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July 9, 2019

Historic Picture Shows the Different Expressions of Six Polish Civilians Moments Before Death by Firing Squad, 1939

Facing the death –– This group of men show a wide range of emotions: the first from the left looks anguished, the next one looks defiant, the last one looks resigned... but the man third from the left is smiling at his executioners. He knows he is sure to die as others had been executed before him, but he faces his end with a smile.

The different expressions of six Polish civilians moments before death by firing squad, after the Nazi invasion of Poland at the outset of World War II, Bydgoszcz, Poland, 1939. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On September 3, 1939, two days after the start of the German invasion of Poland, a series of killings occurred in and around the Polish town of Bydgoszcz (German: Bromberg), where a sizable German minority lived. These killings were termed ‘Bloody Sunday’.

The Nazis exploited the deaths as grounds for a massacre of Polish inhabitants after the Wehrmacht captured the town. 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.

(via Rare Historical Photos)



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