfswillige – local volunteer units). On July 11-Dec. 24, 1941, 45,000 Jews were killed in Vilna (which in 1931 had a total Jewish population of 55,000). At approximately the same time, 9,000 Jews were slaughtered in Slonim; 5,000 in Vileika; 4,000 in Molodechno; 2,500 in Novogrudok; 1,800 in Volozhin, and other places. During the murder campaign, or a short while later, ghettos were established where further mass executions took place (Vilna Ghetto was set up on Sept. 6, 1941). Many small communities were completely wiped out.

Ghettos continued to exist in Vilna, Vileika, Oshmyany, Novogrudok, Lida, Glubokoye, Slonim, and Baranovichi, and in a few smaller communities from which Jews were dispatched to larger ghettos in the summer of 1942, in preparation for the second phase of the annihilation program. Vilna Ghetto was also used for this purpose. Jacob Gens, chief of the Vilna Ghetto and of the ghetto police, had some measure of jurisdiction over the smaller ghettos in "Wilnaland," and the Vilna ghetto police participated in the Aktion that took place in Oshmyany at the end of October 1942. In Belorussia the same procedure was initiated of concentrating the Jewish population of a certain area in one of the larger ghettos in preparation for murder "actions." Here there was an almost continuous murder campaign, with breathing spells only between one "action" and the next. The longest such period of respite was granted to Vilna Ghetto, lasting from early 1942 until September 1943.

The final phase extended from August 1942, when the ghetto in Slonim was destroyed, until September 1943, when the Jews of Vilna, Novogrudok, and Lida were sent to their death. In the course of August and September 1943, about 10,000 Jews were deported from Vilna Ghetto to concentration camps in Estonia. Six thousand were murdered on September 23, and the ghetto was liquidated. Several thousand Jewish workers employed outside the ghetto were exterminated later (July 1944). Specialists and skilled workers were sometimes concentrated in certain houses in the liquidated ghetto or sent to labor camps. Such camps, containing the pitiful remnants of the liquidated ghettos of Belorussia, were located at Koldychevo (near Baranovichi) and Kelbasin. They too ceased to exist at the end of 1943.

Generalbezirk Wolhynien-Podolien

Of the Polish territories, this district, which formed part of the "Reichskommissariat Ukraine," contained the larger part of the Polesie province and the entire Wolyn (Volhynia) province belonging to prewar Poland. The 1931 census of the population in this area indicated about 300,000 Jews. The larger communities were Pinsk, Brest, Kobrin, Kovel, Dubno, Rovno, Lutsk, Ostrog, Kremenets, and Vladimir-Volynski. Here too, a large influx of refugees came from Poland shortly after the outbreak of the war, while a certain number of Jews were moved by the Soviets to other parts of the U. S. S. R., so that it was impossible to determine the size of the population in June 1941. A mass slaughter in this district was carried out mainly by Einsatzgruppe 'C', commencing with the German invasion. The murder action at Rovno was carried out on Nov. 5-6, 1941, when 15,000 Jews were shot. In general the local Ukrainian population cooperated in the annihilation campaign against the Jews.

Only a few communities escaped in the initial phase (one of these was Kovel). As was the case elsewhere, the surviving Jews were herded into temporary ghettos. Dubno Ghetto was among the first to be liquidated (May 27 1942), and 5,000-7,000 Jews were killed. The first Aktion took place on May 10, 1942, and the handful of Jewish workers who survived it were shot on May 23, 1942. In Kovel the "city" ghetto was destroyed on June 2, 1942, with 8,000-9,000 victims, while the "workers'" ghetto in the city was liquidated on Sept. 18, 1942. Lutsk Ghetto came to an end on Aug. 20, 1942 (17,000 people murdered). In Kremenets, the ghetto's agony lasted for two weeks, starting on Aug. 10, 1942, in the course of which 19,000 Jews went to their death. In September, it was Vladimir-Volynski's turn (18,000 victims) and from October 28 to 31, the Jews of Pinsk Ghetto were murdered. As in "Ostland," the mass executions took place in the vicinity of the ghettos, in front of prepared mass graves, and were marked by extraordinary manifestations of sadism. The Ukrainian police displayed a murderous zeal in their cooperation with the Nazis. In the course of December 1942, the Jewish workers who had survived the mass executions were also liquidated. In a report on a trip in the Ukraine in June 1943, Hans Joachim Kausch of the Propaganda Ministry stated that the Jews of that area had been "completely" liquidated and throughout his entire stay there he had found only four Jews, working as tailors in an SD camp.

