Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on
31 August 1939, against the German radio
station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on
the eve of World War II
provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany SS project to
create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which
would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland.
Events at Gleiwitz
what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the sworn
affidavit of Alfred Naujocks at the
Trials. In his testimony, he states that he organized
the incident under orders from Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller, the chief of
On the night of 31 August 1939, a small group of German operatives,
dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks seized the Gleiwitz
station and broadcast a short anti-German
message in Polish (sources
vary on the content of the message). The Germans' goal was to make
the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German
to make the attack seem more convincing, the Germans brought in
Franciszek Honiok, a German Silesian known
for sympathizing with the Poles, who had been arrested the previous
day by the Gestapo.
Honiok was dressed to look like a saboteur; then killed by lethal injection
, given gunshot wounds, and
left dead at the scene, so that he appeared to have been killed
while attacking the station. His corpse was subsequently presented
as proof of the attack to the police and press.
addition to Honiok, several other convicts from the Dachau
concentration camp were kept available for this purpose.
Germans referred to them by the code phrase "Konserve
("canned goods"). For this reason, some sources incorrectly refer
to the incident as "Operation Canned Goods."
Gleiwitz incident was a part of a larger operation, carried out by
Abwehr and SS forces.
At the same time as the Gleiwitz
attack, there were other incidents orchestrated by Germany along
the Polish-German border, such as house torching in the Polish Corridor
and spurious propaganda
output. The entire project, dubbed
Operation Himmler and comprising 21 incidents in all, was intended
to give the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany.
For months prior to the 1939 invasion, German newspapers and
politicians like Adolf Hitler
Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing
of German national
living in Poland.
On the day following the Gleiwitz attack, 1 September 1939, Germany
launched the Fall Weiss
operation — the invasion of Poland — initiating World War II in
Europe. On the same day, in a speech in the Reichstag
, Adolf Hitler cited the 21
border incidents, with three of them called very serious, as
justification for Germany's "defensive" action against Poland. Just
a few days earlier, on 22 August, he had told his generals, "I
shall give a propaganda reason for starting the war; whether it is
plausible or not. The victor will not be asked whether he told the
American correspondents were summoned to the scene next day, but no
neutral parties were allowed to investigate the incident in detail
and the international public was skeptical of the German version of
the incident. A few days after the Gleiwitz incident, the
international public and press
the huge scale of the German "defensive action" meant the invasion
had to have been planned months in advance.
Treatment in popular culture
- Der Fall Gleiwitz, direction:
Gerhard Klein (1961), DEFA studios (The Gleiwitz Case; English
subtitles), an East
German film that reconstructs the events, pronounced in
West Germany the best DEFA film.
- Operacja Himmler – Polart
- Hitler's SS: A Portrait In Evil, direction: Jim Goddard (1985); An American film which shows
part of the Gleiwitz Incident.
- Die Blechtrommel
briefly includes the incident as a part of the film's plot.
- Codename Panzers, a
video game, stirred up controversy in
Poland because uninformed players interpreted authentic German
propaganda about the incident reproduced in the game as a statement
of historical truth.
- John Toland, Adolf
Hitler : The Definitive Biography, ISBN 0-385-42053-6.
- "The Gleiwitz Incident", After the Battle Magazine
Number 142 (March 2009)