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Subject: Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms (Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig) Design Diary rss

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David Thompson
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Greetings all,

A while back I asked the forums what the next entry in the "Valiant Defense" series of games should be (following Castle Itter and Pavlov's House).

In that thread Michal Kochman suggested the Defense of the Polish Post Office in the Free City of Danzig on the first day of WW2. I wasn't familiar with this incredible story of heroism, but after reading about it, I was convinced. This needed to be the next part of the series.

Michal and I are teaming up on this one. For the last few months, he's put together some amazing research on the topic. At the end of next month, the two of us will be meeting in Gdańsk to visit the museum there that is dedicated to the defense of the post office. We have some additional details that need to be filled in before the core of the game design can begin.

But we're close to getting started. I'll use this thread as a diary of our efforts.

We're tentatively titling the game "Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms."

Regardless of whether the game is eventually picked up by a publisher, the design will be free as a print and play game (and online via Tabletop Simulator/Tabletopia/Vassal), as we feel this is a story that should be shared.

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Matt A.
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That sounds very interesting. Time for me to do some reading about it.
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Christopher
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Very interesting action, unknown to me until today!

I'll be watching this closely and will expect a very nice game from you, David!

And don't be shy to ask if you need an extra playtester!
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Dave Ratynski
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very interested in this project, subscribed! thanks for taking this one on!
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Harshad Deshmukh
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Very interesting! Subscribed!
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David Thompson
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Thanks for all the interest everyone. Michal and I are headed for Gdansk next weekend. I'll make sure to post some pics and provide an update of our progress in this thread.
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David Thompson
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Let the adventure begin. My wife and I arrived in Gdansk today. We decided to head to the post office museum in the evening so the lighting would be good for pictures. Here are a few...







Tomorrow I meet with Michal to begin the real work.
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JPotter - Bits77
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Skirmish_Tactics wrote:

We're tentatively titling the game "Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms."



Hmmm .... "Standing Post" would be my best suggestion. Maybe "Stand and Deliver".

Certainly better than "Ye Shall Not Post" or anything involing the word 'postal'.

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Brent Pollock
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Return to Sender.
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Frank McNally
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I don't recall if the post office is covered in this book, bit it did have quite a bit about Danzig.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1964156.Thousand_Hour_Da...
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David Thompson
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Yesterday I finally had the pleasure of meeting Michal in person as we got together to continue our research of the defense of the Polish Post Office.

We were also met by historian Jan Daniluk, an expert on Gdansk during WW2.


(Michal, Jan, and me in front of the Polish Post Office).
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David Thompson
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Here are a couple comparison images of the front of the Polish Post Office.

Reference image of the post office before the battle. This image has a couple very interesting attributes. First, you can see the fence that cause such trouble for the SS and SA attackers. Second, you can see the trees in front of the post office. These had been cut down prior to the battle to allow for better line-of-sight for the defenders.



Here is a good image of the damage the post office sustained from the infantry cannons and (especially) the howitzer that was used by the SS and SA during their frontal assault.



And here is an image I took of the post office during our visit.

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David Thompson
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If you've been following along you may be thinking - "All these pics are great, and you've said you're working on this, but I want to see some actual game design notes in this design diary!"

Well, if you're familiar with Castle Itter and Pavlov's House, you'll know one of the key parts of the game is understanding the adversary's avenues of approach to the defended location.

In this post we'll examine just that, through a collection of aerial photographs, line drawings, and some rough 3d models.

Here is a reference image of the area around the Polish Post Office from 1929. I have cropped the image, and it's low resolution, because we don't own the rights to use it. But it provides a good enough view of the area to get the general idea. This aerial photograph will serve as the primary source for the board design. I will be doing some mensuration off this photograph to make sure the battlefield is the proper scale, etc.



Unfortunately 1929 is really the closest date to the actual battle (1 Sep 1939) where we have a nice, high resolution photo. A couple things changed between 1929 and 1939, primarily the removal of the trees in front of the building. Here is a very poor resolution aerial photo of the building from 1943.



And for comparison's sake, here's a modern view of the building. Lots of things around the building have changed, so the only real use the modern picture provides me is more opportunity for mensuration of the building itself. There are quite a few satellite images available of the building from the last 10 years or so. Most of those are from a near vertical view, which is unfortunate, because it means we don't get great angles of the sides of the building. However, with handheld photos from the ground, a ton of satellite imagery isn't really that useful.



This line drawing does a fantastic job of laying out the most important part of this post - the avenues of approach used by the attackers. I won't delve into the details now, but it lays out the routes used by the Danzig police. And it gives an overview of the frontal assault conducted by the SS and SA.



Inside the museum is a great overlay of the details from the line drawing with a sepia-toned version of the 1929 aerial photograph.



It's also helpful to get an idea of what the attackers and defenders "saw" during the battle. That can be done to a limited extent by looking at 3d models of the modern building and surrounding areas. Here's a bird's eye view of the courtyard. This is the area where the police attacked the building.



Here's an elevated/bird's eye view from the 105mm howitzer position used by the German attackers (approximately 130m from the building).



Here's a similar view from the perspective of the infantry cannons (approximately 60m from the building).



But what does all this mean? Well, it helps me design the paths that the attackers will use. Again, if you're familiar with Castle Itter and Pavlov's House, you know the defenders' positions within the building will be color-coded with the attackers' routes for line-of-sight. I haven't done that work yet, but I have drafted VERY rough concepts for the attack routes (white circles).



More to come soon (after Essen!)...
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Florent Leguern Conciergerie Easylife
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Well, I'm all in again
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Very nice log entry - I'm impressed with the level of research you are doing, and learning about a battle I had never heard of before. Looking forward to your design, much appreciated!
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This looks like a fantastic project. I'm very interested to see how it progresses.
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Harshad Deshmukh
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Hello! How are things going on ?
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Michal Kochman
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uberjoker wrote:
Hello! How are things going on ?


Hello, Harshad,

Thank you for your interest in our game! We're making slow but steady progress. We've been writing a short article on the events leading up to the fighting. I'm going to post it later tonight, I just need to get to my other computer.

David will be better able to answer regarding the mechanical side of the game.

Best wishes,

Michał
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David Thompson
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Just wait - when you see Michal’s article, it’s going to blow you away. I have seen drafts and it’s fantastic stuff.

