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Operation Himmler

// Nazi operation to justify the invasion of Poland and considered as the first act of the World War II.

Who was the first victim of a war that would do more than forty million of them? It was a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camps (probably Dachau) used in a German secret operation that would lead to the outbreak of World War II.

Some months before the invasion of Poland by Germany, several German newspapers and other politicians like Adolf Hitler had already begun a national and international campaign accusing Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of Germans living in Poland.

The August 22, 1939, Adolft Hitler warned his generals that he would get something that would legitimize an action war against Poland:

«I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth.»

Then they launched a plan that had the name of its creator Heinrich Himmler and was initially supervised by Heinrich Müller and then by Reinhard Heydrich. The aim was to create the idea of a Polish aggression against Germany, which would later be used to justify the invasion of Poland. In addition, another of the intentions of Adolf Hitler was that such an operation would confuse the Poland allies (United Kingdom and France) and delay their declaration of war on Germany.

Operation Himmler had several episodes:

  • Assault on radio station Gleitwitz (now Gliwice in Poland);
  • Attack of the customs station at Hochlinden;
  • Attack on forest service station at Pitschen.

The main one was in fact the assault on Gleitwitz radio station (about 4 kilometers from the border with Poland at that time) at about 8pm of August 31, 1939 where a small group of six German SS agents, dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Alfred Naujocks, attacked the Gleiwitz station and broadcasted a short anti-German message in Polish:

«Uwage! Tu Gliwice. Rozglosnia znajduje sie w rekach Polskich.»
(Attention! This is Gliwice. The broadcasting station is in Polish hands.)

In one of the cars was Franciszek Honiok, a peasant and Catholic singles 43 years old. He had been chosen because of his involvement in a series of local revolts against German rule in Silesia (border region covering today Poland, Germany and Czech Republic).
Franciszek Honiok had been arrested and killed by the SS in the village of Polomia the previous day and selected as one that would be proof of Polish aggression against Germany. Along with such prisoner, the SS agents also left behind other uniformed men with polish uniforms who has been taken away from the concentration camp of Dachau  and killed by lethal injection and subsequently shot.

In a carefully coordinated act and almost simultaneously, all German radio stations broadcasted the message of "invaders". It was also reported that the bodies of Polish soldiers killed in the incident had been left in place.
At London, the BBC broadcast the statement:

«There have been reports of an attack on a radio station in Gliwice, which is just across the Polish border in Germany.
The German News Agency reports the attack came at about 8pm this evening when the Poles forced their way into the studio and began broadcasting a statement in Polish. Within a quarter of an hour, say reports, the Poles were overpowered by German police who opened fire on them. Several of the Poles were reported killed but the numbers are not yet known.»

At 10 am the next day, in a speech at the Kroll Opera (where parliament met since the fire that had destroyed the Reichstag in 1933), Adolf Hitler cited the border incidents as a reason to justify a Germany's "defensive" action against  Poland:

«I can no longer find any willingness on the part of the Polish Government to conduct serious negotiations with us. These proposals for mediation have failed because in the meanwhile there, first of all, came as an answer the sudden Polish general mobilization, followed by more Polish atrocities. These were again repeated last night. Recently in one night there were as many as twenty-one frontier incidents: last night there were fourteen, of which three were quite serious. I have, therefore, resolved to speak to Poland in the same language that Poland for months past has used toward us...
This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our own territory. Since 5:45 a. m. we have been returning the fire... I will continue this struggle, no matter against whom, until the safety of the Reich and its rights are secured.»

Operation Himmler was made public during a testimony of Alfred Naujocks during the Nuremberg Trials. However, most of the details were known in 1958 when the British writer Comer Clarke tracked Alfred Naujocks in Hamburg. Confronted by Clarke, Naujocks admitted: "Yes, I started it all. I don't think anyone will bother about me now." In the resulting article, he was identified as "The Man Who Started The Last War."

Naujocks, who died in 1960 and who never faced a war-crimes tribunal, disclosed how he had been summoned to the Berlin office of Reinhard Heydrich, the feared head of the German secret police. "Heydrich told me 'Within a month we shall be at war with Poland. The Fuhrer is determined. But first we have to have something to go to war about. We've organised incidents in Danzig, along the East Prussian border with Poland, and along the German frontier. But there has to be something big and obvious'."
Naujocks described how Heydrich strode over to a wall map of Eastern Europe and stabbed a finger at Gliwice. "This is where you come in. The idea is that six men and yourself will burst into Gliwice radio station, knock out the staff and broadcast a speech in Polish and German, attacking Germany and the Fuhrer and announcing Poland's intention of taking the disputed territories by force."

In 1961, an impressive West German film described the incident. Der Fall Gleiwitz (The Gleiwitz Case), directed by Gerhard Klein, is as interesting as it is cinematically historically.

The Telegraph, Wikipedia, Gliwice Museum

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