- Point of Interest
- Kładki 25, 80-822 Gdańsk, Pologne
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.
On 1 September 1939, shortly after the first shots on the Westerplatte were fired, the city of Gdańsk itself also became a battlefield when German SS troops took possession of Polish buildings and institutions. In the days before the war the Poles in the city had prepared themselves to defend the Polish institutions in Gdańsk. About 50 armed postmen defended the Polish Post Office for about 14 hours. After the death of some of their colleagues they surrendered. While leaving the building carrying a white flag, director Jan Michoń was killed. Later the other postmen were executed as franc-tireurs, one of the first war crimes of the Second World War (only in 1995 a German court rehabilitated them). In his novel The Tin Drum Günter Grass gave an emotional insight into these events.
That same morning German SS, SA, police and Gestapo units also arrested some 1.500 members of the Polish minority. They were gathered in the Victoriaschule near the city center. Many of them were deported to a newly established concentration camp in Stutthof. 67 of them were executed, many died in camps and elsewhere as a result of German terror. Poles in the nearby city of Gdynia were expelled from their homes and directed to central Poland. The Polish inhabitants of Pomerania were terrorized throughout the war, put in concentration camps and executed for being Polish. Especially the elites of the Polish nation, like teachers and catholic priests, were in the Nazis’ sights.
Also on 1 September 1939 the Gauleiter (Nazi Provincial Governor) of Gdańsk, Albert Forster , announced the re-union of Gdańsk with the German Reich in a radio speech.
During the German assault on the Westerplatte, Mieczysław Słaby was responsible for treating the wounded. In spite of the desperate conditions he managed to keep all injured men alive until the moment of surrender. After the war Słaby became a victim of the communist persecutions, and died in prison.
Major Henryk Sucharski, the commander of the small garrison at Westerplatte, was under orders to thwart the German advance for 12 hours. He managed to hold out an amazing seven days. After the war he became a national hero and was posthumously awarded an important military decoration.
The story of Petronela Brywczyńska proves that no one was safe during the war. Petronela’s father, a Polish farmer, was captured while defending his country. After many wanderings, the Brywczyńska family ended up in the Stutthof concentration camp. Yet they were lucky: they suffered, but survived.
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.
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.
Delve into Poland’s unique history: WWII began here in September 1939, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded the country. Ruthless regimes were established, leading to an enormous amount of casualties among Polish citizens. Nowadays, war memorials, monuments and
The concentration camp in Stutthof was initially founded to eliminate and persecute Poles. Later in the war the role of Stutthof changed as it became an integral part of the planned extermination of European Jews. Before the Soviet Army could liberate Stutthof, the surviving prisoners were send on horrible “death marches”.