At the Start Of WW2, Nazi Germany Invaded Poland: These Are Pictures From That Operation

 
German troops removing a gate at a border checkpoint, Zoppot-Gdingen (Sopot-Gdynia) Street in Danzig (Gdańsk), 1st September 1939
 
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On the 1st of September, 77 years ago, the horror of World War II was unleashed upon the world when the German Army invaded Poland. The Invasion of Poland, also known as a September Campaign in Poland or Fall Weiss (Case White) in Germany, was a joint attack by Nazi Germany, the Free City of Danzig, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent.

Prologue

WWII was inevitable; despite all the diplomacy and attempts at appeasement, it was a war that Hitler really wanted. A week before the Fall Weiss started (22nd August 1939), he said:

“The object of the war is … physically to destroy the enemy. That is why I have prepared, for the moment only in the East, my ‘Death’s Head’ formations with orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language. Only in this way can we obtain the living space we need.”

The next day, a secret agreement between the Third Reich and the USSR was signed. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed on 23rd August 1939, remained in force until Operation Barbarossa began.

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the German-Soviet non-aggression pact in Moscow, August 23, 1939 [Public Domain | Wikipedia]
Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the German-Soviet non-aggression pact in Moscow, August 23, 1939.
On 29 August, Hitler demanded from Poland restoration of Danzig and control over the Polish Corridor, in order to create a land link to Germany’s East Prussian territories, which was firmly denied by Polish Government.

During the night of 31 August, the Gleiwitz incident, a false flag attack on the radio station, was staged near the border city of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia by German units posing as Polish troops, as part of the wider Operation Himmler. The goal was to use the staged attack as a pretext for invading Poland.

Hitler called the invasion the “Defensive War.”

“Germans in Poland are persecuted with a bloody terror and are driven from their homes. The series of border violations, which are unbearable to a great power, prove that the Poles no longer are willing to respect the German frontier.” – Adolf Hitler

At that time, Europe still believed that the peace could be maintained using diplomacy. The Europeans couldn’t be more wrong. After the summit, the British prime minister Chamberlain returned to Great Britain where he declared that the Munich agreement meant “peace for our time.”

"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time." - N. Chamberlain.
“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.” – Neville Chamberlain

On 31 August 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland. Because of the earlier stoppage, Poland managed to mobilize only 70% of its planned forces, and many units were still forming or moving to their designated frontline positions. At that time, Poland had no idea that they were doomed. 17 days later USSR also joined to the war. The Allies didn’t help.

The Beginning

Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939.
Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939 – Photo Credit

Forces as of 31 August and German plan of attack [Public Domain | Wikipedia]
Forces as of 31 August and German plan of attack.
German battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombarding Westerplatte, Danzig, 1 September 1939 [Public Domain]
German battleship Schleswig-Holstein bombarding Westerplatte, Danzig, 1 September 1939. That attack was the first clash between Polish and German forces during the Invasion of Poland and thus the first battle of the European theater of World War II.
People of Warsaw in happy demonstration under British Embassy in Warsaw just after British declaration of state of war with Nazi Germany [Public Domain | Wikipedia]
People of Warsaw in a happy demonstration under British Embassy just after British declaration of war with Nazi Germany. The sign says “Long live England!”
German soldiers on Westerplatte after the battle. Sometimes called the "Polish Verdun" due to the heavy shelling the Poles received [
German soldiers on Westerplatte after the battle. Sometimes called the "Polish Verdun” due to the heavy shelling the Poles received. During the battle, 209 Polish soldiers resisted for a week against 3000 German soldiers supported by the Luftwaffe. Photo Credit
Polish infantry marching [Public Domain | Wikipedia]
Polish infantry marching.
Polish 7TP light tanks in formation during the first days of the 1939 September Campaign [P[Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Polish 7TP light tanks in formation during the first days of the 1939 September Campaign.
German Panzer I, Panzer II, and SdKfz. 251 vehicles in Poland, circa 3 Sep 1939; the officer in the SdKfz. 251 halftrack vehicle might be Heinz Guderian [
German Panzer I, Panzer II, and SdKfz. 251 vehicles in Poland, circa 3 Sep 1939; the officer in the SdKfz. 251 half-track vehicle might be Heinz Guderian. Photo Credit
German motorized troops traveling on muddy road in Poland, Sep 1939 [
German motorized troops traveling on a muddy road in Poland. September 1939. Photo Credit
Polish cavalry in full gallop, Battle of Bzura [Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Polish cavalry in full gallop, Battle of Bzura, the biggest battle of Fall Weiss.

