POLISH GREATNESS TRAFFIC

May 23, 2018

MAY 23 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 23

1939

Hitler proclaimed his intention to invade Poland during a  military conference at the new Reich Chancellery in Berlin.  Hitler's objective of the conference was to inform the heads of the German armed forces and their staff of his views on the political situation and his future goals.  He professed that his dispute with Poland over Danzig (now Gdansk) was not the reason for the planned attack, but rather that it was a necessity for the German nation to expand its living space (lebensraum) and secure food supplies. He went further to say, "The solution of the problem demands courage. The principle by which one evades solving the problem by adapting oneself to circumstances is inadmissible. Circumstances must rather be adapted to. This is impossible without invasion of foreign states or attacks upon foreign property."


1945

SS-Reichsführer Himmler committed suicide while in British custody.  On May 21, Himmler and two aides tried to go into hiding but were detained at a checkpoint set up by former Soviet POWs. Over the next two days, he was transferred around to several camps and was finally brought to the British 31st Civilian Interrogation Camp near Lüneburg. During a routine interrogation Himmler admitted who he was, and the duty officer had the prisoner searched. Himmler was taken to the HQ of the Second British Army in Lüneburg where Doctor Wells conducted a medical exam on him. The doctor attempted to examine the inside of Himmler's mouth, but the Himmler refused to comply, jerked his head away and bit into a hidden cyanide pill. He collapsed onto the floor and was dead within 15 minutes.


May 22, 2018

MAY 22 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 22

1995

Pope John Paul II made his sixth visit to Poland to commemorate John Sarkander, patron saint of Silesia and Moravia. (The Pope visited: Skoczów, Bielsko-Biała, Żywiec.) (Pope John Paul II canonized Sarkander on his visit to the Czech Republic on May 21, 1995.  Sarkander was a Polish Roman Catholic priest who became active in the defense of the Christian faith during a period of hostile anti-Christian sentiment and conflict.  He was arrested on false accusations as a means of silencing him and he refused to give in to his tormentors who tortured him for a month before he died. His captors attempted to obtain secret information that he would not divulge, even under torture, because the seal of confession is sacred to a priest.


2010

Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus' remains were reburied in Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Andrew, located in Frombork, Poland after a 200 year search for his tomb.  After his death on May 24, 1543,  his remains rested in an unmarked grave beneath the floor of the cathedral  but its exact location was unknown. At the urging of a local bishop, scientists began searching in 2004 for the astronomer's remains and eventually turned up the skull and bones of a 70-year-old man, the age Copernicus was when he died. DNA from teeth and bones matched that of hairs found in one of his books, leading the scientists to conclude in all probability that they had finally found Copernicus.  Copernicus worked as a canon in the Basilica  (1512–16 and 1522–43) where he wrote his epochal work, De revolutionibus orbium cœlestium in Frombork.  Shortly after its 1543 publication, Copernicus died and was buried in the Basilica. (read also February 19, 1473)



May 21, 2018

MAY 21 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 21

1674

General John Sobieski was elected King of Poland: John III Sobieski was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1674 until his death in 1696, and was one of the most notable monarchs of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Sobieski's leadership prowess was demonstrated in wars in which he defeated the Ottoman Empire. Sobieski's 22-year reign marked a period of stabilization in the Commonwealth, much needed after the upheaval of the Deluge and the Khmelnytsky Uprising. King Sobieski was popular among his subjects. He was an extraordinary military commander, most famous for his victory over the Turks at the 1683 Battle of Vienna. The Ottoman's named him, the "Lion of Lechistan", and the Pope hailed him as the savior of Christendom. John III Sobieski was a hero of Poland.


1935

Nazis banned Jews from serving in the military. The Germans used the word "Mischling" to denote persons of mixed heritage or mixed blood, (those having Aryan and Jewish ancestry) and imposed strict racial tests to determine the degree of a person's "Jewishness".   A person was Jewish if they had two Jewish grandparents, or was married to a Jew, or was the offspring from a mixed marriage with a Jew (in or out of wedlock).   Despite these strident conditions and scrutiny,  Hitler personally approved or denied any request for reclassification of ethnicity. Despite these laws, there were about 100,000 Jewish soldiers (Mischlings) serving in the German armies.  There were many "Mischlings" who attained high rank in Hitlers Reich: 2 Field Marshals, 15 Generals, 2 full Generals, 8 Lieutenant Generals, and 5 Major Generals. Former Mischlings were Nazi party members – 4 were full Jews, 15 were half Jews and 7 were quarter Jews. For example:   Field Marshall Erhard Milch (a half-Jew);  General Helmut Wilberg  (a half-Jew); General Johannes Zuckertort (a half-Jew);  Col. Walter H. Hoellander (a half-Jew);  Commander Paul Ascher (a half-Jew); Admiral Bernhard Rogge, 1st Officer on the Bismarck (a quarter-Jew).


1945

Attack on the NKVD Camp in Rembertów took place on the outskirts of Warsaw. A unit of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK)  freed all Polish political prisoners from the Soviet NKVD camp.  Hundreds of Polish Citizens had previously been imprisoned at Rembertów and systematically deported to Siberia,  including members of the Home Army and other Polish underground fighters.



May 20, 2018

MAY 20 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 20

1881

Wladyslaw Sikorski (dob) was a Polish military and political leader. In WW2 he was appointed  Commander in Chief and General Inspector of the Polish Armed Forces. He also held the position of the Polish Minister of Military Affairs, thus cementing full control over the Polish military during the war. In addition he was the 1st Prime Minister of the Polish-Government-In-Exile, from September 39, 1939.   Even with its territory occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union,  Poland still commanded substantial armed forces: the Polish Navy had sailed to Britain, and hundreds of thousands of Polish troops had escaped via Romania and Hungary or across the Baltic Sea. These routes would be used frequently until the end of the war by both interned soldiers, Polish underground, and volunteers from Poland, who called themselves "Sikorski's tourists". They embarked on treacherous journeys, risking capture and imprisonment in concentration camps, or execution,  if caught by the Germans or their allies. The new Polish Army was getting a steady flow of recruits in France, and when France fell to Hitler, many of them escaped to Britain.  Even in Poland there was a large resistance movement. Sikorski had founded the  Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej (Union of Armed Struggle), which later became Armia Krajowa (Home Army). Sikorski also created the Government Delegation of Poland, to supervise the Secret Polish Underground State in occupied Poland. Poland had the largest resistance movement of any occupied country in Europe, and were the fourth largest Ally of the war.   On July 4, 1943, General Sikorski was killed in a tragic plane crash. Suspicions still prevail to this day of the possibility of Russian conspiracy.


1938

Romanian prime minister, Patriarch Miron Cristea, arrived in Poland. (Note: Cristea visited Poland, with which Romania had an alliance and with which it tried to create a neutral block between Nazi Germany and the USSR.  Cristea was an Austro-Hungarian-born Romanian cleric and politician.   Cristea, a bishop in Hungary was elected Metropolitan-Primate of the Orthodox Church of the newly unified Greater Romania in 1919. As the Church was raised to a rank of Patriarchate, Miron Cristea was enthroned as the first Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1925. In 1938 he served as  Prime Minister until his death in March 1939.  In his tenure as Patriarch, Cristea supported tolerance towards the Jews.  In 1928 he appealed to Romanian students to live the Golden Rule and he expressed sorrow for attacks and profanations of synagogues.



May 19, 2018

MAY 19 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 19

1792

Russian army invaded Poland.  On May 18,  1792 Russian ambassador to Poland, Yakov Bulgakov, delivered a declaration of war to the Polish Foreign Minister Joachim Chreptowicz. The next day Russian armies entered Poland and Lithuania starting the Polish-Russian War.   Russia felt threatened by the formation of a new alliance between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Prussia, and the creation of a new Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791 which instituted liberal reforms. Russia regarded Poland as a de facto protectorate. Alexander Bezborodko, chief author of foreign policy remarked that "The worst possible news have arrived from Warsaw: the Polish king has become almost sovereign"   The Kingdom of Prussia was equally opposed to to the new Polish constitution.  Poland was subjected to yet another partition in 1793 and by 1795 the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth ceased to exist.


