An old English proverb says that when a war breaks out, the truth becomes its first victim. In September 1939, the Poles broadened the British experience, convincingly proving that the first winner in a war is a lie.
The tales of the September campaign made millions of Poles believe in the breakthrough of the Western Front, in the bombing of Berlin and other German cities, in the successes of the Polish cavalry, in a completely different war. She forced the Poles to fight with faith in victory, while the war inevitably led to defeat.
“The enemy, wishing to break our moral resistance, tries to spread false newsportraying the situation in the darkest colors ",
- said in the military messages of the Polish radio.
Thus, people knew as much as they could read in the press or hear on the radio. The picture of the war emanating from these sources is a completely forgotten and perhaps extremely important image of September 1939. It is clear that the morale of the belligerent people was important. But at the same time it is scary to think what would happen if they knew that everything was lost from the very beginning.
on September 2
Already on the first day of the war, the official communiqué of the High Command, published in the press, reported that Poland had lost only two aircraft. At the same time, it was reported that the airspace of Germany was controlled by the British Air Force. Krakow newspaper "Tempo of the Day" September 2 reported:
In response to the treacherous attack by the German aviation on the cities of Poland, Polish pilots bombed Berlin and Gdansk.
From the September 2 communiqué of the High Command, which reported that the Poles had lost only 12 aircraft in two days, it could be concluded that the Polish losses in the campaign to Berlin were relatively small. Poland's airborne victory over Danzig was all the more valuable because, as the press reported that day, "Gauleiter Forster announced the annexation of Gdansk to the Reich".
The announcements the next day were dominated by news of the entry of England and France into the war. The enthusiasm of the crowd in front of the British Embassy in Warsaw seemed to have no end. The Polish press reported on a "united front of freedom against German barbarism." The very next day, in an official radio broadcast, it was announced that the French army had broken through the German front in seven places and was advancing deep into Germany.
on September 6
"Express Poranny" of September 6, confirming this very favorable news for Poland, supplemented it with information about the raid of Polish bombers on Berlin. For obvious reasons, no details were reported, but Polish Radio was able to establish that "All our planes in the amount of 30 returned to the airbases safe and sound".
If someone of little faith doubted the development of events that would be successful for Poland, then he had to believe Stefan Stazhinsky, the heroic civilian commissioner for the defense of Warsaw, who on September 9, 1939 in one of the historical appeals to the public said:
Germany, wishing to defend itself in the west, must withdraw its troops from our front in order to transfer them to the Anglo-French front. They have already transferred six divisions, many bomber squadrons and armored units to the Western Front.
A week later, it turned out that no one had transferred a single soldier to the Anglo-French front, and there was no front, except for the tragic Polish front. When the Soviet units crossed the borders of Poland, no one even tried to create a front in the east, and the government simply went abroad.
So, counting on the solemn assurances of the British and French, stuck in ignorance and delusion that the army of Marshal Smigly Rydz is a completely modern army - which was repeated like a mantra before the war - the Poles lived an illusion. When, amid the roar of bombs falling on Polish cities, they bought newspapers from newsstands, they read not only about the still defending Westerplatte, but also that the Allies fought "for our and your freedom", as it should be for the Allies, and that that Mussolini's Italy refused to Hitler. And even that the disgraced dictator, like the new Napoleon Bonaparte, allegedly took refuge on the island of Elba. That is, the war was already won then?
Now it is difficult to assess whether this propaganda has brought the expected benefits to their leaders? Were there units that, believing in success on other fronts, fought with great zeal and determination? Did the civilian population become more disciplined from this?
On the other hand, one can, without any doubt, assume that in many cases, false propaganda brought only losses and troubles.
By September 3, the border battle was lost and the German tank the groups moved to Warsaw. The idea of "lightning war" celebrated its triumph in Poland. The Germans, closing the defeated units in the so-called "cauldrons", outstripped the Polish attempts to create a new defensive line on the line of the Warta and Vidavka rivers on September 4–5, and on September 6, near Tomaszow Mazowiecki, defeated the only Polish reserve army.
