Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Barycz valley nature park, part II

Part I of this review is to be found here.

Now, you have to appreciate that the area we were in was, until 1945, in Germany.  We were in Lower Silesia, a place where many ethnic groups have had dominated over time (the Celts, Bohemians, Poles, Germanic people, the French, Germans and finally Poles again).  One can notice the fact that different people live here now than used to by looking at this Christian statue:

It was produced after 1945.  Of course, while Lower Silesia has had a majority of Roman Catholics for a few centuries now, Poles were in the minority here before 1945.  This statue owes its existence to the changes of borders in 1945.

Moving on into Uchiechów, however, we saw a statue that pre-dated the war.  We had moved into Greater Poland (Wielkapolska.  One can see that on this map), in other words, to the part of Poland that had been In Poland before 1945, and therefore we had moved across the old German-Polish border.  A local woman informed us that a nice town to visit would be Sulmierzyce in the north, which was a 'nice Prussian town'. ( I am now confusing you, no doubt.  See the next day to see what she meant.)  She also spoke negatively of another town about 40 kilometres to the east, a town which while being ethnically Polish for centuries had been part of the Poland which was partitioned by Russia (rather than Prussia) and Poles, like this woman often look down on the part of Poland that was occupied by Russians till during the WWI, as the area did not develop as much as the parts of Poland which had been under Prussian and Austrian occupation, and to this day one can see that the houses there are of a lesser standard.  Bear in mind that this woman was younger than myself (she was in her 20's) and still, she had a prejudice against a part of Poland that stopped being under Russian occupation in 1917!

Cycling back to our apartment we crossed the 'Border bridge' (Most granicy) , i.e back into Lower Silesia.

The former border
Cycling south with the sun on our faces and skylarks in stereo around us, a look at this memorial showed us to be back in Wielkapolska

Notice the date

 Built in 1931
destroyed in 1941
Rebuilt in 1946

What happened here?  I am a bit stuck, to tell the truth.  That it happened during the war is clear.  That the date 1941 and the location means that only German troops were here is also clear, so I guess the blame can be put on the Wehrmacht.  But why would they destroy a statue?  I am aware of churches been raided for valuables in Poland (the same happened in synagogues, though other motives there led to the destruction of the synagogues, of course), but the descuction of Christian symbols?  I know that the Nazis had the policy of getting rid of signs of Polishness, and Roman Catholicism was one sign of Polishness, but I have not come across stories of statues being destroyed.  But in 1941?  I would understand 1939 more.  Then again, the 8th army of the Wehrmacht were probably more interested in pushing towards attacking the 'Poznań army' to the north west of Łódż to do such things.  The standard policy was for the Wehrmacht to secure the front and be followed by the Einsatzgruppen and/or other SS units 'securing the rear', an action that becomes more apparent in the next village I shall mention, Bogdaj.

Whatever the reason, being here showed me something: That this house was very close to the German border, and the occupants of this house would have been one of the first Poles to have been affected by the German invasion in the evening of September the 1st 1939.  It struck me, that finally I was to see evidence of WWII not through memorials, museums, streetnames or bullet holes in buildings in cities, but in a place which WWII affected, rural areas.

Moving south into Bogdaj we were to see further evidence of the effects of WWII:

While this graveyard, written on the map as 'Ewangelicki'  showed graves for Germans and pre-dated the war.  Bear in mind, that this graveyard predates the modern configuration of Poland (i.e. These graves were for Germans who were living in the pre-1939 borders of Poland).*

The above photo shows a rage that was directed against Germans after the war  That flowers have been placed there however shows that respect towards this and other graves is apparent.

Moving on into the village of Bogdaj, we saw this church.

So far, so standard.

Then I saw this painting, showing St. Maximilian Kolbe

This memorial, however, took me back to a place where I used to work:

Priest Antoni Tomiński
Died in Dachau on the 27th of August 1944
aged 39

 I used to do tours in the memorial site in Dachau and nearly always stood by where barracks 36, 38 (and later also 40) held Priests and Pastors, including a large number of RC Priests from Poland (a total of 2,720 clergy were in Dachau, of whom 1,870 were from Poland) Priests from Poland were treated worse than Priests and Pastors from Germany and the west, shown through them receiving harder and more dangerous work, less food; being more crowded in their barrack.  Of the total of 2,720 clergymen in Dachau 1,034 died (38%).  864 of the Polish Priests died (48.6%).  That means that 83.55% of the clergymen who died in the Dachau concentration camp were Polish Priests.

Part III can be seen here.

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