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THE EXPELLED exhibition presented in European Parliament – Brussels, 3 – 7 March, 2008
The Exhibition, which was organized by the Bureau of Public Education, was on display from 3 to 7 March 2008 in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. Some of the guests of the exhibition include: prof. Dieter Bingen (director of the Polish – German Institute in Darmstadt), Sławomir Czarlewski (His Excellency, Ambassador RP in the Kingdom of Belgium), dr hab. Janusz Kurtyka (President of the Institute of National Remembrance), prof. dr hab. Wojciech Roszkowski (UEN – member of the European Parliament), Bogusław Sonik (EPL-ED – member of the European Parliament), Jan Tombiński (His Excellency, Ambassador RP by the EU), dr Kazimierz Wóycicki (director of IPN Szczecin branch) and many other members of the European Parliament and guests.
The exhibition was accompanied by an additional brochure, supplied to the visitors in French and English as well. According to the declaration of the President of the IPN – dr Janusz Kurtyka, there are going to be further presentations of the exhibition in Belgium, as well as France, Germany and the United States.
The exhibition consists of numerous, large sized poster boards, which portray the enforced deportations and expulsions of Polish citizens, who suffered such repressions during the period of World War II, from both occupants – the Germans and the Soviets. The educational content of the exhibition is being complemented with large format photographs and maps, all accompanied by the three LCD displays, presenting the first hand accounts of the witnesses of these times. For the Polish collective memory, the expulsions are not the most important event of the past, and in order to emphasize this fact, we will also depict a multimedia presentation on a screen in the center of the exhibition. This display of historical facts, will be focused on the martyrdom of Polish citizens (the crimes on civilian population and prisoners of war carried out in 1939, the executions, Katyń, Palmiry forest killings, and concentration camps).
The exhibition was possible thanks to:
concept creator: dr Kazimierz Wóycicki
captions: dr Tomasz Chinciński, dr Sławomir Kalbarczyk, dr Łukasz Kamiński, dr Jan Wróbel
editing: Agnieszka Rudzińska
iconography: Paweł Rokicki
maps: Marcin Koc, Paweł Rokicki
multimedia presentations: Andrzej K. Kunert i Studio Historia
accounts of the witnesses: Marcin Jabłoński, Anna Pietraszek, Leszek Rysak
editor-in-chief: Anna Piekarska
translations: Lidex, Joanna Rohozińska
graphic concept: Krzysztof Burnatowicz, Wojciech Burnatowicz, Dorota Kanałek
cooperation: dr Krzysztof Persak
academic cooperation: prof. dr hab. Stanisław Ciesielski, prof. dr hab. Wojciech Roszkowski
Outline of the exhibition’s content:
World War II has put the brutal end to the Second Polish Republic (Rzeczpospolita Polska), a nation inhabited by many ethnicities, out of which the most numerous were the Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. The German aggression on Poland, on the 1st of September 1939 was feasible thanks to the German – Soviet pact, signed on the 23rd of August 1939, in which the two parties divided their spheres of influence in the Central and Eastern Europe. In accordance to these arrangements, the Soviets attacked Poland on the 17th of September 1939. Since the very first days, both of the occupants carried out repressive policies toward Polish citizens, where the most crucial element consisted of involuntary expulsions and deportations.
The expulsions of Poles were planned by the Germans even before the outbreak of the War, with its main goal among the many – the acquirement of the “living space” or Lebensraum. It was not surprising therefore, that the first expulsions were carried out even during the initial warfare stages, in the September of 1939. After taking over nearly half of the Polish territory, and eventually absorbing it to the Reich, the expulsions became systematic. Out of all of the incorporated area, altogether some 900,000 Poles were brutally expelled. German settlers were brought, in their place.
At the same time the Soviet authorities were carrying out four major deportation operations, which resulted in roughly 320,000 Polish citizens were relocated deeply into the USSR. Tens of thousands were arrested and placed in the “Gulag’s”. Moreover 138 thousand people were removed from the bordering regions. A very high death rate decimated the expelled and the sentenced to Gulags, as they have faced harsh transport and living conditions.
The German plans have included much more than the Polish territories, absorbed by the Reich. In 1941, after the military eruption of German – Soviet conflict, it was all of the Polish territory that found itself entirely under the German control. By that time there was already a “General Eastern Plan” (General Plan Ost) in development, which further assumed an expulsion of most Slavic nations, and among them the Poles, from Europe into Siberia. These far-reaching objective was not fulfilled entirely, though partial attempts were being conducted. Quite symbolic remnant of these attempts, is the expulsion of inhabitants of Zamojszczyzna region, which begun in November of 1942. Through the duration of the operation, some 110,000 Poles were deported, leaving 293 towns and villages completely deserted. For that space, some 12,000 German settlers were allowed to move in. Yet, probably the most tragic of all was the fate of 4,500 Polish children, who were forcefully taken away from their families and sent away to undergo the process of Germanization.
It was also the Holocaust, which was preceded by the expulsions of Jews from homes, and their brutal resettlement in the ghettos. Some of them were able to escape over to the part of Poland occupied by the Soviet Union, where yet again, majority of them faced deportation to the East.
After the defeat of the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans expelled some half a million people from the capital, while the city itself underwent a systematic and organized annihilation.
Approximately 2,857,000 Polish citizens were deported to Germany and other countries only to work in forced labor.
The Soviet Army’s incursion on Polish soil in 1944 brought upon successive repressions. About 27,000 people – mainly soldiers of the Home Army (AK – Armia Krajowa) and the activists of the Polish Underground State, were removed into prison camps in the depth of USSR. Again, 17,000 Poles from the Pomorze region, and tens of thousands more Polish and German citizens from Śląsk region, were deported to work in forced labor.
The end of World War II, unfortunately did not bring the end to enforced migrations. The loss of almost half of pre-war territory on behalf of the Soviet Union caused further immense exodus of the population. More than 1,200,000 Poles were resettled within Poland’s new frontiers, 300,000 have only found themselves here due to the circumstances of war, and some 270,000 were granted a return from the far ends of the USSR. In exchange, the Soviets resettled tens of thousands of Lithuanians and Byelorussians, as well as approximately half a million Ukrainians, who were forcefully driven out of the Polish territory.
According to international agreements, German citizens were also expelled out of the areas granted to Poland during the Potsdam Conference, though already some 4 million of them have abandoned and escaped these territories with the incoming frontline. Until the end of 1947, some 3,3 million more Germans were removed to the British and Soviet occupation zones. In the spring of 1947, the Polish communist authorities have expelled 140,000 Ukrainians from south-eastern Poland, which was an operation carried out under the name “Akcja Wisła” (Action Vistula), and justified by the desire to put an end to the threat of the Ukarinian Insurgent Army (UPA).
As the effect of forceful set up of the communist government in Poland, about half a million citizens, who’s fate landed them anywhere in the West, were forced to stay in emigration. Most of them have never even gotten a chance to simply visit their Motherland ever since. The last wave of mass migrations came about the years 1956 – 1959, when during the period of destalinization, some 230,000 people were allowed to return to Poland from the USSR – mainly survivors, coming from the Gulags and faraway exile.
The tragic fates of the millions of forcefully expelled still remain in the shadow of the other, more savage crimes. Millions have been murdered as a result of Holocaust, hundreds of thousands became victims of the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet Gulags, and last but not least, the extermination of Polish elites numbered in tens of thousands, carried out by both occupants as occupational policies, which are now symbolized by Katyń and the German Operation AB.
We owe our memory to all the victims of the Second World War. Remembrance allows the understanding of Europe’s turbulent fate in the 20th century. Only through that remembrance, the true reconciliation is possible. And this exhibition serves that purpose…