WESTERPLATTE – REACTIVATION
When a few weeks ago the place of the battle in September 1939 was visited by the vice-prime-minister Piotr Gliński, his conclusions were brief. Westerplatte – a symbol important for Poland and every Pole – should be well-commemorated but it is not. Nobody has cared about it for years. – What happened that for 30 years as Poles, we did not take any care of Westerplatte and it is time we changed it – the vice-prime-minister told journalists. This year there has been the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War which – at least symbolically – began on 1 September 1939 just here.
They do not want to hear
Plans concerning Westerplatte did not appear at once. In spring 2018 the director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, whose branch is the Westerplatte Museum and the War 1939, presented a concept of new utilization of the area. In the project of the museum whose building work was to cost much more than 100 million zlotys, or maybe even 150 million zlotys, a modern outside exposition was envisaged, and, among the others, restoring a few buildings which had been destroyed soon after the battle.
Soon the Museum of the Second World War made a request to the authorities of Gdańsk to let it take over (or purchase for 2 million zlotys) an area for Westerplatte in order to realize the plans. The grounds belong to various owners with whom there would be no bigger problem. A big majority of the area belongs, however, to Gdańsk and a lot depends on its authorities.
The authorities of Gdańsk with the deceased president Paweł Adamowicz and his successor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz at the helm, did not want and still do not want to hear about any passing over, withdrawing or selling the peninsula. Adamowicz was to respond rudely to the suggestion of the Museum of the Second World War that he ‘will not take part in the statute’.
Neptune and Żuraw
When the bill draft about ‘investments within building the Westerplatte and the War 1939 Museum – a Branch of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk’ is submitted to the Seym in May, assuming, among the others, taking over the peninsula by the state, the authorities of Gdańsk got clearly enlivened.
The City Council, domineered by the Civic Platform, officially protested against the project. One of the councilors of the Civic Platform party compared the idea to the actions of the invaders. Media were quoting the words of president Dulkiewicz about the oppressive country of the Law and Justice party which wants to take over Westerplatte and reduce Gdańsk to Neptune and Żuraw.
Gdańsk is a part of Poland and it is impossible to remove from it – she said, clenching fists.
Kacper Płażyński, a chief of the Gdańsk club of councilors of the Law and Justice party, is completely surprised by this obstruction. – After the information that the country wants to invest 150 million zlotys into Westerplatte, the Gdańsk councilors, officials should be over the moon! And here there is a wall, protests and accusations – he noted.
A broom in a hand
The vice-prime-minister Gliński arrived soon after local media showed photos of how dirty it is in the place about which every Pole has heard at least a few times, although he has learned at least once and to which he has ever been. The remnants of strengthenings were overgrown by bushes, inside of bunkers were full of bottles, cans, butts, paper scraps, disfigured with vulgar mottos and graffiti. It was seen that nobody had cleaned it for ages.
Gdańsk officials explain that they are doing everything they can: lots of money has been spent on cleaning and current maintenance within 10 years. Although it is not seen….Only now has somebody got down to work on it and Gliński has already seen something different than he would see it earlier.
Points from electors
A Gdańsk journalist (he reserves anonymity) thinks that the city authorities have always had more urgent needs and other priorities. Everyone recalled Westerplatte on 1 September when it was possible to show off and gain credits from electors. Later everything returned to norm – that is, a mess, makeshift, etc.
And makeshifts are the most permanent. Wide alleys – today slightly destroyed – with concrete poured on only at the communist times, could be seen as modern – says the journalist.
This is a selfishness place in which one must be but has very little to see. People do not experience a lot here.
Whereas there is not place which would be more symbolic for the outbreak of the Second World War. – The war began here on 1 September, not – like the Russians would like – on the day of the invasion of the Germans onto the USSR in June 1941. The mess on Westerplatte confirms the Russian narration – the journalist admits. – And it suits the historical policy of the Gdańsk authorities.
As the authorities hardly remembered Westerplatte, but perfectly remembered the Free City Gdańskm they falsified history, and got inscribed in creating false identity of Gdańsk – says Kacper Płażyński. – At the times of the presidency of Adamowicz the history was whitened by the Free City Gdańsk – he says. In the recent years the roundabout of the Free City Gdańsk has been created, trams were painted the colours of the Free City Gdańsk, an old building of the post office with the German inscription ‘Postamt’ was restored by the Main Railway Station.
Hardly anyone remembers places connected with Poles who lived in the Free City Gdańsk, for example, a graveyard on Zaspa, where defenders of the Post Office of Gdańsk were buried. – A historical area of the Gdańsk club Gedania – the maintenance of Polishness in the Free City Gdańsk – was sold to developers – says Płażyński.
Ruins from 1946
Despite the chaos and makeshift, not only on days-off, a lot of people arrive at Westerplatte. – this third most attractive place among tourists in the city, where this must see- says dr. Karol Nawrocki, the director of the Museum of the Second World War. – People arrive there, knowing that they will see nothing there. And they leave the place without being aware of not seeing anything, which says about September 1939 – he says. – They look at ruins from 1946. Going along a path from the car park, called a runaway, to the monument, they pass by all relics of a fight, which are on the side, out of the path. It is sad that people are still misled. They do not know that the field of the fight – and what survived after it – looks different than what they can see today. ‘During defending the building by the Polish army, the Germans destroyed only a few buildings, after the end of fights some warehouse buildings – one can hear about it in a film prepared by the Museum of the Second World War. - Communist authorities completed the destruction. The area was destroyed and after some years it changed completely.
Tug of war
A few-minute film, placed, among the others, on YouTube presents what an exposition of the peninsula may look like, ‘which is similar on the map to the one from years ago, but very Westerplatte, Polish Thermopylae, does not look like it deserves to’. There are plans to rebuild and adapt the parts of historical buildings, create a new sightseeing route and everything which is expected in the 21st century after the modern museum. It sounds good.
However, if and when the plans will be realized – it is not known. A meeting of Aleksandra Dulkiewicz with the vice-minister of culture and national heritage Jarosław Sellin, whom the prime minister indicated as a person for negotiation on the future of Westerplatte, ended with a kind of a protocol of divergences. After the meeting, Selling invited the Gdańsk authorities to the honoured committee building the museum, Dulkiewicz suggested a common establishing the institution and its managing provided that works on the special law would be stopped, which is rather impossible.