Tajemnica Westerplatte (1939 Battle of Westerplatte) (2013)
Director: Pawel Chochlew.
Starring: Michal Zebrowski (Henryk Sucharski), Robert Zoledziewski (Franciszek Dabrowski), Jan Englert (Wincenty Sobocinski), Piotr Adamczyk (Mieczyslaw Slaby), Borys Szyc (Stefan Ludwik Grodecki), Przemyslaw Cypryanski (Zdzislaw Kregielski), Miroslaw Zbrojewicz (Jan Gryczman), Marcin Krawczyk (Piotr Buder), Kazimierz Mazur (Edmund Szamlewski), Jakub Wesolowski (Bernard Rygielski), Miroslaw Baka, Andrzej Grabowski (Adolf Petzelt), Bartosz Obuchowicz (Leon Pajak), Jakub Kamienski (Józef Kita), Tomasz Sobczak (Wladyslaw Deik).
Polish soldiers put up tough resistance to the German attack on the port of Gdansk, Poland at the start of World War II
"Westerplatte -- a peninsula located at the mouth of the Port of Gdansk. A small piece of land, 2 km long by 500 m wide. In the nineteenth century, it served as a holiday resort, with a beach and a restaurant. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, land that once belonged to the Third Reich became the Free City of Gdansk. Afterwards, Westerplatte was later granted exclusively to Poland. Up until 1939, on the Polish part of the peninsula, a Military Transit Depot received overseas shipments of uniforms and military equipment."
August 31, 1939. A Polish army officer in uniform named Henry invites the Colonel, in civilian clothes, to join him for dinner. The Colonel tells the officer that the Commander-in-Chief of the army ordered Polish troops to back General Skwarczynski who is in the south of Poland. What this means is that, in the event of war, there will be no reinforcements. Henry's orders are to hold Westerplatte for twelve hours. Henry stands up from the table and throws his napkin down. He says well why not hold it for 16 hours or 24? Henry just can't believe that he's going to have to fight for Gdansk against Hitler with only 200 soldiers. The Colonel explains that the reason for the decision is that there is the fear that the Skwarczynski division will be cut off by the Germans.
Officer Kuba brings news that the Germans blocked the entire Polish medical transport in Gdansk. Other than that, says Kuba, they are ready. If the Germans attack, they will regret it.
First day. Henry writes a letter to his sister who is taking care of their mother. While writing the letter, he falls asleep. All of a sudden a bomb goes off near Henry's office. This wakes up Henry and Kuba. Kuba says: "At last. It's finally started."
In a trench Gryczman talks on the phone to Kuba and tells him that the front wall has been blown up. Kuba yells at him to fight with precision!
The soldiers in the barracks try to stay away from the windows because bullets are constantly whizzing through the windows. Some of the soldiers take out the cannon to use.
Henry sends out a message that on September 1, 1939 at 4:55 am Westerplatte is being attacked.
More Polish soldiers take up their positions in the trenches. German troops start moving toward the trenches. Gryczman says to wait for his order to fire. He is letting the Germans get very close to their positions. When they are really close, the order to fire is shouted. Quite a few of the enemy soldiers go down, while the rest dive to the ground.
The cannon is fired at a German machine gun position in the tower. The hit is too low on the tower. On the beach the Polish soldiers and sailors beat off a German attack.
A German ship opens fire on the trench positions. At the cannon position, the gunners become frightened and run from their cannon Lucky they did, because the next shell hits very close to the cannon.
The latest news is that Forster surrendered Freedom City to the Reich. German planes are bombarding Polish cities.
The Germans attack Gryczman's position again. Major Henry contacts Lt. Pajak in the trenches and tells him to pull everyone back to sector one. Before Pajak can issue the order, he is badly wounded by a shell explosion. Dr. Mietek comes and says there is very little he can do for Pajak. They need a surgeon and a staff of medical people.
Buder telephones. He wants to take back Prom base. Henry gets on the phone and says they cannot mount an offensive now. He asks to talk to Gryczman. He tells him that Gryczman will be in charge of Guard House Number One. Buder will be second in command. Pick 21 of his best men and send the rest back to the barracks. Henry hangs up and tells his men that they have lost too many men in the trenches. The men will be safer in the barracks. He notes to the men that their first 12 hours have now passed.