1939

Franco-Polish Alliance: The Kasprzycki-Gamelin Convention was signed in Paris. (named after Polish Minister of War Affairs General Tadeusz Kasprzycki and Commander of the French Army Maurice Gamelin). It was a military, and not a state convention and therefore was not in force legally, as it was dependent on signing and ratification of political convention. It obliged both armies to provide help to each other in case of a war with Germany.


1941

New Nazi battleship Bismarck left Gdynia, Poland:  Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, and two of the largest built by any European power. Bismarck conducted only one offensive operation, in May 1941, code named Rheinübung. Accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, they raided Allied shipping lanes from North America to Great Britain. The two ships were detected several times off Scandinavia, and British naval units were deployed to block their route. The operation eventually ended with the sinking of the HMS Hood, and Bismarck.


1993

Solidarity deputies proposed a no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka.  Of the 460 seats in the Polish Sejm (lower House of Parliament) 223 voted against the Suchocka government while 198 supported her, and 24 abstained. (only 445 members were present to vote). The motion of no-confidence passed and President Wałęsa dissolved Parliament.  Suchocka government was criticized for its hard line policy against strikers, though welcoming market reforms. When teachers went on strike demanding an increase in salary Suchocka refused to bargain. Solidarity threatened to call a nationwide general strike if Suchocka's Cabinet didn't fall. If she had been reappointed, there would be no change as she would again have disregarded union demands.



May 18, 2018

MAY 18 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 18

1944

Troops of General Anders' 2nd Polish Corps attached to the British Eight Army captured Monastery Hill, Monte Cassino, on May 18, 1944.  A soldier of the Polish unit raised the Polish flag over the ruins of the abbey at 10:20 am. It ended five months of brutal and bloody fighting for control of the strategic height.  (Note:  Polish II Corps launched their second attack on Monte Cassino on May 17, with no natural cover for protection and under constant artillery and mortar fire from the strongly fortified German positions. Fighting was fierce, and resorted to hand to hand combat.  As the Allies advanced in the Liri valley, Germans had to withdraw due to dwindling material, but chose new defensive positions on the Hitler Line.  In the early hours of May 18, the British 78th Division and Polish II Corps linked up in the Liri valley 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Cassino town. At the end of the war the Poles constructed  a Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino on the slope of the mountain.


Stalin proclaimed GKO Order No. 5859, which implemented the deportation of the Tatars. It began on this day, and continued until the May 20th, 1944.  The notorious Soviet NKVD agents went from house to house arresting Crimean Tatars at gunpoint and forcing them into sealed cattle trains that would transfer them almost 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) away to remote locations in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. The Soviets gave the Tatars permission to carry only up to 500 kg of their property per family.  By 8:00 on the first day, the NKVD had already loaded 90,000 Crimean Tatars distributed in 25 trains. The next day, an additional 136,412 people were crammed into railroad cars, without food or water.  The trip took several weeks, and by the end over 7,800 people had perished.  At least  228,000 people were deported from Crimea, many of them families. Officially, there was not a single Crimean Tatar left in Crimea. During the deportation process, the NKVD confiscated 80,000 houses, 500,000 cattle, 360,000 acres of land, and 40,000 tons of agricultural provisions that were left behind by the Crimean Tatars.


1974

The world's tallest structure was built by Jan Polak, a Polish architect.  The  Konstantynow Radio Tower, built in Warsaw, weighed 420 tonnes and measured 646 metre high (half a mile). It was the second tallest structure ever built, being surpassed only by Dubai's Burj Khalifa.  But on August 8, 1991 the structure was carelessly destroyed by a group of workmen employed by Mostostal Zabrze, a construction company charged with the tower’s upkeep.  The construction co-ordinator and the division chief, were both charged as responsible for the collapse of the tower, and sentenced to two and a half, and two years in jail, respectively. By 1992, plans were underway to rebuild the tower, but the townspeople protested due to radiation emission from the tower.



May 17, 2018

MAY 17 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 17

1943

"Dam Busters" was the code name given to the men of the Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron whose mission it was to attack and destroy German dams. The "bouncing bombs" they deployed were especially made for this mission, Operation Chastise. The RAF succeeded in breaching the Möhne and Edersee Dams causing disastrous flooding of the Ruhr and Eder valleys, though the Sorpe Dam sustained only minor damage. The bombing of the Mohne caused a breach of about 250 feet wide by 292 feet deep (76 metres wide x 89 metres deep). Around 330 million tons of water poured into the western Ruhr region, and reached a height of 32.5 feet (10 metres), moving at a rate of 15 mph (24 km/h) deluged the valleys. Among the destruction were factories, mines, roads, railways and bridges, as well as a few homes. Also destroyed were two hydroelectric power stations. Of the 1,600 civilians drowned, 600 were Germans and 1,000 mainly Soviet forced-labourers. German production resumed but could not be restored to normal until September.


1944

Battle of Monte Cassino:  The Polish II Corps launched their second attack on Monte Cassino. Under constant artillery and mortar fire from the strongly fortified German positions and with little natural cover for protection, the fighting was fierce and often times hand-to-hand. With their line of supply threatened by the Allied advance in the Liri valley, the Germans decided to withdraw from the Cassino heights to the new defensive positions on the Hitler Line.   In the early morning of May 18, the 2nd Polish Corps linked up with the British 78th Division up in the Liri valley 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Cassino town.  Meanwhile,  on the Cassino high ground the survivors of the second Polish offensive were so battered that "it took some time to find men with enough strength to climb the few hundred yards to the summit."  A patrol of Polish 12th Podolian Cavalry Regiment finally made it to the summit and raised a Polish flag over the ruins. Total Allied Casualties was 55,000.  Immediately after the cessation of fighting at Monte Cassino, the Polish Government in Exile (in London) created the Monte Cassino campaign cross to commemorate the Polish part in the capture of the strategic point.  Also during this time, Feliks Konarski, a famous Polish song-writer, wrote his moving anthem "Czerwone maki na Monte Casssino", translated to English, "The Red Poppies of Monte Cassino"  to honor the memory of the Polish soldiers that died fighting this Battle. At the end of World War Two, the Poles erected a Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino on the slope of the mountain.


May 16, 2018

MAY 16 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 16

1648

Battle of Zhovti Vody was the first significant battle of the Khmelnytsky Uprising, between the forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, led by Stefan Potocki, and the Ukrainian Cossacks and Crimean Tatars, under the joint command of Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Tuhaj Bej. (The Khmelnytsky Uprising was a cossack uprising within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.) The battle raged on for eighteen days,and resulted in a defeat of Commonwealth forces. The Registered Cossacks initially pledged their allegiance to the Commonwealth,  but after having arrived they unexpectedly sided with the Khmelnytsky forces.  In the attempt to retreat the Commonwealth forces were annihilated just days before reinforcements were expected to arrive.  Stefan Potocki was wounded, taken prisoner, and died from gangrene on May 19, 1648. His military advisor, Stefan Czarniecki, was also taken prisoner though he managed to escape shortly afterwards.


1939

General Wacław Stachiewicz was one of the most promising officers in the Polish army.  He was the brainchild of Plan Zachod (Plan West) which established a defensive plan along the Polish-German border in case of attack from Germany.  (Conversely, he also created Plan Wschod (Plan East) to prepare a defense in case of attack from the Soviet Union.)  When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the headquarters of the Polish commander-in-chief but he was unable to exert influence during the Polish Defensive War, because of lack of communication. Consequently, he and Rydz-Śmigły withdrew to south-eastern Poland. But on September 17, 1939,  they evacuated when Soviets invaded Poland from the east.  Stachiewicz, along with many other Polish military crossed the border into Romania where he and Rydz-Smigly were immediately interned. When Poland was defeated on October 6, 1939, Stachiewicz was accused for having failed in his mission to defend Poland. Plan West was fairly accurate in terms of estimating the location and most directions of attack by German forces, but did not fully develop secondary Polish defensive lines. One of the major faults of the Plan was that Polish forces thought they could hold out for several months during a defensive campaign, but they overestimated their own military readiness, complicated by their expectation that the British and French (who had signed a mutual defense pact with Poland) would join the Poles in launching an offensive from the West.  Moreover, the Poles underestimated  the Germans, whose military strength exceeded that of the Poles, in numbers and technical strength.


