Memories of the German occupation in Kielce

27 October 2017

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The “Chronicles of Terror” digital database has recently been supplemented with the testimonies of victims of totalitarian crimes committed in the city of Kielce and its environs. The depositions from Kielce premièred on 20 June and 1 July 2017.

The Kielce region served the Germans as a testing ground for their occupation policy in Poland, and it was a place where various aspects of the ruthless Nazi ideology and its brutal implementation coexisted and at once overlapped. The inhabitants of the region had to face a plethora of repressive measures and acts of sheer terror: the extermination of the Jews, the annihilation of the Polish intellectual elites, the pacification of rural areas, the plan of Germanization and colonization of the land, and the fight against the Polish resistance.

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The first part of the event promoting “Chronicles of Terror” in the Kielce region was held on 20 June. A lecture by Dr. Sebastian Piątkowski, delivered at the National Museum in Kielce, was followed by workshops for high school students and history teachers, during which employees of the Center showed them how to use “Chronicles of Terror” in their educational activities.

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The presentation of testimonies was attended by Prof. Magadalena Gawin, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage; Agata Wojtyszek – Governor of the Świętokrzyskie Province, Rafał Nowak – Director of  Castle Hill in Kielce; and Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, Program Director of the Center.

Thanks to the publication of testimonies from the Kielce region in “Chronicles of Terror”, residents will not only have a chance to discover the wartime histories of their relatives, friends and neighbors, but also to glean specific knowledge about what occurred at their current places of residence or employment during the conflict – said Anna Gutkowska, the Director of the Center.

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On 1 July, the Center promoted its activities at the Castle Hill in Kielce. In a tent specially put up for the occasion, the city’s residents received materials concerning the Center and the “Chronicles of Terror – Kielce” project, while employees of the Center made copies of documents and photos from the occupation brought in by a number of citizens. During the event we also recorded verbal accounts of wartime experiences which, once written down, will enrich our resources. Finally, selected testimonies from ChroniclesofTerror.pl were made available through VR (Virtual Reality) goggles.

Residents were also offered guided tours of the locations in Kielce that were connected with the German and Soviet terror.

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At the Centre of Patriotic and Civic Reflection we screened three films directed by Dorota Kosierkiewicz, all of which are devoted to the history of the German occupation in the Kielce region:

– „Urodzony do wolności” [Born for freedom] (2013)

– „Polowanie na kata” [A hunt for the executioner] (2013)

– „Zapamiętaj moją twarz” [Remember my face] (2015)

A discussion held after the screening was attended by the following speakers: Dorota Kosierkiewicz, the director of the films; Andrzej Jankowski, a retired judge and a protagonist of one of the productions; and Dr. Marek Maciągowski, the Director of the Centre of Patriotic and Civic Reflection in Kielce. The audience included people who appeared in the films and were direct witnesses to the dramatic events that occurred in the Kielce region during the Second World War. Their personal accounts were deeply moving and perfectly complemented the views and opinions of the participating specialists.

The event was brought to a close with a concert given by Anna Broda – a singer-songwriter, cymbalist, composer and producer.

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Terror in the Kielce region as remembered by witnesses

Thanks to “Chronicles of Terror”, the statistics and analyses of historians have been given a human dimension that helps emphasize the tragedy of the Second World War – a conflict that affected the lives of real people, and not just some faceless and nameless entities.

Konstanty Makowski (1903–1944) – a locksmith, gunsmith and a Home Army soldier, was thus remembered by his wife Genowefa:

The German gendarmerie arrived on 23 June 1944 and surrounded the house, and one of them, who had my husband on the list, entered the flat. At that moment my husband jumped out of the window, but he was caught by the gendarme and taken to the prison in Kielce. The execution, by shooting, was carried out on 6 July 1944 at the Stadium in Kielce.

Zygfryd Lamcha, in turn, recalled the execution of Bolesław Matla, a scout from the Dionizy Czachowski Kielce Scouting Team that functioned at the Jędrzej Śniadecki Secondary School in Kielce, and an active member of the underground Union for Armed Struggle:

On 14 October 1943, I was arrested by the Gestapo. I shared my cell with Bolesław Matla, who was arrested on the same day. Matla was “examined” three times (torturous interrogations) and severely beaten. On 14 December 1943, Gestapo men arrived in their cars and took away Bolesław Matla and others.

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