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Old 30 July 2017, 20:30
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First Skirmish of WWII in Europe - Danzig Post Office

Really interesting story about the postal employees that defended the Danzig Post Office against repeated Nazi assaults.

The article claims this was the first skirmish of the Second World War in Europe.

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The Germans attacked from two different directions, even entering the building, but were repelled soon after. During the frontal attack, two besiegers were killed, and seven were wounded. The attack from the rear was also repelled successfully.

The ineffective charge left the Germans in awe. But during their second attack, the group was better organized, and some Nazi supporters volunteered to assist them. Also, the armored vehicles were put to use.

The leader of the group, Konrad Guderski, died during the second attack, by blowing himself up with a hand grenade to slow down the German advance through the building. The attack itself failed, as the rest of the Poles managed to drive out the Germans, even though their commanding officer had been killed.

http://www.warhistoryonline.com/worl...aptured-x.html
It's important to keep these stories from being lost to history.
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Old 30 July 2017, 23:14
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In the mid-1930s Hitler tried to talk Poland into an alliance against Russia. Poland was already an ally of Japan at the time. The Poles refused to play along because they didn't want to provoke the Soviets. Instead, they provoked the Germans, who wound up cutting a deal with the Soviets to carve up Poland. One of those big what-ifs is how things could have gone down differently if Poland and Germany had been military allies in 1939 instead of enemies. Making that what-if even bigger is that a big chunk of the Holocaust occurred in German-occupied Poland.
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Old 25 January 2018, 05:15
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This defense ties itself heavily to the Battle of Westerplatte in Gdańsk (then Freie Stadt Danzig).

Richard Hargreaves wrote a pretty good book about this and other battles during that fateful fall, it's named "Blitzkrieg Unleashed: The German Invasion of Poland, 1939".

An interesting description can be found here, below are excerpts:

Quote:
Prelude

The opening of the Polish Post Office "Gdańsk 3" in 1925
The Polish Post Office (Poczta Polska) in the Free City of Danzig was created in 1920 under the Treaty of Versailles, and its buildings were considered extraterritorial Polish property. The Polish Post Office in Danzig comprised several buildings.

As tensions between Poland and Germany grew, in April 1939 the Polish High Command detached combat engineer and Army Reserve Sublieutenant (or 2LT) Konrad Guderski to the Baltic Sea coast. With Alfons Flisykowski and others, he helped organize the official and volunteer security staff at the Polish Post Office in Danzig, and prepare them for eventual hostilities. In addition to training the staff, he prepared the defenses in and around the building: nearby trees were removed and the entrance was fortified. In mid-August, ten additional employees were sent to the post office from Polish Post offices in Gdynia and Bydgoszcz (mostly reserve non-commissioned officers).

In the building of the Polish post on 1 September there were 57 people: Konrad Guderski, 42 local Polish employees, 10 employees from Gdynia and Bydgoszcz, and the building keeper with his wife and 10-year old daughter who lived in the building. Polish employees had a cache of weapons, including three Browning wz.1928 light machine guns, 40 other firearms and three chests of hand grenades. The Polish defence plan assigned the defenders the role of keeping Germans from the building for 6 hours, when a relief force from Armia Pomorze was supposed to secure the area.

The German attack plan, devised in July 1939, devised that the building defenders would be stormed from two directions. A diversionary attack was to be carried out at the front entrance, while the main force would break through the wall from the neighbouring Work Office and attack from the side.

The battle

At 04:00 Germans cut the phone and electricity lines to the building. At 04:45, just as the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein started shelling the nearby Polish Army military outpost at Westerplatte, German forces began their assault on the Polish Post. German units detached for this task were composed of the special unit of Danzig police, local SA formations and the SS units SS Wachsturmbann "E" and SS Heimwehr Danzig, supported by at least three ADGZ heavy armored cars. The attack was commanded by German police colonel, Willi Bethke.

SS men attacking under cover of ADGZ vehicle
The first German attack, from the front, was repelled, although Germans managed to break through the entrance and briefly enter the building (at the cost of two killed and seven wounded attackers, including one group leader). The second attack, from the Work Office, was also repelled. The commander of Polish defence, Konrad Guderski, died during that second attack from the blast of his own grenade which stopped the Germans who broke through the wall.

