The description of the battle. The unequal battle of infantry and cavalry against tanks had started. Polish troops, amassed in a relatively small area and deprived of the anti-air defence, became an easy target for the German air forces. In the evening 16 September at the Army Poznan headquarters at Zaluskow it was decided to terminate the battle and undertake a fast withdrawal to Warsaw. Only the whipped regiments from those divisions and brigades managed to get to Warsaw. The rest of the forces of the Armies Poznan and Pomorze were encircled on the Bzura and annihilated in fights. In those fights fell Generals Grzmot, Wіad and Bołtuć and the wounded General Bortnowski was taken prisoner. The battlefields of the Kampinos Forest and both banks of Bzura became covered with the corpses of the fallen Polish soldiers. Only few and small groups of the crushed armies managed to reach the besieged capital. "
Poland marks 69th anniversary of World War II Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk has marked 69 years since the September 1, 1939 attack by Nazi Germany on a Polish military base at Westerplatte, near Gdansk that sparked World War II. "Next year, the representatives of European states will meet here to remind the world and their people of the events of 1939," Mr Tusk said during the ceremonies. The 70th anniversary of the Second World War in 2009 will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the demise of communism in Poland and central Europe in 1989. full article: www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/01/2352528.htm?section=justin
It is commonly believed that WW2 started with a German attack on Westerplatte at 4.45 a.m. when the German battleship shelled the Polish positions near Gdańsk. The story of Westerplatte is here and we will come back to it later: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westerplatte
The true story is that the real beginning of WW took place in a border town of Wieluń, razed to the ground by German air raids. The town didn`t have any military importance and the Polish troops didn`t station there. Yet, it was destroyed in 70%, marking the beginning of new warfare: a total destruction of infrastructure and civilians. 1200 people were killed in Wieluń on that day.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Wielu%C5%84 The bombing of Wieluń refers to the terror bombing of the Polish town of Wieluń by the German Luftwaffe on September 1, 1939. This air raid started about five minutes before the shelling of Westerplatte, which has traditionally been considered the beginning of World War II. The bombing of Wieluń is considered as one of the first terror bombings in history.
The bombing started at 4:40 AM. At 6:00 AM the German forces noted that Wielun brennt (Wieluń burns), but the raids continued until 2:00 PM. Three waves of attacks were carried out during the day. Among the German pilots were those from Condor Legion, which was involved in the bombing of Guernica two years prior. On their return home, four of the German Junkers Ju 87 bombers were shot down by the Polish 36 Academic Legion Infantry Regiment stationed nearby.
It is widely acknowledged that there were no military or industrial targets of note in the area, except for a small sugar factory in the outskirts of the town. German bombers destroyed 90% of the town center (including the historical gothic church) and killed approximately 1,200 civilians, about 8% of the town's population of 15,000. Approximately 75% of all the buildings in Wieluń were destroyed. Among the first targets bombed by the Germans was the hospital (despite a huge Red Cross sign painted on the roof). Some eyewitnesses claimed that the German planes strafed civilians who were fleeing through the streets.
The real purpose of the bombing remains unclear. There are claims that Polish military units were inside the town before the first air raid, a fact that would explain the choice of the city to be bombed. However, it's more likely that the only military units near Wielun were a cavalry column that arrived later in the day.
The bombing of Wieluń was a war crime committed by Germans on Polish citizens. However, after the war, German courts twice refused to start investigation into the matter, saying that the bombing was legal as it was war.
Germans attacked without prior declaration of war. They used a lot of modern warfare: tanks, planes, mechanised transport. Their army was bigger, stronger, faster than the Polish one.
Despite German superiority, Poles put up fierce resistance and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers.
However, the Blitzkrieg war was sth that Poland was not prepared for (later France, the USSR and other countries). Germans tanks rolled through Polish lines defended by infantry which had no means to stop them. Trying to avoid encirclement, Polish armies had to retreat under constant bombardment from the air.
Bravery and sacrifice didn`t suffice. Poland was conquered by a more powerful enemy. When Soviets attacked in the East on 17 September, it was the last straw which soon finished the war. The last Polish units capitulated in October, after a month of heroic fighting.
Gloria victis - Glory to the vanquished.
The defence of Polish garrison at Westerplatte became the symbol of September 1939. About 200 Polish soldiers resisted thousands of German troops for 7 days.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westerplatte Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk, Poland, located on Baltic Sea coast at the river mouth of the Dead Vistula (one of the Vistula delta estuaries), in the Gdańsk harbour channel. From 1926 to 1939 it was the location of a Polish Military Transit Depot (WST), sanctioned within the territory of the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk).
It is famous as the place of Battle of Westerplatte, the first major battle of the Invasion of Poland in 1939.
n 1925 the Council of the League of Nations allowed Poland to keep 88 soldiers on Westerplatte. By September 1939 the crew of Westerplatte had increased to 182 soldiers. They were armed with one 75 mm field gun, two 37 mm Bofors antitank guns, four mortars and a number of medium machine guns. There were no real fortifications, only several concrete guardhouses hidden in the peninsula's forest.
The Polish garrison was separated from Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk) by the harbor channel, with only a narrow isthmus connecting the area to the mainland. In case of war, the defenders were supposed to withstand a sustained attack for 12 hours after which a relief from the main units of the Polish Army were to arrive.
The Polish garrison's commanding officer was Major Henryk Sucharski, the executive officer was Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski.
On September 1, 1939, at 0445 local time, as Germany began its invasion of Poland, Schleswig-Holstein started to shell the Polish garrison. This was followed by a repelled attack by German naval infantry. Another two assaults that day were repelled as well. Over the coming days, the Germans repeatedly bombarded Westerplatte with naval and heavy field artillery along with dive-bombing raids by Junkers Ju 87 Stukas. Repeated attacks of 3500 German soldiers were repelled by the 180 Polish soldiers for seven days. On September 7th Major Henryk Sucharski decided to surrender due to lack of ammunition and supplies and realization no help was going to come from the Polish Army. As a sign of honor for the soldiers of Westerplatte, German commander, Gen. Eberhardt, allowed Mjr. Sucharski to keep his officer's sword while being taken prisoner.
The ruins of the defenders' barracks and guardhouses are still there. After the war, one of the guardhouses (#1) was converted into a museum. Two, 280mm, shells from the Schleswig-Holstein prop up its entrance.
The German commander of the assault on Westerplatte hands Maj. Sucharski his sabre as a sign of courtesy after the Polish capitulation on September 7, 1939 Picture from Melchior Wańkowicz (1963) Walczący Gryf
At the end of August 1939 the German pre-dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein came to Danzig (Gdańsk) under the pretext of a "courtesy visit" and anchored in the channel near Westerplatte. On September 1, 1939, at 0445 local time, as Germany began its invasion of Poland, Schleswig-Holstein suddenly started to shell the Polish garrison with its 280 mm and 150 mm guns.
This sneak attack was followed by an attack by German naval infantry who were hoping for an easy victory, but soon after crossing the artillery fire-breached brick wall they were ambushed and repelled by the Polish small arms, mortar, and machine gun fire from a concealed and well-positioned firing points (crossfire tactics). Another two assaults that day were repelled as well, with the Germans suffering unexpected losses. The only Polish field gun was put out of the action after firing 28 shells at German positions across the channel (silencing several firing positions and hitting a command post). Defenders also counter-attacked and destroyed a German police guard post using hand grenades, but two Poles were mortally wounded in this action. On the first day, the Polish side lost one men killed and seven wounded (three of which died later, including two captured who died in a German hospital), while the German marines alone lost 17 men killed and 54 seriously wounded out of 225 men deployed (company commander too was mortally wounded); in all, 40-50 troops were killed according the German sources. The German losses would be even greater if not the order by Sucharski for the very effective mortars to cease the rapid fire and conserve ammunition after just a few salvos (because of this order only 104 out of 860 grenades were fired when the mortars were destroyed the next day).
Over the coming days, the Germans bombarded the peninsula with naval and heavy field artillery, including 210 mm howitzers. A devastating dive-bombing raid by Ju 87 Stukas on September 2 (26.5 tons of bombs in two waves) destroyed the Polish mortars, directly hit one guardhouse with a 500 kg bomb (destroying it completely), killed at least eight soldiers, and shocked Major Sucharski, after which Captain Dąbrowski took over command of Westerplatte. After the Stuka raids, which covered the whole area in an enormous cloud of smoke, the Germans believed that no one could possibly have survived it; however, it later turned out the relatively few Polish soldiers were killed and the defence was not broken. Repeated day-time and night-time attacks by the German naval infantry, Danzig SS and police, and Wehrmacht (including an attempt of a cross-channel desant), were again repelled by the Poles with a considerable German losses, but nowhere close to the scale of the disaster suffered on September 1. A German armoured draisine was also hit and destroyed by a Polish AT gun.