Demographic Total

Up to September 1939 Poland had a Jewish population of 3,351,000. Exact figures on the number killed between September 1939 and 1944 are not available, but the following account is a relatively well-founded estimate. Shortly after the end of the war, the Central Committee of Polish Jews began registering all surviving Polish Jews and by June 15, 1945, 55,509 had registered. Since some people registered several times with different local committees a round figure of 55,000 is assumed, which included a certain number of Jews who succeeded in returning to Poland from the Soviet Union. To this must be added 13,000 Jews in the Polish army formed in the U. S. S. R. in 1941, and approximately 1,000 Jews (out of 2,000) who had saved themselves by posing as "Aryans" and had not registered with the Jewish committees, bringing the total to 69,000. The number of Polish Jews who were saved by fleeing in September 1939 to the Soviet Union, to certain European countries, to Palestine, or to North and South America, or who survived the camps in Germany, is estimated at a maximum of 300,000 (250,000 of whom had fled to the U. S. S. R.). The sum total of surviving Polish Jews is therefore about 369,000, i.e., 11% of the prewar population, while 2,982,000 Jews were killed.

Jewish Resistance

Nazi plans called for a campaign of repression utilizing legal and economic restrictions and hard labor to bring about a rapid reduction of the Jewish population by pauperization, starvation, and epidemics. The Jews developed a system of self-defense to thwart the rapid achievement of the plans for their destruction, or at least succeeded in slowing down the realization of the Nazi program. Jewish resistance applied to all spheres of life – economic and spiritual; on an individual as well as on a collective basis; and in the final stage, when the Nazis resorted to the "Final Solution" (physical annihilation) of the Jews, it took the form of armed insurrections. In the economic sphere, the Jews succeeded in circumventing the regulations designed to isolate them from the gentile society, due to the fact that large numbers of Jews were put to work outside the ghetto. They established secret industries in the ghetto itself, by which they staved off rapid starvation and carried on business with the "Aryan" market. Foodstuffs were also smuggled into the ghetto by various means, often displaying astounding inventiveness. Jewish industrialists and artisans managed to obtain substitutes for all kinds of raw materials. In Warsaw Ghetto, for example, the export of wares produced in the ghetto workshops under orders of the German "Transferstelle" was in no proportion to that of articles produced in secret and exported without the knowledge of the official German office. The considerable gap between legal and illegal economic activities became characteristic of the economic situation in all the occupied areas. Officially the Jews were given the opportunity of working for the German economy only, military as well as civilian, for as long as this served the German war effort. In practice, many of the Jews, inured by a long tradition of existence under harsh conditions of persecution, and fortified by a powerful will to live, were able to break out of the economic straitjacket into which the Nazis had forced them and to surmount the dangers of the ghetto walls.

The Nazis were disappointed by the ability of the ghettoized Jews to adapt themselves to the abnormal conditions of their existence, and surprised that "so few" Jews were dying from "natural" causes and that there were no mass suicides. At a meeting of Nazi officials, held in Crakow on Aug. 24, 1942, General Governor Frank openly admitted: "By the way, I wish to state that we have sentenced 1,200,000 Jews to death by starvation; the fact that the Jews are not dying from hunger will only serve to speed up enactment of further anti-Jewish decrees." Thus, the Jews' vitality served to frustrate partially the biological war that the Nazis waged against them and was one of the causes for the Nazis' decision to resort to the "Final Solution."

