World War II's first victim

Aug 31, 2013 Full story: Free Republic

As the rays of early evening sun lingered over the giant wooden mast that protruded through the pine forest, two cars passed through the gates of the German radio station and sto1pped outside the three-storey transmission building.

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Clear Dharma

Inverurie, UK

#1 Sep 1, 2013

Aug 31st, 1939

As the rays of early evening sun lingered over the giant wooden mast that protruded through the pine forest, two cars passed through the gates of the German radio station and stopped outside the three-storey transmission building.

The war's first victim

Forty-three-year-old unmarried Catholic farmer, Franz Honiok

In the following minutes, seven SS officers posing as Polish partisans, would carry out a simple act that would leave one man dead on the station steps and provide Adolf Hitler with the excuse to invade Poland , plunging the world into six dark years of conflict.

The events that took place in the fading light of August 31, 1939 around Gliwice radio station some four miles inside Germany, on the border with Poland have largely been overlooked by historians. Even relatives of the dead man have only spoken of the incident in hushed, private family gatherings, preferring not to ask questions of authorities on either side.

And on Tuesday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the prime ministers of Russia and Poland in Gdansk (formerly Danzig) to commemorate the day 70 years ago when Hitler's tanks rolled across Poland's borders, little thought will be given to the place where it started or the man who died there.

.... Pawel, a 73-year-old retired mechanic who lives in the small village of Koszecin, about an hour's drive from Gliwice, adds: "I know about Franz and my father, his brother, was always proud of him. But no one in the family ever really spoke about what happened to him or what happened to the body."

At the end of the war the area was occupied by Russian troops as Poland became a part of Communist Eastern Europe.

"No one ever mentioned what had taken place because at that time it was a time to be silent and secret,'' says Pawel.''As time passed nothing really changed until now.

''As a young boy, I can remember my family sitting in a room, quietly speaking about what had happened to Franz. But I was not allowed to sit in and listen, this was for the adults, not the younger ones. The only thing I know was it was rumoured his body was buried in the mountains.But there is no memorial. It was as if Poland was ashamed of the way his body was used to start the war .

"They never even accepted he was a victim of the war because he was killed on the evening of August 31 and, officially, the war did not begin until September 1. But now, people accept he was the first person killed in that war ."

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