HITLER IN WARSAW: 1939
ANNIHILATION OF POLAND. BETWEEN HITLER AND STALIN
As the darkest hour before the dawn of September 1, 1939, came to an end, the raving of Luftwaffe flying fortresses on their way to cross Poland mapped border carried conviction to the German soldiers that they are now entering the war. The Polish army had conceded the issue of ‘provoking’ Germany and announced a mobilization as early as two days prior to the actual outbreak of war, the same hours Hitler set the final seal on ‘Fall Weiss’ (Plan ‘White’). The belated call to active duty dissuaded a still-young polish state from setting the stage for repelling an assault. It was only on paper (and in the heads of French generals) for Poland to position the fourth largest army in Europe. In the teeth of the one-way severance of the ‘Polsko-niemiecki pakt o nieagresji’ (German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact dated 1934) by Germany, in those early hours of September 1, the Polish government still regarded the papers as valid. Two German army groups swept down the 1400-km border in three main directions. Even taking into consideration the fact that Wehrmacht still heavily depended on horse drive, the superiority in armored vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and updated strategy had a decisive effect.
The highest-level leaders of Poland were now in the midst of reports on countrywide German advances as well as the devastating air raids. They were still enchained with the commitment of military assistants from France and England, who had previously given the word to launch an offensive in the West within two weeks after their own call for mobilization. On 11:15, September 3 1939 Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime minister spoke over the radio on the declaration of war against Germany. Less than a year had passed since the day when he triumphantly wielded a copy of the so-called ‘Munich agreement’ within London airfield. The hours of the same September 3 and the days to come witnessed the declaration of war on behalf of France, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and Canada. In grounded contrast with these political moves, they were not provided with the indeed military actions and the French advance in the West was limited to an 8-km march and the later retreat in Saar.
As late as September 6 the German army occupied Krakow, Gdansk a week later and the Polish capital (Warsaw) had been constantly air bombed by Luftwaffe. On September 17 (the day, when the Polish government could theoretically expect the promised advance in the West, on their actual way to cross the border to exile) another dictatorship warranted the design to liquidate the Polish state. In the interwar years, the Polish army took to task the possible attack of Germany from the West and from the USSR from the East, yet no one could suggest the coordinated assault of two radical regimes simultaneously: thus two military scenarios at once. With a sadly remembered act of cynicism, the Soviet government stated, that the cease of the existence of the Polish state (indeed largely possible due to the pact with Hitler) and the ‘provocations’ (made up by soviets) against the Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalities are said to lead USSR to the necessity to ‘intervene’.
Stalin’s dictatorship now felt not constrained by the obligations of another non-aggression pact with Poland, which was to be violated within that September days. A little more than a half-million soviet soldiers were ordered to cross the Polish border in accordance with a secret protocol, that had been signed with Hitler’s Germany a month before. The 200 000 square kilometers of occupied Polish soil in the East, in wider means, destined the annihilation of Poland and 10 million people to find themselves under the heel of Stalin’s bloody regime.
The Polish army fought desperately against the conquerors on both fronts, yet the fortune of that war had been foredoomed. Warsaw was to suffer devastating air bombardments up to the very surrender in the last days of September 1939. The key takeaways of the partition of Poland were corroborated on the pages of a new-made so-called ‘German-Soviet Frontier Treaty’, signed in Moscow on September 28, at the time when wounded people were dying on the streets of Warsaw. The Germans would later pursue cold-blooded dreadful Germanization of the occupied territories, annexed to the Third Reich, and would bring the sadly remembered General Government into being: Hitler’s vision of the conquered and devastated Poland. The Polish war campaign in September grounded the basis of the ‘Rassenkrieg’ (racial war) with the annihilation of up to 50 000 polish citizens, intelligentsia predominantly, people who had jeopardized the German vision of the future, in Nazi crooked view. It was a culmination of the worldview according to which Poland had been regarded by Germans as ‘Saisonstaat’ (temporary state) since the end of WWI.
In the weeks the German ‘Einsatzgruppen’ (special squats) were operationalized in the mass killing of the Polish intelligentsia and grounded the basis of the upcoming ‘final solution’ as early as September 1939, the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland was notable for its barbarity as well. The racial hatred towards the Polish state was rooted in the year 1920 and the Soviet-Polish war. During the times of the ‘Great terror’ or ‘Red terror’ in 1937-1938, at least 110 000 ethnic polish and their families were physically exterminated in USSR in accordance with the falsified charges ostensibly as spies and ‘counter-revolutionary’ elements. The falsified factless myth of the ‘Polish military organization’ provided Stalin with the means to conduct terror on a national scale throughout the USSR, historically regarded as a form of genocide. Indeed, every man with ‘a polish appearance’ or someone who had had some connections with the neighbor state fell under the definition of ‘enemies of the people’.
