Nigdy Wiecej Wojny

As we remember the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany 70 years ago today, all should remember that peace and freedom alike are worth fighting for — and that includes our elected officials.

Nigdy Wiecej Wojny. Never Again War.

A few weeks ago, when I was in Gdansk with family, we toured briefly the Grodzisko Fort, an outpost in the hills which had been erected by Napoleon during the 19th century. Four years ago, however, a trip to Gdansk led us to the Westerplatte.

It was there, 70 years ago today, that German forces first invaded Poland in the first of what was to be many battles in the European theater during World War II. That first day, 205 Polish soldiers armed with only one 75 mm field gun, two 37 mm anti-tank guns, a few mortars and not enough machine guns to go around, repelled attack after attack by more than three thousand German naval infantrymen. For a week, the German attack was spurned, despite the area having no formal fortifications besides concrete crew barracks, despite those barracks under constant bombardment from the Baltic Sea and skies above, and despite the Poles knowing that reinforcements would not be arriving at any point soon, if at all.

Today, leaders from across the world will come to the port city to commemorate the start of the war, and undoubtedly the bravery exhibited and sacrifice made by those Polish soldiers at the Westerplatte. Among those in attendance: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who undoubtedly will have many of the same things to say as she did at Buchenwald in May; British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, whose own mother was hiding in Poland during the war and whose government just dedicated a memorial to the 500,000 Polish soldiers who fought alongside the Brits in the war; and Russian PM Vladimir Putin (that capitalist pig), who plans to defend the former Soviet Union against those who believe that Stalin was more aggressor than liberator. Leaders from Italy and France, among other countries, will also be present.

Notably missing, however, will be the American president. The Polish press has actually been buzzing about the perceived “snub” for days, some wondering whether it was in response to an open letter to the president sent back in July by leaders in Central and Eastern Europe lamenting an apparent shift in geographical focus of American foreign policy. Regardless, of motivation, today’s Washington Times offers an excellent look at the failure of the White House with regard to commemorating the start of the Second World War in Europe:

The Polish government sent out the invitation three months ago to the White House, but an answer was received only on Wednesday, a mere five days before the ceremony. Repeated attempts over the summer by the Poles to contact the White House and the State Department met with a long period of silence. One White House aide actually replied that everyone was on vacation until after Labor Day, which caused a Polish official to say he apologized that Adolf Hitler had invaded his country on Sept. 1.

The initial answer from the White House almost defied belief. The head of the official U.S. delegation was not to be a member of the Obama administration but former Clinton Defense Secretary William J. Perry. Over the weekend, a change was announced, and the U.S. delegation is to be headed by National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones. Gen. Jones will head the U.S. delegation, rather than President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Gen. Jones will stand alongside Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Anyone want to play “who doesn’t belong in this picture?”

The lack of understanding of European history and sensitivities was not lost on the Polish chattering classes. They have been in a justifiable uproar over this mother of all snubs, feeling a mixture of humiliation and neglect. For an administration that pledged to prioritize public diplomacy, this treatment of an ally was appalling. Unsurprisingly, popular opinion of the United States took a serious nose dive in Poland.

Indeed, the Washington Times is right. While Americans are still loved by Poles and Ronald Reagan still adored by supporters of Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement, the varnish of Barack Obama’s administration wore off a long time ago, likely after the president wavered on missile defense despite Poland having stuck its neck out for former President Bush, angering Russia in the process. While I was there, the only news coming out of the United States was bad news for the president — from updates every few days on Obama’s lagging approval rating, to his mishandling of the Crowley-Gates affair.

Still, it’s a shame that politics should in any way trump or take away from remembering exactly what happened along the Baltic Sea during that first week of September in 1939. It was at 4:45 a.m. local time, 70 years ago today, that the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of the garrison at the military transit depot, thus changing the course of history in Poland and indeed the world forever.

Likewise, it should not be forgotten that the very first instinct of the Polish people was to stand fast and fight hard, even against a military force exponentially larger and stronger than its own. Only 14 Polish soldiers died during the week of fighting at the Westerplatte, and even they did not perish in battle. Instead, they were later executed by the Germans for refusing to provide radio codes. Even though the battle ended with the surrender of Major Henryk Sucharski due to lack of reinforcements and supplies, the incredible courage shown during that week should be a testament to the enduing power of freedom, and the power of those who fight for it. I remember sitting atop a German tank left behind at the site, smiling, overcome even in such a solemn, weighty place by that love for liberty and willingness to fight.

