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Looking for info on wartime Polish community in Manchuria

arelis 3 | 11    
19 Dec 2016  #1

Hi all, I'd really appreciate it if anyone had some info on what life was like for the Polish community in Manchuria (Manchukuo) during the Second World War, as well as what happened to them after 1945.

I know that during the war Poland and Japan had some good relations (despite declaration of war in 1941 from Polish govt. in exile) and that some Polish spies cooperated with Japanese, even under Manchukuo passports. I also found this website ( but it's mostly about pre-WW2. I saw another site (,16635,poles-and-the-history-of-manchurian-harbin.html) which says that the Henryk Sienkiewicz school remained open until 1944, so that leads me to believe there were still Poles living there at the time and that Japanese allowed them to go about their lives without imprisoning or deporting them, so I suspect Poles were not considered enemy aliens by Japan?

But I'd really like to learn some solid info, such as how were Poles viewed and treated by Japanese authorities (for example were they seen as neutrals? or stateless after German/Soviet invasion?). Also, what happened to Poles still in Manchuria after the Second World War? The website I linked said they were there until 1949 (when Communist Chinese victory in the civil war forced them to leave) but did they mostly go back to Poland, or were there any that didn't want to live under Communism and instead managed to go to other countries?

jon357 67 | 12,739    
19 Dec 2016  #2

so that leads me to believe there were still Poles living there at the time and that Japanese allowed them to go about their lives without imprisoning or deporting them

There were certainly plenty of Poles in Japanese internment camps during the war.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
19 Dec 2016  #3

Jon, do you have a source for that? I've never heard of Polish people in Asia being interned by the Japanese, unless they were citizens of enemy nations like US or Britain.
jon357 67 | 12,739    
19 Dec 2016  #4

You can probably find it online, perhaps on Wikipedia. Some of the camps have their internees listed by nationality and I remember being surprised at the number of Poles in one of the camps. Many though not all were clergy and religious including a lot of nuns.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
19 Dec 2016  #5

Do you mean the Oyama Inn in Kumamoto? (seen near the bottom of this page)

There were Poles there (a total of 48 from that source I linked, and labeled as mostly clergy/nuns). I'm not sure if the Oyama Inn was meant as a permanent internment place or a deportation point like for example the Manpei Hotel in Nagano which held Axis and neutral citizens (for example the Oyama Inn where Poles were held also had citizens of Axis nations, like Germans and Italians, and neutral citizens like Spaniards). In any case, I've definitely never read of Poles being placed in any kind of prisoner camps like enemy citizens (e.g. Brits, Americans, Dutch, etc.) during the war.

As for wikipedia as a source, I haven't yet been able to verify from a book or such, but it claims in its list of declarations of war ( ) that Japan rejected Poland's declaration in 1941, which would seem to mean (if it's true) that they did not regard Poles as enemies, unless they were holding some citizenship of another nation which was considered an enemy of Japan...
jon357 67 | 12,739    
19 Dec 2016  #6

As I remember it was outside the Japanese home islands, one of the larger and better known camps.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
19 Dec 2016  #7

Ah, well I haven't seen anything like that. It would be helpful if you could provide a source for it. Regarding Poles outside the home islands, this source ( says that in 1942 there was a registration taken by a Polish organisation in Manchukuo to see who wanted to leave for Poland, and that 80% of Poles there elected to do so (however they were unable to until after the Chinese civil war). I haven't seen much evidence that Poles were interned in Manchukuo though, unless it was right near the end of the war. For example the wikipedia page about the Henryk Sienkiewicz gymnazium in Harbin says that the Japanese only closed it in 1944, so the Polish community had been allowed to operate it up to that point:
jon357 67 | 12,739    
19 Dec 2016  #8

a source

Only Internet, so not really a source. You should be able to find something to read about online; the history of the camps is fairly well documented.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
19 Dec 2016  #9

I have been trying to find info, that's why I started this topic. :)
So far, I haven't seen any Poles listed as interned by Japan, either in Japan itself or other parts of the empire, with the exception of those held at the Oyama Inn. I'd be thankful if anyone knew otherwise, though, and had some sources on the topic. All sources I've found so far (such as the ones on Manchukuo I mentioned above) seem to indicate that for most of the war Polish communities still existed in Japanese territory and ran their schools and whatnot as before, albeit with some wartime restrictions on things like rationing and freedom of travel.

In the book Między Warszawą A Tokio. Polsko-Japońska Współpraca Wywiadowcza 1904-1944 by Kuromiya Hiroaki and Andrzej Pepłoński and the book From Information to Intrigue. Studies in Secret Service Based on the Swedish Experience, 1939-1945 by C.G McKay, it seems that despite Poland's declaration of war, Polish and Japanese intelligence agents continued to cooperate in Europe, and that Japanese authorities actually protected Polish agents from falling in to German hands (e.g. Michał Rybikowski was allowed out to operate out of the Japanese intelligence station in Stockholm.) Some agents (like Rybikowski) were even issued with Manchukuo passes under aliases to disguise them from German authorities.

