SS personnel lead blindfolded Polish prisoners to an execution site near Warsaw.
Courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives (Photo #50649)
Following the German military defeat of Poland in September 1939, the Nazis launched a campaign of terror against the Poles, the predominantly Roman Catholic majority, whom they viewed as “subhumans.” German police units roved the country and executed thousands of Polish intellectuals, members of the clergy, and other civilians. Thousands were required to perform forced labor. In the lands vital to German expansion, hundreds of thousands of Poles were deported, replaced by ethnic Germans. Each of these measures was designed to wipe out Polish life and culture and to destroy Poland as a nation, making “living space” (Lebensraum) for the Germans. As a result, nearly every concentration camp had a sizable population of Polish inmates. The mortality rate for Polish prisoners was high. According to Franciszek Piper’s study, at least half of the estimated 140,000 Poles who were deported to Auschwitz perished in the camp, and all total, the Germans killed an estimated 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians.
In the face of Nazi brutality, Polish resistance was wide-spread. An underground state tried to maintain ties with the Polish government-in-exile. At great personal risk, individuals such as Jan Karski reported to the world the atrocities committed by the Germans. Others worked to rescue Jews, though the punishment for doing so was death. Polish partisans also supported Jewish resistance fighters, supplying them with arms, provisions, and information about the enemy. Nevertheless, a few recent scholarly works have renewed questions concerning active participation by some Poles in pogroms and atrocities committed against Jews. Consult the bibliography’s section on Polish-Jewish Relations for more information.
The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on Poles during the Holocaust that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Madajczyk, Czesław. “Poland: General Survey.” In Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, edited by Israel Gutman, 1143-1151. New York: MacMillan, 1990. (Reference D 804.25 .E527 1990 v.3) [Find in a library near you]
Chronicles the history of Poland between the two world wars and during the Holocaust. Discusses the German intention of destroying Poland as a nation. Examines the roles of the Polish church and clergy under German occupation and the activities of the Polish resistance movement.
Rossino, Alexander. “Destructive Impulse: German Soldiers and the Conquest of Poland.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 11 (1997): 351-365. (D 810 .J4 H6428 v.11) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the brutal invasion of Poland and the atrocities the German soldiers committed there against the civilian population. Quotes primary source materials, such as German soldiers’ letters and diaries.
Stola, Dariusz. “Early News of the Holocaust from Poland.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 11 (1997): 1-27. (D 810 .J4 H6428 v.11) [Find in a library near you]
Explores what became known about the Holocaust at the time that it was occurring and the role the Polish underground played in getting the news out to the rest of the world. Based on previously unresearched material from archives in Warsaw and London.
Irena Strzelecka. “Die ersten Polen im KL Auschwitz.” In Hefte von Auschwitz 18 (1990): 5-145. (D 805.5 .A96 Z4715) [Find in a library near you]
Chronicles the early history of Auschwitz concentration camp beginning in June 1940, when the first group of inmates, 728 Poles arrested for political reasons, arrived at the camp. Includes photographs, original documents, and a list of names of the prisoners. The Library also has the article in Polish under the title “Pierwsi Polacy w KL Auschwitz,” in Zeszyty Oświęcimskie 18 (1983), pages 5-144 (D 805.5 .A96 Z47).
Berenbaum, Michael. A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. New York: New York University Press, 1990. (D 804 .G4 M63 1990) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of essays first presented at a conference in 1987 on the Nazi persecution of non-Jewish groups. Includes chapters on the victimization of Poles and on the complex relationship between Slavs and Jews.
Hrabar, Roman, Zofia Tokarz, and Jacek Wilczur. The Fate of Polish Children During the Last War. Warsaw: Interpress, 1981. (D 810 .C4 H7213 1981) [Find in a library near you]
An account of the suffering of Polish children, Jewish as well as gentile, under German occupation. Features a wealth of historical photographs, including reproductions of German decrees and orders affecting Polish youth. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Kriegsschicksale polnischer Kinder.
Karski, Jan. Story of a Secret State. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1944. (D 810 .U6 K27 1944) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the author’s work as a courier for the Polish government-in-exile, including his arrest by the Gestapo and his clandestine visits to the Warsaw Ghetto. Published in 1944, prior to the War’s end.
Lukas, Richard. Did the Children Cry? Hitler’s War Against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939-1945. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994. (D 810 .C4 L82 1994) [Find in a library near you]
Focuses on the experiences of Polish children, Jewish as well as gentile, under German occupation. Organized into thematic chapters such as “Invasion,” “Deportations,” “Hiding,” “Germanization,” and “Concentration Camps.” Includes a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and several photographic images.
Lukas, Richard. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation, 1939-1944. New York: Hippocrene, 1997. (D 802 .P6 L85 1997) [Find in a library near you]
An account of the systematic persecution of the Polish nation and its residents by the German forces. Features extensive notes and a bibliography organized by type of source.
Lukas, Richard. Out of the Inferno: Poles Remember the Holocaust. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1989. (D 802 .P6 O88 1989) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of short first-person testimonies by Poles reflecting on their lives under German occupation. Includes a wide range of experiences, such as from Polish rescuers of Jews and members of the Polish underground movement, as well as from Poles who simply tell of their own struggle for survival.
Meinecke Jr., William F. Nazi Ideology and the Holocaust. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2007. (D 804.3 .N43 2007) [Find in a library near you]
Details Nazi ideology as applied to a variety of victim groups including political opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Poles and other Slavs, as well as German citizens of African and Roma descent or persons with physical and mental disabilities. Supplemented by excerpts of writings by perpetrators. Includes photographs, a bibliography, and an index.
