May 2017 took me to Gdansk in Poland. Gdansk – a place I had never heard until a month back and a name which I could not even pronounce. (A simple way to remember: “Gd” – Gadd as in Gaddaar (Hindi word) and “aaansk”).
Neptune Fountain in Gdansk
Now I know that this was the place where the second World War started. Gdansk – or Danzig had a majority native-German population. When Hitler sought to expand his empire, this was one of his targets. The majority in the city was in the favor of annexation to Germany. On 1st September 1939, as part of the bigger plan to attack Poland, the first hit was made at Gdansk. This is called the Battle of Westerplatte. The Polish put up a spirited fight – much to the surprise of the Germans. The fighting continued for 7 days and ended when the Poles ran out of ammunition and supplies.
I also got a chance to visit Hell. Well, that is a spelling mistake. The place is called Hel. It is a peninsula coming out of the north of Gdansk. This was the place of action in the world war 2 post the fall of Westerplatter. Hel is said to be the place where the Polish army resistance lasted the longest. 8 September to 3 October 1939.
Around 50 km from Gdansk is what used to be the Stutthoff Concentration camp. This was the first concentration camp set up outside Germany. It was also the last to be freed and around 65000 people died here. The place – quiet, peaceful, beautiful carried with it horrifying memories in the form of photos, stories, barracks and yes – the gas chamber – Nazis favorite way to kill people.
The concentration camp with the Gas Chamber at the far end