Ever since October, I’ve been following a Twitter feed called @RealTimeWWII: WW2 Tweets from 1940. It’s posting World War II as it actually happened, with each date of this year corresponding to the same date in 1940. It’s fascinating and horrifying to see how the war unfolded. It seems like every couple of days, there are new horrors I never knew about. This picture, in particular, has stuck with me ever since it was first posted in the fall. The picture, and caption, are pulled directly from RealTimeWWII.
I gotta tell you, this picture has haunted me. As I have followed RealTimeWWII, I have done more reading about the war in Poland, and I have found quite a bit about the fate of pastors and priests there. It’s horrible. Here is a copy and paste from the Occupation of Poland (1939-1945) wikipedia page:
The Catholic Church in Poland was especially hard hit by the Nazis. The Roman Catholic Church was suppressed throughout Poland because historically it had been one of the primary supporters of Polish nationalist forces fighting for Poland’s independence from outside domination.
Throughout the country, monasteries, convents, seminaries, schools and other religious institutions were shut down.
The Germans treated the Church most harshly in the annexed regions, as they systematically closed churches there; most priests were either killed, imprisoned, or deported to the General Government. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 3,000 members of the Catholic clergy in Poland were killed; of these, 1,992 died in concentration camps, 787 of them at Dachau, including bishop Micha? Kozal.
No exception was made for Poland’s higher clergy. Bishop Michael Kozal of Wladislava died in Dachau; Bishop Nowowiejski of P?ock and his suffragan Bishop Wetmanski both died in prison in Poland; Bishop Fulman of Lublin and his suffragan Bishop Goral were sent to a concentration camp in Germany.
In 1939, 80% of the Catholic clergy and five of the bishops of the Warthegau region had been deported to concentration camps. In Wroc?aw, 49.2% of the clergy were dead; in Che?mno, 47.8%; in ?ód?, 36.8%; in Pozna?, 31.1%. In the Warsaw diocese, 212 priests were killed; 92 were murdered in Wilno, 81 in Lwów, 30 in Kraków, 13 in Kielce. Seminarians who were not killed were shipped off to Germany as forced labor.
Of 690 priests in the Polish province of West Prussia, at least 460 were arrested. The remaining priests of the region fled their parishes. Of the arrested priests, 214 were executed, including the entire cathedral chapter of Pelplin. The rest were deported to the newly created General Government district in Central Poland. By 1940, only 20 priests were still serving their parishes in West Prussia.
Many nuns shared the same fate as priests. Some 400 nuns were imprisoned at Bojanowo concentration camp. Many were later sent to Germany as slave labor.
Of the city of Pozna?’s 30 churches and 47 chapels, the Nazis left two open to serve some 200,000 souls. Thirteen churches were simply locked and abandoned; six became warehouses; four, including the cathedral, were used as furniture storage centers. In ?ód?, only four churches were allowed to remain open to serve 700,000 Catholics.
Nor were the small Evangelical churches of Poland spared. All the Protestant clergy of the Cieszyn region of Silesia were arrested and sent to the death camps at Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Dachau and Oranienburg.
Among the Protestant martyrs were Karol Kulisz, director of the Evangelical Church’s largest charitable organization, who died in Buchenwald in November 1939; Professor Edmund Bursche, a member of the Evangelical Faculty of Theology at the University of Warsaw, who died in the stone quarries of Mauthausen; and the 79-year-old Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, Juliusz Bursche, who died in solitary confinement in Berlin.
I didn’t know this, and found it all very sobering. I’m not changing careers, but still…yikes.