|The execution of Polish hostages in retaliation for an attack on a Nazi
police station by the underground organization "White Eagle."
In all, fifty-one civilians were shot.
In Nazi-occupied Poland, SS leader Heydrich, with the cooperation of
the Wehrmacht, vigorously pursued Hitler's plan for the destruction of
Poland as a nation. "...whatever we find in the shape of an upper
class in Poland will be liquidated," Hitler had ordered.
Heydrich formed SS Special Action (Einsatz) Groups to systematically
round up and shoot Polish politicians, leading citizens, professionals,
aristocracy, and the clergy. Poland's remaining people, considered by the
Nazis to be racially inferior, were to be enslaved.
Nazi-occupied Poland had an enormous Jewish population of over 2 million
persons. On Heydrich's orders, Jews who were not shot outright were crammed
into ghettos in places such as Warsaw, Krakow, and Lodz. Overcrowding and
lack of food within these walled-in ghettos soon led to starvation, rampant
diseases, and the resulting deaths of 500,000 Jews by mid 1941.
(Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes,
courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives)
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