The first stage of the Nazis' plan for European Jewry began with the invasion of Poland in September 1939. In every conquered town and village the Germans forced Jews to hand over jewellery, to clear rubble, to carry heavy loads and to scrub floors and lavatories with their prayer shawls. In addition the Germans cut off religious Jews' beards and sidelocks with scissors, or tore them from their faces. When the Jewish population was forced into what Hitler referred to as a huge Polish labour camp, a massive work programme was initiated. The nightmare of these camps was described by numerous eye-witnesses, as in this record of a mass slaughter of Jews at a camp in the village of Stutthof during the Passover of 1940:
All the Jews were assembled in the courtyard; they were ordered to run, to drop down and to stand up again. Anybody who was slow in obeying the order was beaten to death by the overseer with the butt of his rifle. Afterwards Jews were ordered to j u m p right into the cesspit of the latrines, which were being built; this was full of urine. The taller Jews got out again since the level reached their chin, but the shorter ones went down. The young ones tried to help the old folk, and as a punishment the overseers ordered the latter to beat the young. When they refused to obey, they were cruelly beaten themselves.