The World at War

DANZIG 1919 – 1939

DANZIG Timeline

1919June 28 Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles and renounces all rights and title to the city of Danzig and surrounding territories totaling 1,893 sq. km. in area in favor of the Allies. The Allies undertake the establishment of Free City under League of Nations Protection in the ceded territory. German residents of the Free City will be given two years to opt for Free City or German nationality. If they choose to retain German citizenship they must leave the Free City within 12 months.
Sir Reginald Thomas Tower of Great Britain is appointed High Commissioner of the Principle Allied and Associated Powers for Danzig.
1920January 10 The Free City of Danzig is organized under the authority granted to the Principle Allied and Associated Powers by the Treaty of Versailles.
Heinrich Sahm elected Lord Mayor of Danzig.
March 5 The Danzig Council of State organized under the chairmanship of Heinrich Sahm.
September 7 Sir Reginald Thomas Tower resigns as High Commissioner of the Principle Allied and Associated Powers for Danzig.
November 15 The Constitution establishing Danzig as a Free City under League of Nations protection is instituted in accordance with Article 103 of the Versailles Treaty.
The High Commissioner (Voelkerbund) appointed by the League of Nations for a 3 year terms is empowered to arbitrate disputes with Poland.
Legislative power is vested in 120 member Volkstag elected by proportional representation to for a 4 year term.
Executive power is vested in a 20 member Senate, consisting of a president and 19 senators elected from and requiring the confidence of the Volkstag.
Men and women are required to vote starting at age 20. Voting is voluntary for men and women starting at age 25.
Edward L. Strutt of Great Britain is appointed acting League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
British troops are withdrawn from Danzig.
December 6 Heinrich Sahm is elected President of the Free City Senate.
December 10 Bernardo Attolico of Italy is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
1921January 24 Sir Richard C. B. Haking of Great Britain is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
January The Free City postal administration issues first Danzig postage stamps.
August 4 A General Strike in the port of Danzig is staged to protest shipments of war material to Poland.
October 24 A treaty, negotiated in accordance with Article 104 of the Versailles Treaty, between the Polish Government and the Free City of Danzig, becomes effective. Poland acquires the right:
To effect the inclusion of the Free City of Danzig within the Polish Customs frontiers, and to establish a free area in the port
To the free use and service of all waterways, docks, basins, wharves and other works within the territory of the Free City necessary for Polish imports and exports
To the control and administration of the Vistula and the railway system within the Free City, except street and other railways which primarily serve the needs of the Free City, and of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communication between Poland and the port of Danzig
To develop and improve the waterways, docks, basins, wharves, railways
To provide protection against any discrimination within the Free City of Danzig detrimental to citizens of Poland and other ethnic Poles
To undertake the conduct of the foreign relations of the Free City of Danzig.
During the Year American food and agricultural products account for 80% of the tonnage imported through the port of Danzig.
1922May 11 The League of Nations formally ratifies the constitution of the Free City of Danzig.
June 30 Imports shipped through the port of Danzig in the preceding 18 months total 3,472,784 metric tons. Ports of origin are the United States 47.2%, Great Britain 18% and Germany 15%.
Exports shipped from the port of Danzig in the preceding 18 months total 892,371 metric tons. Ports of destination are in Great Britain 29.5%, Germany 10.7% and the United States 1.3%.
During the Year American food and agricultural products account for 44% of the tonnage imported through the port of Danzig.
The Harbor Commission composed of a Swiss Commissioner, 5 Danzig and 5 Polish representatives approves a $1 billion program to upgrade Danzig’s port facilities.
