Poland 1939

The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe.

The invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and ended 6 October 1939 with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland.

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Poles Attack

Polish troops are fighting on German territory, according to a Warsaw message.

A polish counter-attack pushed back the Germans and penetrated East Prussia near Deutsch Eylau, it was claimed. The Polish Embassy in London described a Nazi report that troops had cut the Corridor as “entirely false.” Later (according to the Havas Agency) the Polish Radio announced that Poland had retaken the frontier station of Zbazyn.

The German News Agency claimed that Nazi troops operating on the Southern front had taken the town of Radomsko. Radomsko, north of the industrial region round Kattowitz, is about forty miles from the Polish frontier.

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Daily Mirror
No. 11,152
Monday, September 4th 1939


Soviet Invasion of Poland

The Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war on 17 September 1939, immediately after the end of the undeclared war between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan) in the Far East. The Molotov–Tojo agreement between the USSR and Japan was signed on 15 September 1939, with a ceasefire taking effect on 16 September 1939. On 17 September, sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union did so from the east. The invasion ended on 6 October 1939 with the division and annexing of the whole of the Second Polish Republic by Germany and the Soviet Union.

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Resistance: the Early Days – Poland

The remarkable spontaneity, vitality, and unanimity of the Polish resistance is accounted for by the historical bent of a people for centuries accustomed to fighting for their freedom time and time again. Clandestine operations were for them a national inclination: there was no need, as in some countries, for an incentive from abroad to set it off.

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Dr Jean-Lèon Charles
taken from History of the Second World War
[Phoebus Publishing Ltd in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum]


The Gleiwitz Incident

On the night of August 31st/September 1st 1939, the German Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) staged a series of fake border incidents along the German-Polish frontier in Upper Silesia designed to give Nazi Germany an excuse for invading Poland. The most prominent of these provocations was the seizure of the German radio station in the town of Gleiwitz, five kilometres from the border, by a band of seven ‘Polish rebels’ who proceeded to broadcast a message of Polish insurrection.

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{Whitehead, 2008}
The Gleiwitz Incident
After the Battle 142
After the Battle Publications


The Gleiwitz Incident – Nuremburg Trials

On 17th December [1945 -ed], the Americans moved onto the cases against the indicted organisations, including the SS. This had originated as Hitler’s personal bodyguard, but had evolved into the Nazi Party’s racial and military elite, with it’s armed units, which were used for much of the genocidal killing in the East, effectively a parallel army alongside the regular Wehrmacht. One of it’s former members, Alfred Naujocks [Alfred Helmut Naujocks 1911~1966 wikipedia], testified to the SS’s close co-operation with two other arms of repression on trial, the SD (State Security Service) and the Gestapo. Here he reveals how he was ordered to help fabricate the frontier incident that gave Hitler the excuse to order the invasion of Poland.

Trial Transcript, 20th December 1945:
Alfred Naujocks on Hitler’s excuse to invade Poland

Full Transcript

{Owen, 2006: pp.73-75}
Owen, James (2006)
Nuremberg: Evil on Trial
(Headline Review Publishing)


Political Background to the War

…the beginning of Hitler’s chancellorship was marked by a serious confrontation over Gdańsk when the city’s German-controlled Senate decided to replace the special harbour police with its own force in February 1933. On 6 March Poland reacted by reinforcing the Polish garrison at Westerplatte in Gdańsk and mobilizing the border division, demonstrating to Hitler and to the world Poland’s resolve to defend her rights in Gdańsk and her western borders to the point of war if necessary. …

…The Gdańsk incident provided a lesson to the Germans, not to provoke Poland until they were ready for war, and to Pilsudski [Józef Piłsudski 1867-1935 wikipedia], not to expect the support of Western Powers in a dispute with Germany. …To achieve his political and strategic aims in Europe, Hitler had to seperate Poland from France. Dispensing with the League of Nations and it’s conception of “collective security” and taking up Poland’s proposal to conduct direct negotiations, offered him the best means to this end.

