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Westerplatte – where II World War started

Westerplatte

Westerplatte is a large protective peninsula shielding Gdańsk’s Nowy Port to its south. Its significant defensive role was proven on September 1, 1939, at 4.45 am, when “Schleswig-Holstein“, a German battleship, opened fire and thus started the Second World War.

Fight for Westerplatte

According to the initial optimistic assumptions of the command, the Polish post was to last 12 hours until the support arrived. The battle ended after seven days when faced with unavoidable death, Poles took advantage of the possibility of honorary surrender. Ultimately, Polish losses amounted to 15 killed and 50 wounded. The Germans lost up to 400 dead and injured. However, the seven-day fight of 200 soldiers from Westerplatte against the much better armed and air force-supported Wehrmacht soldiers (about 4.5 thousand) became a symbol of desperate but heroic resistance against the Nazis. And thus, the myth of the Polish soldier’s perseverance, determination, and heroism grew stronger and stronger. The battle had primarily political rather than tactical importance, and the lengthy defense surprised both sides of the conflict. Polish Radio repeatedly broadcasted the phrase that made Westerplatte an important symbol: “Westerplatte broni się jeszcze” (“Westerplatte fights on”). And hence, Westerplatte became a symbol of resistance to the invasion.

I don’t think there is a kid in polish school that doesn’t know about the heroic defense of Westerplatte. We all had to learn to recite the poem written by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński during the September campaign called: “Pieśń o żołnierzach z Westerplatte” (“A song about the soldiers of Westerplatte”). 

Kiedy się wypełniły dni

i przyszło zginąć latem,

prosto do nieba czwórkami szli

żołnierze z Westerplatte.

When their days had been filled

and it was time to die in the summer,

They went straight to heaven in a coach-and-four,

the soldiers of Westerplatte.

Check out this link for the full version of the poem in Polish and English.

Westerplatte today

Nowadays, Westerplatte is a charming windy location with footpaths among shady trees and grassy areas. While walking around the site, you can spot the remains of the bombed-out barracks and tombstones. Many information boards in the area explain how the invasion took place and its significance for Gdańsk and the rest of the country. 

In the central spot of the Westerplatte Peninsula, you will find a 25-meter Monument to the Coastal Defenders, set on a 20-meter mound, which was erected in honor of the soldiers who defended the site.

In 1987, Pope John Paul II visited Gdynia and Gdańsk, and during that visit, he referred to the heroic defense of the peninsula. I think it is worth recalling his words that seem especially relevant today.

Pope words Westerplatte

Each of you, young friends, also finds some Westerplatte in your life. A dimension of tasks that must be undertaken and completed. Some order of truths and values that must be maintained, defended, and defended – for oneself and others.

So what values are important in your life enough to fight for?

How to get there

Buses

Westerplatte can be reached by public buses (Lines 106, 138, 606), which run every day of the week. The lines end and start running at the Dworzec Główny stop. 

The current bus timetables can be found on the website of the Public Transport Authority in Gdańsk.

Water tram 

In the summer, a water tram runs on the Żabi Kruk – Westerplatte route (line F5). Purchase tickets on the ship. The current tram schedule is available on the website of the Public Transport Authority in Gdańsk.

Boat

Boats depart next to the Green Bridge on the Motława River. When purchasing a ticket, you can specify a return time if you want to return by boat: 

Galeon – an old fancy-looking boat going directly to Westerplatte. 

Żegluga Gdańska – a regular ferry that runs directly to Westerplatte.

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