September 8, 2018




Jewish Freedoms: The Statute of Kalisz was decreed by Boleslaus the Pious, Duke of Greater Poland, on September 8, 1264, which guaranteed safety and liberties to the Jewish people residing in his jurisdiction.  This law was unprecedented in Europe, and was ratified by subsequent Polish kings, in 1334 by Casimir III of Poland, in 1453 by Casimir IV of Poland, and in 1539 by Sigismund I of Poland.  Among the thirty-six clauses of the statute were:  1. Should a Jew be taken to court, not just only a Christian must testify against him, but also a Jew, in order for the case to be considered valid......14. Christian destroying cemetery except normal penalty will lose assets......30. ... No Christian may summon any Jew into the ecclesiastical court in any way whatsoever......No Christian is to accuse a Jew of blood libel....."


Battle of Orsha:  This was one of a long series of battles between the armies of the Russians and Polish-Lithuanians for control of the Kievan Rus lands. Shortly after dawn on September 8, 1514, Ivan Chelyadnin, the commander of the Muscovites gave the order to attack both flanks of the Polish-Lithuanian forces. The other pincer attack was commanded by Prince Bulgakov-Golitsa. Despite their objectives, their attack failed and the Muscovites had to withdraw to their initial starting position.  Though Chelyadnin felt confident of winning, his preoccupation with his own troops resulted in the failure of establishing a coordinated defence against a counterattack by Lithuanians, and the heavy cavalry of the Polish Hussars. The wars continued until 1520. In 1522 a peace treaty was signed in which Lithuania had to cede about a fourth of its possessions and land to the Muscovites in the former Kievan Rus. 


Jerzy Dąbrowski(dob) was the lead designer of the famous PZL.37 Łoś medium bomber, which was the most advanced fighter in the world for its time. Its flying capacity was evident, due to its large elliptical wings, aerodynamic fuselage, and all metal body.  The PZL could carry more than 5000 lb of bombs (2500 kg) over a flight path of about 900 miles (1500 km); or carry 2200 lb (1000 kg) over 1400 miles. More than 100 were produced by the time that World War Two broke out.  Before the Germans invaded Poland there were only 36 Los bombers in active service, 18 in reserve, and about a dozen in training. The remainder of the aircraft was in the process of manufacture at factories in Warsaw and Mielec. (Editors note: Some historians have hastily concluded that the Polish Air Force "did not have a clear philosophy for the use of such plane" which I believe is preposterous. The major problem was lack of sufficient funds. It is not difficult to understand that the Second Polish Republic, whose sovereignty was restored by the Versailles Treaty after 123 years of oblivion, would suffer monetary concerns in its nascent military defense budget.  Consequently, the weapons, planes, and tanks (the 7TP) were being produced slowly and could have reached capacity by 1942, but the war broke out. Moreover, while the Allies were fighting the "Phoney War", Polish armed forces were mobilized immediately and were the first to fight against the Nazi and Soviet invasions.)


The Battle of Gdynia began. It was one of the battles during the German invasion of Poland. On September 4 the Germans isolated the Polish coast from the mainland, forcing the Polish Armia Pomorze to retreat. By September 8 the German forces began a direct attack on the city of Gdynia. The fighting was intensive near the cities of  Puck and Wejherowo, but the Germans succeeded in pushing the Poles back towards the sea.  The Polish forces were ordered to retreat by Col. Dabek in order to minimize civilian casualties. By September 14, the Germans captured Gdynia  after bitter fighting. Polish casualties were approximately 2,000. The Poles launched a counterattack on September 19 in a last ditch effort to take Gydnia, but it failed.  Colonel Dabek fought courageously on the front lines and was wounded in battle.  He gave the order to cease fire, but instead of surrendering, he committed suicide. 

The Siege of Warsaw began. German troops launched a massive land invasion on Warsaw after the Luftwaffe had conducted several days of devastating aerial bombardments on the city (they targeted military facilities, the airport, as well as markets, hospitals and schools). Casualties were very heavy. The first German armored units entered the Wola suburbs located in the south-western part of Warsaw.  Polish forces consisted of the Polish Pursuit Brigade, equipped with 54 fighter aircraft ( PZL P.7 and PZL P.11 ) while Polish army divisions manned the 86 pieces of anti-aircraft artillery, and numerous other anti-aircraft machine guns. Polish defences had already crumbled when on September 5,  Polish military command ordered 11 AA batteries to withdraw from Warsaw towards eastern cities (Lublin, Brześć and Lwów). Consequently, the Germans redirected more of their bombers on the city Polish civilians volunteered in the construction of many field fortifications (ie barricades) throughout the Warsaw, in which Polish men, women and children participated.  One of these barricades, erected at the intersection of Opaczewska and Grójecka streets, was defended by the 4th company of the 40th "Children of Lwów" Regiment.  A monument was erected on that spot to commemorate them.  With weapons in dire short supply, the Poles used turpentine, which was ignited and thrown under approaching German tanks.  Though the Germans broadcast reports that they captured Warsaw, their initial attacks were repelled. Warsaw was under siege until September 28, when the Polish division under the command of General Walerian Czuma, capitulated to the Germans. The next day, about 140,000 Polish soldiers were taken as POWs.

Massacre in Ciepielów:  Just days after the Germans invaded Poland, the village of Dabrowa was the site of mass execution.  On September 8, 1939, upon the order of Nazi German Oberst Walter Wessel, approximately 300 Polish POWs from the 74th Infantry Regiment of Upper Silesia were shot. In December 1941, the Germans set up a small ghetto in Ciepielów into which they forced 600 Jewish people of the town. By October 1942 the Jews were all deported to gas chambers at Treblinka.  The ghetto was later used to conduct mass executions of approximately 500 Poles.  During Operation Tempest of 1944, the  village was liberated by the Armia Krajowa, the Polish Home Army. (Since then, a ceremony is held every year in September in Ciepielow to commemorate the victims.)


Battle of the Dukla Pass, which began on September 8, 1944 was a series of ferocious battles between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union over the contested borderland of Poland and Slovakia.  One of the biggest battles occurred around Hill 534 in the northwest from the town of Dukla, which lasted from September 10 to 20 during which control of the Hill changed more than 20 times.  Despite heavily fortified German positions,  the Soviet forces were able to reach Slovakia, though it took almost a month; they seized Dukla on September 21st followed by the capture on October 6th of the area of then-Czechoslovak state border.  However, the Soviet operation did not end there. The battle shifted to Eastern Slovakia, as the Soviets tried to outflank and push back the German forces.  Soviet and German forces clashed in the "Valley of Death", located south of the pass and west of the village of Dobroslava.  The battle scene was described as a miniature reenactment of the great tank battle of Kursk.  By the end of October, Soviet and Czechoslovak forces entered Svidník and by November 25, 1944, Hill 532, was secured despite heavy German positions.

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