STRONG WITH HISTORY AND EXPERIENCE
ANDRZEJ DUDA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND
In the early morning on 1 September 1939 the most tragic chapter of humankind history began
The raid onto the Polish town Wieluń, deprived of the army’s presence, was initiated by the invasion of the German Third Reich onto the Republic of Poland. Nearly 2 thousand defenceless civilians were killed by bombs, machine guns and fires. Nearly the whole town was annihilated, including the hospital marked with the sign of the Red Cross, a Catholic church and synagogue. Also a battleship ‘Schleswig-Holstein’ began to shoot at the Polish military building in Gdańsk – Westerplatte and German land formations invaded the inland of Poland.
The attack on Wieluń was a war crime and a terror attack. It gave the beginning to the total world war, in which all kinds of moral and legal norms were trampled over, in which complete destroying resources of the opponent and mass extermination of civilians were applied to such a scale that had never existed before. That war cost 80 million people’s lives – including 6 million Polish citizens, among whom nearly 3 million were Polish Jews. It has been difficult till today to describe that enormity of suffering physically and psychically, as well as robbery and destructions in the sphere of culture, art, science and economy.
The German tactics of the ‘quick war’ and aggression on Poland from the East, from the formal ally of Nazis Germany, which was the Soviet Union then, sealed the fate of my Homeland. After five weeks of fierce fighting it was under occupation of two criminal totalitarian regimes, whose symbols were German Nazis concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and gulags, soviet labour camps of destroying work in Siberia.
However, Polish patriots remembered words of one of their national heroes – Józef Piłsudski: ‘Be defeated and not give in is the victory’. In September 1939 we had already begun to create the structures of the Polish Underground State: parliament, government on exile, jurisdiction, education and humanitarian institutions, like the Council to Aid the Jews with the Delegature with the Government Delegation for Poland (made it easy for Poles to help their Jewish co-citizens sentenced to death – despite death penalty threatening them). The military arm of that ‘invisible state’, the National Army, was the biggest in number and the most prominent opposition movement in invaded Europe, in 1944 amounting to nearly 390 thousand soldiers.
Poles participated in the fight with the Germans from Norwegian Narwik to Libyan Tobruk, from the rocks Monte Cassino in Italy to the victorious battle for Berlin. Our pilots were fighting in a battle for England, sailors were protecting the allied landing in Normandy and Polish armored and parachute formations were liberating Holland and Belgium. A valuable contribution into those noble struggles was also from the Americans of the Polish origin: some of them – as volunteers in the Army of the United States and in the Polish Military Forces in the West, some of them – supported our divisions in Europe and Polish war prisoners materially.
The thought by Piłsudski, qupted above, has its further content: ‘Win and rest on one’s laurels is a loss’.
After 80 years from the outbreak of the Second World War, the society of the free world countries must be united about the purpose which is building permanent order of safety, based on real respecting human rights and nations’ rights. I want to assure you that Poland, remembering its war experiences, is and will be engaged in this work with steadfast consistency and resoluteness.