Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski was major Sucharski right-hand man during the defence of the Military Depot at Westerplatte. After the war Dabrowski made a great effort commemorating the fallen of Westerplatte. He also wrote two books about the events at Westerplatte peninsula in September 1939.
Franciszek Dąbrowski was born on 17 April 1904 in Budapest, as a son of an officer and a Hungarian countess. In December 1937 he became the deputy commander of the Military Depot at Westerplatte. When the German attack started on 1 September 1939, he directed the defence with Major Sucharski. After the Stuka dive-bomber raid on 2 September, Dąbrowski persuaded Sucharski to carry on the defence, despite the steadily deteriorating situation, until 7 September.
After the War, Dąbrowski returned to military service in a battalion of the Navy in Gdańsk-New Port, across from Westerplatte. He was a founder of the Union of the Defenders of Westerplatte and initiated the creation of the cemetery for the fallen defenders. But due to the conditions in captivity Dąbrowski was in bad health. According to the communist government, his past and social origins were inappropriate, so he was removed from the army and fell into poverty. Only after the political thaw from 1956 onwards his situation improved. Dąbrowski took part in the first reunions of the defenders of Westerplatte. In 1957 he published Wspomnienia z obrony Westerplatte (Reminiscences of the defence of Westerplatte) expanding on a book he wrote immediately after the war. Franciszek Dąbrowski died in Cracow and was buried with military honours at the Rakowicki Cemetery.
On 1 September 1939 the Germans attacked the Westerplatte peninsula in the port of Gdańsk. This assault marks the beginning of the Second World War. A small Polish garrison held out for seven days, bolstering the morale of the Polish people. After the war Westerplatte became a symbol of Polish resistance against the German invasion.
The Treaty of Versailles established Gdańsk (Danzig) as a free city under the protection of the League of Nations. This solution was meant to guarantee that neither German nor Polish demands could provoke new conflicts. But frictions increased as Nazi Germany started its efforts to incorporate the free city.
On 1 September 1939 German SS troops took possession of Polish buildings and institutions in the city of Gdańsk. Some 1.500 members of the Polish minority were arrested to be imprisoned, deported or executed. Many others were expelled from their homes and directed to central Poland. That same day the Nazis proclaimed the reunion of Gdańsk with the German Reich.
The obsolete German battleship Schleswig-Holstein played an important role at the outbreak of the Second World War. The ship moored in the port of Gdańsk under false pretences, and then, in the early morning of 1 September 1939, proceeded to bombard the Polish defensive positions on the Westerplatte Peninsula: the first shots of the Second World War.
The exhibition is devoted to the history of the place that is commonly associated with the beginning of the 20th century’s greatest catastrophe, the Second World War. A place that, like Thermopylae before it, became the symbol of a heroic struggle against an overwhelming adversary. Yet the story of Westerplatte, as told by the Museum of the Second World War, is not limited to the defence of Poland’s Military Transit Depot in September 1939; rather, we travel back to the peninsula’s formation in the 17th century as a sandbar at the mouth of the Vistula and forward, all the way to the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989.
After the Second World War the former deputy commander of the Military Transit Depot, captain Dąbrowski, initiated the building of a cemetery for the fallen during the German attack. At this cemetery the urn with the ashes of Major Sucharski was reburied in 1971.
The Museum of the Second World War was launched in November 2008 and is located in Gdańsk. The museum is situated 200 metres from the historic Polish Post Office and 3 kilometres across the water from Westerplatte Peninsula. The German attack on these places marked the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939.
For the people of Gdańsk the end of the Second World War was not necessarily a liberation. The arrival of the Soviet Army meant first defeat and then factually a new occupation. The Poles who settled in Gdańsk after the war were not in favor of the Soviet domination. For many Poles the political consequences of the war lasted until 1989 when Poland became an independent and democratic state again.