Jewish aid organizations which existed before the war, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), TOZ, and CENTOS, the Yiddishe Sotsiale Alaynhilf (YISA) founded in May 1940, and, after liquidation of the last in Oct. 1942, the Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle (JUS), established formally in March 1943, were permitted by the General Government to carry on their activities in its area. The YISA set up a highly diversified system of social and medical assistance. Almost every ghetto provided some form of public assistance, such as soup kitchens and accommodation for deportees and refugees. As early as May 1940, according to an incomplete list, some 200 welfare committees were sponsored by the Judenräte, and their budgets were provided mainly by the JDC. These committees also collected funds, clothing, and other articles among local Jews. By the end of 1941 the YISA organization was active in over 400 localities in the General Government, maintaining 1,500 social and medical institutions and serving 300,000 adults and 30,000 children. This of course was not enough to cope with the demands posed by the constantly growing pauperization of the Jewish population and the continual influx of new arrivals (in some ghettos, 60% of the population was dependent on public assistance). The constant lack of nourishment and hygiene in the ghettos, which the Nazis set up in the most dilapidated parts of the towns, resulted in diseases and epidemics to which the entire Jewish population might have easily succumbed. However, health and sanitary departments were set up and maintained by the Judenräte and TOZ which in turn subsidized 117 hospitals and 123 out-patient clinics and sanitary posts. To prevent the spread of the epidemics to the "Aryan" city quarters, the Nazi authorities used police measures, the results of which were even worse than the epidemics. In fact the ghetto population was so weakened that a large loss of life could not be avoided. In Warsaw, Lodz, Lublin, and Kutno, 15-20% of the Jewish population died in the two or three years of the ghettos' existence.

The Jews also displayed moral resistance to the starvation and debilitating forced labor, whereby the Nazis hoped to divest the Jews of all interest in spiritual life and dehumanize them. Moral resistance took varied forms. Pious Jews convened in secret for prayers, disregarding the dangers thus incurred; yeshivah students continued their studies and held clandestine minyanim to which they took the orphans to recite kaddish [prayer of mourning] for their deceased parents. They also abstained from using the public soup kitchens which under ghetto conditions were not kept kasher [ritually permissible food], despite the greater suffering this entailed for them. Nonobservant Jews had their own means of moral resistance. Teachers established clandestine student groups and conducted classes in private homes. Persons who had been active before the war in cultural societies established secret libraries, choirs, orchestras, and dramatic groups, and held lectures and celebrations of important historical anniversaries. The Judenräte also established schools, wherever the Nazi authorities did not put obstacles in their way. (According to a decree issued by Frank on Aug. 31, 1940, the Judenräte were to be permitted to run elementary and vocational schools, but with few exceptions were prevented from actually doing so by the local Nazi authorities.)

Intensive cultural and educational activities were carried on in the Warsaw ghetto by the Yiddishe Kultur-Organizatsye and the CENTOS, and in Vilna Ghetto by the cultural department of the Judenrat. Lodz Ghetto also maintained a large network of schools until the summer of 1941 (45 schools with 500 teachers and an average monthly attendance of 10,300 children). In most ghetto schools the emphasis was placed on Jewish studies. The teaching of history and geography was prohibited. Cultural activities fulfilled the dual purpose of protecting the inhabitants of the ghetto, especially the youth, against the demoralizing atmosphere of the ghetto created by the Nazis, and of strengthening their resistance to Nazi attempts to deprive them of their human dignity.

Organized physical and armed resistance was closely linked to political activities in a number of ghettos, and took various forms. Illegal publications, including pamphlets, were issued periodically or singly, and were either handwritten or duplicated. (In Warsaw Ghetto, for example, incomplete reports indicate that from mid-1940 to April 1943, 40 illegal periodicals were issued by various illegal movements representing every shade of political opinion.) Organized secret listening-in to foreign broadcasts, to reduce the Jews' isolation from the outer world, provided information on the political and military situation, and served as a source of hope and encouragement. In some ghettos, political parties – particularly workers' parties, e.g., the Bund, Po'alei Zion, and the communists – actively opposed the Jewish ghetto administration, i.e., the Judenräte and the ghetto police. (In Lodz Ghetto, opposition to Rumkowski's regime took the form of street demonstrations and strikes in the ghetto workshops.) Opposition to the Judenräte was also voiced in the underground press. The parties' youth movements conducted a cultural education campaign among their secret membership.

