Intelligenzaktion was a genocidal
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 action of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 targeting Polish
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 elites (primarily intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 - teachers, priests, etc.) as part of elimination of potentially dangerous elements. It was an early measure of the Generalplan Ost
Generalplan Ost
Generalplan Ost was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe. Implementing it would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing to be undertaken in the Eastern European territories occupied by Germany during World War II...

. About 60,000 people were killed as the result of this operation. The Intelligenzaktion took place soon after the German invasion of Poland, lasting from fall of 1939 till spring of 1940. It was continued by the German AB-Aktion operation in Poland.


These Polish elites were regarded as "Polish masters", an undesirable trait that might cause Poles to disobey their German masters. Hitler himself decreed:
The elite of Polish society was regarded by Nazi racial theories as being most likely of German blood, because their dynamic leadership contrasted with Slavonic fatalism, but the removal of such elements was regarded as necessary to remove leadership from the Polish nation, and because their patriotism and hatred of Germany would prevent full-scale Germanization. Furthermore, German blood must not be used the service of a foreign nation. (Their children were targeted for abduction and Germanization. Such programs, the Nazis believed, would prevent a resurgence of any intelligentsia.)

Method of realization

The action was realized by SS paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 death squads - Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

 and the paramilitary organization of the German minority in Poland
German minority in Poland
The registered German minority in Poland consists of 152,900 people, according to a 2002 census.The German language is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship , where most of the minority resides...

 - Selbstschutz
Selbstschutz stands for two organisations:# A name used by a number of paramilitary organisations created by ethnic Germans in Central and Eastern Europe# A name for self-defence measures and units in ethnic German, Austrian, and Swiss civil defence....

. The units involved were instructed by their commanders that their role would be far more difficult than merely fighting in battle, having to suppress obstructive populations or carry out executions.

The aim of this action was the elimination of Polish society's elite, defined very broadly as: Polish nobles
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

, intelligentsia, teachers, entrepreneurs, social workers, military veterans, members of national organisations, priests, judges, political activists, and anyone who had attended secondary school. People were arrested according to an "enemies of the Reich list" - Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen
Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen
Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen – was the proscription list prepared by Germans, before the war, that identified more than 61,000 members of Polish elites: activists, intelligentsia, scholars, actors, former officers, and others, who were to be interned or...

 prepared before the war by members of the German minority in Poland
German minority in Poland
The registered German minority in Poland consists of 152,900 people, according to a 2002 census.The German language is used in certain areas in Opole Voivodeship , where most of the minority resides...

 in cooperation with German Intelligence.

Regional actions

  • Intelligenzaktion Pommern – in regional action in Pomeranian Voivodeship
    Pomeranian Voivodeship
    Pomeranian Voivodeship, or Pomerania Province , is a voivodeship, or province, in north-central Poland. It comprises most of Pomerelia , as well as an area east of the Vistula River...

     23000 Poles were killed,
  • Intelligenzaktion Posen – 2000 victims from Poznań
    Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 556,022 in June 2009. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be...

  • Intelligenzaktion Masovien – regional action in Masovian Voivodeship
    Masovian Voivodeship
    -Administrative division:Masovian Voivodeship is divided into 42 counties : 5 city counties and 37 "land counties"...

     1939/1940 – 6700 victims from: Ostrołęka, Wyszków
    Wyszków is a town in northeastern Poland with 26,500 inhabitants . It is the capital of Wyszków County . Wyszków is situated in the Masovian Voivodeship ; previously it was in Warsaw Voivodeship and Ostrołęka Voivodeship .-Description:The village of Wyszków was first documented in 1203. The town...

    , Ciechanów
    Ciechanów is a town in north-central Poland with 45,900 inhabitants . It is situated in Masovian Voivodeship . It was previously the capital of Ciechanów Voivodeship.-History:The grad numbered approximately 3,000 armed men....

    , Wysokie Mazowieckie
    Wysokie Mazowieckie
    Wysokie Mazowieckie is a town in north-eastern Poland, in Podlaskie Voivodeship. It is the capital of Wysokie Mazowieckie County. Population is 10,034 .-Twin towns — Sister cities:Wysokie Mazowieckie is twinned with: Alpiarça, Portugal...

    , Giełczyn near Łomża were killed.
  • Intelligenzaktion Schlesien – in regional action in Silesian Voivodeship
    Silesian Voivodeship
    Silesian Voivodeship, or Silesia Province , is a voivodeship, or province, in southern Poland, centering on the historic region known as Upper Silesia...

     1940 2000 Poles were killed,
  • Intelligenzaktion Litzmannstadt – regional action in Łódź 1939 resulted in 1500 people being shot,
  • Sonderaktion Krakau
    Sonderaktion Krakau
    Sonderaktion Krakau was the codename for a German operation against professors and academics from the University of Kraków and other Kraków universities at the beginning of World War II....

    – 183 professors from Jagiellonian University
    Jagiellonian University
    The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz . It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world....

     were deported to Sachsenhausen,
  • Zweite Sonderaktion Krakau
  • Sonderaktion Tschenstochau – in Częstochowa
    Częstochowa is a city in south Poland on the Warta River with 240,027 inhabitants . It has been situated in the Silesian Voivodeship since 1999, and was previously the capital of Częstochowa Voivodeship...

  • Sonderaktion Lublin – in regional Lublin
    Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland. It is the capital of Lublin Voivodeship with a population of 350,392 . Lublin is also the largest Polish city east of the Vistula river...

     action 2000 people were killed, most of whom were priests,
  • Sonderaktion Bürgerbräukeller – in Łódź Voivodeship
  • Czarny Las Massacre
    Czarny Las Massacre
    Czarny Las Massacre was a mass murder of around 250 Poles, carried out by Gestapo, on order of SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Krüger in Czarny Las near Stanisławów, in the night of August 14/15, 1941....

    in Stanisławów, some 250 people were killed.


Further reading

  • Maria Wardzyńska: "Intelligenzaktion" na Warmii, Mazurach oraz Północnym Mazowszu. Główna Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni Przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu. Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej nr. 12/1, 2003/2004, ss. 38-42.
  • Andrzej Szcześniak: Generalplan Ost. Plan Zagłady Słowian. Radom: Polskie Wydawnictwo Encyklopedyczne, 2001, ISBN 83-88822-03-9.
  • Meier, Anna "Die Intelligenzaktion: Die Vernichtung Der Polnischen Oberschicht Im Gau Danzig-Westpreusen" VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, ISBN 3639047214 ISBN 978-3639047219
  • Maria Wardzyńska "Był rok 1939 Operacja niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa w Polsce. Intelligenzaktion" IPN Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2009 ISBN 978-83-7629-063-8
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