Monday, July 28, 2014

This Day In History: Stanislawow (Ivano-Frankivsk) was liberated on July 27, 1944

Stanislawow (Ivano-Frankivsk) was liberated on July 27, 1944

     The Soviet Red  Army liberated  Stanislawów (since 1962, Ivano-Frankivsk) on July 27, 1944, there were about one hundred Jews in the city who had survived in hiding. In total about 1,500 Jews from Stanislawów survived the war.

     According to the 1931 census there were 24,825 Jews (in a total population 72,350). On the outbreak of the Second World War  there were probably still about 25,000 Jews living in Stanislawów.

Stanislawow, Jewish forced labor

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This Day In History: Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive

Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive
Liberation and re-annexation of Western Ukraine (Eastern Gaicia)
July – August 1944

    The Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive or Lvov-Sandomierz Strategic Offensive Operation was a major Soviet Red Army operation to force the German troops from Ukraine and Eastern Poland. Launched in mid July 1944, in just under one month of fighting, the Red Army achieved their objectives.

    By the time that the Soviet Red Army entered Lwów (Lviv)  on July 27, 1944, only a few hundred Jews remained in the city. Number varies from 200 to 900 (823 according to data of Jewish Provisional Committee in Lwów, Polish: Tymczasowy Komitet Żydowski we Lwowie from 1945).

    Among its notable inhabitants was Chaim Widawski, who disseminated news about the war picked up with an illegal radio. Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal was one of the best-known Jewish inhabitants of Lemberg (Lwow, Lviv) Ghetto to survive the war (as his memoirs (The Executioners Among Us) indicate, he was saved from execution by a Ukrainian policeman), though he was later transported to a concentration camp, rather than remaining in the ghetto.​

Soviet Soldiers in Lviv, towards the end of July 1944 

This Day In History: Lwów (Lviv) Uprising

Lwów (Lviv) Uprising
 July 23 – July 27 1944

     The Lwów (Lviv) Uprising  was the armed struggle started by the Polish resistance movement organization Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) against the Nazi occupiers in the city of Lwów during the Second World War. It began on July 23, 1944 as a part of a plan of all-national uprising codenamed Operation Tempest. The uprising lasted until July 27 and resulted in liberation of the city. However, shortly afterwards the Polish soldiers were arrested by the Soviet Red Army, liberating the whole region, and were forced to join the Red Army or sent to the Gulags (forced labor camps). The city itself was again re-annexed to the USSR.​ 

Polish Resistance force in Lwow (Lviv) towards the end of July 1944

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Day in History: Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Aktions and anti-Jewish atrocities, July 13 – August 21, 1941

Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Aktions and anti-Jewish atrocities 
July 13 – August 21, 1941

    On July 25 1941, the Germans issued an order that all Jews were to relocate to the ghetto by the next day. In addition to all the Jews of Daugavpils, those assembled on July 26, were to be marched into the fortress, including Jews from Lithuania and from the area surrounding Daugavpils.

    Some had been forced to walk up to 50 kilometers. The Latvian guards enforced their commands by beating the workers with clubs that were four or five feet long. Among other things, Jews were beaten if they smiled upon recognizing another Jewish prisoner. Iwens, an eyewitness, reported that "many women had to cope with their children and aged parents all by themselves, for their men had been killed in the prison massacre."

    The precise number of victims is not clear. Iwens estimated there were 16,000 Jews living in Daugavpils and only 100 survived the Nazi occupation. Iwens does not draw a distinction between total deaths in the early shootings, the ghetto and the Kaiserwald concentration camp. Ezergailis calculates that about 28,000 Jews lived in Daugavpils and the Latgale district when the Nazi occupation began. Of these the Nazis killed about 20,000, of which 13,000 died in Daugavpils, and 7,000 in the smaller towns in the district.