1940

Nazi German AB-Aktion in Poland: The AB-Aktion was the second stage in the Nazi campaign of the destruction of the intelligentsia in Poland.  Tens of thousands of Polish elite from towns and cities were arrested  by the Nazis and were never seen again. This cleared the way for Nazis to annex territories, or build concentration camps that would be far from prying eyes.  In the spring and summer of 1940,  of the 30,000 or more Polish people arrested by the Nazi regime, 7,000 of them included community leaders, professors, teachers and priests (all accused of criminal activities) and subsequently massacred at secret locations near Palmiry forest.  Other prisoners were sent to German concentration camps.  According to many historians, including Norman Davies, the action against Polish leaders was coordinated with the authorities of the Soviet Union, who at the same time perpetrated the mass murder of 22,000 Polish military officers at Katyń and other places. (see April 13, 1943)


1941

French Marshal Petain issued a radio broadcast approving collaboration with Hitler, " Frenchmen - You have learned that Admiral Darlan recently conferred with Chancellor Hitler. I had approved this meeting in principle. The new interview permits us to light up the road into the future and to continue the conversations that had been begun with the German Government."


1942

Sobibór extermination camp began mass gassing operations. The camp was fitted with three gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but would later substitute Zyklon-B.  500 prisoners were murdered at a time. The camp was constructed in March and April 1942, soon after the Wannsee Conference. It was located near the Sobibór railway station because of its proximity to the Chełm – Włodawa railway line connecting General Government with Reichs kommissariat Ukraine. (After WW2, SS Kurt Bolender, one of the commanders of the camp, was captured and tried in Hagen, West Germany. He confessed to his crimes and described the killing operations as follows:  "...Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharführer Hermann Michel made a speech to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression he was a physician. Michel announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection, so as to prevent the spread of diseases. After undressing, the Jews were taken through the "Tube", by an SS man leading the way, with five or six Ukrainians at the back hastening the Jews along. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors. The motor was switched on by the former Soviet soldier Emil Kostenko and by the German driver Erich Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the doors were opened, and the corpses were removed by a group of Jewish workers...." (Prior to the end of the trial, Kurt Bolender committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell. In his suicide note, he insisted that he was innocent.)


 1943

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ended:  The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was an act of Jewish resistance that which opposed the Nazi's final effort to deport the remaining Jew to Treblinka. The Uprising started on April 19 when the Ghetto refused to surrender to the police commander Jürgen Stroop. He then ordered the burning of the Ghetto, block by block.  It was the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II. A total of 13,000 Jews were killed, about half of them burnt alive or suffocated.  German casualties are not known, but were estimated to be at most 300. Of the remaining 50,000 Jews who survived the Nazi action, most were captured and deported to Treblinka.  After the Ghetto Uprising was over, most of the incinerated houses were razed to the ground, and the Warsaw concentration camp complex was established in their place.


1944

Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Eichmann was present to personally oversee and speed up the extermination process. By May 24, an estimated 100,000 had been gassed. Between May 16 and May 31, the SS report collecting 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of the Jewish prisoners who were gassed. By the end of June, 381,661 persons - half of the Jews in Hungary - had been sent to Auschwitz.




May 15, 2018

MAY 15 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 15

1922

The German-Polish Accord on East Silesia, also referred to as the Geneva Accord, was signed on May 15, 1922. The Accord dealt with the details of the constitutional and legal framework for the region of Upper Silesia. (At the end of World War I, the territory was granted to Poland,  by a commission of the League of Nations, and confirmed after the plebiscite of  March 20, 1921.  Following the accord, the terms became effective on June 20, 1922. (see May 2, and 3, 1921)



1939

The Nazi Germans opened Ravensbrück concentration camp, located in northern Germany, 90 km (56 mi) north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück.  The concentration camp interred the largest single national group of prisoners consisting of 40,000 Polish women. Others included 26,000 Jews from all countries - 18,800 Russian, 8,000 French, and 1,000 Dutch. More than 80% were political prisoners. Many slave labor prisoners were employed by Siemens & Halske. From 1942-1945, the Nazis conducted medical experiments on prisoners to test the effectiveness of sulfonamides.


1948

Witold Pilecki, with three of his comrades, was sentenced to death by the Soviet-controlled Ministry of Security of Poland. After the announcement of his death sentence, Pilecki uttered these words, "I've been trying to live my life so that in the hour of my death I would rather feel joy, than fear."  During Pilecki's last conversation with his wife he told her: "I cannot live. They killed me. Because Oświęcim (Auschwitz) compared with them was just a trifle." His final words before his execution were "Long Live Free Poland! ". Witold Pilecki was a member of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) a Polish underground army.  On one of his most courageous missions, he allowed himself to be arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where he gathered evidence to prove to the Allies that  the Nazis were exterminating  the Jews.


May 14, 2018

MAY 14 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 14

1792

Signing of the Targowica Confederation.  Polish and Lithuanian magnates in Saint Petersburg established the Targowica Confederation on April 27, 1792 with the support of the Russian Empress Catherine II.  The Confederation was opposed to the creation of the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, because of the limitations it placed on the nobility. The text of the founding act of the confederation was written by the Russian general Vasili Stepanovich Popov, Chief of Staff of Prince Grigori Alexandrovich Potemkin, and proclaimed in the town of Targowica on May 14, 1792.  Four days later two Russian armies invaded the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth without a formal declaration of war.  The forces of the Targowica Confederation defeated the forces loyal to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Sejm and King Stanisław August Poniatowski in the Polish–Russian War of 1792. In defeat, King Poniatowski formally joined the Confederation. Their victory precipitated the Second Partition of Poland and set the stage for the Third Partition and the final dissolution of the Commonwealth in 1795. (Poland ceased to exist for 123 years.)


1926

Pilsudski's forces gained control of Warsaw after three days of fighting.  (On May 10 at approximately 17:00 hours, Marshal Piłsudski faced President Stanisław Wojciechowski on the Poniatowski Bridge demanding the resignation of Witos' cabinet. The President refused and demanded Piłsudski's capitulation, creating a stalemate in negotiations. At 19:00 hours, fighting broke out. ) With the governments surrender, Pilsudski established the Sanacja government. He permitted the parliamentary government to continue rather than establish a personal dictatorship but he maintained influence through control of elections and military. (read May Coup, May 12, 1926)


1941

5,000 Jews were arrested in Paris.  Jewish men between the ages of 18 and 40 were called to present themselves to the Paris police. They were summoned using a green postcard, for which this wave of arrests became known as the “billet vert”. More than 5,000 Paris Jews were taken into custody in this wave of arrests, almost all of them of Polish extraction. A few Jews of Czech and Austrian origin were also arrested. After their arrest, the prisoners were deported to the detention camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.


1955

Warsaw Pact was signed in Warsaw, Poland by signatories representing the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The strategy behind the formation of the Pact was driven by the Russian objective to dominate Central and Eastern Europe. The Soviets intended to defend their part of Europe and prevent the Americans from invading.  Member countries of the Warsaw Pact pledged the mutual defence of any member who would be attacked. The Pact further stipulated that member relations would be based on "mutual  non-intervention" in the internal affairs of the member countries, "respect for national sovereignty," and "political independence."




May 13, 2018

MAY 13 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 13

1939

German ship, the St. Louis set sail from Hamburg, Germany to its destination, Cuba, carrying 930 Jewish refugees fleeing from the Nazis. All of its refugee passengers had legitimate landing certificates for Cuba. But upon landing in Cuba on they faced a horrible reality.  The ship dropped anchor at 04:00 on May 27 at the Havana harbor but was denied entry to the usual docking areas. The Cuban government, headed by President Federico Laredo Brú, refused to accept the foreign refugees. Although passengers had previously purchased legal visas, they could not enter Cuba either as tourists (laws related to tourist visas had recently been changed) or as refugees seeking political asylum.



