World War II: Polish Orphanages (1939-45)


Figure 1.--Here Polish World War II war orphans are being cared for at a Catholic orphange after the War in 1946. The wire service caption read, "Polish orphans of War: Some of Poland's thousands of orphans, these young boys libe on a Catholic orphanage in Lublin. The American Red Cross, which took this picture, advised most of these children's clothing and medicines are supplied by that organization." Lublin was the center of the Soviet-backed Polis regime during the War.

The subject of Polish World War II orphanages is an important one and one which we do not yet have much information. We do not know of any account covering this subject, although there are accounts of indiviual orphanages and menoirs of individuald suring the War. The subject is very complicated because of the many different political regimes that controlled Poland before during and after the War, regimes of extrofinarily different political and social chracter. Pre-warPoland was a republic. We do not know much about orphanages in Poland before the War. We believe that religious communities, especially the Catholics and Jews played a major role in supporting orphanages and other institutioins like sanatoriums and asylums. We have, however, few details. At the onset of the War (September 1939), Poland was occupied by NAZI Germay and the Soviet Union. The NAZIs began Germanizing Western Poland and deporting Poles to the Government General. We do not know how orphanages fared in these circumstances. Jewish orphans along with other Jews were confined in ghettoes. And there are detailed accounts of a Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. We know very little about orphanages for other Polish children. Of course NAZI attrocities substantially increased the number of displaced and orphaned children. At the same time operating prphanages became very difficult because of food shortages. We doubt if church and civil groups were easily able to obtain food for orphans from NAZI occupation officials. Here we have few details. We also do not know about orphanages in the Soviet sector of occupied Poland. There are reports that Soviet officials made it difficifult for Catholic orphanes to operate by restricting food allocations. They also set up Communist or Russian orphanages where food was more plentiful. There are reports, however, the Polish children were not well treated. And as in the NAZI occupation zone, Soviet attrocities created new orphans and displaced children. The NAZIs occupied the rest of Poland as part of Barbarossa (JUne 1941). We do not know what happwnd to the Russian orphanages and the childfen cared for there. The continued barbaric NAZI occupation created more orphans. The anti-partisan campaign displaced more people, many were detained in concentration camps. Polish children including orphans were also targeted by the SS Lebensborn program. By the end of the War there were an estimated 1 million Polish orphans. These actually were the fortunate children which survived. Both the new Communist Government and the Catholic Church operated orphanages in the immediate aftermath of the War.

Poorly Covered Subject

The subject of Polish World War II orphanages is an important one and one which we do not yet have much information. We do not know of any account covering this subject, although there are accounts of indiviual orphanages and menoirs of individuald suring the War. The subject is very complicated because of the many different political regimes that controlled Poland before during and after the War, regimes of extrofinarily different political and social chracter.

Pre-War Orphanages (1918-39)

Pre-warPoland was a republic. We do not know much about orphanages in Poland before the War. We believe that religious communities, especially the Catholics and Jews played a major role in supporting orphanages and other institutioins like sanatoriums and asylums. We have, however, few details.

World War II Orphanages (1939-44)

At the onset of the War (September 1939), Poland was occupied by NAZI Germay and the Soviet Union. The NAZIs began Germanizing Western Poland and deporting Poles to the Government General. We do not know how orphanages fared in these circumstances. Jewish orphans along with other Jews were confined in ghettoes. And there are detailed accounts of a Jewish orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto. Famed humanitarian Dr. Janusz Korczak (1879-1943) ran an orphanage in Warsaw for poor Jewish children and stayed with his orphans on the train to Treblinka, We know very little about orphanages for other Polish children. Of course NAZI attrocities substantially increased the number of displaced and orphaned children. At the same time operating prphanages became very difficult because of food shortages. We doubt if church and civil groups were easily able to obtain food for orphans from NAZI occupation officials. Here we have few details. We also do not know about orphanages in the Soviet sector of occupied Poland. There are reports that Soviet officials made it difficult for Catholic orphans to operate by restricting food allocations. They also set up Communist or Russian orphanages where food was more plentiful. There are reports, however, the Polish children were not well treated. [Piotrowski, p. 65.] And as in the NAZI occupation zone, Soviet attrocities created new orphans and displaced children. A reader also tells us about a Moscow orphanage opened for Polish children (1943). The NAZIs occupied the rest of Poland as part of Barbarossa (JUne 1941). We do not know what happwnd to the Russian orphanages and the childfen cared for there. The continued barbaric NAZI occupation created more orphans. The anti-partisan campaign displaced more people, many were detained in concentration camps. Polish children including orphans were also targeted by the SS Lebensborn program. Much of Poland was liberated by late-1944, but areas of NAZI controlled conyinued until early 1945.

Post-War Orphanages (1945- )

By the end of the War there were an estimated 1 million Polish orphans. These actually were the fortunate children which survived. Both the new Communist Government and the Catholic Church operated orphanages in the immediate aftermath of the War. American charities supported these orphanages, especially the Catholic orphanages (figure 1). We believe the Communist authorities closed down the Catholic orphanages, but we do not yet have details.

Sources

Piotrowski, Tadeusz. The Polish Deportees of World War II: Recollections of Removal to the Soviet Union.





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Created: 5:54 AM 4/15/2010
Last updated: 5:55 AM 4/15/2010