History of Poland (1939–45)

This article provides an overview of the actions of Poland during World War II.

The German and Russian invasion

On September 1, 1939, Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany (Operation Fall Weiss) and on September 17, 1939 by the Soviet Union, as agreed in the secret part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Together with the Nazis also fought Slovak troops. Poland had in fact a part of the country when the Germans occupied the annexation.

The Russian invasion was limited mainly to the areas that were internationally awarded to Russia after World War I. Poland and Finland, using the chaos in Russia after the revolution, conquered parts of Russia in a brief but intense war, especially a lot of the granary Ukraine. Unlike the Nazis and even the Poles for World War II, Jews were not troubled by the Russians. Certain cities in Ukraine had a very large Jewish population.

Despite the technological advances and the numerical superiority of the Germans, the Poles knew this pretty difficult to make, such as the Battle of Bzura River and near the fort Westerplatte, where 188 soldiers 7 days held out against a German force majeure. Warsaw was reached on 8 September by the Germans on September 12, the city was surrounded. Meanwhile the Germans bombed Warsaw daily, where thousands of civilians. On September 28, 1939 the town. Capitulated

The myth that Polish cavalry to attack German tanks would have gone, is not based on reality. The conscious images that the proof would be his a German propagandist assembly of training films and Italian news images. However, the Polish cavalrymen with their mobility were quite effective in a country with few paved roads and they conducted several successful raids on resting from German infantrymen. Poland possessed themselves over many hundreds of armored vehicle.

The Polish Air Force was, on some plane and after, very outdated but it was not like any other myth already destroyed in the first hours: days offered one resistor and a large part of the pilots was able to escape to Romania where she later left to participate in the new Polish Air Force in the West part. The small but modern navy, consisting of five submarines and three frigate in, week out also to England.

After the siege of Warsaw was commissioned a total withdrawal of the army towards the Romanian border, where the command a strategic defense planned. The area, hilly and marshy in southeastern Poland, was also named the Romanian bridgehead and had many secret ammunition – and arms depots in view of this defense. Moreover, it could be the area, through the friendly Romania supplied. The plan provided that allies France and the United Kingdom would then deploy the attack while in Poland this bridgehead held hands. However, the Russian invasion and the unwillingness of France and the United Kingdom to fall within Germany made an end to all hope. In the back attacked, the Polish High Command decided to evacuate to France via Romania and Hungary. Tens of thousands of Polish soldiers managed to escape.

On October 5, 1939 capitulated in the field, near Kock, and the new Polish division was a fact. The last military unit However, there was no capitulation of the government or. military high command instead.

The British historian Richard Evans writes in his trilogy The Third Reich. Part 3: War also that the German army in Poland suffered heavy losses, how little the opponent was also withstand their force majeure. When all was what would follow later. According to Evans was Germany’s economy has never been able to deliver that Hitler needed for his war plans. Resources

The Polish contribution to the Allied struggle

Evacuation and reorganization

The government and part of the armed forces weeks via Romania to France and founded two infantry divisions and an armored brigade with French equipment. They fought for the second time against the Germans during Fall Gelb, after the ceasefire they withdrew successfully back in the unoccupied part of France and reached then from the UK. They reformed there for the third time in the war, a force: the 1st Polish Corps, eg consisting of the Polish 1st Armoured Division and the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, who later took part in the Allied advance after the invasion of Normandy.

Of the estimated 300,000 Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union were only 82,000 released in 1942. Thousands prisoner of war were murdered by the Russians in the forest at Katyn or to ships sunk full in prison than locked. The freed Poland undertook an epic journey through Kazakhstan and Iran to Palestine where the Polish 2nd Corps was founded in 1943. This corps, consisting of two infantry divisions and an armored brigade, would successes in the Allied advance through Italy in 1944 and ’45.

The bulk of that prisoner of war, however, would be forced to form, which would struggle to Berlin. As part of the Red Army on the Eastern Front from 1943 the Polish 1st Army (five infantry divisions) Later still the Polish 2nd Army (four infantry divisions, one armored brigade) to set up in the Czech Republic would fight. There were only three flags beginning in May 1945 in Berlin: the white surrender flag, the Soviet flag and the Polish flag.

Atlantic, Norway and France

The motto of the Polish soldier in the West was: For your freedom and ours (Sat Waszą i nasza Wolność). From September 1, 1939 to May 9, 1945 were 200,000 Polish soldiers fighting in western Allies against Nazi Germany, on land, at sea and in the air, on almost every European front.

