1939: Making Jews second-class citizens

german-police-officer-beard-shaving-zawiercie

A German policeman humiliates a Jewish man in Zawiercie [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT:

“A few months after the end of the Polish campaign, our region, Polish Upper Silesia, was annexed to the German Reich. Our town, which was always known by the Polish name Zawiercie, was renamed “Warthenau”. The Germans coerced all non-Jewish Poles to declare themselves “Volksdeutsche”2. The Germans pretended to them that they would rise to become the “Herrenvolk”3. Many groups resisted, especially members of the Polish socialist party, the PPS4, many of whom were arrested to break the resistance of the Poles. Above all the first new “Volksdeutschen” were Polish businessmen who displayed pictures of Hitler and swastikas in their windows. At the same time, Jews were forced under threat of heavy penalties, to wear white armbands with yellow stars on which the word “Jude” was imprinted. So we became marked people, second-class citizens.

On the orders of the Gestapo, the “Judenrat”5 was established in order to collect a substantial sum of money and to put several hundred men at the disposal of the German authorities each day for various jobs. I had to present myself for work every other day. We were busy washing the roads, cleaning the police stations, maintaining the stables for the horses, and also we had to undertake various transport tasks. Often there were insufficient numbers of people at the Judenrat’s disposal. Therefore the German police seized young men by force from their homes.”

2. Ethnic German 3. Master Race 4. The Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna, PPS) was one of the most important Polish left-wing political parties from its inception in 1892 until 1948. It was established again in 1987 and remains active.

Forced labourJudenratResistanceYellow starZawiercie
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