Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig
The Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig (Gdańsk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

) was one of the first acts of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, as part of the Invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...


On September 1, 1939, Polish personnel and militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

men defended the building for some 15 hours against assaults by the SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr "Danzig" was an SS unit established in the Free City of Danzig before the Second World War. It fought with the German army against the Polish Army during the invasion of Poland...

The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 of the city Danzig), local SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 formations and special units of Ordnungspolizei
The Ordnungspolizei or Orpo were the uniformed regular police force in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei...

(Danzig police). All but four of the defenders who escaped from the building during the surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 were sentenced to death
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 by a German court martial as illegal combatants on October 5, 1939 and executed.


The Polish Post Office (Poczta Polska
Poczta Polska
Poczta Polska is the Polish public post service.- History :Before the postal system was established, correspondence was delivered by messengers. In the Middle Ages, such services were available only to the privileged classes - monarchs, rich merchants and some of the organised communities, like...

) in the Free City of Danzig
Free City of Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....

 was created in 1920 under the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

, and its buildings were considered extraterritorial  Polish property. The Polish Post Office in Danzig comprised several buildings.

As tensions between Poland
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 and Germany grew, in April 1939 the Polish High Command detached combat engineer and Army Reserve Sublieutenant
Podporucznik is a rank of the Polish Army, roughly equivalent to the military rank of the Second Lieutenant in the armed forces of other countries....

 (or 2LT) Konrad Guderski
Konrad Guderski
Konrad Guderski was a Polish engineer and military officer. He was the organizer and commander of the defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig in the first hours of the German invasion of Poland, 1939. He was killed during the Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig, during the World War II...

 to the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 coast. With Alfons Flisykowski
Alfons Flisykowski
Alfons Flisykowski was a Polish worker of the Polish Post Office in the Free City of Danzig in the years 1923-1939 and a second commander of the defence of the Post Office from the invading Nazi German forces when World War II started on September 1, 1939.Flisykowski was captured by the...

 and others, he helped organize the official and volunteer security staff at the Polish Post Office in Danzig, and prepare them for eventual hostilities. In addition to training the staff, he prepared the defenses in and around the building: nearby trees were removed and the entrance was fortified. In mid-August, ten additional employees were sent to the post office from Polish Post offices in Gdynia
Gdynia is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland and an important seaport of Gdańsk Bay on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.Located in Kashubia in Eastern Pomerania, Gdynia is part of a conurbation with the spa town of Sopot, the city of Gdańsk and suburban communities, which together...

 and Bydgoszcz (mostly reserve non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...


In the building of the Polish post on 1 September there were 57 people: Konrad Guderski, 42 local Polish employees, 10 employees from Gdynia and Bydgoszcz, and the building keeper with his wife and 10-year old daughter who lived in the building. Polish employees had a cache of weapons, including three Browning wz.1928
Browning wz.1928
The Browning wz.1928 is a Polish version of the M1918 BAR. It was a light machine gun used by the Poles in World War II.-History:After Poland regained its independence in 1918, the Polish Army was equipped in all sorts of machine guns inherited after the armed forces of the partitioners, as well as...

 light machine gun
Light machine gun
A light machine gun is a machine gun designed to be employed by an individual soldier, with or without an assistant, as an infantry support weapon. Light machine guns are often used as squad automatic weapons.-Characteristics:...

s, 40 other firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

s and three chests of hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

s. The Polish defence plan assigned the defenders the role of keeping Germans from the building for 6 hours, when a relief force from Armia Pomorze was supposed to secure the area.

The German attack plan, devised in July 1939, devised that the building defenders would be stormed from two directions. A diversionary attack was to be carried out at the front entrance, while the main force would break through the wall from the neighbouring Work Office and attack from the side.

