Archive for the ‘Poland’ Tag

SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES   Leave a comment

.

I have covered the circumstances of my granduncle Marek Korowicz’s escape from the Polish Delegation to the United Nations in 1953 in this previous post. Below Marek tells the story in his own words. He was called to give testimony before a specially-convened sub-committee of the Committee on Un-American Activities,  a week after his arrival in New York to take up the position of President of the Sixth Committee (Legal) of the United Nations General Assembly. Of course, he never occupied that post, denouncing his credentials and condemning the Polish and Soviet governments.

.

 the last chief of the Polish Underground at the Radio Free Europe press conference regarding Marek's seeking political asylum in the US. (Photo by Peter Stackpole//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

19th September 1953 Dr. Marek Stanislaw Korowicz (R) talking to Stefan Korboński (the last chief of the Polish Underground) before the press conference announcing his appeal for political asylum in the US. (Photo by Peter Stackpole//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

.

The content and format of Marek’s testimony are very much a reflection of the heightened tensions, mutual mistrust, and fatalism which characterized the Cold War. This is only six months after Joesph Stalin’s death. The Soviet Union, enigmatic, despotic and a recent ally, is  the subject of foreboding speculation on the part of the US government. Marek is quizzed on topical matters behind the Iron Curtain. What has happened to Beria, who seemed poised to replace Stalin but now has disappeared? What is the state of the USSR’s atomic programme? Do they have a hydrogen bomb? The questions and answers in a general sense would not be out of place in a Hollywood screenplay, a familiarity which in retrospect downplays the high stakes of the era. Marek had certainly placed himself in considerable danger. His protection was precisely the public fora in which he told his story, not just here at US Federal buildings, but in the press conferences and radio broadcasts he gave throughout this period. The fact that he was a professor of international law and had worked extensively as a diplomat before the second world war, lent his testimony greater impact. The details he employs to compare the standard of living and civil freedoms between East and West – the number of cars, television sets, the presence of Soviet military garrisons throughout the satellite states, the role of the Catholic Church, and the propaganda battle between state broadcasters and the Voice of America- are born out of the experiences of an inveterate opponent of foreign control (he was among other things a veteran of the 1920 Polish-Soviet War) and are conveyed with professorial exactness.

The benefit of hindsight may soften somewhat the atmosphere of impending doom which no doubt percolated the era, when it was considered not only conceivable but even logical to destroy the world in order to save it from itself. And yet there is still something haunting in the attribution of the Katyń massacres to Nazi Germany by the House Un-American Activities Committee Chairman Harold Velde in the following exchange:

.

Dr. KOROWICZ. It must be well understood that the Polish people keep in their minds today a vivid memory of all the Hitlerite atrocities committed by these Germans. Six million Poles were savagely butchered. But in spite of this the Polish people would like to live in peace and in definite peace with their neighbouring German populations.

Mr. VELDE. You are referring to the butchering of the Poles by the Hitlerites. I wonder if you are referring there to the Katyń Forest massacre?

Dr. KOROWICZ. With respect to Katyń, Mr. Chairman, the opinion in Poland is almost unanimous that the assassination and murder of so many Polish officers was a guilty deed performed by the Russians and not by the Germans.

.

Of course, the families of the 22,000 Polish prisoners, executed in 1940 on the orders of Stalin and the Politburo, would have to wait until 1990 when Gorbachev admitted the coverup. There was a grotesque Orwellian pantomime in the methods used by the Soviet Union to turn their own self-documented crime into that of the Germans, from the ludicrous “Special Commission for Determination and Investigation of the Shooting of Polish Prisoners of War by German-Fascist Invaders in Katyn Forest” via the Nuremberg Trials right down to today when many of the copious volumes of files about Katyń in the Russian archives still remain sealed. It would indeed be strange that Chairman Velde would categorize in error  Katyń as a Nazi crime when only the previous year the Congressional Investigation known as the Madden Committee concluded that Soviets were indeed the culprits. It is for rhetorical effect, and moreover, to have the Polish defector make the accusation himself.

.

Anyway, over to Marek and the Committee members, and some old-fashioned Cold War drama:

.

Marek Committee UAA

Marek as star witness before Special House Committee on Communist Aggression

.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1953

.

UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE

ON UN-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES,

Washington, D.C.

.

PUBLIC HEARING

.

The subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities met, pursuant to call, at 10.40 a.m. in the caucus room, 362 Old House Office Building, Hon. Harold H. Velde (chairman) presiding.

Committee members present: Representatives Harold H. Velde (chairman), Gordon H. Scherer, and James B. Frazier, Jr.

Staff members present: Robert L. Kunzig, counsel; Frank S. Tavenner, Jr., counsel; Louis J. Russell {trivia: who may later have been the sixth Watergate burglar}, chief investigator; Raphael I. Nixon, director of research; George E. Cooper, investigator.

Mr. VELDE. Will the witness please rise. Dr. Korowicz, in the testimony you are about to give before this subcommittee of the House of Representatives, do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?

Dr. KOROWICZ. Yes. I do.

Mr. VELDE. Proceed, Mr. Counsel.

Mr. KUNZIG. Dr. Korowicz, would you describe to the committee what event transpired on September 1 of this year, just a few weeks ago?

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

DRAŻA THE SERBIAN CHETNIK IN THE POLISH UNDERGROUND   3 comments

.

What follows is the story of Dragan Mihajlo Sotirović, a figure known little outside Poland and Yugoslavia. A Serbian Captain who made a vital contribution to the efforts of the Polish Home Army in South-Eastern Poland during World War II. There is surprisingly little material available. It was certainly in the interests of the Communist Polish authorities and the Soviet Union to write him out of the history books of the Second World War.  And Tito, whom he met when both were guerilla fighters (and political opponents), would tar all chetniks with the collaborationist brush. There is a cinematic wholesomeness to his character, in the recollections of his friends and soldiers, so much so that I am still searching for Ukrainian, Yugoslav, or Soviet sources which might describe him as an enemy. The information here comes from Polish sources, including Jerzy Węgierski’s histories of Home Army operations in Lwów and Rzeszów, from Draża’s own memoir Europe for Sale (L’Europe aux enchères. Paris. 1952), written in French immediately after the war, as well as the recollections of my father, who fought under his command in the 14th regiment of Jazłowiecki Lancers.

