The Second World War began on 1 September with the attack of Nazi Germany on Poland. The first shots were fired at the Westerplatte in Danzig. The free city of Danzig was spun off from the German Reich after the First World War. The population was 90% German and wanted to become a part of Germany again. The occupation of the Westerplatte by Poland and the secret service branch in the "Polish post office" were perceived as Polish provocation by the people of Danzig. These were welcome reasons for Adolf Hitler to attack Poland. On October 6, 1939, Poland was defeated and split between Germany and Russia. The Polish allies France and England could not do much to help Poland as they were attacked themselves. Danzig was bombarded and conquered by the Red Army in 1945. Large parts of the city were destroyed. Germany was finally defeated by Russia and the United States. In this WW2 Poland was overrun twice firts by Germany and then by Russia. A great trauma for the Polish soul, which is compensated today by exaggerated nationalism and stories about the heroic defense of the country.
After the war, the German population of Danzig was expropriated and expelled. Poland became a communist buffer state of the Soviet Union. The Polish border was moved westward and the Polish population from the former eastern part of Poland was settled on former German soil. Danzig was named Gdansk and the population was replaced by 95% after the war. Therefore, it is amazing that the historic city was rebuilt by the new residents.
The Muzeum II Wojny Swiatowej shows the history of the Second World War from a Polish point of view. The exhibition concept puts the visitor on a time journey from before the war, during the war and after the war. You walk through a street that has been bombed. Posters, exhibits and films, tell the events of this tragedy in the history of mankind, in which there were only losers on all sides.
In 2014, the "Europejskie Centrum Solidarnosci" was established on the former shipyard site on which the labor movement Solidarnosc rised. The shipyard was founded in 1844 as the German Imperial Shipyard and was operated until 1945 as Gdansk shipyard. In 1945, the German owners were expropriated and the shipyard became propperty of the communist Poland. It was renamed Lenin Shipyard (Stocznia Gdanska Lenina).
The shipyard became known through the 1970 uprising when the Communist government of Poland struck down the strike by force. About 70-80 workers were killed by the state power. The trigger for the strike was the bad economic situation in Poland, which forced the government to massive price increases. When Anna Walentynowicz, a leader of the 1970 strike, was dismissed, Lech Walesa organized a strike of solidarity. There were 21 claims including the dismissal of Anna Walentynowicz should be withdrawn and on the square in front of the shipyard, a monument to the victims of the strike of 1970 should be erected. However, the most important point was to allow the admission of a free independent workers union and to end the censorship. The Free Union Solidarnosc was supported by the Church and spread throughout Poland. After months of strikes, the government finally signed the Danzig Agreement in 1980 and accepted the demands of the workers union.
In 1981, the Jaruzelski government declared martial law and banned unions. Jaruselski was a Russian puppet and martial law was justified by the fact that otherwise Russia would occupy Poland, as in 1968 at the "Prague Spring". Even after the end of martial law in 1983, the members of Solidarnosc were persecuted and imprisoned. Only with the perestroika in the Soviet Union the situation in Poland relaxed.
After the collapse of the post-communist state enterprises, the workforce of the shipyard fell from 15,800 in 1978 to 700 in 2014. Many shipyard halls were demolished and the Solidarnosc center with library and information center was built on the former site of the Lenin shipyard.
The historical museum of the city of Gdańsk is spread over many buildings and combines several museums under one roof. These include the Artus Court, the Amber Museum, the Gdansk City Hall, the Uphagenhaus and the Westerplatte Memorial. On the website of the Muzeum Gdanska you can find links to the individual buildings belonging to the Museum of Gdańsk. The website is only in Polish. There is information in the Artus Court, where you can get information about the other museums.
On the lead island of Olowianka there are three old warehouses in which the National Maritime Museum "Centralne Muzeum Morskie" is located. The permanent exhibition presents the history of Polish shipping, as well as the theme of marine archeology. The Maritime Museum of Gdańsk also includes the Crane Gate, which is connected by ferry to the museum on the other side of the river. The museum ship "Slodek", which anchors in front of the storage buildings, is also part of the Maritime Museum. On the photo you can see the Crane Gate on the left, the ship "Slodek" in the middle and the Centralne Muzeum Morskie on the right.
