From Academic Kids

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Schleswig-Holstein shelling Polish Westerplatte

Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk (German:Danzig), at an estuary of the Dead Vistula (one of the Vistula delta estuaries), in the Gdańsk harbour channel. From 1926 - 1939 a Polish Military Transit Depot was located there, on a territory of the Free City of Danzig (Polish:Gdańsk).


The Transit Depot

In 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, 2 anti-tank guns, 4 mortars and a number of machineguns. There were no real fortifications, only several concrete blockhouses in the forest. The Polish garrison was separated from Freie Stadt Danzig (Gdansk) city by the harbour channel, with only a thin wall connecting them to the mainland. In case of war, the defenders were supposed to withstand attack for 12 hours. Their commander was Major Henryk Sucharski, the 2nd in command was Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski (according to recent opinions, from 2 September Captain Dąbrowski was also the actual commander, following Sucharski's breakdown).

Battle of Westerplatte

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Westerplatte in flames

At the end of August 1939 the old German 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 4.45 a.m., as the German Army began their invasion of Poland, Schleswig-Holstein started to shell the Polish garrison with a heavy artillery barrage, including 280 mm and 150 mm guns. This was followed by an attack by German naval infantry, who were hoping for an easy victory, but were repelled with Polish machinegun fire. Another two assaults that day were repelled as well, and the Germans suffered losses. The only Polish 75 mm gun was destroyed after firing 28 shells at German positions across the channel. Over the coming days, the Germans bombarded Westerplatte with ship and field heavy artillery and with air raids of Junkers Ju 87 Stukas. Repeated attacks by German naval infantry, SS Heimwehr Danzig (Danzig homeland protection) and combat engineers were all repelled by the Poles. Finally, the Westerplatte crew surrendered on 7 September, who were now exhausted and short of food, water, ammunition and medicines.

The exact number of German losses is not known; it is estimated that around 300 were killed and many more wounded. Polish casaulties were much lower - 15 killed and 53 wounded. The ruins of the barracks and blockhouses are still there. One of the barracks has been converted into a museum - two shells from the Schleswig-Holstein prop up its entrance.

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Polish soldiers taken into captivity after the capitulation of Westerplatte

Related reading

Sources and documents




External link

es:Westerplatte pl:Westerplatte


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