POLISH GREATNESS TRAFFIC

April 13, 2018

APRIL 13 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

APRIL 13

1896

Major Wanda Gertz (dob) was a Polish soldier who served in the Polish Legion during World War I while masquerading as a man, She subsequently served in the Ochotnicza Legia Kobiet ("Women's Voluntary Legion") of the Polish Army during the Polish–Soviet War, and was an officer of the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army"), codenamed "Lena", during World War II.  After the beginning of World War I, Gertz joined the 4th Warsaw Battalion, but in August 1915 when the Battalion joined the 1st Brigade of the Polish Legion, women were prohibited from serving in the front lines. That is when she cut off her hair and began to dress in men's clothing. She signed up at the recruitment office of the Polish Legion under the name of "Kazimierz (Kazik)  Zuchowicz". After a few weeks "Kazik" was reassigned to an artillery unit, served there for six months, and engaged in battle during the Brusilov Offensive. She also learned to ride a horse, and served in a signals platoon.  After the outbreak of the Polish–Soviet War in 1919, Gertz enlisted in the Polish Army and was assigned to the 1st Lithuanian–Belarusian Division. She was later appointed Commander of the II. Ochotnicza Legia Kobiet ("2nd Women's Volunteer Legion") in Vilnius. After WW2 broke out Gertz was one of the first women to join the resistance movement Służba Zwycięstwu Polski (SZP, "Service for Poland's Victory"), operating under the code name "Lena". After the Warsaw Uprising, the Germans imprisoned in a camp for POWs. On this day in 1945, the camp was liberated by troops of the U.S. 89th Infantry Division. Major Wanda Gertz was awarded the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari, Knight's Cross of the Order of Polish Rebirth, Cross of Valour, Cross of Independence, and Gold Cross of Merit with swords.  A plaque commemorating Wanda Gertz at the Church of John the Baptist, Warsaw.


1909

Stanisław Marcin Ulam (dob) was a Polish-born Jewish American scientist who devoted his life to the fields of mathematics and nuclear physics. He participated in the Manhattan Project, originated the Teller–Ulam design of thermonuclear weapons, discovered the concept of cellular automaton, invented the Monte Carlo method of computation, and suggested nuclear pulse propulsion. The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.  The Monte Carlo method refers to a broad class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to obtain numerical results. Their essential idea is using randomness to solve problems that might be deterministic in principle.


1943

KATYN MASSACRE: German troops had unearthed bodies of Polish soldiers in Katyñ forest and accused Soviets NKVD for the act. When General Sikorski insisted that the Red Cross investigate,  the Soviet Union immediately cut off diplomatic relations with Poland. The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish officers carried out by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police in April and May 1940. The executions took place at several different locations in and around the Katyn Forest, in Smolensk Russia.  The massacre ordered by Lavrentiy Beria, the NKVD chief (document dated March 5, 1940) was approved by the Politburo, and signed by Stalin himself.  Of the 22,000 victims, 8,000 were Polish officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were Polish intelligentsia that the Soviets accused of being  "intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests". The USSR claimed that the victims had been murdered by the Nazis in 1941 and continued to deny responsibility for the massacres. Finally in 1990, Russia officially acknowledged the Katyn Massacre, condemned the NKVD for the killings, and the coverup by the previous Soviet government administrations.(Editors note:  Other sources report that over 16,000 Polish soldiers were massacred.)

1945

German SS and Luftwaffe troops carried out the Gardelegen Massacre in the northern German town of Gardelegen. The Gardelegen Massacre was perpetrated by German local population from Volkssturm, Hitlerjugend and local firefighters with minor direction of SS during World War II.  German troops, on the Isenschnibbe estate near the northern German town of Gardelegen,  forced 1,016 slave laborers, many of them Poles, who were part of a transport evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp into a large barn which was then set on fire. Most of the prisoners were burned alive; some were shot trying to escape. The crime was discovered two days later by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 405th Regiment, U.S. 102nd Infantry Division, when the U.S. Army occupied the area.


1986

Pope John Paul II paid a visit and prayed at Rome's main Synagogue, the first Pope since St Peter ever to cross the threshold of a Jewish temple.



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