Memorial Book

Victims of the Persecution of Jews under the National Socialist Tyranny in Germany 1933 - 1945

Memorial Book

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The Expulsion of Polish Jews from the German Reich 1938/1939 and their records

Source Material when ascertaining names of people affected

A first step towards the ascertainment by name of people affected has already been taken by the Federal Archives during the work on the Memorial Book and the list of the former Jewish residents in the German Reich 1933 - 1945 by evaluating a wide range of different sources. These mainly included various memorial books for the victims of the Holocaust from individual towns and regions or messages from organisations, other archives as well as private individuals, where any details about victims of the “Polenaktion” could be found.

One of the most comprehensive sources, which required special attention, is the name list of victims, who were expelled via Bentschen. The list of names is held by the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen.[2] Their personal tragedy has been recorded in this data base in the expulsion section with the date of 28 October 1938 heading for “Bentschen (Zbaszyn)”, unless a deviating expulsion date could be determined by means of complementary sources.[3]

There were no comparable sources for other border crossings, as local Polish border authorities showed different behaviours. While they tried to intern and register those expelled in Bentschen, people were able to continue their journey elsewhere without having their personal data registered. Those whose precise expulsion location cannot be verified can be found on the database with the general information of their country of destination being “Poland” in the expulsion box.

By means of the different sources mentioned - in addition to the list of Bentschen, primarily sources with a regional historical background - the Federal Archives have been able to identify some 7,000 persons who were affected by the forceful expulsion to Poland in October 1938.[4] For approximately 4,800 of them the town of Bentschen (Zbaszyn) could be verified, which stirred up a lot of press attention in the light of further occurences at that time. The inflow began here in the evening of 28 October 1938. The German police were forcing people on country roads or along railway tracks; subsequently, the first trains reached the border crossing. Contemporary witnesses reported about chaotic situations. Several thousand were wandering around this no man's land, they were crowding the railway property and they were occupying station buildings or squares in the vicinity as well as meadows surrounding the border town of Bentschen. The authorities had not anticipated that and could not at all cope with the crowds under the given circumstances.

Once the Polish border guards had endeavoured to register those expelled resp. check their passports, many of them were able to continue their inland journey within the first two days. Those, however, who did not know where to go and whose entry was denied, were interned in Bentschen.