With the occupation of Eastern Poland in 1939, the repressions gained new ground and resulted in the Soviet version of the annihilation of the Polish intelligentsia. Dozens of thousands of Polish citizens were arrested extrajudicially and expelled to the GULAG labor camps. At the same time, the mass deportations of the Polish people in the upcoming year 1940 would be sadly regarded as another tragedy of the polish people, less commonly recalled nowadays. The soviet penal units had no problems with the definition of the potential enemies as, soon after the occupation, every citizen of the conquered territory had to receive a new government-issued passport. Alienated from their heartlands, predominantly without knowing the Russian language, dozens of thousands of polish families found themselves within the far East and Northern regions of the alien state, sometimes among the people, who were expelled here in the span of the past ten years inside the USSR. In the weeks while the polish families were evicted to the Eastern territories of the USSR, the top echelons of the Soviet state forejudged the physical extermination of 22 000 polish officers and the eviction of 60 000 members of their families as well. For fifty years the Soviet Union would deny this war crime and crime against humanity.
ERWIN ROMMEL AND THE FIRST ‘FÜHRERHAUPTQUARTIER’
Over the course of the afternoon on Friday, August 25, 1939, a man, who had yet to be a national hero, left the Gargantua building of the ‘Reichskanzlei’ on Wilhelmstraße in Berlin with a split feeling. Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel was summoned to the capital by the Fuhrer himself to leave his administrative office at the military academy. As a combat veteran of the ‘Great War’ and the author of the «Infanterie greift an» (Infantry attacks) book, Rommel now gained something more than a signed military rank of ‘Generalmajor’. In a matter of minutes, Rommel was assigned the leader of ‘Führerbegleitbataillon’ (Führer escort brigade), a special privilege guard formation. All while the privileged members of ‘SS-Leibstandarte’ (snowballed up to 5000 members at the time) were to ensure the safety of Hitler himself, Rommel assumed responsibility for the security of the whole procession. In wider means, the future hero of the Afrika Korps was to enhance the security of the first ‘Führerhauptquartier’ (Fuhrer headquarters) of Adolf Hitler in the Second World War.
In contrast with the more ‘famed’ Hitler’s military headquarters in the future, such as ‘Felsennest’ (Germany), ‘Wolfschanze’ (Poland), and ‘Wehrwolf’ (Ukraine), the very first ‘Führerhauptquartier’ during the Polish campaign was mobile and relocatable. ‘Führersonderzug’ (Fuhrer’s special train) now became a new patrimony of Erwin Rommel. The imposing railroad train of twenty wagons had been codenamed ‘Amerika’. The most relevant historical assumptions state, that Hitler made such a nomination on his own after the French village of the same name to the East of Ypres, one of his battlefronts during the ‘Great War’. The powerful locomotive was accompanied by an anti-aircraft wagon next to it, staffed with a crew of six. ‘Führerwagen’ (The Fuhrer’s wagon) with Hitler’s personal accommodation was the key objective of the train. Along with that, this ‘special train’ included ‘Befehlswagen’ (The command wagon) with a spacious meeting room and a communication center. A separate car for the military adjutants and the personal security staff. The ‘Führersonderzug’ also included a car for Erwin Rommel and his subordinates, two sleeping cars, a luggage wagon, a generator bay, two dining cars, premises for operating personnel, a press center with powerful transmitters, and the final anti-aircraft wagon at the tail.
Hitler’s ‘Führersonderzug’ took a maiden voyage from the platform of the ‘Stettiner Bahnhof’ in Berlin at 9 p.m. on September 3, 1939, when Germany had been already at war with France and England and its army of one and a half million soldiers had been marching the Polish soil for three days. As an Austrian by birth, Hitler had never proclaimed envenomed antipathy towards Poland (‘Mein Kampf’ does not include such passages as well) in contrast to his demagogic attacks against Czechoslovakia and USSR in the past. At the same time, Hitler was now highly motivated in wiping the Polish state off the map and craved to witness the victories of his resurrected army (raised mainly as a consequence of his own vision and actions) with his own eyes. Looking historically forward, the Polish campaign would be the first and the last major offensive operation of the Second World War, which would not be interfered with by Hitler.