From October 1939 undertook three Polish frigates and two submarines patrols and convoy escorts from England in the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, was a light cruiser and several frigates and submarines added that would also operate. Later in the Mediterranean In April 1940 the Polish Podhale moisture-infantry brigade at Narvik and June of that year fought two Polish divisions and an armored brigade, although admirable, but in vain, in the defense of France.

Battle of Britain

During the Battle of Britain, the Poland 12% of all German aircraft took down despite the fact that they only 5% of the drivers, formed and late in the battle were used: 144 pilots in 2 fully Polish fighter squadrons (302 and 303) and individually in other squadrons. The high kill scores in particular the 303 Squadron were initially regarded as excessive by the British commanders, until a senior commander with the Poles meevloog and high kill score could confirm. The Polish pilots were relatively experienced pilots (they had in ’39 and ’40 flown against the Germans) and were known for an aggressive and almost reckless flying style, which she often in loose formation from different directions numerically larger German bomber formations burst into at maximum speed to cause. chaos and panic At the end of WW2 the RAF had 15 Polish fighter and bomber squadrons (300,301,305 Bomber Squadrons, 304 Sqn Coastal Command, 302,303,306,308,309,315,316,317 Fighter Sqns, 307 Night Fighter Sqn, 318 Sqn Reconnaissance) with build s Hurricane, Spitfire’s, Mustangs, Lancaster s , Mosquitos, Liberators and Halifax aircraft. The Polish Air Force in the East had three regiments, equipped with Yak-1, Yak-9, Polikarpov-2 and Ilyushin Il-2 aircraft.

North Africa

In 1941 the Polish Carpathian-infantry brigade took part in the defense of the besieged Tobruk. They did so well that they are the honorary title Rats of Tobruk might wear. Their Australian comrades The Carpathian Brigade was founded in 1940 in French Syria, consisting of soldiers evacuated in 1939. After the fall of France, wanted the Vichy French brigade intern, but the Poles were on time to evacuate British Palestine. Would later become part of the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy would fight it. Brigade part

Eastern Front

The Battle of Lenino in 1943 marked the baptism of fire of the Polish 1st Army on the Eastern Front. This army would then, together with the Polish 2nd Army, delivering heavy fighting with the Germans in its march to Berlin in 1944. These formations eventually came to Berlin itself, where they fought in the vicinity of the Brandenburg Gate. At the end of WW2 counting the Polish armed forces in the East 400,000 soldiers.

Italy and Northwest Europe

1944 marked the deployment of the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy, at the Battle of Monte Cassino and the liberation of such Ancona and Bologna. The Polish 1st Armoured Division was from August 1944 through punches from Normandy through Belgium and the Netherlands to Germany, meanwhile fierce battle delivering and liberating many cities, including Ghent and Breda. The Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, expressly intended for operations on Polish territory, fought in the Battle of Arnhem failed.

At the end of WW2 Polish forces in Europe were numerically the fourth Allied force, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Britain. Until bitterness of Poland were Polish soldiers not rotate in the victory parade in London in 1945, where countries such as the Bahamas and Fiji were allowed to walk along. The British government wanted the relationship with the new communist Poland will not disrupt suddenly recognized the Polish Armed Forces in the West anymore. Only the pilots, who had delivered at the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron achieved the highest score of all RAF squadrons, some important contributions were invited by the British to walk. However, the airmen thanked for the honor they would not walk along without their combatants of the Army and the Navy.

The occupation and the Holocaust

In eastern Poland were almost immediately after the invasion of the Soviet intellectuals massively arrested and deported to camps in Russia, where they were murdered in 1940 along with thousands of prisoner of war include in Katyn, would die of hardship in the gulag many prisoners more .

After the occupation is a fact, a large part of Poland directly annexed by Germany, the remainder, Warsaw and Krakow, the General-Government under the rule of Governor Hans Frank. The Poles were generally regarded as subhuman and considered and treated as such: Governor Frank carried heavy penalties for relatively minor offenses and were also thousands of potential and / or perceived opponents in so-called pacification campaigns (“AB-Aktion”) killed in 1940, partly in Palmiry. These early liquidation of opponents stood in contrast to the occupation policy in most other occupied countries where the Nazis followed a more gradual way. The most dramatic fate befell the Polish Jews. The general-government was designated as the place where the final solution was to take place, first for about 3.5 million Polish Jews and then for the other European Jews.