Piper, Franciszek. Auschwitz: How Many Perished Jews, Poles, Gypsies. Krakow: [Poligrafia ITS], 1992. (D 805.5 .P6 P57 1992) [Find in a library near you]
Evaluates the scholarly methods used to calculate victim estimates, and provides total numbers for different victim groups killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including Poles. Originally published as an article in Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. XXI, Jerusalem 1991.
Rowinski, Leokadia. That the Nightingale Return: Memoir of the Polish Resistance, the Warsaw Uprising and German P.O.W. Camps. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999. (D 802 .P6 R6483 1999) [Find in a library near you]
A first-hand account of life in the Polish underground in occupied Warsaw and the failed uprising organized by the Polish Home Army. Recounts the author’s capture by the Germans, imprisonment, liberation, and eventual emigration to the United States. Includes family portraits and documents.
Wesolowska, Danuta. Wörter aus der Hölle: Die “lagerszpracha” der Häftlinge von Auschwitz. Kraków: Impuls, 1998. (PG 6830 .P74 W4715 1998) [Find in a library near you]
An analysis of the idioms and terminology used by Polish inmates in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Includes an extensive bibliography on Polish language and Poles in the concentration camps. The Library also has an edition in Polish under the title, Słowa z piekieł rodem: lagerszpracha (PG 6830 .P74 W47 1996).
Albin, Kazimierz, Franciszek Piper, and Irena Strzelecka. Księga Pamięci: Transporty Polaków z Warszawy do KL Auschwitz 1940-1944. Oświęcimiem: Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2000. (D 805.5 .A96 K78 2000) [Find in a library near you]
A three-volume set published by the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial place and museum. Contains a list of 25,964 Polish individuals deported to Auschwitz concentration camp by way of Pawiak prison and the Pruszków transit camp. Provides the following data for each entry: prisoner number, name, date and place of birth, occupation, nationality, and subsequent fate.
Polish-Jewish Relations ↑
Bartoszewski, Władysław. Righteous Among Nations: How Poles Helped the Jews, 1939-1945. London: Earlscourt Publications, 1969. (D 810 .R4 B265 1969) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of testimonies from Polish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Features many original documents, including transcripts and translations of German ordinances, as well as statements and reports issued by the Polish underground movement.
Borkowicz, Jacek, Israel Gutman, and William Brand. Thou Shalt Not Kill: Poles on Jedwabne. Warsaw: Tow. “Więź,” 2001. (DS 135 .P62 J448 2001) [Find in a library near you]
An anthology of articles by reporters, historians, and public figures published in Poland in response to the book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Confronts the issues of collective guilt and the extent of Polish responsibility for the atrocities committed in that town.
Gross, Jan. Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. (DS 135 .P62 J444 2001) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the slaughter of the 1,600 Jewish residents of the little Polish town of Jedwabne by their Polish neighbors. Uses survivor testimonies, postwar trial transcripts, and a memorial book, to review the days leading up to the pogrom and the pogrom itself. Includes photographs, maps, and extensive notes.
Korbonski, Stefan. The Jews and the Poles in World War II. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1989. (DS 135 .P6 K55 1989) [Find in a library near you]
Documents how the Polish resistance movement assisted Jewish ghetto fighters and sought to gain international support for its activities. Describes Jan Karski’s mission to inform the world about Nazi atrocities. Analyzes Polish-Jewish relations in Poland as well as abroad from a post-Holocaust perspective. Includes historical photographs. Written by a former leader of the Polish Underground State.
Kurek, Ewa. Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939-1945. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1997. (D 810 .J4 K8313 1997) [Find in a library near you]
Focuses on the hiding of Jewish children in convents throughout Nazi-occupied Poland. Features an introduction by Jan Karski, interviews with nuns and child survivors, a listing of women’s religious orders and their locations, a glossary, and a bibliography.
Polonsky, Antony, editor. ‘My Brother’s Keeper?’: Recent Polish Debates on the Holocaust. New York: Routledge/Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, 1990. (DS 135 .P6 M927 1990) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of fifteen essays, previously published in Polish journals in the late 1980s, on the question of Polish responsibility during the Holocaust. Also presents the transcript of a discussion held at the 1988 International Conference on the History and Culture of Polish Jewry exploring ethical issues of relating to the Holocaust in Poland. Includes an introduction by the editor and brief biographical statements about the contributors.
Ringelblum, Emanuel. Polish-Jewish Relations During the Second World War. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1992. (DS 135 .P6 R45 1992) [Find in a library near you]
A collection of the writings and reflections of Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-1944), historian of the Warsaw Ghetto. Records his reactions to events in the Ghetto, particularly as they inform his understanding of Polish-Jewish relations. Anticipates the public debate on the question of Polish responsibility during the Holocaust. Includes a foreword by renowned Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer discussing Ringelblum’s life and work.
Wood, Thomas. Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 1994. (D 802 .P6 W65 1994) [Find in a library near you]
Documents Karski’s efforts as courier for the Polish government-in-exile, including his arrest by the Gestapo and his clandestine visits to the Warsaw Ghetto. Features several photographs, a glossary of names, and a section of sources and notes.
Museum Web Resources ↑
Additional Resources ↑
Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files for newspaper and periodical articles:
- “Poland--History--Occupation, 1939-1945”
- “Poland--History, 1945-1950”
- “Poland--Jewish Relations”
To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials on Poles during the Holocaust, use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:
- Poland--Ethnic Relations
- Poland--Foreign Relations
- Poland--History--Occupation, 1939-1945
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