A study project "Gdynia during World War II" has been implemented by Gdynia City Hall since 2007.
Among the partners in the project there are: State Archive in Gdansk – branch in Gdynia, The Institute of National Remembrance – branch in Gdańsk, Public Municipal Library in Gdynia, Gdynia City Museum, Stutthof State Museum in Sztutowo, The KARTA Foundation Center in Warsaw.
The following associations are engaged as well: Polish Nautological Association, Association of Displaced Gdynia Inhabitants, Association "Piaśnica Family", Association "Katyń Family", Association of Gdynia’s Enthusiasts, Union of Associations in Gdynia. There are many volunteers, involved in this project and I’d like to express my gratitude towards them.
The aim of our initiative is to gather both objective and, if possible, complete information concerning the history of our city during the most dramatic period for Europe, Poland and Gdynia, namely during the World War II. Gdynia, the maritime capital of Poland, similarly to Warsaw, the capital of Poland, has got specific reasons to develop such initiatives.
Gdynia was founded thanks to an immense engagement of the Polish state and the people. In a record period of 13 years Gdynia developed into the biggest port in the Baltic Sea and one of the largest in Europe. A beautiful and modern city was created around the port, with a population of 120,000 citizens. This has been an unparalleled achievement in modern Europe.
The population of "Great Gdynia" consisted of Kashubians, origin inhabitants of: Gdynia, Oksywie, Obłuże, Pogórze, Chylonia, Grabówek, Cisowa, Mały and Wielki Kack, Witomino, Wiczlino, Redłowo, Orłowo and Kolibki – as well as people coming from different corners of Poland, full of initiative, bravery and openness. We feel that it is our duty to study and popularize the wartime fate of Gdynia and its citizens. People and the city dear to whole Poland.
In the tragic September 1939 Gdynia was one of the last to surrender. That was only possible because of strong patriotism of people living in Gdynia, who supported the Polish Army in a mental, financial as well as material way – before the outbreak of World War II and during the defense of Gdynia.
The civil administration, led by the State Commissioner Franciszek Sokół, created an exemplary civil defense. The Polish Army, commanded by Col. Stanisław Dąbek, together with the Polish Navy, formations of State Police, Border Guard, scouts, volunteers – among them desperate scythe-bearing citizens of Gdynia – is a very characteristic evidence for professionalism, devotion and courage.
The civic and patriotic attitude of the citizens of Gdynia before the World War II and during the defense of the city resulted in putting many heroic people in German proscription list.
Soon after the Germans had occupied the city, repressions started against the civil population who was not protected by the Geneva Convention. Atrocious crimes were committed on 11th November 1939: in Obłuże a group of ten boys blamed for breaking a window was executed whereas in Piaśnica woods hundreds of eminent citizens of Gdynia were killed.
Citizens of Gdynia – seamen of the Polish Navy and merchant fleet had never lowered their weapons. They fought for victory from the first until the last day of the war onboard "Gdynia’s" warships and merchant ships.
The citizens of Gdynia took part in active and passive resistance, weakening the occupants. One of the most meaningful participations of Gdynia’s inhabitants was in the scouts "Grey Rows", Home Army and in the Warsaw Uprising. Many of them lost their lives in a heroic way.
For many citizens of Gdynia fighting in the West the victory of the Allies in 1945 wasn’t a victory of free Poland. They stayed in the free world, but abroad. After the war, many of the displaced citizens of Gdynia had either no possibility to return to their hometown. Finally, they voluntarily decided to settle down outside the city.
Such great dispersion of the population of Gdynia justifies establishing contact and cooperation via internet.
On 1st September 2008 we launched the website of our project and we count on growing public interest concerning its content.
I would like to ask for cooperation with all people who are interested in our study project, own any documents or know anything about the fate of Gdynia or its citizens during World War II.
Wojciech Szczurek, PhD
Mayor of Gdynia