Andrzej Jarczewski

Probably every educated European has heard of the German attack on the German radio station in Gliwice. However, hardly anyone knows what really happened on 31st August 1939. What we know is that it was an event preceding the German-Soviet invasion on Poland. But what else? Among thousands of books, articles and mentions of the Gliwice provocation in various language versions, special attention should be paid to the monograph by Alfred Spiess and Heiner Lichtenstein, which is based on the source materials. This study [despite the wrong title] is a reliable reconstruction of the course of events on the basis of reliable documents.

However, in order to better understand the whole complexity of this absurd event, two more things have to be added. The first one is the description of the place and the then reality in Gliwice. The second is the interpretation of the facts, an attempt to understand this multi-level psycho-political manipulation and perhaps formulating some conclusions after 70 years.

This book does not replace, but merely supplements the work of Spiess/Lichtenstein in its part concerning Gliwice. We show the place of the provocation against the background of radio technology and the provocation – step by step – against the background of this place. This is the first such enterprise in the literature on the subject, undertaken by an electronic engineer, not a historian.

In the future we will have to answer the question what the Gliwice provocation really was. It was not “a pretext to World War II”, was it?! This fallacious phrasing stuck to the attack on our radio station so closely that nobody even ponders over its sense, or actually nonsense. It was Hitler who said: Ich werde propagandistichen Anlass zur Auslösung des Krieges geben..., and the whole world repeated after him Anlass, Anlass.

First of all – let us not use Hitler’s style! Let us not speak in Stalin’s style! Let us look at the criminals’ hands, not lips. Let us describe the events with verbs, as abstract nouns should be used for classification and generalization, for synthesis. They are not suitable for description or analysis! If, at the very beginning we name something with a noun without having the things duly examined, we will draw further conclusions on the basis of the definition of this noun. Then we do not conclude from facts!

The Gliwice provocation was not a pretext for war. And for sure it was not a pretext for a world war! Neither did it have the cryptonym Tannenberg! This was the name of another operation, which led the Germans to kill 20.000 civilian Poles from the intelligentsia class as early as in 1939. The aim of Tannenberg operation was to deprive Poland of its intellectuals and leaders. A similar method was adopted by the Soviet communists, who in the first months after Poland’s partition murdered Polish professors in Lvev and committed the crime of homicide in Katyñ.

Holding Poland responsible for starting the war – in an obscure, even absurd, but effective way – provided Hitler with the guarantee of safe western borders, where he had small military forces. By no means did Hitler strive for a world war! He wanted to defeat each enemy separately and – like Stalin – tried hard to avoid a war on two fronts. The most important was to prevent having a war on his own territory. For quite a long time Hitler managed to do so; he occupied every piece of Europe step by step, until finally the war itself came to him. …

But in 1939 Hitler, who at that time had only two „fat” generations of fresh recruits [1919 and 1920] at his disposal, strictly observed his strategy. He planned to fight only with Poland and wanted France to be quiet! At least until another, even bigger generation of those born in 1921 was trained. To be on the safe side, however, he needed an alibi. Not a pretext! And this alibi could be obtained by presenting Poland with “16 unacceptable conditions” the day before the war. Similar goals were achieved by many earlier and parallel diplomatic, simulative or misinforming operations. He also needed unquestionable proofs of Polish aggressiveness. Gliwice was to provide such evidence.

Were the proofs sufficient? Or just the opposite: Hitler, now a happener, only wished to have a spectacle for Mussolini, Stalin and his own Wehrmacht? Understanding this madness requires further investigations in the area of philosophy of history rather than historiography. It cannot be excluded that in the world there are people, documents and recordings which might broaden our knowledge of the Gliwice incident. Perhaps owing to that we will contribute to a more complete recognition of the provocation phenomenon as a way of behaving in the conditions of absolute impunity. The Gliwice provocation is not an isolated absurd in the history of the world. Provocation is a repeatable phenomenon, known for thousands of years and employed before our eyes. It is a symptom of omnipotence of the great of this world. It usually precedes great disasters.



Research postulates

The Gliwice provocation in 1939 is an important, however still insufficiently investigated episode in the great history of the 20th century. The scanty sources, materials and Polish places have been properly explored. Much more information is contained in the German archives, but it has also been developed well; it would be hard to discover anything new. Real revelations could be expected from the English, French, Russian and perhaps American archives. The researchers working on these sources should bear in mind the following issues:

1. Technical aspects – visitors have always shown the greatest interest in the construction of the Tower: the last monumental wooden structure in the world. We do not know the author of this brilliant summary of the thousands of experiences in wooden building. It could become a good area of research for the German part, as identifying the constructor – and perhaps – his other works and methods would be a valuable contribution in the history of the world’s science and engineering. In Germany a few comparable and even higher towers were built before the war! We do not know much about this type of structures in other countries.

2. In order to explain the important aspects of the Gliwice provocation we need to know more about the technology of rebroadcasting the programmes of Radio Breslau via Gleiwitz, Görlitz und Troppau.

3. Technical and political aspects – how the information on friends and enemies was obtained, in particular how the radio channels were used, among others how the intercept of civilian radio stations and the Gliwice broadcasting station was used.

4. Further postulates have a political and historical character. How did the governments [in offices, in the press and in the army] react to the news coming from the Polish-German border, with a particular emphasis on the reactions to announcements about Gliwice.

5. Did western governments make any attempts to verify the information on the events on the spot – in Gliwice? Did they have such possibilities? How was Polish dementi on this matter perceived?

6. Were the experiences of Austrian Nazis who on 25th July 1934 committed coup d’etat and occupied the central radio station used in Hitler’s further plans? Did the pioneer use of the civilian radio station for the purposes of coup d’etat become the subject of studies in western countries and the USSR? What conclusions were drawn?

7. Were the previous provocations, those which were successfully completed as well as the ones that failed, e.g. in the Czech Sudety Mountains [1938] theoretically developed and knowingly included in the array of typical totalitarian methods?

8. A typology of provocations, sabotage and other operations on the border, organised by both Germany and the USSR should also be prepared.

9. We would also need a comparative analysis of major press materials on the Gliwice provocation, including those which appeared later in western newspapers of different political leanings as well as in the Soviet press.

10. Finally, it would be a right thing to answer the basic question: why did Hitler do it?!