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Former Naval Person  Polish campaign  |  "Fifth column"

Gleiwitz Sender in Tarnowitzstraße. On 31 August 1939 a group of SS-men disguised for Polish soldiers seized its facilities and broadcast a proclamation in Polish, which called to an uprising against Germany. This way hitlerites wanted to create a pretext to attack Poland and to justify their aggression before the world's public opinion.

Radio-station Gleiwitz. The old building in Funkstraße with two transmitter masts still in place.


Late evening on Thursday, 31 August 1939 the audience was listening to Gleiwitz, a radio-station on the Germano-Polish frontier but just inside Germany. Suddenly the musical programme broke and excited German voices announced that the town of Gleiwitz had been invaded by Polish irregular formations marching towards the emitting station. Then the station "went dead". When received again, Polish was being spoken. An inflammatory statement was broadcast urging Polish minority in Silesia to take up arms against Adolf Hitler. Radio Cologne gave out that German police was repelling the attackers at Gleiwitz. The BBC also broadcast a statement, which read:

There have been reports of an attack on a radio station in Gleiwitz, which is just across the Polish border in Silesia. The German News Agency reports that the attack came at about 8.00pm this evening when the Poles forced their way into the studio and began broadcasting a statement in Polish. Within quarter of an hour, says reports, the Poles were overpowered by German police, who opened fire on them. Several of the Poles were reported killed, but the numbers are not yet known. [1]

This was the excuse Hitler needed to invade Poland on the next day, 1 September 1939. The incident, which triggered the Second World War could have remained obscure, had it not surfaced during the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945. A written affidavit was then taken from SS-Sturmbannführer Naujocks, which indicated that the attack on the Gleiwitz radio-station was staged by the Gestapo and SD, and was one of numerous "border incidents" fabricated for the purpose of furnishing Hitler with such excuses, and creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion as to Poland's intentions.

Alfred Helmut Naujocks was born on 20 September 1911 and died in 1960. His NSDAP membership card bore number 26240; SS number - 624279. His career is rather sketchy, but he is referred to in virtually every book about the Nazi Reich. William Shirer characterized him as a sort of intellectual gangster, [2] and Heinz Hohne in The Order of the Death Head nicknamed Naujocks as the man who started the Second World War. [1] He studied engineering at Kiel University, joined the SS in 1931 and was brought in by Reinhardt Heydrich in 1934 to help in locating Otto Strasser's "black radio" in Prague. Naujocks became an official of the Amt VI of the SS (Security Service - SD) and was one of the most audacious commanders of the SD. He wasn't an intelligent leader and lacked the mental capacity for creating plans such as those which Heydrich conceived. However he was an expert at carrying out an operation once it was explained. He helped Heydrich to fabricate compromising materials against the Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevskiy, who was effectively tried and executed in infamous Stalin's purges. In 1939 Heydrich gave him details of a simulated Polish attack on a small German radio station at Gleiwitz near the Polish border. This was to give the Führer the excuse for his attack on Poland.

The plan, known as the operation Himmler was conceived early in August 1939. Since 10 August Naujocks' men had been waiting at Gleiwitz, Beuthen, Hindenburg and elsewhere near the Polish frontier, in order to stage a faked Polish attack on the German radio station there. They carried out necessary preparations and reconnaissance. To add authenticity it was planned to take certain prisoners from concentration camps, kill them by use of hypodermic injections, and leave their bodies, clad in Polish uniforms, at the various places where the incidents were planned to occur. The chief of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller, took a directing hand in those actions. At 4:00 on 31 August the executive order to begin the invasion was confirmed, and troops and equipment began moving up to forward positions near the frontier. Simultaneously special orders were transmitted to Naujocks; his men were to attack the forestry station, destroy the German customs building, and, most important, briefly occupy the German radio station at Gleiwitz. After shouting anti-German slogans into the microphone the "Poles" would retreat, leaving behind a number of dead bodies as proof that a fight had taken place. The bodies presented no problem. Naujocks picked them up at 8:00 already unconscious - in SS jargon they were mockingly called "canned goods". The SS-men seized the radio station as ordered, broadcast the speech, fired some shots and left. But before they left they shot the bodies and placed placed them in strategic positions around the radio-station. After the incident, journalists and members of the diplomatic corps were taken to the scene of the incident, where they were presented "proofs" of the "Polish aggression".

Naujocks was also involved in the Venlo incident, where he and 16 other SD men abducted two British intelligence officers, Captain Sigismund Payne Best and Major Richard Henry Stevens. A story was then told that these officers had directed a bomb plot to kill Hitler. The Venlo incident was to be the excuse for invading the Low Countries. He was also involved in operation Bernhard, the operation of faking British bank notes by inmates of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In the SD Naujocks also specialized in forging passports. The Nazi authorities were so pleased with the results that 12 prisoners, three of whom were Jews, were awarded the War Merit Medal. After being dismissed by the SD for disobedience, Naujocks joined the Waffen-SS. In 1943 he was on the Eastern Front. In 1944 he was an economic administrator in Belgium, and then went to sort out the resistance in Denmark and was responsible for the murder of members of the Danish resistance. He deserted to the Americans in October 1944, but escaped from the POW camp. After the war he settled in Hamburg as a businessman. He was alleged to have been involved with Otto Skorzeny after the war in running the secret organization of former SS members - ODESSA. Skorzeny handled the contracts with the Spanish government, and passports and funds were arranged for escaping SS to South America.

The radio-station in Gleiwitz (nowadays Gliwice in Poland) originally was located in Funkstraße (nowadays Radiowa Street) and possessed two transmitters for broadcasting in long waves. In 1935 a new radio-transmitter (Gleiwitzer Sender) was built by the company Lorenz AG from Tempelhof near Berlin (nowadays a district in the German capital). Its facilities, located in Tarnowitzstraße (Tarnogórska Street), comprised broadcasting, administration and living facilities, as well as a mast supporting antennas. Nowadays the mast is still in place. It is 110m tall and is built of materials, which in 1930's constituted a technical novelty: high quality arbutus wood joint by brass and wooden pins. The old masts were demolished, and the buildings were connected through cable. In a way that jepoardized the task of Naujock's men, who could not at once find radio studios, could not find the right microphone etc. [3]

Systematically maintained in good condition, the Gleiwitz Sender is a unique monument of technics, still working. The radio-station facilities are also operable and harbour a small local museum of radio-broadcasting equipment. Admission is free and guidance is available in Polish and English.
  1. H. Hohne, The Order of the Death Head
  2. W. L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
  3. Information provided by Mr. Leszek Jodlinski, Director General of the Museum of Gliwice, in private correspondence. The picture of the Gleiwitz Sender was kindly provided by Mr. Marcin Golaszewski.