In all, approximately 3,400 Germans (including support troops) were tied-up by being engaged in a week-long action against the 182-strong Polish garrison. On September 7, Major Sucharski reclaimed some of his mental stability and decided to quit what he decided was the hopeless fight. Even though many of his officers and soldiers were against the idea, he surrendered the Military Transit Depot on the same day. The Polish defence impressed the German commanders so much that the German commander, General Friedrich Eberhardt (later the military governor of Kiev during the Soviet-German War), allowed Sucharski to retain his ceremonial szabla (Polish sabre) in captivity.
Polish soldiers being taken into captivity after the capitulation of Westerplatte
The exact number of German losses remains unknown, but are often estimated to be in range of 200-400 (some of them from the friendly fire of their own artillery) or sometimes more (People's Republic of Poland authorities claimed the Germans suffered 300 killed and 700 wounded, but this claim is rather dubious).
Polish casualties were much lower - 15-20 killed (there's a controversy regarding the graves of five unidentified Polish soldiers discovered 1939-1940, possibly executed for an attempted desertion) and some 53 wounded in action.
List of the Polish soldiers killed in action: Private Jan Ciwil, Corporal Jan Gebura, Działonowy (artilleryman) Władysław Jakubiak, Private Konstanty Jezierski, Private Józef Kita, Corporal Andrzej Kowalczyk, Private Mieczysław Krzak, Sergeant Wojciech Najsarek, Private Władysław Okraszewski, Corporal Bronisław Perucki, Master Corporal Adolf Petzelt, Private Antoni Piróg, Sergeant Kazimierz Rasiński, Private Bronisław Uss, Private Ignacy Zatorski, Private Zygmunt Zięba.
An additional victim, Sergeant Kazimierz Rasiński, the radio telephone operator, was murdered by the Gestapo after the capitulation after refusing to give the radio codes to the Germans (however, according to some, he instead defected to the German Kriegsmarine service). Eight other prisoners were also said to not survive the captivity.
The Polish poet Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński wrote a widely known poem about this battle, A Song of the Soldiers of Westerplatte (Pieśń o żołnierzach Westerplatte). The poem reflected a widespread Polish myth of the later years of the WWII that all defenders died in the battle, fighting to the last man. A Polish People's Army military unit was named in 1943 in memory of the soldiers (Polish 1st Armoured Brigade of the defenders of Westerplatte).
Major Sucharski, who survived the war but died in 1946, was promoted to the rank of Generał brygady and given the highest Polish military award of Virtuti Militari, although he became a very controversional figure more recently as the previously-unknown facts about his role in the battle were uncovered in the 1990s (after the death of Captain Dąbrowski, as the other Polish officers vowed among themselved for their honor to not disclose in their lifetimes that their nominal commander was shell-shocked for the most of the battle).
In the years after war, several dozen schools and few ships in Poland were also christened after the "Heroes of" or "Defenders of Westerplatte". The ruins of the peninsula's barracks and guardhouses are still there. After the war one of the guardhouses has been converted into a museum. Two shells from the Schleswig-Holstein's 280 mm guns prop up its entrance.
A popular legend says that Polish cavalry attacked German tanks. It is not true. The combat between cavalry and tanks took place as pure accident, e.g., when Polish horsemen attacked German infantry and suddenly, hidden tanks rolled out of the forest behind. The impetus of the assualt made it impossible for riders to halt horses and cavalry clashed with tanks or armoured cars.
Krojanty is such a place where cavalry met armoured units, and, after initial succces, had to retreat. Today the reconstruction of the battle took place there.
The Charge, battle or skirmish of Krojanty was a cavalry charge that happened during the Invasion of Poland in the Second World War. It took place near the village of Krojanty in Pomerania (7 kilometres from the town of Chojnice) on the evening of September 1, 1939. It was one of the first clashes of the war, and part of the larger Battle of Bory Tucholskie. Elements of Polish 18th Uhlans Regiment attacked a German infantry battalion and delayed the German attack thus completing their mission. After the attack the cavalry received machine gun fire from German armoured personnel carriers stationed nearby and were forced to retreat.
The battle also is notable for having been developed into a Nazi propaganda myth of Polish cavalry attacking German tanks.
Polish units were engaged in battle from 0500 against elements of German 76th Infantry Regiment (Colonel Hans Gollnick) of 20th Motorised Division under Lt. Gen. Mauritz von Wiktorin, which operated on the left (northern) flank of XIX Panzer Corps under Gen. Heinz Guderian. Early in the day Polish cavalry had intercepted German infantry moving towards Gdańsk (Danzig) and slowed their progress.
At 0800 the Germans broke through Polish Border Guard units south of the Polish cavalry, which forced the Polish units in the area to start a retreat towards a secondary defence line at the river Brda (Brahe). 18th Pomeranian Uhlans Regiment (18. Pułk Ułanów Pomorskich) was ordered to cover the retreat.
The 18th Pomeranian Uhlans spotted a group of German infantry resting in a clearing in the Tuchola Forest heath near the railroad crossroads of Chojnice - Runowo Pomorskie line.
Colonel Kazimierz Mastalerz decided to take the enemy by surprise and ordered Eugeniusz Świeściak, commander of the 1st squadron, to execute a cavalry charge at 1900 hours, leading two squadrons, about 250 strong. Most of the two other squadrons, and their TKS/TK-3 tankettes, were held back in reserve.
The charge was successful: the German infantry unit was dispersed, and the Poles occupied the clearing. However German armored reconnaissance vehicles appeared from the forest road, probably part of Aufklärungs-Abteilung 20, and soon the Polish units came under heavy machine gun fire, probably from Leichter Panzerspähwagen equipped with MG 34, or Schwerer Panzerspähwagen equipped also with a 20 mm gun. The Poles were completely exposed and began to gallop for cover behind a nearby hillock.
Commander Świeściak was killed, as was Mastalerz, who tried to save him. About a third of the Polish force was dead or wounded. On the other hand, the German advance was halted long enough to allow the withdrawal of Polish 1st Rifle battalion and National Defence battalion Czersk from the nearby battle of Chojnice.
The Polish cavalry charge impressed the Germans and caused a delay in the offensive of the German 20th Motorised Infantry Division which considered a tactical retreat. This was however prevented by personal intervention of Gen. Guderian, who in his memoirs stated that he encountered his staff wearing helmets, preparing an anti-tank gun for a possible Polish cavalry attack, and that the the panic of the first day of war was overcome quickly.
Aftermath and the myth
The Polish cavalry charge stopped the German pursuit for the day, and the units of Czersk Operational Group were able to withdraw southwards unopposed. Also, it took the enemy several hours to reorganise and continue the advance. On September 2, 1939, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans Regiment was decorated by Gen. Grzmot-Skotnicki, the commander of the Operational Group, with his own Virtuti Militari medal for valour shown in this combat.
The same day, German war correspondents were brought to the battlefield, together with two journalists from Italy. They were shown the corpses of Polish cavalrymen and their horses, as well as German tanks that had arrived at the place after the battle. One of the Italian correspondents, Indro Montanelli, sent home an article, in which he described the bravery and heroism of Polish soldiers, who charged German tanks with sabres and lances. Although such a charge did not happen and there were no tanks used during the combat, the myth was used by German propaganda during the war. German propaganda magazine de:Die Wehrmacht reported on 13 September that the Poles had gravely underestimated German weapons, as Polish propaganda had suggested that German armored vehicles were only covered with sheet metal, leading to a grotesque attack. After the end of World War II it was still used by Soviet propaganda as an example of stupidity of pre-war Polish commanders, who allegedly did not prepare their country for the war and instead wasted the blood of their soldiers.
George Parada states:
Contrary to German propaganda, Polish cavalry brigades never charged tanks with their sabres or lances as they were equipped with anti-tank weapons such as 37 mm Bofors wz.36 (exported to UK as Ordnance Q.F. 37 mm Mk I) antitank guns, that could penetrate 26 mm of armour at 600 m at 30 degrees. The cavalry brigades were in the process of being reorganized into motorized brigades.
Another weapon was anti-tank rifle model 1935 (karabin przeciwpancerny wz. 35). Its calibre was 7.92 mm and it could penetrate 15 mm of armour at 300 m at 30 degrees. In 1939, the Germans were mainly equipped with the small Panzer I and Panzer II models which were vulnerable to such weapons.
Polish commanders, Mastalerz and Swieściak, killed during the battle.