At 11:00 German units were reinforced by the Wehrmacht with two 75 mm artillery pieces, but the second attack, even with the artillery support, was again repulsed. At 15:00 Germans declared a two hour ceasefire and demanded that Polish forces surrender, which they refused. In the meantime, Germans received additional reinforcements: a 105 mm artillery piece, and a unit of sappers, which dug under the walls and prepared a 600 kg explosive device. At 17:00 the bomb was set off, collapsing part of the wall, and German forces under the cover of three artillery pieces attacked again, this time capturing most of the building with the exception of the basement.

At 18:00 Germans brought automatic pumps, gasoline tanks and flamethrowers, which they used to flood the basements with burning gasoline. After three Poles were burned alive (bringing the total Polish casualties to six killed in action), the rest decided to capitulate. The first two people to leave the building — director Dr. Jan Michoń, carrying a white flag, and commandant (naczelnik) Józef Wąsik — were shot by the Germans (according to one version, Dr. Michoń was attacked with a flamethrower). The rest of the Poles were allowed to surrender and leave the burning building. Six people managed to escape from the building, although two of them were captured the following days.

Aftermath
16 wounded prisoners were sent to the Gestapo hospital, where six subsequently died (including the 10-year old Erwina). The other 28 were first imprisoned in the police building and, after a few days, sent to Victoriaschule, where they were interrogated and tortured. Some 300 to 400 Polish citizens of Danzig were also held there.

Court martial
All the prisoners were put on trial in front of the martial court of the Wehrmacht's Gruppe Eberhardt. A first group of 28 Victoriaschule-prisoners, with a single Wehrmacht officer as defence lawyer, was tried on 8 September, a second group of 10, who recovered in the hospital, on 30 September. All were sentenced to death as illegal combatants under the German special military penal law of 1938. The sentence was demanded by the prosecutor Hans Giesecke and declared by presiding judge Kurt Bode, Vice-President of the Oberlandesgericht Danzig (Higher Regional Court of Danzig). 28 of the judgements were countersigned, and thus became legally valid, by General Hans Günther von Kluge, the further 10 by Colonel Eduard Wagner, who committed suicide on 23 July 1944 as a member of the 20 July plot. A clemency appeal was rejected by General Walther von Brauchitsch. A similar fate awaited eleven Polish railway workers south of the city after they foiled a German attempt to use an armoured train, and were executed by the SA along with their immediate families.

The prisoners were mostly executed by firing squad led by SS-Sturmbannführer Max Pauly (later commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp) on 5 October and buried in a mass grave at the cemetery of Danzig-Saspe (Zaspa). One, Leon Fuz, was later recognised and murdered in the Stutthof concentration camp in November. Four defenders who managed to escape and hide survived the war. Families of the postmen were also persecuted.

Giesecke and Bode were not held responsible for this episode or held accountable for Justizmord. They were denazified after the war and continued their careers as lawyers. Both died of natural causes in 1970s. However, in 1995, the German court at Lübeck invalidated the 1939 ruling and rehabilitated the militant "postmen", citing among the reasons that the ruling had been in violation of the Hague Convention. The decision of the German court occurred thanks to the work of a German author, Dieter Schenk, who published a monograph on the defense of the post office and referred to the execution of the defenders as Judicial murder (Justizmord). Schenk stresses the commanding role of Danzig policeforces, which made a Wehrmacht court martial not competent to convict the defenders. Instead, the Free City of Danzig's penal law would have been applicable, without the alternative of a death penalty.

In Poland, the whole episode has become one of the better known episodes of the Polish September Campaign and it is usually portrayed as a heroic story of David and Goliath proportions. In this view, it was a group of postmen who held out against German SS troops for almost an entire day. In 1979 in the People's Republic of Poland a Defenders of the Polish Post Monument was unveiled in Gdańsk.
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One of those big what-ifs is how things could have gone down differently if Poland and Germany had been military allies in 1939 instead of enemies.
Because of the ideas Hitler had he would end up bashing heads with Stalin anyway. Imperial Japan was too hungry for domination then to skip trying to get their hands on areas where U.S. forces were stationed - so IMO some sort of Pearl Harbor event would've happened anyway. Enter United States and Hitler's entire Axis started to look pretty small.