I’ve been slowed on the game design due to some good fortune at Essen Spiel. I had a couple of games signed, and I needed to get some work done on those. I’m starting to get some free time again, though, so I will get back to work on Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms. I’m anticipating about six months worth of fairly intense design work, followed by blind playtesting. But I will continue to update this design diary frequently.
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Michal Kochman
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The Defense of the Polish Post Office in Danzig


The Free City of Danzig (present-day Gdańsk) came into being in 1920, in accordance with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Within the next two decades, the city would become a flash-point in Polish-German relations, ultimately culminating in the so-called Danzig Crisis of 1939. Simultaneous with the opening of the invasion of Poland at 4:45am on September 1, 1939, strong German forces moved in to seize the Polish installations on the territory of the Free City of Danzig. Of the latter, two were on alert and under orders to hold out. Under attack from land, air, and sea, the roughly two-hundred-strong garrison at the Military Transit Depot on the peninsula of Westerplatte fought on until September 7. The personnel of the Polish Postal Office No. 1 at Heveliusplatz repulsed repeated assaults, and was forced to surrender only after a day-long siege, when the building that they held was doused with gasoline and set alight. Though German propaganda would later cast these acts of defiance as futile and a failure, already during the war they came to be seen as symbolic of Poland's stand against the materially superior aggressor.

Our upcoming game will depict the defense of the Polish Postal Office No. 1. Because relatively few works in the English-speaking world have covered this subject, in this post we will attempt to shed some light on it by bringing together information from the mainly Polish- and German-language literature.


A city made free against its will

To recount the story of the Polish Post in Danzig, one must go back to the year 1919, when the political map of Europe was being redrawn at the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty of Versailles, imposed by the Allied Powers on the defeated Germany, compelled the latter to undergo disarmament, pay considerable war reparations, and make substantial territorial concessions. In particular, Articles 27 and 28 of the treaty apportioned a narrow strip of land in Pomerania to the newly reconstituted Polish Republic, thus providing Poland with access to the Baltic Sea and, at the same time, separating the German province of East Prussia from the bulk of German territory. Though Polish diplomacy insisted on referring to this region as the “Pomeranian District,” abroad it came to be known by the somewhat disparaging term of the “Polish Corridor.”



The Free City of Danzig, and the Polish Corridor, on a 1938 map. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Polish representatives at to the Paris Peace Conference had also called for the port city of Danzig to be likewise incorporated into Poland. The Polish demands had the support of the French and, initially, the United States delegations. The British government, however, took an opposing stance on this matter. Ultimately, a compromise solution was adopted: by Articles 100 to 108 of the Versailles Treaty, the port city of Danzig was separated from Germany and designated a Free City under the direct authority of the League of Nations, which was to be represented locally by a High Commissioner. The Free City's autonomy would be further curtailed by the prerogatives granted to the Polish Republic in the areas of administration, commerce, and foreign relations.

Throughout Germany, these and other provisions of the Treaty of Versailles were met with resentment and scorn. Danzig’s population was predominantly German, with ethnic Poles making up only a small minority of a few per cent. The German majority was adamantly opposed to any solution which would place the city outside Germany’s borders; massive protests were held even as the treaty was still being negotiated. Rumours abounded of a Polish plot to overthrow the local authorities and annex the city. The fateful provisions nonetheless remained in the text of this treaty, and the Free City of Danzig formally came into being on November 15, 1920.

The small polity was granted partial control over its internal affairs; legislative power was vested in the Parliament (Volkstag) of 120 members, elected by proportional representation. The executive branch, in turn, was the Senate composed of twenty members, which was elected by the Volkstag and headed by the President of the Senate (Präsident des Senats). On the other hand, in foreign relations the Free City was to be represented by Polish government. What is more, the League of Nations, in the person of the League of Nations High Commissioner, was to act as the guarantor of the Free City's Constitution, and to mediate in disputes between the Poland and the Free City. Germany, for its part, was left with no formal influence in the Danzig. On a more unofficial level, however, the Free City's ties to Germany endured. Throughout its history, it remained a microcosm of the German political scene, with the local political parties being essentially branches of their parent organizations in Germany. Moreover, the Constitution of the Free City of Danzig stipulated that it was to be demilitarized: it was barred from maintaining military or naval bases, constructing fortifications, and manufacturing munitions and matériel.

Having lobbied for a far more favorable outcome, the Polish side, too, was dissatisfied with the negotiated settlement that was the establishment of the Free City of Danzig. Although Poland was left with a short coastline, having no seaport of its own, it was still reliant on cooperation with the Danzig authorities for access to port facilities. This strategic weakness hit home in 1921, when, at the height of the Polish-Soviet war, local dock workers went on strike, refusing to unload supplies bound for the Polish army. This incident in particular demonstrated to the Polish leadership the need for a national seaport. The natural location for the new port was the nearby fishing village of Gdynia. Within the year, intensive work was begun on the construction of a port and associated infrastructure. The rapid pace of development was in no small part thanks to support from French investors, and the technical expertise of Dutch construction companies. Soon, a shipbuilding enterprise was founded, and the Gdynia Shipyard launched its first vessel in 1931. By then, Gdynia had become an industrial city, and a major trade hub.

At the same time, however, the development of Gdynia as a competing seaport was a heavy blow to the economy of Danzig, already suffering from the effects of the worldwide Great Depression.


The Nazi take-over

Amid high unemployment and increasing ethnic tensions, the local branch of the NSDAP (the Nazi party) began to make electoral gains. The Danzig NSDAP started out as a completely marginal political force, poorly organized and riven with infighting. In 1927, it won just under 1% of the vote, which translated into only a single seat out of 120 in the Volkstag, and there seemed no reason to believe that it would ever become anything more than an extremist fringe party. The turning point came in 1930 with the appointment of Albert Forster as the new Gauleiter of the Danzig branch of the NSDAP. Forster's appointment as Gauleiter at the relatively young age 28 cemented his reputation as a rising star in the party; a skilled orator, he enjoyed close relations with Adolf Hitler.