Each of the staging posts of Hitler’s mobile ‘Führerhauptquartier’ in Poland had been forehand declared as a closed military zone with additional security measures. Hitler’s rides closer to the frontline in his Mercedes, accompanied by his adjutants and valets, indeed made an impression beyond his own entourage and were cheered by the units of Wehrmacht. With a pistol and a whip, covered with the dust of the roads, Hitler witnessed the advance of his army and the collapse of the Polish state at a safe distance. In Gdynia (renamed by Germans in ‘Gotenhafen’) the German Fuhrer visited the ruins of the Polish bunker and later approached the mobile kitchen to demagogue the diet of German soldiers. Then again, the actual fate of the German casualties was less important for him than his own image of the war leader and the recollections of the Great War. On one occasion, Hitler’s train pulled level with a train, full of wounded German soldiers. Hitler’s listened to the proposition of adjutant Schmundt to visit the wagon and asked to draw the curtains. On the other hand, Hoffman’s album would later include such kind of photo with Hitler and the wounded in carefully staged circumstances.
HITLER’S ENTOURAGE IN POLAND
In contrast with the extensive escort during Hitler’s visit to Italy in 1938 and the upcoming war headquarters, the polish entourage of the fuhrer included a valued number of people, the practice that would be repeated during Hitler’s trip to Paris in June 1940. Heinz Linge and KARL KRAUSE took on the role of personal security next to Hitler. Kral Krause was known as ‘Fuhrer’s Schatten’ (Fuhrer’s shadow) and it would be this very journey to the front, that the chief valet would be dismissed. Krause failed to find the ‘Staatlich Fachingen’, the famous german mineral water for Hitler, and passed off the Polish one for the desired, a deed revealed by his chief. After five years as the ‘Schatten’ (shadow), he had to retain his naval service.
HEINZ LINGE, who succeeded the post of his mentor (Krause) in the midst of the Poland campaign, would write the book ‘With Hitler to the End: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler’s Valet’, published in 1980). The Fuhrer was also accompanied by his two personal secretaries: CHRISTA SCHROEDER and Gerda Daranowski. Forty-six years later, Schroeder would also create after-war memoirs ‘He Was My Chief: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler’s Secretary’. GERDA DARANOWSKI (she would take the name of her husband, Eckhard Christian, in 1943) had been working as Hitler’s secretary since 1937. Except for half a year in 1942-1943, she would remain with her chief until his death within the Berlin bunker.
Apart from the valets, secretaries, and servants, in Poland Hitler was accompanied by two of his personal adjutants: Wilhelm Brückner and Julius Schaub. WILHELM BRUCKNER had been a veteran of the party, ‘the old guard’ as a participant of the failed ‘Beerhall Putsch’. Originating from the year 1934 and up to his dismissal in 1940, he was responsible for forming the closest entourage of Hitler, in particular, Bruckner had supervised the assignment of secretaries, military adjutants, and even personal valets. Bruckner would later become a victim of Martin Bormann’s intrigues and be removed from his position. JULIUS SCHAUB, a man, who inherited this position would not leave his post next to the Fuhrer up to the last hours of the Third Reich in 1945.
All while the OKW office was still largely operating from Berlin, the ‘Führerhauptquartier’ (Fuhrer headquarters) implicated the presence of Hitler’s military adjutants. RUDOLF SCHMUNDT, alpha and omega of Hitler’s military headquarters (he would later approve all the locations), would be killed by the bomb of Claus von Stauffenberg in July 1944. KARL-JESKO VON PUTTKAMER, an adjutant of naval forces, would be depicted in the famous photo next to Hitler and Stauffenberg in ‘Wolfschanze’ and would be wounded during the assassination attempt. GERHARD ENGEL was the subordinate to Rudolf Schmundt. He would spend the last three years of war on active service and the year 1974 witnessed his memoirs: ‘At the Heart of the Reich: The Secret Diary of Hitler’s Army Adjutant’. NICOLAUS VON BELOW, another member of the ‘Poland’ entourage, was of aristocratic origin, a Luftwaffe officer, and Hitler’s air force adjutant since 1937. As early as 1980, ‘At Hitler’s Side: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Luftwaffe Adjutant’ book would become out.