There's that almost age-old question what if Hitler was not stupid enough to go after Stalingrad instead of Moscow, what if he attacked in summertime. Soviet Union suffered terrible losses in the first stages of Operation Barbarossa. If he had managed to topple the entire Soviet верхушка (basically Stalin and his close court) there was a pretty real chance of Nazi Germany taking over Russia or transforming it into an ally of sorts. Gruppenfuher Stroop (the same guy who murdered Warsaw Jews during the Uprising in the Ghetto) talked about it extensively with Polish journalist Kazimierz Moczarski while both were imprisoned by then-communist Polish government in late 40's early 50's. And he agreed that the Germans planned to make a small puppet state from Moscow and its neighboring regions under the name of "Muskovia".

But, thank God, Hitler was too blind and too stupid to see his errors. Enter Siege of Stalingrad, capitulation of Paulus, battle of Kursk, etc etc. Rest is history.

No, I don't think it would've helped us. Not with our placement on the map. After the D-Day it became painfully obvious that the Allies wouldn't make it to Warsaw. Not with the speed of Soviet offensive. I think we would have been raped and destroyed much more thoroughly if we were a Nazi ally then. Besides, Polish govenrment had drastically different view on many things than Nazi German one, so we would end up being subdued anyway. Would it have been less bloody? Maybe. Given the stubbornness Polish people have I doubt it would be easy.

If you are placed between hammer and the anvil, it doesn't matter if you ally with hammer or the anvil. When they clash, you still end up between them.

Last edited by Paul85; 25 January 2018 at 05:40.
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Old 25 January 2018, 07:34
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If you are placed between hammer and the anvil, it doesn't matter if you ally with hammer or the anvil. When they clash, you still end up between them.
Well said.
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Old 27 January 2018, 19:56
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^ Thank you.

Anyway, for someone interested in some details about SS and Nazi Germany, there's a great book named "Conversations with an Executioner" (Polish "Rozmowy z Katem", ISBN-10: 0131719181
ISBN-13: 978-0131719187) that was written by previously mentioned Kazimierz Moczarski. That book gives a pretty unique view on some events of WWII and before WWII from the perspective of a careerist, not particularly smart but fanatical German soldier who quickly rose thru ranks of SS to become one of the major players in genocide that was performed by Nazis during WWII, that soldier being Jurgen Stroop, the SS-Gruppenführer and Generalleutnant of the Waffen-SS and Police.

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A curious twist of fate brought about a dramatic confrontation in Cell Block XI of Warsaw's Mokotów prison. From March 2 to November 11, 1949, Kazimierz Moczarski, an ex-Polish Home Army officer, was confined in the same cell with SS Police General Jurgen Stroop, the notorious liquidator of the Warsaw Ghetto. This book is the result of the 255 days the German executioner and one of his intended victims shared in that cramped prison setting. Through conversations with his Polish cell mate, Stroop shows us with a chilling portrait of the making of a Nazi mind, providing fresh and compelling insight into World War II history.
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Old 31 January 2018, 06:26
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There's also a book that describes German Nazi experiments on prisoners, elderly, handicapped - that book was written by Ernest Klee: Auschwitz, die NS-Medizin und ihre Opfer (Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus).

I don't know if it exists in an English version, I've read the German original and Polish edition. It's a monograph filled with detailed and often gruesome descriptions of experiments carried out by the Nazis, and it names quite a lot of German (and not only German) doctors, nurses and other people who not only managed to carry their "work" without a problem but died peacefully after the war, undisturbed or only mildly disturbed by the authorities. Extremelyd etailed, it tracks and labels the known atrocities. Unfortunately lots of the people whow ere experimented on never lived to tell their tales.

