On the 70thof the outbreak of the Second World War- on 1 September 2009, the ceremonies at Westerplatte were attended by, among the others, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, besides the Polish authorities. The ceremonies started at 4.45, when honourable salvos sounded at Westerplatte. On that day, the President of the Polish Republic at that time, Lech Kaczyński, had two speeches, recognized as legendary now. In the first speech given in the early morning, in the hour of the invasion into Westerplatte, Lech Kaczyński said: - It is not Poland which should have a lesson of humility. We do not have any reason for that. Others have a reason. Others who caused the war, who made this war easier, have a reason. The second speech of Lech Kaczyński given at Westerplatte, on 1 September 2009, in the afternoon, is edited in full.

Dear Prime Minister, Mrs Chancellor, Mrs Prime Minister, other Prime Ministers, Presidents, Marshals, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen! Today it is the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of one of the most terrible wars, the Second World War.

We are at Westerplatte, which is the symbol of a heroic opposition against the strongest opponent. A few hundred kilometres away from here, there is Wieluń, a town in which there was the first bombing, and over a thousand people were killed. The second symbol – is the symbol of a total character of the war.

Asking about reasons

It has been two generations, but this war still requires reflection. There is a question: what was its cause? Undoubtedly, this was totalitarianism and nationalism, but in fact, chauvinism. This is a certain statement, as well as the statement that the law and order, which appeared in Europe after the First World War, the so-called Versailles order, was the first as it appears, impermanent attempt to build peace in our continent and in the world. The Versailles Treaty confirmed the independence of my country, but it should be reminded that not only of my country – also of: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic, and, finally – within the kingdom of SHS, and later Yugoslavia, also Slovenia and Croatia. This treaty acknowledged the principle of nations independence, it also explicitly acknowledged the rights of minorities. It did not turn out to be permanent for many complex reasons, but as I said before, one of them were totalitarian systems appearing at that time, and the breakthrough importance was establishment of the Third Reich, which proclaimed an aggressive ideology, which proclaimed a revengeful ideology, which, as it can be said, in its Nazis ideology, negated the whole achievement of the European civilisation.

Between honour and dishonour

For a few years (in the years 1933 – 38), there were attempts to contract pacts with this totalitarianism. There were attempts of contracting pacts with it by the Western powerful countries – France and Great Britain. In Autumn 1933, Poland was suggesting a preventive war but without any results. Under these circumstances we contracted a pact of non-aggression with Germany, in fact this kind of pact had also been contracted earlier with the Soviet Union. At that time, this pact was necessary, in no case can it be compared with the pact Ribbentrop – Mołotow, which was six years later. The policy of appeasement led first to Anschluss, and later to Munich. Munich is a pact which requires a moment of reflection. As Winston Churchill said it rightly: - Between honour and dishonour, the dishonour was chosen, but the war was not avoided anyway. There appears a question about the role of our country. We were not in Munich, but its effect was the breach of territorial integrity of the Czech Republic. The breach of the territorial integrity, which is always evil, was evil there, and is evil also today. This is a problem not only of totalitarianism, this is a problem of any imperial or neo-imperial tendencies. We got convinced about it last year. Joining in the lands partition by Poland, anyway the territorial restriction of the Czechoslovakia at that time, was not only a mistake, but it was a sin, and we can admit to this sin in Poland and we are not trying to look for justification. We are not trying to look for any justifications, even if it was possible to find them. Conclusions had to be drawn from Munich, which reach to the contemporary times: it is not permitted to give way to imperialism. It is not permitted to give in to imperialism or even neo-imperial tendencies. It does not always bring such quick and tragic results, as in the case of Munich. But after some time, such results always come. This is a big lesson for the whole contemporary Europe, for the whole world. A year after Munich, the war broke out, preceded by the fact of 23 August 1939, called the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact. It was not only a pact about division of influences in a big part of Europe.

War and occupation

What was the situation of our country at that time? I would like to repeat what I said in the morning: Poland was suggested joining the Anti-Comintern Pact, it was even suggested it should join a march to the East, but it rejected the proposal. It rejected it explicitly and remained loyal to its ally commitments. The course of the 1939 war, in September and October 1939 is known. This war ended with a defeat for our country, because it had to end this way.

