Public execution of Roman Catholic Priests and other Polish Civilians in Bydgoszcz’s Old Market Square; September 9th, 1939
Tereska, draws a picture of “home” while living in a residence for disturbed children; Poland, 1948.
Life Magazine: “Tereska Draws Her Home”, photo by David Seymour, Vol. 25, No. 26, December 27, 1948, p. 16.
The original caption reads as follows:
Children’s wounds are not all outward. Those made in the mind by years of sorrow will take years to heal. In Warsaw, at an institute which cares for some of Europe’s thousands of “disturbed” children, a Polish girl named Tereska was asked to make a picture of her home. These terrible scratches are what she drew. (p. 17)
This photograph was taken by Chim (David Seymour) in a home for emotionally disturbed children (Warsaw, 1948). It’s generally agreed upon that the subject, Tereska, was a victim of the Holocaust.
This was part of a series on Europe’s postwar children commissioned by UNICEF.
Tereska’s family had no idea that her photo is famous around the world and used by psychologists to research what war does to children’s mind.
It turns out that Tereska – “Niuńka” as the family called her – has never been to concentration camp. Her drawing may show war, of course, but as children were ask to draw “home” it may show rubble. Tereska’s house was ruined during Warsaw uprising seconds after she and her older sister managed to run away. We don’t know exactly what she experienced since there are no living family members who were there with her, but it happened during Wola massacre so we can just imagine. During bombing a fragment of brick hit Niuńka. Her central nervous system was harmed and ever since she had physical and mental problems.
Tereska died tragically in 1978 in a mental hospital nearby Warsaw.
• More Info (in Polish)
Polish concentration camp survivor weeping near charred corpse of a friend, in Leipzig, Germany; ca. 1945
This photo was taken by Margaret Bourke-White (who was the first female war correspondent in WWII. Also she’s also the photographer of the iconic Kentucky Flood photo.) She was a badass with a robotic heart. I could have never done what she did and maintained her love of life and compassionate nature.
The Katyn Massacre
The Katyn Massacre was horrifying. 22,000 prisoners of war from the officer corp and high ranking civilians who surrendered peacefully to the soviets when Poland was invaded, murdered simply so there would be less resistance to Soviet rule.
Detailed information on the executions in the Kalinin NKVD prison was provided during a hearing by Dmitrii Tokarev, former head of the Board of the District NKVD in Kalinin. According to Tokarev, the shooting started in the evening and ended at dawn. The first transport on 4 April 1940, carried 390 people, and the executioners had a hard time killing so many people during one night. The following transports held no more than 250 people. The executions were usually performed with German-made 7.65×17mm Walther PPK pistols supplied by Moscow, but 7.62×38mmR Nagant M1895 revolvers were also used. The executioners used German weapons rather than the standard Soviet revolvers, as the latter were said to offer too much recoil, which made shooting painful after the first dozen executions. Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin, chief executioner for the NKVD—and quite possibly the most prolific executioner in history—is reported to have personally shot and killed 7,000 of the condemned, some as young as 18, from the Ostashkov camp at Kalinin prison over a period of 28 days in April 1940.
The killings were methodical. After the personal information of the condemned was checked, he was handcuffed and led to a cell insulated with stacks of sandbags along the walls and a felt-lined, heavy door. The victim was told to kneel in the middle of the cell, was then approached from behind by the executioner and immediately shot in the back of the head. The body was carried out through the opposite door and laid in one of the five or six waiting trucks, whereupon the next condemned was taken inside. In addition to muffling by the rough insulation in the execution cell, the pistol gunshots were also masked by the operation of loud machines (perhaps fans) throughout the night. This procedure went on every night, except for the May Day holiday.
…but what happened with the discovery of the Katyn burial site is a lesson in how screwed up the world was at that time. when the Germans found the massacre site, they used it as propaganda material against the Russians.
When the Russians retook the area, they planted evidence and said the Germans committed the massacre.
The whole era was colossal race to the bottom: who can kill the most people, in the most brutal fashion, and claim their enemy killed more, in a more brutal fashion. a sort of anti-morality. it really makes you wonder, how humanity can be that screwed up.