On that day, several high-ranking officers, together with General Kazimir Sosnkovsky and Colonel Tadeusz Tomashevsky, arguing that "tomorrow the guns in the middle of the city will rumble", demanded to tell the Poles the truth. There were fears that panic and uncontrollable behavior could arise in Warsaw, “living beyond reality”. Colonel Roman Umyastovsky was assigned to inform Poland about the true course of hostilities.
Umyastovsky was an experienced line commander, one of the few top Polish officers with a diploma from a higher military school. Before the war, he was the commander of the 37th Infantry Regiment in Kutno, a man of great intelligence and significant literary creativity, a patron of culture and, importantly, a man of utmost honesty. Perhaps this was precisely what he owed to his unexpected and undesirable appointment as head of the propaganda department at the headquarters of the commander-in-chief. His voice on Polish Radio in the first days of September recalled:
Soldiers, shoot slowly, every shot must be accurate. Shoot without haste.
First of all, Umyastovsky met with Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz and informed him about the spontaneous, indiscriminate evacuation of people from the areas of hostilities. According to him, from 150 to 200 thousand people rushed to Warsaw, ready to fight, besieging military institutions.
The commander-in-chief knew about this and answered: now they must cross the Vistula, or even further to the east. I must tell them - there are no rifles, but you are holding on.
Colonel Umyastovsky, honestly carrying out the order of his commander-in-chief, did just that. At about midnight on September 6, he announced over the microphones of Polish radio that the Germans would appear near Warsaw in the near future, and urged the inhabitants of the capital to actively participate in the construction of fortifications and barricades. At the same time, he announced that people capable of fighting should immediately leave the capital and head east, where they would be drafted into the army.
And something happened that should have happened under such circumstances. After a week of brainwashing with false propaganda, the deceived people panicked. From 200 to 300 thousand people left Warsaw that night. They rushed disorganized and aimlessly to the east, into the unknown, under the bombs Luftwaffe and under the tracks of German tanks. The September apocalypse of Warsaw began.
Historians unjustly blamed Colonel Umyastovsky for this tragic episode. In fact, first of all, the false myth of strength, cohesion and readiness, stubbornly supported by the September fabrications, is to blame, even when the government and the highest state bodies fled from Warsaw towards the Romanian border.
on September 10
On Sunday 10 September, in the already besieged Warsaw, "Courier Varshavsky" in a black box in the first column published an obituary for the defenders of Westerplatte:
In memory of the heroes of Westerplatte. On the eighth day of the Polish-German war, September 8 this year, at 11:40 am [/ i] in the morning, after an incredibly heroic battle, the last soldiers of the Westerplatte garrison died in combat positions, defending the Polish Baltic.
It was another September fairy tale.
And not even because the date of surrender is incorrectly indicated - September 7. The implication of this lie is that the death of more than 200 defenders (actually only 15 soldiers) of Westerplatte should have sparked the ire of the continuing fighting Poles and the desire to strike back. Constants Ildefons Galczynski, believing, like the rest of Poland, in this fairy tale, wrote a touching poem:
When the days flared up
The fire of war is engulfed
They walked in ranks to the sky
Soldiers of Westerplatte.
It was only many years later that it became clear that the legendary history of the Westerplatte defense needed significant adjustments.
According to the latest data from historians, on the second day of the defense, the commander of the Polish outpost, Major Heinrich Sukharsky, decided to capitulate. It's hard to say why. Historians, like the officers of Westerplatte, suspected a nervous breakdown. Major Sukharsky ordered the burning of secret documents and code books, and then intended to hand over to Westerplatte. His orders were opposed by officers. The commandant was tied up and isolated from the soldiers in the basement. The command passed to his deputy for line affairs, Captain Franchisk Dombrowski. This sensational and, as it turned out, also scandalous story takes an extremely important place in the context of the September lie.
Perhaps the fact is that Sukharsky realized the pointlessness of protecting more than 24 hours of a Polish piece of land in the middle of the German elements. He could not count on any help, could not know that after the first assault the Germans would decide to attack only a week later (the daily bloody battles known from literature are another September tale).
And yet he was faced with a mutiny by his unit. Why?