A curious fact: I knew a priest in my home town who was experimented on in Oświęcim (Auschwitz-Birkenau) camp. I can't imagine what he had to go thru, his descriptions were unbelievably chilling. He "luckily" escaped surgical torture, but he was used as a guinea pig for testing against various viral diseases. I won't go into detail here because I don't remember it precisely and the priest in question has passed away several years ago. But he was there, he saw the operating room. Saw the bloodied aprons of SS doctors, screams of the victims with amputated limbs, removed or reattached organs, he saw Mengele, the always calm, stoic, friendly angel of doom.

Eva Mozes Kor wrote a great book on Mengele and her own ordeal. It's called Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz.

Excuse me for the offtop.

Last edited by Paul85; 31 January 2018 at 06:33.
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Old 31 January 2018, 12:15
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Excuse me for the offtop.
It's always a pleasure reading your comments on history. I appreciate the perspective you bring.
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Old 31 January 2018, 15:26
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Thank you very much!
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Old 15 February 2018, 05:24
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All of this discussion about 1939 and first days of WWII made me remember something.

My great-grandfather died in Katyń. He was a police officer in Warsaw in then newly-independent Poland and when the red plague came in in 1939 he was in his hometown which actually ended up on the Soviet side. Would he survive if he ended up on the German side? I doubt it. Not unless he collaborated. The Gestapo had all the proper tools to make someone talk. If anyone visits Warsaw, going to Mausoleum of Struggle and Martyrdom might be a good way to witness how timid and humane the Germans - not only Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei), but also Sipo (Sicherheitspolizei) and Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) were to people of Poland - be it Jews, Poles, Gypsies, whoever.

The Szucha Avenue (which is still named this way) was so infamous it became a legend, and not many people who ended up there and were considered important leads in investigations ever made it out. The cells and damp basements were one thing, but the infamous interrogation rooms were another. The majority of prisoners ended up there taken from the Pawiak prison but there were also people, especially ones considered pivotal to the resistance movement, that were given a very VIP treatment and spent all of their time at Szucha. The interrogations often started in a very polite manner. The victim was asked several times to give up the information the Gestapo men wanted to get. If this failed, the interrogation slowly began to slip into much more unpleasant territory. First it was a simple beating without additional tools. Then the whips, batons and other tools were used (most of them are still at the display on the museum). There was a room with a sink and specially painted floor and walls to facilitate cleanup after the work was finished. I won't go into details of torture here because they are too gruesome to mention and besides, anyone so inclined can find info on them on the Internet. All I can say is that the bestiality on display there was impressive. The people who came down to the shared cells often resembled toothless, fingerless pulp. Some were given acid to drink. Some were burned with electrical current. It was a true meat grinder. But this was the Gestapo way, not only in Warsaw but in all towns of occupied Poland. Since the officers were corrupt, sometimes the resistance managed to buy out their prisoners. Some people who were caught smuggling managed to skip the interrogation whatsowver, and, having money, bribed themselves out.

After restoring the museum, the authorities found a lot of inscriptions within the cells. One of them reads:

It is easy to speak about Poland.
It is harder to work for her.
Even harder to die for her.
And the hardest to suffer for her.


A curious fact related to Szucha. Polish Resistance, namely the Szare Szeregi (Gray ranks, the paramilitary special formation) performed an operation code named Meksyk (Mexico) and more commonly known as Operation Arsenal, to take back one of their members, Jan Bytnar ("Rudy") and a prominent commander of Polish Resistance, Henryk Ostrowski ("Heniek") along with 24 other prisoners. This action consisted of four attack groups and four cover groups and was carried out in broad daylight, in the middle of Warsaw, as an assault on a German truck transporting prisoners from Szucha. It was important to take these men back because there was a genuine fear they might give up info or expire during extremely dense torture sessions they were served with at Szucha. The average age of the people who performed the action was 20-21 years old.

There was actually a Meksyk I attempt that ended up as a dud because neither "Rudy" nor "Heniek" were in the transport the team was supposed to hit. So a second plan, code named Meksyk II was prepared when the intelligence was solid enough for the Resistance to be sure about the convoy having the people they wanted to get out.