Forster's leadership energized the Danzig NSDAP. In November 1930, the Nazis won over 16% of the vote, and took 12 seats in the Volkstag, which had recently been reduced in size to 72 seats. The electoral success strengthened Forster's hand: shortly thereafter, he founded the propaganda newspaper “Danziger Vorposten,” and began a systematic campaign of intimidation directed especially against leftist opposition parties, trade unions, as well as the city’s Jewish community. Prominent Nazi personages such as Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher began appearing at local party gatherings in order to lend support to the Danzig branch of the Nazi party.

Meanwhile, the NSDAP was also rapidly gaining ground in the Reich. Hitler's appointment as chancellor had a knock-on effect on the politics of Danzig; in April 1933, the Volkstag was dissolved and new elections called called for May. Following an extremely brutal electoral campaign, the NSDAP emerged as the clear victor, having achieved a slim absolute majority of 50.1%. Dr Hermann Rauschning, a relatively moderate follower of national socialism, became president of the Danzig Senate. Soon, however, Rauschning was ousted and replaced by his own deputy, Arthur Greiser, with backing from Forster. With time, however, Greiser and Forster himself engaged in a bitter power struggle.



The electoral onslaught of the NSDAP in Danzig: vote percentage in the
Free City of Danzig parliamentary elections from 1927 to 1935.

Despite having achieved an absolute majority in the Volkstag, the NSDAP was still constrained by the Free City's Constitution, which it could not amend without a two-thirds majority. At the time, the Senate was not yet prepared to simply ignore the Constitution, as doing so would have precipitated a confrontation with the then High Commissioner of the League of Nations, Sean Lester. Accordingly, new elections were called for February 1935. This time, however, the results were a disappointment to the Nazis: their share of the vote was 59%, by no means a defeat, but short of the two-thirds required to do away with the constitution. One factor which had worked against the Nazis was their inability to bolster the economy; in fact, the Free City's finances were being propped up with subventions from the Reich. The setback at the polls ushered in a new period of repression: opposition parties and trade unions were decimated by arrests, banned, or intimidated into dissolving themselves, and pro-opposition newspapers were closed down.

To his credit, Lester tried his utmost to compel the Danzig Senate to abide by the Constitution, and to cease the persecution of the opposition parties. His annual report to the League of Nations for 1935 described the situation in very clear terms, causing acute embarrassment to the Free City’s authorities. For a few months afterwards, the Danzig government adopted a more conciliatory tone, and promised to rein in the police and the paramilitaries. The thaw did not last, however. In June 1936, Forster and the German leadership set off a diplomatic showdown by having the commander of a visiting German cruiser calculatedly affront Lester. Lester and the League of Nations Council could not let this stand, and Greiser was summoned to Geneva to offer an explanation.

On his way to Geneva, Greiser passed through Berlin, where he was coached for his public appearance by Hitler, Göring and Forster. In his official speech in Geneva, he launched an angry tirade against the League of Nations' presence in Danzig, and Lester in particular, and finished off his performance with a Nazi salute. This drew laughter from the press gallery, to which Greiser responded with an offensive gesture. Except for this childish parting shot, Greiser’s appearance in Geneva went exactly as his principals in Berlin had planned. Its bluff called, the League was forced to back down. The High Commissioner returned to Danzig, but from then on he was left politically isolated. The Nazi-controlled Senate ignored him; policemen were posted outside his residence, ostensibly in order to protect him, but in reality to prevent further contact with the opposition. In a face-saving exercise, Lester was promoted out to a new position several months before the end of his tenure as High Commissioner. With his departure, the Nazis were left in complete control of Danzig’s internal politics.

In the years that followed, the Free City was brought fully into line with the heinous National Socialist ideology. The political opposition having already been eliminated from the public life, the Nazis now turned their attentions to their next victims, first among which was the city's Jewish populace. Danzig at the time had a Jewish community of roughly ten thousand. From the early days of Nazi rule, the Jews were subjected to violent attacks and systematic discrimination. In October 1937, Forster gave the signal for the persecution to be increased in severity. On October 23, 1937, the Nazis organized a pogrom in which Jewish property was vandalized and looted. Another great pogrom was carried out on the night from November 12 to 13, 1938, three days after the so-called Kristallnacht took place in the Reich. On November 21, 1938, the Free City introduced its local counterpart of the Nuremberg Laws, which criminalized marriage or sexual relations between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.

The pogroms and persecution had the intended effect of intimidating the Danzig Jews into emigrating: over half of the Free City's Jewish population had left by early 1939. Soon afterwards, the remaining 3500-4000 were compelled to sell any real estate they owned at below-value prices, and forcibly deported. Thanks to the efforts of the British consul in Danzig, a group of 122 Jewish children were taken in by Great Britain. In May, the Nazis began demolishing the Great Synagogue of Danzig. Of the Jews who remained in the city, only a small handful survived the war.


The Polish Postal Service in Danzig

Article 104 of the Versailles Treaty, which came into force on January 10, 1920, granted the Polish Republic the right to establish its own postal service within the limits of the Free City of Danzig, fully independent from the city's own postal service. This prerogative was specified in more detail in the Polish-German convention, signed in Paris on November 9, 1920, and the Warsaw Agreement of October 24, 1921. The Polish Postal Service in Danzig opened its first branch in 1920, and the second and third followed in 1921 and 1925. The latter, located in the building of the former Prussian garrison hospital at Heveliusplatz 1/2, was the first Polish postal office in Danzig to be accessible to the general public.

From the very beginning, the Polish Postal Service was seen as a symbol of the Polish presence in Danzig, and its expansion was consistently met with legal opposition from the Danzig Senate. The dispute intensified especially in 1925, after Polish mailboxes were placed in the city center and in the port area on January 5. Overnight, many were defaced by German nationalists. This seemingly minor incident resulted in a protracted diplomatic dispute. The Danzig Senate opined that the Polish Post had no right to set up its own mailboxes in the city limits, and requested arbitration from the representative of the League of Nations, Mervyn MacDonnell. The matter was ultimately resolved in favour of Poland by the Permanent Court of International Justice in Hague.


