Bloody Sunday (1939)

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Bloody Sunday (German: Bromberger Blutsonntag; Polish: Krwawa niedziela) is the term used to describe a series of killings that took place at the beginning of World War II. On September 3, 1939, two days after the beginning of the German invasion of Poland, highly controversial killings occurred in and around Bydgoszcz (German: Bromberg), a Polish city with a sizable German minority. The number of casualties and other details of the incident are disputed among historians. The Nazis exploited the deaths as grounds for a massacre of Polish inhabitants after the Wehrmacht captured the town.

Contents

Background

Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia during the First Partition of Poland. As a part of Prussia, the city was affected by the unification of Germany in 1871 and became part of the German Empire. It would remain a part of the German Empire until the end of World War I. In February 1920, the Treaty of Versailles awarded the city and the surrounding region to the Second Polish Republic (the administrative region of Pomeranian Voivodeship). This resulted in a number of ethnic Germans leaving the region for Germany. Over the interwar period the German population decreased even further. The 1931 Polish Census reported the German minority population in the city to be 117,200; according to the German historian Hugo Rasmus, only about 10,000 Germans remained there in 1939.[3]

The emergence of the Nazi Party in Germany had an important impact on the city. Adolf Hitler revitalized the Völkisch movement, making an appeal to the Germans living outside of Germany's post-World War I borders. It was Hitler's explicit goal to reverse the work of the Treaty of Versailles and create a Greater German State. By March 1939, these ambitions, charges of atrocities on both sides of the German-Polish border, distrust, and rising nationalist sentiment led to the complete deterioration of Polish-German relations. Hitler's demands for the Polish Corridor, Polish opposition to negotiate with him, and finally the German invasion of Poland fueled ethnic tensions and set the pace for the atrocities which soon followed the breakout of hostilities and confusion on Bloody Sunday.

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