.

Draza 5

Dragan Mihajlo Sotirović (1912-1987)

.

.

From 1941, “Draża”, as he was known, fought as a chetnik in the Yugoslav Army, in the Ravna Gora Movement, where he served as the adjutant of General Dragoluba Mihalović, the royalist general and staunch enemy of Yugoslavia’s future leader, Joseph Broz Tito. He was captured by the Germans and transferred to a prison in Rawa Ruska, on formerly Polish territory. But his captors would underestimate his love of freedom. Draża was to make of escape a professional art. He escaped once from the Germans, three times from the Soviets, and avoided arrest countless times. Everyone seemed to have had a bounty out on his head at one time or another – Germans, Soviets, and the Ukrainain Insurrectionary Army.

Read the rest of this entry »

BEAR NECESSITIES   1 comment

.

78165691_Bear_249213c

Wojtek liked nothing better than a beer and a smoke

.

For the many Polish soldiers who fled to Britain after the war, in order to escape Stalin’s ill intentions, Wojtek the bear became a poignant symbol of their fate. An orphaned bearcub, who travelled far from his Persian home, who fought in a great battle on foreign soil, and who ended up not only an exile, but an inmate at Edinburgh Zoo – the story resonated with the Polish diaspora in post-war Britain. My father (also Wojtek and also newly landed on Scottish soil after years of fighting) once went to visit his namesake the Soldier Bear with some regimental buddies. When they shouted over the cage to him, this kind-hearted ursine wonder perked up immediately. Everyone said he best understood Polish for that was the language of his youth, and acted much like a soldier, for that was the life he had led.

.

Wojtek bear 7

.

.

POLISH RESETTLEMENT CORP

Wojtek the Soldier Bear and thousands of Polish soldiers followed the same route to Britain. On 22nd May 1946, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin announced the creation of the Polish Resettlement Corp, which was a holding unit for the Polish forces who had fought for the Allies and didn’t wish to return to Poland. 160,000 qualified and 115,000 joined. Many soldiers brought family members with them and over 200,000 Poles eventually moved to Britain. They signed up to the Corps on a two-year contract, were paid British Armed Forces rates, and could avail of various opportunities for training and tuition. They could also be hired out to private contractors, and thus gain work experience. My father would do a stint in a pipe factory in Derby with a whole platoon of Poles. They transported the soldiers to Britain by ship. Ship after ship made this voyage, what would become the final stage of the exodus of Poles, the last shore.

.

Wojtek Edinburgh

.

.

PRIVATE BEAR

Wojtek was a most extraordinary soldier, and an even more remarkable bear. ‘Private Bear’, of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, was a beer-swigging, cigarette-smoking Syrian Brown Bear. He had been found by a shepherd boy in Hamadan, Iran. The bear’s mother had been killed by hunters. The boy sold the cub to some Polish soldiers traveling through the desert.  In 1942, the Polish Army was assembling in the Middle East, after Stalin, his hand forced by Operation Barbarossa, had agreed to allow all Poles on Soviet territory (i.e. prisoners) to leave in order to form the Polish II Corp (see Sikorski-Mayski Agreement). The soldiers looked after the little cub, weaning him on condensed milk, and Wojtek became the Company mascot. He traveled with the army through Iraq and Palestine to Egypt.

.

Wojtek Bear 2

. Read the rest of this entry »

UNCLE MAREK ESCAPES FROM COMMUNIST POLAND   2 comments


 

Uncle Marek (Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt- LIFE)

 

“Just before dawn one day last week, a greying, carefully dressed man left his twelfth-floor room in Manhattan’s Chatham Hotel, where he was staying with the other members of Communist Poland’s U.N. delegation. Suitcase in hand, he tiptoed down the fire stairs to the ninth floor, then took the elevator to the lobby. He left the hotel, went to the phone booth in an all-night restaurant nearby and dialed a Manhattan number. After a short conversation in Polish, he left the restaurant and hailed a taxi. In this manner, Dr. Marek Korowicz, 50, professor of international law at Cracow University and the top legal adviser to the delegation, made his way out from behind the Iron Curtain.”

TIME, September 22nd, 1953

.

My father who escaped from Lwów in summer 1945 was living in Ireland three years later.  From time to time, he still received a surprise from the world beyond the Iron Curtain. His father’s brother Marek was supposed to be stuck lecturing in Kraków (while privately cursing the Polish authorities). And now the newspapers were suddenly full of his photo next to the revelation: POLISH UN DIPLOMAT SEEKS POLITICAL ASYLUM IN US. It seemed incongruous to Wojtek that Uncle Marek, a congenial academic who had worked as a law professor and diplomat before the war, was suddenly the epitome of Cold War daring. Not that Marek was lacking in the political and military credentials befitting an anti-Communist hero (so much craved in the West); it was simply the fact that Marek was, well, ‘Uncle Marek.’

Marek, who made his reputation in the field of sovereignty in international law, worked in the Upper Silesian Voivodship between 1929-39.[1]  When the war broke out, he first fled east (visiting my father and grandparents briefly in Lwów), before escaping through Romania and making his way to France. There he joined the Polish 5th Rifle Regiment and fought with the French Army until its surrender. He later joined the intellectual underground, producing books and pamphlets denigrating the rise of fascism and communism alike. In 1946, he returned to Poland as a much-needed professor, accepting the Soviet-backed government’s assurances that the educational system would be untouched by political interference. It didn’t take him long to realize he was trapped. He worked as professor and dean at the Law Dept. in Katowice University, and was an associate professor at the Warsaw and Lublin Universities, before moving back to his alma mater, the Jagiellonien University in Kraków. He knew he would never leave if he actively opposed the Communist regime and saw, like many Polish academics, the value of saving the minds of young Poland, by working within the system. He avoided all contact with Party activities, taught a prescribed syllabus, put up with the classroom spies who reported on his lectures, and then gathered the best of his pupils after hours and lectured the unexpurgated version of international law.

