Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ADSS 3.1.50 Orsenigo to Maglione on conditions in Soviet-occupied Poland

In his report to Cardinal Maglione, the German nuncio, Cesare Orsenigo demonstrates a reasonably accurate picture of some aspects of life in Soviet-occupied Poland.  His statements about the Jews are, however, inaccurate.  Where this information originated is unclear, but at the very least, Orsenigo was kept informed through a network of people, most likely German-speaking priests, who moved between the German and Soviet zones.  

Soviet-sponsored elections in late October 1939 had marked the beginning of a process of repression of anti-communist elements as well as the process of "Russification".  Four days after this report was sent to Rome, the Soviet Union imposed USSR citizenship on all people in Soviet-occupied Poland.  Before the year ended the NKVD began deporting Poles into the USSR.

ADSS 3.1.50

Reference: Report number 248 (29.565) AES 8682/39

Location and date: Berlin, 25.11.1939

Summary statement: Report on the situation of the Poles under Russian control. Fines, harassment of clergy … The Jews are best equipped to endure the situation – they have their own schools, speak Hebrew [sic] and have their own military groups.

Language: Italian

I am in a hurry to send to your most reverend Eminence another note regarding the Polish-Russian territories.  Religious persons who have recently visited Lvov [Leopold] have reported:

1. that the enormous fine of 600,000 zloty imposed on his excellency the Ruthenian [Greek Catholic rite] archbishop, Andrea Szeptyckyj, cannot be paid, the archbishop not having at his disposal more than 35,000 zloty, which he has already paid and which may become the pretext for other oppressive measures.

2.  that the monastery of the Redemptorist fathers, as well as the Basilian fathers was dissolved; the fathers were dispersed, money was confiscated and the house given to the Jews (there are about 300,000 Jews from German-Poland who have emigrated to Russian-Poland). (1)

3.  that part of the convent of the Dames of the Sacred heart has been requisitioned for a dramatic company; the sisters have adopted civilian attire; eight sisters continue to teach in their high school with about 900 students, almost all of them very poor; the sisters receive 200 zloty a month from the Soviet authorities for their work; but the individual who supervises the college turned up one day – revolver in hand – and demanded one thousand zloty, but when the safe was opened, took two thousand.

It is hard to imagine the level of animosity of the Ukrainians against the Poles for the abuse they claim to have suffered.

In general the best-treated group in this Russian-Polish territory are the Jews, who have their own Jewish language school and special military groups only for Jews.

The worst treated are the poor peasant farmers, who have been burdened with a heavy tax on foodstuffs, which will inevitably result in another famine and to a high mortality rate.

Among the Redemptorists are nine Belgian fathers [left Russian-Poland]; the others, who are not foreigners, remain.  The father provincial, although Belgian, generously remained behind at the request of Archbishop Szeptykyj.  I pray your Eminence would be kind enough to send a copy of his report to his Eminence Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, secretary of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches, because of his great interest in the events in that region.

Cross references: 
(1) Orsenigo’s figures are inaccurate.  About 336,000 refugees fled into the Soviet zone of whom about 198,000 were Jews.  The Jewish population of the Soviet zone was 8.4%.  Within weeks of the invasion Sovietisation of the occupied zone began in earnest.  Systematic despoliation of church property was one aspect of the process.

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