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.
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.
Tomasz Szarota, 1939: Der Beginn des Zweiten Weltkrieges, Deutschlands Expansion und die Zerstörung des polnischen Staates, in: Stereotype und Konflikte. Historische Studien zu den deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen, hg. v. Zentrum für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und dem Deutsch-Polnischen Magazin DIALOG, Osnabrück 2010, S. 231-246
Jochen Böhler, Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg. Die Wehrmacht in Polen 1939, Frankfurt 2006
Erinnerung bewahren. Sklaven- und Zwangsarbeiter des Dritten Reiches aus Polen 1939-1945. Zachowac pamiec. Praca przymusowa i niewolnicza obywateli polskich na rzecz Trzeciej Rzeszy w latach 1939-1945. Zweisprachiger Ausstellungskatalog, hrsg. v. d. Stiftung Polnisch-Deutsche Aussöhnung und dem Dokumentationszentrum NS-Zwangsarbeit Berlin-Schöneweide, Warschau, Berlin 2007
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
Length: 2 hours 44 minutes, Date: October 2, 2005, Language: English
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.
Length: 2 hours 50 minutes, Date: June 20, 2005, Language: Polish
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
Length: 2 hours 8 minutes, Date: February 14, 2006, Language: English