It was hard to contemplate Hitler’s ‘journey’ without his personal physician Karl Brandt, another member of the Fuhrer’s close social environment. The Brandts, as well as Morrells, accompanied Hitler during his state diplomatic visit to Italy in 1938. KARL BRANDT was one of the architectures of the German euthanasia program. As the war ended, he was brought to a trial, juridically known as ‘The United States of America v. Karl Brandt et al.’ or ‘The Doctors trial’ (historically), and later hanged for the crimes against humanity. At that Poland assignment, Brandt was to be accompanied by his deputy, HANS KARL VON HASSELBACH, another attendant physician of Hitler since 1936. Towards the end of the war, he would fall from Hitler’s grace by virtue of his critics of the methods of doctor Morrell, still a conversation starter in historiography. OTTO DIETRICH, Hitler’s press secretary was to prepare the review of the press and the most relevant international feedback on the events on a daily basis. The man, who had not been a part of Hitler’s intimate circle, one way or another formed the scope of information for the eyes of the Fuhrer.
One of the carriages was individually equipped as a residence of MARTIN BORMANN. On one occasion during the September days, the ambitious and vindictive ‘mastermind behind the throne’ was put where he belonged by Erwin Rommel, an episode that would not be forgotten by Borman until the very death of Feldmarschall in 1944. The grey cardinal lambasted the chief of the ‘Führerbegleitbataillon’ on the basis that his (Bormann’s) car had been left behind Hitler’s Mercedes. In fact, the situation made it impossible to move down the road another way than one car after another. As remembered by those present, Rommel dispassionately stated that he is the man in charge and that Bormann would act as he is said to. JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP, a man, who had factored the most in the crooked vision of the possible diplomatic reaction of the Western powers towards the assault on Poland, was another attendee of the ‘Führersonderzug’ (Fuhrer’s special train). The other day, while sitting on the grass next to Hitler, Ribbentrop asked his chief to hand over the international propaganda means to his Foreign Office in order to ‘bring the enemies to heel’.
HEINRICH HIMMLER should be historically regarded as another high-ranking Nazi official, who had labeled himself next to Hitler during the Polish campaign. He ordered to settle the HQ of the Reichsführer SS in Borne Sulinowo (German: Groß Born), one of the waypoints of Hitler’s ‘Führersonderzug’ (Fuhrer’s special train). Himmler came to be very mobile within the initial weeks of war and joined the mobile military headquarters of Hitler on different occasions, in Danzig and Sopot in particular. In doing so Himmler demonstrated the key role of the SS in the vision of a new Reich as well as his own importance next to the Fuhrer. He would make his way back to Berlin as early as September 26.
HEINRICH HOFFMANN, Hitler’s personal photographer, accompanied his chief and friend in the span of the whole Polish campaign. He would make later recollections (on the pages of the memoirs) on the road dust, which had covered every member of the entourage near the frontlines as well as convenient shower rooms on the train. Even before 1939 ended, Hoffmann published ‘Hitler in Polen’, a photo album with commentaries. Speaking back on Erwin Rommel, the chief of the ‘Führerbegleitbataillon’, the future Feldmarschall had no case to witness the indeed large offensive during the Polish campaign. At the same time, the proximity to Hitler was a surprising prize of that period as well as the chance to see the war from the point of view of the high command. In certain instances, Erwin Rommel was welcomed to share breakfast with Hitler and at least on several occasions the Fuhrer and his chief of security were engaged in conversation on military issues. It was this close encounter with Hitler to provoke the jealousy of the others, Bormann in particular.
WARSAW: SEPTEMBER 1939
In parallel with the Warsaw ring around the blockade, the attempts to break into the city by the units of Wehrmacht, and unceasing artillery fire, the Polish capital was destined to suffer ‘the fall of the sky’. In continuation of the air raids in the course of the first days of the war, as early as September 8 the Luftwaffe supported the first large-scale advance and the air bombardment on September 13 provoked a series of fires. On September 23, the day of the Jewish Yom Kippur, Warsaw, and particularly its Jewish quarter, suffered another severe bombardment. Only after three weeks of the war, did Hermann Goering, the Reichsmarschall of the air forces, decide to contribute personal involvement and on September 24 issued an order to conduct a massive airstrike on Warsaw. In the early hours of the next day, which would make it into history as ‘Black Monday’, 1150 planes delivered the most massive air raid by that time.
