Joined: Jan 2010
From: Lower Saxony
When the Emsland became Polish - "Polish" towns at the Dutch border
Have you ever heard of Maczkow? You can search it on the map, you'll not find this place.
Yehudin Menuhin who visited this place wrote about it, " a happier, seemingly jauntily living city has probably never existed, weddings, birthdays were celebrated on and on; flower-bedecked coaches with bridled horses chauffeured thru the streets".
But there is a dark side f the story. As you can read in the headline, these "Polish" city was not in Poland, but just 12km away from the Dutch border in the German Emsland. These territory was conquered in april 1945 by the British forces, among them the 1st Polish Tank division and the 1st Independent Parachute brigade. Because these units were known for their hate against germans (see statements of Sosnkowski), these units were used for the occupation of germany, because the Britains trusted them. This was decided after the capitulation of North germany on may 4th in Lüneburg. The Poles got the Emsland as occupation zone, but still under British command.
In these area were as well a several of force labour camps and POW camps in which Polish soldiers, members of the AK (e.g. those of the warsaw uprise) and forced labourers were imprisoned. In whole NW-Germany was a great number of forced labourers from Poland and in the area of maszkow around 60,000. These inmates were liberated by the Polish troops. But because many of them served in the AK, a way back home was difficult, because they feared to be arrested and punished by the Soviets. So in may 1945 there were still 30,000 Poles in the Emsland, together with around 18,000 Polish soldiers. The DPs remained till that time in their camps, guarded by british troops. The Polish side complaint about this and so there were 4 german towns cleared, as well parts of the city of Papenburg and the population expelled. They had 24 hours to leave, most of them moved to the farms around the cities and lived their in stables and haymows. In a second step the Britains decided to clear nine towns and as center the city of Haren. On White Sunday, may 20th 1945, the inhabitants of the city of haren were informed, that they had 24 hours to leave the town. The shock was great. The city was not destroyed during the war and the people quite happy, that the war was over. But it was not. The next day here as well, the inhabitants left with a few belongings the city and searched for shelter on farms in the near. the hygienic situation was terrible. very soon typhus broke out.
The citizens of haren and of the other villages were since that time not allowed to return to their towns, as long they had no passes. Only some servants were allowed to stay during the day. For the night they had to leave.
The town was renamed and called Lwow, but their were complaints of the Soviets and so Bor-Komorowski in june 24th 1945 renamed the town again after the commander of the 1t tank division Stanislaw Maczek into "Maczkow". Even the streets got Polish names. very soon the Poles established a civil life. They married in masses, got children, founded schools, even high-schools. A quite normal life, if it wouldn't have been hundreds of miles away from Poland. One of the famous inhabitants of Maszkow was Tadeusz Nowakowski, who was liberated by a near camp and lived for two years in the town.
Of course for the german inhabitants of Haren it was anything else but normal. allthough the farmers in the near tried to do their best, the situation was very bad. And help by international organisations they couldn't expect. The UNRRA did not help Germans in those days, but just cared about the german victims. All they hoped was, that the Poles would go back to Poland as soon as possible and that they could return into their homes. But they had to wait for a onger time. In december 1946 they complaint to the minister president of Lower saxony, that the Poles are still living their. If they were kidnapped foreigners it should have been time to leave. They complaint as well about destructions of their houses, murder, moletation and robbery by the Poles.
But besides these complaints there evolved as well some kind of trade between the Poles of Maczkow and the people of Haren. there evolved a blacked market and some germans served for the Poles. There was even sexual contacts reported, nevertheless no marriages. Two lieutenants who wanted to marry germans were sent to Poland. The germans as well were not happy about these contacts, too. There was once even a list published with german women, who shall have had such sexual contacts.
As I mentioned above, there were several other towns occupied by Poles, too. A very special situation happened in the town of Völlen. here the town was divided. The Poles lived on the one, the germans on the other side. A willingness to live in peace left after some hours. Problems were not avoidable. One reason was besides all this as well the behaviour of the polish occupation forces and the Poles at all. Like during the war in Poland, now Germans had to leave the pavement if Poles came and had to race their hats. On county fairs there was usually brawling.
But the times for the Poles weren't that great, too. They suffered in 1946 of a great flood, which stood nearly 2 metres in the villages. As well worsened their situation when the british government recognized the Lublin committee. There were even new settlers. In a convoy from Poland came 1000 emigrants as well. The UNRRA who supported the Poles with food was forced to force the Poles to leave Maczkow. They even threatened to cut the gas and electricity supply, if they wouldn't be willing to leave. In spring 1947 the british government offered the Poles to settle in Britain. The 1st tank division was withdrawn in this year and dissolved in may 1948. In june the polish priest celebrated the last liturgy and aa well the first gerans came back. On august 4th 1948 the city was nenamed as haren and the last Poles left on september 10th 1948. Three years of expulsion had come to an end, three years of uncertainty for germans and poles. 479 people were born in Maczkow during that time and have today in their passport a birth-place that does no longer exist and did only exist for three years.