The Polish Campaign of September 1939 in Perspective Wednesday, 24 September 2008 Polish News
by M. Kamil Dziewanowski
While Poland was fighting her desperate defense campaign her Western Allies, despite their formal declaration of war on September 3, stood by and watched. As a matter of fact, for two days there were considerable doubts as to whether France would declare war at all, despite previous promises and resolutions. Although Britain had announced that she would honor her pledges to Poland , the Chamberlain government was reluctant to shake off appeasement. The French Government was even more sluggish. Britain declared war on Germany first on September 3 at 11 a.m., while the French followed reluctantly after serious On September 2, when the Polish ambassador vigorously protested against the French delay in carrying out their clear treaty obligations to give Poland immediate air support, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, George's Bonnet, indignantly replied: "You don't expect us to have a massacre of women and children in Paris." Yet, no French Government could afford to disassociate itself from its British ally and renounce its position as a Great Power. Finally the French declared war on Germany after a delay of six hours.
The two formal declarations of war, however, were not followed by any significant military moves aimed at relieving the hard pressed Polish allies in their desperate plight. Everyone that Poland would eventually be mangled by the overwhelming German forces and that the fate of the war would be eventually decided on the Western front. But no one had expected that the defeat would happen so quickly. It was not the morale of the Polish Forces that cracked; they were simply crushed by sheer force of numbers combined with technical superiority. The Poles had an army large enough to hold perhaps up to a third of the German forces, but they could not cope with more than two-thirds of the entire Wehrmacht, including most of its tanks and planes, and a considerable segment of the Red Army.
British and French declarations of war caused the Poles, naturally enough to expect immediate land and air operations. Yet, neither the French nor the British did much to help the beleaguered Poles imploring their promised assistance. This was again contrary to the letter and spirit of both the Franco-Polish alliance of 1921 and the military convention of May 1039, as well as the British-Polish Mutual Assistance pact, signed on 25 August. The pact had stated categorically that in case of aggression by a European Power (which was defined as meaning Germany ) " the other contracting party will once give the contracting party engaged in hostilities all the support and assistance in its power." Article Five emphasized that such mutual support and assistance would be given "immediately on the outbreak of hostilities. " By the Franco-Polish convention of May 1939, the French promised the Poles five squadrons of their bombers and immediate bombardment of key German objectives in case of Hitler's attack on Poland; the main assistance was to come, however, from the French ground forces which were to start their operations along the Franco-German border "on the third day after the end of the mobilization" with a full-scale offensive with "the bulk" of their Army on the fifteenth day of the mobilization.
British reaction was no better than the French. On September 5, the Polish military attaché' in London went to the Air Ministry with an urgent request for the Royal Air Force to launch raids against Germany . Nothing came of it.
It was obvious that Paris and London had decided early to postpone any large scale offensive in the West. But the Poles were told none of this. The declarations of war were intended as a mere gesture by the Western Allies; nothing would be done until Britain and France could either negotiate a compromise settlement with Germany, or their economic blockade and "silver bullets" could bring Germany to its knees. In both cabinets their respective Foreign Ministers, Lord Halifax and George's Bonnet, favored further negotiations with Berlin .
Attacked from four sides, outflanked and overwhelmed, Poland collapsed, fighting to the last moment while abandoned by its Western allies. Could Poland have been rescued from her predicament? Great Britain had no army capable of intervention, but her navy air force could have bombed and shelled German military installations and communication centers. General Gamelin had nearly one hundred divisions ready to fight. His forces could have broken through to the Rhine and threatened the Ruhr , which Hitler considered as "the Achilles heel" of the Reich. But Gamelin refused to give the order. We know from the depositions of General Alfred Jodl at the Nuremberg trail , that the Germans were astonished and relieved that the French did not attack them while the Siegfried Line was still "little better than a building site." Another leading German general, Heinz Guiderian, was also surprised that the French did not take advantage of their favorable situation in September 1939 to attack the Reich from the West, while the bulk of the German forces, including the entire Panzer force, was fighting in Poland .
According to the later testimony of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the Germans in September 1939 had not more than thirty poorly prepared combat divisions in the West. Most of the German troops were raw recruits, many of whom had never fired live ammunition, and this was sufficient for barely three days of fighting. The better German troops, all tanks, and practically the entire Air Force were thrown into the Polish campaign. During the second week of the war, while the battle of Kutno was still raging and the fate of Poland was not yet definitely sealed, German forces in the unfinished Siegfried Line were in a critical situation.
Yet, the French Army and Air Force stood passively facing these meager German contingents in the West; on the Allied side of the Western front were approximately 2,500 tanks, 10,000 guns, and nearly 3,000 French and British aircraft. After making allowance for protecting the border with Italy and leaving a dozen or so divisions in North Africa, General Gamelin had in metropolitan France at least eighty-five trained and equipped divisions to confront the German Army's some thirty second-rate German divisions. At that time, Gamelin had six times as many guns as the Germans; he had 1.600 guns apart form his divisional artillery against Germany's 300- and the French guns were better and of heavier caliber. Moreover, the French had 3,286 tanks while in the West the Germans had very few. The Western Allies had 934 fighter planes immediately available for action while the Germans had virtually none on the Western front; the British had 776 serviceable bombers, while all of the Germans had very few since the majority of them had been sent to the Polish front.
In retrospect it is obvious that in 1939 the Germans were not ready for war on two fronts simultaneously. They had only 98 divisions, of which 52 were active. Of the remaining 46, only 10 were fit for immediate action, be-cause the remainder had only a month or so of training. Even in the air the Germans did not have a numerical superiority over their opponents. As of September, 1939, the Allies had in fact more first-line, though not very modern, aircraft. There is no doubt that Germany's better planes were of more advanced design than those of the Allies, but the Luftwaffe's crushing superiority in the air was a myth, largely cultivated by Hitler to intimidate his opponents. In September 1939, the Germans had only 3,600 planes, of which, however, some 2,000 were engaged in Poland, thus leaving about 1,600 for the defense of the entire Reich, including a reserve of only 900 aircraft.18 In 1939 the Germans had no strategic bomber force and the existing craft were suited more to tactical cooperation with land units than to long-range bombing.
German intelligence reports, uncovered by the Allies after the war, indicated deep anxiety about the Wehrmacht in the West. These reports expressed fear that should the Allies attack early in September, they could reach the Rhine with little resistance. Had Gamelin executed his breakthrough toward the Rhur it was the opinion of many senior German officers that he could not only have threatened the industrial heart of the Third Reich, but might have trapped the hard core of the German army in a "sack" on the Saar front. The potential setback would probably have encouraged the sulking and conspiring generals to act against Hitler, while at the same time discouraging Stalin from committing himself more deeply to the German partnership.
As France and Britain were reluctantly mobilizing their resources, the victors were dividing their spoils. Early in October 1939, Hitler incorporated not only Dang, but also Polish Pomeranian, Posnania, and Upper Silesia and a fragment of Central Poland, including the district around the industrial city of Lodz, into the Greater German Reich. Thus, the frontiers of the Third Reich were pushed beyond those of the old Empire of 1914. The bulk and the annexed Polish land were organized into a new Wartegau. The mutilated remainder of Poland, the area around Warsaw, Cracow and Lublin, as far as the Soviet border on the Bug, was decreed to be a General Government "with Cracow as the seat of its ruler," a rabid Nazi Dr. Hans Frank. The Germans soon started the persecution and eventual extermination of Jews as well as the educated class of the Polish society; the remaining strata were to be reduced to helots for the "Master Race."
While in Western and Central Poland the Germans were establishing their New Order, the eastern segment of the country was suffering from the Stalinist policies of " social engineering. " The Soviets proceeded to mass arrest of "politically unreliable elements" and their forcible deportation to distant parts of what later was to be called the "Gulag Archipelago. " At the same time Stalin turned has attention toward the three small Baltic Republics, the existence of which has hinged on Poland's independence. The Poles has insisted on adding to the British-Polish defensive alliance an additional protocol which extended all alliance to the Baltic states. According to this annex to the treaty, Great Britian would be obliged to assist Poland in defending Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia against a German attack. Of course, neither the British nor the Polish negotiators realized that the fate of the Baltic Republics had already been determined two days earlier in Moscow by the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocol.
On September 20, three days after the Soviet invasion of Poland, Moscow accused Estonia of threatening the security of the U.S.S.R. by allowing the interned Polish submarine, "OrzeI (Eagle), to escape from Tallinn. Red Army units of the Leningrad military district were ordered to be ready to march into Estonia, while a squadron of the Soviet Baltic fleet immediately sailed into Estonian territorial waters. On September 24, at the Soviet request, Estonia's foreign minister, Karl Selter, appeared in Moscow.
