Museum of the Polish Post Office in Gdansk
Time flies and another anniversary of the outbreak of WWII is ahead of us. One year ago you had a chance to read my post about Westerplatte, this time I’d like to show you a place that can tell us another terrible story from the first days of the war in Gdansk – The Polish Post Office.
As I mentioned in the previous posts,
Gdansk – the harbour city on the Baltic Sea has always been an intercultural city which would change hands many times throughout its over 1000 years’ history, sometimes being more German, sometimes more Polish, once even French – during Napoleonic Wars. It’s impossible to say was Gdansk more Polish or German, I support the outlook on history saying that until 19th century there was no such thing like nation, therefore we can only take into consideration duchies, kingdoms and states which Gdansk was under the rule of. Needless to say, because of its importance and cultural variety the city has always felt quite independent, which is still something to be proud of for many present inhabitants of Gdansk.
The situation became more compilcated when Poland regained independence after WWI, in 1918, after 123 years of non-existence, being divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria. The reborn Polish state wanted to include Gdansk to its borders – claiming that Gdansk with the whole Pomeranian region is historically Polish and there would be no Poland without this land. The same was the opinion of the Germans, after all during 123 years of Prussian rule this area became very Germanized – in Gdansk area there was only approx.10% of Poles. The peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which finished the First World War, made a controversial decision – instead of attaching Gdansk to either Poland or Germany, the Western countries created a brand new country – The Free City of Gdansk which was supposed to be supervised by the Leauge of Nations, the forerunner of present UN.
Poland had the right to organize the Polish Post on the territory of the Free City of Gdansk.
My grandfather’s brother, Józef Bandzimiera, was a postman in Gdansk too. He is in the picture above. Luckily for him, he served in the Polish Post Office in Gdansk-Neufahrwasser (Nowy Port) and when the war broke out he was on holidays, far away from the tragic events. After the war he was helping to organize the post office in Elbling (Elbląg).
A few days before the war started, postmen at the main post office were preparing for the possible attack of Germans. The night before the outbreak of the war, on August 31st 1939, there were 50 people staying in the building of the post, mainly postmen – non-commissioned soldiers of the reserve of the Polish Army who had an order to resist the attack as long as possible before the backup arrives. Earlier the postmen managed to smuggle machine guns and hand grenades into the building. They considered the defence of the Post their duty, for them this building was a part of Poland so it was like a symbol.
At the dawn of September 1st 1939 police forces of Gdansk along with SS units attacked the Polish Post Office building. The men inside fought bravely for 14 long, hopeless hours. The promised help from the Polish Army wasn’t coming. And it didn’t, as Poland wasn’t prepare for the war at all. There was no plan to rescue them, to send troops to Gdansk. The command-in-chief deceived the poor postmen that there would be some backup coming. So they fought, simply untill the last bullet. At the moment of raising the white flag, the director of the Post Office, Jan Michoń, was shot dead by the Germans. In violation of international conventions, the Nazis refused to recognize the postmen as POWs.
On October 2nd 1939 the Polish postmen were sentenced to death and executed.
Now in the original building of the Polish Post there’s a museum. It tells the story of the courageous postmen as well as of the history of telecommunications in general. If you are in Gdansk one day – don’t hesitate to visit this place.
the uniform of the Polish postman before the war…
… and what was found in the mass grave 52 years after the execution
apart from the very sad story of the building, the museum displays also an interesting collection of old telephones.
The monument outside of the post office.
You can still come across some old German inscriptions in the neighbourhood