Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz

Committee Members

Benjamin M. Auerbach, Lee Meadows Jantz, William Seaver


The objective of this dissertation was to describe population variation and secular trends in anthropometrics of Polish people before, during, and after World War II. The records of the Institute fü[ue]r Deutsche Ostarbeit (USHMM, 2008a), a dataset containing anthropometrics of the Polish population that were taken by Nazi Germans during WWII, was used in combination with other published data sources (Boas, 1928; Sikora, 1956; Stołyhwo et al., 1956; Miszkiewicz, 1956; Miszkiewicz, 1960; Total n= 17,732). Population structure was analyzed at three levels; town, municipality and county. Secular trends in cranial and body dimensions were investigated over an 85 year period (year of birth 1855-1940). Significant population structure was observed at all levels of analysis (Minimum FST estimates ranging from 0.0163 to 0.0523), and did not significantly differ between the sexes. A significant increasing trend in stature was observed through the entire study period for both males (+7.2cm) and females (+9.0cm) indicating an improvement in the standard of living despite the devastation created by the World Wars. Cranial vault dimensions did not follow the trend observed in stature. Rather, cephalic index underwent an increasing trend (associated with less favorable conditions) until the birth year of 1901 where it plateaus and then begins to decline in individuals born after 1926. Changes in cephalic index are due to changes in cranial breadth and length measurements in both sexes with a significant decrease in bizygomatic breadth present only in the male sample. The agrarian crisis (period of severe crop failure) that occurred during the late 19th century in Poland and World War I may be responsible for the pattern observed in cephalic index. Why secular trends in stature were unaffected during this period is unknown; however, it could be due to different sensitivities of these dimensions to environmental stress or due to differences in the pattern of growth and development. It is hoped that by demonstrating significant population structure in the Polish population more research into regional differences will be conducted and that the secular trends of the more recent past can be placed in the context of these historical data.

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