Brushing aside the still valid Soviet-Estonian non-aggression pact, Molotov threatened war against Estonia, unless it agreed to sign a mutual assistance pact for ten years, which would include establishment of military, naval and air bases on Estonian territory. The helpless Estonians submitted to this Soviet pressure; they were assured by Stalin and Molotov that Estonia's internal regime would not be infringed upon and that Soviet garrisons would be withdrawn immediately after the war.
Then came Latvia's turn. On October 2, a Latvian delegation was summoned to the Kermlin to hear a similar ultimatum and similar soothing assurances. During the talks, some sixteen Red Army divisions were ominously present along the Soviet-Latvian border. The Latvians heard from Stalin that they threatened Soviet security; astonished, the Latvians asked who could threaten Soviet interests in the Baltic area. Stalin replied: "The Swedes and the British." The Latvians submitted and on October 5, signed another extensive mutual-aid pact.
Next, Lithuania was requested to send a delegation to Moscow. To the Lithuanians Stalin offered the city of Wilno (Vilnius) to soften their fears of Soviet garrisons on their soil. For over two decades the city had been written into the Constitution of the Lithuanian Republic as its legal capital. Possession of Wilno by the Poles had been the main apple of discord between the two countries.
Lithuanian patriots had desired nothing more than to regain Vilnius from Poland. Yet, Kaunas refused Berlin's urging to join in the attack on Poland at the coveted price. Now, faced again with the Danaian gift offered by Stalin, the Lithuanian Minister hesitated. Expressing his fear for his country's independent existence, he made a dramatic appeal to Stalin to spare Lithuania.
As "a son of a small nation," Georgia, which has lost its freedom at the expense of a great neighbor, Russia, Stalin should understand Lithuanian's plight. Stalin ignored the plea and replied that he was "already a Russified Georgian." On October 10, after long soul-searching, the Lithuanian delegation frightened by a mounting concentration of the Red Army along their eastern borders complied with the Soviet demands. To punish them for their hesitation, Molotov extended this Soviet-Lithuanian pact of mutual assistance from ten to fifteen years.
Thus, the destruction of Poland was followed by the disintegration of all other sovereign states in East Central Europe. The unfolding of events in East Central Europe in 1938-1940 is evidence of the close interdependence of the countries of the area. The collapse of Czechoslovakia was followed by the downfall of Poland and the Baltic States, and finally of the remaining independent nations situated between Germany and Russia. This was a perfect illustration of the domino theory.
Meanwhile, on October 22, 1939, the Soviet commander of the occupation forces in Eastern Poland ordered elections for the selection of deputies to the local Soviets. The electorate, of course, had no voice in the nominations of the candidates, who came mostly from the Soviet Union and were often complete strangers to the voters. Voting was permitted only for the one candidate whose name appeared on the ballot; Soviet occupation troops were also given the right to vote. Chosen deputies were then elected to the Supreme Soviet by a show of hands. They proceeded to pass resolutions providing for the "admission" of their territories into the Soviet Union, for the confiscation of large estates, and for the nationalization of banks and industries. Shortly after these political actions, deportations of "undesirable" and "unreliable" elements started anew, affecting an even greater number of people than before.
Some have seen Stalin's decision to grab as much territory as he could, even in alliance with Hitler, as a rejection of the ideological premises of Communism and definite shift in the traditional Russian approach to territorial expansion. Probably some such shift had occurred. The loss of a broad belt of territory in the West to Russia's western neighbors at the end of World War I has been painful to all Great Russian nationalists, with whom Stalin by then came to identify himself. These losses, a humiliating reminder of Russia's defeats during 1914-1920, had also damaged the U.S.S.R.'s strategic situation by depriving it of Baltic ports in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, thus making Leningrad a dangerously exposed frontier city.
Beyond the defeat of the enemy on the battlefield, the purpose of war is the achievement of political and other aims of the victor. The conqueror desires to consolidate the benefits of victory. Hitler, however, failed to establish meaningful advantages in Poland. No political party accepted German rule and no pro-Nazi government was ever formed, in contrast to all the other occupied countries of Europe. The terror and persecution which prevailed from the beginning in both parts of divided Poland produced uncompromising opposition drawn from a broad cross-section of the population. A resistance movement was organized by the major Polish political parties not only in the German-controlled regions toward the end of September 1939 , but also later and on a smaller scale in the Soviet zone of occupation. Moreover, to preserve the continuity of Polish statehood a government-in- exile was formed in France by General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who became its Prime Minister, as well as Commander-in- Chief of all Polish armed forces, at home and abroad.
The article is based on M.K. Dziewanowski' s book, War at Any Price. A History of World War II, 1939-1945, Prentice Hall, 1991.
A very good article Thanks for posting. I wonder how such pearls are found.
You need to be hooked up to multiple sources on the Net. I am sucking on a few sites for information. ;D ;D ;D
One the margin. What do you think about a hypothetical situation that Poles forgave the Czech their dishonest occupation of Zaolzie region, while Czechs gave up their animosity towards Poles and two nations joined their forces in a mutual defence against Germans? Numerous Polish armies, aided by Czech units with hundreds of their excellent tanks, would be a hard nut to crack for Hitler. Pity.....
A very good article Thanks for posting. I wonder how such pearls are found.
You need to be hooked up to multiple sources on the Net. I am sucking on a few sites for information. ;D ;D ;D
One the margin. What do you think about a hypothetical situation that Poles forgave the Czech their dishonest occupation of Zaolzie region, while Czechs gave up their animosity towards Poles and two nations joined their forces in a mutual defence against Germans? Numerous Polish armies, aided by Czech units with hundreds of their excellent tanks, would be a hard nut to crack for Hitler. Pity.....
sigh- yes, plus the French responded positively to the idea of joint disarmament of hitlerian Germany when there was still time to do it.... by now the whole Europe would have been a paradise on Earth...
Praise for Poles at Berlin exhibition on World War II attack DPA 5/27/09
Berlin - Opening a special historical exhibition in Berlin about Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland 70 years ago, German official Bernd Neumann praised Poles for forgiving their German tormentors. "So many Poles, after their horrific sufferings, offered Germany the hand of reconciliation after the Second World War," said Neumann, Germany's junior minister for the arts. "That profoundly humane gesture is something that we will never forget."
The exhibition in an annex to the German History Museum in Berlin educates Germans about the September 1, 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland in the context of 200 years of shared history. Poland's arts minister, Bogdan Zdrojewski, attended the evening opening.
He said the reunited Europe's wealth was its tolerance, openness and pluralism.
The exhibition, developed by a joint team of Polish and German historians, is to run until September 6. Officials called it a milestone in reconciliation between the two nations.
Clashing interpretations about the war have repeatedly caused friction. The ministers signed an agreement on conducting joint historical inquiries, setting up the European Network of Memory and Solidarity.
The network will have a head office in Warsaw and will fund history projects. Hungary and Slovakia are to join the network later.
Residents of Polish town recall terror of first bombs of World War II
MONIKA SCISLOWSKA Associated Press writer 2:07 AM PDT, August 28, 2009
WIELUN, Poland (AP) — Just before dawn on Sept. 1, 1939, 13-year-old Eugeniusz Kolodziejczyk stood on a train station platform, fidgeting with his father's watch.
Amid mounting saber rattling from Nazi Germany, his father had been called away to defend Poland's borders in case of war.
The war came to them instead — fierce, quick and dealing destruction in minutes: The opening salvos of World War II in Europe.
The boy heard a roaring sound above and looked up to see squadrons of planes — low slung Stuka dive bombers, the black cross of Germany's Luftwaffe visible.
The bombs began to fall.
Kolodziejczyk looked at the watch: 4:40 a.m. The explosions set off a worldwide conflict that would rage for more than half a decade and leave more than 40 million military and civilian dead.
"I saw smoke and fire, I heard explosions and ... screaming," said Kolodziejczyk, now 83, his voice quavering as he recalled the day 70 years ago Tuesday. "I was in shock."
Wielun was the first victim of the war in Europe, even before the tiny Polish military outpost on Westerplatte, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) to the north on the Baltic Sea, shelled by the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein five minutes after Wielun.
Westerplatte is the site of state ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the war, to be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
But Wielun defends its place in history and will hold its own anniversary ceremonies with the participation of President Lech Kaczynski.
Last year it nominated itself for the Nobel Peace Prize arguing its wartime past qualifies it — along with Guernica, the Spanish town that was severely bombed during that nation's Civil War and became a symbol of war's barbarity — to carry a message of pacifism.