The plan was to be carried out thusly: The truck was to be first attacked by Molotov cocktails after it made a sharp turn into Nalewki street. The part of Nalewki that the attack was to be carried out on was an S-shaped street that forced the truck to slow down. This stretch of the truck's route was also the farthest distance from Gestapo headquarters, giving time before backup could arrive and effectively engage the attackers. Molotovs were meant to eliminate the driver and two escorts at the back of the truck. If this failed, the truck was to be fired upon by two people wielding STEN submachine guns. As a backup to this an another man, armed with STEN and placed directly parallel to the truck was to fire upon the German crew. And if all of the above still failed to stop the truck, another person, armed with a pistol, was supposed to run close to the truck and fire at the escort at an angle of 45 degrees. This last resort action took into account the possibility of the prisoners being injured or killed by the gunfire so it was the ultimate, va banque play. The placement of the groups was that no one was supposed to be at a risk of being caught in the crossfire. That was the theory. How it ended up?

When the intel came in that the truck was on the roll and with the people the Resistance wanted to take back, the group tasked with signalling the rest send the message by performing pre-defined movements (tipping hats) to the rest of the team and 10 minutes later, the operation commenced. Suddenly a policeman decided to jump in at a strangely behaving young gentlemen (part of one of the attack groups) and began to take out his gun so he was fired upon by one of the commanders of the action (Tadeusz Zawadzki, "Zośka"). The shots caused the German driver to skip the turn into Nalewki, continuing driving straight instead. One of the attack teams was close to the turn so they began throwing the bottles. First three molotovs failed to ignite the driver's cab. The third one finally managed to do so and the German soldier and his two peers sitting in the cab were set on fire. Two of them stumbled out and tried to extinguish themselves while the truck kept rolling forward by itself. Another two Germans sitting at the back of the truck began firing, defending themselves and effectively supressing the attacking group. This has caused the team to wait for their peers who had submachine guns and significantly delaying the operation. The situation became difficult as the German escort was succesfully keeping the Polish resistance members from approaching the back of the truck while clock was ticking. The prisoners tried to push the soldiers out, but some of them got injured in the crossfire and were too weak to do anything. The 24 people were cramped at the back, struggling to move.

The same guy that had to fire at the policeman at the beginning of the action, "Zośka", decided to rush the truck and eliminate the soldiers in an all-out attack. As it turned out, one of them was already shot dead during the latter stages of the attac and the second one was succesfully killed. 21 freed prisoners began to disperse, some of them running down the street, some trying to hide in the nearby buildings. several were injured or killed during the firefight. Both "Rudy" and "Heniek" were freed, unfortunately "Rudy" was basically minced into one big pulp and had to be carried back by the members of the team to the nearby car prepared to evacuate the group.

Neither a German soldier passing close by on a bike nor a car full of Wehrmacht soldiers decided to intervene even though they were pretty close to the action. The policemen guarding nearby Warsaw Ghetto only fired at the attackers from a distance. One SS officer that was caught up in the firefight while walking the Nalewki street got shot. A second policeman that suddenly popped up nearby was also shot.

Several members of the retreating teams did not make it (one man shot) or got apprehended (two caught, one of them being later literally ripped apart at Gestapo for his role in the operation). Germans had 4 killed and 9 injured.

After "Rudy" died from his injuries, both Gestapo men who tortured him (SS-Oberscharführer Herbert Schulz and SS-Rottenführer Ewald Lange) were eliminated, being shot dead by the Resistance on the streets of Warsaw.

The action had its repercussions. Not only it made Germans aware of growing Resistance movement in occupied Poland, it also sparked repressions. 140 prisoners from the Pawiak prison were executed. Several members of the families of people involved got arrested.

Last edited by Paul85; 15 February 2018 at 05:42.
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Old 15 February 2018, 06:59
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On a lighter note, here's a story about a bear Polish forces had during WWII. A soldier bear.

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In the spring of 1942 following the release of Polish prisoners and deportees in the labour camps in Siberia, the main route out of the Soviet Union was across the Caspian Sea to Persia or Iran as it is known today. A new Polish Army was being formed in the Middle East under the command of the British and on their way to the organization area, a group of Polish soldiers came across a little bear in the mountainous region of Persia. The cub was an orphan following the death of his mother at the hands of hunters and he was traded to the soldiers by a shepherd boy who kept the bear in a sack.