As I’ve noted a few times here before, the characteristic I like most about the Polish people is their love of freedom, their hope for peace, and their knowledge that neither comes without sacrifice. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better example of that characteristic in action than at the Westerplatte. The site is now home to several memorials to the 14 Poles who died, the ruins of the barracks, markers for soldiers who fought, an enormous monument, and a sign which reads: “Never Again War.”

During my first visit to Gdansk and Poland in the summer of 2005, I took a number of photos at the Westerplatte. Here are a few:

Joanna may want to hurt me for posting this one here at America’s Right, as she insists she didn’t look her best with her ponytail, sweatshirt and lack of makeup (I beg to differ — she always looks her best). Still, it provides a perspective as to just how close the entire area was to the Baltic Sea, from where the naval bombardment commenced at 4:45 a.m. today local time.

Near the sea, memorials to the fourteen fallen Polish soldiers have been erected. The photograph of the cross at the top of this post is also from that memorial. In total, 58 soldiers were wounded in the fighting, and fourteen killed — the latter, however, were executed afterward for refusing to provide radio codes to the German forces.
The barracks from the front and back, and a memorial showing the names of each of 205 soldiers who defended the post. Bulletholes are recognizable throughout. Despite a lack of fortifications, weaponry and reinforcements, those soldiers were able to repel attack after attack by more than three thousand Germans over the course of one week, finally surrendering due to lack of supplies on September 7, 1939.
An enormous monument erected to forever remember the sacrifices made and bravery exhibited by those who were the first to defend against Nazi Germany. The monument can be seen from the Baltic Sea and from the mainland (the Westerplatte is a peninsula). As with nearly every monument and burial site in that nation, the monuments and memorials at the Westerplatte are meticulously cared for and tended to.
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Comments

  1. Chuck B. says:

    Great article and great photos, Jeff.

  2. European Guy says:

    Your translation should be "NIKDY WIECEJ WOJNY"

  3. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    I dunno … I'm pretty certain on this one.

    Though my own Polish pretty much tops out at "niebieski samochod." Oh yeah, and "Piwo."

    I'll check my dictionary…

  4. Tomasz Ronda says:

    I am a Pole and I can say that in both cases the sentence in a header is with mistake. It should read: 'Nigdy więcej wojny'.

    Thanks for covering the topic, though.

  5. Lilly says:

    Jeff- Great post. Thanks for sharing the photos. Tell Joanna, I can totally relate. But it's for a historical visual effect and we all appreciate it.
    Sorry to say I just do not understand our current administration. And I do NOT like anything that I see coming out of it.

  6. Rix says:

    I promised Jeff to curb my not-so-politically-correct opinion of Obama's racinal origin but daily news never cease to confirm it. Blatant disregard Obama and his privileged-minority cohorts show for the law, religion and history of the civilization would be appalling if I haven't been convinced that I should not expect any better from the nation who had neither.

  7. matt says:

    How can we let the Polish people know that we too are not happy with the brush off they are receiving and it is not indicative of the overall attitude of America, but the attitude of this administration?

    Thanks Jeff for another great article.

  8. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    All I asked, Rix, is that you avoid language that you would similarly avoid in a back alley in Watts at 3am. That's all.

    I know you can make a point without using the n-word.

    And, no, that's not "nincompoop." You can use "nincompoop" as much as you'd like.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Uhh Jeff, the tank you're sitting on is actually a Russian T-34 (definitely not German).

  10. Rix says:

    > I know you can make a point without using the n-word.

    Q: What is the n-word that you *really* don't want to call a black person with?
    A: Neighbor.

  11. T-34 says:
  12. Rix says:
  13. Gail B says:

    Matt–the same thought occurred to me, too.

    How do the people of a nation apologize to the world for its own reprehensible, invalid president?

  14. Gail B says:

    Thanks–that much better!

    (My goodness but you were busy while I watched Glenn Beck!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    embarrassed again–why didn't Clinton at least go to this memorial?? what's wrong with these people??

  16. Gail B says:

    Anonymous at 10:21 p.m.–

    You said, "why didn't Clinton at least go to this memorial?? what's wrong with these people??"

    What's wrong with them is that they are Sychophants (or whatever that word was Jeff used that describes total self-centeredness) and Progressive Democrats (Marxists).

  17. COMMUNIST WHITE HOUSE says:

    to 10:21,

    they are saving their gas money to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] at all, a move which was described as a “snub” by much of the Polish press.  From Nigdy Wiecej Wojny, here at America’s Right on August 31, 2009 (a link with some photos I took of the Nazi [...]

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