The attack on Wielun was a harbinger of what Poland and the rest of Europe had in store for them as the continent faced total war: some 1,200 of the town's 15,000 citizens were killed and more than 70 percent of its downtown turned to rubble.
During the Nazi occupation, Poland lost some 6 million citizens and more than half its national wealth in destroyed factories, burned down museums, libraries and villages. The country was also to be used as base for the occupying Nazis' genocide machinery, home to Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor and other death camps built for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.
It is not entirely clear why Germany chose Wielun, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border, as its first target.
"There were no troops or commanders stationed here, there was no key industry," said Jan Ksiazek, head of the town's history museum. "Probably, it was to provoke panic among the civilians."
In a book published in Berlin in 1939 Luftwaffe officers said they believed Polish troops were stationed in the city.
Today, the main square is framed by low, modern houses that filled in the void left after the old, historic buildings were demolished. There are no reminders of the bombings except for the stone foundations of a 14th century church in the town center.
As the bombs fell, Kolodziejczyk remembers running to help a small girl who was lying on a heap of rubble, her face covered in blood.
But when he lifted her "her hands ... dropped lifelessly."
With his father, he helped bring two other injured girls and two injured women to medical assistance, then fled to his home on the outskirts of town and told his grandmother what had happened.
"I don't believe that the Germans, such a cultured and educated nation, could do something like this," he recalled her saying.
In the town center, 11-year-old Zofia Blaszynska was sleeping in the family's ground floor apartment.
Jolted awake by the noise of bombs, she recalls her first thought was that some cows were making a hullabaloo.
Not pausing to explain, her mother told her to get dressed.
"All of a sudden I saw the ceiling crack and the window panes were on the floor," recalled Blaszynska, now 81. "We jumped through the window into the yard."
The air was filled with thick red dust that the family feared may be gas but was likely the powder of pulverized bricks.
Still in nightgowns and barefoot, they ran among burning houses to a nearby cellar where others had taken refuge. People cried and prayed.
For both Blaszynska and Kolodziejczyk — like the rest of Poland — it was just the start of an ordeal that would not end until more than five years later.
Despite vivid memories of wartime horror, Kolodziejczyk has a message of reconciliation.
"In World War II the Germans created hell not only for us, but also for their own people," he said. "I hold no grudge against the German nation."
The Invasion of Poland in 1939 precipitated World War II. It was carried out by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent. In Poland the invasion is also known as the September Campaign (Kampania wrześniowa) or the 1939 Defensive War (Wojna obronna 1939 roku). In Germany it is sometimes referred to as the Poland Campaign (Polenfeldzug) or the Polish-German War of 1939. For the German General Staff, it was codenamed Unternehmen Fall Weiss, or Case White.
The invasion of Poland marked the start of World War II in Europe, as Poland's western allies, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, declared war on Germany on September 3, soon followed by France, South Africa and Canada, among others. The invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and ended 6 October 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland. Although the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany soon after Germany attacked Poland, very little direct military aid was provided (see Phoney War and Western betrayal).
Following a German-staged "Polish attack" on 31 August 1939, on 1 September German forces invaded Poland from the north, south, and west. Spread thin defending their long borders, the Polish armies were soon forced to withdraw eastward. After the mid-September Polish defeat in the Battle of the Bzura, the Germans gained an undisputed advantage. Polish forces then began a withdrawal southeast, following a plan that called for a long defence in the Romanian bridgehead area, where the Polish forces were to await an expected Allied counterattack and relief.
On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Red Army invaded the eastern regions of Poland in cooperation with Germany.  The Soviets were carrying out their part of the secret appendix of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence. Facing the second front, the Polish government decided the defence of the Romanian bridgehead was no longer feasible and ordered the emergency evacuation of all troops to neutral Romania. By 1 October, Germany and the Soviet Union completely overran Poland, although the Polish government never surrendered. In addition, Poland's remaining land and air forces were evacuated to neighboring Romania and Hungary. Many of the exiles subsequently joined the recreated Polish Army in allied France, French-mandated Syria, and the United Kingdom.
In the aftermath of the invasion, a resistance movement was formed. Poland's fighting forces continued to contribute to Allied military operations throughout World War II. On 8 October, Nazi Germany annexed the western areas of pre-war Poland and established the Generalgouvernement from the remains of her gains. The Soviet Union temporarily lost her gains due to the Nazi German invasion of June 1941, but permanently re-annexed them after regaining them in mid-1944. Over the course of the war, Poland lost over 20% of its pre-war population under an occupation that marked the end of the Second Polish Republic.
Following several German-staged incidents (Operation Himmler), which German propaganda used as an excuse to claim that German forces were acting in self-defence, the first regular act of war took place on 1 September 1939, at 04:40, when the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) attacked the Polish town of Wieluń, destroying 75% of the city and killing close to 1,200 people, most of them civilians. This invasion subsequently began the Second World War. Five minutes later, the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. At 08:00, German troops, still without a formal declaration of war issued, attacked near the Polish town of Mokra. The Battle of the Border had begun. Later that day, the Germans attacked on Poland's western, southern and northern borders, while German aircraft began raids on Polish cities. The main axes of attack led eastwards from Germany proper through the western Polish border. Supporting attacks came from East Prussia in the north, and a co-operative German-Slovak tertiary attack by units (Army "Bernolak") from German-allied Slovakia in the south. All three assaults converged on the Polish capital of Warsaw.
The Allied governments declared war on Germany on 3 September; however, they failed to provide any meaningful support. The German-French border saw only a few minor skirmishes, although the majority of German forces, including eighty-five percent of their armoured forces, were engaged in Poland. Despite some Polish successes in minor border battles, German technical, operational and numerical superiority forced the Polish armies to retreat from the borders towards Warsaw and Lwów. The Luftwaffe gained air superiority early in the campaign. By destroying communications, the Luftwaffe increased the pace of the advance which overran Polish airstrips and early warning sites and causing logistical problems for the Poles. Many Polish Air Force units ran low on supplies, 98 of their number withdrew into then-neutral Romania. The Polish initial strength of 400 was reduced to just 54 by September 14 and air opposition virtually ceased.
By 3 September when Günther von Kluge in the north had reached the Vistula (some 10 kilometres from the German border at that time) river and Georg von Küchler was approaching the Narew River, Walther von Reichenau's armour was already beyond the Warta river; two days later, his left wing was well to the rear of Łódź and his right wing at the town of Kielce; and by 8 September one of his armoured corps was on the outskirts of Warsaw, having advanced 225 kilometres (140 miles) in the first week of war. Light divisions on Reichenau's right were on the Vistula between Warsaw and the town of Sandomierz by 9 September while List, in the south, was on the river San above and below the town of Przemyśl. At the same time, Guderian led his 3rd Army tanks across the Narew, attacking the line of the Bug River, already encircling Warsaw. All the German armies made progress in fulfilling their parts of the Fall Weiss plan. The Polish armies were splitting up into uncoordinated fragments, some of which were retreating while others were launching disjointed attacks on the nearest German columns.
Polish forces abandoned the regions of Pomerelia (the Polish Corridor), Greater Poland and Polish Upper Silesia in the first week. The Polish plan for border defence was proven a dismal failure. The German advance as a whole was not slowed. On 10 September the Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, ordered a general retreat to the southeast, towards the so-called Romanian bridgehead. Meanwhile, the Germans were tightening their encirclement of the Polish forces west of the Vistula (in the Łódź area and, still farther west, around Poznań) and also penetrating deeply into eastern Poland. Warsaw, under heavy aerial bombardment since the first hours of the war, was attacked on 9 September and was put under siege on September 13. Around that time, advanced German forces also reached the city of Lwów, a major metropolis in eastern Poland. 1,150 German aircraft bombed Warsaw on 24 September.
The largest battle during this campaign, the Battle of Bzura, took place near the Bzura river west of Warsaw and lasted from 9 September to 19 September. Polish armies Poznań and Pomorze, retreating from the border area of the Polish Corridor, attacked the flank of the advancing German 8th Army, but the counterattack failed after initial success. After the defeat, Poland lost its ability to take the initiative and counterattack on a large scale. German air power was instrumental during the battle. The Luftwaffe's offensive broke what remained of Polish resistance in an "awesome demonstration of air power". The Luftwaffe quickly destroyed the bridges across the Bzura River. Afterward, the Polish forces were trapped out in the open, and were attacked by wave after wave of Stukas, dropping 50 kg 'light bombs' which caused huge numbers of casualties. The Polish flak positions ran out of ammunition and retreated to the forests, but were then 'smoked out' by the Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17s dropping 100 kg incendiaries. The Luftwaffe left the army with the easy task of mopping up survivors. The Stukageschwaders alone dropped 388 tonnes of bombs during this battle.