1923FREE CITY OF DANZIG - CENSUS STATISTICS : MOTHER TONGUE - German 95% - Polish 3.3 % - Kassubisch / Masurisch 1.3% - German & Polish O.4% : RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION - Lutheran 58% - Catholic 36.7% - Jewish 2.4% - Mennonite 1.5% : OCCUPATION - industrial workers or craftsmen 32.9% - merchants or transport workers 31.4% - farmers, foresters or fishermen 21.3% - civil servants or professionals 9% - domestics and others 5.4%
January Sir Richard Haking resigns as League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
March 6 Mervyn S. McDonnell of Great Britain is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
November 18 General Election - Distribution of Seats in the Volkstag: German National People’s Party 33, Social Democrats 29, Center Party 16, Communists 11, German Democrats 8, Polish 5 and others 16.
1924A new currency, the Danzig Gulden (Guilder), is introduced to replace the inflation ravaged German Mark in the Free City. The Gulden has 35% gold backing and trades at the rate of 1 Gulden = $0.193 US.
April 4 The High Commissioner allows Poland to build an ammunition deport in Danzig on the Westerplatte.
June 14 The High Commission determines that half the cost of constructing the Polish ammunition depot (3 million Danzig Gulden) shall be paid from the revenues of the Free City Danzig.
August 31 Free City of Danzig - Population by District: Danzig 206,458 : Zoppot 26,906 : Oliva 13,927 : Ohra 12,260 : Tiegenhof 3,087.
1925January 5 A Polish post office opens on the Heveliusplatz in Danzig ’s harbor area. Polish stamps overprinted “Port Gdansk” are issued and Polish mailboxes are setup in the city center.
December 13 Joost Adriaan van Hamel of the Netherlands is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
During the Year Gross tonnage shipped through the port of Danzig exceeds pre-war levels for the first time.
1927November 12 General Election - Distribution of Seats in the Volkstag: Social Democrats 42, German Nationalists 25, Center Party 18, Communists 8 and others 27. The National Socialist enter a slate of candidates for the first time and get 1,483 votes.
1928The Polish port of Gdynia handles 1,957,769 tons of cargo in its first full year of operation. Nearly all of Gdynia’s traffic previously flowed through the port of Danzig.
1929June 22 Manfredi Ramacca of Italy is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
During the Year The Polish Government establishes marketing boards to sell sugar, grain and timber and purchase phosphate and nitrate fertilizers directly rather than through Danzig traders.
Traffic in the rival Polish port of Gdynia grows to 2,822,502 tons.
Danzig’s leading exports are: coal 5.3 million tons, timber 613,000 tons andgrain 265,000 tons.
1930August 26 The International Court of Justice in The Hague rules that treaty provisions granting Poland jurisdiction over Danzig’s conduct of foreign relations bars the Free City from seeking membership in the International Labor Organization without Polish consent.
October 15 Adolf Hitler gives Albert Forster full control of the Danzig branch of the Nazi Party.
November 16 General Election - Distribution of Seats in the Volkstag: Social Democrats 19, National Socialists 12, Center Party 11, German Nationalists 10, Communists 7, National People’s Party 3 and others 10.
During the Year Traffic in the port of Danzig drops 4% vs 20% in most other Baltic ports.
1931January 7 A Polish handbill appears in Paris labeling Danzig “A danger to world peace”. January 10
Ernst Ziehm is elected President of the Free City Senate.
January 25 Street fights between Nazis and Communist breakout in the Free City.
April 15 Poland demands the right to deploy troops in Danzig.
May The League of Nations High Commissioner tells the Council, “there is no concealing the fact that Polish – Danzig relations are traversing a severe crisis the development of which in recent months has been particularly alarming.”
July 12 Danzig appeals to the League of Nations to prevent a march through its streets by Polish marines.
October Senator William Borah of Idaho suggests a Polish – German conference be held to settle the Polish corridor dispute in an interview with the French press corps during a visit to Washington by Premier Laval.
October 25 The High Commissioner rules, “that Poland is obliged to use the harbor facilities of Danzig to the fullest extent”, Poland acknowledges nothing in the ruling as prohibiting further development of Gdynia. Polish Foreign Minister Zaleski declares that Poland has no intention of meeting with Germany to discuss Danzig.
December 11 The International Court of Justice rules that Polish warships are not legally entitled to access to the port of Danzig.