At a later stage, when the mass deportations began, the movements made preparations for armed resistance to the deportation "action." It was on the basis of organizing armed resistance that the political parties began to cooperate. Thus, in Warsaw Ghetto, a Jewish Coordinating Committee was set up in October 1942, composed of representatives of all the Zionist parties (with the exception of the Revisionists) – who were united in the Jewish National Committee – and of representatives of the Bund. On Oct. 27, 1942, the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB) was established which united the above-mentioned Jewish parties and the communists under one command. The heroic revolt of Warsaw Ghetto (which lasted from April 19 until the end of May 1943) was the result of the collective, self-sacrificing efforts of the youth of almost all political parties. The Revisionist Jewish Military Organization took an active part in the fighting. Similarly, in Bialystok Ghetto, a united fighting organization was set up on the eve of the revolt that broke out on Aug. 16, 1943.

In Czestochowa, the planned revolt was frustrated when an unexpected deportation "action" (on Sept. 21, 1942) barred access to the bunkers where the arms were hidden. During the liquidation of Bę Ghetto, underground fighters of the Zionist youth movements fought against vastly superior Nazi armed forces from fortified bunkers until they all fell. In Crakow Ghetto, the fighting organization, consisting of Zionist and Communist youth, carried out acts of sabotage and direct attacks on the Germans (such as the armed attack against German officers in the Cyganeria Café on Dec. 23, 1942). In Vilna Ghetto, a United Partisans Organization was founded in January 1942, comprising in later stages members of all the political movements. Following the Gestapo demand for the surrender of the Vilna underground commander, Yizhak Wittenberg, in July 1943, the leadership of the organization was forced to give up the struggle inside the ghetto, and smuggled its members into the forests, where they set up a partisans' group under the name of Nekamah ("Revenge").

Revolts broke out in the extermination camps of Treblinka (on Aug. 2, 1943) and Sobibor (Oct. 14, 1943) in which large numbers of prisoners managed to escape (most of whom were later killed). These insurrections later brought the murder installations in those camps to a halt. An armed revolt of the Jews in the "Sonderkommando" in Auschwitz took place on Oct. 7, 1944.
Isaiah Trunk
[Historian, YIVO Institute for
Jewish Research, New York]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica


The guerilla warfare in Poland (i.e., within the area designated by post-World War II boundaries) was confined to the territories of the so-called General-Government and the province of Bialystok. The first Jewish attempts to organize partisan units were undertaken by the resistance movement of the Warsaw Ghetto in spring 1942, but these, as well as some other early attempts, failed due to lack of experience and the lack of support from the local population. In July 1942, the Germans began to implement the so-called "Operation Reinhard." At that time, mainly in the provinces of Lublin and Kielce, there began a spontaneous movement of thousands of Jews fleeing the townlets to the forests to escape deportation. Many of them formed groups that offered active resistance to the Nazis. Although numerically strong, they had very few arms and no supply bases at all. Those who managed to hold out through the winter of 1942/43 came in contact with the Polish underground, as in the course of spring and summer 1943 a number of Polish partisan units began to operate from the forests.

The attitude of the Polish partisans toward the Jews depended upon the political framework to which they belonged and the goodwill of local commanders. The closest relations were between the Jewish partisans and the Communist-dominated People's Guard (Gwardia Ludowa). About a dozen Jewish partisan units were subordinated to the command of that organization and later acted as its units. Among them were: partisan detachment "Chil" (known also as the Second Company of the "Holod" battalion), under the command of Yehiel Grynszpan, which operated in the eastern part of the Lublin province; detachment "Emilia Plater," under the command of Samuel Jegier, and detachment "Kozietulski," under the command of Mietek Gruber, in the northern parts of the Lublin province; detachment "Berek Joselewicz," under the command of Forst, in the southern part of the Lublin province; detachment "Lwy" ("Lions"), under the command of Julian Ajzenman (Kaniewski), in the northern part of the Kielce province; detachment "Zygmunt," under the command of Zalman Fajnsztat, in the southwestern part of the Kielce province; detachment "Iskra" ("Spark"), under the command of Lejb Birman, in Rzeszow province; and detachment "Mordecai Anielewicz" commanded by Adam Szwarcfus, Mordecai Growas, and Ingac Podolski, in the forests near Wyszkow (northeast of Warsaw) which was organized after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising by remnants of the Jewish Fighting Organization. Jews also constituted a significant percentage in a number of other units of the People's Guard.

