Poles recall Nazi seizure of radio station, see parallels with today

Fri Aug 29, 2014 11:30am EDT
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By Wojciech Zurawski

GLIWICE Poland (Reuters) - Joachim Fulczyk still remembers the fateful radio broadcast 75 years ago this weekend that provided Adolf Hitler with a pretext to launch his invasion of Poland that sparked World War Two.

Now 83, Fulczyk listened with his mother and aunt to a brief address supposedly given by Polish saboteurs who had seized the local radio station in Gleiwitz, then located inside Nazi Germany, a few km from the Polish border.

"My mother, hearing the news (that Poles had taken the radio station), told her sister 'this can't be true'," said Fulczyk, who still lives in Gleiwitz, now known by its Polish name Gliwice. The town became part of Poland after border changes following the 1945 defeat of Hitler's Third Reich.

As Poles and Germans prepare to mark the 75th anniversary on Monday of Hitler's invasion of Poland, historians and residents of Gliwice recalled the seizure of the radio station - still today Europe's tallest wooden structure - and drew parallels with the role of media in modern conflicts such as Ukraine.

Andrzej Jarczewski, director of the museum now at the site of the radio station, recounted how Germans posing as Poles staged the attack on the evening of August 31, 1939, with the aim of providing justification for a German invasion of Poland.

The seven-strong band, led by SS officer Alfred Helmut Naujocks, broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish.

Hitler made a speech in Berlin the next day citing the Gliwice attack and other similarly orchestrated incidents to justify his decision to storm Poland. World War Two began two days later when Britain and France declared war on Germany.

"The provocations in Gliwice and in some other places too were necessary to allow Hitler to make his speech, to say 'we are innocent, the Poles started this war'," said Jarczewski.   Continued...