1940

Winston Churchill took office as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom: Here is an excerpt from his first speech to the House of Commons: ".....I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. .....We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength...."


1981

Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded as he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience.  A Turk by the name of Mehmet Ali Ağca wielding a Browning 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, fired shots that injured the Pope in the abdomen, perforating his intestines. John Paul II was rushed into the Vatican complex and then to the Gemelli Hospital where he underwent five hours of surgery. He lost nearly three-quarters of his blood, though the two bullets missed his mesenteric artery and abdominal aorta. The surgeons performed a colostomy to temporarily reroute the upper part of the large intestine to let the damaged lower part heal.  He regained consciousness briefly before the operation and instructed the doctors not to remove his Brown Scapular during the operation.  Among the people allowed to see him in the clinic  three days later was, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, one of his closest friends.  The Pontiff stated,  "Could I forget that the event in St. Peter's Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet."  Numerous theories circulated to explain the reason for the assassination attempt on the Pope. One theory was proposed by Michael Ledeen (and pushed by the CIA) was that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt on John Paul II's life in retaliation for the Pope's support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers' movement.



May 12, 2018

MAY 12 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 12

1926

May Coup:  Marshal Piłsudski led a coup d'etat on May 12 to 14, 1926, overthrowing the government of President Stanisław Wojciechowski.  Pilsudski had previously resigned his government post, in response to the Chjeno-Piast Coalition. He had strongly criticized the coalition which formed the basis of the two consecutive governments of Wincenty Witos.  Pilsudski accused the government for the assassination of President Gabriel Narutowicz and for the effects of the massive worker riots in Kraków. The second government had even less support and was overthrown in the May coup led by Pilsudski. He was supported by the Polish Socialist Party, Liberation, the Peasant Party, and the Polish Communist Party. Piłsudski had anticipated a bloodless coup, but the government had refused to back down. The subsequent violence resulted in deaths of  215 soldiers and 164 civilians. Over 900 people had been wounded.


1935

Marshal Jozef Pilsudski died from live cancer at Warsaw's Belweder Palace. Unbeknownst to the public, his health had been declining for several years.  Immediately, the Polish Communist Party attacked Piłsudski's legacy as fascist and capitalist, though fascists did not consider him as one of them. Other opponents of the Sanation regime were more civil; socialists (such as Ignacy Daszyński and Tomasz Arciszewski) and Christian Democrats (such by Ignacy Paderewski, Stanisław Wojciechowski and Władysław Grabski) expressed their condolences. The peasant parties were split in their reactions (Wincenty Witos expressed criticism of Piłsudski, while Maciej Rataj and Stanisław Thugutt were supportive), while Roman Dmowski's National Democrats expressed a toned-down criticism. Jozef Pilsudski  is regarded as the Father of the Polish Nation. He once described himself as a descendant of the culture and traditions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He believed in a multicultural Poland,recognizing ethnic and religious diversity, and maintaining a strong alliance with independent states of Lithuania and Ukraine. He proposed the creation of an "Intermarium" federation, comprising Poland and other independent states in the Baltic region to establish a balance of power between Germany and Russia.  His main opponent was Roman Dmowski whose vision of Poland was founded on ethnically centred Polish demos and Roman Catholic identity.



1946

Leopold "Poldek" Socha  (died on May 12, 1946) Socha was a Polish sewage inspector in the city of Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine). During the Holocaust Socha used his knowledge of the city's sewage system to shelter a group of Jews from Nazi Germans and their supporters of different nationalities. In 1978 he was recognized by the State of Israel as Righteous Among the Nations.  In 1946 Socha and his daughter were riding their bicycles when a Soviet military truck came careening toward them. He steered his bicycle in her direction to knock her out of the way, saving her but dying in the process. After his death the Jewish people Socha had sheltered returned to pay their respects.



May 11, 2018

MAY 11 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 11

1943

Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide on this day to protest the indifference of the Allied governments in the face of the Holocaust.  Zygielbojm was a Jewish-Polish socialist politician, leader of the Bund, and a member of the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile. After Poland was invaded by Germany on September 1, 1939,  he returned to Warsaw to join the defense committee during the Siege of Warsaw, and participated in the defense of the city.  When the Nazis occupied Warsaw, they demanded 12 hostages from the population to prevent further resistance.  A city official, suggested that they give Ester Iwinska as a hostage, but Zygielbojm volunteered to take her place.  Upon his release, the Nazis placed him as a member of the Judenrat. (The Judenrat was a Jewish council created by the Nazis whose members were ordered to create a ghetto within Warsaw, and carry out internal administration according to Nazi directives)  Zygielbojm was openly opposed to the order,and escaped to Belgium.  In early 1940, he spoke before the Labour and Socialist International in Brussels, describing the initial stages of persecution of the Jews.  After the Nazis invaded Belgium in May 1940, he escaped to France, and shortly after, fled to the U.S. He spent more than a year trying to convince Americans of the perilous situation facing Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. In March 1942, he went to London and joined the National Council of the Polish Government in Exile. He was only one of two Jewish members (the other was the Zionist Ignacy Schwarzbart). He continued to speak publicly about the fate of the Polish Jews, attended a meeting of the British Labour Party and gave a speech which was broadcast on BBC Radio on June 2, 1942.  Before his suicide, Zygielbojm produced a booklet, titled, "Stop Them Now. German Mass Murder of Jews in Poland". It was his final attempt to make the world acknowledge the plight of the Jews in Europe.  The following is an excerpt from this booklet: "....I must mention here that the Polish population gives all possible help and sympathy to the Jews. The solidarity of the population in Poland has two aspects: first it is expressed in the common suffering and secondly in the continued joint struggle against the inhuman occupying Power. The fight with the oppressors goes on steadily, stubbornly, secretly, even in the ghetto, under conditions so terrible and inhuman that they are hard to describe or imagine.... The Polish and Jewish population keep in constant touch, exchanging newspapers, views and instructions. The walls of the ghetto have not really separated the Jewish population from the Poles. The Polish and the Jewish masses continue to fight together for common aims, just as they have fought for so many years in the past..."


1944

Battle of Monte Cassino: It one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. In a series of four battles the Allies eventually broke through the impenetrable German strongholds on their way to Rome, and victory. The first assault was launched at 23:00 on May 11 to 12, 1944 on Cassino. A multi-national force - British, Americans, Poles, New Zealanders, South Africans, and the French, launched a massive artillery bombardment - 1,060 guns on the German Eighth Army front,  and 600 guns on the Fifth Army front. In just half an hour, the Allied assault was in full motion, and Allied troops succeeded in making the crossing, though American units made little progress. Point 593 on Snakeshead Ridge was taken by the Poles, but was recaptured by German paratroops. The fighting between Polish and German forces continued for three days, with heavy losses on both sides. The 2nd Polish Corps lost 281 officers and 3,503 other ranks in assaults against Oberst Ludwig Heilmann's 4th Parachute Regiment, then called off further attacks. The Germans succeeded in driving off attacks with just eight hundred troops.  By the morning of May 12, the Polish infantry divisions were met with "such devastating mortar, artillery and small-arms fire that the leading battalions were all but wiped out."


1945

German units cease fire: Although the military commanders of most German forces obeyed the order to surrender issued by the (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW)—the German Armed Forces High Command), not all commanders did so. The largest contingent were Army Group Centre under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner who had been promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army on April 30, in Hitler's last will and testament. On May 8, Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria; the Soviet Army sent overwhelming force against Army Group Centre in the Prague Offensive, forcing German units in Army Group Centre to capitulate by May 11. The other forces which did not surrender on May 8 eventually, and sporadically surrendered.