The lead-up to war

In January 1934, Germany and the Polish Republic signed a mutual non-aggression pact, beginning a period of relative rapprochement which lasted into 1938. During this interval, the Free City’s authorities generally pursued a policy of non-interference, if not exactly cooperation, with Polish interests, though Forster was chomping at the bit to end the charade and reunite Danzig with Germany. The matter of the city’s status was once again brought to the fore in October 1938: during a meeting with the Józef Lipski, Polish ambassador to Germany, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, stated Germany’s desire to see the city back within German borders. Moreover, von Ribbentrop noted that the German government desired to construct an ex-territorial highway and railway connecting the province of East Prussia to the main body of the German territory, and suggested that Poland join the Anti-Comintern Pact, thereby allying itself with Germany. However, this and all subsequent overtures were turned down, and, over the following few months, relations between Berlin and Warsaw deteriorated steadily.

Poland’s position was most clearly outlined in Foreign Minister Józef Beck’s speech of May 5, 1939. The German demands, Beck said, would have required unilateral concessions from Poland, with no reciprocity from the German side. Beck rejected this option categorically, and concluded his speech by stating that Poland did not believe in peace at any price. The public mood in Poland was defiant, and Beck’s speech, widely broadcast across the country, earned him much popularity; in the evening of the same day, he spoke to a crowd who had gathered outside the Foreign Ministry building in order to show support for the government’s line.

The change of tone in Polish-German relations was immediately felt in the Free City. In coordination with the Germany’s broader diplomatic offensive, the Danzig Nazis opened a campaign of harassment and intimidation directed against the Polish minority. Especially targeted as visible symbols of the Polish presence were uniformed employees of Polish institutions: railway workers, customs officials, and postmen. One incident in particular demonstrates that the provocations and violence were intended not merely to intimidate the Poles, but also to demonize them in the eyes of the city’s onlooking German populace. On August 26, 1939, postman Franciszek Mionskowski was out on the street delivering mail when a German woman screamed for help, claiming he had kicked her child. Within moments, he was set upon and beaten by Nazi paramilitaries. Fearing for their safety, employees of Polish agencies and ethnically Polish citizens of Danzig began leaving the city, or sending their families to Poland.

Though the crisis which preceded the outbreak of the Second World War came to be known after Danzig, the German demands for concessions from the Polish side were, at most, a smoke-screen to divert attention from preparations for an all-out invasion. At a conference with the leadership of the Wehrmacht on May 23, 1939, Hitler himself noted that the confrontation was “not about Danzig at all.” Rather, his main reasons for going to war were the need to secure living space (Lebensraum) and economic security for the German people. The matter of Danzig was merely a convenient pretext, and a rallying cry for anti-Polish propaganda.

The course having thus been set for war, the Free City of Danzig, already aligned politically with the Nazi regime, was to become integrated into the German war machine. By summer 1939, the German side was barely trying to conceal its intentions any more. Manpower and matériel and was being brought in to Danzig – mainly from the province of East Prussia – and a number of military units were created or expanded for the purpose of operations in the Polish Corridor.

Earlier, in October 1933, the Free City established the Landespolizei (or Lapo; State Police), a barracked police force organized along military lines, whose stated purpose was to provide support and reinforcements to Danzig’s regular police, the Schutzpolizei (Schupo; Security Police). The manpower of this first Landespolizei was drawn entirely from SS cadres. It was disbanded in October 1935, due in part to Danzig’s continuing financial difficulties; some of its former members were secretly transferred to the Schupo, or to Wehrmacht units in East Prussia.

June 1939 saw the Landespolizei reactivated as a military unit in all but name, under the command of Generalmajor Friedrich-Geord Eberhardt. It consisted of two infantry regiments (Landespolizei-Regiment 1 and Landespolizei-Regiment 2), an artillery battalion (Danziger Artillerie-Abteilung), an engineer company (Pionier-Kompanie), a communications company (Nachrichten-Kompanie), and supply units. Its manpower was drawn from conscripts and reservists from the Danzig area as well as East Prussia, and notably included many students of the Danzig Technical University. Sources refer to General Eberhardt’s command variously as the Sonderverband Danzig, or Kampfgruppe or Brigade Eberhardt.

At the behest of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the SS, too, was to play a role in the return of Danzig to Germany. The combat unit SS-Heimwehr Danzig (SS Homeland Defence Danzig) began as the III. Sturmbann (battalion) of the SS-Totenkopf-Standarte 4, whose members were largely recruited from among the Sudeten Germans in 1938. Its command was entrusted to SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans-Friedemann Goetze, after whom it was initially named SS-Sturmbann Goetze. Beginning in May 1939, it was reinforced by roughly 500 volunteers from Danzig, bringing up its strength to around 1500. In August 1939, it was officially renamed the SS-Heimwehr Danzig. In turn, the SS-Wachsturmbann “Eimann” so named after its commander, SS-Hauptsturmführer Kurt Eimann, was called into being by decree of the Danzig Senate on July 3, 1939. Though ostensibly another combat unit, it was, in essence, a death squad, and would later win infamy for its involvement in the extermination of ethnic Poles, Aktion T4, and other crimes. Both the SS units were tactically subordinated to General Eberhardt.

What is more, several units were raised from Sturmabteilung (SA) cadres. These were grouped together as the 6. SA-Brigade under the command of SA-Brigadeführer Hacker; some of its manpower was eventually absorbed by the
infantry regiments of the Landespolizei.

Until shortly before the opening of the war, the mission planned for the Brigade Eberhardt and the SS-Heimwehr Danzig was purely defensive in nature. In the final days before the invasion, however, a different plan was enacted: both the infantry regiments of the Landespolizei were redeployed to jumping-off positions for attacks on Polish positions near Zoppot (present-day Sopot) and Zuckau (Żukowo). The SS-Heimwehr Danzig, in turn, was to take part in an assault on Tczew (known as Dirschau in German).

In Polish planning, it was recognized that in the event of full-scale war with Germany, the Pomeranian Corridor did not offer operational possibilities, as any forces deployed to that area would become dangerously exposed to encirclement from the west. At the same time, the strategic value of Gdynia as a seaport would be negated by Germany’s ability to interdict shipping. Consquently, it was not expected that a land link with the bulk of the Polish territory. Polish mainland could be maintained. Instead, the coastal region was prepared for a separate defense in isolation from the mainland.