The Jews in Poland were forced under appalling conditions in ghettos to live. ‘S The largest ghettos were located in Warsaw, Łódź and Kraków. Jews from the countryside were flocking to the ghettos in the big cities sent, if they were not all killed by the effect. German Einsatzgruppen, with overcrowding and high mortality in the ghettos In 1942 the Germans began transporting Jews in the ghettos and the extermination camp. The Jews from the Warsaw ghetto were almost all killed in Treblinka, until in 1943 the Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto took place where Jewish resistance organizations, such as the ZOB (Jewish Combat Organization) under the charismatic leadership of Mordechaj Anielewicz, three weeks with the Germans battled in fierce fighting. After the bloody suppression of this rebellion was the Warsaw Ghetto burned by the Germans led by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop. Anielewicz committed suicide along with his fellow fighters in one of the last bunkers (Mila 18) before he would fall to the Germans. Owned

Help of non-Jewish Poles was there, although it should be noted that since 1941 the death penalty was in any assistance to Jews, noted something that was done, not only against the direct helpers but often other family members and even neighbors frequently. The Poles were so busy surviving themselves and were simply unable to save the more than three million Polish Jews would even if they want it. However, at the instigation of the Polish government in exile Zegota founded in 1942, a relief organization that was part of the Armia Krajowa, with the offer specific purpose (hiding) assistance to Jews. It was the only non-Jewish resistance organization in Europe with the specific purpose of helping persecuted Jews.

All educational institutions were closed, except for the primary school, the Poles would indeed be carried out in the new Lebensraum slave labor. Underground was however still higher teaching. Public executions by hanging or fusillering were almost commonplace in major cities, especially in the, described by the Germans, rebellious Warsaw. Daily food rations were set very low and even lower for Poland for Jews, so much of the urban population suffering hunger during the occupation. The region around Zamość was the scene of massive ethnic cleansing by the Germans, under General Plan East. This (test) area would be in the context of lebensraum. First colonized by German farmers German President Horst Köhler was then near Zamosc born to a settler. More than 110,000 Poles were expelled and 30,000 “Aryan”-looking children were transferred to Germany as part of the Lebensborn program. The colonization met fierce resistance from the opposition.

The German occupation was characterized thus by a reign of terror with extremely harsh reprisal s from the first day, the complete dismantling of the Polish state and the persecution and mass murder at an early stage of all undesirables culminating in the Holocaust.

The Warsaw Uprising and the last year of the war

When the Soviets in July 1944 Warsaw approached, they halted for the Vistula. Their radio stations called the Poles to revolt: “Residents of the capital! To arms! Fall to the Germans! Help the Red Army at the crossing of the Vistula. ”

On August 1, began under the leadership of the Armia Krajowa, the main Polish resistance movement, the Warsaw Uprising. The uprising, which was part of a nationwide rebellion, had a clear political goal: to liberate Poland by affiliated to the West Armia Krajowa and prevent the Russians would make Poland a satellite state. During 63 days there was fighting relentlessly hard in the streets and in the ruins of Warsaw, where the Red Army did not intervene, but waited on the east bank of the Vistula River. Only the Polish 1st Army made ​​a frantic attempt to shoot without further aid to help the Armia Krajowa and crossed the Vistula over, but soon had to withdraw with heavy losses. Stalin initially even gave permission for allied aircraft to land and from there to supply the Armia Krajowa on Russian territory, he called the rebels ordinary criminals and fascists. Eventually the few Allied aircraft flew from Italy to supply the rebels succeeded but that was later stopped due to heavy losses among the pilots. In late September gave Stalin permission yet, when it was too late, and left the Russian Air Force perform only ineffective droppings.

Eventually, the rebels still further reduced by the Nazis, with the city of Warsaw slowly turned into a ruin. Mass executions also took on a large scale among the civilian population between 40,000 and 60,000 civilians were killed in this way. After the application had only owned the old town and could only move to other districts through the sewers the Polish commander, General Tadeusz Komorowski, surrendered. Condition was that the Polish insurgents would be treated, which they did. As prisoner On Hitler’s personal orders were all still standing buildings of any cultural value dynamited and the civilian population was expelled en masse the city. Shortly after the Germans left the city and in January 1945 the Red Army entered the completely ruined and deserted Warsaw.

The fighting on Polish territory between the Red Army and the Germans also made losses for large material and human. Among other Gdansk, Szczecin and Wrocław (then German cities) were severely battered by the war, partly because the German command to defend. Those cities to the last man Heavy fighting was necessary to break the “Pomeranian wall” in Kolobrzeg a battle with the Polish 1st Army distinguished himself particularly at the expense of large losses.