Aerial view of a Polish city through the gunner's station aboard a German He 111 bomber. September 1939
Aerial view of a Polish city through the gunner’s station aboard a German He 111 bomber. September 1939.
German aerial bombs straddling a road in Poland. September 1939 [U[United States Library of Congress | Public Domain]<figcaption class=German aerial bombs straddling a road in Poland. September 1939.
City of Wielun, Poland damaged after German aerial bombing, Sep 1939 ww2dbase
City of Wieluń, the very first city bomber during Fall Weiss. 1 September 1939, 4:40 a.m. More than 1200 civilians lost their lives during the bombing.

A bombed Polish Army column during the Battle of the Bzura [P[Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=A bombed Polish Army column during the Battle of the Bzura.
A lone horse wondering a recent battlefield, Poland, Sep 1939 [
A lone horse wondering a recent battlefield, Poland. September 1939. Photo Credit

German troops engaging in street fighting in a Polish town, Sep 1939
German troops engaging in street fighting in a Polish town. September 1939. Photo Credit

German troops of SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division resting during a campaign toward Pabianice, Poland. September 1939 [United States Library of Congress | Public Domain]<figcaption class=German troops of SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division resting during a campaign toward Pabianice, Poland. September 1939.
Polish soldiers with anti-aircraft artillery near the Warsaw Central Station during the first days of September, 1939 [P[Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Polish soldiers with anti-aircraft artillery near the Warsaw Central Station during the first days of September, 1939.
A damaged Polish armored train captured by German Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler regiment, near Blonie, Poland. September 1939 [U[United States Library of Congress | Public Domain]<figcaption class=A damaged Polish armored train captured by German Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler Regiment, near Blonie, Poland. September 1939.

German Bf 109B fighters on an airfield, Poland. September 1939
German Bf 109B fighters on an airfield, Poland. September 1939. Photo Credit
A girl holding her dog in a devastated neighborhood in Warsaw, Poland. 5 September 1939 [U[United States Holocaust Memorial Museum | Public Domain]<figcaption class=A girl holding her dog in a devastated neighborhood in Warsaw, Poland. 5 September 1939.
Aerial view of destroyed buildings between Zielna and Marszalkowska Streets in Warsaw, Poland, Sep 1939
Aerial view of destroyed buildings between Zielna and Marszalkowska Streets in Warsaw, Poland. September 1939. Photo Credit

Pile of Polish rifles collected by German troops, Warsaw, Poland. September 1939 [P[Public Domain]<figcaption class=Pile of Polish rifles collected by German troops, Warsaw, Poland. September 1939.
Map of the September Campaign. Note the changees since 17th of September [B[By GrzegorzusLudi - Praca własna, na podstawie dat zajęcia różnych miast oraz informacji o bitwach. Own work, based on dates of occupation of various cities and informations about battles., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25881636]<figcaption class=Map of the September Campaign. Note the changes since 17th of September. Photo Credit
Himmler (behind flag) with Hitler (front left, back turned, holding flag) and Konrad Henlein (on the right) (Gauleiter Sudetenland) in Poland in September 1939 [B[By Picture from Josef Gierse, my dead uncle, I am the heir of the picture - Praca własna, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8340193]<figcaption class=Himmler (behind flag) with Hitler (front left, back turned, holding flag) and Konrad Henlein (on the right) (Gauleiter Sudetenland) in Poland in September 1939. Photo Credit
Polish prisoners of war [P[Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Polish prisoners of war. Many of them were sent to labor camps, death camps in Germany or simply executed by Soviets.
Red Army enters the provincial capital of Wilno during the Soviet invasion. 19 September 1939 [P[Public Domain | © IWM (HU 87199)]<figcaption class=Red Army enters the provincial capital of Wilno during the Soviet invasion. Backstabbed by USSR, Poland lost their last hopes. 19 September 1939.
Polish troops withdrawn to Hungary in September 1939 [P[Public Domain | Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Polish troops in Hungary in September 1939. Up to 140,000 Polish soldiers escaped to the West through Romania, Hungary, Latvia, in order to keep fighting with the Allies, eventually making their way to France and Great Britain.
Soldiers of Wehrmacht and Red Army 20 September 1939 [
Soldiers of Wehrmacht and Red Army 20 September 1939. Photo Credit
Soviet and German officers at the demarcation line examine a map. 21 September 1939 [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-121-0010-11 / CC-BY-SA 3.0| Wikipedia]<figcaption class=Soviet and German officers at the demarcation line examine a map. Photo Credit