It seems that until the last days before the war, the possibility was also considered that the German side might, initially at least, limit itself to the annexation the Free City of Danzig (with the latter’s collusion). Earlier, in 1936, the Polish military leadership had ordered general Władysław Bortnowski, then acting Inspector General of the Armed Forces in Toruń, and his chief of staff, lieutenant colonel Jan Maliszewski, to formulate a plan for military intervention in the eventuality of an attempt the Danzig authorities to change the status quo. The 1936 plan was based on the assumption that the conflict would involve only Danzig and Poland, while Germany would maintain a policy of hostile neutrality. It called for an attack towards Danzig by an Intervention Corps consisting of two infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade. Danzig's own paramilitary forces were estimated to be equivalent in strength to a single infantry division. At that time, Bortnowski's and Maliszewski's plan remained in the realm of hypothetical contingencies, and no serious preparations were made to implement it.

In 1939, the concept of military intervention in Danzig was rehashed by Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły. On August 13, the Intervention Corps was formed, consisting of the 13th and 27th Infantry Divisions and supporting units under the command of brigadier-general Stanisław Skwarczyński. Until the beginning of hostilities, the Corps was to remain at Rydz-Śmigły's disposal; if the decision was made to use it, it was to become subordinated to Bortnowski, who was by now commander of the “Pomorze” (Pomerania) Army. The Corps’ mission had the character of a show of force: it was supposed to advance into the territory of the Free City of Danzig, but without undertaking an assault on the city proper.

Initially, the Corps was deployed in the region around the cities of Bydgoszcz and Inowrocław, at the “entry” to the Polish Corridor and relatively far from Danzig. On August 24, the 27th Infantry Division was ordered to redeploy to the south of the city of Starogard Gdański, far deeper into the Corridor. This move forced the “Pomorze” Army to cover a substantially longer segment of the front line, weakening its defensive posture. Meanwhile, increasingly reliable intelligence was arriving of concentrations of German troops along the entire Polish-German border. Finally, in the morning of August 31, the plan for the attack towards Danzig was called off altogether. The Intervention Corps was disbanded; its supporting units as well as the 13th Infantry Division were ordered to prepare for movement by train. On the following day, the outbreak of the war caught the “Pomorze” Army stretched out along an unnecessarily long front line.


The prelude to the siege

Parallel to the planning for military intervention in Danzig, it was decided that some of the Polish civilian institutions in the Free City were to offer resistance to any German forces attempting to enter their premises. In April 1939, 2nd lieutenant of the reserve Konrad Guderski was dispatched to Danzig with a secret mission to prepare the Polish Postal Office No. 1 for defense against the Germans, and to act as its commander in the event of the outbreak of war. Guderski was a veteran operative of a Polish military intelligence agency, Office 2 of Section II of the General Staff of the Polish Army (Ekspozytura nr 2 Oddziału II Sztabu Głównego WP). In Danzig, he used his first name as a pseudonym. He took up headquarters in the building of the Polish Post at Heveliusplatz, and acquainted a select few of its employees with the the plan for the Post to be defended against a German attack. Over the following months, he oversaw the smuggling of arms, munitions and explosives from Gdynia to the Post and to other Polish agencies in the Free City.

Many of the personnel of the Polish Post were reservists, or else had undergone military training. It is known that some were members of a conspiratorial organization coordinated by postman Alfons Flisykowski, and were tasked with carrying out diversionary actions at various locations in the Free City. In the event, these plans were called off before the outbreak of the war, and no acts of sabotage were actually carried out.

The German police and intelligence services were, to some extent, aware of the postmen’s covert activities, certainly by the last days before the war. Throughout the summer, the Polish institutions in Danzig were under around-the-clock surveillance. In anticipation of the outbreak of war, the German side was preparing a city-wide police operation involving raids on Polish institutions and arrests of individual Poles.

The task of seizing the Polish Postal Office No. 1 at Heveliusplatz was entrusted to the regular police force, the Schutzpolizei, one of whose police stations (the II. Polizeirevier) was housed in another wing of the same building. In early July, Polizeiobermeister Erich Goertz formulated a detailed plan for the assault. The original document authored by Goertz has survived the war; in his analysis of the layout of the building and its immediate surroundings (see diagram below), Goertz noted that the main entrance into the building, located along its northern face, was protected by a sturdy iron fencing, and an assault from this direction would have been impracticable. On the other hand, the entrances located along the eastern and southern faces were only protected by wooden fences, which could be demolished using grenade bundles. Hence, Goertz envisioned a two-pronged attack. The first and second assault groups, numbering 15 policemen each, were supposed to approach the building from within the II. Polizeirevier - that is to say, from the southern direction. After breaching the wooden fence and crossing the courtyard, they were to force their way into the building with explosive charges. The third assault group, numbering 19 policemen, was to approach close to the eastern face of the building while staying in cover behind a brick wall, and would then move in through a gate in the wooden wall and towards the side entrance. The assault groups only had to cross a short distance over open ground before reaching their assigned entrances.



Approach routes for attack on the Polish Postal Office No. 1 at Heveliusplatz, as envisioned by Polizeiobermeister Goertz.

Each of the three assault groups was to carry explosive charges, axes, and wirecutters, and was also to contain a Polish-speaking policeman who could serve as an interpreter. A further two reinforcing groups would stand ready to follow in their stead. The entire area was to be cordoned off, and riflemen and machine guns were to be posted in nearby buildings in order to provide suppressive fire.

Throughout the summer of 1939, the personnel of the Polish Post was on high alert. In order to guard against attacks and provocations by Nazi paramilitaries, the postmen began delivering mail in in twos. At one point, two postmen who were members of the local conspiratorial organization were arrested by the German police. For reasons of security, the eight remaining conspirators who belonged to the same cells were immediately evacuated to Poland, and were replaced by transfers from Gdynia and Bydgoszcz.

A final shipment of arms to the Polish Post arrived in the morning of August 28. A postal truck loaded with three machine guns, ammunition, and two crates of egg grenades, was driven onto the courtyard before the policemen stationed around the building could stop and search it. The reaction from the German side was not long in coming: two officials arrived with police escort, demanding to be allowed to search the building, and to arrest the truck's driver, supposedly because he had run over a German policeman on the pavement. Their request was denied, and the men left.

