31 August 1939

Nazi Germany mounts a false flag attack on the Gleiwitz radio station, creating an excuse to attack Poland the following day, thus starting World War II in Europe.

Gleiwitz incident
Part of Operation Himmler
Radiostacja Gliwice - przemasban101.png
TypeFalse flag attack
Location
50°18′48″N 18°41′21″E / 50.313370°N 18.689037°E / 50.313370; 18.689037Coordinates: 50°18′48″N 18°41′21″E / 50.313370°N 18.689037°E / 50.313370; 18.689037
ObjectivePretext for the invasion of Poland
Date31 August 1939 (1939-08-31)
Executed byGerman SS
Gleiwitz Radio Tower is located in Germany
Gleiwitz Radio Tower
Gleiwitz Radio Tower
Location of the Gleiwitz radio tower in Nazi Germany (1937 borders)

The Gleiwitz incident (German: Überfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz; Polish: Prowokacja gliwicka) was a false flag attack on the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz, staged by Nazi Germany on the night of 31 August 1939. Along with some two dozen similar incidents, the attack was manufactured by Germany as a casus belli to justify the invasion of Poland, which began the next morning.[1] The attackers posed as Polish nationals.

During his declaration of war, Hitler did not mention the Gleiwitz incident but grouped all provocations staged by the SS as an alleged Polish assault on Germany. The Gleiwitz incident is the best-known action of Operation Himmler, a series of special operations undertaken by the Schutzstaffel (SS) to serve Nazi German propaganda at the outbreak of war. The operation was intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany to justify the invasion of Poland. Evidence for the Gleiwitz attack by the SS was provided by the German SS officer, Alfred Naujocks in 1945.[1]

Events at Gleiwitz

Much of what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the affidavit of SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks at the Nuremberg Trials. In his testimony, he stated that he organised the incident under orders from Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller, chief of the Gestapo.[2] On the night of 31 August, a small group of German operatives dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish (sources vary on the content of the message).[3] The operation was named "Grossmutter gestorben" (Grandmother died).[4] The operation was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of Polish anti-German saboteurs.[3][5]

To make the attack seem more convincing, the Gestapo murdered Franciszek Honiok, a 43-year-old unmarried German Silesian Catholic farmer, known for sympathising with the Poles. He had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo and dressed to look like a saboteur, then killed by lethal injection and given gunshot wounds. Honiok was left dead at the scene so that he appeared to have been killed while attacking the station. His corpse was then presented to the police and press as proof of the attack.[6] Several prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were drugged, shot dead on the site and their faces disfigured to make identification impossible.[3][5][7] The Germans referred to them by the code phrase "Konserve" (canned goods). Some sources incorrectly refer to the incident as Operation Canned Goods.[8] In an oral testimony at the trials, Erwin von Lahousen stated that his division of the Abwehr was one of two that were given the task of providing Polish Army uniforms, equipment and identification cards; he was later told by Wilhelm Canaris that people from concentration camps had been disguised in these uniforms and ordered to attack the radio stations.[9]

Context

Plaque on site commemorating the incident

The Gleiwitz incident was a part of a larger operation carried out by Abwehr and SS forces.[5] Other orchestrated incidents were conducted along the Polish-German border at the same time as the Gleiwitz attack, such as a house burning in the Polish Corridor and spurious propaganda. The project was called Operation Himmler and comprised incidents giving the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany.[10][8] German newspapers and politicians, including Adolf Hitler, had made accusations against Polish authorities for months before the 1939 invasion of organising or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland.[10][11] On 1 September, the day following the Gleiwitz attack, Germany launched Fall Weiss (Case White), the invasion of Poland, which precipitated World War II in Europe. Hitler cited the border incidents in a speech in the Reichstag on the same day, with three of them called very serious, as justification for his invasion of Poland.[10] Hitler had told his generals on 22 August, "I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth".[5][8]

International reactions

American correspondents were summoned to the scene the next day but no neutral parties were allowed to investigate the incident in detail and the international public was skeptical of the German version of the incident.[5][12]

In popular culture

There have been several adaptations of the incident in cinema. Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), directed by Gerhard Klein for DEFA studios (The Gleiwitz Case; English subtitles), is an East German film that reconstructs the events.[13]

Operacja Himmler (1979) is a Polish film that covers the events.[14]

Both Die Blechtrommel (1979), directed by Volker Schlöndorff and Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil (1985), directed by Jim Goddard, briefly include the incident.[15][16]

It was also mentioned in a video game; Codename: Panzers (2004), which stirred up controversy in Poland where the game was briefly discussed in Polish media as anti-Polish falsification of history, before the issue was cleared up as a case of poor reporting.[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Gleiwitz casus belli. 2018. Nazi government under Hitler's leadership staged the Gleiwitz incident as a casus belli for the invasion of Poland the following morning
  2. ^ "20 Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 4". Avalon Project. 20 December 1945. Retrieved 12 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Christopher J. Ailsby, The Third Reich Day by Day, Zenith Imprint, 2001, ISBN 0-7603-1167-6, Google Print, p. 112
  4. ^ The World War II's first victim. A farmer was murdered as part of a Nazi plot to provide an excuse to invade Poland, the story of a man forgotten by history. By Bob Graham, 29 Aug 2009. The Telegraph.
  5. ^ a b c d e James J. Wirtz, Roy Godson, Strategic Denial and Deception: The Twenty-First Century Challenge, Transaction Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-7658-0898-6, Google Print, p.100
  6. ^ "Museum in Gliwice: What happened here?". Muzeum.gliwice.pl. Archived from the original on 4 November 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  7. ^ Thomas Laqueur, 'Devoted to Terror,' in London Review of Books, Vol. 37 No. 18–24 September 2015, pp. 9–16.
  8. ^ a b c Bradley Lightbody, The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis, Routledge, 2004; ISBN 0-415-22405-5, Google Print, p.39
  9. ^ "20 Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 2; Friday, 30 November 1945". Avalon Project. Retrieved 8 November 2012.
  10. ^ a b c "Address by Adolf Hitler". archives of the Avalon Project at the Yale Law School. 1 September 1939. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Holocaust Educational Resource". Nizkor. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  12. ^ Steven J. Zaloga, Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg, Google Print, p. 39, Osprey Publishing, 2002; ISBN 1-84176-408-6
  13. ^ Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), IMDb.com; accessed 4 June 2015.
  14. ^ Operacja Himmler (TV 1979), IMDb.com; accessed 4 June 2015.
  15. ^ Die Blechtrommel (1979), IMDb.com; accessed 4 June 2015.
  16. ^ Hitler's S.S.: Portrait in Evil (TV 1985), IMDb.com; accessed 4 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Skrytykowali grę, choć jej nie widzieli". Wiadomosci.gazeta.pl. 23 August 2004. Retrieved 18 May 2012.

