1919-1939 Gdansk since 1946

Danzig, 1939-1946

On September 1st 1939, World War II - i.e. the German campaign against Poland - began in Danzig, where the German battleship took the Polish garrison on the Westerplatte under fire; another target of German aggression was the Polish Post Office in Danzig. The Poles were soon overwhelmed, the damage inflicted on the city's architecture limited.
Danzig was reannexed into Germany, as was much of the hinterland. The Polish and the Jewish population of Danzig suffered persecution; the STUTTHOF concentration camp was established near the city. For much of the war, Danzig was out of the range of allied bombers, and thus the damage to its buildings was limited. During the war, most of the men were drawn into military service; on the other hand the city came to lodge an ever-increasing refugee population, bombed-out elsewhere. In late 1944 and 1945, Danzig herself became target of air raids; with the Red Army approaching, the number of (German) refugees fleeing the advance of the Russian troops was ever-increasing. The city was conquered by the Red Army early in 1945; the old city was destroyed by 95 %. The Soviets soon handed the city administration over to the Poles.
The USSR had kept the Polish provinces she had occupied in September 1939; to compensate Poland, the Soviets handed German territory occupied by the Red Army over to Poland. The large majority of the ethnically German population of Danzig was forced to leave their home city; tenthousands of Poles moved in (70,000 by the end of 1945, others later). The remaining Germans were forbidden to speak German; the city was rechristened Gdansk. It is difficult to give an exact figure of the number of German Danzigers who had to find a new home, as the conditions in 1944-1945 were chaotic; the exact number of residents is unknown. Yet they clearly were the majority of the non-refugee population.
In March 1945 the city rejected the Soviet demand to surrender, and suffered severe destruction. The number of casualties is estimated between 100,000 and 300,000. On June 15th 1945, the Polish administration's regulations regarding the expulsion of the ethnic German population entered in force.

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1945 : Ruinenstadt Danzig und Wiederaufbau, (1945, city of ruins, and reconstruction), from Gdansk-Danzig
DOCUMENTS Nazi Propaganda Postcard : Danzig ist Deutsch (Danzig is German), from German Propaganda Archive
Flucht aus Danzig 1945, memoires of Gisela Splitt
Die alte Hafenstadt Danzig 1939-1940, images posted by K.H. Jessner
REFERENCE Hans Georg Siegler, Danzig - Chronik eines Jahrtausends (Danzig - Chronicle of a Millennium; a timeline), Düsseldorf : Droste 1990, in German
Article : Danzig, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.821-823 [G]
Article : Danzig, in : Americana Annual 1943 p.226 (on events of 1942) [G]
Article : Danzig, in : Americana Annual 1944 p.217 (on events of 1943) [G]
Article : Danzig, in : Americana Annual 1945 p.227 (on events of 1944) [G]
Article : Danzig, in : Americana Annual 1946 pp.230-231 (on events of 1945) [G]
Article : Danzig, in : Americana Annual 1947 p.203 (on events of 1946) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 12th 2002, last revised on August 24th 2007

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