In dramatic contrast to the devastation of the historical center of Warsaw, the 25 September bombardment did not result in immediate capitulation. Days prior to ‘Back Monday’ Hitler announced Warsaw a fortress, that should be overtaken by force, not by siege. As early as 2 p.m. on September 28, eight days after Hitler’s victory speech in Danzig, Hitler’s desire to beat down Poland was secured by the capitulation of the capital. At the same hours, Joachim von Ribbentrop reached Moscow to set a final signature on the crime full document on the partition of the devastated Polish state between two dictatorships. Despite the capture of 140 000 defenders of Warsaw, the death of 6000, and wounds to 16 000, the Germans would not enter the city until October 1, after taking twelve VIP hostages to secure their own safety. The Germans soldiers marched the streets of the conquered Warsaw next to the corpses of thousands of victims of the air raids and artillery assaults. These pioneer units were accompanied by a filming crew, assigned on behalf of the Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda. Along with the images of the triumphant marching of the Wehrmacht, the cameramen depicted thousands of citizens next to the mobile kitchen trailers, orchestratedly brought by the Germans. The kitchens would disappear as fast as the filming crew, once making the desired picture for the Third Reich.
By the day, when Hitler’s cortege was accommodated within the spacious VIP-like apartments of the ‘Casino Hotel’ in the former resort city called Sopot, Warsaw had been exposed to a massive artillery assault for eight days. On September 22 the German supreme commander fled off to visit the current headquarters of the ‘Army Group North’ to the north of the Polish capital. On that occasion, Hitler made his way towards Warsaw to supervise, at a safe distance on the eastern bank of the Vistula river, the latest attempt to enter the city. At that moment of time, Hitler was informed of the death of Werner von Fritsch, the former commander-in-chief of the German army, forced to resign from his post in 1938. The baron succumbed to the wound in the leg on the outskirts of Warsaw. Fritsch was wounded in the leg and the bullet of the polish machine gun provoked arterial rapture and led to the death of the high-ranking officer in less than a minute. Despite the lack of an immediate reaction to the news, Hitler later (the same day) dictated a communique for interior army distribution: the man, who did nothing to defend his commander in 1938 called the killed general a hero, who had lost his life for the sake of the ‘Volk’ (his nation).
In the early hours Of September 25, 1939, when the 1150 planes were devastating the center of Warsaw, Adolf Hitler started his day with more inelaborate affairs. The German Fuhrer dictated a telegram to Jozef Tiso, the Slovak-made leader (in September 1939 he was not yet a President of the Republic). The man proclaimed the puppet-kind independence from Czechoslovakia under the patronage of Germany as far back as the spring of 1939. Hitler expressed his gratitude for the assistance in the Polish campaign and affirmed the Slovakian claims towards some occupied territories of Poland. In the same early hours, the German supreme commander sympathetically congratulated Christian X, the King of Denmark on the upcoming occasion (September 26) of his birthday. On this very day, Hitler conducted his second known visit to the frontlines near Warsaw. After the arrival of the motorcade to the airport, distanced 30 km from the capital, Hitler willed to undertake a surveillance flight over the city, still embroiled in flames and smoke. On the same day, September 25 Erich von Manstein wrote a letter to his wife in which he was fascinated with Hitler’s visit to the front and how the Fuhrer was welcomed by the troops: all opposed to Manstein’s efforts after the war to speak about his wartime service in antagonism to Hitler.
HITLER’S MOTORCADE CROSSES WARSAW
Anyhow the Polish campaign was to be over, Erwin Rommel, so far the chief of the ‘Führerbeglietbataillon’, was in the cards to undergo another action affair with Hitler’s visit to a conquered Warsaw. The upcoming occasion was destined to become the only instance of the German Fuhrer of the such kind during the course of the Second World War. The bloodless annexation of Austria had been orchestrated eighteen-month prior to the outbreak of a new war and the future Hitler’s visit to Paris (June 1940) would be regarded more like sightseeing. Stefan Starzyński, the former President of Warsaw, was now among the twelve hostages, who had been taken to secure the German ingoing into Warsaw. There would be at least three hypotheses on his death, from being shot in Warsaw the same winter of 1939 to the death in Dachau four years from the day of Hitler’s visit.