1960

Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina by the Israeli secret service. After Germany's defeat in 1945, Eichmann fled to Austria. He lived there until 1950, when he moved to Argentina using false papers. Information collected by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, confirmed Eichmann's location in 1960. A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial on 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people. During the trial, Eichmann did not deny the veracity of the Holocaust or his role in organizing it, but claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system. Found guilty on all charges, he was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on June 1, 1962



May 10, 2018

MAY 10 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 10

1933

Nazi Campaign of Burning books in Berlin and throughout Germany.  The Nazi Party held the largest rally of book burning on May 10, 1933.  But it was preceded by other book burning demonstrations:  (On April 8, 1933, during the Wartburg Festival and on May 6, 1933 on Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute of Sex Research library.)  Among the 20,000 volumes hurled into the flames were books of famous writers such as Henri Barbusse, Franz Boas, John Dos Passos, Albert Einstein, Lion Feuchtwanger, Friedrich Förster, Sigmund Freud, John Galsworthy, André Gide, Ernst Glaeser, Maxim Gorki, Werner Hegemann, Ernest Hemingway, Erich Kästner, Helen Keller, Alfred Kerr, Jack London, Emil Ludwig, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx, Hugo Preuss, Marcel Proust, Erich Maria Remarque, Walther Rathenau, Margaret Sanger, Arthur Schnitzler, Upton Sinclair, Kurt Tucholsky, Jakob Wassermann, H.G. Wells, Theodor Wolff, Emilé Zola, Arnold Zweig, and Stefan Zweig and many others.  A hundred years before the advent of Hitler, the German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, had declared: "Wherever books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too."


1940

German forces invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, and in 46 days defeated Allied forces in the Battle of France, or what was also called the Fall of France.  The German victory brought all Allied operations on the Western Front to a halt until June 6, 1944. The Polish Armed Forces were also a part of the Allies during the Battle; Polish troops numbered about 68,000 from various divisions, a motorized brigade and a Polish Squadron named the GC 1/145 "Warsaw".  When France fell, General Wladyslaw Sikorski ordered Polish troops to evacuate and headed for the UK to continue the fight.


Upon the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister of  the United Kingdom, and remained in power until 1955.  In a radio broadcast the same evening Chamberlain addressed the nation, '…..For the hour has now come when we are to be put to the test, as the innocent people of Holland, Belgium, and France are being tested already. And you and I must rally behind our new leader, and with our united strength, and with unshakable courage fight, and work until this wild beast, which has sprung out of his lair upon us, has been finally disarmed and overthrown...." Chamberlain is best known for his foreign policy of appeasement regarding Adolf Hitler, and the signing of the Munich Agreement of  September 30, 1938, in which Britain conceded the territory of Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Hitler.  On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and three days later  the UK declared war on Germany. Chamberlain led Britain through the first eight months of World War II, in what was called the "Phoney War", where there was no major military land operations.


2015

Presidential election. Andrzej Duda became the 6th President of the Republic of Poland.  The victory of Duda's Law and Justice party was one of the latest in a series of electoral victories for eurosceptic centre-right and right-wing parties in Europe. His party received strong support in the eastern half of the country closest to Ukraine and had campaigned on a platform of tax cuts, continued privatization, continued social welfare spending, anti-corruption, constitutional reform, increased military spending and closer ties to NATO, limited support of EU integration, and restrictions on abortion, euthanasia, legal recognition of same-sex couples and media portrayals of sex and violence.

May 9, 2018

MAY 9 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 9

1933

Helen Keller Wrote a Scorching Letter to the Nazis Condemning their Book Burning: Here is the full text; " To the student body of Germany:  History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.  You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels and will continue to quicken other minds. I gave all the royalties of my books for all time to the German soldiers blinded in the World War with no thought in my heart but love and compassion for the German people.  I acknowledge the grievous complications that have led to your intolerance; all the more do I deplore the injustice and unwisdom of passing on to unborn generations the stigma of your deeds.  Do not imagine that your barbarities to the Jews are unknown here. God sleepeth not, and He will visit His judgment upon you. Better were it for you to have a mill-stone hung around your neck and sink into the sea than to be hated and despised of all men.    Helen Keller "


 1940

Four Polish battalions arrived May 9. They were first deployed north of the Ofotfjord, a fjord in Nordland county, Norway, but later redeployed to the area south of the fjord. In early June they were formed into the Polish Independent Highland Brigade, and under the command of  Zygmunt Bohusz-Szyszko, succeeded in capturing the Ankenes peninsula during the May 1940 Battle of Narvik.  Narvik provided an ice-free harbour in the North Atlantic that facilitated the transportation of iron ore by railway Kiruna in Sweden. The Allies and the Germans shared interest in securing this iron supply for themselves, and thus began one of the most ferocious battles since the invasion of Poland. The Allies began with sea and air superiority but could not maintain it throughout the operation. Even though the Germans lost the naval battle, they achieved their goal, to establish a strong foothold in Norway, making it very difficult for the Allies to counter-attack. The Germans lost 10 destroyers (50% loss), one submarine, and several supply ships. Allies lost 2 destroyers and several others were damaged.


1945

Joseph Stalin issued a V-E Order of the Day, congratulating the Red Army "....the Great Patriotic War waged by the Soviet people against the German-fascist invaders has been victoriously concluded; Germany is utterly routed....upon the victorious termination of the Great Patriotic War. To mark the complete victory over Germany, today, on May 9, the Day of Victory, at 10 P.M., the capital of our Motherland-Moscow-on behalf of the Motherland, will salute the gallant troops of the Red Army and the ships and units of the Navy which have won this brilliant victory, by firing thirty artillery salvos from 1,000 guns...."


Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov left the United Nations conference for Moscow with the Polish question still unresolved.  (Note: Even though Poland was one of the most important allies in the struggle against Nazi Germany and a victim of the German (and Soviet) invasion, Poland could not take part in the founding conference in San Francisco, due to Soviet occupation and repression.) This resulted from an increasingly divergent stance of the superpowers on whether to recognize the communist authorities in Poland, which were not legitimized in free elections. But this in no way suggested that Poland had been forgotten at the conference. The world-renown Polish-born piano virtuoso, Arthur Rubinstein, preceded his concert at the San Francisco opera hall by saying:  “This Hall, where the great nations have gathered to make this world a better place, I don’t see the flag of Poland, on behalf of which this cruel war was waged.” And added, “And so now I will play the Polish national anthem.” Despite the absence of representatives of the Polish government at the founding conference, in recognition of Poland’s input in the fight against fascism, Poland was counted as one of the UN’s founding members by amending the wording of Article 3 of the United Nations Charter. Poland signed the Charter on 15 October 1945 and ratified it on the following day. In its declaration, the Government of Poland expressed its readiness to cooperate with the UN, emphasizing the significance of the common security system, the principle of inviolability of frontiers and the foundation of national political systems on the principles of democracy.


