17 September 1939
Soviet troops invade Poland from the east
War at Sea
HMS Courageous torpedoed by U-29
Before dawn of September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler ordered his Blitzkrieg to smash across the borders of Poland from the north, west and south. The Polish armed forces bravely resisted the overwhelming might of the world’s most powerful army. Thus, the Polish nation was the first to courageously resist the Nazi Fuhrer’s territorial demands.
For three days the Polish army fought alone. It waited for the entry into the conflict of their British and French allies. By formal treaty they had promised to come to Poland’s aid in case of attack.
Finally, while the world anxiously waited, the Western leaders reluctantly declared war on Nazi Germany. The Second World War had begun. In fact, these “allies” never fired a single shot to help the embattled Poles. Sadly, they had never intended to, nor could they, extend any military aid to Poland. Their “guarantee” of Poland’s independence given in March, 1939 was intended to scare Hitler.
It is a myth that the Polish army collapsed without a fight. It was not intended to defeat the Nazi Wehrmacht. It had been agreed with the French that two weeks after a German attack, the formidable French army would launch an offensive against Germany. England was to bomb German industry in the Ruhr. Neither ever happened. Poland was abandoned to fight alone.
Then, on September 17, 1939, while the Polish army was still resisting the German onslaught, the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, ordered his Red Army to attack Poland from the east. Poland was now caught in the jaws of a vise. The Polish nation had suffered a fatal blow.
At 3:00 A.M. of the 17th, the Soviet foreign ministry summoned Polish Ambassador Wacław Grzybowski to receive a note. “The Polish-German War”, said deputy foreign minister Vladimir Potemkin“, has revealed the internal bankruptcy of the Polish state. The Polish government has disintegrated and no longer shows any signs of life”. Stalin justified his hyena attack as a move to “liberate” the Ukrainians and Byelorussians of the Eastern Marshes from the Polish yoke.
Now, horrified Europeans realized the true intent of the infamous Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement, concluded in Moscow just one week prior to the war’s outbreak. A secret clause of that pact provided for a Fourth Partition of Poland between her historic antagonists, Berlin and Moscow.
The Poles were of course completely surprised by the Soviet invasion, since they had a non-aggression treaty with the Soviets. Understandably, the Polish military response was light and disorganized, with even some confusion that the Russians were intervening to fight the Germans. Essentially, the Muscovite attack administered the coup de grace to Poland’s hope for further resistance. The only saving factor would have been the promised offensive in the west.
At September’s end, a Russo-German agreement split defeated Poland in half. The boundary was fixed at the Bug and Narew Rivers.
The immediate effect of the Soviet Communist occupation of Eastern Poland was the start of a massive, brutal Ethnic Cleansing. Red commissars and NKVD operatives roamed the countryside seeking out political leaders, priests and intellectuals, many of whom were shot on the spot.
But most inhumane was the peremptory uprooting of one and a half million Polish people – men, women and children – from the conquered territories. The deportations were most often carried out in the dead of night with scant notice to the terrified victims. Whole villages and entire families were emptied. They were loaded, in mid-winter, into freight cars with only the possessions they could carry.
Countless thousands perished during the long frigid journey into the depths of the Siberian Gulag. Once they arrived at their many remote destinations in the frozen taiga and desiccated steppes they were notified of their sentencing to years at forced labor. Their only crime: being Polish.
By the time they were granted an “amnesty” for their crime, in 1942, their number had been reduced by sickness and starvation by half.
The perfidious Russian attack of September 17th also created serious far-reaching political problems for the Polish Government-in-Exile under General Władysław Sikorski, notably in the Allied camp. It enjoyed the full official recognition of the Western Powers. Yet, it could not impress its major concerns on them. In particular it could not persuade them to take note of the fact that the USSR, no less than Nazi Germany, was responsible for the extinction of Polish independence and for the outbreak of the war.
Today in World War II History—September 17, 1939 & 1944
80 Years Ago—September 17, 1939: Soviet troops (allied with Germany) invade Poland, surrounding Polish troops.
150 Polish military and civilian planes fly to Romania pilots will make way to Britain to fight again.
Off the Irish coast, U-boat U-29 sinks British aircraft carrier HMS Courageous, 518 killed.