On the threshold of Hitler’s visit to Warsaw, the center of the city, a maiden part of the upcoming motorcade route, had been practically sealed from the locals, abandoning the presence of any polish citizens in proximity to the event. A number of buildings along the planned route were now covered with Nazi banners and a good few special security squads, armed with machine guns, were disposed within the windows and roofs across the city center. The local population of the occupied Warsaw was now forbidden (at least on October 5), under penalty of death, to leave their accommodation across the route or to open windows facing the chosen streets. the day before, Hitler personally alleviate the concerns of some SS soldiers and officers, who had already participated in mass killings in Poland. On October 4 he issued a secret order of amnesty, an act of oblivion for the Germans soldiers, who were now beyond the law in committing crimes within occupied territories.
For this once on October 5, 1939, Adolf Hitler made it to Poland from Berlin by means of a plane. As early as 11:30 a.m. the air cortege under the masterful lead of Hans Baur came down to the airfield of Okecie (The modern Warsaw Chopin Airport. Some sources state that they landed at the Kielce airport). As befits the supreme commander and the conqueror, Hitler was awaited and welcomed by his generals. Gerd von Rundstedt, the triumphal commander of ‘Heeresgruppe Süd’ (Army Group South); Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander-in-Chief of the German army; Erhard Milch, the future Field Marshal of aviation and Goering’s deputy; Johannes Blaskowitz, the commander of the triumphal 8th army; Walter von Reichenau, the commander of the 10th army at that time; Friedrich von Cochenhausen, the future general of artillery. The planned VIP-like motorcade was to enter Warsaw from the East and proceed towards the initial point, which was the set of the military parade.
Hitler’s automobile cortege cross the Vistula river across the Most Poniatowskiego (Poniatowski Bridge), named after the Polish military leader of the 17-18 centuries. The bridge was rebuilt after the demolition during the ‘Great War (WWI) and would be totally devastated by Germans five years later in the midst of the Warsaw Uprising. Hereafter, the motorcade proceeded to an avenue, historically praised as ‘Aleje Jerozolimskie’ (The Jerusalem alley), now hastily renamed into Bahnhofstrasse (later one, in the course of the occupation, into ‘Reichsstraße’ and finally ‘Ostlandstrasse’). Subsequently, the cars turned into Nowy Swiat, the famous fashionable arteria of Warsaw, and finally to Ujazdów Avenue. All arrangements were made to orchestrate a parade of victory, thus paying tribute both to the German army and Hitler himself as a supreme commander and a Fuhrer.
THE TWO-HOUR MILITARY PARADE
The long-drawn automobile column, which had been proceeding its way from the airfield, now eased down and entered the wide avenue. Hitler was the key figure of the cortege, all while standing and greeting the German soldiers (who had been carefully ranked by the side of the road hours before) from his Mercedes-Benz W31 type G4 of improved cross-country performance. The route was not accidental as for a while now his cortege had been moving forward across the so-called ‘King’s route’ the king’s road with a two-century history behind. The German dictator was known for his disdain toward the monarchy. Hitler was even much less concerned with the history of the independent Polish state and its kings, who had used this route to reach their royal residences in the South of Warsaw. ‘Ujazdów Avenue’ would later (May 1940) be renamed Lindenallee (Linde Avenue) with a barefaced parallel to the berlin Unter-den-Linden. A year from the day of Hitler’s visit it would be once again renamed (in the course of the orchestrated parade viewed by Hans Frank) to ‘Siegenallee’ (The avenue of Victory).
As far back in Warsaw’s history as the end of the XIX century, a broad street with an elite status of the former king’s road was settled on by rich aristocrats of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the acquisition of independence and the fall of the Habsburgs at the back of the Great War, the spacious villas and adjoining green gardens were mainly turned into embassies. That very afternoon minutes of October 5 1939 Hitler’s cortege made a stop next to Ujazdowski Park and Pałacyk ‘Rembielińskiego’, a luxurious palace of 1840, hit by a German air bomb in the course of the recent raids. A large grandstand, ornamented with Nazi symbolics was erected prior to the event to accommodate Hitler and his close military entourage during the so-called ‘Siegesparade’ (Parade of victory).