The battle

At 04:00 Germans cut the phone and electricity lines to the building. At 04:45, just as the German battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

German battleship Schleswig-Holstein
SMS Schleswig-Holstein, one of the five s, was the last pre-dreadnought battleship built by the German Kaiserliche Marine. The ship was laid down in the Germaniawerft dockyard in Kiel in August 1905 and commissioned into the fleet nearly three years later in July 1908...

 started shelling the nearby Polish Army military outpost at Westerplatte
Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk, Poland, located on the Baltic Sea coast mouth of the Dead Vistula , in the Gdańsk harbour channel...

, German forces began their assault on the Polish Post. German units detached for this task were composed of the special unit of Danzig police, local SA formations and the SS units SS Wachsturmbann "E" and SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr Danzig
SS Heimwehr "Danzig" was an SS unit established in the Free City of Danzig before the Second World War. It fought with the German army against the Polish Army during the invasion of Poland...

, supported by at least three ADGZ
The ADGZ was originally developed as a heavy armored car for the Austrian army from 1934 and delivered from 1935-37.-History:...

 heavy armored cars. The attack was commanded by German police colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

, Willi Bethke.
The first German attack, from the front, was repelled, although Germans managed to break through the entrance and briefly enter the building (at the cost of two killed and seven wounded attackers, including one group leader). The second attack, from the Work Office, was also repelled. The commander of Polish defence, Konrad Guderski, died during that second attack from the blast of his own grenade which stopped the Germans who broke through the wall.

At 11:00 German units were reinforced by the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 with two 75 mm artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 pieces, but the second attack, even with the artillery support, was again repulsed. At 15:00 Germans declared a two hour ceasefire
A ceasefire is a temporary stoppage of a war in which each side agrees with the other to suspend aggressive actions. Ceasefires may be declared as part of a formal treaty, but they have also been called as part of an informal understanding between opposing forces...

 and demanded that Polish forces surrender, which they refused. In the meantime, Germans received additional reinforcements: a 105 mm artillery piece, and a unit of sappers, which dug under the walls and prepared a 600 kg explosive device
Explosive device
An explosive device is device that relies on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy. Explosive devices have applications as demolition devices and as weapons in the military....

. At 17:00 the bomb was set off, collapsing part of the wall, and German forces under the cover of three artillery pieces attacked again, this time capturing most of the building with the exception of the basement.

At 18:00 Germans brought automatic pumps, gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

 tanks and flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

s, which they used to flood the basements with burning gasoline. After three Poles were burned alive (bringing the total Polish casualties to six killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

), the rest decided to capitulate. The first two people to leave the building — director Dr. Jan Michoń, carrying a white flag, and commandant (naczelnik) Józef Wąsik — were shot by the Germans (according to one version, Dr. Michoń was attacked with a flamethrower). The rest of the Poles were allowed to surrender and leave the burning building. Six people managed to escape from the building, although two of them were captured the following days.


16 wounded prisoners were sent to the Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 hospital, where six subsequently died (including the 10-year old Erwina). The other 28 were first imprisoned in the police building and, after a few days, sent to Victoriaschule, where they were interrogated and tortured. Some 300 to 400 Polish citizens of Danzig were also held there.

Court martial

All the prisoners were put on trial in front of the martial court of the Wehrmacht's Gruppe Eberhardt. A first group of 28 Victoriaschule-prisoners, with a single Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 officer as defence lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

, was tried on 8 September, a second group of 10, who recovered in the hospital, on 30 September. All were sentenced to death as illegal combatants under the German special military penal law of 1938. The sentence was demanded by the prosecutor
The prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution in countries with either the common law adversarial system, or the civil law inquisitorial system...

 Hans Giesecke and declared by presiding judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

 Kurt Bode, Vice-President of the Oberlandesgericht
The Oberlandesgericht is one of the 'ordinary courts' in Germany...

 Danzig (Higher Regional Court of Danzig). 28 of the judgements were countersigned, and thus became legally valid, by General Hans Günther von Kluge, the further 10 by Colonel Eduard Wagner
Eduard Wagner
General Eduard Wagner was a German Artillery officer who was the quartermaster-general of the German Army and a member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler....

