The False Propaganda of Gleiwitz’ Casus Belli

Plaque commemorating the Gleiwitz incident Date 23 July 2012 Source Own work Author Smerus

September 1st, 1939 marks the official beginning of World War II, with Germany’s invasion of Poland, which had an agreement with Britain, and which aggression brought the Brits into the war. It was complicated, and we may more to say on this, but what struck me the other day was that the Nazis needed a casus belli, some provocative incident to justify their action.

There was none, so they manufactured one, with what has come to be known as the ‘Gleiwitz Incident’: The SS (Schutzstaffel) staged a false attack on a radio station. They had arrested an innocent 43 year old unmarried man, Franciszek Honiok, poisoned him, dressed him as a saboteur, shot him in the head to look as though he had been killed while storming the station. (He is considered the first victim of the war, with more than 39 million yet to go – and no memorial exists in his honour). To add to the drama, they took some prisoners from Dachau, dressed them in Polish uniforms, drugged them also, then had them also shot and their faces disfigured, to make identification impossible – so they too appeared to be insurgents. There were other fake incidents, made to look as though Germany was under attack, magnified by the media and Goebell’s efficient propaganda machine. All this came out in the Nuremberg trials after the war, but people believed it at the time.

All to say, that things are not always – and nowadays, not often – what they seem to be, and we are in a much more illusory world than was possible in 1939, as we see events mediated through the ubiquitous screen, filtered by layers of control, censorship, mangling and manipulation. We usually only see what they want us to see – the ‘they’ being whoever controls the media.

We are all in Plato’s cave, watching images of images of images, believing them all to be ‘true’, immersed in a hall of mirrors, and an echo chamber. What happens to the philosopher who comes down from the outside world where there is sunshine, rolling hills, fresh air, rivers, lakes, books and poems and all that ‘reality’ means – and tries to convince the benighted denizens to leave behind their illusions, and follow him to freedom and truth? Well, read through the linked section for Plato’s description, but one might guess…

Hence, caveat lector, let the reader beware, but also, more to the point now, let the viewer beware. If something seems fishy or odd, or violates common sense, trust your instincts. Filter all that you see through logic, reason and faith, placing all things before God in prayer, Who will lead all those of humility and good will to the truth, that will truly set us free. The truth wins out in the end – notice the plaque says not Polish provocation, but Nazi – they provoked themselves to all the evil they were permitted, until the rug was pulled from under them, and their lies and deceits exposed, and just punishment upon their own heads.

So trust and hope, dear reader.

Teach me Thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in Thy truth. (Ps 86:11)