WWII started by the invasion of Poland by Germany – 1st September 1939


The new political order established in 1919 in Europe by the Treaty of Versailles, was contested from the beginning by Germany and Bolshevik Russia, marking the beginning of the collaboration of these two countries.

“Poland will always be on the side of our adversaries. (…) Danzig is not the subject of dispute at all. It is the question of expanding our living space in the East” (Hitler’s address during a conference in the Reich Chancellery, May 23, 1939).

“What is wrong in spreading the socialist system to new territories and new populations by causing a bloodbath in Poland”. (Extract from journal of Georgi Dimitrov, General Secretary of Comintern-The Communist international, September 7, 1939)

Allies and Poland

“In the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence (…) His Majesty’s Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power.” (From the statement by the British PM, Nevill Chamberlain, in the House of Commons on March 31, 1939).

“We in Poland do not know the concept of peace at any price. There is only one thing in the lives of men, nations and countries that is without price. That thing is honor” (The statement of the Polish Foreign Minister, Jozef Beck; in the Sejm, Spring 1939).


Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact

On 23 August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact in Moscow known as Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. In a secret protocol they divided Central-Eastern Europe into spheres of influences and they planned a new partition of Poland.

German’s Attack on Poland
On September 1, 1939 the WWII began with the attack of the German army on Poland. On the same day, in the morning, twenty tons of bombs fell on the sleeping town of Wielun, which was of no military significance. 1200 people died, including many casualties in a hospital destroyed in the bombings. Thus the Germans started a new type of war: a total war.

The defense became hopeless when on September 17 the Soviet Union invaded Poland.

Phoney War and Allies

On September 3, 1939 England and France declared war against Germany. The news met with enthusiasm in Poland. Meanwhile, on September 12, 1939 the Anglo-French Supreme War Council gathered in Abbeville along with the participating PMs of both countries decided to abandon their Polish ally and leave Poland to the enemy’s mercy. Western politicians were already aware of the secret German-Soviet agreement.

“Britain is not in habit of deserting their friends”. (September 1, 1939, John Simon, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Ambassador of Poland, Edward Raczynski).


“Poland in the shape given to her by the Treaty of Versailles will never be reborn! This is guaranteed in the final count not only by Germany, but also it is guaranteed by Russia.” (from Hitler’s speech at the Artus Court in Gdansk, September 19,1939).

“We were never, nor in 1938 neither in 1939 actually in the position to withstand a concentrated attack. (…) And if we did not collapse already in the year 1939 that was due only to the fact that during Polish campaign, the approximately 110 French and British divisions in the West were held completely inactive against the 23 German divisions”. (Statement by German Gen. Alfred Jodl, Chief of General Staff of the German Armed Forces before the tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials on June 6, 1946).

[sources/courtesy: “From war to victory, 1939-1945”, exhibition catalogue, Institute of National Remembrance and Janusz Kurtyka and Andrzej K. Kunert “Zagłada polskich elit. Akcja AB-Katyn” Institute of National Remembrance, 2009]

Image source: spiegel.de and picture alliance/dpa