Well, it is possible that, having heard on the radio on September 2 that the Poles were bombing Berlin, and the British troops landed near Gdynia, the Westerplatte garrison decided to continue the battle. Even against the orders of the commander. For who capitulates to the obvious imminent victory?
When they surrendered on September 7, in anticipation of the decisive assault by the Germans at Westerplatte, they already knew that they had been deceived. There was no English landing. In Germany there was no breakthrough of the Siegfried Line, there was no uprising against Hitler.
But in the rest of Poland, everything remained unchanged.
on September 12
From the newspaper "Khvylya"for example, one could find out that on the Western Front "the Germans are fleeing in panic." The French were reported to have broken through the Siegfried Line and were constantly advancing; the enemy tried desperately to resist. True, on September 7, the French launched their offensive in the west on a limited scale, but broke into enemy territory for only 20 kilometers, and then, standing in front of the main line of fortifications, stopped the attack. And on September 12, the Allies decided at a conference in Abbeville that there would be no further attacks.
On the other hand, the Polish press on the pages of its newspapers boldly compensated for the inaction of the allies on land, sea and in the air, declaring to everyone and everyone that honor is the highest value not only for Poles. Not only did the French beat the Germans, but the powerful British fleet also made its first strides. Moreover, 30 Polish bombers took to the skies over the German capital. Allegedly, they were preparing for a war in South America. Even in the Middle East - they knew it for sure - they had to take up weapon, 100-strong Jewish army in Palestine stands next to England to fight Nazi barbarism.
The worse things went on the battlefields, the better they went on the pages of the newspapers.
"Express Poranny" broadcast that the Polish cavalry entered East Prussia, and the British pilots destroyed the German naval bases. "The Germans fell out of the fire into the fire", the newspaper reported. BUT "Zennik Polish" from September 10, he frightened Hitler with a six million (!) Polish army, which at any moment - of course, after mobilization - could attack the Third Reich simultaneously with a strong French army.
on September 13
The day after the conference in Abbeville, evening "Hour" from September 13 on the front page wrote that the impulse of the German offensive in Poland was halted - for almost two weeks "the French were moving forward", and the Germans ran out of aviation fuel. In addition, German cities were badly hit by French and British air raids. The final celebration was near!
on September 14
From the same newspaper in the September 14 issue, readers could learn that Hitler failed the blitzkrieg, which causes great concern in the "den of the beast." The Germans take to the streets, demanding the trial of Hitler and his company, and Germany is engulfed in massive strikes. According to the German plan, on September 8, Warsaw was to be occupied, and on the 10th, Hitler was supposed to stand at the Warsaw Castle, as it was in Hradcany after the Czech occupation, reported "Hour"... But I forgot to report that on September 14 the last center of organized resistance over the Bzura River died out.
on September 18
Even on September 18, the newspapers wrote about further successes at the front.
The combined Polish-British fleet was to win the "great battle" of Gdynia, and pilots from France and Great Britain had already captured the Polish skies. Moreover, as one could read, the Germans insidiously spread "rumors" about the alleged escape of the Polish government from the war-torn country, but in fact the Red Army entered the war shoulder to shoulder with the Polish Army.
In fact, on September 17, the border with Romania was crossed by, among others, President Ignacy Moschchitsky, Prime Minister Felitsian Skladkovsky-Slava and, of course, Marshal Smigly-Rydz. For the fact that he left the fighting soldiers, an avalanche of criticism subsequently fell upon him, but in September 1939 only "Express Poranny" commented on this unfortunate fact with an indignant headline:
"We were deceived!"
The only question left is whether the heroism of the soldier deceived by his commanders is heroism?
And, perhaps, that September lie still became a lesson for those who know history and understand that their people cannot be deceived, even for the good.
Sources and literature:
R. Umiastowski. Dziennik wojenny 18 IX 1939 - 19 IX 1945, Wydawnictwo DiG, 2009.
F. Kłaput. Wspomnienia kaprala z września 1939... Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1983.
Text Songs of Westerplatte Soldiers cited from the publication: Ya. Pshimanovsky. Four troopers and a dog... Military Publishing, 1970.