Remnants of the fighters in the Bialystok Ghetto uprising formed the partisan unit "Forwards" ("Foroys"), which was later part of a Soviet partisan brigade under the command of General Kapusta. The attitude of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), sponsored by the Polish government-in-exile residing in London, and of the Peasants' Battalions ("Bataliony Chłopskie ") were different. These organizations did not accept Jewish units, but some of them accepted individual Jewish fighters, while others often took part in the murder of Jews. The extreme right-wing National Armed Forces ("Narodowe Siłi Zbrojne") were strongly hostile toward Jews, organized attacks against Jewish partisans, and murdered all Jews they found hiding in the forests. Some Jewish units managed to operate independently of any Polish underground organization. The greatest of them was the unit in the Doleza forests under the command of Abraham Amsterdam.

A number of Jews won great fame in various Polish partisan units, mainly in those belonging to the People's Guard. Among the best known are: Colonel Ignacy Robb-Rosenfarb (Narbutt), commander of the People's Guard in the Kielce region; Colonel Robert Satanowski, commander of a partisan brigade; Colonel Niebrzydowski, commander of the Peasants' Battalions in the Miechow region; Major Menashe Matywiecki, member of the general staff of the People's Guard; Alexander Skotnicki, commander of the "Holod" battalion; Yehiel Brewerman, commander of the detachment "Bartosz Glowacki," and Captain Lucyna Herz, the only Polish woman officer parachuted into the woods for partisan activity. Jews also played a significant role in the Special Attack Battalion, which organized parachute units for guerilla warfare in the rear of the German army. The commander of that unit was the Jewish officer Lieutenant Colonel Henryk Torulczyk. Four of the 12 units parachuted into the forests during the summer and autumn of 1944 were commanded by Jewish officers: Robert Satanowski, Julian Komar, Joseph Krakowski, and Zygmunt Gutman (later known as one of the best partisan commanders in the Kielce province). The significant feature of the Jewish partisan movement in Poland was that almost all Jewish partisans started their guerilla activity at a very early period (second half of 1942), when the Polish partisan movement hardly existed; thus Jews constituted in the early period a high proportion of the partisans and guerilla fighters. Among the first nine partisan detachments organized at the beginning of 1943 in the Kielce province, four were Jewish units, with a number of Jews present in all other units. Later in spring 1944, when the partisan movement in Poland grew rapidly, thanks to the great flow of arms from England (for the Armia Krajowa) and from the Soviet Union (for the left-wing guerillas), the Jewish communities were already destroyed and there were no more Jewish youth who could fill the partisan ranks.

Jewish-Polish Relations during the War

Relations between Jews and Poles in occupied Poland were complicated in nature, especially in the Polish underground movements. The entire Polish population was vehemently anti-German, but the vast majority of people were also violently anti-Semitic. In the first month of the war, anti-Semitism seemed to have completely disappeared out of hatred for the Nazis, but it reemerged soon afterwards.

The Polish political parties' attitude to the Jews before the war generally remained much the same during the entire period of occupation. The right-wing parties, led by the Narodowa Demokracja (Endecja) officially denounced Hitler's barbaric methods, but in fact remained anti-Semitic and regarded the Nazi "solution of the Jewish problem" in Poland with quiet satisfaction. The extreme right-wing radicals, the Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny (ONR) and the Falanga, rejoiced over Hitlerism and approved of the Nazi murders. They contended that the victims were no better than murderers, and deserved their fate. The Polish Socialist Party (PPS), on the other hand, and especially its left wing (RPPS) and the reorganized Communist Party (PPR) condemned the murder of the Jews in their illegal publications, took part in campaigns to aid Jews, and appealed to the Polish people to assist. A similar stand was taken by the Democratic Party and the People's Party, although the latter, formerly an important party, did not have a uniform approach. In general it identified itself with the stand taken by the Polish government-in-exile represented inside Poland by the Delegatura. The Delegatura also maintained contact with the Jewish National Committee and the Jewish Coordinating Commission. Through the Delegatura these Jewish bodies were able to keep in touch with Jewish political movements and organizations abroad.