US C-47 Skytrains towing Waco CG-4 gliders over Bergeijk, Holland en route the Operation Market Garden landings near Eindhoven, 17 September 1944 (US National Archives)
75 Years Ago—Sept. 17, 1944: Operation Market Garden begins: 20,000 US and British paratroopers land in Nijmegen, Eindhoven, and Arnhem in the Netherlands, with a British ground offensive designed to link with the airborne units.
Buildup to World War II: January 1931-August 1939
Italy began its World War II offensive when Benito Mussolini ordered his troops into Abyssinia in October 1935, then renounced its membership in the League of Nations in May 1936. The World War II timeline below summarizes these events and other important events that occurred from October 1935 to July 17, 1936.
World War II Timeline: October 1935-July 17, 1936
October 1935: Benito Mussolini orders his troops into Abyssinia. The League of Nations will call for economic sanctions against Italy, but in the absence of French and British enforcement, the sanctions will be meaningless.
December 1935: Samuel Hoare of Britain and Pierre Laval of France create the Hoare-Laval Pact. According to this proposal, France and Britain would give Italy a part of Abyssinia and would give that African nation a guaranteed corridor to the ocean. The plan will be scrapped because of public uproar in England.
February 10, 1936: SS and Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler gains total control of German internal security when the Reichstag declares the Gestapo a "Supreme Reich Agency."
March 7, 1936: On Adolf Hitler's orders, German troops enter the demilitarized Rhineland. A clear violation of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno, this maneuver also deals a blow to collective security because Britain and Italy, who pledged aid to France in the 1925 Locarno Pact, do nothing.
May 2, 1936: With his country largely overrun by Italian troops, Abyssinian leader Haile Selassie flees the capital of Addis Ababa.
May 12, 1936: Like Japan and Germany before it, Italy informs the League of Nations that it intends to renounce its membership.
July 17, 1936: A coup attempt led by General Francisco Franco against the Popular Front government launches the Spanish Civil War. The rebellion spreads like wildfire throughout Spain. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini send planes to fly Franco's troops from Spanish Morocco to Spain. They will later send planes and soldiers to help Franco fight the Spanish Republic.
World War II Headlines
Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of Nazi Germany's plans for breeding a "super race" in the mid-1930s.
Dorothy Thompson criticizes Nazi Germany's rise to power: In 1924 freelance correspondent Dorothy Thompson became head of the Philadelphia Public Ledger's Berlin news bureau. Thompson irritated both Nazi politicians and American isolationists, calling the Nazi rise to power "the most world disturbing event of the century and perhaps of many centuries." Expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934, Thompson continued her crusade against dictatorships in books, articles, her syndicated column "On the Record" (1936-1941), and broadcasts on NBC. In 1939, Time magazine ran a cover story naming Thompson and Eleanor Roosevelt two of the most influential women in the country.
Sir Oswald Mosley heads the British Fascists: Sir Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists from its formation in 1932. Throughout the decade, Sir Oswald Mosley exploited British anti-Semitism and anti-bolshevism while creating positive perceptions of Adolf Hitler's regime in Nazi Germany. The union's membership rose to as much as 50,000 in 1934. Of the Axis powers, only Italy provided any financial support for Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union. Mosley, his wife (the former Diana Mitford), and others in the union were interned from May 1940 to November 1943.
Heinrich Himmler develops program for breeding Aryan "super race": The Lebensborn (source of life) program was developed in 1935 by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to produce a German "super race" by selective breeding. Suitable young German women -- those displaying the Aryan characteristics idealized by Heinrich Himmler in his perverted views of Nazi Germany's heritage and culture -- were encouraged to become pregnant by SS officers, all of whom were considered to be politically sound and "racially pure." Once the women were pregnant, special SS-administered medical centers provided them with exemplary maternity care. The young woman seen here was a resident of the Lebensborn home on Swan Isle, a small residential island in Lake Wannsee, near Berlin. (Goebbels and other top Nazis owned homes there.) The cradle room was in the Lebensborn home in Steinhoring.
Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred from November 1, 1936, to July 7, 1937.
Soviet invasion of September 17, 1939 and the case of German compensation for WWII
zelusnica is a small village in the Lower Beskid near Jasło. This was probably the year 1937 – as Wladyslaw mentioned in his stories about Alexander, my grandfather. “I will never forget how proud I was of my father when he explained to me how the counterintelligence was running.” He started his story like that. “Y ou told me that the condition of survival is- What did you call it? Have your eyes on your back? “I urged my father to tell the story during one of those cold pre-war nights. Here in the Pre Carpathian winter was harsh that it was nice to sit at the stove and listen to real stories. “Well. So listen carefully how it is done “- Alexander began his tale in a definitive tone. Imagine that three men you suspect are approaching in your direction. First thing you do is put your arm behind your coat jacket and pull the release on your pistol. You keep it hidden under the cloak with a finger on the trigger ready to shoot. The weapon has to be depressed and you have to set it so that the barrel under the cloak is directed towards them. Without changing your position, you are looking for an object that would give you their reflection without ostentatious gaze on them. It could be a window pane. All the same, but you cannot let them out of your eye, and for a moment to loosen the grasp on the trigger. This way you keep watching them until they pass or they close enough to start the action. “He finished, confident that I understood. “What action? What happened next? “Disappointed by the quick end, I provoked my father to continue. “I can’t tell you this because I’m not allowed to. And you and your brother better not know. Difficult times are coming, and knowing too much means trouble. “He drove off the questions and sent me and my brother Joseph to the bedroom because was already late. In 1938 my father was drafted in the army and he was brought home only for short visits.
This was the only message about the work of Sergeant of the Military Counterintelligence Service in the Polish Army Alexander Mazur, whose son Władysław is still remembered today. My own Father Wladyslaw, Son of Alexander Mazur told me this story of my grandfather several times and always remembered his father as a sharp and disciplined man devoted to Poland’s independence. After World War II came, a unexpected “surprise” for the Mazur family, the home in Czeluśnica came under the hold of anxiety and fear for Alexander’s life and well being. It was winter 1940 when some strange young man appeared at home asking for clothes for Alexander. The story revealed that he knew him well and most importantly he conveyed good news. Grandpa survived the September 1939 campaign. He was captured by the Soviets in Lvov. Civilian clothes were needed for prepared escape from POW camp. Grandma gave what he asked for and they bid farewell to the stranger with hope in their hearts.
Time went by and he did not show up. Only a letter from the town of Essen in Germany was received, another mystery. They learned that he was working in Germany cutting trees and that he was good at it. The job was hard but he could manage. Further letters revealed slowly and cautiously the reasons for his stay and forced work under Hitler’s Germany. In the beginning, it was accidentally mentioned that the Soviets exchanged him for Russians who were on the side of the German occupation zone in the spring of 1940. His hands were hard and with prints, so the Soviets considered him to be a member of the working class, fit for exchange. Between the stories of how they treated him at work, he sent words translated into German in phonetic spelling. As he mentioned to his wife, Władyslaw had to learn to speak German because it might be useful later. And he was right indeed. The knowledge of these dozen words saved his sons life in contact with the German patrol numerous times. Germans simply listened to German speech. As we know, they killed all people they felt were different from them.
It was noticeable that the censors reading the mail liked the idea of German learning very much and helped with more frequent shipments and less control of the content. Grandfather returned to his family in 1942 sick and lecherous. He had a lot of luck that was conducive to him in a critical time. When his platoon was defending Lvov they fought near the prison. German and Soviet aircraft bombarded the area and the prison itself. One of the missiles threw at him a mass of tiny debris that fluttered through his uniform and wounded his left hand. Every officer of the Polish Army fought in uniform and was not allowed to fight in civilian clothes. Because nothing else at hand a uniform of a prison guard was proposed. He dressed in this, and in this uniform was taken prisoner by the Russians. Him and others were transported from Lvov to (as he translated) “some camp on the island”. There was a inspection and officers were separated from the privates. Those whose rank was unidentified were hand-checked to have traces of hard physical work. It was a camp in Ostaszków, as we learned after the war and from there thanks to unrecognized rank, Aleksander instead of pits of Katyn reached Terespol, where the Germans and Russians, allies in this war, exchanged prisoners. Thirty Poles for one Russian was the ratio of exchange. It can be assumed that the Germans were preparing a “different” camp for the Poles than the one that was ready in Siberia. Alexander Mazur returned from slave labor in Essen sick and exhausted in 1943. He was unfit for work in the German forest because he was unproductive and often sick.
