- Point of Interest
- Majora Henryka Sucharskiego 70, 80-601 Gdańsk, Pologne
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 German battleship SMS Schleswig-Holstein was built in 1906. The outdated vessel, used as training ship for naval cadets, arrived in Gdańsk harbour on 25 August 1939, on the pretext of a courtesy visit. It moored directly across Westerplatte, with 225 soldiers concealed below its deck.
After the initial barrage from the Schleswig-Holstein had ceased, Wojciech Najsarek, the stationmaster of Gdańsk-Westerplatte station and a voluntary soldier, tried to run to the Polish lines, but was spotted and shot by the advancing marines of a German Naval Assault Company. Najsarek was the first Polish soldier to fall in the Second World War.
The Schleswig-Holstein didn’t survive the War. It was hit by Royal Air Force bombers on 18 December 1944 and sunk in undeep water near Gdynia (then Gotenhafen). After the war, the Soviet Navy patched up the ship and used it as a training target in the Gulf of Finland. The remains of the ship still exists, but lie under water.
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
Gdansk and Pomerania
Pomerania is a historic region located along the Baltic Sea rife with cultural sites, picturesque hills and old dense forests. Surround yourself with ancient fortifications and fortresses and experience unique history in the port city of Gdańsk. Here WWII got
Kapitan Franciszek Dąbrowski
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.
Captain Mieczysław Słaby
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
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.