The invasion of Poland (September 1, 1939) - History Key

The invasion of Poland (September 1, 1939)

On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland, a moment that triggered the blitzkrieg, the “lightning war” in Europe. Most likely, Hitler decided that the moment had come in order to repair the “injustice” of WWI. Therefore, the first state that had to fall was Poland. In less than a month, the Polish army was completely defeated. Moreover, on September 17 the Soviets also invaded the country from the east.

Map showing the advances made by the Germans, and the disposition of all troops from 1 to 14 September
Map showing the advances made by the Germans, and the disposition of all troops from 1 to 14 September © Image Source: Wikipedia

What happened before the invasion?

The Germans plan involved small groups of Germans dressed in old and ragged clothes that had to cross the borders. They had to capture the key points until the mass invasion.

Other groups 24 Germans, under the command of lieutenant Herzner, had the mission to prepare the road for the Nazi assault. More exactly they had to cross the border and capture the Mosty railway station to protect the easiest straight way between Warsaw and Vienna. On August 26 the group managed to capture the railway station after facing a small resistance.

Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September
Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939 © Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480 / CC-BY-SA 3.0/ Image Source: Wikipedia

Herzner lost contact with the Abwehr (German military intelligence organisation). He had no idea that Hitler postponed the invasion for the next week. However, the Abwehr managed to contact the group, but by that time the group lost few of their men. After few other incidents, the German authorities explained to the Poles that everything had been a mistake because there wasn’t a clear defining of the borders in the forest.

These events that occurred before the invasion, which basically prepared the invasion, are known as the Jablonka incident.

Germans disguised as Polish

On August 28, Hitler broke the German-Polish non-aggression treaty. However, the Nazis needed a pretext to invade Poland. And because they didn’t have one, they invented one.

 Alfred Naujocks, who organized and led the Gleiwitz operation on the orders of the Gestapo
Alfred Naujocks, who organized and led the Gleiwitz operation on the orders of the Gestapo © U.S. Army CW-004/ Image Source: Wikipedia

A group of German soldiers, dressed in Polish uniforms, attacked the German radio station near the border city of Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia on August 31.

The city of Wieluń destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing
The city of Wieluń destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing © Bojarska B/ Image Source: Wikipedia

The next day, probably most of you know what happened. At 4:30 AM the Luftwaffe attacked the Polish town of Wielun. Five minutes later the battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military depot at Westerplatte on the Baltic Sea. By 8:00 AM, the Germans attacked the Polish village of Mokra. Later that day the Germans attacked on Poland’s western, southern and northern borders, while the aircraft began the raids on the Polish cities.

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