Gleiwitz Incident

Gleiwitz incident
Part of Operation Himmler
Glivice radio tower.JPG
The historic Gliwice Radio Tower in 2012. It is the tallest wooden structure in Europe.
Gleiwitz Radio Tower is located in Germany
Gleiwitz Radio Tower
Gleiwitz Radio Tower
Location of the Gleiwitz radio tower in Nazi Germany (1937 borders)
Type Special operations
Location Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia
50°18?48?N 18°41?21?E / 50.313370°N 18.689037°E / 50.313370; 18.689037Coordinates: 50°18?48?N 18°41?21?E / 50.313370°N 18.689037°E / 50.313370; 18.689037
Objective Pretext for the invasion of Poland
Date 31 August 1939 (1939-08-31)
Executed by German SS

The Gleiwitz incident (German: Überfall auf den Sender Gleiwitz; Polish: Prowokacja gliwicka) was a covert Nazi German attack on the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz on the night of 31 August 1939 (today Gliwice, Poland), widely regarded as a deceitful false flag operation staged along with some two dozen similar German incidents on the eve of the invasion of Poland leading up to World War II in Europe.[1] The attackers had been posed as Polish nationals. Adolf Hitler invaded Poland the very next morning after a lengthy period of preparations. During his declaration of war, Hitler did not mention Gleiwitz incident by name, but grouped all provocations staged by the SS as an alleged Polish assault on Germany. The Gleiwitz incident is the best-known action of Operation Himmler, a series of special operations undertaken by the Schutzstaffel (SS) to serve Nazi German propaganda at the outbreak of war. They were intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany in order to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland. The evidence for the Gleiwitz attack by the SS was provided by the German SS officer, Alfred Naujocks in 1945.[1]

Events at Gleiwitz

Alfred Naujocks, who organized and led the Gleiwitz operation on the orders of the Gestapo

Much of what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the affidavit of SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks at the Nuremberg Trials. In his testimony, he stated that he organized the incident under orders from Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller, chief of the Gestapo.[2]

On the night of 31 August 1939, a small group of German operatives dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks[3] seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish (sources vary on the content of the message). The whole operation was named "Grossmutter gestorben" ("Grandmother died").[4] The Germans' goal was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German Polish saboteurs.[3][5]

To make the attack seem more convincing, the Germans murdered Franciszek Honiok, a 43-year-old unmarried German Silesian Catholic farmer known for sympathizing with the Poles. He had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo. He 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 to the police and press as proof of the attack.[6]

In addition to Honiok, several prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp[3] were drugged, shot dead on the site, and their faces disfigured to make identification impossible.[5][7] The 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".[8] In an oral testimony at the trials, Erwin von Lahousen stated that his division of the Abwehr was one of two that were given the task of providing Polish Army uniforms, equipment, and identification cards, and that he was later told by Wilhelm Canaris that people from concentration camps had been disguised in these uniforms and ordered to attack the radio stations.[9]


Plaque on site commemorating the incident

The Gleiwitz incident was a part of a larger operation carried out by Abwehr and SS forces.[5] There were other incidents orchestrated by Germany along the Polish-German border at the same time as the Gleiwitz attack, such as a house torching in the Polish Corridor and spurious propaganda output. The entire project was dubbed Operation Himmler and comprised a number of incidents[10] intended to give the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany.[8]

German newspapers and politicians, including Adolf Hitler, accused Polish authorities for months before the 1939 invasion of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland.[10][11]

On 1 September 1939, the day following the Gleiwitz attack, Germany launched the Fall Weiss operation - the invasion of Poland - initiating World War II in Europe. Hitler cited the border incidents in a speech in the Reichstag on the same day, with three of them called very serious, as justification for Germany's invasion of Poland.[10] He had told his generals on 22 August, just a few days earlier, "I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth."[5][8]

International reactions

American correspondents were summoned to the scene the next day[5] 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.[12]

In popular culture

There have been several adaptations of the incident in cinema. Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961), directed by Gerhard Klein for DEFA studios (The Gleiwitz Case; English subtitles), is an East German film that reconstructs the events.[13]

Operacja Himmler (1979) is a Polish film that covers the events.[14]

