Polish man accused of ‘war crimes’ against the Germans

Czeslaw Geborski, the accused, is said to have systematically raped, tortured and murdered German civilians while serving as commandant at the Lambinowice concentration camp in Silesia, where Germans living in the region were interned after the war.

Frantiszek Lewandowski, one of the prosecutors in the case, said: “The main charge we are bringing against him is that he ordered a building in the camp to be burned down, killing 48 people. As people tried to escape the flames, he personally shot them or had them flung back inside.”

via Polish man accused of ‘war crimes’ against the Germans – Telegraph.

2 thoughts on “Polish man accused of ‘war crimes’ against the Germans

  1. THURSDAY JUNE 14 2001 – The Times

    ‘Atrocities’ trial shakes Poland’s victim image

    FROM ROGER BOYES IN OPOLE, POLAND

    GERMAN women were drowned in latrines and prisoners were buried alive
    during post-war internment in Poland, according to witnesses at the
    trial of a Polish camp commandant.
    Czelaw Geborski, a stooped, snowy-haired pensioner of 76, is accused
    of murdering German women who, after the Second World War, were herded
    into deportation camps prior to being expelled from Silesia.

    His trial is the first to be held in post-communist Europe for crimes
    committed against Germans. About 14 million of them were expelled from
    territory that is now part of Poland and the Czech Republic; two
    million died mainly of hunger, exhaustion and disease as they trekked
    westwards.

    The revelations, coupled with the disclosure that Polish villagers
    took part in a bloodthirsty massacre of Jews during the war, have
    forced Poland to reassess its image of itself as one of the primary
    victims of Hitler.

    The Silesian atrocities occurred in 1945 and 1946, after the end of
    the war. The Soviet Union laid claim to what was once eastern Poland
    and in return Poles gained territory in the west. Germans living there
    were thrown out. Once resettled in Germany they formed powerful
    political associations that kept alive memories of camps such as
    Lamsdorf (now known as Lambinowice) 30 kilometres from Opole.

    Mr Geborski, sitting in the dock next to his often embarrassed lawyer,
    interrupts loudly as the witnesses try to reconstruct everyday life in
    the camp. “It was like a holiday camp!” he barks out, banging his
    stick on the floor. “They all had their own beds and three modest
    meals.”

    The fact is that in the autumn of 1945 most Poles were in no mood to
    treat the Germans generously: five years of occupation, a
    comprehensive system of labour and concentration camps, and executions
    on street corners made the activities behind the high fences of
    Lamsdorf camp seem like small beer.

    Nonetheless, more than 1,000 people are said to have died there and
    some of the stories emerging from the witness stand are horrific. If
    the queue for the women’s latrines was too long the guards would
    simply shoot the waiting women with a machinegun. Babies were
    separated from their mothers and allowed to starve. The mothers were
    chased with sticks around the periphery of the camp.

    The charges against Mr Geborski have been narrowed down to the night
    of October 4, 1945. Fire broke out in barrack room 12. Women prisoners
    struggled to throw sand on the flames. Uniformed Poles, according to
    witnesses, shot at them and pushed them into the blaze.

    “I can hear their screams even now,” said Helmut Gerlitz, now 62, who
    as a six-year-old boy stared out of the window of his hut. At least
    three women died, and others were seriously wounded and mutilated.

    Mr Geborski claims that the prisoners started the fire themselves to
    stage a diversion and escape in the chaos. He merely used his right to
    order shots to be fired at escaping prisoners. Witnesses say, however,
    that graves were dug in advance of the blaze, suggesting that the
    incident was planned by the camp administration.

    Strictly speaking much of what the witnesses say amounts to hearsay.
    At any kind of factual mistake, Mr Geborski interrupts and demands
    clarification. He does so in the strident tone of someone who spent
    much of the 1950s and 1960s working for the communist secret police.

    Mr Geborski has been charged twice before. Each time the proceedings
    were dropped because he enjoyed high political protection. The Polish
    Minister for Recovered Territory — Mr Geborski’s ultimate political
    boss — was Wladyslaw Gomulka, like Mr Geborski an ex-partisan. The
    charges against Mr Geborski were dropped in 1958: by then Gomulka had
    become Poland’s Communist Party chief.

    The German authorities, too, did not push very hard for a trial. To
    support openly the cause of the expelled Germans was to risk being
    branded a nationalist, someone intent on challenging the legitimacy of
    the German-Polish border.

    So Mr Geborski has benefited from the long silence of politicians. His
    defence lawyer wishes on him a similar silence: Mr Geborski is not shy
    about denouncing what he says is the absurdity of a Pole being
    punished for crimes against Germans after a long and bloody war.

    For medical reasons Mr Geborski is allowed to sit in court for only
    three hours a day. The result is slow proceedings.

    The trial continues.

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