February 10, 2018




Jozef Haller von Hallenburg performed a symbolic Wedding of Poland to the Sea, celebrating restitution of Polish access to open sea.  Present were the Minister of Internal Affairs, Stanisław Wojciechowski, and the new administration of the Pomeranian Province also came to Puck.  General Haller, at the ceremony, said, " As Venice so symbolized its marriage with the Adriatic so we Poles symbolize our marriage with our dear Baltic Sea." (Note: Haller was given command over the territory of Pomerania, which had been restored to Poland according to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Despite incidences of armed resistance and sabotage, the transfer of territory was achieved as planned.)


Hitler placed the Gestapo above the law. This meant that the Gestapo had full authority to investigate cases of treason, espionage, sabotage and criminal attacks on the Nazi Party and Germany. In effect these powers placed the Gestapo above the law.  According to Werner Best, an SS officer of the Gestapo, said, "As long as the police carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally."  Following Hitlers seizure of power, the SA and Gestapo went from door to door hunting for socialists, communists, trade union leaders, and anyone opposed the Nazi party. Many were arrested - some were killed. By the middle of 1933, the Nazi party was the only political party, and nearly all organized opposition to the regime was eliminated. Democracy was dead in Germany.


The German passenger liner SS General von Steuben was torpedoed and sunk in the Baltic Sea by Soviet submarine S-13, under the command of Alexander Marinesko, resulting in the loss of over 4,000 passengers. During World War II, she served as a troop accommodation ship, and since 1944 as an armed transport.  In the winter of 1945, East Prussian refugees fled from Konigsberg, heading west, and away the advancing Soviet troops. Thousands of Germans converged at the Baltic seaport of Pillau (now Baltiysk, Russia) trying to boards ships which would carry them to the relative safety to Western Germany. Steuben was among the fleet of ships sent to carry out this evacuation. On February  9, 1945,  the von Stuben sailed from Pillau for Swinemünde (now Świnoujście, Poland). According to official reports there were 2,800 wounded German soldiers; 800 civilians; 100 returning soldiers; 270 navy medical personnel (including doctors, nurses and auxiliaries); 12 nurses from Pillau; 64 crew for the ship's anti-aircraft guns, 61 naval personnel, radio operators, signal men, machine operators and administrators, plus 160 merchant navy crewmen: a total of 4,267 people on board. The total amount might easily have been around 5,200, because due to the rapid evacuation, many East German and Baltic refugees boarded the vessel without being recorded.  Moments before midnight of February 9th, Alexander Marinesko, captain of the Soviet submarine S-13, fired two torpedoes with a 14 second interval.  Both torpedoes hit Steuben in the Starboard bow, just below the bridge where many of the crew were sleeping. Most were killed by the impact of the torpedoes.  The Steuben sank by the bow and listed severely to starboard and within 20 minutes took the final plunge.  About 4,500 people died.  About 650 people were rescued by torpedo boat T-196 before the vessel disappeared.


Tadeusz Pankiewicz was awarded recognition as a "Righteous Among the Nations" for his wartime activities in rescuing Jews.  Under the German Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, Podgórze district was closed off in March 1941 as a ghetto for local area Jewry. Within the walls of the Kraków Ghetto there were four prewar pharmacies owned by non-Jews. Pankiewicz was the only proprietor to decline the German offer of relocating to the gentile (non-Jewish) side of the city. He was given permission to continue operating his establishment as the only pharmacy in the Ghetto, and reside on the premises. Even though medicine was in short supply, Mr. Pankiewicz provided them to the Jews in the Krakow Ghetto (often free of charge) and together with his staff, risked their lives to shelter the Jews facing deportation to the camps.  The pharmacy was a hub of activity for clandestine operations and meeting place for the intelligentsia.

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