Marek is best remembered for his escape from Poland in 1953. His achievement was as much in the manner of his escape as in the result itself. He can rightly claim to have single-handedly wiped the smiles off the faces of the Soviet and Polish Delegations at the United Nations General Assembly; and there are photos to prove it. He could not have found a more public forum to expose many of the fantasies the Soviets proselytised in the West about the earthly paradise they claimed was Communism.

.

Marek announcing his defection before the world’s media. Photographer:Peter Stackpole LIFE

.

Marek was handed his moment of destiny when Poland was awarded the rotating chairmanship of the UN Legal Committee of the General Assembly in 1953. Polish Head of Delegation Juliusz Katz-Suchy, was forced to bolster the weak legal skills of his Communist diplomatic cadre with a genuine specialist. And when Marek was summoned, he thought they had made a mistake; they never allowed non-Party members out unless they had at least a family member to hold hostage in the country. He was divorced and had no children. Only on the eve of the delegation’s departure did Foreign Minister Skrzeszewski discover the oversight, but it was already too late and they obviously decided to take the risk. The delegation traveled to France to take the transatlantic crossing on the aptly named Liberté. Until the last moment, Marek had to endure the innate distrust and suspicions of delegate colleagues. His suitcase was searched, his movements watched. All the delegates were told when they reached America not to engage the capitalists in conversation and Marek was scolded by Katz-Suchy for talking to the elevator attendant at the Chatham Hotel, in New York. It was from there that he made his escape. He walked out in the fresh Manhattan morning air, and enjoyed the exhilaration of freedom, which he had not felt since before his return to Poland in 1946. He phoned Stefan Korboński (who himself had fled Poland five years previously), and within a short time Uncle Marek was the breaking news amidst headlines which spread throughout the Western World. POLISH DIPLOMAT FLEES RED TERROR. REVEALS HORROR OF COMMUNIST SYSTEM. THE BIGGEST FISH WE HAVE EVER CAUGHT. He informed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold and President of the General Assembly Madame Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of his decision to renounce his credentials, saying that it was ‘absolutely impossible for me to collaborate with these representatives—not of my beloved country—but solely of the Soviet regime in Poland.’ Marek was put under 24-hour FBI protection. Assassination was a real threat and The Chicago Tribune claimed that ‘at least 18 known agents of Russia or Red satellite nations carry guns’ on the streets of New York while claiming diplomatic immunity.[2] It was the height of McCarthyism; within a week of his arrival in the US, he was testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was detailed and blunt, warning of Communist expansionism, through political and industrial espionage. He urged the breaking off of all diplomatic and trade relations with the Soviet Union as the best method of checking the spread of Communism.

.

Marek (Left) speaking on Radio Free Europe with Stefan Korboński (Right) Photo

.

Those newspaper headlines and interviews from New York to Hobart, reveal the polarization of a political and social feud which would frame the lives and deaths of the following two generations: IF I WERE A DIPLOMAT FOR THE WEST…, POLE ALLEGES RUSSIAN WORLD PLOT. REDS HOPE FOR WORLD CONQUEST BY 1970 OR 1980, POLE TELLS: WHY I QUIT THE REDS. Marek’s defection was emblematic of an intrigue becoming of the danger and suspense which were fast becoming the hallmarks of Cold War politics, when America’s wartime ally became its peacetime foe. Since the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union and United States firmly staked out the citadels of their prospective empires on the map of the world. Starting in Europe, and as agreed at Yalta and Potsdam, the line went from the Baltic Sea, through defeated Germany down to the Dalmatian Coast. Stalin’s ruthlessness in violently suppressing any notion of independent rule in Eastern Europe by producing his own local Communist governments backed by Soviet tanks, was as foreboding to the Americans as it was disastrous to the peoples of Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Albania. If the trial of the leaders of the Polish Underground on charges of terrorism in 1945 and the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948 demonstrated the unrefined but effective tactics of Soviet expansionism, then the American and British reaction to the Berlin Blockade showed to what extent the Western Allies were willing to go in order to check the Soviet advance. When Truman and Atlee could no longer deny that abandoning the little Europeans of the East to the whims of Stalin would never be enough to ensure a secure and cooperative Soviet Union, then perhaps there was a brief moment of opportunity for bolstering the independence movements of the smaller nations. But that final window, a chance to prevent fifty years of proxy wars, only lasted from May 12th1949, when the red-faced Soviets lifted the blockade from Berlin, until August 29th when a 22 megaton Atomic bomb was exploded in a testing ground in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan. With the Soviets now content members of the atomic club, the Cold War would change gear and move further afield to test its participants’ will for a fight.

.

Head of Polish Delegation Juliusz Katz-Suchy breaks the news of Marek’s defection to USSR Delegation Chief Malik (LIFE)

.

In exile, Marek was granted asylum and offered the post of Professor of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He continued to publish books on legal issues and an autobiographical account of life in Communist Poland. He died in 1964 still missing his favourite Tatras. He was a keen mountaineer and had been a founding member of the Katowice Mountaineering Club. The villain of the story, Head of Delegation Juliusz Katz-Suchy, who played unflattering foil to Marek’s knight of anti-communism, was himself not immune to the vagueries of politics. As a UN representative, his colourful invective had already made him a favourite of journalists ‘who noted he even spiced his Marxist denunciations of the U.S. as warmonger, slavemaster and cannibal with quotations from Shakespeare.’[3]  In a LIFE magazine article on Marek’s defection, the caption beneath Katz-Suchy’s image reads: “Boss of delegation was a vain braggard, Juliusz Katz-Suchy. The author [Marek] was impressed by the fact his ignorance was matched only by his ill breeding. On his way over, French food did not satisfy him.” Katz-Suchy’s communist credentials which had once conferred upon him the privileges of power would not protect him from the anti-Zionist campaign in Poland, which followed 1967’s Six Day War. He felt forced to emigrate to Denmark in 1969, and died, like Marek, in exile.

As for Marek, the pleasure of living in a country where he could express his opinions openly was tainted by his separation from the land he loved and wished to be. When he described his defection and posed himself the question the journalists had asked, whether he had done so out of some sense of patriotic heroism or self preservation, he answered:

“It was neither. I had to do it simply because I couldn’t sit down with people who in Poland are considered Soviet agents, oppressors of the nation, and some, even murderers. I had to do it because if I sat down with these people in the “Polish” foreign delegation, after returning home, my best friends, old buddies from different walks of life and of a common struggle, would avoid me, and perhaps not even shake hands with me. For honest Poles, I would have become a regime man and that carries the most terrible stigma. That’s why I had to leave everything I had, leave behind the dearest people, and abandon my students.”