, who committed suicide on 23 July 1944 as a member of the 20 July plot.
A clemency appeal was rejected by General Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

. A similar fate awaited eleven Polish railway workers south of the city after they foiled a German attempt to use an armoured train
Armoured train
An armoured train is a train protected with armour. They are usually equipped with railroad cars armed with artillery and machine guns. They were mostly used during the late 19th and early 20th century, when they offered an innovative way to quickly move large amounts of firepower...

, and were executed by the SA along with their immediate families.
The prisoners were mostly executed by firing squad led by SS-Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer was a paramilitary rank of the Nazi Party equivalent to major, used both in the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel...

Max Pauly
Max Pauly
Max Pauly was an SS Sturmbannführer who was the commandant of Stutthof concentration camp from September, 1939 to August 1942 and commandant of Neuengamme concentration camp and the associated subcamps from September 1942 until liberation in May 1945.During his tenure as commandant of Neuengamme...

 (later commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp) on 5 October and buried in a mass grave at the cemetery of Danzig-Saspe
Zaspa is one of the quarters of the city of Gdańsk, Poland. Divided into two quarters:*Zaspa-Młyniec *Zaspa-RozstajeZaspa was founded on a place previously occupied by an airport...

 (Zaspa). One, Leon Fuz, was later recognised and murdered in the Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof concentration camp
Stutthof was the first Nazi concentration camp built outside of 1937 German borders.Completed on September 2, 1939, it was located in a secluded, wet, and wooded area west of the small town of Sztutowo . The town is located in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig, 34 km east of...

 in November. Four defenders who managed to escape and hide survived the war. Families of the postmen were also persecuted
Sippenhaft or Sippenhaftung was a form of collective punishment practised in Nazi Germany towards the end of the Second World War. It was a legalized practice in which relatives of persons accused of crimes against the state were held to share the responsibility for those crimes and subject to...


Giesecke and Bode were not held responsible for this episode or held accountable for Justizmord. They were denazified after the war and continued their careers as lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s. Both died of natural causes in 1970s. However, in 1995, the German court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 at Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

 invalidated the 1939 ruling and rehabilitated the militant "postmen", citing among the reasons that the ruling had been in violation of the Hague Convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

. The decision of the German court occurred thanks to the work of a German author, Dieter Schenk
Dieter Schenk
Dieter Schenk is a German author, former high police officer of the Bundeskriminalamt, and a member of Amnesty International...

, who published a monograph on the defense of the post office and referred to the execution of the defenders as Judicial murder
Judicial murder
Judicial murder is the unjustified execution of death penalty.The term was first used in 1782 by August Ludwig von Schlözer in reference to the execution of Anna Göldi...

 (Justizmord). Schenk stresses the commanding role of Danzig policeforces, which made a Wehrmacht court martial not competent to convict the defenders. Instead, the Free City of Danzig's penal law would have been applicable, without the alternative of a death penalty.

In Poland, the whole episode has become one of the better known episodes of the Polish September Campaign and it is usually portrayed as a heroic story of David and Goliath proportions. In this view, it was a group of postmen who held out against German SS troops for almost an entire day. In 1979 in the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 a Defenders of the Polish Post Monument was unveiled in Gdańsk
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...


See also

  • Battle of Westerplatte
    Battle of Westerplatte
    The Battle of Westerplatte was the very first battle that took place after Germany invaded Poland and World War II began in Europe. During the first week of September 1939, a Military Transit Depot on the peninsula of Westerplatte, manned by fewer than 200 Polish soldiers, held out for seven days...

  • The Tin Drum
    The Tin Drum
    The Tin Drum is a 1959 novel by Günter Grass. The novel is the first book of Grass's .- Plot summary :The story revolves around the life of Oskar Matzerath, as narrated by himself when confined in a mental hospital during the years 1952-1954...

    and The Tin Drum (film)
    The Tin Drum (film)
    The Tin Drum is a 1979 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Günter Grass. It was directed and co-written by Volker Schlöndorff...

External links

Obrona Poczty Polskiej w Gdańsku Miłosz Sosnowski, Obrona Poczty Polskiej w Gdańsku 1939 r.
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