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.
The history of Gdańsk in the 20th century is emblematic for the whole European continent; here the fate of not only the city’s inhabitants but often of millions of Europeans was largely decided. It was in Gdańsk (Danzig) that the Second World War broke out. It was also here, in the 1970s and 1980s, that Solidarity was born, the movement that played a significant role in overcoming the division of Europe after the Second World War.
Before the first World War Gdańsk (Danzig) belonged to Germany. During the interbellum it was a free city under the protection of the League of Nations. After the Second World War Gdańsk became part of the Polish State. The population of Gdańsk before 1939 consisted largely of three communities; a German speaking majority, a Polish and Jewish community. Due to Nazi policies taking effect in the 1930s (Nazis took over power in 1933 in the Free City) Jews of Gdańsk lost their civil rights and were persecuted whereas Poles were discriminated.
After the Second World War, under the agreement of the Great Powers the (remaining) Germans were forced to leave.
The almost completely destroyed center of Gdańsk was rebuilt after the war. Only 10 to 15 percent of the wartime population stayed in Gdańsk. Most of the new inhabitants came from Central Poland and Polish eastern territories incorporated into the Soviet Union.
In order to gain better living conditions and basic political rights the shipyard workers in Gdańsk stood up to fight for their interests in December 1970 and August 1980. As the first revolt was brutally suppressed the second one gave birth to the Solidarity Movement, a very important development, changing the political, economic and social order in Europe.
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 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.
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 Polish Post Museum in Gdańsk was founded on 1 September 1979, on the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. It tells the story of the Polish community in Gdańsk between 1920 and 1939. The culminating point of the narrative is the story of 1 September 1939, when at 04:45 the no. 1 Polish Post and Telegraph Office was attacked by the Germans.
After the Second World War the German population was forced out of the now Polish city of Gdańsk, to be replaced by Polish nationals from all over the country, who brought their language and habits with them. On top of that the Communist Party came to power, affecting everyday life in Gdańsk even more.
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.
When in August 1980 the Gdańsk shipyard workers started a strike, they were convinced that only a strategy of non-violence could lead to success. Inspired by their charismatic leader Lech Wałęsa, they won the support of intellectuals in the opposition movement. This episode led to the founding of the first legal non-communist trade union; Solidarność.
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.