—————————————————————————————————————-



[1] The Polish-administered part of the territory of Silesia, disputed by Poles, Germans, and Czechs. Following uprisings of Poles in German-occupied Silesia in 1919-21, the German-Polish Accord on East Silesia saw shared sovereignty and relative peace until 1939.

[2] Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1953, sec.1. p.2.

[3] The Unhappy Shakespearean, TIME, Monday Dec 29, 1952

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,822547,00.html#ixzz1wLWzqjOh

 

Read Marek’s ‘I Escaped to Speak for the Enslaved’. LIFE, March 1, 1954


EDUCATION IS DANGEROUS   3 comments

Education is dangerous – every educated person is a future enemy.”

Hermann Goering

.

THE PROFESSORS OF LWÓW

.

 


It is a strange thing to investigate the murder of one’s own family. Although it happened some seventy years ago, long before my birth, I am familiar with some of the effects of my grandfather’s murder.  There are generational ripples still emanating from this tragic stone cast into the social pond of my father’s youth.

.

My grandfather, Dr. Henryk Marian Korowicz, professor of economics and rector of Lwów’s Foreign Trade Academy, was executed in the early hours of 12th July 1941, by a Nazi Einsatzgruppe. Much has been written about the murder of Lwów’s professors as well as subsequent attempts to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.  My father Wojtek  was fifteen years old when his father was taken from him. He saw the car pulling off as he returned home from the market and knew something wasn’t right. Only when he entered the house was he told:  ‘They’ve taken your tatush.’

.

.

“YES, IT SOUNDS CRUEL, BUT THAT’S LIFE.”

.

The Germans entered Lwów with a plan. The executor of this plan was SS Brigadenführer Dr Eberhard Schöngarth, head of the Security Police in the Nazi Generalgouvernement.[1]  He lectured at the infamous Security Police Academy Bad Rabka, known locally as ‘Death’s Head Resort,’ south of Kraków. He was already known to the professors of Lwów with horror. Schöngarth had been one of those responsible on November 6th 1939 for rounding up their colleagues in Kraków and dispatching them to concentration camps. This was an essential part of Nazi military protocol.

.

Germans Enter Lwow June 30th 1941 (German Newsreel)

.

There were at least four massacres which took place before during and after the German occupation of Lwow. The NKVD Prison Massacres refer to the mass killing of Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarussian prisoners by the Soviet NKVD, following the German invasion of the USSR on June 22nd 1941. Two Lwów Pogroms took place; the first when the Germans occupied the city  from 30 June to 2 July 1941 and a second during 25–29 July 1941. They involved attacks on Jews by German Einsatzgruppen and Ukrainian militia. The fourth massacre was the execution of twenty five professors along with members of their families and guests by German Einsatzgruppen. This massacre took the life of my grandfather and is the one described here.

SS Brigadenführer Dr Eberhard Schöngarth, Nazi Security Police Chief , commander of Einsatzgruppe ZbV, and architect of Henryk’s murder.

Special units, Einsatzgruppen (Action Squads), had been created which travelled with the Army, and carried out the sensitive task of identifying and disappearing the intelligentsia, mopping up high level political opponents and preparing the ground for Nazi administration. Schöngarth was in charge of his own Einsatzgruppe (zbV). Other Einsatzgruppen, such as ‘C’, under the command of Dr. Otto Rasch, also played the shadowy hand of executioners in the first days of Lwów’s capture. These special units carried out their carefully planned social interventions according to a malicious maxim: a community without its leaders is easier to enslave. The Einsatzgruppen were devised by Heinrich Himmler himself, and were led by senior SS and Gestapo officers; they were officially above any judicial inquiry, answering only to the Reichsfürher. Even before they arrived, they had begun to fill the proscription list for Lwów, assembling information from informers, prisoners, and, more prosaically, the telephone directory and Who’s Who in Central and East Europe 1933-34, in order to identify the pillars of society, the well-educated, and the civic-minded. Once inside the city, Schöngarth and his men began their assault on culture, society and the mind. The overriding plan was intellecticide. Of course, the strategy is nothing new, but, sadly, never seems to get old. Hitler, in a famous speech, identified the necessity of this crime for the functioning of his own world vision:

.

“The Poles can have only one master – the Germans. You can’t have two masters and there ought not to be two masters. Therefore, all representatives of the Polish intelligentsia must be destroyed. Yes, it sounds cruel, but that’s life.”

.

.

THE LOOTING DUTCHMAN

.

Pieter Menten, during the war in SS uniform. The ‘Looting Dutchman,’ made a fortune out of the art and antiques he pilfered from those he helped execute, including the Lwów Professors. He wasn’t imprisoned until 1980, and served six years of a ten year sentence for murdering Jewish villagers in 1941.

