Exhibition as a part of the project AGAINST PREJUDICE: an open society on the 85th anniversary of the „Polenaktion” deportation
On the cold and rainy weekend of 28 and 29 October 1938, a total of around 17,000 Jews from across the German Reich were forced to cross the border into Poland. They were expelled from Germany because they were Polish citizens, although many had lived there for decades and some had even been born there. More than 8,000 people were then driven into the border town of Zbąszyń.
In Berlin alone, the police arrested more than 1,500 Jews in flats or on the street. Forcibly led to assembly points, they were transported by train to the border the same day. Under guard, they were brutally forced to march from the German Neu-Bentschen (Zbąszynek) to the vicinity of the railway station in Zbąszyń.
Polish Jews living in the German Reich were among the first victims of a new phase of radicalised persecution under the Nazis. As immigrants, they were in a special situation. Polish historian Jerzy Tomaszewski calls the mass expulsion of Poles in October 1938. „a prelude to the Holocaust”. This chapter of history remains largely unknown and overshadowed by the memory of the Kristallnacht pogroms. Herschel Grynszpan’s assassination of a German diplomat in Paris served the Nazis as a pretext for planned pogroms. Grynszpan’s family was among the Polish Jews deported this autum from Hanower to Zbąszyń.
The exhibition in its original form was prepared by Aktives Museum and Freie Universität Berlin. It focused on Polish Jews living in Berlin. The historical background was presented, as well as the fate of six Berlin families who experienced expulsion. The exhibition in Zbąszyń additionally presents the specifics of the expellees’ lives in our town, showing the local context and the expellees’ relations with the inhabitants. The exhibition is presented at the Old Railway Station - a place that is a silent witness to these events.