When, in September 1943, Goebbels was informed that the German army had to withdraw from the Katyn area, he wrote a prediction in his diary. His entry for 29 September 1943 reads: “Unfortunately we have had to give up Katyn. The Bolsheviks undoubtedly will soon ‘find’ that we shot 12,000 Polish officers. That episode is one that is going to cause us quite a little trouble in the future. The Soviets are undoubtedly going to make it their business to discover as many mass graves as possible and then blame it on us”.
Having retaken the Katyn area almost immediately after the Red Army had recaptured Smolensk, around September–October 1943, NKVD forces began a cover-up operation. A cemetery the Germans had permitted the Polish Red Cross to build was destroyed and other evidence removed. Witnesses were “interviewed”, and threatened with being arrested as German collaborators if their testimonies disagreed with the official line. Since none of the documents found on the dead had dates later than April 1940 the Soviet secret police planted false evidence that pushed the massacre date forward to the summer of 1941 when the Nazis controlled the area. A preliminary report was issued by NKVD operatives Vsevolod Merkulov and Sergei Kruglov, dated 10–11 January 1944, concluding that the Polish officers were shot by the Germans.
Kazimiera Mika, a 10 year-old Polish girl, crying over her older sister’s body. (She was killed during a German air raid while working in a field outside Warsaw, Poland); September, 1939.
Every time you hear: “USA, USA!” (or whatever your countries name is), think of this…
Photographer Julien Bryan described the scene:
“As we drove by a small field at the edge of town we were just a few minutes too late to witness a tragic event, the most incredible of all. Seven women had been digging potatoes in a field. There was no flour in their district, and they were desperate for food. Suddenly two German planes appeared from nowhere and dropped two bombs only two hundred yards away on a small home. Two women in the house were killed. The potato diggers dropped flat upon the ground, hoping to be unnoticed. After the bombers had gone, the women returned to their work. They had to have food.
But the Nazi fliers were not satisfied with their work. In a few minutes they came back and swooped down to within two hundred feet of the ground, this time raking the field with machine-gun fire. Two of the seven women were killed. The other five escaped somehow.
While I was photographing the bodies, a little ten-year old girl came running up and stood transfixed by one of the dead. The woman was her older sister. The child had never before seen death and couldn’t understand why her sister would not speak to her… The child looked at us in bewilderment. I threw my arm about her and held her tightly, trying to comfort her. She cried. So did I and the two Polish officers who were with me…”
In September 1959 Julien Bryan wrote more about it in Look magazine:
In the offices of the Express, that child, Kazimiera Mika, now 30, and I were reunited. I asked her if she remembered anything of that tragic day in the potato field. “I should,” she replied quietly. “It was the day I lost my sister, the day I first saw death, and the first time I met a foreigner – you.” Today, Kazimiera is married to a Warsaw streetcar motorman. They have a 12-year-old girl and a boy, 9, and the family lives in a 1 1/2-room apartment, typical of the overcrowded conditions of war-racked Poland. She is a charwoman at a medical school (she told me her biggest regret is that her education ended when the war began), and all of the $75 earned each month by her husband and herself goes for food. Kazimiera and her husband, like most Poles, supplement their income with odd jobs, and are sometimes forced to sell a piece of furniture for extra money. But they celebrated my visit to their home with that rare treat, a dinner with meat.
This is but one case of attacking civilians in war – this hits us so hard because we know the story and can relate to it emotionally.
Now think of the millions of people killed over the years in millions of acts just like this one – and just how horrific a person is to think bombing of civilians is an acceptable practice.
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori.
Polish child in the ruins of Warsaw.
The devastation of Warsaw is really hard to comprehend, even before/after shots can’t show anything because of how complete the devastation was: there’s no point of reference anywhere, like the surface of the moon. For example, this ghetto area photo is 1950 and was either directly adjacent to the current city center at the palace of culture, or nearby:
Here’s a video showing the destruction. This is a digital reconstruction of the destruction that happened. Powerful stuff…