Topics of coins

Massacres in Piaśnica

Piaśnica is the site of the biggest act of genocide perpetrated by the Germans in the region of Pomerania. These mass executions of civilians took place in the early months of World War II and were among the first mass killings carried out on such a large scale in Europe. As part of the extermination actions “Tannenberg”, “Säuberungsaktion” and “Intelligenzaktion”, in the autumn of 1939 the Germans murdered about 30,000 people in the region of Pomerania. In the first phase, the policy adopted by the German occupier consisted in the extermination of Poles actively involved in developing Pomerania’s Polish identity and building the foundations of the Second Polish Republic. Thus, in 1939 it was the region of Pomerania that suffered the most as a result of mass executions carried out by the Germans.

The victims murdered in Piaśnica included Polish community leaders from northern Pomerania, Pomeranian Jews, as well as people brought on trains from the Third Reich, including the mentally ill, Poles who had lived in Germany before the war, and the opponents of the Nazi ideology. The vast forest areas around Piaśnica, chosen by the Germans as the execution site, were located far away from human settlements, which made it easier to hide the mass murders. At the same time, the execution site was easily accessible by road and by rail and situated near the town of Wejherowo, where a prison was located.

The direct perpetrators of the mass murders were the soldiers from a special SS unit and the members of the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz – a paramilitary organisation of the German ethnic minority in Poland. The officers of the German police and gendarmerie from Wejherowo also participated in the organisation of the executions. Since the Germans destroyed or took away the official records and in 1944 carried out an operation to erase the traces of mass murders, it is impossible to determine the exact number of victims. In various scientific sources their total number is estimated at between 9 and 14 thousand people. Most of the German war criminals responsible for the mass executions in Piaśnica have never been brought to justice.

The obverse of the coin features pine trees symbolizing the Piaśnica forest – the site of torment and death for thousands of people. The reverse of the coin shows the last image seen by the victims – the trunks of pine trees bearing silent witness to these atrocities. Behind them, there is a low relief depicting the figures of victims lined up before the execution.

Teresa Patsidis