Franciszek Honiok

Franciszek Honiok (1896 – 31 August 1939) was a Polish man who is famous for having been the first victim of World War II, on the evening of 31 August 1939.[1][2]

Franciszek Honiok
DiedAugust 31, 1939
Cause of deathshot by SS team

He was one of several unfortunate victims of the Gleiwitz incident, a multi-part false flag operation contrived by German Schutzstaffel (SS) Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and his deputy, Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, as a pretext for carrying out German Führer Adolf Hitler's plan to invade Poland.[3]


A self-described Silesian (German: Oberschlesier, Silesian: Ślōnzŏk), Franciszek Honiok was a 43-year-old unmarried Catholic farmer and agricultural equipment salesman. Born in 1896 in Upper Silesia (a border region spanning present-day Poland and the Czech Republic), he had fought on the Polish side during the 1921 Silesian Uprisings that followed World War I. After a brief spell living in Poland, he returned to Germany in 1925, where he was forced to fight deportation back to Poland—a case he successfully pursued all the way to the League of Nations in Geneva. Though his firebrand days may have been over by 1939, Honiok was still well known in his home village of Hohenlieben (modern-day Łubie), about 10 miles (16 km) north of Gleiwitz (modern‐day Gliwice) and at the time a part of Germany, as a staunch advocate of the Polish cause.[4]


Honiok was arrested by the SS in the village of Pohlom on 30 August 1939, having been ruthlessly selected as a person who could provide "proof" of Polish aggression against Germany. He appears to have been selected because of his reputation as a Polish nationalist, which derived from his involvement in a number of local revolts against German rule in Silesia. According to his surviving family in Poland, Honiok identified strongly with Silesia and Poland. Following his arrest, he underwent a brief incarceration at the police barracks in Beuthen.

Heydrich connectionEdit

Much of what is known about Operation Himmler and the Gleiwitz incident comes from the testimony of Alfred Naujocks, the SS-Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) who was in charge of organizing the incident for Heydrich, during the 1945 Nuremberg trials.[5] Naujocks testified that during a meeting in Berlin, Heydrich instructed him that a body, dressed in a Polish military uniform, was to be left on the steps of the Gleiwitz radio station in order to insinuate a Polish connection. The top-secret operation was given a codeword, Großmutter gestorben ("Grandmother died"), to be used by Heydrich to indicate to Naujocks via telephone that the operation was to commence.


Honiok was injected with drugs[which?] to sedate him before the raid. He was then dragged semi-unconscious into the radio station, where he was shot in the head during the evening of 31 August. Naujocks added that Honiok had been referred to as a piece of Konserve, or "canned meat", which could be prepared in advance and used to suggest Polish involvement in the attack.

Germany invaded Poland the next morning, on 1 September 1939, which proved the proximate cause and the opening action of World War II. Honiok's murder by the SS is therefore sometimes credited as the first official casualty of the war. The location of Honiok's body is unknown, and no memorial exists in his memory.


  1. ^ Lightbody, Bradley (31 July 2004). The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis (2004 ed.). Routledge. p. 304. ISBN 9781134592722.
  2. ^ Graham, Bob. "World War II's first victim". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  3. ^ "The Learning Network". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Moorhouse, Roger. "The Man Who Started World War II". History Net. World War II magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Connecticut Digital Archive | Connect. Preserve. Share".