The National Museum of Gdansk (Muzeum Narodowe w Gdansku) is located in a former monastery of the Franciscan Order. The museum displays important works of art from the Hanseatic era. The museum shows the famous triptych of the cathedral St. Mary by the painter Hans Memling from Bruges. On the back of the Tryptych are two monochrome paintings that are almost more beautiful than the colored front. The National Museum also displays very beautiful cityscapes from historic Gdansk (Danzig). The former monastery is also interesting as a building, with very beautiful vaults.
The main building of the Archaeological Museum of Gdansk is located in the famous Mariacka Street. The building of the "Naturforschenden Gesellschaft" was built in 1599 for the german merchant Hans Köpe at the Brama Mariacka. During WW II, the building burned out, only the beautiful facade remained. In 1961 the house was converted into a museum. The Archaeological Museum is dedicated to the pre- and early history of Pomerania and the 1,000-year history of Gdansk. Other exhibitions present topics such as amber or diseases of the first settlers on the Gdańsk Bay.
The Polish Post Office in Gdansk played an important role in the Second World War. After the Treaty of Versailles, the German city of Danzig was a Free City, like a small indepenent country. The city with a German population of about 90% complained at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The International Court allowed Poland to maintain the polish post office in Gdansk. But in the post office the Polish secret service "Zygmunt" had its offices and weapons stored. The employees had all careers in the Polish military before becoming postal workers. For Germany, the secret service office in Gdansk and the occupation of the Westerplatte were a provocation by Poland.
When Hitler started the war against Poland, the Post Office was attacked as the first target, together with the Westerplatte. The police of Danzig stormed the building on the 1 September 1939. The Polish intelligence service, equipped with machine guns and hand grenades, was able to ward off the first attack. An ultimatum to surrender was not accepted by the defenders. The Poles hoped for reinforcement from the home country a few kilometers away. The Germans blew up the cellar under the entrance and the facade collapsed. Then gas was pumped into the basement and lit. The Poles had to surrender and came out of the building with a white flag. The first two were shot dead, the other agents were arrested. All survivors were sentenced to death by the German court martial as an illegal foreign combat unit and executed. In Poland, the postal workers are celebrated as heroes. The Muzeum Poczty Polskiej shows the history of the Polish post office. History depends on the point of view.
The attack of the German warship Schleswig-Holstein is the beginning of the Second World War. The Westerplatte was by then part of the Free City of Danzig, which was inhabited by Germans (about 90% of the total population). The city of Danzig did not allow Poland to set up an ammunition arsenal on the Westerplatte. The League of Nations forced Danzig in 1924 to allow and even pay for the polish arsenal, because Poland did not have a port city. In the meantime, Poland built the military port of Gdynia, so that the ammunition storage on the Westerplatte was no longer necessary. In 1933, a Polish naval squad landed on the Westerplatte and expanded the base. Danzig complained in front of the League of Nations and this time Poland had to dismantle the bunkers on the Westerplatte. But Poland ignored the enactmentd and strengthened the base by more soldiers, bunkers and guardhouses.
The Polish provocation on the Westerplatte and the intelligence agency in the "Polish post office" played in the cards of Hitler, the German population was thus easier to convince of a war against Poland. Hitler wanted the war and Poland provided a reason to strike. On September 1, 1939 the German battleship bombarded the Polish base on german soil, at the same time marines stormed the Westerplatte from land. The German attacks could be repelled by the Poles. After air raids, the defenders had to give up on 7 September. Only a month later on October 6, 1939 Poland had to surrender. The word "Blitzkrieg" was created to discribed the fast victory over Poland.
In the only surviving guard house (Wartownia No. 1) is now a small museum, with a model of Schleswig-Holstein, weapons and a room of the guards. Poland is about to built a new museum on the Westerplatte. In Poland the brave defenders of the Westerplatte are national heroes.