Thursday, October 1, 2009
"Poland is not yet lost"
"Poland is not dead yet So long as we still live That which alien force has seized We at sabre point will retrieve." * By the 1st of October, 1939, Poland was an occupied country. Occupied not as France was occupied, or Belgium or Norway or Holland. Occupied as in savaged. Bombed beyond belief. Ruined. Brutally occupied. Polish citizens were shot without reason, without provocation. Civilians were as much the target of Nazi and Soviet brutality as the soldiers. Oh yes, by this time the USSR had invaded Poland as well. Even as Polish civilians were fleeing for their lives from the Germans, to the east, the Soviet Red Army kept its half of the agreement it had made with the Third Reich and crashed into Polish villages and cities on its eastern frontier. Thousands -- untold numbers well into the tens of thousands -- of Polish citizens were loaded onto trains and sent to Siberia. Did you know that? Didn't think so. A kind reader wrote to me yesterday, "Poland had it bad." Indeed. Crushed doesn't even begin to cover it. Warsaw was a mass of rubble, although not as ruined as it would be in the final Nazi campaign to level the city entirely in 1944. The Nazi regime intended to destroy, that is, wipe out, annihilate the Polish people to give room for good Aryans to expand, living room for Germans. A few Poles would be kept alive to provide slave labor. But the vast majority of Polish citizens were to be 'removed.' By the 1st of October, 1939, Polish boys and men had fled to the forests and begun forming up into rogue fighting units. The Polish Army held off the Germans for weeks longer than anyone could have ever imagined. Nazi forces suffered far greater losses than they had expected. But, finally, their overwhelming superiority of numbers and their tanks and trucks and other technological advantages had worn down the Polish Army and it was all but over, the initial blitzkreig, this first tragic chapter of the war. There was no Vichy style government in Poland. There were not Polish politicians and leaders who collaborated with the Nazis. But, in spite of all this, the Poles kept singing, "Poland is not yet lost..." Their national anthem, a defiant song if ever I heard one. "Poland is not dead yet," and by miracle and dogged determination and just plain cussedness, Poland was still alive at the end of the War. They lived to fight another day. *translation of the anthem largely from Norman Davies'.