Relations between the Jews and the Delegatura, initially quite friendly, deteriorated in the course of time. This was due to the Delegatura's negative attitude in regard to supplying the Jewish Fighting Organization with sufficient quantities of arms. It was not until the resistance of the Jewish Fighting Organization in Warsaw in January 1943 that the fighters at last received a small quantity of arms from the Delegatura. The strained relations with the Delegatura were partly the result of the reactionary and anti-Semitic groups' influence within the Polish underground, which grew in strength as the German front moved back toward Poland and a general anti-Soviet attitude came to the fore. (Anti-Soviet feelings among the Poles were also heightened by the story of the Katyn massacre, and the resulting break in Soviet-Polish diplomatic relations in the summer of 1943.) Anti-Jewish agitation among the Polish population was also fed by the reports of the situation of the Jews in Eastern Poland under the Soviet occupation, when Jews were appointed to official positions. The Delegatura also adopted a negative attitude to the Jewish partisan movement, refusing to support it or even to recognize its existence.

As the Soviet army drew near the Polish frontier, a rapprochement took place between the Sanacja (the ruling party of Pilsudski's successors) and the Endecja and between the Sanacja and such outright Fascist organizations as the ONR, whose military arm, the National Armed Forces (NSZ), was recognized in March 1944 as a component of the Delegatura's underground army, the Armia Krajowa. The NSZ went so far as to murder Jewish partisans and Jews who had succeeded in escaping from the slaughter taking place in the ghettos. More and more, an anti-Jewish tendency made itself felt in the official underground publications issued by the Delegatura.

The Nazi propaganda machine cleverly exploited the anti-Semitism existing among the Polish population. Reviving the old Polish slogan of "Żydo-Komuna," they identified Jews with Communism and succeeded in further poisoning the prevailing anti-Jewish feelings among the Poles. As a result, Jews who had been in hiding on the "Aryan" side were denounced to the Nazis. In many places Poles not only assisted in the search for Jews, but joined the Nazis in torturing and killing them as well. The Polish police, with hardly any exception, took part in the "actions" and on several occasions were themselves in charge of rounding up the Jews and dispatching them to the death camps.

There were, however, some social groups and individuals, from all segments of the population, who helped Jews at the risk of their own lives. The activities of the "Council for Aid to Jews," which provided "Aryan" documents and shelter in Polish houses, rescued children, and extended financial aid, helped some 50,000 Jews. There were more than a few individual Poles who had the moral strength to overcome the fear of death (the punishment for giving refuge to Jews) and the pressure exerted on them by the prevailing anti-Jewish climate of opinion, to stretch out a helping hand to the persecuted Jews. Some of these Poles, along with their families, had to pay with their lives for the courage they displayed in aiding Jews.

It may be concluded that the attitude of the Poles to the Jews was marked by both active participation in the murder of Jews and rescue efforts at great risk. The motives for these attitudes also varied from religious, humanitarian, or simply materialistic considerations, to a "biological" hatred of Jews. Of all the occupied countries, the percentage of Jews saved in Poland was the smallest, since the predominant attitude was hostile, while rescue was an exception to the rule.
[Isaiah Trunk]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica

After World War II

Rescue of Jewish Children

When Poland was liberated in 1945, thousands of orphaned and abandoned Jewish children were wandering through villages and in the streets of the towns. Many were found in Polish homes and in convents. Some had been baptized, and some had been exploited by the peasants as a source of cheap labor. The official Jewish committees (komitety) established institutions for homeless children. Jewish parents applied to the Jewish organizations for help in finding children, who had been entrusted to non-Jewish families in order to save their lives but later disappeared without trace. Some Poles refused to return Jewish children, either because they had become attached to them or because they demanded financial remuneration for maintaining the child and for the risk they had incurred in hiding Jews from the Germans. There were a few cases of Jewish children living under conditions of starvation and terror. With the mass repatriations from the Soviet Union, 31,700 children under 14 years of age returned to Poland, including many hundreds of orphans, who also needed immediate care. Three separate bodies worked to save Jewish children. The first of these, the official Jewish committees, acting under the auspices of the authorities, maintained 11 boarding schools with a total of 1,135 orphans, and day schools and nurseries which cared for about 20,000 children. The youth department of the committees cared for about 7,700 boys and girls. Material conditions were good, but education was oriented toward Polish assimilation. The second, the Jewish Religious Council (Kongregacja), sent people to redeem children from Polish homes, particularly at the request of religious relatives. These children were delivered to their relatives abroad, or sent to be adopted by Jewish families in the United States, Great Britain, and other countries. The third organization was established by the Zionist movement, and given the abbreviated name of the "Coordination" (Koordynacja). Its emissaries wandered through Poland to rescue children, very often risking their lives in doing so. The Koordynacja established four children's homes, which housed hundreds of children aged between two and 12. The older children were sent to "children's kibbutzim" of the youth movements. Funds were supplied mainly by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The special psychological problems of the Holocaust period, such as fear and hatred of Jews, necessitated the establishment of a special seminary for educators at Lodz. The Koordynacja systematically sent children abroad, with the intention of finally enabling them to reach Palestine. By the end of 1947, more than 500 children had been taken out of Poland. Together with their teachers and educators they entered Youth Aliyah institutions in Germany, Austria, and France, most of them settling later in the State of Israel. Scores of Jewish children are believed to have remained in Poland, mainly in Catholic institutions and convents.
[Sara Neshamith]
M. A.; Kibbutz Lohamei ha-Getta'ot
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica

