During World War II, Polish children considered to be "racially valuable" were destined for Germanization. What was the fate of the others? Even the youngest ones were sent to camps and special centers, where they were either killed immediately or waited until they died due to lack of proper care. Will we ever know the extent of this crime?
When the leaders of the Third Reich decided that future Aryans could be recruited from among Polish children, the youngest inhabitants of the occupied Republic of Poland were subjected to strict selection. It was carried out, inter alia, as part of the General Eastern Plan, aimed at the Germanization of the conquered territories. The assessment of "racial value" was given in seemingly standard medical examinations.
Children and infants who passed the tests were taken from their parents, even by force, and destined for Germanization. In total, as Roman Hrabar estimated at the end of the 1950s, during the Second World War, up to 200,000 little Poles were subjected to this process . Among them were also the sons and daughters of Polish women workers who had been deported to the depths of the Reich for forced labor. Although the fate of these little ones was unenviable, they could still speak of happiness. At least compared to those that did not fit the Aryan pattern.
Children "for removal"
What awaited the latter? In the book You Are Germans Now. The Shocking Fate of Plundered Polish Children, writes Artur Wróblewski about it:
Categorized under "undesirable population growth". children were sent to forced labor in Germany , to extermination camps, which was tantamount to a death sentence, or simply murdered.
Polish workers were convinced that their children were taken into good care by showing them propaganda photos. Picture from the book “Now you are Germans. The shocking fate of stolen Polish children ”.
A terrible fate befell the "racially worthless" puppies from the Zamość region. During the displacement action, they, along with the rest of the population, were sent to transit camps. After the selection, as Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, who researched the history of Polish forced laborers and their children, tells us, "[them] were sent to a separate part of the camp, where they usually died due to insufficient care, malnutrition or hypothermia."
It also happened that the defenseless youngest were placed in ... abandoned stables. They died en masse of cold and hunger. Some of them were taken to an unknown destination in unheated cattle cars . "Most of them did not experience such a trip," explains Hodorowicz Knab. It is estimated that about 30,000 children and infants were displaced as part of the Zamość action alone. 10,000 of them died.
The workers 'children, in turn, were sent to special shelters or "care points for foreigners' children". How did these centers function? Their terrifying vision is pictured by Agnieszka Waś-Turecka, co-author of the book "Now you are Germans. The Shocking Fate of Plundered Polish Children ”:
The newborns have been exposed to harsh conditions designed to lead to their slow starvation, while being tormented to keep their mothers appearances. It was concluded that in the event of the immediate death of a child, the erratic reaction of women could reduce their motivation and productivity at work.
This is why diseases were invented to explain the death of children . The so-called "Hospitalismus" or a disease caused by allegedly poor sanitation and hygiene . The death certificates also include weakness or digestive disorders. This is obviously a cover - the root cause of deaths was starvation.
It was Heinrich Himmler himself who made the decision to treat non-Aryan children in this and no other way. In the regulation he issued, the term "abgeschoben" appears in relation to pregnant workers and their children. They are translated as "expelled" or even "removed". And this last term, at least according to Agnieszka Waś-Turecka, best reflects reality. "It was with this document that Himmler sentenced Polish (but not only) infants," he explains.
Sizes of the crime
The exact scale of the crimes committed against the youngest Poles is still unknown. We can guess that most of them were destined for final extermination. Screening tests of the Polish community, carried out in 1940 in Poznań, indicated that only 15-18 percent of the people affected can be considered racially "valuable" . Later documents mention only a slightly higher number, 20-25 percent.
About 15-18 percent of people belonging to the Polish community were considered racially valuable. The positively assessed children were taken from their parents. The photo shows the robbery of children in the Zamość region.
Reversing this statistic, it can be assumed that at least 75 percent of our compatriots - including children and infants - were considered "unworthy" of Germanization. In the opinion of the Nazis, they were fit for hard work at best.
A certain idea of how many of the youngest died as a result of the Nazis' actions is provided by data from some of the centers where they were held. The reports from one of the forced labor camps managed by the Krupp factory, located in Dinslaken near Essen, are terrifying. “ 50 or 60 babies died every day and as many were born every day because there was a constant flow of women from the East with their children, ”testified plant worker Ernst Wirtz during the Nuremberg trial. Earlier, he specified that it is about toddlers up to 2 years old.
We also know the situation in the center in Wąsosz, to which the children of workers from Lower Silesia were directed. By April 1945, at least 485 Polish children were sent there. Only 39 of them survived. More sad statistics are quoted in the book "Now you are Germans" by Agnieszka Waś-Turecka:
[…] in a maternity facility for Polish women and workers from the East in Braunschweig, about 400 of the 800 children died since May 1943, and Laberweinting has starved almost 60 percent. of babies born there, more than 40% in Voerde-West, in Rühen, 250-350 babies lost their lives, in Burgkirchen / Alz from March 1944, 152 children were killed, in Indersdorf near Dachau, every second child lost their lives, in the district of Verden ( centers in Cluvenhagen, Armsen, Beppen, Otterstedt, Eitze and Dörverden), about 130 infants died.
A memorial site dedicated to deceased infants is located, among others, in the cemetery in Braunschweig. Picture from the book “Now you are Germans. The shocking fate of stolen Polish children ”.
The same author adds that another hundreds of babies, whose fate is unknown, were born in a camp for pregnant women in Pfaffenwald. He also estimates that in total in the Third Reich there could have been up to 400 centers for the children of forced laborers . A large proportion of at least 40,000 boys and girls whose birthdays were registered during the war went to them. We can guess that there were actually many more of them. Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, on the other hand, assesses:
Evidence gathered by US and British troops after the end of the war clearly shows that nurseries and orphanages for foreigners were, in practice, deaths in which they died
Thousands, tens, hundreds of thousands?
The planned extermination of Polish infants deemed racially worthless claimed thousands or even tens of thousands of victims. Yet these were not all the children who lost their lives in connection with the "activities" of the Nazis.
Unfortunately, the number of toddlers who died in concentration camps is equally difficult to estimate . Just like the number of victims of pseudoscientific medical experiments, conducted, among others, at the "Medizinische Kinderheilanstalt" in Lubliniec in Upper Silesia or in a nursery in Cieszyn. Boys and girls aged eight months and over participated.
Many of the youngest Poles experienced a real ordeal in the children's camp in Łódź.
One should also not forget about the babies whose deaths were a direct result of hostilities. "It is impossible to say exactly how many of the estimated 200,000 victims of the two-month hell that Warsaw was in August and September 1944 were children," says American Holocaust historian Richard C. Lucas. "As Polish civilians were not evacuated before the uprising, it can be assumed that the number of deceased children was significant."
In total, it is estimated that about 2 million little Poles died during the war . This number is given by Artur Wróblewski, one of the authors of the book "Terazciecie Niemców". How many of them were not even a year old? We will probably never find out. But even rough judgments fully justify the wording that Lucas put in the title of his book. Hitler really did declare war on Polish children as well.