During World War II, in clear violation of international law, the Nazi’s deported millions of Polish men, women and children from occupied Poland against their will and put them to work in Germany to keep their war economy at full strength. On March 8, 1940, General Field Marshall Herman Göring released a series of laws, now known as the infamous March decrees, the polenerlasse, that led the Polish people working in Germany to be treated as an inferior race deprived of all rights and civil liberties and become subjects of physical and mental abuse and outright murder.
The Polish workers were not allowed to eat with their employers at the same table, forbidden to attend mass at the same time as the Germans and limited to just one segregated mass a month. Among many other rules, the decrees made it impossible for Poles to marry, visit barber shops, and own bicycles or even ride a bike without express written permission of their employer. They had to adhere to strict daytime curfews and were forbidden to leave their living quarters in the evening. Failure to comply with any of the regulations met with beatings, fines and sitting in jail as well as being threatened to be sentenced to a concentration camp.
The most degrading provision of the March Decrees forced every Polish worker in Germany to wear a badge consisting of a large purple P on a yellow background that had to be firmly attached to each item of clothing. Failure to comply met with beatings, fines and the threat of being sent to a concentration camp. The letter P set the Poles apart, causing them to be isolated, ostracized and terrorized. Anyone who did not wear the letter P - five of which every Polish worker had to purchase - was subject to punishment by beatings, a fine of 150 Reichsmarks or imprisonment for up to 6 weeks.
This was the first public identification of people in the Third Reich. The Jewish star was introduced in September 1941.
The P badges were produced by Geitel and Co. of Berlin, Germany’s largest maker of flags, pennants, and insignias. Besides the P badge, the company later also produced the yellow Jewish star and the OST badge for the slave laborers of the Soviet Union.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 8 Document R-143
Łuczak, Praca Przymusowa Polaków w Trzeciej Rzeszy
For further reading about the fate of Polish women as forced laborers:
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.