Western Europe 1939-1945: Occupation

How did occupation affect peoples’ lives?

Extracts from an account of events in Poland, September 1939 to March 1940

Catalogue ref: FO 371/24472

Extract a

Events in Poland; FO 371.24472

Extract b

Events in Poland; FO 371.24472

Listen to this document

Adobe Flash player is required to listen to this audio.
MP3 Transcript
Enlarge Next

What is this source?

This source is taken from an account of the experiences of two Polish girls who escaped from Poland and arrived in Britain. They then told their story to officials at the British Foreign Office.

More

The two girls were aged 16 and 18. They arrived in Britain via Berlin, Vienna, Milan and Paris.


What’s the background to this source?

The Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939. Soon afterwards the USSR invaded Poland from the East and the country collapsed. Conditions for Polish civilians were appalling.

More

As soon as they had conquered the country the Nazis set about putting their policies into action. There were two main policies. The first was to clear Poles out of lands and homes so that German settlers could take their place and gain new living space or Lebensraum. The second policy was the rounding up of Polish Jews and forcing them to live in areas called ghettos. Many Jews were killed during this process, but at this stage the policy of mass murder had not yet come into force.


It’s worth knowing that...

The two girls were from a wealthy family. Her family managed to do a deal with a Nazi official to get papers and permission to travel across Europe.

More

The girls were actually Polish Jews but the Nazi official got them papers that said that they were Aryans. This arrangement very probably saved their lives.


Does this source support the drawing by T. Cuneo?

  1. What does the story about the carthorse tell us about food shortages in Poland?
  2. According to both extracts, how are peoples’ lives controlled in occupied Poland?
  3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this source as evidence of what it was like to live under Nazi rule?

Use this table to record your views.