The Polish government (of President Ignacy Mościcki) and the high command (of Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły) left Warsaw in the first days of the campaign and headed southeast, reaching Brześć on 6 September. Rydz-Śmigły ordered the Polish forces to retreat in the same direction, behind the Vistula and San rivers, beginning the preparations for the long defence of the Romanian bridgehead area.
The Polish September Campaign was an instance of total war. Consequently, civilian casualties were high during and after combat. From the start, the Luftwaffe attacked civilian targets and columns of refugees along the roads to wreak havoc, disrupt communications and target Polish morale. Apart from the victims of the battles, the German forces (both SS and the regular Wehrmacht) are credited with the mass murder of several thousands of Polish POWs and civilians. Also, during Operation Tannenberg, nearly 20,000 Poles were shot at 760 mass execution sites by special units, the Einsatzgruppen, in addition to regular Wehrmacht, SS and Selbstschutz.
Altogether, the civilian losses of Polish population amounted to about 150,000-200,000 while German civilian losses amounted to roughly 3,250 (including 2,000 who died fighting Polish troops as members of a fifth column).
Poland marks 70th anniversary of WWII beginning . By RYAN LUCAS and DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer Ryan Lucas And David Rising, Associated Press Writer – 10 mins ago
GDANSK, Poland – Officials from across Europe and the U.S. gathered in northern Poland on Tuesday to mark the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, bringing together former foes to honor the tens of millions killed in the conflict.
Earlier, Polish leaders met at dawn on Gdansk's Westerplatte peninsula to mark the exact time the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, in the war's opening salvo, shelled a tiny Polish military outpost housing the navy's arsenal.
Red and white Polish flags fluttered as the officials at 4:45 a.m. (0245GMT) placed wreaths at the foot of the monument to the defenders of Westerplatte. An honor guard looked on.
"Westerplatte is a symbol, a symbol of the heroic fight of the weaker against the stronger," President Lech Kaczynski said. "It is proof of patriotism and an unbreakable spirit. Glory to the heroes of those days, glory to the heroes of Westerplatte, glory to all of the soldiers who fought in World War II against German Nazism, and against Bolshevik totalitarianism."
Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned of the dangers of forgetting the war's lessons.
"We meet here to remember who started the war, who the culprit was, who the executioner in the war was, and who was the victim of this aggression," Tusk said.
"We meet here to remember this, because we Poles know that, without this memory — honest memory about the truth, about the sources of World War II — Poland, Europe and the world will not be safe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, representatives of the two countries that invaded Poland in September 1939, were scheduled to take part in the commemoration later in the day.
Merkel told Germany's ARD television Tuesday that her country would never forget the "causes and effects" of the war.
"Germany triggered the Second World War," she said. "We brought endless suffering to the world."
Within a month of the Sept. 1 attack, Poland was overwhelmed by the Nazi blitzkrieg from the west, and an attack two weeks later from the east by the Soviet Union, which had signed a pact with Hitler's Germany.
Putin downplayed Russia's responsibility, saying that other countries had also negotiated with Nazi Germany before the war broke out. He emphasized instead the Soviet Union's role in fighting the Nazis.
"Today is a special day ... the day of the beginning of the second world war during which Russians and Poles together were fighting against one enemy, the Nazis," Putin said.
Tusk acknowledged the Red Army's defeat of the Nazis in Poland and vowed his nation and Russia would investigate the "painful elements of our common history."
"If, in the past, it was possible for the Poles and the Germans and the Russians and the Germans, for God's sake, why isn't it possible for the Poles and the Russians?" he said. "This meeting today ... is another step in building the fair foundations for an increasingly good dialogue."
The initial German attack on Poland started more than five years of war that would engulf the world and result in the slaughter of more than 50 million people as the German war machine rolled over Europe.
Poland alone lost 6 million citizens, half of them Jews. During the German occupation, the country was used as a base for the Nazis' genocide machinery. It was home to Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor and other death camps built for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.
At the height of the war, the European theater stretched from North Africa to the outskirts of Moscow, and pitted Germany and its allies, including Italy, against Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, along with a host of other countries, including Polish forces in exile.
The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945, with Germany's unconditional surrender.
About 20 European leaders and officials, including French Premier Francois Fillon and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, will join Merkel and Putin for the ceremonies.
The U.S. will be represented by National Security Adviser James Jones. The delegation, which is lower-ranking than that of most European nations, has disappointed some in Poland who view Washington as a historical ally.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said it was no indication of a chill in relations between the two nations.
"There are very deep and extensive ties between the U.S. and Poland. We are bound by, by not only ethnic and cultural ties, but also by our membership in NATO," he said.
"We appreciate the, the tremendous sacrifice that the people of Poland made in World War II."
Polish cavalry versus German tanks: Die-hard WWII myth 8/30/09
WARSAW (AFP) — September 1939. Polish cavalrymen saddle up, level their lances and sabres, and charge headlong into the advancing Nazi German tanks.
That has become a stock image: hapless, quixotic Poles facing the all-powerful invaders at the outbreak of World War II.
The problem is that it's a myth, experts say. Worse still, repeating it means keeping Nazi propaganda alive.
Like many legends, it was spun from a real event, explained historian Christoph Mick of Britain's University of Warwick.
On September 1, 1939, the day the Nazi offensive began, around 250 Polish cavalrymen charged a German infantry unit at Krojanty, a northern hamlet.
After dispersing the enemy, they were surprised by German armor which emerged from the woods and strafed them, killing several dozen riders and their horses.
"When German and Italian journalists arrived on the battlefield they were shown the dead horses and cavalrymen and two German tanks,'' said Mick.
"The story was made up by Nazi propaganda to show the backwardness of the Polish army and how much the Poles had underestimated the strength of the German Wehrmacht.
Polish cavalry never attacked German tanks,'' he added.
Fascist Italy was already a Nazi ally, but remained neutral in the war until 1940, lending its correspondents' coverage an international credence that Nazi reports lacked.
The myth also served other Nazi purposes.
Germany's doctrine of "Blitzkrieg' ' — lightning war — was based on thrusts by its motorized Wehrmacht land forces and hammer blows from the air by the Luftwaffe.
But it was also psychological.
`'Their propaganda films showed off all their tanks and planes. They put a very strong focus on that,'' said Polish expert Wojtek Lietz, who rides in the 8th Uhlan Regiment, a re-enactment group.
The Nazis had the edge because Germany — forced by the victors to slash its military after losing World War I — re-armed fast once Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.
Other nations failed to wake up until he had stolen a march on them. Poland aimed to mechanize much of its military by 1942.
The wartime role of horses, however, was far from mythical.
In 1939, Poland still had around 320,000 cavalry, but their horses primarily were a means of getting soldiers into battle.
"The reality was that Polish cavalry were trained and used as mounted infantry. The cavalry was not supposed to fight on horseback, but dismount before joining the fight,'' said Jan Szkudlinski of Poland's World War II Museum.
When circumstances required, they reverted to traditional tactics, charging German troops on at least 16 occasions.
Despite their high-technology image, the Nazis had around 200,000 cavalry.
Polish and German horsemen clashed at Krasnobrod in eastern Poland on September 23, two weeks before the Poles capitulated.
"If you compare the east and west, the east lacked good roads,'' noted Lietz.
Horses were suited to the flat terrain — proven by the cavalry battles of the 1919-1921 Polish-Bolshevik war — and both the Wehrmacht and Red Army made extensive use of them after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Horsemen also fought on other fronts.
The first Germans across the River Seine during the conquest of France in 1940 were cavalrymen, and US and British cavalry battled the Japanese in the Philippines and Burma.
Poland ceremonies mark WWII start By Adam Easton BBC News, Gdansk
Polish navy soldiers and honour guard beside the Westerplatte Monument in Gdansk, Poland, file pic from 2005
Westerplatte is an important symbol of Polish resistance in WWII
Leaders from Russia and Germany are among those expected at ceremonies in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.
At 0445 on 1 September 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire at point blank range on a Polish fort on the Westerplatte peninsula.
At the same time, the German Wehrmacht invaded Poland over three frontiers.
The attacks triggered Britain and France's declaration of war against Germany two days later.
Although it can be argued the war in Asia started much earlier and many in the US date the start of the war to 1941, Germany's invasion of Poland meant the war in Europe had begun.
Foreign leaders from 20 countries - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - are expected in Gdansk on Tuesday afternoon for a ceremony beside a monument to the heroes of Westerplatte.