1987

183 passengers and crew died aboard a Polish jetliner that crashed in the Kabaty Woods nature reserve in the outskirts of Warsaw. LOT Flight 5055 was an Ilyushin Il-62M of LOT Polish Airlines that crashed in the late morning hours. The flight prepared to leave from Warsaw to New York City's John F. Kennedy International airport when it encountered multiple catastrophic events with the numbers 1 and 2 engines as well as the elevator shortly after departure. The accident was the deadliest of any involving an Ilyushin Il-62, the deadliest to occur on Polish soil, and the deadliest aviation accident of 1987. It was determined to have been caused by the disintegration of an engine shaft due to faulty bearings. (read April 10, 2005 plane crash)



May 8, 2018

MAY 8 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 8

1892

Stanisław Franciszek Sosabowski, (born, May 8, 1892) was a Polish general in World War II.  He was commander of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. Sosabowski was a brilliant strategist with an illustrious service in the military yet British command made him a scapegoat so as to avoid admitting their own mistakes and culpability in the tragic debacle of the Battle of Arhem - Market Garden in 1944. (Background:  The Allies were fighting a losing battle. Upon British orders, most of the Polish Brigade were parachuted near the town of Grave, and the Polish soldiers fell directly over the waiting guns of the Germans who were camped in the area, and waiting for them. The Poles were obliterated. Another disaster occurred when British Command decided to send Polish troops cross the Rhine to come the assistance of the men of 1st Airborne Division who were surrounded by the Germans. The Poles had no choice but to attempt the crossing in small rubber dinghies because the ferry had been sunk. They attempted three times to make the crossing while under heavy fire.  Only 200 men made it across to reinforce the British paratroopers. Despite the dire situation,  General Sosabowski believed that they could still win the battle, and made recommendations at the staff meeting on September 24.  He proposed that the combined forces of XXX Corps, under Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks, and the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade should start an all-out assault on the German positions and try to break through the Rhine. British Command rejected his plan. But during the last phase of the battle on September 25 and 26, Sosabowski was told to lead his men southwards and shield the retreat of the remnants of the 1st Airborne Division. Casualties among the Polish units were very high, approaching 40%, the result of which was due to Lieutenant-General Browning's decision to drop the Polish paratroops just 7 kilometres from the bridge at Arnhem. Following the Allied defeat, Montgomery sent a letter to Sosabowski commending his soldiers as having fought bravely and offered awards to ten of his men. But several days later Montgomery wrote another letter, this time to the British commanders, in which he scapegoated Sosabowski for the failure of Market Garden. Sosabowski was removed from his position as commander for criticizing Montgomery.


1944

Rudolf Höss returned to Auschwitz by Himmlers orders to oversee the extermination of Hungarian Jews.  Hoss supervised the operation Aktion Höss, in which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the camp and killed in 56 days.


1945

German forces on the Channel Islands surrendered: At 10:00 on May 8, the Channel Islanders were informed by the German authorities that the war was over. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast at 15:00 during which he announced: "Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives the 'Cease fire' began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today."


German forces in Norway surrendered.  Quisling was arrested and found guilty of treason. He was executed on October 24, 1945.


Victory in Europe Day, (also called  V-E Day or simply V Day) was the public holiday on May 8, 1945 to celebrate the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender. It marked the end of World War II in Europe. The former Soviet Union celebrates victory day on May 9, but Poland celebrates it on May 8.


Winston Churchill announced Germany's unconditional surrender in a radio broadcast. "Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts in this Island and throughout the British Empire," Churchill stated. "We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States, and other countries, and her detestable cruelties, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad.  Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!"


President Harry S. Truman made a proclamation to declare May 13 as a national day of prayer. "The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God's help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave. ....I call upon the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace," the proclamation read. "I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory."


1947

Witold Pilecki was arrested on May 8, 1947, imprisoned and tortured at the Mokotów (or Rakowiecka) Prison in Warsaw by Staff Sergeant Piotr Śmietański, the" Butcher of Mokotow Prison". Witold Pilecki was a Polish cavalryman and intelligence officer, serving under the code names Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold).He served as a Rittmeister with the Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War, Second Polish Republic and World War II. Pilecki was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska) a resistance group in German-occupied Poland and was later a member of the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa). He was the author of Witold's Report, the first comprehensive Allied intelligence report on Auschwitz concentration camp and the Holocaust.   He was arrested, tortured and put on trial by the notorious Soviet Ministry of Public Security. The investigation of Pilecki's activities was supervised by Colonel Roman Romkowski. He was interrogated by Col. Józef Różański, and lieutenants S. Łyszkowski, W. Krawczyński, J. Kroszel, T. Słowianek, Eugeniusz Chimczak and S. Alaborski – men who were especially infamous for their savagery. But Pilecki sought to protect other prisoners and revealed no sensitive information.




May 7, 2018

MAY 7 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 7

1794

The Proclamation of Połaniec was issued on May 7, 1794 by Tadeusz Kościuszko near the town of Połanic. It was one of the most notable events of Poland's Kościuszko Uprising, and the most famous legal act of the Uprising. It partially abolished serfdom as well as permitted substantial civil liberties to all the peasants. Kosciuszko was a liberal and a reformer and believed that serfdom should be abolished.  By freeing the peasants, the Uprising was able to encourage many new recruits, which it desperately needed. Tadeusz Kosciuszko was a statesman,  military engineer and leader, who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States. He fought in the Uprisings against  Russia and Prussia, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to fight on the American side in the American Revolutionary War. As Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces, he led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising. Today his memory and name are honored in numerous tributes and memorials in Poland and around the world.


1945


The Battle of Kuryłówka was fought in southeastern Poland between anti-communists and Soviet NKVD units. The battle ended in a victory for the underground Polish forces. Even after Victory Day, the Soviet NKVD were hunting political opponents and freedom fighters. Soviets continued their rampage to persecute any members of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) who were loyal to the legitimate Polish Government in Exile in London. The Soviet crackdown resulted in a resurgence of fierce Polish resistance. General Leopold Okulicki, General of the Polish underground army, formally disbanded the Home Army on January 19, 1945 but several members continued to fight for a free Poland. The Soviets were not seen as "liberators", but as occupiers.  New Polish resistance groups were formed, such as Wolność i Niezawisłość, Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, NIE or Narodowe Zjednoczenie Wojskowe.


German general Alfred Jodl and admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg signed unconditional surrender documents at 2:41 a.m. at General Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims.


May 6, 2018

MAY 6 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 6

1945

1st Polish Armoured Brigade entered Germany in the area of Emsland and seized the Nazi Kriegsmarine naval base in Wilhelmshaven. It was here where Polish General Maczek accepted the capitulation of the German fortress naval base, East Frisian Fleet and more than 10 infantry divisions.  The war had ended, and Maczek's Division, joined by the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, undertook occupation duties until it was disbanded in 1947; it, together with the many Polish displaced persons in the Western occupied territories, formed a Polish enclave at Haren in Germany, which was for a while known as "Maczków", in honor of the Polish General. After the war, the majority of Polish soldiers opted not to return to Poland, which fell under Soviet occupation, preferring instead to remain in exile. (read about Maczek March 31)


German submarine U-853 was sunk by American warships, one of the last two German subs to be destroyed in US territorial waters.  The German sub was waiting in ambush off Point Judith, Rhode Island and torpedoed the SS Black Point, blowing off the stern. Within 15 minutes Black Point sank. Twelve were dead, and 34 crew rescued. The US Navy organized a "hunter-killer" group that included four American warships: Ericsson (DD-440), Amick (DE-168), Atherton (DE-169), and Moberly (PF-63). The U-853 attempted to hide by lying still but was still discovered by American sonor. Numerous depth charges and hedge hogs were dropped from Atherton and Moberly, successfully destroying the enemy sub.  It was one of the last U-boats sunk during WW2, along with U-851.


German submarine U-881 was sunk by American warships. U-881 was assigned on her first patrol to operate in US coastal waters with wolf pack Seewolf. The American destroyer escort Farquhar launched depth charges and sunk the sub in American waters. The sub position was recorded at these coordinates:  43°18′N 47°44′W  All crew on board were killed.


Hermann Göring's surrender: On May 6, Reichsmarshall and Hitler's second-in-command, Hermann Göring, surrendered to General Carl Spaatz, who was the commander of the operational United States Air Forces in Europe, along with his wife and daughter at the Germany-Austria border. He was by this time the most powerful Nazi official still alive.


German forces in Breslau surrendered: At 18:00 on May 6, General Hermann Niehoff, the commandant of Breslau, a 'fortress' city surrounded and besieged for months, surrendered to the Soviets.




