Poland ceremonies mark 70th anniversary of WWII start

By Adam Easton
BBC News, Gdansk

Leaders from Russia and Germany are among those expected at ceremonies in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.

At 0445 on 1 September 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire at point blank range on a Polish fort on the Westerplatte peninsula.

At the same time, the German Wehrmacht invaded Poland over three frontiers.

The attacks triggered Britain and France’s declaration of war against Germany two days later.

Although it can be argued the war in Asia started much earlier and many in the US date the start of the war to 1941, Germany’s invasion of Poland meant the war in Europe had begun.

Foreign leaders from 20 countries – including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – are expected in Gdansk on Tuesday afternoon for a ceremony beside a monument to the heroes of Westerplatte.

Important symbol
At 0445 (0345 BST, 0245 GMT), Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk will lead a domestic ceremony along with war veterans beside a monument to the heroes of Westerplatte in Gdansk.

At the time of the attack by the Schleswig-Holstein – which was moored in the Polish harbour on a friendship visit – Gdansk was known as the free city of Danzig.

The 182 Polish troops defending the Polish fort were expected to resist for about 12 hours. Despite coming under fire from the air, sea and land, they held out against a force of more than 3,000 Germans for seven days.

The article continues at BBC Poland Marks 70th anniversary of start of World War II

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