Either in the evening of the same day, or the following day, “Konrad” called a briefing for those among the personnel who were considered absolutely reliable: Flisykowski, superindendent Jan Wąsik, Alojzy Franz, Władysław Koprowiak, Franciszek Mionskowski, Jan Nowak, and likely also Franciszek Klinkosz, Stanisław Rekowski and the driver, Kazimierz Gdaniec. At the briefing, he explained the true reason that he had been dispatched to Gdańsk. Describing the political situation as extremely serious, he declared a mobilization in the Postal Office, effective immediately, and named Flisykowski as his second-in-command. The mobilization concerned all employees, and as such, they were charged with the duty of defending the Postal Office against a German attack. He mentioned that sufficient weapons and munitions were available to defend the building for a period of six to eight hours. On August 29, a general mobilization was announced in Poland.

On August 31, a Polish railway worker arrived at the Polish Post and asked to to speak specifically with “Konrad.” He told the surprised “Konrad” that the Polish State Railways station had been seized by the Germans, and that the other railway workers had been interned; only he had managed to escape. Having nowhere else to go, he was allowed to stay in the building.

On the same day, Marian Chodacki, Poland’s General Commissioner in the Free City of Danzig, sent a coded dispatch to Foreign Minister Beck, in which he argued that the plans for armed resistance by Polish agencies in the Free City served no useful purpose. Accordingly, diversionary operations in Danzig were called off. However, it remains unclear whether orders were issued for the Polish agencies in Danzig to surrender peacefully, and if so, whether they were relayed to the Polish Postal Office before the outbreak of the war.

In the evening, all female employees of the Polish Post were sent to their homes. The men, on the other hand, about fifty-five in number, remained behind at the Post. The building’s janitor, his wife, and their eleven-year-old adopted daughter, who lived in a company apartment within the building of the Post, also stayed there for the night.

As had become standard practice, the postmen were in a state of high readiness, and watches were kept throughout the night.


The fighting for the Polish Postal Office at Heveliusplatz

At around 4:30 AM on September 1, the mains electricity and phone connection to the building of the Polish Post No. 1 were severed, which would have alerted the postmen that an attack was imminent. The police force took up positions around the building. Small groups of policemen cordoned off the nearby streets, and local residents were instructed to shelter in their basements.

In overall command of the attacking police force was Leutnant Gert Heinrich, who'd been sent to Danzig for Berlin, and who also acted as the leader of one of the assault groups. The other two were commanded by Polizeimeister Arthur Willer, and the author of the plan for the assault, Polizeiobermeister Erich Goertz. For this operation, the Danzig Schutzpolizei was reinforced with so-called auxiliary policemen: members of Danzig's Sicherheitsdienst, a number of policemen from Berlin, and at least one member of the SS-Wachsturmbann “Eimann”.

At 4:45 AM on September 1, the city was awoken by the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shelling the Polish positions at Westerplatte. At roughly the same time, the German police force commenced its assault on the Polish Post. That the attacking force followed the plan devised by Goertz is evidenced by an account by one of the defenders who survived the war, Augustyn Młyński, who describes the Germans as rushing towards the building over the courtyard. However, after breaking through the wooden fences, the attackers were met with intense fire, and began to fall back. Only the first assault group was able to blast their way into the building. The policemen – at least four in number – entered a storeroom on the raised ground floor, but were forced to withdraw after engaging the defenders in close-quarters combat.

“Konrad,” the commander of the defenders, fell in the fighting, and two more of the defenders were wounded. After “Konrad's” death, Flisykowski assumed overall command. The postmen conferred among themselves, and unanimously agreed to carry on fighting.

On the German side, there were two dead and six wounded, among them Leutnant Heinrich, whose wounds would prove mortal. Oberst der Polizei Willy Bethke, the overall commander of the Schutzpolizei, took over direct command of the attacking forces. No longer being able to count on the element of surprise, he requested support from the Brigade Eberhardt, and began preparing a second assault. A lull in the fighting ensued as the police force reorganized itself and awaited the arrival of reinforcements. At least once, the police addressed the defenders via megaphone, calling on them to surrender, but got no response.

The course of the fighting was closely followed by Gauleiter Forster. Either he or someone from his inner circle must have decided that the battle would make for good propaganda material, and invited reporters from local newspapers and Germany's Großdeutscher Rundfunk, and cameramen of the Ufa-Tonwoche. Only a few days later, the camera footage would be screened throughout Germany as part of the first wartime newsreel of the Ufa-Tonwoche (newsreel No. 470/37).

The first reinforcements to arrive were two light infantry guns of the 13. LeIG Kompanie of the SS-Heimwehr “Danzig.” These particular guns and their crews had been left behind by the main body of the unit, which was presently going through its own difficult baptism by fire near Tczew (Dirschau), because they lacked dedicated transport. Instead, they were carried on requisitioned civilian vehicles. The infantry guns were brought up as close as 60 m to their target, and began shelling the front face of the building. The postmen responded with machine gun and rifle fire. Anton Winter, one of the men of the SS-Heimwehr “Danzig” who took part of the fighting, later reconted that while the crews were tearing up the cobbled street surface in order to be able to stabilize the guns, one of the crewmen was killed and another wounded. The Landespolizei units also dispatched two or three armored cars and a howitzer of the 3. Batterie, Artillerie-Abteilung Danzig. The latter was deployed some 150 m away from its target.

The exact sequence of events during the second assault seems somewhat unclear. What is known is that, unable to force a surrender, Bethke ordered to commence a second attack by four assault groups, commanded by Oberleutnant Hermann Gehrke, Oberleutnant Heinrich Jagd, Oberwachtmeister Hans Grunow, and Polizeiobermeister Erich Goertz. Altogether, the four assault groups presumably amounted to over 60 men. By then, the gate in the iron fencing protecting the building from the north had been blown off its hinges. (Surviving footage from the fighting shows one of the armored cars driving along the frontal fence with a German policeman or soldier riding on its hull. As the armored car drives past the gate, the policeman throws an explosive charge – most likely a grenade bundle – at the already damaged gate, then clings closer to the hull as the armored car drives away.) One of the assault troops advanced towards the main entrance behind one of the armored cars, and managed to approach close to the gate, but were unable to gain a foothold in the building. At some point later, a shell from the howitzer hit the façade of the brick building, destroying the main entrance and causing part of the surrounding wall to collapse.