May 5, 2018

MAY 5 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 5

1939

Józef Beck delivered a famous speech in the Sejm, in which he rejected Hitler's demands towards Poland. Here is a brief excerpt: "...But when, after repeated statements by German statesmen, who had respected our standpoint and expressed the view that "this provincial town will not be the object of a conflict between Poland and Germany," I hear a demand for the annexation of Danzig to the Reich, when I receive no reply to our proposal of the 26th March for a joint guarantee of the existence and rights of the Free City, and subsequently I learn that this has been regarded as a rejection of negotiations-I have to ask myself, what is the real object of all this?.....Is it the freedom of the German population of Danzig, which is not threatened, or a matter of prestige-or is it a matter of barring Poland from the Baltic, from which: Poland will not allow herself to be barred?....., the question of the future of Danzig and of communication across Pomorze, it is still a matter of unilateral concessions which the Government of the Reich appear to be demanding from us. A self-respecting nation does not make unilateral concessions. Where, then, is the reciprocity?....Peace is certainly the object of the difficult and intensive work of Polish diplomacy. Two conditions are necessary for this word to be of real value: (1) peaceful intentions, (2) peaceful methods of procedure. If the Government of the Reich is really guided by those two preconditions in relation to this country, then all conversations, provided, of course, that they respect the principles I have already enumerated, are possible..... We in Poland do not recognize the conception of "peace at any price." There is only one thing in the life of men, nations and States which is without price, and that is honour. "


1945

Mauthausen Concentration camp was liberated by a squad of US Army Soldiers of the 41st Reconnaissance Squadron of the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army, led by Staff Sergeant Albert J. Kosiek. His troops disarmed the policemen and left the camp. By the time of its liberation, most of the SS-men of Mauthausen had already fled. The 30 Nazis who were remained were killed by the prisoners. Mauthausen camp operated from the time of the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed into the German Third Reich in early 1938, to the beginning of May 1945. Mauthausen consisted of four camps, including Gusen I, II and III.  By the end of the war, of the 320,000 people who were imprisoned in the camps and sub-camps, only 80,000 survived, including between 20,487 and 21,386 in Gusen I, II and III.  As the Germans were escaping on May 4, 1945, they tried to destroy the files containing evidence. The files that remained listed 37,411 murdered prisoners, including 22,092 Poles, 5,024 Spaniards, 2,843 Soviet prisoners of war and 7,452 inmates of 24 other nationalities. Other death registers from KZ Gusen list an additional 30,536 names of people murdered.


The Prague Offensive was the last major Soviet operation in  World War II Europe and was fought on the Eastern Front and lasted from May 5 to May 8, 1945.  All German troops of Army Group Centre, and many of Army Group Ostmark (formerly known as Army Group South) were killed or captured. This battle is noteworthy because it was being fought at the same time as the Prague Uprising, and the battle actually ended after the surrender of the Third Reich on May 8, 1945. The Polish 2nd Army also participated in the Offensive.  Polish troops numbered about 69,000, and suffered 887 casualties.




May 4, 2018

MAY 4 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 4

 1938

Carl von Ossietzky was a German pacifist, and winner of Nobel Peace Prize of 1935. He was awarded the prize for his work in exposing the clandestine re-armament of Germany however he was unable to accept the award because he was under police custody. On May 4, 1938 he passed away in Nordend, a prison hospital in Berlin-Pankow, due to tuberculosis and after-effects of torture he suffered while imprisoned in  a Nazi German concentration camp. He was convicted by Germany of high treason and espionage in 1931 after publishing details of Germany's re-militarization of its air force, and training pilots in the Soviet Union, in violation of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.  In 1990, his daughter, Rosalinde von Ossietzky-Palm, called for a resumption of proceedings, but the verdict was upheld by the Federal Court of Justice in 1992. Here is an excerpt of the Court ruling,  "..According to the case law of the Reichsgericht (Imperial Court of Justice), the illegality of covertly conducted actions did not cancel out the principle of secrecy. According to the opinion of the Reichsgericht, every citizen owes his Fatherland a duty of allegiance regarding information, and endeavours towards the enforcement of existing laws may be implemented only through the utilization of responsible domestic state organs, and never by appealing to foreign governments.  – Ruling of the Bundesgerichtshof, 3 December 1992."


1940

The Polish destroyer ORP Grom was sunk in the fjord Rombaken by a German Heinkel He 111.   Grom was the lead ship of her class of destroyers serving in the Polish Navy during World War II. ORP translated to English means "Thunderbolt"  while her sister ship ORP Błyskawica meant "Lightning". During her operations in the Norwegian Campaign, Grom was ranked by the German soldiers as probably the most hated of all the Allied ships deployed to the area. The reason for this hatred was due to the fact that Grom was extremely vigilant regarding hostilities on shore, and was reputed to spend hours lurking around the coast in order harass German forces. (Editors note: Created in July 1990,  GROM is the name of Poland's elite counter-terrorism force, whose predecessor, during WW2, was called the Ciechociemni, whose motto was "Silent and Unseen".  GROM's counterparts are NATO's tier one, US Army's Delta Force, the US Navy's SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) and the British Army's SAS.)


 1945

German surrendered at Lüneburg Heath: At Bernard Montgomery's headquarters in the Netherlands, Wehrmacht forces in northwestern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark surrendered to the Allies, effective at 8:00 a.m. on May 5.


German forces in Bavaria surrendered: At 14:30 on May 4, 1945, General Hermann Foertsch surrendered all forces between the Bohemian mountains and the Upper Inn river to the American General Jacob L. Devers, commander of the American 6th Army Group.


Soviet troops liberated Oranienburg concentration camp.  The camp was an early German concentration camp, one of the first detention facilities established by the Nazis in the state of Prussia when they gained power in 1933. It held the political opponents of German Nazism from the Berlin region, mostly members of the Communist Party of Germany and social-democrats, as well as a number of homosexual men and scores of the so-called undesirables. It was eventually replaced by Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1936. At closure, the prison had held over 3,000 inmates, of whom 16 had died.



May 3, 2018

MAY 3 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 3

1791

The Constitution of May 3 (the first modern constitution in Europe) was proclaimed by the Sejm of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Constitution established a more democratic constitutional monarchy by introducing elements of political equality between townspeople and nobility. It placed the peasants under the protection of the government, thus mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom.  The liberum veto, which had previously put the Sejm at the mercy of any deputy,  was out rightly revoked. Among its features was the primacy of separation and balance of powers between the three branches of government and advocacy of a bicameral legislature. It also acknowledged the dominant religion as the Roman Catholic faith, and guaranteed tolerance and freedom to all religions. It was the first constitution of its kind in Europe, and the second-oldest constitution after the United States Constitution of 1787.   The Commonwealth's neighbours reacted with hostility to the adoption of Poland's new Constitution and was partitioned by the Russian Empire and Prussia in 1793, and a third partition in 1795 splitting up the remaining territories. Poland ceased to exist for 123 years.


1921

Upper Silesia: Fighting erupted between German troops and Poles led by Plebiscite Commissioner Wojciech Korfanty. Two months of inconclusive battles convinced the Allied Powers to set aside the results of the plebiscite. (Note:  Korfanty was a Polish activist, journalist and politician, who served as a member of the German parliaments, the Reichstag and the Prussian Landtag, and later, in the Polish Sejm. Briefly, he also was a paramilitary leader, known for organizing the Polish Silesian Uprisings in Upper Silesia, which after World War I was contested by Germany and Poland. Korfanty fought to protect Poles from discrimination and the policies of Germanisation in Upper Silesia before the war and sought to annex Silesia to Poland after Poland regained its independence.)


1945

The German ocean liner Cap Arcona was sunk by British warplanes..Cap Arcona was initially an accommodation vessel, but was put into use as a prison ship during WW2.  In May 1945 Arcona was carrying prisoners from Nazi concentrations camps, when the RAF sank her killing about 5,000 people aboard, with another 2,000 further casualties in the sinking of the accompanying ships Deutschland, and Thielbek. It was one of the biggest single-incident maritime losses of life in the Second World War. (In the months of March and April 1945, under Himmlers orders, by the end of April Neuengamme concentration camp was to be completely emptied of all remaining camp prisoners and Soviet POWs, and eventually relocated to a secret camp. (Scandinavians however were sent home to freedom.) As the British and Canadian forces were advancing, the SS concealed the prisoners on a 'prison flotilla" of decommissoned ships in the Bay of Lubeck, comprising the Cap Arcona, the Deutschland, and the freighter Thielbek.  RAF Pilot Allan Wyse of No. 193 Squadron recalled, "We used our cannon fire at the chaps in the water... we shot them up with 20 mm cannons in the water. Horrible thing, but we were told to do it and we did it. That's war." The prisoners on the ship represented 30 nationalities: American, Belarusian, Belgian, Canadian, Czechoslovakian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luxembourger, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swiss, Ukrainian, and perhaps others.