At 0445 (0345 BST, 0245 GMT), Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk will lead a domestic ceremony along with war veterans beside a monument to the heroes of Westerplatte in Gdansk.
A German battleship, the Schleswig-Holstein, bombards the Polish coast at Westerplatte, at the start of World War II
At the time of the attack by the Schleswig-Holstein - which was moored in the Polish harbour on a friendship visit - Gdansk was known as the free city of Danzig.
The 182 Polish troops defending the Polish fort were expected to resist for about 12 hours. Despite coming under fire from the air, sea and land, they held out against a force of more than 3,000 Germans for seven days.
According to a survey published on Monday, Westerplatte is the most important symbol of Polish resistance in the whole of the war.
Of the speeches expected throughout the ceremonies, it is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's which is the most keenly anticipated in Poland.
According to the historian Professor Pawel Machcewicz, the Poles are expecting some sort of gesture from Mr Putin.
Poland's relations with Russia are currently thornier than those with Germany, partly because of differing historical interpretations of events at the start of the war.
Two weeks after the German invasion, the Red Army invaded and annexed eastern Poland under terms agreed in the secret protocol of a Nazi-Soviet pact. Vladimir Putin, file pic from 12 August 2009 Mr Putin may make a gesture to ease the tensions over Katyn
In early 1940, the Soviet secret services murdered more than 20,000 Polish officers in the forests around Katyn. For 50 years Moscow blamed the Nazis and only admitted responsibility for the crime in 1990.
Russian courts have ruled that Katyn cannot be considered a war crime and Moscow is still refusing to declassify documents about the massacre.
The temperature was raised further this week with accusations broadcast on Russian state TV which implied the USSR was justified in its invasion of Poland because Warsaw had been conspiring with Hitler against Moscow.
Mr Putin is unlikely to defend this viewpoint, but nor is he likely to offer an apology for the Soviet invasion, although he may make a gesture to ease the tensions over Katyn.
In an article published in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday, Mr Putin wrote: "The Russian nation, whose fate was distorted by the totalitarian regime, well understands Poles' feelings about Katyn, where thousands of Polish soldiers are buried.
I am sorry, that we Americans did not come to the aid of Poland, until late. We the Americans would have, but government would not let us, and I hope it will never happen again, but with this leadership we now have, anything could happen.
A Polish September I'll Always Remember Bohdan O. Szuprowicz Polish News, IL Saturday, 29 August
Whenever September rolls around it reminds me of the very first hours of World War II.
The impression made that day on the mind of an 8-year old boy and the associated images are getting even sharper as time progresses.
At dawn, on the first day of the month in 1939, Germany attacked Poland in a number of air raids on specific towns and strategic targets throughout the country. We lived in a civilian compound at the edge of a military base in Grodno where my father was an artillery officer in charge of an anti-aircraft unit. German aircraft from East Prussia, only minutes away, appeared over the town bombing the bridges on the river Niemen and the military bases. We were among the first targets of that raid.
It was the sound of the air raid siren on top of our building that jerked me out of sleep. It shattered the stillness of the early dawn, a violent and sudden reminder to take cover. Actually we were used to it because we heard that siren on several prior occasions when they tested the system. But this time it was different. Other, more distant sirens joined in one by one. For several minutes they sounded like a monstrous, expanding orchestra chorus wailing out of sync and scattered all over town...
Then, unexpectedly, there was a blinding flash… I felt a blow of air in the chest, and heard the thunder of an explosion.
The sound of shattered glass and bricks raining on cobblestones in the street below was then followed by a sudden silence…
Only after a while the drone of engines of the attacking bombers registered in my consciousness. Anti-aircraft guns around the military compound opened up. Their staccato salvoes sounded like some big dogs barking in the distance. More thundering explosions followed further and further away.
Then my heart started beating again.
Someone switched on the radio: "Attention, attention, it's coming. Ko, Ma, Three. Attention, attention…" This message repeated over and over again.
Father ran along the corridor of our apartment. He tried to strap on the gun holster to the leather belt of his uniform. He shouted to Mother, "Take the children below. Under the stairs in the lobby. I have to report."
"Dress yourself quickly," Mother said to me. She asked the maid to dress my younger brother while she took care of the two-week old baby.
"The windows, "somebody screamed. "Close the windows. It's gas. Poison gas." "The windows are broken," another voice answered. "All the windows are broken. Most of the glass is gone.""It's gas. I tell you it's gas." Mother moved. She told the cook to get a jug of water and find some linen napkins. In the kitchen she grabbed a bottle of vinegar.
"Quickly, the water," she said, "in case of gas…" she poured the vinegar into the water and wetted the cloth. Then she slapped the moist napkins over the mouths of the baby in her arms and my younger brother. She gave one to me. "Breathe through this…breathe, my God…"
The four year-old boy began to cry irritated by the wet, sour and cold napkin on his face. Mother herded us out of the apartment. Our girl carried the jug with vinegar water and additional napkins. By the time we got down there were several people already huddled under the concrete staircase of the lobby. "It's safe here, it's good," they told each other. I do not remember how long we stayed there but several events made an impression on me at that time.
Suddenly a doorway was flung open. Yellow dust hung in the air outside. It began to mix with thick, black smoke from roaring flames of a burning building across the street. A man appeared at the doorway.
"Close the door," someone shouted. "It's gas. I know it's gas."
"Close the door! Close the door!" yelled the crowd. "It's gas. Close it. There are women and children here." The man ignored the shouts and motioned to others outside. Several people came in from the street.
"It's safe here," they said. "They have water. That's good." "You don't live here," shouted the people under the staircase. "Go away. Go to your own building." "We are from the clinic across the street," they answered. "It's been hit. We are patients. Some of us are wounded and burned. There are also dead."
"Yes and that bomb was supposed to hit your building," another man added. "You are a military target. We were only a civilian hospital. "
Mother held a wet napkin against the face of the baby and my brother who wanted to wriggle away from her. People looked at them and tried to understand.
"I thought it was gas, "she explained. "I am a pharmacist. Vinegar solution is a filter."
An officer in uniform came into the lobby from the garden behind the apartment building that formed part of the military base. He overheard the conversation.
"No," he said. "The flag on our headquarters is red. For gas it's green. There is no danger. By the way, the Germans missed all the military targets. The bombs mostly fell into the nearby streets and fields. But they will be back. Their airfields in East Prussia are only twenty minutes away. You better evacuate these buildings as soon as you can."
The doorway to the street flung open again. Two men staggered in covered with dust. One, frightened out of his wits or in shock, whined away all the time at his companion.
"We shall die, we shall die, they're going to kill us," he repeated over and over again.
"Don't be silly," the other answered. "You have nothing to worry about. The Germans are only bombing the Jews."
I took the wet napkin away from my face and looked at the man. Acrid smell and dusty air filled my nose and mouth. I felt a sour taste and grit between my teeth. The stranger noticed my stare and moved closer.
"You have nothing to worry about, my boy," he repeated and pointed his finger at my big blue eyes. He gave me a pat on the shoulder. Mother looked up from under the concrete staircase. She gave the stranger a fleeting smile and went back to comfort the baby in her arms. I could not understand what it was all about. It seemed that the people were now calmer than before but there was something at the back of my mind that bothered me. "How will the German pilots high above know who is who?" I thought. "Perhaps it's one of those secrets that grown-ups don't want the children to know."
It really did not matter. Things were happening. We did not have to eat the dreaded oatmeal for breakfast. That was good. No school, of course. No need to play in the sand box with other children of the compound. That was boring. There was an air of adventure in the air. That was exciting. But the most curious part of it all was that I was not afraid. On the contrary. Life was becoming more than routine. It looked promising of something not quite tangible at the time but definitely interesting.
When the "all clear" sounded most people in the lobby rushed back to their apartments. Others went out into the street. In all it felt like a big disappointment.
We walked back to our apartment where the radio continued with the same message. "Attention, attention, it's coming…."
It was September 1, 1939. World War II had just begun.
The Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig (Gdańsk) was one of the first battles of the Invasion of Poland, and of the World War II in Europe.
On September 1, 1939, Polish militiamen defended the building for some 15 hours against assaults by the SS Heimwehr Danzig (SS of the city Danzig), local SA formations and special units of Ordnungspolizei (Danzig police). All but four of the defenders who escaped from the building during the surrender were sentenced to death by a German military court as partisans on October 5, 1939 and executed. The Polish Post Office (Poczta Polska) in the Free City of Danzig was created in 1920 under the Treaty of Versailles, and its buildings were considered extraterritorial Polish property.