The failure of the second assault was followed by another period of relative calm. Since the attempts to take the building via attack over open ground had achieved little success, Bethke brought in a team of combat engineers from the Pionier-Kompanie of the Brigade Eberhardt, under the command of Hauptmann Czygan, who set explosive charges on an interior wall separating the Polish Postal Office from the II. Polizeirevier. Once this obstacle had been destroyed, the attackers hoped to move directly from the II. Polizeirevier into the Polish strongpoint. What is more, fresh troops from SS-Heimwehr Danzig and SS-Wachsturmbann “Eimann” arrived to aid the exhausted policemen.

The third attack was begun at around 5pm, and was initiated by detonating the explosive charges. However, whether by design or accident, the attackers in the cellars found their way blocked by the trunks of trees which had grown in front of the building, and which “Konrad” had ordered cut down in order to clear the lines of sight. For this reason, the third assault was again directed against the main entrance to the building. The postmen were no longer able to hold the ground and upper floors, and most moved down into the basement. In the course of the third assault, the attacking force took the ground floor. Still, the basement remained in the hands of the defenders. One of the postmen continued to fire at the police cordon from one of the upper floors, which were by now unreachable, as much of staircase had been destroyed by the shelling.

Unwilling to risk further close-quarters fighting, the attackers brought up a fire engine filled with gasoline, pumped it into the basement and onto the walls, and ignited it with a hand grenade. The resulting conflagration was horrific: five of the defenders died in the fire. Another six people were to die later of their burns, among them janitor, and his and his wife's adopted daughter. Because the situation now appeared hopeless, the postmen holed up in the basement decided to surrender. One of the postmen took off his shirt, tied it to a broomstick, and held it out from a cellar window.

The first of the surrendering defenders to emerge from the building – deputy director Jan Michoń – was gunned down on the spot; the second – superintendent Józef Wąsik – was set on fire with the improvised flamethrower. Only after that were the surrendering postmen taken prisoner.

In the ensuing confusion, six from among the defenders decided to try to escape rather than be taken prisoner. Among them was Flisykowski, who had been wounded in the leg, presumably during the escape attempt, and was in considerable pain. Shortly thereafter, he was found and turned over to the police by a German civilian. Another of the six was apprehended the following day, but the other four managed to slip through the German dragnet unrecognized, and survived the war. One was kept in hiding by a sympathetic German landowner, who also protected several other Poles.


In captivity

The thirty-nine defenders captured by the Germans, many wounded or suffering from severe burns, were ordered onto trucks and taken to the Police Station at Karrenwall (present-day Ul. Okopowa). There, they were held for the following two days, subjected to beatings and brutal interrogations. In circumstances which remain unclear, one of the thirty-nine, Leon Fuz, managed to separate from the others, and mixed in with another group of arrested postmen, who had not participated in the defense.

On September 3, the other thirty-eight defenders were moved to underground fortifications within the old Prussian fortifications at Stolzenberg (today known as Biskupia Górka). Only then was Red Cross personnel admitted to them in order to administer medical aid. The most severely wounded were sent away for treatment to a hospital in Langfuhr (present-day Wrzeszcz), where remained under guard. After the surrender of the Polish military outpost at Westerplatte on September 7, enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers from its garrison were also imprisoned in at Stolzenberg, and saw the imprisoned postmen, later describing them as completely covered in dark bruises.

Gauleiter Forster took enough of an interest in the fate of the captured defenders that he visited their prison, where he had them assembled in front of him, and addressed them in a derisive tone, promising harsh retribution for their actions. Against this backdrop, the German side promptly opened criminal proceedings the captured defenders. Very likely, Forster issued explicit instructions to the effect that the captives were to be executed. Certainly, all involved must have known of his personal investment in the matter. The investigation was entrusted to the military solicitor (Kriegsgerichtsrat) with the Brigade Eberhardt, Dr Hans-Werner Giesecke, who also acted as the prosecutor. Incidentally, after the failure of the initial assault on the Polish Post, Giesecke had personally overseen the carrying out of General Eberhardt's order to send a howitzer to support the attack.

The proceedings against the captured defenders can only be described as a sham, designed to provide legal sanction for a predetermined verdict. In order to secure death sentences for the defendants, Giesecke recast the events of September 1 as Polish soldiers, supposedly dressed in postmen’s uniforms as a ruse of war, firing on members of the Gruppe Eberhardt, in the late afternoon. In Giesecke’s contrived scenario, the defenders were engaging in partisan activity, an offence which carried the death penalty in German martial law. The case of the prosecution was unwittingly helped by the testimony from some of the captured defenders, who did believe their status was that of soldiers, despite not having been issued military uniforms. Certainly, they had indeed acted as soldiers.

Postwar legal analyses by the Polish jurist Antoni Świtalski, and later by the German criminologist and historian Dieter Schenk, have demonstrated the falsehood of practically all contentions of the prosecution: the defenders of the Polish Post were not soldiers, and neither could they be considered partisans. Their actions on September 1 were not criminal in nature; rather, they acted in self-defense.

The defenders’ trial commenced later on the very same day. A desk was stood on the courtyard within the Stolzenberg fortifications, behind which sat a panel consisting of Dr Kurt Bode (the chairman), Dr Hans Wolfgang Schimmelpfennig, an officer of the Gdańsk Police, and another officer, unknown by name. Each defendant was individually brought before the court, asked a few questions, and sent back to his cell. In afternoon, some of the defendants were taken to the court at Neugarten, where their trial continued. By evening, the court-martial had sentenced twenty-eight of the defendants to death for partisan activity. The court sat again three weeks later, and the remaining ten of the defendants, who had been unfit to stand trial on the previous occasion because of their injuries, were likewise sentenced to death. All of the prisoners asked for pardon, but their pleas were denied.

The sentence was carried out early in the morning of October 5, 1939, on the outskirts of the city. A mass grave for the defenders was dug by a work detail of Polish prisoners, and it is from one of them, Aleksy Rosiński, that the details of their last moments are known. The defenders were brought to the place of execution on trucks. There, they were assembled together and their sentence was read out to them. Kneeling, they received the Eucharist from a chaplain. They were then blindfolded, and led behind an earthen wall, in front of the execution squad.

Leon Fuz, the postman who had separated from the other captives, was incarcerated in the concentration camp at Stutthof, along with several employees of the Polish Postal Service in Danzig. However, in December 1939 he was outed as one of the postmen from Heveliusplatz, and executed in the forests near Piaśnica.


