Jewish Prisoners of War in the 1939 Campaign in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XII

Shmuel Krakowski


The Fate of Jewish Prisoners of War in the September 1939 Campaign

Unofficial sources claim that about 500,000 Polish soldiers were captured during the German blitzkrieg in September 1939; about ten per cent were Jewish. The Germans generally treated POWs, especially Jews, brutally. At the transit and POW camps, they segregated the Jews, treated them savagely, and many were tortured and murdered. Conditions were similar to those in German concentration camps. Furthermore, Polish POWs attacked Jews and stole their food and clothing with no response from the German guards. In early January, some 25,000 POWs were released from the camps. The Jews among them were helped by the Judenräte and then sent to their families in the various ghettos. 20,000 POWs from the territories annexed by the Soviet Red Army were transferred to the USSR. Already in December 1939 the Nazis began to annihilate Jewish POWs in German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and this continued throughout the war. Officers were accorded relatively better treatment. Some POWs crossed the borders into Subcarpathian Ruthenia, where they received reasonable treatment until the final death marches. The Red Army captured some 25,000 Jewish soldiers who were sent to forced labor camps. Jewish and Polish enlisted men shared the same fate. Many officers, however, were murdered in the Katyn forest, probably by the Russians. Several dozen Jews were included in this massacre. By the end of the war, very few Polish Jewish POWs captured by the Germans remained alive. Most of the Jewish POWs taken by the Russians did survive.

Products specifications
ISSN 0084-3296
Year 1977
Catalog No. 197709
No. of Pages 37 pp.
Format Electronic article in Yad Vashem Studies, Volume XII, pp. 297-333, Edited by Livia Rothkirchen
Publisher Yad Vashem