The Polish resistance, that is calculated by historians of the largest and best organized resistance movements in WW2 was roughly four groups: by far the largest was the Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK) who was sent by the Polish government in exile in London. The Communist People’s Guard (Gwardia Ludowa, GL), later People’s Army (Armia Ludowa, AL) were significantly smaller and allied to Moscow. The National Armed Forces (Narodowe Sile Zbrojne, NSZ) was a nationalist resistance movement which also later fought against Armia Ludowa units. Finally, even the Boer Battalions (Bataliony Chlopskie, BCh), a partisan struggle in the countryside were also performed and sent from London there. There were dozens of smaller organizations that operated more or less independently. In 1944, all resistance organizations, with the exception of part of the AL and NSZ, merged into a central organization under the leadership of the AK with a view to the nationwide uprising against the occupying forces.

The opposition played an important role in the underground life: there were secret secondary schools, universities and theaters founded, collaborators and exceptional sadistic Nazis were tried in underground courts and possibly executed, propaganda and sabotage were carried out and in particular the information network was very effective. For instance, in 1940 a Polish resistance fighter, Witold Pilecki, voluntarily capture and send to Auschwitz to investigate what happened and to organize. Resistance in the camp After having freed himself in 1943, his reports and those of others, such as Jan Karski that in 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto proceeded to be an eyewitness to the Allies in London and Washington sent. These reports were the first direct eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust.

Also the interception, dismantle and send to England from the working part of a V2 rocket in 1944 and help in breaking the Enigma code (See: Biuro Szyfrów) can be written to the credit of the Poles. Small resistance was also of (moral) interest the Germans had developed a high degree of segregation in trams, restaurants or parks often stood Nur für Deutsche, the resistance then painted this spell in cemeteries. However, the resistance was the main objective of working towards a general uprising against the occupying forces, the Warsaw Uprising would form with tragic consequences. Most important element


A dark side was the active participation of Poland in several massacres against Jews, the massacre in Jedwabne is now the most infamous. The question of how many Poles were involved, and they were there when attacked by the Germans and how many Jewish victims extent controlled still fiercely contested by various historians and takes care of much controversy. The fact is that President Kwasniewski in 2001 publicly apologize for Jedwabne and other possible crimes committed by Poles during WW2.

The Polish Institute of Remembrance (IPN), which after the fall of communism was established to investigate and research the Second World War the communist period, has identified 22 other villages where presumably similar crimes took place as in Jedwabne. There were Poles who betrayed Jews for money or antisemitism. Anti-Semitism was strongest in eastern Poland, where Jedwabne is where Jews often collaborating with the Communists and Russian invaders were accused, rightly or wrongly.

On the other hand there was no puppet government in Poland that collaborated with the Germans and Poland was the only occupied country that no delegation had joined the Waffen-SS.

At the end of the war

The Second World War Poland the killing fields of Europe. Nearly 6 million Poles were killed, more than three million Jewish Poles. In total 20% of the prewar Polish population, the highest proportion of any occupied country too. Moreover, Poland was the place where the Germans extermination camps built. The extermination camps were situated by the Germans in Poland for logistical reasons, not because of a supposed or actual anti-Semitic mood in Poland. It was simply cheaper to half a million Western European Jews to transport than 3.5 million Polish Jews, for example France, a country where many Jews lived and anti-Semitic tendencies could be observed to Poland.

After the end of World War II raged for several years a quasi-civil war between the new and former communist regime, mostly nationalist, resistance fighters and Ukrainian Insurgent (UPA) in southeastern Poland. Lawlessness and violence in the former German territories in western Poland were the order of the day. Many heroes of the resistance Armia Krajowa or BCh, as Witold Pilecki, and veterans of the Polish armed forces in the West were executed after secret trials often and sometimes show trials. The oorlogsrol of AK and Polish veterans from the West was blackened and downplayed by the new regime, which itself consisted mainly of G people.

Sixteen Polish military and political leaders, including the last commander of the AK, Leopold Okulicki who come to Moscow in 1945 at the invitation of the Russians the pretext were arrested and given a show trial. All were sentenced to long prison terms, Okulicki and some others came a few years later to die in captivity. Suspicious circumstances With this last action the Soviet Union pressed the last possible fire resistance in the head and secured its controlling influence on the communist Poland. The result was that tens of thousands of Polish veterans in the West could not or would not return to Poland, as well as the eastern regions of Poland (where relatively many veterans came from) now belonged to the Soviet Union. The Polish government in exile in London would exist until 1989, and the interests of veterans and continue to fight for a free Poland. After the fall of communism and the rehabilitation of the Polish veterans in the West the last Polish president in exile Ryszard Kaczorowski, the presidential seals and other original symbols then carries over to Lech Wałęsa’s government in exile himself lifted.


•Evans, Richard J., (2009), The Third Reich.Part 3 War, Ed. The Spectrum / Standard Publishing, 1015 p

World War II in Poland

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