Kuba recommends that the Major go get some rest. The Major looks run down. The Major goes to his room. He thinks about a period that was five months earlier.
Flashback. Henry and Kuba start using their first names with each other. Colonel Sobocinski comes into the room. He wants to know about what the fort can do in case of battle. So, Henry tells him that the little fort could only hold out for six hours. The Colonel says that he's a bit worried by that man Hitler, the one who took over Austria and Czechoslovakia. Kuba says with England and France behind Poland, the Germans wouldn't think of attacking Poland. He adds that the Polish army is stronger than ever.
Back to the present. Second day. Three Polish guys decide to go for a swim. They splash water on each other for awhile, that is, until a machine gun opens up on them from a small German boat. Then they have to run for their lives. The guys run all the way back to the Guard House. One of the other soldiers tells Mundek that one day he's really going to get it.
Stuka dive bombers are approaching the area. Polish soldiers head for the cellars. Henry doesn't look good. He yells that everything's on his conscience.
Tanks are coming and Kuba gives the order to get the armor-piercing shells out.
Gryczman goes to check on Buder. One of Buder's men tries to run out of the room. Gryczman grabs him and asks him where's he going? The guy says he is going to surrender. Gryczman tells him that he will be killed before he ever even gets to the German lines. He then asks Buder if he wants to surrender too? Buder grabs Gryczman and puts his pistol up to the man's head. After a short stand-off, Buder puts his pistol down. Gryczman tells him to get a grip.
Kuba is ready for the tanks, but there are no tanks. He asks for who said they saw tanks?
After the bombings, the men have to start digging other soldiers out of the heavy debris. They get a corporal out, but other men are already dead.
A sailor reports to Kuba that the Germans took the fort. They just couldn't hold the place. A soldier goes up to the roof with a white flag. Kuba chases after him and yells at him to take that white flag down! The soldier says this was ordered by the Major. Kuba doesn't care. They struggle for the flag and the enlisted man gets shot by a sniper. Kuba bursts into the Major's room and throws the white flag at his feet. Henry starts spinning around and foaming at the mouth. He falls to the ground. It looks like an epileptic fit. Kuba is now in charge. Immediately, Kuba's first order is that no one say anything about the Major's fit. They all agree.
The Germans are slowly sneaking up on the Polish soldiers. As they come closer, the Poles open up on their enemy.
Henry starts hallucinating that he is covered in blood and he can see a dead man standing erect staring at him.
Third day. Kuba finds Henry sitting at his desk. Kuba says the fire coming from the ships is concentrated on the barracks. After the shelling is over, the Germans will make a landing on their beaches and their target will be the barracks too. Henry says it's been awhile since he has had such good coffee. Kuba gives up on him and leaves.
A message comes for the Major, but Kuba intercepts it.
News arrives that Tczew and Grudziadz have fallen. German soldiers are entering Gdansk. Other news: "Today, September 3, 1939, France and England declared war on the Germans." That makes the men very happy.
A group goes down to the beach trenches to hold it against an enemy landing.
Fourth day. Shells hit the barracks again. Henry is obsessively shining his boots.
Buder ties up a man who wanted the others to kill him. When Gryczman comes in he orders that the man be untied. Buder says no. In the dispute that follows, Buder strikes Gryczman and knocks him down. He says that now Gryczman may realize that he's just a guest here. Gryczman gets up and knocks Buder now. The other soldiers grab Gryczman and Buder starts beating Gryczman. Meanwhile, the Germans are sneaking up on the barracks again. They come right through an opening in the barbed wire. In fact, the Germans are just walking right up to the barracks. Kuba demands to know what's going on over in the barracks. Kuba telephones over to the barracks and Gryczman answers. Gryczman is now told that the Germans are on top of them. Gryczman immediately orders the men back to their firing positions. They are able to kill quite a few Germans and the rest retreat.
Henry is still out of it. Kuba tells the two fighting officers that next time they are otherwise occupied he is going to treat that as a case of desertion and he will personally execute them. Kuba has the men go relieve four men on the front lines. The four men start walking back to the barracks when shells start exploding around them. They head for the power plant. But the guys in the power have, in a sense. become deserters. They just haven't returned back to headquarters for a while. So they start shooting at the four guys. Finally, one man in the power house yells not to fire at them because they're on the same side. The man in charge, Dabrowski, can't believe that these three bozos were firing at their own people, but it doesn't sound like he is going to label the men deserters. He calls Kuba for the decision. The order is to execute the men.
