The Battle of Westerplatte in Poland marked the start of the Second World War in Europe. The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein played an important role at the outbreak of the Second World War. The ship moored in the port of Gdańsk under false pretences, and then, in the early morning of 1 September 1939, proceeded to bombard the Polish defensive positions, the Polish Military Transit Depot (Wojskowa Składnica Tranzytowa, WST) on the peninsula of Westerplatte, in the harbour of the Free City of Danzig. These were the first shots of the Second World War.
Major Henryk Sucharski was the commander of the Military Transit Depot on Westerplatte. His garrison was supposed to offer resistance for 12 hours in case of a German invasion. But he decided to continue the defence. Attacks by 3500 German soldiers were repelled by the 180 Polish soldiers for seven days. Only after the collapse of Guardhouse no. 2 on 7 September, Sucharski finally capitulated.
The exact figures of German losses remain unknown, but are now often estimated to be in range of 200 to 300 killed and wounded. Polish casualties were much lower, including 15 to 20 killed and 53 wounded.
After the war Westerplatte became a symbol of Polish resistance against the German invasion.
Sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. The invasion ended on 6 October 1939 with the two-way division and annexation of the entire Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union.
Photo: German battleship Schleswig-Holstein during a shellfire of Polish garrison Westerplatte in Gdańsk on 1 September 1939.
Photo: Public domain, link: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obrona_Westerplatte#/media/Plik:Schleswig_Holstein_firing_Westerplatte_September_1939.jpg