1932October 16 Helmer R. G. Rosting of Denmark is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
1933January 31 The economic crisis deepens. The Free City’s unemployed number 40,726.
May 28 General Election - Distribution of Seats in the Volkstag: National Socialists 38, Social Democrats 13, Center Party 10, Communists 5, German Nationalists 4 and Poles 2. The Nazis get 108,000 of 215,000 ballots cast but fall short of the 2/3 majority needed to amend the constitution.
June 20 Hermann Rauschning is elected President of the Free City Senate.
1934January 15 Sean Lester of Ireland is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
June 27 Publication of Die Danziger Volksstimme (Voice of the People) is banned for 6 months.
September 1 Poland and Danzig sign a 2 year trade agreement removing tariff barriers.
September Die Danziger Landeszeitung and Die Danziger Allgemeine Zeitung cease publication.
November 23 Senate President Hermann Rauschning resigns and breaks with the Nazis.
Arthur Greiser is elected Senate President.
1935March The press crackdown continues: Die Danziger Volksstimme is shutdown for 4 days. Die Danziger Volkszeitung (People’s Paper) warned against criticizing the Nazis.
April The Polish language newspaper Gazeta Gdanska (Danzig Gazette) is forced to cease publication.
April 5 Joseph Gobbels, Rudolph Hess and Hermann Goering visit Danzig to campaign with Nazi candidates in Free City’s general election.
April 7 The Nazis are swept to victory in Danzig’s general election carrying 59% of the vote. The NSDAP wins 43 seats in the Volkstag against 29 for the combined opposition but fall 5 seats short of the 2/3 majority needed to amend the constitution.
May 1 Germany ends payment of a $600,000/month subsidy paid to Danzig since the Nazi victory in the 1933 general election and defaults on a $2.5 million debt owed to Danzig for agricultural exports.
May 2 The gold backing of the Danzig Gulden is reduced from 35 to 5%. The Gulden is devalued by 42.37%. One Gulden now buys $0.115.
June 4 A banking moratorium is declared to stop a drain of foreign exchange that follows devaluation of the Gulden.
June 12 Foreign exchange controls are implemented to prevent the Polish zloty from replacing the Gulden as the principal medium of exchange in Danzig. Poland declares the exchange controls a violation of the Danzig-Polish Trade Agreement. Polish controlled railways refuse to accept payment in Gulden for shipment of goods from Danzig to Poland.
July 18 Poland prohibits entry of all imports passing through the port of Danzig.
August 1 Senate President Greiser (citing economic problems) declares a state of emergency and calls for negotiations to resolve trade disputes with Poland. Danzig abolishes duties on most imports from Germany in an effort to end the customs union with Poland.
September 5 The Senate implements new penal ordinances by decree allowing arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of persons deemed, ‘a menace to the public order”.
September The League of Nations Council establishes a committee headed by Anthony Eden to investigate allegations of minority rights infringements in Danzig.
September The currency dispute is resolved. Poland withdraws its order forbidding collection of duties by Danzig on goods shipped to Poland. Danzig ends duty free entry of German goods into the Free City.
October 21 A 1,000 member auxiliary police force, formed following the electoral victory of the Nazis in Danzig, is suppressed after Poland protests to the League of Nations.
December 4 The International Court of Justice rules Danzig’s “public order” ordinances a violation of the League of Nations constitutional guarantees.
1936January 24 The League of Nations accepts the Eden Committee’s report on abuse of minority rights in Danzig and adopts a resolution demanding that the Government of the Free City implement the reports’ recommendations in full.
February 2 The Danzig Senate agrees to repeal the unconstitutional penal codes amendments and compensate municipal employees ousted for opposition to the Nazis.
March The Nazi renew their effort to crush the opposition. Men and women are beaten on the streets for refusing to salute the Nazi flag and opposition political meetings are broken up.
May 29 Doctor Blavier, leader of the opposition in the Senate, is placed in “protective custody” by the political police. Publication of Neue Zeit (New Times) is banned for 8 months.