Apart from Hitler himself, the made tribune was now to welcome and place forgoing Walther von Brauchitsch, Gerd von Rundstedt, and Friedrich von Cochenhausen. The attentive attendees of the parade had a glimpse to identify the future Feldmarschall of aviation Albert Kesselring, who had been recently (September 30) awarded with Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross by Hitler personally. General Colonel Wilhelm Keitel, the chief of the OKW, had been disdainfully called ‘Lakeitel’ by some of the high-ranking officers of the army. He caught sight of the battlefields in Poland only from the perspective of Hitler’s personal train, a fact, which had not to get in the way of being awarded the ‘Knight’s Cross’ for the Polish campaign. It would take him seven years to get from the parade in Warsaw to the gallow in Nuremberg. Erwin Rommel, the chief of the ‘Führerbegleitbataillon’ was another prominent figure, summoned to Warsaw after a short stay at home and now present within the grandstand.
Among the others present, Johannes Albrecht Blaskowitz, the commander of the 8th army was now filled with a mix of pride and doubts watching his soldiers (the 8th army was the privileged regime of the parade) marching the conquered city. Following the Polish campaign, Blaskowitz was promoted to colonel-general, awarded with ‘Knight’s Cross’, and assigned as the Commander in Chief in the East. In under two subsequent months, the general would fall out of favor of Hitler after his deprecation towards the mass killings, performed by the SS in Poland with the extermination of the city citizens, the prelude to mass killing actions in the USSR such as Babi yar massacre in 1941. On that October afternoon, Blaskowitz could see Heinrich Himmler nearby, an architecture of the ‘Sonderauftrag’ (special tasks) against Polish and Jews, who had come purposively from Berlin to join the parade after a ten-day ‘vacation’.
As for Adolf Hitler, he was now making the most of the moment, while playing the role of the warlord, a colonizer who reviewed his self-made triumphant army for more than two hours in the heart of Warsaw downtown. October 5, 1939, was a warm and sunny day, yet the German Fuhrer favored a leather coat to appear in front of his army. The bloody war would demand another day until the shatters of the devastated Polish army would capitulate on October 6 (on that day Hitler would voice a triumphant speech in Berlin). In the meantime, waiting for such ‘formality’, Hitler addressed the foreign journalists next to the grandstand, who had been craving his commentaries for a few hours. He made emotional stress on the ruins of Warsaw and proclaimed a verbose statement, that Warsaw suffered so much because of the ‘criminal’ perseverance of its leaders and defenders. Hitler voiced the idea, that the Western powers should pay extreme attention to the possible aftermath of war. Subsequent to a two-hour orchestrated parade, Hitler was now to proceed with a short ride across Warsaw.
Afterward the two-hour ceremony, the VIP column-shaped one’s course South, further on Ujazdów Avenue, beside the former luxurious villas, a park, and a botanic garden. As Hitler had always paid intimate attention to his own residences in Germany, he stated his will to visit the former office of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, an iconic ‘father of the Polish nationhood). The first leader of independent Poland after 1918 and later again in office from 1926 until his death, Pilsudski had not been regarded as the first chief of the state, who had favored Belvedere palace. For more than a century the luxurious palace had served as a residence of the Russian rulers and the Warsaw manse of the tsars. As Poland gained its independence, Pilsudski moved to Belvedere, a place that even witnessed his second marriage. Subsequent to four years out of rule, he came back to Palace as early as 1926 with his family.
Fast on the heels of Pilsudski’s death the southern wing of the Palace, the former residence of the Polish iconic ruler, was reshaped to accommodate a museum of his name, the one Hitler visited on October 5, 1939. The Belvedere Palace was slightly damaged during the siege of Warsaw in September and a few artillery shells made no significant deterioration. Hitler had always expressed (openly at least) respect for Pilsudski and used to add his explanation of his (Hitler’s) vision, that the new government of Poland had ‘betrayed’ the efforts of Pilsudski. By virtue of the moment, it was another evidence-free justification of the German aggression toward Poland. In under a month, Josef Goebbels would conduct his own visit to Warsaw and would give a suggestion to Hitler personally to close the museum. A concept statement, motivated by foreclosing the possible rise of Polish patriotism, would be agreed upon by the Fuhrer. In contrast to the glory of a Polish leader, Belvedere was now destined to be accommodated by Hans Frank, who had already occupied the Wawel castle in Krakow. Towards the end of the war, the palace was undermined by the Germans, yet the devastation of the historical icon was not put into action. The Belvedere Palace has been preserved as the residence of the Polish leadership.
