Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

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Adam Carr
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:37

Danzig’s Great Synagogue (Wielka Synagoga, Neue Synagoge), was built in 1887 at this site on An der Reitbahn, now Ulica Bogusławski. It was the largest of the several synagogues in the city, seating 2,000 people. The building also housed a notable museum of Pomeranian Jewish history. After the Danzig Nazis took control of the local government in 1933, there were increasingly frequent attacks on the synagogue. In March 1939 the Jewish community was forced to sell it to the Danzig authorities, who immediately demolished it. Today the site is still vacant, and there is nothing whatever to mark its significance. (To be fair to the Poles, by the time they acquired Gdańsk in 1945, both the synagogue and the Danzig Jews were gone.)
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:38

On the other side of An der Reitbahn stood the Danzig Police Presidency, which today is the offices of the Pomorskie Provincial Police and also of the Office of the Marshal (Urząd Marszałkowski) of Pomorskie Province. It’s a fortress-like building with none of the pseudo-gothic frills of other Prussian public buildings in the city, facing westwards onto Ulica Okopova (Karren-Wall). The building is not easy to photograph from the west because Ulica Okopova is now a four-lane highway with elevated tram-tracks.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:39

This prewar view shows the Police Presidency with the Synagogue behind and to the left.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:39

This is the rather grimy front of the Police HQ, showing the usual decorations around and above the doorway. Above the door is Medusa’s head. In Greek mythology the hero Perseus cut off Medusa’s head, with its hair of serpents, and used it as a weapon, since anyone who looked on it would be turned to stone. A handy weapon in police work, no doubt.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:41

But what, I wondered, was that dark grey smear above the Medusa? Why, it’s the German words “POLIZEI PRÄDSIDIUM” (Police Presidency) rather crudely painted over. This is surprising, because – as noted above –the Polish authorities have gone to great lengths to remove all traces of German rule over the city. This sign seems to have escaped their attention until recently. Possibly this is because the building survived intact in 1945 and has thus not been subject to the extension restoration work of other public buildings.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:42

The road north from the railway station, Ulica Błędnik (Am Olivaer Tor), leads to the Gdańsk Shipyards, famous as the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union movement in the 1980s. Just off Ulica Błędnik, on Ulica Dyrekcyjna, is the massive Railways Management (Eisenbahn Direktion) building, which is still occupied by the Polish Railways today.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:42

High on the façade is the same winged wheel symbol which caps the façade of the railway station. The winged wheel was not the official symbol of the Reichsbahn, and it was used in other countries as well, but it was widely used by them. The Railway Police (Bahnschutzpolizei), for example, wore a winged wheel symbol on their caps.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:43

The pillars which flank the entrance show many patched-up bullet holes, a relic of the heavy fighting for Danzig in April 1945. I’ve seen many pock-marked façades like this in Berlin, but this is the only one I saw in Poland.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:44

World War II is never far away in Poland. This T-34 Soviet-made tank from World War II, painted in Polish colours, is mounted on a plinth beside Ulica Zwycięstwa (Hindenburg Allee). There was no plaque or other indication that it was a memorial. The Polish white eagle without a royal crown indicates that it saw service with the “Berling army” organised in the Soviet Union, which fought alongside the Red Army on the eastern front.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:44

In the same area is this splendid building which looks like a gothic cathedral but is actually a school – the Nicholas Copernicus High School (Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Mikołaja Kopernika). Before 1945 it was the Oberrealschule zu St Petri und St Paul on the Hansaplatz. Hansaplatz no longer exists: the school is now on a street called Wały Piastowskie.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:45

Here we see the imposing front facade of the school. A plaque beside the main entrance records that it was named in 1964 after Nicholas Copernicus (Mikołaj Kopernik), whose father came from Kraków and whom the Poles claim as a native son, although he was born a Prussian subject in Thorn (now Toruń).
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:46

Next to the school is the City Library (Biblioteka Gdańska, Stadtbibliothek), another masterpiece of red brick gothic. This building was either undamaged in World War II or else (and more likely) has been superbly restored – it looks almost brand new, yet old photos show that it looked identical before World War II.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:46

To the east of these buildings is the Gdańsk waterfront. This is the monument to the Gdańsk shipyard workers who were killed during the December 1970 strikes and rebellions against communist rule.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:47

These are the famous gates to the former Lenin Shipyard (Stocznia Gdańska im. Lenina) where Lech Wałęsa worked as an electrician and where the Solidarity trade union was born during a strike in 1980. Before World War I this was the Kaiserliche Schiffswerfte (Imperial Dockyards). This was broken up after 1919, and in 1945 there were two German shipyards on the site, Schichau-Werft and Danziger Werft. During the war U-boats for the German Navy were built here, partly by slave labour.
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Re: Germany’s lost cities : a tour of Gdańsk (Danzig)

Post by Adam Carr » 22 Mar 2012 11:48

Beyond the beautifully restored streets and buildings of the Old Town, there are still wartime ruins to be seen in Gdańsk. This one is on Granary Island (Spichlerze, Speicherinsel), an island in the Motława to the east of the Old City, created when a canal (the Nowa Motława, Neuen Mottlau) was dug east of the river, and occupied before 1945 mainly by grain warehouses. Parts of the island are still derelict, as are some areas on the east bank of the river.
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