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N.Y. marks WW II anniversary and nazi invasion of Poland

August 21, 2007

If any date in the 20th Century could be considered the most tragic, many feel September 1, 1939 would be the one. They choose it because it marks the day World War II began, a six- year war that saw more than 72 million killed by the time it ended in 1945.

The evil mind of Adolf Hitler decided to make it a war far different from any that took place before.

No longer, he and his military strategists decided, would the Germans simply attempt to destroy the army of another country. Now, the civilian population of that country was to be as much a target as its military forces.

On that September morning in 1939, the people of Poland became the first target of this diabolic plan.

In New York City, the Polish American Congress will remember that dark date in history at a 12:30 p.m. commemorative mass on Sunday, September 2nd at Holy Cross Church, 61-21 56th Road in the Maspeth section of Queens, N.Y. Monsignor Peter Zendzian, pastor of Holy Cross and chaplain of the Downstate N.Y. Division of the Polish American Congress will be the celebrant.

The public is invited to this memorial observance as well as the reception that follows.

As the Germans launched their invasion, they unleashed a massive and merciless blitzkrieg of death and destruction on the people of Poland. A little more than two weeks later, Communist armies of the Soviet Union marched in from the east and joined the Germans in the carnage.

The brutality of the German mindset was obvious from the very start. The invaders were carrying out the order of Hitler who, only ten days before the attack, instructed his generals to “send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (lebensraum) which we need.”

These words of hate are permanently displayed at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. on the wall at the entrance to the museum’s exhibit depicting Poland’s agony under German occupation.

Heinrich Himmler, the SS boss of the German concentration camps, had a similar message of misery and murder: “All Poles will disappear from the world … It is essential that the great German people should consider as its major task to destroy all Poles.”

Michael Preisler is a Polish Catholic who saw and experienced the full impact of these barbaric commands after the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to the dreaded Auschwitz death camp.

“Just like Hitler ordered them, the Germans who ran Auschwitz would never show any mercy or compassion to anyone,” he said. Preisler is presently co-chair of the Holocaust Documentation Committee of the Polish American Congress.

Mr. Preisler will participate in the commemorative observance and will speak about his experiences. His main concern these days are the attempts of German nationalists to force Poland to pay them restitution for territorial claims.

Against Polish objections, the Allies agreed among themselves to reshape Poland’s borders when the war ended in 1945 and placate Communist demands to annex parts of eastern Poland into the Soviet Union.

On the German-Polish border of western Poland, the Allies ceded some German land to the Poles. Nonetheless, the net result was an overall loss of territory by Poland.

“Hitler said he wanted us killed and out of the way so the German population could get living space in Poland,” said Preisler. “The Allies won the war, the Germans lost it and never got to keep the Polish land they grabbed. Now they want to sue for damages. Won’t they ever get this idea of lebensraum out of their heads?”

Contact: Frank Milewski
(718) 263-2700 – Ext. 105