Both Die Blechtrommel (1979), directed by Volker Schlöndorff, and Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil (1985), directed by Jim Goddard, briefly include the incident.[15][16]

It was also mentioned in a video game; Codename: Panzers (2004), which stirred up controversy in Poland where the game was briefly discussed in Polish media as anti-Polish falsification of history, before the issue was cleared up as a case of poor reporting.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b Gleiwitz casus belli. Google Books. 2018. Nazi government under Hitler's leadership staged the Gleiwitz incident as a casus belli for the invasion of Poland the following morning 
  2. ^ "20 Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 4". Avalon Project. 20 December 1945. Retrieved 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Christopher J. Ailsby, The Third Reich Day by Day, Zenith Imprint, 2001, ISBN 0-7603-1167-6, Google Print, p. 112
  4. ^ The World War II's first victim. A farmer was murdered as part of a Nazi plot to provide an excuse to invade Poland, the story of a man forgotten by history. By Bob Graham, 29 Aug 2009. The Telegraph.
  5. ^ a b c d e James J. Wirtz, Roy Godson, Strategic Denial and Deception: The Twenty-First Century Challenge, Transaction Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-7658-0898-6, Google Print, p.100
  6. ^ "Museum in Gliwice: What happened here?". Retrieved 2014. 
  7. ^ Thomas Laqueur, 'Devoted to Terror,' in London Review of Books, Vol. 37 No. 18-24 September 2015, pp. 9-16.
  8. ^ a b c Bradley Lightbody, The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis, Routledge, 2004; ISBN 0-415-22405-5, Google Print, p.39
  9. ^ "20 Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 2; Friday, 30 November 1945". Avalon Project. Retrieved 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c "Address by Adolf Hitler". archives of the Avalon Project at the Yale Law School. 1 September 1939. Retrieved 2015. 
  11. ^ "Holocaust Educational Resource". Nizkor. Retrieved 2014. 
  12. ^ Steven J. Zaloga, Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg, Google Print, p. 39, Osprey Publishing, 2002; ISBN 1-84176-408-6
  13. ^ Der Fall Gleiwitz (1961),; accessed 4 June 2015.
  14. ^ Operacja Himmler (TV 1979),; accessed 4 June 2015.
  15. ^ Die Blechtrommel (1979),; accessed 4 June 2015.
  16. ^ Hitler's S.S.: Portrait in Evil (TV 1985),; accessed 4 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Skrytykowali gr?, cho? jej nie widzieli". 23 August 2004. Retrieved 2012. 

Further reading

  • John Toland, Adolf Hitler : The Definitive Biography, ISBN 0-385-42053-6.
  • Dennis Whitehead, "The Gleiwitz Incident", After the Battle Magazine Number 142 (March 2009)
  • Stanley S. Seidner, Marshal Edward ?mig?y-Rydz Rydz and the Defense of Poland, New York, 1978.
  • Spieß / Lichtenstein Unternehmen Tannenberg. Der Anlass zum Zweiten Weltkrieg, Wiesbaden und München 1979.
  • Polak-Springer, Peter (April 2013). "'Jammin' with Karlik': The German-Polish 'Radio War' and the Gleiwitz 'Provocation', 1925-1939". European History Quarterly. SagePub. 43 (2): 279-300. doi:10.1177/0265691413478095. Lay summary. 

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Connect with defaultLogic
What We've Done
Led Digital Marketing Efforts of Top 500 e-Retailers.
Worked with Top Brands at Leading Agencies.
Successfully Managed Over $50 million in Digital Ad Spend.
Developed Strategies and Processes that Enabled Brands to Grow During an Economic Downturn.
Taught Advanced Internet Marketing Strategies at the graduate level.

Manage research, learning and skills at defaultLogic. Create an account using LinkedIn or facebook to manage and organize your Digital Marketing and Technology knowledge. defaultLogic works like a shopping cart for information -- helping you to save, discuss and share.

Visit defaultLogic's partner sites below: : Music Genres | Musicians | Musical Instruments | Music Industry
NCR Works : Retail Banking | Restaurant Industry | Retail Industry | Hospitality Industry

  Contact Us