The first to fall victim was one of Henryk’s friends, former Polish Prime Minister and Professor of the Technical University, Kazimierz Bartel. He would remain in detention for the next three weeks, after which he was disappeared. The others wouldn’t last as long.  On the night of July 3rd to 4th, between 10pm and 2 am, they arrived at the professors’ houses with orders to arrest the professors and, like the Angel of Death collecting ripe cargo for eternal dispatch, any male over the age of eighteen found in their houses. While the inhabitants were questioned, other members of the arrest team confiscated any easily-pocketable loot, such as money, watches, and gold jewellery, while a note was made of any decent antiques or paintings which could be pilfered later. The intestate property of those who were about to die could be attained with the right connections, once death certificates could be produced. The Dutch lumber merchant and art collector Pieter Nicolaas Menten played a significant role in identifying the best antiques and paintings in Lwów. He had lived in South-Eastern Poland since the 1920’s and knew many of the professors, as well as art dealers, businessmen and politicians. Before the war, he became a naturalised Pole, as well as the Dutch Honorary Consul to Kraków. When the Germans invaded, he saw an opportunity for self-advancement. He offered his services to the SS as an adviser/interpreter, was given the rank of SS Hauptscharfuhrer and was put in charge of administrating Jewish art and antiques. He apparently advised the Einsatzgruppen to put prominent citizens, whose possessions he coveted, onto the death lists. While the possessions of the dead were supposed to be sent back to Berlin, he seems to have had some sort of private deal agreed with Schöngarth, and his subordinate in the security services, Capt. Hans Krueger, to shift part of these valuables into their own pockets. Menten eventually returned to Holland, in 1943, with Schöngarth’s assistance and a private train filled with art seized from his executed victims. When Schöngarth himself was later transferred to Holland, the two men remained in cordial contact. There, Menten remoulded himself as an art dealer after the war. Although he served eight months in prison in 1948 for serving as a Nazi interpreter in uniform, he was only brought to justice and put on trial for murder in 1976, after he had put the contents of his Amsterdam apartment up for auction and the provenance of his objets d’art drew attention to his shadowy past. He eventually served six years of a ten year sentence for the mass killing of Jews in the Stryj Valley. He was unrepentant to the last, claiming in court he had been promised immunity from prosecution by a deceased former Minister for Justice, on condition that he kept a secret file on the collaboration of Dutch officials with the Third Reich buried. When he was released from prison, in 1985, he decided to evade the spotlight of public opinion and retreat to his mansion in Ireland, but by then his reputation was already too tarnished and the Irish government refused him entry because of his war crimes.[2]  He died in Holland in 1987.

.

COMPLY AND YOUR FAMILIES ARE SAFE’

.

The Einsatzgruppen didn’t mention to those they were taking away what was going to happen to them. They had their ways, developed through experience, on how to create the maximum efficiency and the least commotion when forcing a man, men, or whole families to vacate their houses and come with them into the night. Don’t worry. It’s just some routine questioning. You’ll be back by morning. They were taken to a makeshift interrogation centre, which, ironically, was housed in an academic institution, on Abrahamowicz Street. Here men and women, educated and respected in their community, were harassed and harangued for all things imaginable. All of the professors could be accused of collaborating with the Bolsheviks, as indeed could any citizen of Lwów who had lived through the Soviet occupation. However, the interrogation was mostly routine, for the sentences were a given. They weren’t interested in beating information out of these custodians of knowledge and tradition. The Nazi theory of civil administration had different priorities. While the professors and family members were made stand against a wall, awaiting individual interrogation, they were insulted and beaten. One unfortunate man, an engineer by the name of Adam Ruff suffered an epileptic fit. A Gestapo officer shot him on the spot. Ruff had had the misfortune to be with his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Stanisław and Anna Ruff, visiting a family friend, Professor Ostrowski, when the Germans came. The Ruff family wasn’t on the Germans’ list but they were arrested nonetheless. Later, his body, carried by his colleagues, was placed in the same pit on Wulecka Heights where the bodies of the Professors, shot four at a time, collapsed and fell. They were executed in the early hours of the morning when the curfew was still in operation. But despite the precaution, witnesses on Nabielak St. and Małachowski St. could see this gruesome scene played out again and again, as group after group make their final walk to a hole in the ground on a scrap of wasteland on a hillside. They were ordered to stand before the hole facing a line of soldiers. . They were then ordered to remove their hats. They always ordered those whom they were about to shoot to remove their hats. The reason was not to sanctify the unholy act but rather to make the head shots count. There was no mercy on the part of the firing squad and probably little thought of rebellion on the part of the victims. The Einsatzgruppen had a way of dealing with their captives, a process of execution which minimized any fuss. The professors, even though there were veterans among them, were not young. They were not armed, nor dressed for war. They were hidden from their compatriots who might have been able to help them. They were alone. Perhaps they did consider giving their executioners something to remember. And then perhaps they thought of their wives, their children, their parents, of what might happen in reprisal. That is most likely what the killers said to them at the outset. Comply and your families are safe.

.

ROMAN SHUKHEYVICH

.

Roman Shukheyvich, military commander of the Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army (UPA) and the Nachtigall (‘Nightingale’) Battalion, a SS Ukrainian unit.

While Schöngarth’s Einsatzgruppe was behind the round-up, the firing squad may have included several members of the Ukrainian Gestapo. Later, during a Soviet trial (whose instigation had overtly political motives) the Ukrainian SS Nightingale Battalion was implicated in the murder of the professors. The issue of Ukrainian-Nazi collaboration continues to haunt Ukrainian-Polish relations and it is not surprising to see historical evidence at times being muted to the benefit of insinuation or manipulated by false accusations and even show-trials. Suffice it to say, we know more or less the Germans involved in the murder of the professors, but we don’t know which, if any, Ukrainians aided or attended, or took part in the murders. Even those who agree on the complicity of members of the Nightingale Battalion and their military commander Roman Shukheyvich, have different opinions on whether members took part in an official capacity, as representatives of a more extremist sub-group, or, indeed, as individuals.  Among his supporters, Shukheyvich remains a champion of national resistance, who did what he did, playing the hand he was dealt, with the goal of creating an independent Ukraine. Among his detractors, his realization of that new Ukraine promoted a narrow vision of ethnic exclusivity which undoubtedly contributed to the persecution and execution of tens of thousands of civilians in the balancing of a racial equation.  Of course, not only are the guilty rarely forthcoming with admissions of guilt but the multivectored re-telling and branding of history as myth has consciously and unconsciously served to fan political and ethnic schisms.

.

.

.

DEATH AND EXILE

.

Professor Bartel, the first of the Lwów professors to be arrested was the last to be murdered. As a former Polish Prime Minister, he may have been kept alive by virtue of being seen as a possible figurehead for a Nazi puppet government. He had been in negotiations previously with the Soviets, a sign of his political value. He was sentenced to death on July 26th. Much later, Die Welt claimed that unearthed Nazi documentation indicated that Professor Bartel had refused to collaborate with the Germans and was executed on Hitler’s direct orders. Dr. Schöngarth no doubt executed his master’s order. With Bartel now dead, Dr. Schöngarth, the architect of all these murders, moved into the Professor’s house on Herburtów Street. Bartel’s wife and daughter had been evicted the night he was first arrested.

