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Apr 12, 2024

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Polish Americans Remember
German Invasion And WWII

Brooklyn, N.Y… While much of the world observed the 70th anniversary of the 1945 end of World War II, Polish Americans also commemorated the day that war began.

At the age of 93,Walter Kolodziejek (left in photo) remains living proof Adolf Hitler chose the Polish people to be his first victim when Nazi Germany launched World War II on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland.

At a time everyone else was surrendering and appeasing Hitler, Poland resolved to stand firm against this Nazi evil and is recorded on the pages of history as the “First To Fight.”

Mr. Kolodziejek is shown here accepting a memento of Poland’s courage and determination from Frank Milewski, president of the Downstate New York Division of the Polish American Congress and co-chair of its Holocaust Documentation Committee.

As a young Polish citizen when the Germans invaded, Mr. Kolodziejek was among the first prisoners the Nazis sent to Auschwitz.

In the first two years of the camp’s operations, most of the prisoners in Auschwitz were Polish Catholics like Kolodziejek. The first medical experiments Nazi doctors conducted in Auschwitz were on Polish prisoners like him.

Because he survived numerous experiments they performed, the Nazis described Kolodziejek as “hard as a rock.”

With Auschwitz holding so many Polish Catholic inmates, particularly in its early years, a cross was erected nearby and Carmelite nuns maintained a convent as a place of prayer for those who died there.

Mass transports of Jews began arriving in 1942 after the Germans devised their “Final Solution” and, eventually, became the largest group the SS murdered in Auschwitz.  Poles were the second largest.

Israel’s Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem honors Poland as the country with the largest number of persons who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the German occupation. Its internet website lists each Polish rescuer by name  On this list are names of several Poles who became members of the Polish American Congress after they emigrated to the United States.

Even though WWII ended 70 years ago, some of the anti-Polish propaganda the Nazis and Communists developed during it seems to find its way into the mainstream American media or comes here directly from Europe.

Most of it tries to shift the blame for atrocities the Nazis and the Communists perpetrated against Jews from themselves and on the Poles.

The German television industry recently produced a fictional wartime drama which accused the Polish Underground Resistance of Anti-Semitism. Despite Israel honoring Poland as “Righteous Among the Nations,” the Germans apparently hoped to show someone else had as ugly a wartime history as they did even if it wasn’t true,.according to Kolodziejek

“Of course, the Germans hated the Polish Underground Resistance,” said Kolodziejek. He cited how the Poles broke the German Enigma code and gave the Allies a method of tracking every German wartime radio message by allowing them to listen in on secret radio transmissions the Germans sent.

“Besides that, the Poles gave the British valuable information on Geman V-2 Rocket testing the Germans were conducting inside occupied Poland .The British sent in one of their planes to take it from the Poles and bring it back to England.”

The Polish Underground Resistance was the largest and most effective resistance in all German-occupied Europe. It contributed significantly to the Allied victory against Hitler.

Frank Milewski
 pacdny@verizon.net