May 2, 2018

MAY 2 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 2

1921

Third Silesian Uprising broke out on this day in 1921. It was the last, largest and longest of the three uprisings.(Note:  After the end of WWI, The Treaty of Versailles(1919) had ordered a plebiscite to be held within two years in Upper Silesia to determine whether the territory should be a part of Germany or Poland. Though the Polish government had requested it to be held only in the areas east of the Oder river, which had a significant number of Polish speakers, the plebiscite took place in all of Upper Silesia, including the predominantly Polish-speaking areas in the east and the predominantly German-speaking areas west of the river. The Upper Silesian plebiscite was conducted on March 20, 1921. In the meantime, the German administration and police remained in place, while propaganda and strong arm tactics by both sides escalated to violence and rioting.


1942

The Polish submarine ORP Jastrząb, was a former S-class submarine, originally of the United States Navy, in Polish service between 1941 and 1942, when she was lost to friendly fire. Jastrząb has a place in the history of the Polish Navy as it was the only submarine ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the West to the East, as she came from the US to Europe. Unfortunately, during the trans-atlantic passage of convoy PQ-15 to Murmansk, Jastrząb was mistakenly targeted by the destroyer HMS St. Albans and the minesweeper HMS Seagull. Jastrząb was attacked with depth charges and forced to surface, when she was strafed with the loss of five crew (including British liaison officer) and six injured, including the commander. The ship was badly damaged and had to be scuttled, near 71°30′N 12°32′E


1945

The Allied Spring Offensive in Italy ended with the official surrender of German forces in Italy. It was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign into the Lombardy Plain by the 15th Allied Army Group (which began on April 6, 1945)  During the first week of April, the Allies launched diversionary attacks to draw the German reserves away from the main assaults to come, which was followed by heavy artillery bombardment of the Senio defenses and heavy fragmentation bombs, followed by medium and fighter bombers. On April 9, for almost four hours, the Allied forces fired heavy artillery barrages, each lasting 30 minutes, and interspersed with fighter bomber attacks.  In the ensuing weeks, the assaults were supported by the New Zealand operations, consisting of 28 Churchill Crocodiles and 127 Wasp flamethrower vehicles deployed along the front;  the 8th Indian Division, 2nd New Zealand Division and 3rd Carpathian Division (on the Polish Corps front at Route 9);  On April 14, the U.S.5th Army continued its bombardment but now with 2,000 heavy bombers and 2,000 artillery pieces, assisted by  troops of  U.S. IV Corps (1st Brazilian, 10th Mountain, and 1st Armored Divisions). Despite tough German defenses, U.S. IV Corps continued to advance northward and reached the river Po on April 22.  Five days later, the 1st Armored Division liberated Milan, and IV Corps commander Crittenberger entered the city April 30. The Brazilian division was positioned at the south of Milan, trapping the remaining German divisions, and took 13,500 prisoners.


GERMAN SURRENDER ON MAY 2, 1945 4:00 PM.  General Kesselring approved the surrender. At 2:00 pm Wehrmacht troops in Italy and western Austria laid down their arms. The surrender was the result of the success of Operation Sunrise, a series of secret negotiations conducted in March 1945 between representatives of Nazi Germany and the Western Allies for the surrender of German forces in northern Italy.  On March 12, the U.S. ambassador in the USSR, W. Averell Harriman, notified Soviet Minister Vyacheslav Molotov of the possibility of General Wolff's arrival in Lugano to conduct negotiations on the German Forces surrender in Italy. Molotov immediately replied that the Soviet government would not object to the negotiations provided that Soviet Military Command could participate. However, days later the Allies informed the Soviets that their representatives would not be invited to take part in negotiations.  On March 22,  in a letter to the American ambassador, Molotov wrote that "for two weeks, in Bern, behind the back of the Soviet Union, negotiations between representatives of the German Military Command on one side and representatives of American and British Command on the other side are conducted. The Soviet government considers this absolutely inadmissible."  (This led to subsequent exchange of letters between Stalin and Roosevelt.) The official German surrender in Italy was signed on 29 April  29, 1945 agreeing to a cessation of hostilities on May 2.)


May 1, 2018

MAY 1 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

MAY 1

1940

Rudolph Hoss was appointed commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. The earliest inmates at Auschwitz were Soviet and Polish prisoners-of-war, including peasants and intellectuals. Auschwitz was built on about 80,000 hectares of land (20,000 acres) whose prisoners had been deported by the Nazi Germans. Auschwitz had three separate facilities: Auschwitz I was the administrative centre for the complex;  Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the extermination camp, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz was the slave labour camp for German companies such as  I.G. Farbenindustrie AG. There were many other smaller, satellite sub-camps.  About 700 prisoners arrived in June 1940 and were told by the Nazis that they would not survive more than 3 months.


1945

Battle in Berlin:  In the early morning of May 1st, the Soviet 334th Brigade broke through the German barricades at Pestalozzistrasse, and re-esatablished contact with the the 19th Mechanized Brigade. Supported by the 2nd and 3rd Battalion of the 1st Regiment, they pushed through the barricades at Goethestrasse and Schillerstrasse. Despite heavily fortified German positions, the district in and around the church at the Karl August-Platz was taken, making it possible for Polish and Soviet units to advance along the Goethestrasse and Schillerstrasse. Meanwhile, the Polish 2nd Regiment, backed by its own artillery support, took the heavily fortified Berlin Institute of Technology located in the triangle between Charlottenburgerstrasse, Hardenbergstrasse and Jebenstrasse.  The Soviet 66th Guards Tank Brigade (with only 15 tanks) was joined by the Polish 3rd Infantry Regiment, and broke through Franklinstrasse advancing towards the Berlin-Tiergarten station. The stronghold of the Tiergarten (S-Bahn) station was then secured by the 3rd Infantry Regiment.  Subsequently, the Polish and Soviet forces took control of the Zoologischer Garten station and the railway line that crossed between them.  With the combined forces of the Red Army and Polish units, they successfully broke through the central Berlin west line of defense.  Approximately at 04:00, German General Hans Krebs talked to Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, and refused to agree to an unconditional surrender. The only official with that authority was Goebels, who had already poisoned his children, and subsequently committed suicide with his wife by biting on cyanide capsules.  At 10:45 the Soviets carried out their ultimatum and unleashed a veritable "Hurricane of Fire" on the remaining Germans, to force an unconditional surrender.  Just after 15:00 the Germans finally surrendered to Soviet General F. I. Perkhorovitch's 47th Army.


Karl Dönitz announced that Hitler had committed suicide, and had appointed him as his successor, in his last will and testament.  The next day Donitz escaped to Flensburg-Murwik ahead of advancing British troops, and formed a new Reich government.  Dönitz made a nationwide radio address in which he announced Hitler's death and said the war would continue in the east "to save Germany from destruction by the advancing Bolshevik enemy".  But Dönitz knew that the Wehrmacht had been defeated and no longer capable of fighting. For the brief time he was in office, he wanted to ensure that the German troops would surrender to the British or to Americans, but not to the Soviets. He was afraid of the infamous vengeance that Soviet troops could inflict on the Germans, and he hoped to strike a deal with western Allies.


2004

New Members of the European Community: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the European Union, celebrated at the residence of the Irish President in Dublin.  Diplomatic relations between Poland and the European Economic Community began on September 16, 1988. A year later, on September 19, 1989,  an agreement was signed on trade and commercial and economic cooperation in Warsaw. Formal negotiations began on December 22, 1990, and ended on December 16, 1991, in the "European Agreement establishing an association between the Republic of Poland and the European Communities and their Member States". It came into effect February 1, 1994.