With the murder of the Lwów professors, their families and friends, a significant part of the culture and society of Lwów also died. They were chosen precisely because they were eminent scholars, surgeons, and civic leaders. The Nazi philosophy sought to eliminate any figureheads, rallying points around whom the population might gather. They hoped thus to speed up the process of enslavement. Before the Russians, and, then, the Germans, came, Lwów had been a vibrant and distinguished academic and cultural centre. Lwów of the 1930’s was famous for its scientists, writers and mathematicians.  There were many luminaries. Some died, some were murdered, and some left Lwów in the years immediately prior to the war and so survived: Ludwig von Mises, one of the most influential economists of the 20th Century; his brother, Richard von Mises, mathematician and aero-dynamist; Stanislaw Marcin Ulam, one of the principle creators of both the Atom bomb and the Hydrogen bomb; his brother Adam Bruno Ulam, who would become America’s leading Sovietologist. Lwów was a city fertile with creativity. There the mathematicians Stefan Banach, Juliusz Pawel Schauder, Hugo Steinhaus, Mark Kac, Kazimierz Kuratowski, and Karol Borsuk flourished, the nucleus of an informal mathematical society which used to convene at the Scottish Café, to set brain-teasers and conundrums for each other. There the philosopher Martin Buber grew up, and the Jew turned Muslim scholar Mohammad Asad was born. The city was full of fascinating personalities, bright minds, and eccentric characters.

My grandfather ran something of a salon for the bridge players of Lwów, of whom there were many before the war. There were often many interesting characters to be seen bustling about the house, a fact which added a touch of colour to my father’s childhood. One of Henryk’s friends was the anthropologist, Jan Czekanowski, who used to visit the family house regularly. Czekanowski was a fantastic linguist. During the war, he was credited with saving the Karaim peoples of Lithuania, whom the Nazis wished to see exterminated, on account of the fact that they spoke a form of Hebrew.[3] One of grandmother’s friends was the Countess Karolina Lanckorońska. She lectured in art history at Lwów University. She worked actively in the Polish underground during the war and she would play an important part in uncovering the truth behind the execution of her colleagues, the professors. A couple of years later, while she herself was in prison, awaiting execution, her interrogator Hauptsturmfuhrer Hans Krueger, SS Captain and formerly a subordinate of Schöngarth, mockingly confessed to the execution of the Lwów professors. Krueger was connected in one way or another with the deaths of up to 70,000 people, mostly Jews. By a stroke of good fortune and the intercession of the Italian Royal family, the Countess was not executed but instead sent to Ravensbruck women’s prison. She publicised what she knew about Krueger’s guilt, and, in a strange twist, Krueger, was tried by the German military for betraying secret information. He lost his post at the Security Police Command in Stanislawów, where he had waged a blood-thirsty pogrom against the region’s Jewish populations, enforcing the Nazi Final Solution with a salacious zeal. The Countess survived the war, and lived in exile in Italy until her death, aged 104, in 2002. She bequeathed a valuable art collection to the Polish State after the fall of Communism.[4]

.

.

HANS KRUEGER

.

SS – Hauptsturmfuehrer Hans Krueger, co-conspirator in Menten’s appropriation of art and antiques.

Hans Krueger also survived the war. His story is somewhat darker. He was born in Posen in 1909, which was, at the time, a part of Prussia within the German Empire. He was therefore of an age to remember his expulsion from that city following the creation of Poland’s Second Republic at Versailles. Perhaps in that humiliation laid the source of his anger. He joined the National-Socialists at a young age, rose through the ranks and distinguished himself in the ruthlessness of his dedication to the Nazi cause. He was picked up by the British Army, in Holland, at the end of the war, but released in 1948 due to lack of evidence. Later, he would work for a while as a travelling salesman. He created an anti-fascist past for himself and then entered local politics, even running as a candidate in the North Rhineland-Westphalia State Assembly Elections for the League of Eastern Expellees and Victims of Justice. He thus saw himself always as a victim, a crusader against injustice, oblivious to the devastation his own cruel excesses had wrought. He will long be remembered for Stanislawów’s ‘Bloody Sunday’, on October 12th 1941, when he and his men corralled the city’s entire Jewish population into a graveyard and executed up to 10,000 of them. His wartime activities finally caught up with him and he was put on trial for a long list of war crimes in 1967. He openly admitted that he was a SS Captain in Stanislawów, for he obviously believed he had left no victims behind who could tie him to any crimes. He seemed genuinely shocked when Countess Lanckorońska appeared as a witness in the trial. He was found guilty of numerous crimes arising from his time as Gestapo Chief in Stanislawów, where his savagery reached its cruellest proportions.  Although he received a life sentence for those crimes, his implication in the murder of the professors wasn’t established. Later, a nephew of one of the murdered professors together with a group of Polish scholars tried to have Krueger tried separately for the Lwów crime. The German Prosecutor denied them on the grounds that he was already serving a life sentence for mass murder and no further sentence could be reasonably passed. He was released in 1986, and spent the last two years of his life a free man.

.

.

DEATH OF SCHÖNGARTH

.

Dr Schöngarth, who had orchestrated and coordinated the deaths of the Lwów professors, became the subject of an investigation, launched by Himmler himself, into the theft of Jewish property in Galicia, in 1943. He was removed from his post in Poland, and sent to Greece. At the same time, his henchman, Krueger, was transferred to Paris. Schöngarth was eventually captured by the British in Germany and convicted of a crime which had taken place in the grounds of the local Headquarters of the German Security Services at Enschede in Holland. Schöngarth had been attending a conference there when an Allied airman from a downed bomber parachuted unintentionally onto the grounds of the German Headquarters. Schöngarth was convicted of ordering the airman’s execution and was himself sentenced to death. His other crimes were not widely known at the time. He was hanged on May 16th 1946. Before his execution, he wrote a letter to his wife, requesting that she contact the Dutchman Pieter Menten, and remind him of his obligation to his old friend from the Galicia days. In this way, he hoped his family would be looked after with part of the proceeds of the murder and theft carried out by Schöngarth and his Einsatzgruppe in Galicia.

.

.

THEODOR OBERLANDER

.