Subsequent to a short state at the Belvedere Palace, the long-tail cortege under the impactful supervision of Erwin Rommel lead its way towards ‘Plac Unii’ square. A few minutes upon departure, the automobile column moved in Marzalowska, one of the transport arteries of Warsaw, and took a direction to the North for the city center. The motorcade bypassed the Mokotow district and across the now renamed ‘Aleje Jerozolimskie’ a few hundred meters away from the morning ‘entry point’. A little farther, Hitler’s Mercedes rushed aside a building at Sliska 9, the house which would be accommodated by Janusz Korczak’s orphanage two years from that October 1939 day. It would be this very address, that the praised professor and his orphans left on August 6, 1942, in their last route to the infamous ‘Umschlagplatz’. The route included only one site close enough to the future borders of the Warsaw ghetto, not yet defined and sealed. Soon after the turn from Marzalowska, the cortege took the course beside the fence of ‘Ogrod Saski’ (Saxon Garden) and soon moved into the spacious square of Gargantua dimensions.
As far back in Warsaw’s history as the early years of the XIX century, an open space in front of the palatine served as a place for military parade exercises. In the years between 1841 and 1894 the center of the square, Plac Saski by that time, held a monument, glorying the Polish Uprising of 1830, already destined to be moved to free space as a symbol of the tsarist dominance over Poland. The erection of the monumental Alexander Nevsky Cathedral resulted in the expanses of 3 mln. rubles and took eighteen years to be completed. However, the bell tower 70 meters in height was fated to dominate the square for only a short period of time as Poland gained its independence afterward the Great War. The Cathedral was demolished as early as 1926 and the square was renamed after Marshal Pilsudski two years after.
The automobile cortege of Hitler and his entourage lowed the speed beside the Palac Saski (Saxon Palace), yet the German fuhrer did not leave his Mercedes-Benz W31 type G4. Hitler cast an eye over another residence of the Polish leadership, the Polish Kings of the XVIII century. In the course of the interwar years, the giant-like palace was accommodated by the General staff of the Polish Army as well served as a residence of Jozef Pilsudski until his restoration as a ruler in 1926. Hitler did not make a stop at the monument of the unknown soldier, a memorial brother of the erections of such kind throughout Europe. Hitler participated in laying floral tributes at Piazza Venezia in Rome during his Italian visit in May 1938, yet now disdained the Polish monument. The cortege made a circle across the Pilsudski square and one of the taken photographs depicted Hitler in front of the ‘Palac Bruhla’ (Bruhl Palace). Hitler’s October 1939 ride would not preserve the Palace palatine five years later, when Germans would devastate Saxon Palace and Bruhla in December 1944. To that moment of time (1944) the square had been called Adolf Hitler Platz (Square of Adolf Hitler) for four years.
THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Not long after the motorcade entered the Pilsudski square, the column took a course North to undertake a short ride across the city center of Warsaw, including ‘Rynek Starego Miasta’ (Old town marketplace), ‘Plac Zamkowy’ (Castle square), the President Palace. In actual terms, Hitler’s cortege spined across the city center and left this bank of Vistula by the means of the same Poniatowskiego bridge, he had used a few hours before. Neither Erwin Rommel nor the adherers of the column, not Hitler had a glimpse of the military operation, that had been aimed at the physical termination of the German leader. All the taken preparation was carried out the day before on October 4. Two mass charges, 250 kg of TNT each, were put within an anti-tank trench at the crossroad of Allee Jerozolimskie and Nowy Swiat on both sides of the conjunction. Despite the fact, that the charges were buried under a few meters of soil, the enormous power of the explosive (250 kg) factually left no chance to people in the motorcade, including Hitler himself.
The historiography of the post-war years would witness a number of versions of why Hitler’s cortege successfully left Warsaw on October 5, the charges were not detonated and taken away a few days later. The few members of the ‘Służba Zwycięstwa Polski’ (the first organized resistance movement, which had been initiated on September 27, a day before the capitulation of Warsaw), who survived the war, conventionally assumed one argument. The Polish executives among the soldiers expected the visit of Hitler and had a glimpse of the supposed route, yet the early hours of October 5 brought the doom surprise with the closing of the city center along the route. As the Germans forbade Polish people to be present in the streets of the city center, the observers of the operation failed to take up the position within the buildings at the intersection of Allee Jerozolimskie and Nowy Świat. The man, who was assigned to detonate the charges from the ground floor of the building at Nowy Swiat 15, was now waiting to accept the order, that never come. The building had been accommodated by a ‘Cafe-Club’ Since 1932. Later on in the war, the Polish Home Army would conduct two attacks on the cafe.