September 1, 1939: Nazi Germany Invades Poland
The invasion of Poland is only one of the many beginnings of the Second World War, though it is considered by most Europe’s own version of Pearl Harbor. September 1st 1939, Poland was invaded by German (and Soviet) forces in what would become known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War. The Polish armies were no match for Hitler’s superior Wehrmacht forces or to the Luftwaffe’s Blitzkrieg and it was quickly apparent in battle. As a result, on October 6th 1939, following the Polish defeat at the Battle of Kock, German and Soviet forces gained full control over the country. Even though Poland’s allies, Great Britain and France had declared on Nazi Germany, neither country did anything at all (or very little) to try and change the outcome of the invasion. While the country never formally surrendered to either Hitler or Stalin, the success of the invasion marked the end of the Second Polish Republic and just the beginning of the occupations’ terror.
Under German occupation, between 5.46 and 5.67 million Polish citizens were killed - about 20% of the country’s total population and over 90% of its Jewish minority - including the mass murder of 3 million Poles in extermination camps, slave labor camps and in numerous massacres where faceless civilians were rounded up, taken to a nearby forest and were machine-gunned, then buried. It didn’t matter if they were dead or not. The Germans were not alone in their crimes however, under Soviet occupation between 1939 and 1941 resulted in 150,000 deaths and deportation of 320,000 Poles. All of who had been deemed dangerous to the Soviet regime were subjected to ‘Sovietization,’ forced resettlement, imprisonment in labor camps (the Gulags) or murdered like the Polish officers in the Katyn massacre.
Events After the Fall of Poland:
1 September 1939, Poland Invaded
2 April 1940, Denmark and Norway Invaded
10 May 1940, Holland, Belgium and France Invaded
15 May 1940, Holland Surrenders
26 May 1940, Belgium Surrenders
10 June 1940, Norway Surrenders
22 June 1940, France Surrenders
June 1940, Britain is the last democracy in Europe fighting Hitler