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Stanislav (Pol. Stanisławów; now called Ivanov Frankovsk), city in Ukraine; under Poland-Lithuania until 1793; under Austria until 1918; and in Poland until 1939. Return
Tarnopol (Rus. Ternopol), city in Ukraine, formerly in the province of Lvov, Poland. Return
Zolochev (Pol. Złow), town in Lvov oblast, Ukraine; formerly in Galicia, Poland; between 1772 and 1919 under Austrian rule; ceded to Soviet Russia in 1945. Return
Borislav (Pol. Boryslaw), city in Ukraine (until 1939, Galicia, Poland). Return
Gorodenka (Pol. Horodenka), city in Stanislav oblast, Ukraine. Return
Chortkov (Pol. Czortków), city in Ukraine; until 1945 in Poland. Return
Stry (Pol. Stryj), city in Lvov oblast, Ukrainian S. S. R. Return
Sambor Town in Lvov oblast, Ukraine; annexed by Poland in 1349; from 1772 to 1918 under Austrian rule (eastern Galicia); and from 1918 until 1939 once more under Polish rule. Return
Zholkva (Pol. Zółkiew), city in Ukraine, (formerly Galicia), renamed Nesterov in 1951. Return
Brody City in Lvov district, Ukraine (in Russia until 1772; in Austria, 1772–1919; and in Poland, 1919–39). Return
Rogatin (Pol. Rohatyn), city in Ivano-Frankovsk oblast, Ukraine; formerly within Poland, it passed to Austria in 1772, and was incorporated within Stanislawow province, Poland, between the two world wars. Rogatin is one of Poland's oldest cities. Return
Skalat (Pol. Skałat), town in Tarnopol oblast, Ukraine. Formerly within Poland, Skalat passed to Austria in 1772, reverting to Poland between the two world wars. Return
Friedrich Katzmann (Fritz; 1906–1957), Nazi official, S. S. and Police Leader in the Radom district of the General Government from 1939 to 1941. In 1941 he was appointed S. S. and Police Leader in the newly occupied district of Galicia. In this capacity Katzmann brutally and ruthlessly organized the destruction of its local Jewry. Return
Kolo (Pol. Koło), town in Poznan district, central Poland; passed to Prussia in 1793, and restored to Poland in 1919. Return
Tykocin (in Jewish sources, Tiktin; Rus. Tykotsin), village in Bialystok province, N. E. Poland. Tykocin was formerly a town on the border between the kingdom of Poland and the principality of Lithuania. Return
Pruzhany (Pol. Pruażna), city in Brest oblast, Belarus. Situated on the road which leads from Brest-Litovsk to Moscow, it was under Polish rule until 1795; in the third partition of Poland it was incorporated into Russia, and in 1919 regained by Poland until 1939. Return
Sokolka Town in Bialystok province, N.E. Poland; until 1795 within Poland; until 1807 under Prussia; subsequently until 1915 the town belonged to Russia, reverting to Poland after World War I. Return
Krynki (also Krinki), town in the province of Bialystok, N. E. Poland. Return
Shanghai Port in Kiangsu province, E. China. It was opened to foreign trade in 1843. A flourishing foreign community developed there, including Jews of various nationalities. Return
Oshmyany (Pol. Oszmiana), city in Grodno oblast, Belarus. Oshmyany, one of the oldest settlements in Lithuania, was granted municipal status in 1537. Return
Troki (Lith. Trakai; Ger. Traken), city in S. E. Lithuania; annexed to Russia after the third partition of Poland (1795), under Polish rule from 1922 to 1939. Return
Novogrudok (Pol. Nowogródek; also referred to by Jews as Novaredok), city in Grodno oblast, Belarus. Novogrudok was within Poland-Lithuania until the third partition of Poland (1795), when it passed to Russia, from 1842, and a district capital in the province of Minsk. It reverted to Poland in 1921, but passed to the Soviet Union in 1939. Return
