Gdańsk (Danzig) — The Polish Post Office Siege by Brian Austin
Just after 04:45 local time on 1st September 1939, (at about the same time that the Germans launched their attack on Westerplatte, and WWII officially began) another ferocious assault was just beginning at the small Post Office in the city’s Hevelius Square. Detachments of German police and SS units lay siege to the 53 Polish postal workers inside, who defended themselves valiantly for more than 17 hours until the casualties became unbearable. Part of the building collapsed and the Germans began to attack with flame-throwers.
One month later, on 2nd October, thirty of the surviving postal workers were sentenced to death, and shot a few weeks later (their bodies were only discovered in Zaspa Cemetery in 1991, after the fall of Communism) and the whole episode has since become part of modern Polish folklore.
An epic story of David and Goliath proportions, all the contemporaneous accounts of the story fail to tell why a group of “harmless postmen” were so heavily armed, at work, and why it required two elite Nazi units to deal with them. The answer appears to lie in the fact that the Polish Post Office in the Free City of Danzig acted as a cover for Polish intelligence, and the attack was a strategic attempt to quell Polish resistance in the City.
During the era of the Free City the Polish state was represented by various public bodies such as Polish Railways and the Polish Postal Service, the headquarters of which were in the Polish Post Office. It is thought that it also acted as the centre of the Polish government’s intelligence gathering services in the demilitarised zone. Badly damaged in the battle to flush out the Polish “postal workers”, the Post Office was almost completely destroyed by the end of the war. Reconstructed between 1949 and 1951, it still a functioning Post Office, but now also houses a small museum dedicated to the events of that fateful day, together with an exhibition of local postal history from the 18th century to the outbreak of WWII.