The Defense of the Polish Post- Gdansk, 1939

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by v2, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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    Though a rather brief and small battle in the grand scope of history, the story of the defense of the Polish post office during the invasion of Poland has grown into one of Gdansk's most cherished stories of heroism. Alongside the simultaneously occurring Battle of Westerplatte, the defense of the post stands as one of the first battles of the Second World War.
    Following the Treaty of Versailles, the predominantly German city of Gdansk was made into a Free City, commonly referred to as the Free City of Danzig (the German name). The Free City was an autonomous city-state protected by the ill-fated League of Nations, with Poland retaining rather complex rights to Danzig, based mostly on economic cooperation. Though the population of Danzig was 95% German, Poland represented the Free City abroad, operated the railway system connecting it to Poland, and was given ward over Westerplatte, the small military outpost in the city harbor.
    The Free City of Danzig had two post offices: one municipal and one Polish run. The Polish post office was considered an extraterritorial property of Poland, meaning it was exempt from local law in much the same way embassies or UN buildings are. As such, it became a sort of Polish headquarters within the Free City. As the situation between Poland and Germany worsened, the Polish military made the rather paltry effort of securing the post office by sending reserves sublieutenant Konrad Guderski to the post in April, 1939 to organize and train a security unit composed of official post office employees and civilian volunteers. In mid-August, as hostilities were beginning to seem imminent, 10 more employees were sent from Gdynia and Budgoszcz, bringing the staff of the Polish post office to somewhere near 100 people. On September 1, 1939, however, there were exactly 57 people in the building: Konrad Guderski (the only non-civilian), 42 local Polish employees, the 10 employees from Gdynia and Budgoszcz, and the building keeper, his wife and ten-year-old daughter who all lived in the building.
    At 04:00, Germans cut the power from the building and at 04:45, in sync with the Schleswig-Holstein's shelling of the small Polish garrison on Westerplatte, they began their assault on the Polish post office in Danzig. Armed with a small cache of mostly pistols, some machine guns and hand-grenades, the Polish defenders were able to repel the first German attack of the front of the building (though the Germans did enter the front door of the building briefly). At 11:00, the Germans were reinforced with 75mm artillery guns, but despite the extra firepower, the second German attack - through a wall in the side of the building - was also repulsed. Konrad Guderski, the Polish commander (if he can be called that), was killed during this second exchange.
    At 15:00 the Germans called a ceasefire, demanding a Polish surrender. As the Polish post office employees - refusing surrender - holed up inside the building, the Germans received additional reinforcements to the tune of a 105mm artillery gun and a unit of combat engineers who spent the two-hour ceasefire diligently (and efficiently, of course) digging a trench under the building and equipping it with a 600kg explosive device. At 17:00, the device was detonated and the side wall of the building collapsed allowing the Germans to capture the entire building except for the basement. With the Poles holed up in the basement refusing surrender, at 18:00 the Germans brought automatic pumps, gas tanks and flamethrowers into the building [the squeamish should perhaps skip this passage...] and proceeded to flood the basement with burning gasoline. Five Poles burned to death before the rest evacuated the basement. The first two Poles to exit the building - waving white flags - were shot. The rest of the Polish defenders were allowed to surrender.
    Sixteen Poles injured in the battle were sent to the city's hospital where six of them died (five from burn wounds, including the building-keeper's ten-year-old daughter). Though six people had managed to escape the building, two were captured the following day and sent with the other 28 survivors to Victoriaschule, a prison where they were interrogated and tortured along with many other Polish inhabitants of Danzig. All 38 survivors were put on trial, denied a defense lawyer and sentenced to death. They were executed by firing squad on October 5th.
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Wow, I had never heard of that. What a shame these heroic people were executed.

    :salute:
     
  3. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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  4. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I had heard about this from some of my Polish mates at work and bits that I have read or seen on TV, but hadn't heard the whole story of exactly what happened before. The Polish certainly had a terrible time in the war to say the least and it is a shame that the Poles had to wait nearly half a century after the war to get their independence back.
     
  5. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Gave them hell first
     
  6. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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  7. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    I think very many Americans (or USians) are woefully ignorant of the courage and determination of the Polish people in resisting simultaneous invasions by the nazis and the bolsheviks.
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    On the otherhand, many of us are very much aware of the bravery and sacrifice that Poland and many other nations showed in the face of overwhelming odds during those dark days.
     
  9. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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  10. v2

    v2 Well-Known Member

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  11. s1chris

    s1chris Member

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    Great story. The polish clearly have balls of steel.

    A guy I was taking to the other day at a site I visit with work was telling me about his Grandad taking part in the assault on Monte Cassino. He didn't realise I was a ww2 nut and was surprised when he found I know of this battle and the sacrifice made by the poles. What a legend.

    Cheers Chris
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think outside of us WW2/History nuts, the average person does not give the Poles as much credit as they deserve. They were even involved in the defense of Norway.

    It actually bothers me, IMHO the Poles fought harder then any other of the "Allies" from day 1, but ended up getting screwed over in the end.
     
  13. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    It bothers me to the point of being ashamed, that the Polish Forces in Britain at the end of WW2, were shunned, and banned from officially attending the Victory Parade in 1945, due to politics, and the appeasing of Stalin and the then USSR.
     
  14. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Agreed...matter of fact, they were made fun of for thier cavalry charge against German positions at the battle of Krojanty where propeganda twisted it to make people believe they charged tanks.

    The fact is, Polish cavalry was some of the world's best and when they (18th Pomeranian Uhlans - 250 strong) attacked the German's position during the battle, they scattered the Germans (battalion strength).

    As far as appeasing Stalin...we should have listened to Patton!!
     
  15. s1chris

    s1chris Member

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    Sadly Terry, the majority of my generation (25 -30yr olds) still fail to identify the contribution that the Polish have made to our country over the years. Just look at the comments flying around surrounding tonight's football match. I'm ashamed as well.

    Cheers Chris
     
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