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Gleiwitz incident

Gleiwitz incident

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The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack
False flag
False flag operations are covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is flying the flag of a country other than one's own...

 by Nazi forces posing as Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station
Radio station
Radio broadcasting is a one-way wireless transmission over radio waves intended to reach a wide audience. Stations can be linked in radio networks to broadcast a common radio format, either in broadcast syndication or simulcast or both...

 Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia
Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia. Since the 9th century, Upper Silesia has been part of Greater Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, the Piast Kingdom of Poland, again of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as of...

, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice
Gliwice
Gliwice is a city in Upper Silesia in southern Poland, near Katowice. Gliwice is the west district of the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union – a metropolis with a population of 2 million...

, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe
European Theatre of World War II
The European Theatre of World War II was a huge area of heavy fighting across Europe from Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 until the end of the war with the German unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945...

.

This provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler
Operation Himmler
Operation Himmler was a Nazi Germany false flag project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which was subsequently used by Nazi propaganda to justify the invasion of Poland...

, a series of unconventional operations
Special operations
Special operations are military operations that are considered "special" .Special operations are typically performed independently or in conjunction with conventional military operations. The primary goal is to achieve a political or military objective where a conventional force requirement does...

 undertaken by the SS
Schutzstaffel
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...

 in order to serve specific propaganda goals of Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 at the outbreak of the war. It was intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany in order to justify the subsequent 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...

.

Events at Gleiwitz


Much of what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the sworn affidavit of Alfred Naujocks
Alfred Naujocks
Alfred Helmut Naujocks, alias Hans Müller, Alfred Bonsen, or Rudolf Möbert , was an SS-Sturmbannführer , and took part in a staged incident intended to provide the justification for the attack on Poland by Nazi Germany, which in turn provoked the Second World War in Europe.-Early life:Naujocks was...

 at the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

. In his testimony, he states that he organized the incident under orders from Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 and Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo
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...

.

On the night of 31 August 1939, a small group of German operatives, dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks, seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German
Anti-German sentiment
Anti-German sentiment is defined as an opposition to or fear of Germany, its inhabitants, and the German language. Its opposite is Germanophilia.-Russia:...

 message in Polish (sources vary on the content of the message). The Germans' goal was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German Polish saboteur
Saboteur
A saboteur is someone who commits sabotage.It may also refer to:*Morituri , a 1965 film also known as The Saboteur*Saboteur , a card game by Frederic Moyersoen, published in 2004...

s.

To make the attack seem more convincing, the Germans brought in Franciszek Honiok, a German Silesian
Silesians
Silesians , are the inhabitants of Silesia in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. A small diaspora community also exists in Karnes County, Texas in the USA....

 known for sympathizing with the Poles, who had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo
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...

. Honiok was dressed to look like a saboteur; then killed by lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

, given gunshot wounds, and left dead at the scene, so that he appeared to have been killed while attacking the station. His corpse was subsequently presented as proof of the attack to the police and press.

In addition to Honiok, several other prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were kept available for this purpose. The Germans referred to them by the code phrase "Konserve" ("canned goods"). For this reason, some sources incorrectly refer to the incident as "Operation Canned Goods."

Context


The Gleiwitz incident was a part of a larger operation, carried out by Abwehr
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

 and SS forces. At the same time as the Gleiwitz attack, there were other incidents orchestrated by Germany along the Polish-German border, such as house torching in the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

 and spurious propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 output. The entire project, dubbed Operation Himmler and comprising 21 incidents in all, was intended to give the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany.

For months prior to the 1939 invasion, German newspapers and politicians like Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 accused Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing
Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

 of ethnic German
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

s living in Poland.

On the day following the Gleiwitz attack, 1 September 1939, Germany launched the Fall Weiss
Fall Weiß (1939)
Fall Weiss was the Nazi strategic plan for the invasion of Poland. The German military High Command finalized its operational orders on 15 June 1939 and the invasion commenced on 1 September, precipitating World War II.- Plan details :The origins of the plan went back to 1928 when Werner von...

 operation — the invasion of Poland — initiating World War II in Europe. On the same day, in a speech in the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

, Adolf Hitler cited the 21 border incidents, with three of them called very serious, as justification for Germany's "defensive" action against Poland. Just a few days earlier, on 22 August, he had told his generals, "I shall give a propaganda reason for starting the war; whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth."

International reactions


American correspondents were summoned to the scene the next day but no neutral parties were allowed to investigate the incident in detail and the international public was skeptical of the German version of the incident.

Treatment in film


There have been several adaptations of the incident in cinema. Der Fall Gleiwitz
The Gleiwitz Case
The Gleiwitz Case is an East German war film directed by Gerhard Klein. It was released in 1961.-Cast:* Hannjo Hasse as Alfred Helmut Naujocks* Christoph Bayertt as Franz Sitte* Wolfgang Kalweit as Hans-Wilhelm Kraweit* Georg Leopold as Franz Wyczorek...

, direction: Gerhard Klein (1961), DEFA studios (The Gleiwitz Case; English subtitles), is an East German film that reconstructs the events. It was pronounced in West Germany to be the best DEFA film.
Operacja Himmler is a Polish film that covers the events. Both Hitler's SS: A Portrait In Evil, direction: Jim Goddard (1985); and Die Blechtrommel briefly include the incident. It was also featured in a video game; Codename Panzers, which stirred up controversy in Poland because uninformed players interpreted authentic German propaganda about the incident reproduced in the game as a statement of historical truth.

See also

  • 1939 in Poland
    1939 in Poland
    -Political incumbents:On September 30, 1939, the last government of the Second Polish Republic which resided in Warsaw was dissolved. The government was originally designed on May 15, 1936, by president of Poland Ignacy Mościcki under prime minister Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski.-Members of the...

  • 1939 Tarnow rail station bomb attack
  • Commando Order
    Commando Order
    The Commando Order was issued by Adolf Hitler on 18 October 1942 stating that all Allied commandos encountered by German forces in Europe and Africa should be killed immediately, even if in uniform or if they attempted to surrender...

     (Hitler's 1942 order against allied Commandos)
  • Operation Greif
    Operation Greif
    Operation Greif was a special false flag operation commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, and its purpose was to capture one or more of the bridges over the Meuse river before they could be destroyed...

  • Shelling of Mainila
    Shelling of Mainila
    The Shelling of Mainila was a military incident on November 26, 1939, where the Soviet Union's Red Army shelled the Russian village of Mainila , declared that the fire originated from Finland across a nearby border and claimed losses in personnel...


Further reading

  • John Toland
    John Toland (author)
    John Willard Toland was an American author and historian. He is best known for his bestselling biography of Adolf Hitler and for his Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II history of Japan, The Rising Sun.Toland was a graduate of Williams College, and he also attended the Yale School of Drama for a...

    , Adolf Hitler : The Definitive Biography, ISBN 0-385-42053-6.
  • Dennis Whitehead, "The Gleiwitz Incident", After the Battle Magazine Number 142 (March 2009)
  • Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978.

External links