September 23, 2018

SEPTEMBER 23 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

SEPTEMBER 23

1922

Gdynia Seaport Construction Act was passed by the Polish parliament on September 23, 1922.   Due to the blockade of shipment of Polish arms, during the Polish-Soviet war, there was the urgent decision to establish a truly Polish port. (The Versailles Treaty which followed the end of WWI, declared Gdansk to be the Free City of Danzig, and over which the Second Republic of Poland was granted many rights and privileges in its administration.) By the 1930s the Gdynia Port had been developed where it could compete with other ports in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  The city of Gdynia was developed and by 1939 had a population of 125,000 Polish people.  Before the outbreak of World War Two, the port of  Gdynia was modern and fully functional and contributed greatly the Polish pre-war economy: Polish exports amounted to 80%.  After Germany invaded Poland in September,  the development of the port ceased and it became the base of the German Kriegsmarine and their most important center for the armaments industry of Nazi Germany.  Allied bombing raids of the port resulted in the destruction of 40% of the hydro-technical structures, 25% of storehouses. (75 % of the storehouses and 54% of quays and breakwaters were in need of repairs) The Germans dismantled over 30% of handling facilities and transported them to ports in Germany, and destroyed the remaining facilities. Viaducts on land were blown up, blocking access to the port.


1939

The Battle of Krasnobród was fought on September 23, 1939 between Polish armed forces and the German Wehrmacht near the town of Krasnobród, and resulted in a Polish victory. It was one of the many battles during the September Campaign, and one in both sides used cavalry forces. The Polish Uhlan Regiment under the command of Col. Bogdan Stachlewski had the mission of recapturing Krasnobród.  However the town was fortified by the German 8th Infantry Division positioned on a hill top along two lines of trenches.  Despite the numerical superiority of the Nazi Germans, Stachlewski conceived of a devious plan that called for his forces to be divided into two sectors, each of which launched a cavalry charge on the enemy at different sectors along the front......The first Polish squadron successfully broke through enemy positions, catching the Nazi Germans completely by surprise. It resulted in a frantic retreat by the Germans, pursued by the Polish cavalry using sabers and lances.  The second Polish squadron under the command of Lt. Tadeusz Gerlecki also participated in the cavalry charge. Though the German infantry division attempted to counter-charge, they were repelled by the Polish forces. Despite heavy enemy fire, the Polish units succeeded in entering the city, and pursued the fleeing Germans. The Poles captured about 100 German soldiers, and their commander General Rudolf Koch-Erpach (as well as freeing forty Polish soldiers that had been taken prisoner by the unit.) 


1943

Liquidation of Vilno Ghetto:  On September 23-24, 1943 the ghetto was liquidated under the command of Oberscharführer Bruno Kittel; the majority of the remaining residents were sent to the Vaivara concentration camp in Estonia, killed in the forest of Paneriai, or sent to the death camps in German-occupied Poland. (A week earlier, Karl Plagge, a staff officer of the German army, made arrangements to transport over 1,000 of his Jewish workers along with their families from the Vilna Ghetto to the HKP camp under his command, which provided maintenance and repair of Nazi German military vehicles. The treatment of the Jews working at HKP were relatively benign compared to the horrific conditions in which the ghetto Jews worked. Though Plagge was a member of the Nazi Party, he was sympathetic towards the Jewish plight, and provided the Jewish workers with extra food rations and hot meals, as well as clothing, medicine and firewood.) Though Plagge attempted to save as many Jews as possible, the SS murdered about 900 to 1,000 of the 1,250 of his workers. Only about 250 Jews of HKP managed to survive.


1944

Warsaw Uprising:   On the morning of September 16, 1944  two infantry divisions of General Berling's Army succeeded in crossing the Vistula to Czerniakow to reinforce Polish insurgents in the area. However it did little to assist in the defense of the town.  German units were also reinforced, and on September 23, were able to capture the two remaining buildings in Czerniakow.  On the same day a German report was submitted. The following is an excerpt:  ".... When the resistance at the last house in the southern encirclement in Warsaw was fought, 82 Polish legionaries, 57 soldiers of AK [...] were taken prisoners. Besides, there were 35 dead bodies. There is also a Polish woman among the prisoners-of-war, who was trained as a platoon commander in Ternopil"...." The Polish woman they referred to was a Polish Officer, Second Lieutenant Janina Blaszczak. In the period 1943-1944, she had enrolled in the military school at Ryazan, and completed her training at the top of her class. She became commander of the male mortar company and took part in the fighting at Czerniakow. She was wounded twice in battle and was captured by the Germans and transported to a prison hospital. Eventually she escaped with the help of Polish covert operatives of the Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army, or AK).  Polish author, Henryk Baczko recounted the fighting in Czerniakow as follows: ".....They fought not only with bullets but also with butts and fists. Anyone who saw Second Lieutenant Blaszczak at that time, with fair hair flowing in the wind, leading her lads to counter-attack, or throwing grenades, will never forget this sight. It seemed as if a Greek goddess descended on the bank of the Vistula to defend the beautiful work of art....."


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