Wieluń is a town onto which the first German bombs fell during the Second World War, and the culprits of the committed crimes there escaped punishment. In the early morning on 1 September 1939, village hosts were arriving for a fair in the small town being still asleep. At 4.40, surprised, heard siren whistle and the whine of arriving planes. It was the first wave of the German attack Luftwaffe – 29 bombers diving. Wieluń became the arena of terrifying scenes.

The innocent

One of the first targets of the attack was the Hospital named the Saints in Wieluń, marked with the symbol of the Red Cross on the roof. German bombs killed 23 people there, and in whole Wieluń about 1.2 thousand inhabitants. In the rubble there were about 70 percent houses (90 percent in the centre). Pilots were having ‘fun’ – of hunting escaping people, were shooting at them from the onboard weapon (such behaviours of the Germans were presented by, among the others, Sonke Neitzel and Harald Welzer in a book ‘Soldiers. Protocols of fights, killing and dying’ published in 2014).

A Polish historian prof. Tadeusz Olejnik, the former director of the Museum of Wieluń land, emphasizes (in a book ‘Wieluń – Polish Guernica’ published on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War), that the attack on the innocent city was an act of terrorism, a war crime. He had collected evidence for the Germans’ guilt – orders, reports about the scale of destructions, photos, reports of witnesses.

The command of bombarding Wieluń was given by gen. mjr. Wolfram von Richthofen, a commander of the German Air Force which in 1939 were throwing tons of bombs, among the others, onto Warsaw. During the civil war in Spain he was commanding the Legion Condor supporting nationalist armies. It was his order that in 1937 the Guernica city was bombarded (this crime, unlike Wieluń, was more heard about in the world for over a dozen years). Over 1000 citizens were killed there; over 60 percent houses were destroyed. In this way the Germans tested new airplanes and the power of bomb destruction. Maybe it was the purpose of the attack on Wieluń, beside the intention of raising panic among Poles. Comparing both the attacks and discovering similarities made prof. Olejnik to call Wieluń ‘Polish Guernica’.

Although Germany were defeated in the war, it was impossible to sue people responsible for the attack on Wieluń to the court. An investigation journalist Cezary Gmyz notes (in an article ‘A slaughter in Wieluń’, ‘Wprost’ 36th issue, 3 September 2008) that after the war nobody was even heard about the bombarding. The Commission for Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation was trying to make the German party undertake legal moves in this matter, but it got only information that the attack on Wieluń was not qualified for the name of a war crime, but war actions, and even if there were ‘murders going beyond the war necessity’ then, those actions had already been out of date. At our western border there were talks about the Germans’ suffering more than about German crimes from the war time. Its best example how the Germans treated the problem of taking responsibility for their gloomy past are the fates of the General SS Heinz Reinfarth – an executioner of the Warsaw Uprisin, who did not only avoid punishment, but he was also recognized after the war as a mayor of the Westerland resort in RFN (it was exposed to the public by Philipp Marti in a book ‘A case of Reinefarth’ published in 2016). Conclusions are that if a criminal hid in Germany, his comrades would not bring him a harm. The society of that time took Hitler’s belief about the world conspiracy action against the Germans, from whom it was necessary to defend. Today’s Germany would like to get rid of the inconvenient stigma which is the Nazis ‘episode’; Germany would like to throw off its some fault onto Poland, among the others. However, nobody officially negates the fact of raising the war by the Third Reich there or nobody praises its leader. Luckily there are paragraphs proving it. Recently there have been persecutions against promoters of the lies about ‘the Polish death camps’. This absurd phrase is dangerous for Poles, as it appears in the world media quite often and through Internet it gets to millions of people.

Nothing new

Both the Kremlin authorities and ordinary people in the country governed by Putin do not hide their nostalgia for the times of the Soviet Union. Promoting communism in today’s Russia and also in the world, is nothing negative or embarrassing (it is different with Nazism as it has been mentioned above). Leftism with slight nostalgia for the XX century, in which the communist ideology was triumphing, is considered as a virtue by some groups.

The Kremlin propaganda is trying to care about its alleged outlook. It is popularizing, among the others, (Stalin’s ‘heritage’) a lie about murdering Russian prisoners by Poles in 1920. This ‘fact’ is compared to the crime in Katyń (it is not the news for the world, as the Russians believe that the Nazis are to be blamed for Katyń, as the Nazis and also any enemies of the country are defined here). In fact, after the year 1920, in the Polish captivity there were about 110 thousand communist soldiers who were gathered in prisoners’ camps. 16 -18 thousand of them died. The reason for their death were mainly bad conditions of existence, epidemics, lack of food and medications. Nearly 66 thousand prisoners returned to Russia, and about 25 thousand of them stayed in Poland voluntarily (and this is something in which Moscow does not believe the most).

Russia has got its own version of history, among the others, of the Second World War, which is proud of the big victory over fascism. Poles are presented not as the victims of Stalin in this narration, but as the ungrateful. Nothing is said about either the common partition of Poland by Germany or the Soviet Union in 1939, or about genocide done by the Soviets on our nation. Poland is doing what it can in order to purify these lies (we write about it more on the anniversary of Katyń and on 17 September). In Russia, at least for now, nothing suggests a change. And it will probably remain so…..


„Niedziela” 36/2017

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl