Gliwice – the radio station, Gliwice
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Gliwice – the radio station

Gliwice

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The radio station in Gliwice remains a place of great importance in Polish history, having been the site of the so-called Gleiwitz incident on August 31, 1939 - a top-secret false flag operation of the German secret services intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against the German outpost. This operation was one of a series of border incidents which preceded the German invasion of Poland, all of which were intended to demonstrate the alleged Polish acts of aggression, thereby justifying Hitler’s decision to launch the attack, as well as to convince both France and Great Britain to refrain from providing Poland with military assistance guaranteed under the respective alliance treaties.

The lattice radio tower which forms part of the complex is probably the only surviving wooden structure of its kind; before World War II, there were at least a few such towers in what was then German territory; for the above reason, the tower constitutes an important legacy of engineering thought and bears unique testimony to the development of the radio. One should emphasise that when the radio station was built back in the 1930s, wooden radio towers were still a novelty, with the vertically suspended antennas installed on such structures providing a greatly extended signal range - the radio signals from Gliwice could be received not just in all of Europe, but even in North America. The Gliwice radio tower, with its height of almost 111 metres, is believed to be the tallest wooden radio tower in existence today as well as the tallest surviving pre-1939 wooden structure of its kind, despite having been considered to be of only moderate height at the time of its construction.

The tower retains its original structure, as do the surviving radio station facilities - two residential buildings and one technical edifice - which have seen hardly any alterations ever since they were built. Of particular importance is also the fact that the technical building still houses the authentic radio transmission systems and equipment, including the storm warning microphone which was normally used to transmit warnings that the radio station would soon interrupt its operations due to oncoming storm, but which also served the attackers on the day of the Gleiwitz incident, allowing them to transmit the false distress signal.

History

The radio station in Gliwice was built in 1935, replacing its 1925 predecessor on what is known today as ul. Radiowa (Radio Street), which had already been considered outdated at the time. The radio tower itself was erected by a company called Lorenz A.G. from Berlin-Tempelhof. The construction of residential properties and the supervision of the tower construction works were entrusted to Erich Nittritz as well as to an engineer named Otto.

On August 31, 1939, at 8 P.M., a group of soldiers of the Waffen SS disguised as Silesian insurgents attacked the German radio station. The members of the personnel were held at gunpoint, while in order to make the entire operation look more credible, Franciszek Haniok, a Pole living in Silesia who is often referred to as the first victim of World War II, was drugged, transported to the radio station site and then shot in the back of the head; his body was later passed off as that of a Polish insurgent. The attackers transmitted a manifesto in Polish, although only the first few words were audible: “Attention! This is Gliwice. This radio station is now in Polish hands...” To transmit the distress call, however, the attackers used the storm warning microphone with a range of just a few kilometres, which meant that their words would never be heard by the audiences in Berlin, as was originally planned. In spite of all this, the incident was widely reported by the German press, while the governments of Poland’s allies were notified of the Polish aggression against the German borderland. Since the Gleiwitz incident was a top-secret operation, virtually no documentary evidence was ever produced; the truth about the incident was only revealed when the investigators pieced together the information from various memoirs and statements given during the Nuremberg trial.

After the war, the radio station was used by the Poczta Polska, Telegraf i Telefon state telecommunication and postal services company. It was also used to air the programmes of the Katowice branch of the Polish Radio and to jam the signal of Radio Free Europe. In 1956, the radio station became the site of manufacture of various transmission devices. In 2002, the site was acquired by the local government of Gliwice, which, three years later, entrusted the management thereof to the Gliwice Museum. Today, the radio station operates as a branch of the said museum: The Museum of the History of Radio and Media Art - the Gliwice Radio Station. The radio tower itself remains in constant use, serving various telecommunications purposes.

Description

The radio station complex is situated in the north-eastern part of the city of Gliwice, between the Lubliniecka and Tarnogórska streets. It consists of the radio transmission tower, two residential buildings and one technical building, currently serving as a museum, all of which were designed in the Modernist style, with pronounced Historicist influences.

The tower, 110.7 metres in total height, was erected using Siberian larch - a type of wood known for its exceptional resistance to both wood-boring insects and atmospheric conditions. The timber sections are joined together using brass screws. The entire structure is shaped as an elongated pyramid with a rectangular base and parabolic edges and planes. It consists of four profiled, three-dimensional latticework sections, their edges joined together to form the final shape. The four corner posts are anchored to concrete foundation pads, tilted towards the inside of the structure. The tower features four platforms at the height of 40 metres, 55.3 metres, 80 metres (platform constructed in 1969) and 109.37 metres. It currently carries a few dozen antennas for various transmission systems.

The buildings, designed on a rectangular floor plan, are clustered in the eastern part of the site, closer to Tarnogórska Street. They are made of brick, with plastered facades and tall hip roofs covered with roof tiles. The technical building - currently serving as the museum - is positioned on the axis of the tower and is flanked by the two slightly receded residential buildings.

compiled by National Heritage Board of Poland, 2017 r.

General information

  • Type: technical monument
  • Chronology: 1935 r.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Tarnogórska , Gliwice
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Gliwice, commune Gliwice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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