December 2, 2018




The Black Procession took place on December 2, 1789. It was a demonstration held during the Great Sejm, by the burghers of Polish royal cities in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was inspired by Hugo Kołłątaj and led by Jan Dekert. Representatives from 141 towns under royal charter, all dressed in black, marched peacefully through the streets of Warsaw from the town hall, to the Royal Castle for an audience with King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. The burghers demanded that they receive similar privileges to those held by the szlachta (the nobility).  Among their demands was the right to buy and own land estates, to be represented in the Polish parliament (Sejm), and reforms to the urban law.  The Black Procession succeeded to influence the Great Sejm. A Commission for the Cities was established, and eventually the urban reforms were enacted with the passage of the Free Royal Cities Act (April 18, 1791).  The Act also granted the Commonwealths' townspeople personal security, the right to acquired property, as well as eligibility for military officers' commissions, public offices and the right for enoblement.


Polish Hero Died. Edward Rydz-Śmigły died on December 2, 1941 due to heart failure.  During the interwar period,  Smigly was greatly respected and admired and was regarded as a national hero for his exceptional record of service as a commander in the Polish Legions and the Polish-Soviet War of 1920. His popularity grew upon his appointment as Commander-in-Chief and Inspector General of the Polish Armed Forces following Marshal Józef Piłsudski‘s death in 1935. Rydz served in this capacity at the start of World War II. During the 1939 German invasion of Poland, Polish leaders and military divisions evacuated Poland through Romania, to reach France, to continue fighting the invaders.  However, Rydz-Smigly was interned  in Romania, along with many other Polish leaders. While there he created the Polish underground comprising officers who were loyal to the memory of Piłsudski.  By October 27, 1939, while still in Romania, he relinquished his post as Commander-in-Chief and Inspector-General of the Armed Forces, and the role was assumed by Władysław Sikorski, who was serving in the Polish government-in-exile in France (and after 1940 in the United Kingdom).  Rydz-Smigly's reputation was mixed:  in Russia and the communist-controlled People's Republic of Poland, he was denounced for his participation in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920, for the political repression of his government on far-left elements during the inter-war years, and particularly for his key role in the Polish defeat during the September Campaign in 1939.  In the West, Rydz-Smigly was criticized for having so-called "fled" the battlefield in 1939.  But they gave little or no recognition to the overwhelming circumstances regarding the invasion of Poland (from German and Soviet forces converging from all fronts).  Edward Rydz-Smigly was the recipient of many international awards, as well as Polish decorations, Order of the White Eagle, Commander and Knight of Virtuti Militari, Grand Cross, Grand Officer and Officer of Order of Polonia Restituta, four times Cross of Valour, Golden Cross of Merit and Cross of Independence with Swords.


Luftwaffe massive bombing raid.  On December 2, 1943 German aircraft attacked Bari (Italy) killing more than 1,000 people, and sinking 17 ships, including the John Harvey. The large explosion caused  liquid sulfur mustard to spill into the water, resulting in a cloud of sulfur mustard vapor to blow over the city. A total of 628 military victims were hospitalized due to exposure to the mustard gas, and by the end of the month, 83 of them had died. Civilian casualties may have been even greater, but could not be confirmed due to the massive evacuation that took place, as citizens sought shelter outside the city.  In August 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the shipment of chemical weapons containing mustard agent to the Mediterranean theater. By November 18, 1943 the John Harvey, commanded by Captain Elwin F. Knowles, sailed from Oran, Algeria, to Italy, carrying 2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs, each of which held 60–70 lb of sulfur mustard.


This year, the Jewish faithful all over the world are celebrating the festival of lights, Hanukah, on December 2, which lasts for eight days. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a menorah, which is a candelabrum with nine branches.  One branch is placed above and its candle is used to light the other eight candles. This unique candle is called the shamash, "attendant". Each night, one additional candle is lit by the shamash until all eight candles are lit together on the final night of the holiday.  This symbolizes the miracle of the menorah in 169 BC when the Jews rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem.  They only had enough oil for one day, but miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.   The lighting of each candle is followed by solemn prayers and hymns to praise God.  Stories are told about the Hanukah miracle, and children play games with the dreidel.  Most notable is the biblical story of Hannah and her seven sons.  They were all arrested, tortured and executed by Antiochus IV Epiphanes for refusing to bow to an idol. The Jewish faith remains an eternal symbol of enduring, steadfast faith and obedience to God.  Polish Greatness (Blog) wishes all its Jewish visitors a Happy Hanukah!

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