December 16, 2018

DECEMBER 16 - DAILY CHRONICLES OF HISTORY

DECEMBER 16

1922

Assassination of Polish President:   Just five days after taking office, Gabriel Narutowicz was assassinated on December 16, 1922, while attending an art exhibit in the National Gallery of Art “Zachęta”. The assassin was a painter, Eligiusz Niewiadomski, who had connections with the right wing National Democratic Party, He was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. He was executed outside the Warsaw Citadel on January 31, becoming a martyr to right-wing extremists.  During the elections in 1922, Narutowicz was supported by the center-left, in particular the Polish People's Party and by national minorities. He was subjected to harsh criticism from the National Democrats and far-right Endecja party. Strong zealots, ultra-Catholic unions and nationalists accused him of political indifference and for sympathy towards the Jews. Upon defeating the lead candidate Maurycy Zamoyski, Gabriel Narutowicz was elected the first president of the Second Polish Republic. In the first days of his presidency, Narutowicz knew that he did not have a majority government and as a gesture offered the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs to his rival Zamoyski.


1938

Zbigniew Eugeniusz Religa (dob) was a Polish cardiac surgeon and politician. Religa performed the first successful heart transplant in Poland in 1987. The patient was Tadeusz Żytkiewicz (who died in 2017) outliving the surgeon who gave him a new heart.  Dr. Religa passed away on March 8, 2009.  The surgery lasted for 23 hours. After the surgery an American photographer, James Stanfield from National Geographic, captured the famous, gripping photograph of Religa monitoring his patient's vitals on medical equipment. Religa pursued a career in politics. In 1993, he became a member of the Polish senate and was re-elected in 2001. As the centre and right wing of the Polish political landscape has been in constant flux ever since democracy was reinstated, Religa was a member of several parties and organizations. In 1993, he co-founded the Nonpartisan Bloc for Support of Reforms (BBWR) which gathered behind president Lech Wałęsa and was its leader in 1994. In 1995, Religa became the chairman of the short-lived party "The Republicans" founded by renegade BBWR members who refused to back Wałęsa in the presidential elections of 1995. However, Religa refused to run for president himself, and the Republicans eventually disintegrated when they failed to enter the Sejm in 1997.


1941

Nazi German Cabinet Meeting.  During a cabinet meeting, Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland, stated - "Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourselves of all feeling of pity. We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them and wherever it is possible in order to maintain there the structure of the Reich as a whole..."  Hans Frank was Nazi Germany's chief jurist in the occupied Poland "General Government" territory. He was directly responsible for the mas murder of Jews during World War II.  He was captured by American troops on May 3,1945, at Tegernsee in southern Bavaria.   During the trial he converted, guided by Fr Sixtus O'Connor OFM, to the Roman Catholic faith, and claimed to have had a series of so-called religious experiences. Frank voluntarily surrendered 43 volumes of his personal diaries to the Allies, the contents of which were used against him as evidence of his crimes. At the Nuremberg trials, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and was executed.


The Nazi Germans created the Brześć Ghetto on December 16, 1941. By mid-October of the following year, most of the approximately 20,000 Jewish inhabitants of Brześć were murdered.  On the orders of Karl Eberhard Schongarth,  over 5,000 were executed at the Brest Fortress while the rest were sent to the secluded forest of the Bronna Góra extermination site, under the guise of 'resettlement'. (Note:  In September 1939 during the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, the town of Brześć (Brest) was invaded by the German troops who promptly handed the town over to the Russians during the German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk  (September 22, 1939). The entire province was soon annexed by the Soviet Union following mock elections by the NKVD secret police. The mass deportations of Poles and Jews to Siberia followed.  At the close of WWII, Stalin demanded that Poland's borders be redrawn and that Brześć be incorporated into the Belorussian SSR of the Soviet Union. The remaining Polish population was expelled and resettled back to a new Poland before the end of 1946. The Jewish community was never restored.


1980

The Monument to the fallen Shipyard Workers 1970  was unveiled on December 16, 1980 near the entrance to what was then the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk, Poland. It commemorates the 42 people killed during the Coastal cities events in December 1970. It was created in the aftermath of the Gdańsk Agreement and is the first monument to the victims of communist oppression to be erected in a communist country. Lech Walesa, leader and founder of Solidarnosc, referred to this enormous steel structure as “a harpoon driven through the body of a whale. No matter how hard the whale struggles, it can never get rid of it.”  The monument is marked by a poignant quote by Czeslaw Milosz, a famous Polish poet. It reads, "You who have harmed simple man, mocking him with your laughter, you kill him, someone else will be born, and your deeds and words will be written down". (Read December 14, 1970)


1981

The Pacification of Wujek:   On December 16, 1981,  three days after the imposition of martial law in Poland, the Polish police and army converged on the Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice, Poland,  to put a stop to the strike action taken by the miners. It culminated in the massacre of nine of the striking miners.  Pro-Solidarity miners were demonstrating against the declaration of the martial law ordered by General Jaruzelski, and were dispersed by the troops of the Polish army and police.  The forces consisted of eight companies of riot police (ZOMO, supported by ORMO (police reservists) and NOMO) equipped with seven water cannons, and three companies of military infantry fighting vehicles (each of 10 vehicles) and one company of tanks. The miners tried to fight them off using only their tools. During the melee, many strikers were injured but managed to injure 41 of the troops, including 11 severely.  Ultimately, a special platoon of ZOMO was called in and were ordered to open fire and "shoot to kill" the strikers.  Nine strikers died - Jan Stawisiński, Joachim Gnida, Józef Czekalski, Krzysztof Giza, Ryszard Gzik, Bogusław Kopczak, Andrzej Pełka, Zbigniew Wilk and Zenon Zając. and 21 others were wounded. One of the miners died in hospital 20 days later from severe head wounds. (nb:  In consequence, on December 23, 1981, the United States imposed economic sanctions against the People's Republic of Poland. In 1982 the United States suspended most favored nation trade status until 1987 and vetoed Poland's application for membership in the International Monetary Fund.)


2006

Polish Doctor Saved Jews:  Dr. Eugene Lazowski born Eugeniusz Sławomir Łazowski died on December 16, 2006.  He was a Polish medical doctor who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by creating a fake epidemic which played on German phobias about hygiene.  He risked the death penalty, imposed by the Germans on Poles who try to help the Jews.  He used a medical discovery by Matulewicz, by which healthy people could be injected with a vaccine that would make them test positive for typhus, but without experiencing the disease. Dr. Lazowski applied this technique and created a fake outbreak of epidemic typhus in and around the town of Rozwadow (now in Stalowa Wola). The Germans quanrantined the area, thus saving about 8,000 Polish Jews from certain death in the concentration camps.






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