All the time after returning from Germany he repeated to his son Władysław and his wife to tell no one of his story. Now I, his grandson, understand that when it came out that grandfather Aleksander was pursuing Soviet spies. He could only expect execution from the Communist authorities in Poland and his body would be buried in some nameless pit. His family would be cursed by the Soviet occupant and left without means to live. The land and possessions would be confiscated and the family persecuted and harassed by frequent interrogations. Therefore, any idea of claiming compensation for his slave labor was rejected by him without discussion. After all, it was necessary to explain at the same time how and where he was captured as paperwork required for such claims. Maybe there would be found one of the Communists whom he personally arrested? Maybe some papers were found, maybe even with his assignment? He did not see the need for a poor German compensation to risk life. Sometimes people in the village mentioned the possibility of claiming compensation. My grandmother often replied that Aleksander didn’t have any documents to proof his version. Of course he had no documents because he burned everything himself, understanding the danger that threatened them.
Grandfather died after the severe illness that ravaged his body in 1967. I do not remember my grandfather because I was three years old. My father kept the stories about him secret and today I understand this caution. After all, it was just in 2014 when traitors who unfairly judged and shot in the head 17-year-old Polish anti-communist guerrilla medic Danuta Siedzikówna “Inka”, were buried with honors and splendor. You may be surprised but, changes in Poland stopped and communist killers not only were not tried for atrocities but lived good lives. Their victims are recently found by archeological excavations in nameless pits and on the refuse dumping grounds. This is the story of the harm done by the Germans, which could not be told because of the threat of imminent persecution by another occupier: the Soviets.
The example of Aleksander Mazur’s counterintelligence officer is just one of many cases when the “Yalta treason” of leaving Poland under the occupation of the Soviet empire made claims for indemnity from Germany impossible.
The brutal blitzkrieg: the 1939 invasion of Poland
When Nazi and Soviet forces invaded Poland 80 years ago – triggering the Second World War – they inflicted on their victims arrests, lynchings and massacres on an epic scale. Historian Roger Moorhouse tells the story of a campaign that set a murderous template for the six-year conflict that was to follow
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Published: January 16, 2020 at 10:42 am
Far from the front lines, the people of the city of Przemyśl in south-eastern Poland might have thought themselves remote from the German invasion of their country in September 1939. Such cosy assumptions would soon be confounded, however. And when the invaders arrived on 15 September, they quickly showed the new face of warfare.
Soon after, the Jews of Przemyśl began to be rounded up. Initially, they were abused and humiliated by German soldiers, but the persecution swiftly turned murderous. In time, the soldiers hounded a crowd of Jewish men towards a nearby cemetery, raining blows and kicks down on the unfortunates, pistol-whipping those who fell behind.
When the Jews arrived, they saw a Wehrmacht truck, on which the canvas cover was drawn back to reveal a heavy machine gun. Burst after burst of gunfire rang out, sweeping back and forth until the men stopped writhing. Then the soldiers departed and the process began again. In all, over three days, some 600 of Przemyśl’s Jews would be murdered. It was, according to one eyewitness, “like a scene from Dante’s hell”.
The German invasion of Poland, which began on 1 September 1939, opened the Second World War in Europe, yet it nonetheless remains a subject mired in misunderstanding. Aside from the hoary old myths of the feckless Poles sending their cavalrymen to engage German armour, little else seems to have penetrated the popular narrative.