June 3 Publication of Die Danziger Volksstimme is banned for 2 months.
June 20 Nazi leader Albert Forster declares that, “National Socialism will no longer tolerate opposition meetings.”
June 25 The German cruiser Leipzig docks in the port of Danzig. The Officers pointedly omit High Commissioner Lester in their customary round of visits to Danzig officials.
June 26 Albert Forster declares the League of Nations High Commissioner, “superfluous”, to the government of the Free City. June 27
The semi-official German newspaper Deutsche Diplomatische Korrespondens endorses Forster’s view of the High Commissioner.
July 4 Senate President Greiser appears before the League of Nations in Geneva and demands termination of the League’s jurisdiction over Danzig. Greiser ends his speech with a Nazi salute.
July 6 Senate President Greiser orders seizure of newspapers publishing derogatory accounts of his appearance in Geneva. The Social Democratic journal Volkstimme is suspended from publication for 3 months.
July 8 Poland delivers a note warning Danzig against arbitrary changes to its constitution.
July 18 The Danzig Senate issues decrees abolishing democratic constitutional rights guaranteed by the League of Nations. The Danzig Supreme Court rejects appeals by trade unions and opposition parties to overturn the decrees.
Nazi guards are posted at the entrance to High Commissioner Lester’s office. Visitors are asked to show identification papers and explain the purpose of their visit. August 18
8,000 Poles parade through Posen on floats carrying banners proclaiming, “Danzig was and will remain Polish” and “Danzig must become Polish”.
September 30 The League of Nations approves the appointment of High Commissioner Sean Lester as Deputy Secretary General.
October 5 The League of Nations charges Poland to, “putting an end to the obstruction offered by the Danzig Government the High Commissioner in the exercise of his office and for rendering fully effective the League of Nations guarantee..”
October 15 The Social Democratic Party is dissolved and banned. 120 Social Democratic leaders are arrested.
November 30 The Social Democratic and Center Party Volkstag deputies are accused of fomenting anarchy.
December The Nazi renew street attacks on Poles, Jews and political opponents. Shops refusing to display the swastika are targeted by vandals.
Nazi leader Forster (with Hitler’s approval) orders the arrest of 80 party members who having grown impatient with the pace of anti-democratic change are plotting a revolt against the leadership.
During the Year Former Senate President Hermann Rauschning flees to exile in Switzerland.
1937January 10 Polish-Danzig accord signed. Danzig agrees to accept a new League High Commissioner in return for a free hand in administering its internal affairs including minority relations. The High Commissioner is required to gather information form “official sources only”.
January 27 The League of Nations ratifies the Polish-Danzig accord.
February 6 Doctor Stachmik, Center Party senator, is arrested in violation of immunity granted members of the Volkstag.
February 9 The Senate decrees a change to the electoral law to permit the arrest of uncooperative deputies. Seats of opposition deputies arrested are declared vacant and filled by appointment.
March 27 Publication of Die Danziger Volkszeitung is banned for 6 months.
April 13 Carl Jakob Burckhardt of Switzerland is appointed League of Nations High Commissioner for Danzig.
May 5 The Volkstag extends the emergency powers granted to the Senate for 4 years by a vote of 47 to 20.
May 14 The German Nationalist Party “voluntarily” dissolves. Nationalist deputies join the Nazis giving them the 2/3 majority necessary to enact constitutional amendments.
May 25 Social Democratic Party deputy Hans Weichmann disappears without a trace.
June The Nazis embark on a campaign to force dissolution of the Catholic Center Party. The Senate fights appointment of 2 Polish priests as pastors of Danzig parishes by the Free City’s Irish bishop. Catholic Center Party leaders are arrested.
July 8 The Council of Foreign Bondholders in London and the League of Nations Loan Committee agree to reduce interest rates and extend payment of Danzig’s foreign debt. August
Poland protests a campaign to force Polish children in Danzig to attend German schools.