Lida Town in Grodno oblast, Belarus. Return
Slonim City in Grodno oblast, Belarus; passed to Russia in 1795 and reverted to Poland between the two world wars. Return
Molodechno Town in Molodechno oblast, W. Belarus; during the interwar period it was within Poland. Return
Stolbtsy (Pol. Stolpce; Yid. Stoybts, Shtoptsi), town in Minsk oblast, Belarus; until 1793 and between the two world wars within Poland. Return
Volozhin (Pol. Wołożyn), city in S. Molodechno oblast, Belarus; in Poland before 1793 and between 921 and 1945. Return
Glubokoye (Pol. Głębokie), small town in Belarus, in Poland until 1793 and from 1921 to 1945. Return
Koldychevo (Koldyczewo), a forced labor camp in Belorussia established by the Germans in late 1941. It later became an extermination camp in which Russians and Poles were interned along with the Jews transferred from the surrounding ghettos of Baranovichi, Nowogrodek, Slonim, and others. Return
Kobrin (Pol. Kobryń), city in Brest oblast, Belarus, formerly in Poland. Return
Kovel Town in Volhynia, Ukraine, 43 mi. (69 km.) N. W. of Lutsk; within Poland until the end of the 18th century, passed to Russia until 1918, and within Poland to 1939. Return
Rovno (Pol. Równe), capital of Rovno oblast, Ukraine; under Poland until the First Partition (1793) and between the world wars. Return
Lutsk (Pol. Luck), city in Volhynia, Ukraine; until the end of the 18th century in Poland; under Russia until the end of World War I; between the two world wars again in Poland; and in 1939 taken by the U. S. S. R. Nazi Germany occupied Lutsk in 1941, and after World War II it became again part of the Soviet Union. Return
Kremenets (Pol. Krzemieniec), town in Volhynia, Ukraine. from 1944; under Lithuania until 1569; Poland-Lithuania until 1793; Russia until 1918, and again under Poland until 1939. Kremenets was occupied by Nazi Germany in June 1941. Return
Vladimir-Volynski (formerly Lodomira, Pol. Wlodzimierz; in Jewish sources: Lodmer, Ladmir, or Ludmir), city in Volhynia oblast, Ukraine. Return
American Jewish Joint American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (popularly known as the JDC and the “Joint”), organization founded on November 27, 1914, as the Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers, under the chairmanship of Felix M. Warburg. Return
TOZ (abbr. from the initials of Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej, "Society for the Safeguarding of the Health of the Jewish Population"), Jewish welfare organization officially founded in Poland in 1921. Return
CENTOS ("Federation of Associations for the Care of Orphans in Poland"), Polish organization for the care of orphans. Return
Yizhak Wittenberg  (Itzig; 1907–1943), first commander of the Jewish fighters' organization in the Vilna ghetto (F. F. A.). The fighters' organization was established in the ghetto after the Nazis systematically murdered more than 40,000 Vilna Jews, after transporting them to the site of the massacre at Ponary. Return
Kibbutzim (pl. of Kibbutz), larger-size communes constituting a settlement in Erez Israel based mainly on agriculture but engaging also in industry. Return
Youth Aliyah Aliyyat Yeladim va-No'ar; "Children and Youth Aliyah"), a branch of the Zionist movement founded for the purpose of rescuing Jewish children and young people from hardship, persecution, or deprivation and giving them care and education in Erez Israel. It is administered as a department of the Jewish Agency and supported by voluntary contributions. Return