Before, during and after the Nuremberg trials that would convict the Nazis of "crimes against humanity," one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history was being committed. Fifteen million Germans -- old men, women, children -- were driven like cattle out of ancestral homes in Prussia, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Silesia and the Sudetenland.
As human rights champion Alfred de Zayas wrote in his courageous "Nemesis at Potsdam: The Expulsion of the Germans From the East," perhaps 2 million died in the exodus. Few German women in Eastern Europe escaped rape.
The Allies turned a blind eye to the monstrous atrocity, as ancient names vanished. Memel became Klaipeda. Prussia disappeared. Koenigsberg, the city of Immanuel Kant, became Kaliningrad. Danzig became Gdansk. Breslau became Wroclaw.
"The Germans deserved it, for what they did," comes the retort.
Undeniably, the Nazi atrocities were numerous and horrible -- against Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Jews.
Yet, it was innocent Germans who paid for the crimes of the guilty Germans.
What happened in Eastern and Central Europe from 1939 to 1948 provided proof, if any more were really needed, of the truth of W.H. Auden's insight in his poem "September 1, 1939": "Those to whom evil is done do evil in return."
At war's end, Churchill and Harry Truman agreed to repatriate 2 million Soviet prisoners of war to Stalin, none of whom wished to go back. For return to Russia meant death at the railhead or a short brutal life at slave labor in the Gulag Archipelago.
Operation Keelhaul was the name given the Allied collusion with the Red Army in transferring these terrified POWs back to their deaths at the hands of the same Soviet butchers who had done the murdering at Katyn.
On Sept. 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany to restore the integrity and independence of Poland. For this great goal they converted a German-Polish clash that lasted three weeks -- into a world war lasting six years.
And was Poland saved? No. Poland was crucified.
As a consequence of the war begun on her behalf, millions of Poles -- Jews and Catholics alike -- perished, the Katyn massacre was carried out, the Home Army was annihilated, the nation suffered five years of Nazi rule and almost half a century of communist persecution.
The tragedy of today is that it was men of the postwar generation, like Lech Kaczynski, who kept the faith of their fathers and led Poland out of that darkness into the sunlight of freedom, who died seeking to pay homage to their fathers who suffered one of the greatest crimes of that bloodiest of centuries.