September 15 Danzig’s Polish mailmen are arrested and their bags are searched. Warsaw declares the matter an internal matter for Danzig and that it will only intervene in the Free City if its access to the Baltic.
October 21 The Center Party dissolves in the face of further arrest threats.
November 8 The Volkstag approves an amnesty for political prisoners serving sentences of less than 1 year. The amnesty affects about 1/3 of the prisoners.
November A mass exodus of Danzig’s Jews begins in the wake of increased harassment and economic boycotts (5,000 of the Free City’s 10,500 Jews leave during the next six months). 1938
The Einwohnerwehr (Civil Guard) is organized by the Free City.
January 10 Ten Social Democratic and Catholic Center Party deputies apply for “guest membership” in the Nazi caucus of the Volkstag.
March 22 The Senate prohibits free circulation of the Polish zloty in the Free City. Poles are beaten in the streets for refusing to salute the Nazi flag and Polish newspapers are confiscated by the police.
May 29 Party leader Albert Forster announces that the National Socialists will absorb the remaining opposition Volkstag deputies other than the Polish representatives.
August Poland delivers a formal protest against Danzig’s treatment of Poles in the Free City. Danzig issues a counter protest against anti-Danzig demonstrations in Poland.
Poland charges that Germany is secretly shipping arms to Danzig and that German officers are training Danzigers for military service.
October All men in Danzig between the ages of 18 and 45 are required to undergo military training for service in the police. All men up to age 50 are made liable for periodic military training.
November 10 Danzig expropriates synagogues and Jewish property in the Free City.
November 12-13 “Reichskristallnacht”: Mass arrests follow looting and arson attacks on Jewish homes and businesses in Danzig. 1,500 Jews flee into Poland.
November 21 The anti-Semitic Nuremburg Laws are introduced in Danzig.
1939Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler subtitled: Hitler’s plans for world conquest) by former Danzig Senate President Hermann Rauschning is published in Switzerland. A French translation is published in Paris as Hitler m’a dit (Hitler said to me). The book purports to be a first hand account of conversations between the author and Hitler. Soviet prosecutors quote it at the Nuremburg Trials but critics charge that it was compiled from speeches and other secondary sources.
January The 1,000 Jews in Danzig are deported to Germany in sealed rail cars.
February 24 Polish students are expelled from the Danzig-Langfuhr Technische Hochschule (Institute of Technology) by Nazi stormtroopers.
March Poland rejects Hitler’s call for immediate reunification of Danzig with Germany.
March 22 Volkstag deputies’ terms office are extended by 4 years (ending free elections to the lower chamber of the legislature).
April 20 Albert Forster, leader of Danzig’s Nazi Party, travels to Berlin for Hitler’s birthday and presents the German chancellor with a certificate of honorary Danzig citizenship.
April 20 Danzig’s streets are littered with anti-Nazi leaflets. Street fights breakout between Nazis and members of the opposition.
April 28 Hitler tells the Reichstag, “Danzig ist eine Deutsche stadt und will zu Deutschland.” (Danzig is a German city and wants to rejoin Germany.)
May Members of Danzig’s Nazi paramilitary organizations are recruited into the 4th SS-Totenkopf Regiment. Some are trained with the regiment in Berlin, others continue to train under the guise of local militia men the Danzig-Matzkau building complex. SS instructors are secreted into the city as “tourists”.
June The 3rd Battalion of 4th SS-Totenkopf and the Regiment’s anti-tank company are also smuggled into Danzig as “tourists” and “sporting clubs”. Uniforms and weapons are smuggled into the Free City in small boats. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain refutes Polish press reports of German arms smuggling into Danzig. Danzig organizes a boycott of Polish officials in the Free City. Polish customs officers are beaten and arrested.
June 17 Reichs Propaganda Minister Joseph Gobbels speaking in Danzig declares, “Danzig ist uber nacht zu einem internationalen problem geworden.” (Danzig has become an international problem overnight.) July
Shots are fired in cross border skirmishes between Free City and Polish border guards.