One way of rectifying such a lack of knowledge might be to point out the remarkable brutality that was meted out to the Polish population during the campaign. Of course, actions against Europe’s Jews, like that at Przemyśl, were grimly commonplace during the war. But readers might be surprised to learn that the victims in 1939 were not only Polish Jews, and the perpetrators were not only the Germans Soviet forces, too, contributed their part to the murderous climate.
Anti-Semitism was clearly the driver behind some German atrocities. For many German soldiers, Poland represented their first exposure to Jewish populations that appeared to approximate to the dehumanised stereotype presented by Nazi propaganda. Their response was predictably brutal. At Końskie, German troops fired into a crowd of Jews who had been rounded up to dig graves, killing 22. At Błonie, west of Warsaw, 50 Jews were massacred at Pułtusk a further 80. There are numerous other examples.
But, all Poles – whether Jewish or not – were under threat in 1939. Executions of PoWs were not uncommon. At Ciepielów, 300 Polish prisoners were machine-gunned after a brief engagement halted the progress of the German 15th Motorised Infantry Regiment. Perhaps the worst example occurred at Śladów, where 358 Poles – soldiers and civilians – were massacred on the banks of the river Vistula, following the failure of the Polish counter-attack on the river Bzura.
Inevitably, however, it was civilians who bore the brunt of the killing. In one example, 12 ‘partisans’ were executed in revenge for the killing of a German officer: the youngest was aged 10. In Wyszanów, 17 women and children were killed when grenades were thrown into a cellar, despite the victims’ pleas for mercy. Farmers were particularly at risk, given that they often possessed some sort of weapon and could thus easily be labelled as partisans. Eighteen were murdered after the defence of Uniejów, for example a further 24 were executed at Wylazłow.
In truth, any pretext sufficed. Forty Poles were massacred at Szymankowo after a German surprise attack was thwarted another 50 were killed at Sulejówek in retaliation for the death of a single German officer. In one shocking example, 72 Poles were massacred by the Germans at Kajetanowice in response to the death of two horses in a friendly fire incident.
There were many drivers of this brutalisation. Contemporary German accounts bemoaned the inexperience of German soldiers, whose “nervousness and anxiety” had resulted in so many shootings and wanton destruction.
The nature of the warfare must also have contributed. Though Blitzkrieg was not yet German military doctrine, the campaign in Poland was often marked by swift advances that disrupted a more static Polish defence, thereby causing many defenders to be left behind the line, where continued resistance could easily be interpreted as the work of bandits and irregulars.
There may also have been a pharmacological explanation for the brutal treatment of prisoners. ‘Pervitin’, a tablet form of methamphetamine, which produced improvements in energy, alertness and self-confidence, was increasingly popular among German soldiers at that time. The military benefits are obvious, but there can also be little doubt that – by lowering inhibitions – the drug also made soldiers more likely to commit atrocities.
Yet, valid though they may be, such explanations can only ever give a fraction of the story. In this regard, a comparison with the French campaign of the following summer is instructive. There, German troops were still comparatively inexperienced, Pervitin was still widely available, and Blitzkrieg was arguably used to greater effect. But there were far fewer atrocities. The 46 days of the French campaign saw around 25 massacres of PoWs and civilians, including those at Le Paradis, Wormhoudt and Vinkt.
In the 36 days of the September campaign, by comparison, there were more than 600 massacres carried out by the Germans alone an average of over 16 per day. Even allowing for embellishment, the disparity is astonishing, and surely points to a more fundamental factor driving German behaviour.
Clues are abundant in the letters and diaries of German soldiers, many of whom described the Poles as “uncivilised”, “filthy”, “a rabble” in short, as one soldier confessed, barely human. Such attitudes, though catalysed and radicalised by Nazi propaganda, were nothing new, but crucially the war gave the green light to their violent expression. And if the enemy was perceived in this manner, it was easy for conventional morals and behaviours to be suspended. As one soldier wrote: “The Poles behave in an unhuman way. Who can blame us for using harsher methods?” It was a neat euphemism for racially motivated murder.
Timeline: Poland’s agony, 1939
How Hitler and Stalin dismembered a nation
The signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in Moscow gives the green light to Hitler and Stalin’s aggressive ambitions in eastern Europe.
The Anglo-Polish Agreement of Mutual Assistance is signed, promising military aid in the event that either nation is the victim of aggression by a third party.
A number of ‘false flag’ operations on the Polish frontier – blamed on Polish troops but actually carried out by the SS – give Hitler his excuse to invade.
At dawn, German forces invade Poland from the north, west and south. In the air, the Luftwaffe targets towns and cities as well as airfields of the Polish Air Force.
After their ultimatum to Hitler goes unanswered, Britain and France declare war on Germany in line with the agreements that they have concluded with Poland.
In the largest engagement of the campaign, Polish forces launch a counterattack against the Germans along the Bzura river. After over a week of fighting, the attack stalls.
At dawn, Stalin’s Red Army invades Poland from the east, engaging lightly armed border troops. Despite the propaganda narrative of heralding liberation, the invasion brought class war, occupation and annexation.
In the eastern city of Brest-Litovsk, German forces cede the district to Soviet rule, as agreed under a protocol to the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Before they do so, they hold a joint military parade with Red Army forces.
German artillery and air forces carry out an intense, day-long bombardment of Warsaw – ‘Black Monday’ – resulting in an estimated 10,000 dead.
Wishing to end the bloodshed, the Polish garrison in Warsaw agrees to surrender the city to the Germans. More than 140,000 Polish troops march into captivity.
After the fall of Warsaw, the fortress complex at Modlin, north-west of the capital, also surrenders to the Germans.
Following a four-day battle, the ‘Polesie Independent Operational Group’ surrenders to the Germans at Kock, south-east of Warsaw. It is the final engagement of the Polish campaign.
A belligerent liberation
While the Germans imported race war to western Poland, the Soviets brought class war to the east. The Kremlin had sold its invasion of eastern Poland – carried out on 17 September in line with the Nazi-Soviet Pact – as a “liberation”, but it was decidedly belligerent, with half a million combat troops and nearly 5,000 tanks confronting the lightly armed forces of the Polish border protection corps.
For those Poles who fell under Soviet control, there was no doubt about the Red Army’s revolutionary intentions. In countless towns and villages, Soviet officers goaded the masses to rise up against their “lords and oppressors”, to seize property and “avenge the pain of exploitation with blood”.
Local communist militias quickly complied, targeting landowners and local officials. Victims were simply dragged from their beds and lynched, or beaten to death. One court official was tied by his feet to a horse and cart, which was then driven around the cobbled streets until he was dead.
Prisoners of war were also sorted according to their social class. Officers were routinely separated from other ranks for interrogation, along with those who were especially well dressed, or well equipped. In time, with so many escaping the net by shedding their uniforms or pulling off their rank insignia, the Soviets began checking their prisoners’ hands. Beloruchki – those with white, uncalloused palms – were clearly not from the working class, and so were also detained.
Many of them were then taken to prisons where they would be stripped of everything they had – watches, razors, belts – before being packed into cattle cars for the long journey eastward to an unknown fate. For some, at least, it was a journey that would end in the death pits of Katyń forest.
In some cases, Soviet class fury would be assuaged more immediately. Like the Germans, the Red Army was content – in the name of ideology – to forego the moral norms of warfare. A group of injured Polish prisoners taken near Wytyczno, for instance, was locked in the town hall and denied medical assistance. By the time help arrived the following day, all of them had bled to death.
Officers were often simply taken to one side and executed. When Polish prisoners heard a volley of gunfire after their surrender at Mokrany, one of them asked his Red Army escort whether fighting was still going on. He was told: “Those are your masters, shot dead in Mokrany forest.”
One of those similarly dispatched was the commander of the Polish garrison at Grodno, General Józef Olszyna-Wilczyński, who was captured by Soviet soldiers on 22 September. Taken to one side, along with his adjutant, he was executed, and his bloodstained effects were handed to his wife, who had been travelling with him. Inspecting his body, she recalled: “He was still warm, but there was no life left in him.”