The Polish Post Office in Danzig comprised several buildings. In 1930 the "Gdańsk 1" building on Hevelius Platz (square) in the Danziger Altstadt (Old Town) became the primary Polish post office, with a direct telephone line to Poland. In 1939 it employed slightly over 100 people. Some employees at the Polish Post Office belonged to a self-defence and security organization, and many were also members of the Polish Związek Strzelecki (Riflemen's Association). According to the testimony of Edmund Charaszkiewicz, the Polish Post Office was from 1935 an important component of the Polish Intelligence organization, "Group Zygmunt", as well as illegally militarized.
As tensions between Poland and Germany grew, in April 1939 the Polish High Command detached engineer and Army Reserve Sublieutenant Konrad Guderski to the Baltic Sea coast. With Alfons Flisykowski and others, he helped organize the official and volunteer security staff at the Polish Post Office in Danzig, and prepare them for eventual hostilities. In addition to training the staff, he prepared the defenses in and around the building: nearby trees were removed in order to have clear shot, and the entrance was fortified. In mid-August, ten additional employees were sent to the post office from Polish Post offices in Gdynia and Bydgoszcz (mostly reserve non-commissioned officers).
In the building of the Polish post on 1 September there were 57 people: Konrad Guderski, 42 local Polish employees, 10 employees from Gdynia and Bydgoszcz, and the building keeper with his wife and 10-year old daughter who lived in the building. Polish employees had a cache of weapons, including three Browning wz.1928 light machine guns, 40 other firearms and three chests of hand grenades. The Polish defence plan assigned the defenders the role of keeping Germans from the building for 6 hours, when a relief force from Armia Pomorze was supposed to secure the area.
The German attack plan, devised in July 1939, devised that the building defenders would be stormed from two directions. A diversionary attack was to be carried out at the front entrance, while the main force would break through the wall from the neighbouring Work Office and attack from the side.  The battle
At 04:00 Germans cut the phone and electricity lines to the building. At 04:45, just as the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein started shelling the nearby Polish Army military outpost at Westerplatte, German forces began their assault on the Polish Post. German units detached for this task were composed of the special unit of Danzig police, local SA formations and the SS units SS Wachsturmbann "E" and SS Heimwehr Danzig, supported by at least three ADGZ heavy armored cars. The attack was commanded by German police colonel, Willi Bethke. The first German attack, from the front, was repelled, although Germans managed to break through the entrance and briefly enter the building (at the cost of two killed and seven wounded attackers, including one group leader). The second attack, from the Work Office, was also repelled. The commander of Polish defence, Konrad Guderski, died during that second attack from the blast of his own grenade which stopped the Germans who broke through the wall.
At 11:00 German units were reinforced by the Wehrmacht with two 75 mm artillery pieces, but the second attack, even with the artillery support, was again repulsed. At 15:00 Germans declared a two hour ceasefire and demanded that Polish forces surrender, which they refused. In the meantime, Germans received additional reinforcements: a 105 mm artillery piece, and a unit of sappers, which dug under the walls and prepared a 600 kg explosive device. At 17:00 the bomb was set off, collapsing part of the wall, and German forces under the cover of three artillery pieces attacked again, this time capturing most of the building with the exception of the basement.
At 18:00 Germans brought automatic pumps, gasoline tanks and flamethrowers, which they used to flood the basements with burning gasoline. After three Poles were burned alive (bringing the total Polish casualties to six killed in action), the rest decided to capitulate. The first two people to leave the building — director Dr. Jan Michoń, carrying a white flag, and commandant (naczelnik) Józef Wąsik — were shot by the Germans (according to one version, Dr. Michoń was attacked with a flamethrower). The rest of the Poles were allowed to surrender and leave the burning building. Six people managed to escape from the building, although two of them were captured the following days.
16 wounded prisoners were sent to the Gestapo hospital, where six subsequently died (including the 10-year old Erwina). The other 28 were first imprisoned in the police building, and after a few days sent to Victoriaschule, where they were interrogated and tortured, together with some 3,000 Polish citiziens of Danzig.
All the prisoners were put on trial: first the 28 imprisoned in Victoriaschule on 8 September, and then the 10 who recovered in the hospital, on 30 September, without any defence lawyer. All were sentenced to death for being partisans, under the German special military penal law of 1938. The sentence was demanded by the prosecutor Hans Giesecke, declared by presiding judge Kurt Bode, and signed by General Walther von Brauchitsch, after just few hours. (A similar fate awaited 11 Polish railway workers south of the city after they foiled a German attempt to use an armoured train, and were executed by the SA along with their immediate families.)
The prisoners were mostly executed by firing squad led by SS-Sturmbannführer Max Pauly (later commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp) on 5 October. One, Leon Fuz, was later recognised and murdered in the Stutthof concentration camp in November. Four defenders who managed to escape and hide survived the war. Families of the postmen were also repressed.
Giesecke and Bode were never held responsible for this episode or held accountable for Justizmord. They were denazified after the war and continued their careers as lawyers. Both died of natural causes in 1970s. Only in 1995 did the German court at Lübeck invalidate the 1939 ruling and rehabilitate the "postmen", citing among the reasons that the ruling had been in violation of the Hague Convention.
In Poland, the whole episode has become one of the better known episodes of the Polish September Campaign and it is usually portrayed as a heroic story of David and Goliath proportions. In this view, it was a group of postmen who held out against German SS troops for almost an entire day. In 1979 in the People's Republic of Poland a Defenders of the Polish Post Monument was unveiled in Gdańsk Monument to the Defenders of the Polish Post Office, Gdańsk
Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk, Poland, located on Baltic Sea coast at the river mouth of the Dead Vistula (one of the Vistula delta estuaries), in the Gdańsk harbour channel. From 1926 to 1939 it was the location of a Polish Military Transit Depot (WST), sanctioned within the territory of the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk). It is famous as the place of Battle of Westerplatte, the first major battle of the Invasion of Poland in 1939. n 1925 the Council of the League of Nations allowed Poland to keep 88 soldiers on Westerplatte. By September 1939 the crew of Westerplatte had increased to 182 soldiers. They were armed with one 75 mm field gun, two 37 mm Bofors antitank guns, four mortars and a number of medium machine guns. There were no real fortifications, only several concrete guardhouses hidden in the peninsula's forest. The Polish garrison was separated from Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk) by the harbor channel, with only a narrow isthmus connecting the area to the mainland. In case of war, the defenders were supposed to withstand a sustained attack for 12 hours after which a relief from the main units of the Polish Army were to arrive. The Polish garrison's commanding officer was Major Henryk Sucharski, the executive officer was Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski.
Last Polish survivor of opening WWII battle dies 07.08.2012 10:41 The last surviving Polish participant in the opening battle of World War II has died aged 97. Major Ignacy Skowron passed away on Sunday at the house of his grandson, in the city of Kielce, southern Poland. As a young man, Skowron had taken part in the defence of the Westerplatte peninsular that adjoined the then free city of Danzig (Gdansk). As dawn broke on the morning of 1 September 1939, Nazi warship the Schleswig-Holstein – technically on a courtesy visit to the German-dominated city of Danzig – opened fire on the Polish garrison at Westerplatte. About 200 Polish troops were stationed at the site, but they were cut off from the possibility of receiving reinforcements. After seven days of bombardment, Polish commander Major Henryk Sucharski surrendered, having run out of ammunition. Ignacy Skowron, who was a corporal at the time, was interned as a prisoner of war alongside the other Polish survivors (over 50 Poles were wounded and 15-20 died in the bombardment). In 1941, Skowron was released owing to ill health, and after the war, he worked for Polish railways, before retiring in 1975. Major Skowron continued to take part in ceremonies commemorating the war until this year.
Post by propatriapoland on Sept 30, 2019 18:20:05 GMT 1
The Battle of Westerplatte was one of the first battles in Germany's invasion of Poland, marking the start of World War II in Europe. Beginning on 1 September 1939, German army, naval and air forces and Danzig police assaulted Poland's Military Transit Depot on the Westerplatte peninsula in the harbor of the Free City of Danzig. The Poles held out for seven days and repelled 13 assaults that included dive-bomber attacks and naval shelling. Westerplatte's defense served as an inspiration for the Polish Army and people in the face of German advances elsewhere, and is still regarded as a symbol of resistance in modern Poland.
Westerplatte's defense served as an inspiration for the Polish Army and people in the face of German advances elsewhere, and is still regarded as a symbol of resistance in modern Poland.
The scenes from Westerplatte film made in 1960s can be seen in one of Sabatons`s music clips. Although the song is actually about another famous heroic defensive battle of 1939 at Wizna, it provides a good illustration anyway.