Facing the Death: the different expressions of six Polish civilians moments before death by firing squad

Facing the Death the different expressions of six Polish civilians moments before death by firing squad, 1939

It’s interesting to see the range of emotions displayed by these men. Anguish, defiance, stoicism, acceptance and fear, the third one from the left is even smiling. This execution happened during the Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), Poland, 1939. Bloody Sunday was a series of killings of members of the German minority 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.

The term “Bloody sunday” was created and supported by the Nazi-propaganda officials. An instruction issued by the Ministry of Propaganda for the press said:

(…)must show news on the barbarism of Poles in Bromberg. The expression “bloody sunday” must enter as a permanent term in the dictionary and circumnavigate the globe. For that reason, this term must be continuously underlined…

The killings were followed by German reprisals and oppression, including a “de-Polonisation” campaign. In an act of retaliation for the killings on Bloody Sunday, a number of Polish civilians were executed by German military units of the Einsatzgruppen, Waffen SS, and Wehrmacht. According to German historian Christian Raitz von Frentz, 876 Poles were tried by German tribunal for involvement in the events of Bloody Sunday before the end of 1939. 87 men and 13 women were sentenced without the right to appeal. Polish historian Czesław Madajczyk notes 120 executions in relation to Bloody Sunday, and the execution of 20 hostages after a German soldier was allegedly attacked by a Polish sniper.

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