A Brief Overview of Poland During the Period of War
Connie S. Arnold’s Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son is a fiction novel set against the backdrop of the war-torn country of Poland during the German invasion in 1939. It centers on the journey of Stefan Zurowski, as he heads toward a strange land to exhaust his title as the new count after his entire family has been murdered in their home in the Masurian Lake District. As a historical novel, Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son provides its readers with an illustration of Poland amidst the second world war. It gives them a glimpse of the terrible condition of the country and its people during those dark times.
Indeed, the second world war was a horrible period of world history. It killed millions of innocent people, and destroyed hundreds and thousands of homes. It arguably began when Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party of Germany, invaded Poland in September 1939. Such invasion then prompted Great Britain and France, which guaranteed military support to Poland in case the Germans attacked, to retaliate. This, along with all the other conflicts in Asia and the Pacific, triggered a horrendous war between many countries, which would last for about five years.
To understand a bit more about the war, let us go back to the place where it all started: Poland. As can be reckoned from the Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son, Poland was a country heavily affected by the war, particularly by the invasion of the Germans. In this article, we will have a brief overview of Poland during the period of war.
Invasion of Poland
As mentioned, the second world war began when the Germans invaded Poland. For some historians, the second world war was merely an extension of the first one. It grew out of the issues left unresolved by the first world war, and these issues particularly lingered in the German territory. Following the end of this war, Germany suffered from great political and economic instability. The Germans eventually developed a strong resentment over the harsh terms imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (the treaty that ended World War I and that sought to punish Germany). All of these facilitated the rise to power of the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler.
Adolf Hitler was an enormously ambitious leader. He upheld the superiority of the German race, and sought to expand the German territory. Before invading the Poland, Germany first occupied Austria in 1938, and annexed Czechoslovakia in the following year. In 1939, the German forces then bombarded Poland on land and from the air, which signaled the beginning another global war.
Poland came greatly unprepared for the Germans. The German forces utilized a powerful strategy termed as blitzkrieg (i.e., extensive bombing that employs shock and surprise and that aims to destroy the capacities of the enemy early on), which made it easier for them to invade the Polish territory. The Polish military attempted to carry out several strategies for retaliation. However, it often fell short of calculations. Its under-equipped forces and the outmoded thinking of its commanders were not much of a help as well. In essence, the outdated state of its military led Poland to fall into the arms of the Germans.
After weeks of fighting tenaciously, Poland eventually succumbed to defeat. By October 1939, Germany was already able to annex former Polish territories along its eastern border including West Prussia, Poznan, and Upper Silesia. The western part of Poland occupied by the Germans (i.e., Krakow, Lublin, Radom, and Warsaw) was then organized under the Generalgouvernement (General Government) led by Hans Frank, lawyer of the Nazi Party. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and was able to occupy the remaining half of the country. Poland then remained under the German occupation until 1945.
Conditions of Poland During the War
The Poles suffered tremendously under the German rule. Hans Frank was particularly an unashamedly proud ruthless Governor-General who ordered the execution of millions of Poles, and allowed the commitment of countless war crimes. The crimes and executions were so colossal that by the end of the war, about one-fifth of the pre-war population of Poland perished – that is around six million Polish citizens.
War crimes and crimes against humanity were prevalent in Poland during the German and Soviet occupations. German soldiers particularly committed countless war crimes from the very outset of the war. They would drag out Polish civilians and soldiers everywhere, and shoot them whenever they can. They would even set an entire village on fire to make sure that nobody is left alive. Whenever Polish soldiers would merely shoot at them, the Germans would then revenge by taking hostages and executing them.
Aside from executions, many Polish citizens also became involved in forced labor under both the Germans and the Soviets. In German-occupied Poland, Poles residing in large cities were targeted by a round-up policy utilized by the Germans to indiscriminately collect civilians off the streets, and send them as forced laborers to Germany. In Warsaw, for example, this round-up policy had about 400 daily victims. In the part of Poland occupied by the Soviets, on the other hand, approximately 200,000 Polish citizens were conscripted as forced laborers in Soviet Union.
Malnutrition and diseases were also rampant in Poland during the period of the war. Many Poles starved to death because there was not enough food available to them, as the occupiers confiscated 27 percent of the country’s agricultural output. The general malnutrition of the Polish population then soon caused an increase in infectious diseases among the citizens. The rate of tuberculosis among Poles, for example, rose from 136 per 100,000 to 420 per 100,000 during the war.
Overall, the atrocities of the second world war are undeniable. The war indeed brought about the worst in humans. The innocent people of Poland were particularly great victims of a war initiated by greedy men. Just like the Zurowski family in the Dangerous Legacy: The Second Son, the second world war tore apart millions of families, and obliterated hundreds and thousands of homes. It brought numerous negative effects that are distressing countless of people even until now. In essence, war is but a lame excuse to kill the innocents. It is awful, distasteful, and utterly useless.