Polish Losses in World War II

compiled by

Witold J. Lukaszewski

Auschwitz was built in 1940 for Poles and, in the end, 140,000 of them died there. Beginning in Spring 1942, Jews followed Poles into Auschwitz and they eventually became its most numerous victims, with 1.1 million being the estimated number ("Liczba ofiar," Franciszek Piper and Waclaw Dlugoborski, Auschwitz 1940-1945, Wydawnictwo Panstwowego Muzeum 1995, 171-8).

Poland's population losses during World War II were proportionately by far the greatest of any nation participating in the war. Of its 35 million people before the war, Poland lost 6.5 million. An estimated 664,000 were battlefield deaths (this figure exceeds combined losses of the United States and Great Britain in WWII), and the remainder, or 90 percent, were civilians of all ages (Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford 1996, 1328; Richard Lukas, The Forgotten Holocaust, U. of Kentucky Press 1986, 39; The 1992 Almanac, Houghton Mifflin 310).

The Nazi German death machine in the Nazi-occupied half of Poland killed:

3 million of the 3.3 million Jews who lived in Poland before World War II, or 90 percent of the Jewish population (S.P. Oliner and P.M. Oliner, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe, Free Press 1998, 25-29).
More than 2 million Polish Catholics, with special emphasis on eliminating the national elites (Zbigniew Brzezinski,
Out of Control, Scribner's 1993, 7-18).
One out of four (25 percent) of Catholic clergy (Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski's Speech to the Bundestag in Bonn, Germany, 28 April 1995).
One out of four (25 percent) of all Polish scientists (Bartoszewski,
op. cit.).
One out of five (20 percent) of all Polish schoolteachers (Bartoszewski,
op. cit.)
200,000 Polish children were deported to Germany for purposes of Germanization. 150,000, or 75 percent, never returned to their families in Poland (Bartoszewski,
op. cit.).

The Soviet death machine in the Soviet-occupied half of Poland killed:

21,000 Polish officers murdered by the NKVD in the Katyn Forest and elsewhere (Brzezinski, op. cit.).
Between 1.6 million and 1.25 million Poles (the lowest estimate) were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan between 1939-1941 as a result of Soviet “ethnic cleansing” (Jan Tomasz Gross,
Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, Princeton 1988, 194). An estimated four-fifths died either directly or as a result of privations incurred during the deportations.
State Security in Soviet-occupied Poland between 1945-1955 murdered tens of thousands of political, military and intellectual leaders (Teresa Toranska,
"Them," Harper & Row 1987, 139). Exact figures are still unavailable owing to the impossibility to conduct research in this area in Soviet-occupied Poland.
Moscow's policies designed to debilitate the Polish nation included, among others, the following instruction: "While rebuilding the [Polish] industry and building new industry, make sure that industrial waste is directed to rivers which will be used as reservoirs of drinking water." (Arnold Beichman, "Soviet Directives Sought to Keep Poles from Developing Identity," a syndicated column published, among others, in
The Penticton Press, 24 February 1994; the full text of the Soviet directives can be found in SR, XIV/1, Jan 1994, 211-213).

In the Polish collective memory of World War II, Nazi occupation is organically tied to Soviet occupation. Soviet genocidal policies directed at Poland were no less devastating than those of the Nazis. A recent study by French scientists has shown that “Those very features of Nazism that we find most repellent have now been proven endemic to communism from its inception.” (NYT, 22 December 1997; see also Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski's comment on the Nazis' imitation of the Soviet death machine, as summarized by Szyldkraut and Sluszny, on page 546 of this issue of SR).

The Soviet occupation of Poland lasted nearly ten times as long as the Nazi occupation. Even more ideologically corrosive than the Nazis, the Soviets devastated the lives of three generations of Poles whose living conditions were made wretched, and whose religion and culture were attacked with the full power of the office of state security. As General Wladyslaw Anders remarked to General George Patton: “With the Nazis, we [Poles] lose our lives; with the Soviets, we lose our souls.... If I found my army between the Nazis and the Soviets, I would attack in both directions.”

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