Theodor Oberlander, liaison officer to the Nightingale Battalion.

Another character associated with the Professors’ murder was a German professor of political science, an expert on Polish and Slavic affairs, who is claimed to have acted as a liaison officer between Himmler and the Nightingale Battalion – Theodor Oberlander. Some have argued that he was in overall charge of the Ukrainian Battalion which may have collaborated with Schöngarth’s Einsatzgruppe in July 1941 and that Roman Shukeyvich, the Ukrainian military commander, answered to him. He entered politics after the war and was elected to the Bundestag for the League of Eastern Expellees and Victims of Justice, the same party of which Hans Krueger was a member. He rose to the position of Minister for Refugees in Adenauer’s government. It was in this capacity, in 1959, that the Soviet Union saw the political merits of opening a case against him for the professors’ murders. The implication of Oberlander suited a dual political agenda for the Soviets. Not only could they embarrass a sitting minister of the West German government, but they could further tarnish the legacy of Ukrainian nationalism by presenting Shukheyvich’s troops as the Nazis’ compliant henchmen. Oberlander was eventually found guilty by the East German Supreme Court and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment. He was subsequently tried in West Germany and acquitted, due to lack of evidence. He stepped down from his ministerial post in 1960. His political career, associated with anti-immigration and right-wing nationalism, never recovered. He died, in 1998, with another trial against him pending which concerned a murder which took place in Kislovodsk in 1942.

.

.

WALTER KUTSCHMANN

.

Einsatzgruppe Officer Walter Kutschmann.

Walter Kutschmann (left), as Political Affairs Commissar of the Lwów Gestapo, may have played some role in the Professors’ murders. Kutschmann managed to take one of the so called ‘ratlines’ to South America, at the end of the war. He travelled to Argentina on a Vatican passport, and lived there unperturbed by the atrocities of his past. The Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, himself a native of Lwów, discovered he was living in Buenos Aires under the assumed name Pedro Olmo. He was held briefly by Argentinian Police in 1975 but was somewhat mysteriously released before the German authorities could process his extradition. He went into hiding but was arrested again in 1985; he died while awaiting trial. In addition to the murder of the Lwów Professors, he was accused of the deaths of 1,500 Jews in Brzeziny and Podajce, Poland, in 1942.

.

.

.

WILHELM ROSENBAUM

.

SS Untersturmfuher Wilhelm Rosenbau

And there were others. Sturmbannführer Kurt Stawizki, a subordinate of Schöngarth, may have been involved, as well as two other German officers named Hacker and Köhler, who were reported by surviving members of the professors’ families to have composed part of the arresting party.There was also SS Untersturmfuher Wilhelm Rosenbaum, Schöngarth’s sadistic subordinate. He had worked with both Schöngarth and Krueger at the Security Police Academy “Bad Rabka,” where his way of demonstrating his loyalty and devotion to his ideological hero, Schöngarth, was to excel his peers in his savagery towards the Jews. In 1939, Rosenbaum had been sequestered to the Security Police HQ in Kraków, which was then headed by Schöngarth. There he was assigned to collect ‘contributions’ from the city’s Jewish residents. Later he joined the teaching staff at Bad Rabka. In early 1941, he joined Schöngarth’s Einsatzgruppe and took part in its nefarious activities in Lwów in July. He subsequently returned as Head of the Bad Rabka School, and is remembered there for the torture and execution of Jews. He survived the war, unpunished, eventually opening a confectionery shop in Hamburg. In 1951, he visited the ‘looting Dutchman’ Pieter Menten in Amsterdam, allegedly to claim his share of the pilfered art and antiques amassed under Schöngarth’s tenure in Lwów and Galicia. In a bizarre and disturbing incident, the Dutchman had Rosenbaum act as witness in a case he was taking against the post-war German government for his arrest and detention by the SS in 1943 (when Himmler had launched a crack-down on the theft of Jewish property by members of his own security forces and Menten was expelled from Kraków.) With the crimes of both men still uncovered, Menten was awarded $200,000 in compensation. Rosenbaum was eventually tried for war crimes in 1961, and received sixteen life sentences.

As in all these cases, the families of the victims seek to reclaim their dignity, and honour their dead; while the perpetrators seek to hide their involvement. When cornered, and put on trial, they all say variations of the same line: We were following orders. Those who do most damage, feel most victimized when faced with their crimes. For some of those who conspired to round up and murder the professors, there was some small measure of accountability and justice.


.

.

GRANDFATHER DISAPPEARS

.

Henryk Marian Korowicz (1888-1941)

My father’s  memories of the execution of the Lwów Professors are concentrated in the events of 11th July 1941 when he saw my grandfather being taken away. Henryk of course would have heard rumours of what had happened to his colleagues after 4th July, as friends spread the word that a large number of professors had been ‘taken in for questioning’ by the Gestapo and were still missing. It was not widely known that they were all dead, until sometime later. He knew many of these missing men, and he could guess that they were targeted because, like him, they were professors. There were few precautionary steps though he could have taken. The German Army undisputedly held Lwów under its control. He would have found it difficult to leave should he have chosen to. Where should he run to? Germany ruled everything west of Lwów to France’s Atlantic coast. If he fled east, he would merely be following the German Wehrmacht into the Soviet zone, and into what was to become the bloodiest battlefield of the entire Second World War. Perhaps he could have sought shelter in the mountains. But there were his wife and his son. How could they pass through unnoticed? He did not know for sure that he was already on Dr. Schöngarth’s list. If he hadn’t already disappeared, perhaps he was safe? This was the gamble, despite the lack of options.

A week passed. It was July 11th. My father had celebrated his fifteenth birthday the previous month:

“I was coming back from a village outside the city where Mother had sent me to buy food. From a distance I saw the German car parked outside our house. It moved off as I got closer. I walked up the steps. The door was open. When I entered the kitchen, Mother was sitting at the table, her head buried in her arms. She couldn’t speak. Janka, the maid, was standing beside her. It took them an age to tell me:

“They came, Wojtusz. They took your father. They took your tatusz.”

