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September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland

Three witnesses report how they experienced the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939.

The following video shows excerpts from life story interviews with former forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners, two men from Lodz and a woman from eastern Poland. For them, as for many Polish witnesses in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945”, September 1, 1939 was the beginning of deportation, persecution and forced labor.
The video is in English and Polish with German subtitles.

September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland, Excerpts from the video interviews with Leon W. (Jewish concentration camp prisoner from Lodz, Poland), Bolesław Z. (former forced labor worker from Lodz, Poland) and Tosia S. (Jewish concentration camp survivor from eastern Poland), Archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945”, language: Polish with German subtitles, duration: 10:33 minutes, cut: Malte Luehrs, Tobias Kilgus, © Freie Universität Berlin 2010

September 1, 1939: Invasion of Poland

The Second World War began with the Wehrmacht invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. In just over a week the German military were at Warsaw. In accordance with the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the Red Army occupied eastern Poland. Poland was divided among the victors, Germany and the Soviet Union. German employment offices moved into Poland along with the Wehrmacht. The abduction of Polish men and women for compulsory forced labor in Germany began rapidly. Ghettos were established. Wartheland, West Prussia and the General Government became the scene of massacres and expulsion.

Biographical Information

Leon W., Jewish concentration camp prisoner from Lodz, Poland  

  • January 9, 1925: Born in Lodz

  • 1939: Arrival in Lodz Ghetto

  • 1944: Deported for forced labor to Czestochova, Poland

  • Subsequent deportation to Buchenwald and renewed forced labor for the Zahnradwerk G.E. Reinhardt at the camp Sonnenberg

  • 1945: Liberated by American troops, returns to Lodz

  • 1949: Emigration to New Haven, USA

Bolesław Z., Former forced laborer from Lodz, Poland

  • 1923: Born in Lodz

  • June 1940: First forced labor deportation to the Ruhrbergbau near Gelsenkirchen

  • June 1942: Occupational accident makes a return to Lodz possible.  Renewed compulsory forced labor

  • Until August 1944: Forced labor at AEG in Lodz.  Evacuated afterwards along with the company to Glatz in Silesia

  • March 1945: Second evacuation of the company to Thuringia.  Subsequent return to Lodz from Glatz

  • Active since the 1980s in the victims' association for former AEG forced laborers

  • 2000s: Participated in the project of the Berlin History Workshop “Between Lodz and Berlin. The fate of former forced labor workers”

  • July 4, 2007: Death of Bolesław Z.

Tosia S., Concentration camp survivor from eastern Poland

  • 1929: Born in Zaleski, Poland (currently in Ukraine)

  • 1935: Move to Horodenka, Poland (currently in Ukraine)

  • October 1941: Arrival in the Horodenka Ghetto

  • Spring 1943: Deportation to the labor camp Lisowice for forced labor in agriculture

  • March 28th, 1944: Liberated by the Red Army.  Subsequent short return to her home town

  • Until March, 1949: Stay in the American Sector of Germany.  Subsequent emigration to Peekskill, New York, USA

  • Interview za378 »

  • Length: 2 hours 8 minutes, Date: February 14, 2006, Language: English