Westerplatte, 1 Sep, 1939
It was on Gdansk's small peninsula of Westerplatte that the first battle of the war was fought, with a small detachment of Polish soldiers attempting to withhold a seven-day siege from Nazi Germany.
President Bronislaw Komorowski reflected on the struggle in a letter that was read out during the ceremony.
“This place is a testament to the valiant resistance of Poles, and to supreme sacrifice and patriotism,” he expressed.
The war ravaged Poland. Approximately 6 million Polish citizens perished, half of whom were Jewish, while much of the country's heritage was devastated.
“Let the memory of September 1939 be a source of strength and a caution, as well as a guarantee that Poland and Poles will now always live in peace and security,” Tusk said.
Meanwhile, sirens sounded at 4.40 am in the town of Wielun, which at the outbreak of war, lay just 21 kilometres from the German border. The bombing raid there on 1 September 1939 began in the early morning, and lasted until 2 pm, causing over 1200 fatalities. Local dignitaries took part in tributes before dawn, in commemoration of the attack.
Cities and towns across Poland will be following suit today. In the capital, Ewa Kierzkowska, deputy speaker of the Sejm (Poland's lower house of parliament), will be taking part in a ceremony just before midday on Lotnikow Polskich Square.
Likewise, in Krakow, wreaths will be laid at the monument to Poland's official resistance force, the Home Army, at the cemetery of Rakowicki. This will be followed by a mass at St.Mary's Basilica, and a ceremony of remembrance at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Noted historians such as Adam Zamoyski often postulate that the 2nd World War lasted for almost fifty years in Poland, with a free state only emerging after the collapse of communism in 1989. (nh/pg)