The true scale of Soviet persecution of Polish prisoners and civilians is unknown the Kremlin’s propaganda and its rigid control of the media and of memory meant that many accounts would have died with the surviving witnesses, in Polish prisons, or in the gulags of Siberia.
Yet, the political intention – and the scale of the ambition behind it – can be gauged by the Katyń massacres of the following year. The murder of 22,000 Polish officers taken prisoner during the September campaign – executed by their Soviet captors – demonstrated that the Soviets aimed at nothing less than a social revolution.
Those victims, like Olszyna-Wilczyński before them, represented the Polish elite: army officers, doctors, lawyers, intellectuals, indeed all those who were seen as the best able to foster and coordinate resistance against Soviet rule. Their wholesale elimination was – to the gentlemen of the Kremlin – an essential precondition for the successful communisation of Polish society. Murder, then, was not carried out in a haphazard manner, or in the heat of battle. It was an ideologically driven necessity.
It is often suggested that the true barbarisation of warfare in the Second World War began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, when German death squads inflicted their murderous racial ideology on the helpless populations of Ukraine and Belarus. There is something to be said for that argument, of course, not least because German military domination was then at its highest, and that is when the Holocaust began in earnest.
Yet we should perhaps backdate the start of that barbarisation process to September 1939, to a campaign that has been routinely overlooked by historians as a sideshow, an irrelevant prelude to the momentous events that followed.
The Polish campaign was far from militarily insignificant, however. It saw the grim debut of many of the methods that would later earn dark renown: indiscriminate bombing, the deliberate targeting of civilian populations, and – most notably of all – the Blitzkrieg itself, the doctrine of movement, using armoured spearheads to prevent the creation of a coherent phased defence.
Aside from those nefarious innovations, it is perhaps the aspect of barbarisation that deserves the closest scrutiny. Barbarisation was not a consequence of the opening years of the war, a creeping radicalisation in which inhibitions were gradually shed and ideologies were allowed free rein. Rather it was there from the start, a key driver of Germany’s early military successes and an essential component of the racist ideology that underpinned the ‘New World Order’ by Adolf Hitler.
Crucially, too, the September campaign reminds us that it was not only the Germans who subscribed to a revolutionary world view it was not only Hitler’s army that sought to advance its ideological goals at the point of its bayonets. In that respect, Stalin’s Red Army had just as much blood on its hands as the Wehrmacht.
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Message 1 - Dornier 17
Posted on: 15 May 2005 by Gwenneth
The only Dornier 17 I have heard aboutis the one that crashed landed at the bottom of our garden in Wansunt Road Bexley Kent. On Sunday 3rd November,I was 5 at the time and terrified. Read my story, Gwenneth A40111553. not the flight you are looking for I know, thought you might be interested.
Best wishes Gwenneth
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The Nanjing Atrocities | Map: Spheres of Influence (1850-1914)
From the mid-1850s to the beginning of World War I, many Western nations were expanding into Asia. The "Age of Imperialism" was fueled by the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States, and it profoundly influenced nation building efforts in Japan and China. As the desire to exert regional strength grew, Japan also began to expand its colonial influence across East Asia.
Valley Sunday Star-Monitor-Herald (Harlingen, Tex.), Vol. 3, No. 10, Ed. 1 Sunday, September 17, 1939
Weekly newspaper combining titles from Harlingen, Brownsville, and McAllen Texas that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising.
pages : ill. page 31 x 23 in. Digitized from 35 mm. microfilm.
Creator: Unknown. September 17, 1939.
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- Main Title: Valley Sunday Star-Monitor-Herald (Harlingen, Tex.), Vol. 3, No. 10, Ed. 1 Sunday, September 17, 1939
- Serial Title:Valley Sunday Star-Monitor-Herald
Weekly newspaper combining titles from Harlingen, Brownsville, and McAllen Texas that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising.
pages : ill. page 31 x 23 in.
Digitized from 35 mm. microfilm.
Sunday edition that combines the Valley Morning Star, McAllen Monitor, and The Brownsville Herald.
Includes two sections. Missing comic section.
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