On the photograph: Jews in Daugavpils ghetto, ca August 1941

Friday, July 25, 2014

This Day in History: Germans Capture the City of Mogilev

Germans Capture the City of Mogilev

     On the 26th July 1941 the Germans captured the city of Mogilev, a district capital in what is now Belarus. About 50% of the inhabitants were Jewish, part of an ancient community that dated back to the 14th century. The Germans undertook the usual ‘special measures’ against them – and in the early stages a German photographer was on hand to take a series of photographs for propaganda purposes.

     It appears that meanwhile the women and children were being evicted from their homes. These barefoot peasants were the ‘enemies of the Reich’. It is known that the Jewish community was at first ordered into the ghetto. However Einsatzgruppen ‘B’ soon arrived and began systematically shooting the entire Jewish population that remained in the town.

Jews from Mogilev on the way to forced labor, 1941. 
The photograph is form Bundesarchiv  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Day in History: Treblinka Extermination Camp began operations on July 23, 1942

Treblinka Extermination Camp began operations on July 23, 1942

     Treblinka was an extermination camp built by Nazi-German authorities in occupied Poland. It was located near the village of Treblinka in the modern-day Masovian Voivodeship north-east of Warsaw. The camp operated officially between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the most deadly phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that somewhere between 800,000 and 1,200,000 Jews died in its gas chambers, along with 2,000 Romani people.
     Managed by the German SS and the Eastern European Trawniki men (collaborators from the former prisoners of war and local population), the camp consisted of two separate units: Treblinka I and the Treblinka II extermination camp (Vernichtungslager). The first was a forced-labor camp (Arbeitslager) whose prisoners worked in the gravel pit or irrigation area and in the forest, where they cut wood to fuel the crematoria. Between 1941 and 1944, more than half of its 20,000 inmates died from summary executions, hunger, disease and mistreatment.

     The second camp, Treblinka II, was designed purely for extermination. A small number of men who were not killed immediately upon arrival became its Jewish slave-labor units called Sonderkommandos, forced to bury the victims' bodies in mass graves. These bodies were exhumed in 1943 and then cremated on massive open-air pyres along with the bodies of new victims. Gassing operations at Treblinka II ended in October 1943 following a revolt by the Sonderkommandos in early August. Several ethnic German SS guards were killed and some 200 prisoners managed to cross to the other side of the fence, although fewer than a hundred survived the subsequent chase. The camp was dismantled ahead of the Soviet advance. A farmhouse for a watchman was built on the site in an attempt to hide the evidence of genocide.

     In postwar Poland, the government purchased a large amount of land that had formed part of the camp, and a tall stone memorial was built there between 1959 and 1962. Treblinka was declared a national monument of Jewish Martyrology during an official ceremony held in 1964 at the site of the former gas chambers. Meanwhile, the first official German trial for war crimes committed at Treblinka was also held in 1964, with the former camp personnel first brought to justice at that time, some twenty years after the end of the war. The number of visitors coming to Treblinka from abroad began to increase significantly only after the end of communism in Poland in 1989. The new exhibition center located at the camp opened in 2006. It was later expanded and made into a branch of the Siedlce Regional Museum.

Treblinka extermination camp layout, reconstruction

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Day In History: The Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin was liberated by Soviet Red Army on July 23, 1944;

The Majdanek concentration camp in Lublin was liberated by Soviet Red Army on July 23, 1944; 
It was the first of many Nazi concentration camps to be liberated by the Allies.

     Only several hundred prisoners remained alive. In the days before the Soviets arrived, the Germans had hastily evacuated Majdanek and burned documents, several buildings, and the large crematoria. The gas chambers and many of the prisoner barracks remained intact. After visiting the Soviet-occupied camp in August 1944, W.H. Lawrence, a reporter for The New York Times, opened his article on Majdanek with the words, “I have just seen the most terrible place on the face of the earth,” and proceeded to describe the death camp’s operation. Because they came as the result of a Soviet liberation and there was no film documentation, these revelations were discounted. Only 10 months later, when photojournalists entered the concentration camps with Western troops, did the liberation of the camps receive worldwide attention.

Majdanek Concentration Camp Liberated