“Monte Cassino sanctified by Polish blood” of “the best soldiers in the World”

Polish veterans of Monte Cassino (top), Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak and Interior Minister Joachim Brudziński(bottom left) and red poppies. Photos: PAP

Polish Defense and Interior ministers pay tribute to Polish soldiers fallen at the WWII Monte Cassino battle.

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak and Minister of Interior Affairs and Administration Joachim Brudziński participated on Friday in a ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the WWII battle won by Polish troops at Monte Cassino, Italy.

Błaszczak said that Monte Cassino heroes "conveyed fundamental values, which create the Polish national identity.”

“We pay tribute to all who fought at Monte Cassino, we remember in our prayers those who sacrificed their life and it is a great honour to meet with those (Monte Cassino veterans - PAP),” said the minister adding that “"the location of this place itself shows what a huge effort was made to seize Monte Cassino.”

The Polish government also does not miss the opportunity to highlight the Polish soldiers’ endeavor to create “a system of freedom and democracy” in Italy.

The minister also noted that the battle of Monte Cassino is "further evidence that Polish soldiers are the best in the World, that Poles love our homeland - Poland."

Minister of Interior Affairs and Administration Joachim Brudziński said that Monte Cassino is “an extremely important place for Polish people, which is among the sacred places sanctified by the blood of Polish soldiers."

The Monte Cassino hill, along with the Benedictine abbey, represented the military fortifications at the Gustav Line which prevented the Allies from seizing Rome during the later stages of the WWII. The German defenses were first put to a test by non-Polish units, such as the Texas National Guard’s 34th and 36th Infantry Divisions operating under gen. Mark Wayne Clark’s command as part of the Fifth Army.

However, it was only when the Polish units of gen. Władysław Anders stormed the hills of Monte Cassino in 1944, seizing the abbey under heavy German shellfire on May 18, that the German ranks were broken. In all, 923 Polish soldiers were killed in the fighting, with 2,931 wounded and 345 reported missing.

The Polish War Cemetery was established on the hillsides of Monte Cassino at the turn of 1945. It contains the graves of 1,072 soldiers. In 1970, the cemetery became the burial site of General Władysław Anders, the commander of the Polish 2nd Corps which captured the monastery hill in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.