No-one knows where Henryk’s remains are.  What happened to him is our dark mystery. He was ‘disappeared’ in the true sense of the word, for there is no evidence, no sightings, no extant Gestapo paperwork, no DNA, no photograph, which explains where he went that day. He was shot, perhaps, in the woods outside town. Maybe he was shot in the head at Krzywczycki Forest. Maybe it was on Janowska Sands where his body was disposed of. These were places the Nazis set aside for mass murders. Here Poles and Jews were ‘processed’. They were brought here, ordered to undress, shot, burnt, any valuables such as gold teeth sifted from the ashes, any remaining bone fragments grist in a gravel mill, and, finally, the dust scattered in the forest. Later, when the tide was turning against the Germans, the Gestapo began a policy of hiding its crimes. This meant unearthing mass graves, a gruesome task which was carried out by Jewish prisoners and aided by the Gestapo’s meticulous recordkeeping. The remains of the professors shot on Wuleska Hill were apparently exhumed not so long after the executions and no doubt disposed of in a similar manner. The location, manner, and perpetrators involved in Henryk’s demise remain shrouded in mystery. [5]

Perhaps there is some solace in the fact Henryk did not leave his bones. He did not leave a description of his death in the eyes of witnesses who peered with horror from their windows and saw what was happening to their city. He walked out of his home and never came back. Perhaps his spirit still wanders the streets of Lwów. As his grandson, and knowing how his murder would forever change Wojtek’s life, that’s how I like to think of him, his spirit intact, and content that, now at least, Lwów is peaceful again.

Ukrainian and Polish representatives gather in Lviv to celebrate the unveiling of a new monument to the murdered professors, on the seventieth anniversary of the massacre, July 2011.

There are many monuments to Henryk and the other professors, in Lwów, in Warsaw, in Kraków, and in Wrocław. Their murders became a symbol, one of a litany of sad symbols, of the destruction of civilization. More recently, on the seventieth anniversary of the murders, a new monument was unveiled, under a joint initiative of Polish and Ukrainian scholars. When Wojtek was informed about it, in his final days, he would express his satisfaction that his father was remembered in Lwów. Though the monument is a grateful and encouraging sign of warming Polish-Ukrainian relations, he simply remembered the personality of the man who was his father. He was irreplacable.

A few days after they took Henryk away, the Germans kicked Wojtek and Olga out of their house on Listopad Street. Some German officers would move in instead. They collected their things and moved in with Olga’s parents, Wojtek’s grandparents Antoni and Olga Pawłowski, and Aunt Jadwiga, who lived together on Krasiński Street. Wojtek’s grandparents were both old and ailing by that stage and would die of natural causes (no doubt exacerbated by the invasions) before the year was out.


[1] Albert, Zygmunt, “Kaźń profesorów lwowskich – lipiec 1941 / studia oraz relacje i dokumenty zebrane i oprac. przez Zygmunta Alberta” Wrocław 1989 , Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego.

An eye-witness of the murders himself, the Albert study is also based upon extensive interviews with other witnesses of the executions and with surviving family members of the victims.

Here’s Philip Friedman’s account of the extermination of Lwów’s Jews in English.  An eye-witness report written in 1945.

This article has excerpts from the recently-published Polish translation of Dieter Schenka’s “Der Lemberger Professorenmord und der Holocaust in Ostgalizien” (“The Murder of Lwów professors and the Holocaust in East Galicia”).

This is a Russian translation from another German text about the controversial events surrounding the capture of Lwów, Hannes Heer’s “Einübung in den Holocaust: Lemberg Juni/Juli 1941″

[2] Pieter Menten, who bought a mansion in County Waterford, lived intermittently in Ireland from 1963 until his arrest. Several other prominent Nazis or Nazi sympathizers also used the country as a sanctuary or base. These included ‘Hitler’s favourite paratrooper,’ Otto ‘Scarface’ Skorzeny, who was a prominent supporter of fugitive Nazis in the post-War period. Perhaps with that aim in mind, he bought up many estates in Ireland, before finally moving to Franco’s Spain in the 1960’s and founding  a consultancy firm for right-wing paramilitaries, who would soon find a rich seam of employment as advisers to the military governments of South America. Bizarrely, Skorzeny would later be recruited by The Mossad to track down and eliminate German scientists working in Egypt. Another unsavoury exile who settled in Ireland was former Croatian Minister of the Interior Andrija Artukovic, otherwise known as the ‘Butcher of the Balkans.’

See: Leach, Daniel, “Fugitive Ireland: European Minority Nationalists and Irish Political Asylum, 1937-2008”, Four Courts Press, 2009. Also, Cathal O’Shannon’s television documentary “Hidden History: Ireland’s Nazis”, first broadcast by RTE1, 09/01/2007.

[3] Czekanowski convinced the Germans correctly that the Karaim were in fact descendants of the Turkic Crimean Karaites, who had converted to Judaism and taken its language sometime after the 10th Century. This meant that they were racially free of Jewish blood, and would thus not be sent to the camps.

[4]An act which no doubt would have earned the contempt of the above-mentioned ‘looting Dutchman’, Pieter Menten.

[5] Felix Landau, SS Haptscharfürher, a Gestapo officer who volunteered for Action Squad duty, kept a diary of his deadly activities. On the morning after Henryk’s arrest, Landau describes his activities in Drohobyc, two hours south of Lwów, which may give a clue as to the manner if not the circumstances in which he was killed.

Drohobycz – 12 July 1941… At 6:00 in the morning I was suddenly awoken from a deep sleep. Report for an execution. Fine, so I’ll just play executioner and then gravedigger, why not?… Twenty-three had to be shot, amongst them … two women … We had to find a suitable spot to shoot and bury them. After a few minutes we found a place. The death candidates assembled with shovels to dig their own graves. Two of them were weeping. The others certainly have incredible courage… Strange, I am completely unmoved. No pity, nothing. That’s the way it is and then it’s all over… Valuables, watches and money are put into a pile… The two women are lined up at one end of the grave ready to be shot first… As the women walked to the grave they were completely composed. They turned around. Six of us had to shoot them. The job was assigned thus: three at the heart, three at the head. I took the heart. The shots were fired and the brains whizzed through the air. Two in the head is too much. They almost tear it off…

Landau ran a painting and decorating business in Bavaria after the war, and was finally arrested in 1959 and sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.