I don't know though how any of that cooperation in Europe translated over to Japanese treatment of Poles in Asia. That's what I'm trying to figure out, and again from what I've read so far I've been seeing mixed views (on the one hand, Poles being allowed to operate schools and community organisations in Manchukuo until 1944, and on the other hand Poles interned at an inn in Japan alongside neutral and Axis citizens).
jon357 67 | 12,739    
19 Dec 2016  #10

I just had a look and couldn't see anything. All I remember is reading (probably online) about a camp and there was quite a detailed breakdown of sexes and nationalities. Plenty of Polish there, including clergy and religious - in fact I think they almost outnumbered British in that particular camp which was what struck me at the time. It wasn't the Oyama Inn Camp though; as I remember it was somewhere around the Straits Settlements.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
20 Dec 2016  #11

I found this link about internees in the Philippines. It has a few Polish names (e.g. Czeslaw J. Wolf or Willy J. Wawrzkiewicz) but they appear to be merely American citizens of Polish descent or Poles who took Filipino citizenship, rather than just Polish citizens. We need to be careful when checking lists of internees, because many Americans (who would definitely be considered enemy citizens by Japan) can have Polish names.

click on 'civilians' at the bottom:
OP arelis 3 | 11    
20 Dec 2016  #12

Also, one thing I just noticed about the Poles interned at Oyama Inn is that they (along with the Germans, Italians, etc.) are only listed as being interned right at the end of the war, sometime between January to August 1945. There is no mention of Poles being interned there earlier. I know that Axis citizens (as well as stateless or neutrals like Jewish refugees) were allowed to reside in Japan for most of the war, so the fact that there were still at least 48 Polish nationals in Japan by 1945 to be interned (and the fact that they were held alongside former Axis and neutrals) leads me to suspect that, prior to this date, they had also been allowed to live in Japan without imprisonment.
13 Feb 2017  #13

As I remember from my parents recollections (they were born in Harbin and lived there at the times of Manchukuo) Japanese were quite lenient towards Poles. When Polish Consulate General in Harbin was closed at the end of 1941, Japanese authorities acknowledged Polish Relief Commitee, established on request of the last consul, Jerzy Litewski as a quasi consular entity that represented Polish citizens in absence of diplomatic mission. Japanese did not take seriously declaration of war by the Polish Government on Exile on Japan, admiral Toyo presumably said that Poles were forced to do so by the Allies. When all Allies citizens that lived in Harbin - Americans, Britons, Dutch were transferred to the Hoten camp by Mukden, Poles with Italians, Germans and Soviet citizens stayed. Japanese representative of the Kwantung Army in Harbin,colonel Gonzo Yanagida (for some time military attache in Warsaw) was very sympathetic towards Poles and assured them that as long as he is on post in Harbin, Polish Gymnasium will not be closed (when he visited students, he always saluted them in Polish) as Soviet and German consulates insisted on. When he left for Birma, his successor was not so friendly and the Gymnasium was closed at the end of December 1942 (but not the Polish Grammar School that existed until the end of Japanese rule in Manchuria). The difference in food rationing of Polish citizens and the one of Axis was absence of white bread. The rations for meat, mandarines, fruits, milk, black bread, corn, salt and so on were this same. The other kind of "discrimination" was having special small yellow metal tokens with the number and Japanese word Porando (for Poland) that has to be worn on clothing. The bigger one was to be nailed to the front door of Polish dwellings. Poles also had to take part in instigated by Japanese authorities military exercises for civilians like sheltering during possible bombardment, clearance of the aftermath of possibly Allies attacks, first aid for the wounded etc. Through Polish Relief Committee the compulsory levy for the Japanese heroic soldiers, pilots and for the other propaganda actions was collected. Poles could live in the relative peace taking into account the war time. PRC could even help Polish citizens (whose passports were long overdue) not to be drafted into Asano regiment (auxillary Japanese forces made of young stateless Russian emigrants). Much worse fate was of Soviet citizens (some of them were Poles) that lived in Manchuria. Soviets were not in war with Japan until August 1945 but it's citizens were under constant surveilance of the Japanese Kampeitai and many disappeared without trace in infamous bacteriological camp 731 by Harbin. Stateless white Russians that lived in Manchukuo have also tokens with numbers of the white colour. Many of them alongside with Soviet citizens perished in Soviet gulags after Red Army entering into Manchuria in 1945.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
17 Feb 2017  #14

Thanks Leliwa, that's very interesting information you've shared!
Can I ask, did your family stay in Manchukuo up to 1945? If so, would you mind sharing what happened to them after the Japanese left? I heard that when Soviets invaded it was a dangerous time for people like Poles still living there, so I was wondering, if your family was still there, how did they get out of Manchuria and did they go to Poland or somewhere else?
20 Feb 2017  #15

