• Memorial to the Bombing of Wieluń
In the early hours of September 1, 1939 the Polish small town of Wieluń was largely destroyed by an air raid of the German Luftwaffe. The bombing is considered by many historians to be the first combat operation of the Second World War.
Image: Wieluń, 1939, The destroyed town centre after the air raid, public domain
Wieluń, 1939, The destroyed town centre after the air raid, public domain

Image: Wieluń, 2010, Memorial on the site of the destroyed All Saints Hospital, Marcin W.
Wieluń, 2010, Memorial on the site of the destroyed All Saints Hospital, Marcin W.
Wieluń is a small town in central Poland half way between the major cities of Wrocław and Łódź. During the First Partition of Poland the town belonged to Prussia. In the interwar period the town was Polish again and was situated in the immediate vicinity of the German border.
On September 1, 1939 the German Wehrmacht attacked Poland from the North, West and South without a declaration of war. Almost simultaneously with the attack on the Westerplatte near Gdańsk the Luftwaffe conducted an air raid on Wieluń in which about 30 dive bombers of the new Junkers Ju 87B type were involved. They released bombs on the town centre, including incendiary bombs. The attack caught the largely sleeping population totally unaware, also because the town had no military infrastructure to speak of. During the day the Luftwaffe launched two more waves of attack. More than 70% of the town were destroyed, including many historic buildings, the synagogue and the hospital. The majority of the population fled – when German soldiers arrived shortly afterwards they discovered more corpses than people alive.
During the German occupation the town was renamed Welun and was annexed to the German Reich as part of the »Warthegau«. The town's approximately 4,000 Jews had to move to a ghetto in 1941. In August 1942 all Jews from Wieluń were deported to the extermination camp of Chełmno-on-Ner (Polish: Chełmno nad Nerem, German: Kulmhof am Ner) and murdered there.
Image: Wieluń, 1939, The destroyed town centre after the air raid, public domain
Wieluń, 1939, The destroyed town centre after the air raid, public domain

Image: Wieluń, 2010, Memorial on the site of the destroyed All Saints Hospital, Marcin W.
Wieluń, 2010, Memorial on the site of the destroyed All Saints Hospital, Marcin W.
The number of victims killed during the air raid is not known, it is usually stated as 1,200. After their invasion the Germans buried many corpses in mass graves. The approximately 4,000 Jewish inhabitants of Wieluń were all murdered before the end of 1942.
Image: Wieluń, 1939, View of the destroyed town centre, public domain
Wieluń, 1939, View of the destroyed town centre, public domain

Image: Wieluń, 2010, Memorial plaque on the site of the destroyed synagogue, Stefan.p21
Wieluń, 2010, Memorial plaque on the site of the destroyed synagogue, Stefan.p21
Although the exact moment of the air raid can't be established, for many Poles Wieluń is the place where the Second World War really started. Furthermore, there is a broad consensus in Poland that the attack was not aimed at military targets but was a terror attack where new weapons and tactics of the Luftwaffe were to be put to the test. Many German historians also subscribe to this opinion.
The town had to be rebuilt after the war. Of the Kościół św. Michała Archanioła (St Michael Church), the town's oldest church only the foundations remain. In 2004 the then Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski dedicated a memorial there, remembering the attack of September 1, 1939. The hospital which was destroyed during the raid and where numerous patients, doctors and nurses were killed hadn't been rebuilt either. For decades there was a memorial plaque which was complemented by a sculpture in 2009. The Polish inscription on the plinth reads: »Here on September 1, 1939 at 4:40am an unforgettable act of injustice, violence and crime was committed against the defenceless population of the town of Wieluń. On this site on September 1, 1939 the All Saints Hospital was situated on which the first bombs of the Second World War fell.« Almost nothing remembers the town's Jewish inhabitants, the Jewish cemetery was flattened during the German occupation. There is a memorial plaque at the site of the synagogue which was destroyed during the raid and later demolished.
Image: Wieluń, 2010, Memorial plaque at the ruins of the church St Michael, Stefan.p21
Wieluń, 2010, Memorial plaque at the ruins of the church St Michael, Stefan.p21

Image: Wieluń, 2010, Detailed view of the memorial at the site of the destroyed hospital, Stefan.p21
Wieluń, 2010, Detailed view of the memorial at the site of the destroyed hospital, Stefan.p21
Name
Znaki pamięci bombardowania Wielunia
Web
http://www.informacja.wielun.pl/
E-Mail
infturystyczna_wielun@op.pl
Open
The memorials are accessible at all times