The animal was very small and the problem of feeding him was soon overcome by the improvised techniques employed by his new family including feeding him from on a bottle filled with condensed milk. Eventually, they all arrived in Palestine and the bear was taken to the 22nd Transport Company, Artillery Division, Polish 2nd Corp where the men would become his companions for the next few years. He was given the name Wojtek, pronounced Voytek.

From the beginning he became a popular member of the Company spending most of his time with the soldiers of the 4th Platoon. Two of his closest friends were two young soldiers, Dymitr Szawlugo and Henryk Zacharewicz who would both be featured in many of the photos and film footage taken of Wojtek. He would often be found in the kitchen area and he ate everything he was fed and even developed a taste for beer and wine together with cigarettes which he would only accept when lit. He had a habit of drinking from a beer or wine bottle and when empty, he would peer into the bottle waiting patiently for more. He would usually take one puff of a lit cigarette and then swallow it.

Wojtek grew to become a very strong bear and was happy bathing and wrestling with his comrades. Only a few soldiers dared to take him on in a wrestling match as some times the men would get roughed up a bit by getting scratched or have their uniforms torn. The rest of the men were happy to watch. In Palestine, Wojtek became a hero one night by capturing a thief who had broken into an ammunition compound where the bear was sleeping. The Arab was shocked to find himself confronted by the animal and the commotion that ensued resulted in his arrest. Wojtek was quite satisfied with the reward of a bottle of beer.

When he was small, it was easy for Wojtek to ride in the cab of the transport vehicles but as he grew he would sit in the back with the supplies though he would often ride on one of the recovery trucks where there was more room to lie down during the long journeys and he could play by climbing up the crane. Wherever he went, Wojtek would attract attention and his antics would cause a sensation as he loved to entertain people. He made friends with a few of the other mascots including Kasha the monkey and Kirkuk the dog. Kasha died of a broken heart after her chronically sick baby lived for less than a year and Kirkuk did not survive a sting by a scorpion. Such an insect did sting Wojtek on the nose on one occasion and the men of the Company thought that he would not make it through. His close companion Henryk nursed him back to health and he did not leave his side for a couple of days. After he had recovered, he was back to his usual self.

As the Polish Army prepared to enter the war zone in Italy during 1943, the problem confronting the Polish soldiers was the question of Wojtek’s status. Animals were not permitted to accompany the army during the fighting. By giving the bear his own paybook, rank and serial number there would be no question that he was on the list of soldiers. There was a minor problem during the embarkation prior to crossing the Mediteranean Sea but with his papers in order Wojtek would be on his way. In the Italian theatre, the Polish 2nd Corp soon prepared to break through the German defenses at Monte Cassino where it successfully captured the stronghold after much bitter fighting.

During the conflict, Wojtek found himself at the artillery firing line where he was seen to move crates of ammunition close to a truck where he was chained. Henryk had been assigned to take care of the bear that day but when he was ordered forward as an artillery spotter, he had to leave Wojtek alone. Always inquisitive and willing to copy what the soldiers were doing, he began picking up the crates and moving towards the cannons. The sounds of gunfire did not concern him and he displayed courage in his willingness to participate in the action. After the battle, the official badge of the 22nd Transport Company became a likeness of Wojtek holding a shell. This symbol appeared on vehicles, pennants and on the uniforms of the soldiers.

The war ended in May 1945 and the Polish soldiers were eventually sent across Europe to Berwick Upon Tweed in England where they stayed at Winfield Camp. As the soldiers went through a process of demobilization, they would say goodbye to Wojtek, many knowing that they would never see him again since their journeys would take them to distant parts of the globe. Wojtek found a home at Edinburgh Zoo where he became a popular attraction with many visitors including ex-Polish servicemen who would talk to him in their language. His death in 1963 was met with sadness from those who knew him and it was reported in newspapers and radio stations. His exploits and adventures have not been forgotten with numerous written accounts, memorials and statues. In a time when Polish soldiers had lost their country to the Nazis and later to the Communists, Wojtek became a symbol which the soldiers were proud of, themselves knowing that they would not soon return to a free homeland. He became part of the history of the Polish Armed forces in the Second World War and his legacy will endure.
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