Acknowledgements

We are greatly indebted to Jan Daniluk of the Museum of Sopot for sharing with us the findings of his research into this action and the German military organizations in Danzig, and to Dr Janusz Trupinda of the Museum of the Polish Post in Gdańsk, who kindly provided us with a set of detailed plans of the building of the Polish Postal Office No. 1 as it existed before the outbreak of the war.


References

Sean Lester. Free City of Danzig. Annual Report of the High Commisioner
Accessed via biblio-archive.unog.ch/Dateien/CouncilDocs/C-28-1936-VII_EN.pdf

Report by Rhys J. Davies, Member of the Last Labour Government, on His Visit to Danzig: "On a Visit to the Free City of Danzig, Easter Week, 1936"
Accessed via http://biblio-archive.unog.ch/Detail.aspx?ID=60588

Die Verfassung der Freien Stadt Danzig
Accessed via http://www.verfassungen.de/de/x/danzig/danzig22-index.htm

Aleksander Śnieżko (1964). Poczta Polska w Wolnym Mieście Gdańsku. Zarys Historyczny Wrocław: Muzeum Poczty i Telekomunikacji.

Antoni Świtalski (1979). Zbrodnia usankcjonowana. Skazanie na śmierć obrońców Poczty Polskiej w Gdańsku w świetle prawa Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków – Gdańsk: Ossolineum.

Dieter Schenk (1995). Die Post von Danzig. Geschichte eines deutschen Justizmords Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag.

Roderick Stackelberg and Sally A. Winkle (2002). The Nazi Germany Sourcebook: An Anthology of Texts London and New York: Routledge.

Rolf Michaelis (2008). SS-Heimwehr Danzig in Poland 1939 Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History.

Catherine Epstein (2008). Model Nazi. Arthur Greiser and the occupation of Western Poland Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jan Daniluk, Zasieki na plaży, „Biuletyn IPN Pamięć.pl” 2014, nr 9 (30), s. 26-30. ISSN: 2084-7319.

Dieter Schenk (2014). Gdańsk 1930-1945. Koniec pewnego Wolnego Miasta Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Oskar.

Jan Daniluk (2014). Obrońcy Poczty Polskiej w Gdańsku Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej. Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu.
Accessed at www.pamiec.pl/download/49/40023/BroszuraObroncyPocztyPolskie...

Jan Daniluk, Niespokojne lato. Sytuacja w Gdańsku w przededniu wybuchu II wojny światowej (czerwiec-sierpień 1939), „Argumenta Historica. Czasopismo naukowo-dydaktyczne” 2015, nr 2, s. 18-38. ISSN: 2353-0839
accessed at
http://www.argumentahistorica.ug.edu.pl/wp-content/uploads/2...

Jan Daniluk (2017). “Miasto skoszarowane”. Garnizon Gdańsk w latach 1939-1945. (preprint of doctoral thesis)

Janusz Trupinda (2017). Muzeum Poczty Polskiej w Gdańsku. Przewodnik

Through Enemy Eyes Vol. 1 (Two Disk DVD Set) June 21, 1939 - March 6, 1940 International Historic Films (collection of German propaganda newsreels)
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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So this is going on Kickstarter when?

Very well written and gripping story.
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Great read. Pavlovs House was my first ever Kickstarter. Greatly anticipating to see this one in future too.
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Thanks for that great write up! I only knew about the incident from its cameo appearance in the film "The Tin Drum" [1]. I was not really impressed with the film - I didn't care for the gimmick - but it did portray the Polish Post Office as an event of some importance. Now I can appreciate the full story.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078875/
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"The Thousand Hour Day" includes a recount of the defense at Danzig. I cannot recall if the post-office itself was described, but I do recall barricades. Enjoyable historical fictional account about the invasion of Poland.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1964156.Thousand_Hour_Da...
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All,

Sorry for the break in this thread. I have been spending a ton of time lately working on development of games that are close to release. However, I've been able to set aside some time lately for Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms.

Michal did an excellent job laying out the background for the game. Mechanically, I've known for a while that I wanted the core to be familiar to those who have played Castle Itter and Pavlov's House, but the game should also have a unique, fresh feeling. Even more so than Castle Itter and Pavlov's House, the battle for the post office was fought at extremely close quarters. Every fence, wall, building, street angle, and tree mattered. In both Castle Itter and Pavlov's House, the difference in relative height between the attackers and defenders is abstracted. That is because, generally speaking, the defenders in both cases were doing so from a consistent height advantage. That is not necessarily true in the case of the post office defense. In fact, by the end of the battle, the defenders had been forced into the basement.

The variance in height of the defenders relative to the attackers is something I wanted to stress in Soldiers in Postmen's Uniforms, but I wanted to do so in such a way that it doesn't complicate the streamlined line-of-sight system I developed for the series of games. I also knew that I needed a way - for the first time - to indicate which floor of the building the defenders were occupying.

This is what I've come up with:



The board is split into two parts: on the left side is the overview around the post office. On the right hand side is the post office broken into three different floors. The top "floor" is actually an abstraction of the combination of floors 1, 2, and 3 (or 2, 3, and 4 for my fellow Americans). The middle floor is the ground floor. And the bottom floor is the basement.

This LoS system is identical to that used in Pavlov's House and Castle Itter. If the combat position in the building matches the color of a avenue of approach, LoS exists.

You can see the avenues of approach for the police (the three green circles marked "1", "2-3", and "4-6"). As well as the avenues of approach for the SS and SA (all the other paths). I've included rough LoS extents based on the building's layout with the black lines that divide the board into four areas. As you can see with the green circles that turn into yellow circles, LoS is dictated not only by direction by also elevation and other factors. In the case of the two green paths that begin with the "1" and "2-3" circles, there was a wooden fence that provided cover from the postmen on the basement and ground floors. So, as you can see, the basement and ground floor combat positions can only target the yellow circles.

I'm still considering whether the corner combat positions in the building should be multicolored.

Note that for this example, I'm using a recent Google Maps image. The LoS is actually taken from a aerial photo from 1929, so some of the LoS in the example might seems a little off. Also, this is clearly just in the VERY early design phase. The board will eventually be recreated from scratch and look like something along the lines of the design I created for Castle Itter's board:


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