The Long Road to Reconciliation
September 1 was the 80 th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. On that day in 1939 German troops invaded Poland after signing an infamous pact with Communist Russia to divide the country. So began almost six years of brutal occupation when nearly six million Poles were killed, including some three million Jews. In 1965, the Polish bishops called for Germany and Poland “to seek with determination the truth and to follow the paths of reconciliation.” Poland experienced the worst treatment of any nation under Nazi occupation, excited by the racist propaganda that treated the Slav people as subhuman and no better than animals. Since the war ended, it is a common assumption in Germany that the atrocities committed in Eastern Europe were done by the SS troops alone, and that the bulk of the German military acted honourably. Not so, according to the evidence, regular soldiers shared racist attitudes and had no problem with executing hostages and Jews.