The Free City Senate authorized formation of the Heimwehr (home guard) which comes under the operational control of SS leader Heinrich Himmler.
July 20 Danzig police arrest 20 Social Democrats and Communists and charge them with planning sabotage to prevent the Free City’s reunification with Germany.
July 21 An activist named Blume from the Danzig-Langfuhr Technische Hochschule (Institute of Technology) is arrested for protesting the conscription of students for service in the Danzig Heimwehr.
August Danzig prohibits the operation of Polish customs in the Free City.
August 18 The SS Heimwehr-Danzig stages its first public assembly before a crowd of 50,000. Albert Forster presents the unit’s colors. He declares, “Let us make sure the swastika..., always flies before our whole German people in the future.” August 22
Hans Frank, the German Minister of Justice, speaking to a meeting of the German Lawyers Association in Danzig that the provisions of the treaty establishing the Free City are null and void.
August 23 Albert Forster becomes the Free City of Danzig’s head of state.
August 25 The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein anchors in the Westerplatte.
August 31 Danzig severs communications with Poland.
September 1 The Schleswig-Holstein opens fire on the Polish ammunition depot on the Westerplatte at 4:47 a.m. A ground assault by the Kreigsmarine is repulsed and SS Heimwehr Danzig troops are sent to reinforce the attackers.
A unit of the SS Heimwehr Danzig, accompanied by armored cars from the Danzig Police, attacks the Polish post office on the Heveliusplatz. The symbol of Polish authority in the Free City is defended by 38 armed postal workers who are also Polish reserve officers. The surviving Poles are forced to surrender when the Danzig Fire Department pumps a flammable gas into the building’s cellar and ignites it. Polish forces drive off SS Heimwehr Danzig units attemping to capture the Vistula River bridge at Dirschau.
Internment of the Free City’s Polish residents at the Stutthof concentration camp begins. The League of Nations High Commissioner, C. J. Burckhardt, leaves Danzig.
Albert Forster telegraphs Hitler requesting that he, “in the name of Danzig and its population consent to this basic state law and carry out the reunion with the German Reich through Federal Law.” Hitler replies, “the law for reunion is ratified forthwith”.
September 2 The Luftwaffe bombs Polish positions on the Westerplatte.
September 6 The SS Heimwehr Danzig attacks Polish postions on the Westerplatte and set fire to the surrounding forest.
September 8 The Polish defenders of the Westerplatte ammunition depot surrender.
September 9 The SS Heimwehr Danzig massacres 33 Polish civilians at Kzaizki.
A unit of the SS Heimwehr Danzig attacks Eichenberg from the north. Another unit joins the Eberhardt Group advancing on Gdingen. Polish forces establish a line of resistance on the coast at Oxhöfter Kämpe, a ridge on the Bay of Danzig between Oxhöft and Gdingen.
September 12 Polish resistance on the Oxhöfter Kämpe line ends.
September 14 Albert Forster is named Chief of Civil Administration by the Germans.
The Free City town of Gdingen/Gotenhafen falls to the Germans.
September 18 German troops complete their occupation of the Free City of Danzig.
September 19 Adolf Hitler enters Danzig to triumphal acclaim.
September 29 The SS Heimwehr Danzig stages a farewell parade in Danzig. The unit is disbands and the troops are transferred to SS 3rd Infantry Regiment at Dachau.
October 2 Polish units holding out on the Hel peninsula opposite the port of Danzig surrender.
October 26 The Free City of Danzig is united with parts of occupied Poland in the District of West Prussia (German:Reichsgau-Westpreussen).
October The surviving defenders of the Polish Post Office are tried and executed as partisans. The postal workers were reserve officers of the Polish Army but wore no military uniforms.
October 31 Albert Forster is appointed Gauleiter und Reichsstatthalter of Reichsgau Westpreussen.
November 25 Polish residents of Danzig are stripped of citizenship and deported.

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