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Cynk, Jerzy (1998)
The Polish Air Force at War
The Official History 1939-1943
(Polish Air Force Association/Schiffer Publishing)


The German “Fall Weiss” and the Polish “Z” Plan

Captured German documents do not reveal when exactly the plan code-named “Fall Weiss” had first been drawn. After the bloodless conquest of the Sudetan territory the Gdańsk issue was a prominent item on Hitler’s agenda. … The directive “Fall Weiss”, a lengthy document with numerous enclosures, was issued to the armed forces in the greatest secrecy on 3 April {1939 – ed}, with only five copies being released. It read: “The present attitude of Poland requires … the commencement of military preparations to remove, if necessary, any threat from this direction forever.” The aims were “to destroy Polish military strength … (by) … a surprise German attack.” To achieve this, the German policy would seek “to isolate Poland if possible … to limit the war to Poland only” and the war was to start “with sudden, heavy blows” and gain “rapid successes.” Preparations were, “to be made in such a way that the operation can be carried out at any time from 1 September, 1939, onward.” An assessment of the military situation contained a significant and ominous sentence “Intervention by Russia … cannot be expected to be of any use to Poland.”

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{Cynk, 1998: pp.59-63}
Cynk, Jerzy (1998)
The Polish Air Force at War
The Official History 1939-1943
(Polish Air Force Association/Schiffer Publishing)


Strength and Deployment of the Polish and German Air Forces in September 1939

…towards the middle of 1939, Poland, disturbed by high-altitude flights by German reconnaissance aircraft operating with impunity over it’s territory, began frantic attempts to secure speedy delivery of foreign fighters. Several American designs were briefly considered, with the Curtiss Hawk 75A (export version of the P.36) and Seversky EP-1 (P.35) receiving particular attention, but a French armament loan and attractive delivery schedules led to selection of the Morane-Saulnier MS 406, of which 120 were ordered. The first 20 were to be shipped in two batches by 1 October 1939. Great Britain also agreed to supply 14 Hurricanes and one Spitfire without delay. …

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{Cynk, 1998: pp.55-56}
Cynk, Jerzy (1998)
The Polish Air Force at War
The Official History 1939-1943
(Polish Air Force Association/Schiffer Publishing)


Air War over Poland ~ September 1939

On 1 September 1939 at 04:30 hours, 15 minutes before “X-Hour,” the time set for a start of the massive assault which was to open the undeclared war on Poland and trigger off World War II, three Ju 87B dive-bombers of 3./St.G 1 [Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 wikipedia], commanded by Lt Bruno Dilley crossed the Polish border to demolish detonation points and leads at Tczew (Dirschau) leading to mined bridges over the Vistula riverstrong, to prevent Poles from destroying them. The Stuka’s did not succeed nor did the Do17-Z bombers of III/KG 3 [Kampfgeschwader 3 wikipedia], which bombed Tczew an hour later. The bridges, providing a link with East Prussia of immense strategic importance to the Germans, were blown as intended. The Luftwaffe’s first attack did not achieve its purpose.

{Cynk, 1998: pp.72-73}
Cynk, Jerzy (1998)
The Polish Air Force at War
The Official History 1939-1943
(Polish Air Force Association/Schiffer Publishing)

Battle of Westerplatte

On September 1, 1939, at 0448 local time, Germany began its invasion of Poland, starting World War II; the Schleswig-Holstein suddenly opened broadside salvo fire on the Polish garrison held by 182 soldiers and 27 civilian reservists. Major Sucharski radioed Hel Peninsula “SOS: I’m under fire”. Three holes were made in the perimeter wall and oil warehouses were blazing in the southeastern sector. Eight minutes later, Lieutenant Wilhelm Henningsen’s crack marines storm unit from the Schleswig-Holstein advanced in three platoons while the Wehrmacht’s Pioneers blew up the railroad gate going on the land-bridge, expecting an easy victory over the surprised Poles.

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The Military Transit Depot

In June 1921, the Council of the League of Nations decreed to Poland the right of transhipment and the storing of military goods in Danzig harbour, the actual location being left for the HWC [The actual harbour was administered by another international body called the ‘Harbour and Waterways Council’, consisting of five Polish and five Free City delegates under a neutral chairman. The cost of maintaining the port and income from it was equally distributed between both sides] to determine. In April 1922, the High Commissioner decided that the stockpiling of ammunition had to be done in the northern area of the Port Canal and, although not naming the place, it was obvious he meant Westerplatte. At that time, the Free City transferred the ownership of the peninsula into the hands of the HWC which, in turn, agreed to hand over 60 hectares to Poland as a leasehold, free of charge for an unlimited period, but without extra-territorial rights.

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{Wiktor Kurowski, 1989}
Danzig – The First Shots of World War Two
After the Battle 65
After the Battle Publications