Dabrowski takes the men down to the beach. A shell lands near the men and they all drop on the beach. Then the three condemned men start running and they are all shot down. Dabrowski gets stinking drunk and pisses on a bar-room floor. Kuba comes in and asks him what he's doing? Dabrowski is looking at photos of the three executed men and their families. Kuba sits down with him until Dabrowski starts saying the Polish can't win because we do not deserve a chance to win. Kuba leaves.
Fifth day. Kuba comes in and Henry asks him what is the state of their situation? Kuba says he thinks they can last a couple of weeks. Henry gets mad at Kuba because he is always so optimistic. It's Henry's opinion that this is the end for them.
Henry goes to see the doctor and asks him how he's doing. The doctor says that gangrene is going to kill all the wounded and there's nothing he can do to stop that. Soon all these men will die.
Henry calls all the officers together for a meeting. Before that meeting can take place, it's announced that the German tanks are coming. The Polish prepare for the tanks. But, once again, it's not the tanks. It's an armored train. The cannon is fired at the train and the fuel carrier car explodes.
The German soldiers now start burning down the forest with flame throwers. The Polish open fire on the flame throwers.
The officers meet together. Henry says tomorrow they should announce their surrender. He asks the officers one by one what they think, except for Kuba. One man says he thinks they can hold on longer. Henry says they have been fighting now for 114 hours (or 4.75 days). Henry tells his officers to prepare for their surrender. Kuba gets up and says: "We will not let them capture us, sir." He leaves the room.
Sixth day. There is fighting at the beach. Henry orders Kuba to send more men to affect Sector 1. Kuba refuses to carry out the order. Henry tells him that when this is over, he will make sure Kuba is court-martialed.
There is more fighting, but this time with only two Polish defenders.
The latest news is that the Germans are approaching Krakow. Henry holds a meeting where he says they will surrender. Kuba is not at the meeting. He does show up a little late. When he hears the news, Kuba says he wants Henry to shoot him dead, and then Henry can surrender without Kuba. Henry just says the meeting is adjourned.
An officer not at the meeting reports to Henry. Henry tells him that they are not surrendering. Kuba comes in and scolds the officer named Shorty to get back to his command post. The officer leaves.
Seventh day. Henry never finished that letter to his sister. He writes that he returns to the letter on his seventh day of battle. Bullets whiz through his windows. Henry writes that he is very proud of his troops and speaks of super-human strength and performance. He goes on writing saying that the seventh day will be their last day of fighting. And maybe he should have quit after the first twelve hours of battle.
The battle for the barracks begins again and soon fizzles out again. The unit of 200 soldiers has now lost 50% of its men to death or being wounded. Most units quit fighting long before that high a percentage is reached.
Henry comes and gets Kuba. He takes him to the hospital and asks if Kuba smells that? It's the smell of gangrene. Now they are surrendering for sure. He asks Kuba to come with him. Kuba tells him to rescind the order. No! "It's all over!"
Henry tells Petrowski to hang the white flag. He now calls the troops at the beaches and tells them they are surrendering.
Finally, Kuba gives in and says they are surrendering. "We have our orders!"
The beach commander to decides to make a suicide charge on the Germans, but the Germans on the beach are all dead. Some officers really object, but they give in too.
Henry says it makes no sense to continue fighting. The enemy has already taken a big part of Poland. When it's time for Kuba to talk, he mentions that the eagle on the barracks survived the battle and Poland will survive the war. Then he calls for a moment to remember all the dear friends that died here at Westerplatte.
Kuba goes over to the area of the bomb craters. He is going to kill himself, but another soldier stops him by throwing the man's pistol into the water of a bomb crater.
The Poles now walk in a prisoner of war formation with their hands behind their heads.
Good action film. Lots of tension because how long can one expect the outnumbered and outgunned Polish defenders to last against the Germans. And there is a lot of tension between Henry the Polish commander who wants to surrender and the number two officer Kuba, who is bound and determined that they will not surrender. This showdown is complicated when the commander has an epileptic fit and Kuba takes over temporarily. Lots of action and tension make for a good movie. And here's a toast to the Polish defenders of Westerplatte.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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