On Sept. 1, 1939, Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany. Now, 70 years later, a Swedish heavy metal band is swooping down on Poland lauding the Poles for their valiant effort against the German blitzkrieg that started World War II and captured all of Europe.
The German "lightning war" from the West and the Soviet Union's invasion from the East sandwiched Poland between Europe's two most ruthless armies. It was a prearranged plot by Hitler and Stalin to split Poland in half and decimate the Polish nation. But in the small town of Wizna, a unit of fewer than 1,000 Poles held off 42,000 German invaders for three days.
The Swedish band Sabaton has written a thunderous guitar song "40-1" that has young Polish head bangers jumping into mosh pits, and Polish war-veterans weepy eyed over the video that shows their brothers in arms trying to hold off the Nazi attack.
Call it history through heavy metal.
It's not your father's patriotic war song, but many Poles are moved that their Nordic neighbors would praise local heroes; especially given the irony that Sweden also invaded Poland in the 16th century.
The rock video superimposes images of outnumbered Polish troops standing up to German Panzer tank leader commander General Heinz Guderian over scenes of the band's heavy guitar riffs with the words:
"Baptised in fire
Forty to one
Spirit of spartans
Death and glory
Soldiers of Poland
Second to none"
When Swedish rockers were looking for ideas for their album, "The Art of War," they band's lead singer, Joakim Broden learned about the Battle of Wizna where a band of 720 Polish soldiers stood up to more than 42,000 German soldiers and 350 tanks from Hitler's Wehrmacht.
Most of the Polish soldiers fought to their deaths at the Battle of Wizna, but not before destroying more than 50 German Panzer tanks using little more than heavy machine guns. Over the ensuing months, Germany invaded all of Europe, and even though Poland was the first to fight, it was the only country occupied by the Germans not to form a Quisling government to collaborate with the Nazis.
The unlikely mix of Polish WWII veterans and rock and roll also takes place at 17 Irving Place in New York City where the Polish War Veterans rent the bottom floor of their building to the concert venue, "The Fillmore NY at Irving Plaza" which has hosted acts such as U2, Sting and Prince.
Upstairs, Polish war veterans have established a museum of the Polish Army with a fascinating exhibition of war memorabilia and historic artifacts. Teofil Lachowicz, the curator of the museum showed the video to the members of the veterans group. "They were quite moved," Lachowicz said. "They had tears rolling around in their eyes."
The Sabaton tour of Poland kicks off in Warsaw on August 31st, the eve of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II.
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