September 1, 1939

August 2014

I spent the last couple of months re-reading Ian Kershaw’s Hitler bio­graphy. It was hard and I had to stop a few times. Not because the book isn’t well written – it’s a fas­cin­at­ing, fine-grained obser­va­tion of Hitler’s life from birth to death. But a lot of the facts and cir­cum­stances Ian Kershaw describes are too depress­ing to stomach without a pause.

The book chal­lenges what we, the post war gen­er­a­tions, take for granted: That life is more or less good, that people are more or less good. That there’s hope, after all.

One of the most har­row­ing chapters is Germany’s inva­sion of Poland and the fol­low­ing occu­pa­tion. Poland was a turning point – Germany, already a dic­tat­or­ship for six years com­mit­ting atro­cit­ies against human­ity, turned to meth­od­ical gen­o­cide.

That gen­o­cide, as his­tor­i­ans have shown by ref­er­ence to many sources and examples, was obvious to almost every­body who was part of the inva­sion. The “Ein­satz­grup­pen” killings didn’t happen in secrecy. Even ordin­ary police­men were part of the exe­cu­tion com­mandos.

Now, 75 years after the inva­sion, some people who have wit­nessed it first hand, are still alive – on both sides. Non­ethe­less, life goes on. The rela­tions between Poland and Germany are based on recon­cili­ation, even friend­ship.

Think about it for a minute.

From a Polish per­spect­ive it would have been under­stand­able to close the borders for a century and kindly ask Germans to get lost until further notice. But they didn’t.

We’re lucky to have great neigh­bors like Poland.