Westerplatte is a peninsula in Gdańsk, Poland. It is very well known, because the first battle of the II World War took place there.
From 1926 till 1939 Westerplatte was the transit depot. The League of Nations allowed Poland to have there 88 soldiers. This number increased to 182 by September 1939. Soldiers were poorly equipped with weapons and what is more there were no real fortifications, only a few concrete guardhouses hidden in the forest.
On August 25, 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein came to Gdansk with a supposedly courtesy visit. Schleswig-Holstein was an old ship, but it was heavily armed and prepared for an attack on Westerplatte. Below deck it was carrying a company of Kriegsmarine.
On September 1 1939 at 04:45 local time Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish garrison without warning. German attackers were stopped by the Polish defenders, from concealed and well-positioned firing points that caught them in a crossfire. Another two assaults that day were repelled as well, with the Germans suffering unexpectedly high losses.
Repeated attacks by 3500 German soldiers were repelled by the 180 Polish soldiers for seven days. Cut off, with no reinforcements or chance of resupply, Polish soldiers continued the defense of Westerplatte. On September 7 – due to lack of ammunition and supplies – Major Henryk Sucharski the commander of Polish garnison decided to surrender.
Later the Nazis transported to Westerplatte Polish prisoners to clean up the area after the battles. In March 1940, Nazis established on Westerplatte sub-camp of the Stutthof concentration camp. It was disbanded in May 1941 after the demolition.
The ruins of the defenders’ barracks and guardhouses are still on Westerplatte peninsula. After the war, one of the guardhouses was converted into a museum. In 1966 a Monument of the Coast Defenders was unveiled to honor Polish soldiers. It is 25 meters high. Its shape resembles a jagged bayonet stuck into the ground.
On 1 September 2009 the outdoor exhibition “Westerplatte: Resort – Bastion – Symbol” prepared by World War II Museum in Gdańsk was opened. The history of Westerplatte were presented with more than 200 plans, drawings, photographs and documents found in almost 30 institutions in the country and abroad.