Arelis, thanks for appreciation,
My family with me as an infant left Manchuria in 1952. When Soviets came to Harbin at the end of August 1945, some usual soldatesca acts like raping women, pillaging, maraudering was present. Many cases of the suicides of the whole Japanese families were also a fact. After a week or two it was supressed by Soviet military courts. As my mother told me, she as a young women was hidden by her uncle with face greased with ash in the cellar of their home until it was peace in the town. Poles were not as a matter of fact persecuted or bullied by Soviets, rather treated as brother Slavs. In my mothers house the colonel of Soviet artillery was housed for a couple of months and his young lieutnant assistant was doing everything to tease my mother bringing in from the Soviet loot, food (scarce as usual when communism comes), textiles and so on. Worse was the fate of Russians, their compatriots that disappeared in NKVD cellars. After Soviets left Manchuria in 1946, Chinese communist took over (8th Army). New Chinese authorities let all non Chinese population know that they are not so warmly welcomed in communist China. People were without work, part could surviwed having small farms but the rest look for the opportunity to leave. Most of Poles (ca. 900 persons) left in summer 1949 in two train transports via USSR for also communist Poland, that paid for the expences. About 250 people (like my family) were taken to Poland on the board of Polish ships in 1950-1956 (Polish-Chinese steamship company) from Dalian or Tsingtao also at the expence of Polish government. Rest left on their own for USA, Brazil, Australia, Canada and so on. Polish Harbiners were not tainted in Poland as a traitors and scoundrels like white Russians that left for the USSR. So far as I know, just only one Pole - Aleksander Macedonski - Japanese interpreter was taken by NKVD as Japanese spy to the gulag for 10 years. When he came bactk to Poland in 1956 he was a wreck of a man and died some years later. Some Poles lived in Harbin until 1963 (18 persons) when the Society of Polish Citizens in Northern China was dissolved. The last Pole in Harbin - Edward Stokalski, chief engineer for Harbin tramways left for Poland in 1991 and died few months afterwards.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
24 Feb 2017  #16

Thanks again Leliwa. It's a very interesting and perhaps not widely known history I think, definitely full of hardship but also a tale of survival and perseverance from those Poles.

I've been wondering, were there any Poles from Manchuria who were left stateless after the war ended? For example those who never got passports from the Second Polish Republic before 1945 and then didn't go back to Communist Poland to get citizenship? I thought I heard that some were offered citizenship in places like Canada or America if they went there, but I can't verify that. I don't know if any Poles during the 1930s or 1940s got nationality papers of Manchukuo? But if they did I guess they obviously would have been useless after 1945.
28 Feb 2017  #17

There were also stateless Poles for example those that could not get Polish citizenship in Harbin because of say imperfect Polish language or no proof of Polish parents. Of course some could overcame obstacles with money given to consular staff, that way some Russian-Polish Jews (born on the territory of I Polish Republic, before partitions of Poland) got Polish passports. In a time it was quite a lucrative business for clerks in the consulate. Stateless Polish and Russian emigrants were beginning 1935 registered in so called BREM (Bureau for Russian Emigrants in Manchuria) established by the Japanese to control stateless Europeans. The European citizens of Manchukuo were rather of rarity. Stateless persons could apply after 1945 for citizenship of other countries, what they did. Some stateless Poles could also opt for it, but there were only few persons.
OP arelis 3 | 11    
3 Mar 2017  #18

Interesting, thanks again. So ethnic Poles could get passports from the Polish consul while living abroad in places like Manchuria? I didn't know that, I thought at that time the Polish nationality law required people to be resident on the territory of Second Polish Republic to apply for citizenship.
Maria z Opola    
6 Jul 2017  #19

Do Leliwa

Aleksander Macedoński, o którym wspominasz był moim stryjem, bratem ojca Stanisława. Pracował w Konsulacie w Harbinie jako tłumacz i faktycznie został zadenuncjowany jako szpieg, następnie zesłany na Syberię, gdzie przebywał 10 lat. Przeżył dzięki wspaniałej lekarce, która poznała się na wartościowym człowieku i pomogła mu przeżyć. Stryj wrócił do Polski w okropnym stanie, był niemal wrakiem człowieka. Mieszkał w Warszawie ale często odwiedzał nas w Opolu. zmarł w 1976 r.

English only please
Sirabun 1 | 2    
3 Aug 2017  #20

Hello, there is a Polish Harbiners' Club in Szczecin (Klub Harbińczyków w Szczecinie) who may help you a lot because many members' families were from Manchuria. You can contact them. I am also looking for their contact.

I tried to search some information in Chinese materials but they are all about diplomatic relationship.
@Leliwa Thank you very much for the information you shared.

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