Disappeared Forever?

The persecution of Uighur intellectuals – Henryk Szadziewski

I was raised in the UK by parents who survived the Nazi occupation of Poland. I grew up hearing their stories of fear and deprivation. My father spent time in a German internment camp, with only threadbare clothes to protect him from the freezing cold. Decades later, even on mildly cold days, he would put several pairs of socks on his feet to keep the chill at bay. It was a persistent reminder of his severe experiences as a young man. I didn’t understand the lasting psychological and physical impacts of internment.

My parents were fortunate. They survived and rebuilt their lives. Members of their family and community, and millions of people in Poland including the educated elite, did not share this fate. In 1939, the Nazis implemented ‘Intelligenzaktion,’ a policy that singled out Poland’s intelligentsia. Selected people were targeted, disappeared and murdered. The aim was not only to ‘cleanse’ the newly conquered territory, but also to wipe out any source of opposition to Nazi rule. Professor Jan Pakulski writes that these ‘eliticides’ resulted in the “formation of a politically dependent and socially deracinated ‘quasi-elite’ with limited capacity for governing.”