Westerplatte


In the summer of 1939, Hitler began to claim the Polish corridor that went straight through the German East Prussia and out to the Baltic at the free city of Danzig (present Gdansk). Danzig came after the first world war and the Versailles peace to become a Free city with its own constitution, government, parliament and currency but without actually belonging to any country. A strange composition consisting of both Poles and Germans in which the newly formed League of Nations (NF) had the task of overseeing the whole. Both Germans and Poles had national, political and economic interests that did not always coincide and it was therefore a city of political contradictions where the Nazis came to be a power factor. In November 1934, the Nazi appointed Arthur Greiser as president.

The very Polish corridor that separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany became a reason for Hitler to make territorial claims on Poland in order to link East Prussia with Germany. Both Britain and France made promises in late summer 1939 to Poland for military assistance if Poland was attacked by Germany. At 04:45 on 1 September 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish fortification at Westerplatte. The reason was that in 1925 the League of Nations had admitted that the Polish army could station a military force of 88 men. At the outbreak of the war, this force had been increased to 188 men. The garrison at Westerplatte defended itself for a week when all necessary provisions began to subside and therefore the Polish defenders surrendered. 15 Polish soldiers were killed and over 200 captured.

Current status: Demolished with monument (2008).

Address: Westerplatte, 80-001 Gdansk.

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Schleswig-Holstein and Westerplatte have become the symbol of the outbreak of the Second World War, but this can be discussed. Where and when Germany began what might be called acts of war on the night of 1 September is difficult to determine. But the inevitable connection between Westerplatte and the outbreak of war meant that I expected something more grand and lavish than it was.

Follow up in books: Moorhouse, Roger: Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II (2020).