Further reading

  • John Toland, Adolf Hitler : The Definitive Biography, ISBN 0-385-42053-6.
  • Dennis Whitehead, "The Gleiwitz Incident", After the Battle Magazine Number 142 (March 2009)
  • Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978.
  • Spieß / Lichtenstein Unternehmen Tannenberg. Der Anlass zum Zweiten Weltkrieg, Wiesbaden und München 1979.
  • Polak-Springer, Peter (April 2013). "'Jammin' with Karlik': The German-Polish 'Radio War' and the Gleiwitz 'Provocation', 1925–1939". European History Quarterly. SagePub. 43 (2): 279–300. doi:10.1177/0265691413478095. S2CID 145321954. Lay summary.

External links

31 August 1888

Jack the Ripper’s first confirmed victim, Mary Ann Nichols is murdered.

On 31 August 1888, the body of a homeless women, brutally murdered and mutilated, was found in a Whitechapel backstreet. Here, as part of our ‘big day in history’ series, Dominic Sandbrook explores the discovery of Jack the Ripper’s first victim, Mary Ann Nichols.

As London’s bells rang in the last day of August 1888, rain was falling. It had been one of the wettest summers in living memory, and there was thunder in the air. On the horizon a fierce red glow seared the sky above Shadwell, where a huge fire had broken out in the dry dock.

Some time between one and two o’clock that morning, a woman called Mary Ann Nichols, known to her friends as ‘Polly’, was thrown out of the kitchen of the shabby lodging house at 18 Thrawl Street, Spitalfields. Fate had dealt Polly a rough hand. A 43-year-old mother of five children, she was separated from her husband and now drifted from one workhouse to another, scratching a meagre existence from handouts and casual prostitution.

Short of the four pence she needed to pay for a bed in the lodging house, Polly once more found herself on the street. “Never mind,” she said, gesturing at the velvet-trimmed straw bonnet she was wearing. “I’ll soon get my doss money. See what a jolly bonnet I’ve got now.” The implication was clear: she was heading back out to find a punter.

An hour or so later, Polly was seen by one of her roommates on the corner of Whitechapel Road, clearly drunk. She had made her doss money three times over, she boasted, but had already spent it on gin and was off to make some more.

That was the last time Mary Ann Nichols was seen alive. At 3.40am, a carter found her lying in the darkened doorway of a stable. Her throat had been slit and her body horribly mutilated. The murderer who would later be dubbed ‘Jack the Ripper’ had claimed his first victim.

31 August 1897

Thomas Edison get a patent for his Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.

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Thomas Edison receives a patent for his movie camera, the Kinetograph. Edison had developed the camera and its viewer in the early 1890s and staged several demonstrations.

The camera was based on photographic principles discovered by still-photograph pioneers Joseph Nicephone Niepce and Louis Daguerre of France. In 1877, inventor Edward Muybridge developed a primitive form of motion pictures when Leland Stanford, governor of California, invited him to develop photo studies of animals in motion. Muybridge developed an ingenious system for photographing sequential motion, setting up 24 cameras attached to trip wires stretched across a racetrack. As the horse tripped each wire, the shutters snapped. The resulting series of photos could be projected as something resembling a motion picture. This breakthrough in the early 1870s inspired another student of animal motion, Etienne Jules Marey of France, to develop in 1882 a rotating camera rather like a rifle, where different pictures were taken in a rapid sequence by a rotating cartridge.

Unlike these earlier cameras, Edison’s Kinetoscope and Kinetograph used celluloid film, invented by George Eastman in 1889. In February 1893, Edison built a small movie studio that could be rotated to capture the best available sunlight. He showed the first demonstration of his films—featuring three of his workers pretending to be blacksmiths—in May 1893.

The invention inspired French inventors Louis and August Lumiere to develop a movie camera and projector, the Cinematographe, that allowed a large audience to view a film. Several other cameras and projectors were also developed in the late 1800s.

In 1898, Edison sued American Mutoscope and Biograph Pictures, claiming that the studio had infringed on his patent for the Kinetograph. He had entrusted the development of the machine to his assistant, W.L.K. Dickson, who left Edison’s company in 1895 and helped found Biograph. However, in 1902, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that although Thomas Edison had patented the Kinetograph, he only owned rights to the sprocket system that moved perforated film through the camera, not the entire concept of the movie camera.

In 1909, Edison and Biograph joined forces with other filmmakers to create the Motion Pictures Patents Company, an organization devoted to protecting patents and keeping other players from entering the film industry. In 1917, the Supreme Court dissolved the trust, and the Edison Company left the film industry the same year.