Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Villages Date in the current year: July 12, 2024

Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Villages The Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Villages (Dzień Walki i Męczeństwa Wsi Polskiej), also translated as the Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Countryside, is observed in Poland on July 12 every year to commemorate the 1943 Michniów massacre.

Throughout World War II, Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hundreds of Polish villages in German-occupied areas were subjected to terror, repression, and mass executions of civilians. Even though the supposed goal of pacification actions was to suppress the resistance movement, victims included women, young children, the sick and the wounded, farmers, and other innocent people. According to estimates, about 300 Polish villages were completely destroyed by Germans during pacification.

One of the most notorious pacifications during the German occupation of Poland was the Michniów massacre. The village of Michniów in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship was one of the centers of the Polish underground resistance movement during the occupation. Several dozen villagers were members of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), the dominant resistance movement. Village dwellers also provided support aid to partisans of the regional unit of the People’s Guard (Gwardia Ludowa) and Soviet POWs who had escaped from German camps.

The pacification of Michniów was meticulously planned by the German authorities. On the night of July 11 to 12, 1943, the Germans surrounded the village with a ring of posts. In the early morning, men and women going to work were detained and subjected to a thorough search. In an hour, the Germans entered Michniów and began to round up the villagers. During the first day of the massacre, they murdered 95 men, two women and five children, and burned several barns and farms; the Germans also took 28 people with them as they left the village.

As the news of the massacre reached the local guerrillas, they retaliated by capturing the nearby block post and attacking a German train carrying soldiers. After learning of the retaliatory attack, many villagers left Michniów, fearing another massacre, but about 120 people stayed in the village. On July 13, the Germans returned and began to systematically murder the remaining residents. They killed 102 people (7 men, 52 women and 43 children); only about 20 people managed to survive. The village was completely burned down. Two days later, people from neighboring villagers buried the victims of the massacre in a mass grave.

The Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Villages was established in 2017 and observed for the first time in 2018. It honors the contributions of Polish village dwellers during World War II: helping refugees, displaced persons and people hiding from prosecution, fighting in partisan units, and providing food to city dwellers and soldiers of the Polish Underground State. The observance also highlights the enormous sacrifices made by villagers who were murdered in the massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, shot by enemy soldiers, thrown out of their homes and stripped of their belongings, and deported to Soviet and German concentration camps.

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Day of Struggle and Martyrdom of the Polish Villages, observances in Poland, remembrance days, memorial days, Michniów massacre