Years of occupation came, not only in Poland, and these were extremely tragic years. In my homeland from 5.5 million to 5.8 million of Polish and Jewish citizens gave their lives. They were the victims of this war, as well as over 50 million of people all over the world. There was the crime of Holocaust, but there had also been other crimes between the Soviet Union and Germany before the outbreak of the war.

Katyń requires a moment of reflection. It requires reflection not only with regard to facts which we know today to much extent, but with regard to causes. Why such a verdict was given to several dozen thousand officers of the Polish police and the Polish army, the corpus of the boundaries protection? It was the result of a revenge, yes it was going to be a revenge for the year 1920, for the fact that Poland had managed to fight off the aggression. It can be said – it was communism. No, in this case, it was not communism, but chauvinism. In this phase, it was also an unavoidable feature of this system. The treaty between Ribbentrop and Mołotow was not a treaty agreed in a good intention. One of the parties wanted to deceive another one. Stalin thought that the Germans would be wounded and bleed to death in the war with France and Great Britain and they would become an easy loot. Hitler thought that he would win with the West and would have free hands in the offensive in the East. However, both of them were wrong. A terrible war broke out, a terrible was, in which the Nazis Germany was defeated. This war killed many millions of soldiers in the Soviet Army: the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Belarus, the Georgians, the Azerbaijanis, representatives of many other nations. They deserve to be honoured, as they often showed unusual bravery. The Nazis regime was overcome, but Poland did not gain full sovereignty.

Post-war arranging of Europe

An iron curtain fell over Europe. On the other side of the curtain, not the one where our country was, a time of reflection started – time of fruitful reflection. The fruit of the reflection was a defensive pact, the North-Atlantic Pact. The pact which, during 60 years of its existence, became an exporter of stabilization, freedom, and, at least, generally democracy. It was one of the most successful experiments. But we should remember that the alliance is obliging. Today, in this alliance, there is Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany, and both parties are obliged to respect their elementary interests. And, what is essential, this alliance was necessary, it still and will be necessary. But fathers of Europe becoming united today, did not restrict to the concept of the defensive pact. They built the beginnings of what is called European Union today. Undoubtedly, it can be a more interesting experiment in the human history. And it can also ends with a great success, as so far.

Within this community, the principle of force balance remained, and at least, was replaced by a principle of cooperation to some extent.

What were the terms and conditions for this success? The first condition was at least relative community of values, such as freedom, democracy, pluralism. The second condition was resignation from imperial dreams, at least partial resignation from the principle of influences spheres. If it had not been for that, there would not be united Europe. And, therefore, today we have 27, and I think, more countries in the future, which is completely a new quality. This quality should be opened up also to others, but only under one condition – accepting this system of values. The system which excludes dreams about what used to be in the past, and in which one thinks according to the equality principles. This Europe, based on cooperation, requires broad multilateral cooperation. And it requires democracy not only between the state and citizens, but also in relations among countries. If it happens so, it can be said that we completely drew conclusions from the unimaginable tragedy, unimaginable crimes of the years 1939-45. Today the road to it still is not short.

Building on the truth

However, I would like to express my hope from this place that we will manage to walk this road, basing on the world of values, basing on the truth. Basing on the truth which is often painful, but which must be revealed both by winners and losers. We cannot accept the rule that those who were defeated, also have to speak about matters which are the worst for them, and those who won – don’t. The truth is only one, the truth – in our, Christians’ opinions, even the worst one – frees, not enslaves, frees, not humiliates, but, provided that it concerns everybody.

We, Poles, have the right to access the truth – access the truth about tragic matters for our nation, and we must not resign from it. I deeply believe that Europe, whole Europe is just going in this direction, in the direction of pluralism, freedom and democracy, and the truth, even when it is very tough. Because we can admit to our sins, as I said before. It is also necessary to be able to admit to one’s sins, and not look one-sidedly at the decision about murdering 30 thousand people and the epidemic of typhoid or other illnesses. This is not a road to reconciliation. The road to reconciliation which is needed not only for my country but also whole Europe.

Thank you very much.


"Niedziela" 35/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl