Poland had three roles within the context of the Holocaust:
- Crime Scene
The last role is discussed in detail in the section on Poland of the entry on propaganda, so it will not be covered here.
All the so-called extermination camps were located on what was legitimately Polish territory. They had the following Jewish death tolls, if we follow the orthodox narrative:
- Auschwitz – ca. 1,000,000 Jewish victims
- Treblinka – ca. 800,000 Jewish victims
- Belzec – ca. 434,000 Jewish victims
- Sobibór – ca. 200,000 Jewish victims
- Chełmno – ca. 150,000 Jewish victims
- Majdanek – ca. 80,000 victims, only some of which were Jews
Hence, the claimed death toll of these camps amounted to some 2.6 million Jewish victims. If we add to this the deaths in the many Polish ghettos, which are difficult to quantify, then Poland was the location where half of the six million victims perished who are claimed by the orthodoxy.
It needs to be stressed that the camps listed above were not Polish camps. They were German camps on Polish soil.
Majdanek is today considered by the orthodoxy mainly as a labor camp, with exterminations only playing a minor role. The camp’s documents on inmate mortality show, that some 80% of all deceased prisoners were Jews of mixed origin, many of them from Poland. The orthodoxy posits additional Jewish victims of mass murder during the so-called Operation “Harvest Festival.” During that claimed event, some 18,000 Jews are said to have been shot within two days in early November 1943. (For more details on this, see the entry dedicated to it.). The total death toll of Jews at Majdanek, as currently claimed by the orthodoxy, is just below 60,000, but it is not clear, how many of them were of Polish origin. We’ll assume half of them, for argument’s sake.
Most Jews deported to Auschwitz came from other European countries, such as Belgium, Czechia (“Protectorate”), France, Germany and Austria, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands and Slovakia. However, some 190,000 Polish Jews were also deported to that camp, with 150,000 of them presumably killed on arrival.
Some 115,000 non-Polish Jews mainly from Germany and Austria, Czechia, Slovakia and the Baltics were deported to Sobibór. To all the other camps, mainly Polish Jews were deported and reportedly killed.
If we tally up the orthodoxy’s claimed death toll of Polish Jews in these camps, we obtain:
Polish Jewish Victims
To this total needs to be added any access mortality incurred in the many ghettos set up in numerous Polish towns and cities. These ghetto casualties are difficult to determine, since documented data on this seems to be very rare. (See the entry on ghettos for more details.)
The only orthodox study on Poland’s Jewish population losses during the Second World War concluded that some 1,800,000 Polish Jews died in the Holocaust (Benz 1991, p. 495). This is in line with the above figures.
Demographic studies of the Jewish population in Poland gets complicated by several factors. First, Poland’s borders changed drastically during and after the war. In effect, the entire country was moved westward by several hundred kilometers. The provinces in the east, annexed from the Soviet Union in 1921, were lost again, while Poland annexed in the west the German provinces of southern East Prussia, Silesia and eastern Pomerania.
Second, the last Polish census prior to the war was conducted only in 1931, at which point 3.1 million Poles registered as Jewish. Between the two world wars, the Polish state was a radically nationalist entity pursuing a policy of ethnic pressure against any minority it considered “Unpolish.” Life was made increasingly uncomfortable if not impossible for Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and (Belo)Russians by way of various persecutorial measures and acts.
As a result, Poland experienced a constant exodus of those minorities, Jews included. Mainstream sources report that some 100,000 Jews left Poland every year throughout the 1930s. These were mainly young adults migrating west and overseas. Hence, the fertility of Polish Jewry, already lower than the Polish average due to a higher-than-average urbanization, shrank considerably, probably reaching the point of zero growth in the later 1930s. Hence, when the war started, Polish Jewry may have shrunk down to just 2.5 million or even less. A little more than two thirds of them, or some 1.8 million, lived in the western and central parts of Poland that were eventually occupied by German forces.
Third, when the war with Germany broke out, some 100,000 Polish Jews fled southeast to Romania, while up to a million Jews fled east, where they were eventually overrun by the Red Army, who picked up most of these refugees and deported them to Siberia. Some 200,000 Jews are estimated to have died en route, while only 157,500 are said to have returned to Poland after the war. Western Jewish support organizations claimed during the war that they knew of 630,000 Polish Jews deported to Siberia which they tried to support. Hence, a total death toll of these deported Polish Jews of up to two thirds of a million is quite possible. Under any circumstances, these Jews were no longer within the reach of any anti-Jewish measures by the German occupational forces. Hence, when the Germans occupied their part of Poland, there may not have been more than a million Jews left.
Fourth, the Germans were very generous as to who they considered to be a Jew. Even if a person did not consider himself a Jew, if he had at least one Jewish parent, he was likely to be treated as a Jew by the Germans. With that generous definition, the Germans would have found more Jews than results from any census.
Fifth, there is rough consensus about how many Jews were registered as present in post-war Poland: some 200,000 to 240,000. But that does not necessarily mean that any difference between post-war and pre-war figures died or were killed. In fact, displaced Polish Jews had little incentive to stay in a country that had proven in peacetime to have been similarly anti-Jewish in attitude, as was Hitler’s Germany. Hence, large numbers of Polish Jews left Poland whenever they could, and migrated first west to Germany. There, they were lodged for months and sometimes years in one of the many large displaced-person camps. From there, most moved on to countries of better prospects, such as France, the UK, USA, and Palestine/Israel. This migration movement was largely undocumented during the first post-war years, and hence absolute numbers are almost impossible to come by.
The reliability of any of these data is so uncertain, and error margins too large, to base any reasonable conclusion on it regarding how many Polish Jews died in the hands of the German occupants. However, we must keep in mind that the German forces ultimately deported some 1.5 million Polish Jews – in their definition – to the various camps in Poland, as stated above. Hence, the question as to the actual death toll is better addressed by investigating what happened in those camps. Were the Jews there killed on arrival? Or were some, if not most of them deported farther east? And if a large-scale deportation of Polish Jews into the temporarily German-occupied Soviet territories occurred, as many wartime documents suggest (see the entry on resettlement), then the question to address is: What happened to the Jews deported east?
Some may have been executed by the Einsatzgruppen. However, these units’ total documented death toll, most of them Soviet Jews, precludes any large-scale executions of Polish Jews. Many deported Polish Jews might have joined Soviet partisan groups. Some may have starved to death, died of diseases, or gotten killed as civilian collateral casualties of the ongoing hostilities. Again others may have been overrun by the Red Army, who may have left them alone, may have executed them as collaborators, or may have deported them to Siberian labor camps. With Stalin’s Iron Curtain going down in Eastern Europe, there is no way of knowing for certain – and we ultimately might never know.