“To be defeated and not submit, is victory; to be victorious and rest on one’s laurels, is defeat” Jozef Pilsudski (Polish revolutionary and statesman)
On September 27th, 1939 twenty-six days of fighting between Poland and Germany came to an end when Warsaw surrendered to Hitler and the third reich. On the first of the month Nazi forces made their way across the boarder, the Luftwaffa attached from the air, and German U-Boats sunk Polish ships in the Baltic Sea.
Soviet forces would join the Nazis within a few weeks of the invasion as part of the short lived German-Soviet Pact of 1939 (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact). After the battle of Bzura in mid-September the Polish forces retreated to the Southeast where they prepared for a defensive and waited for help from France and England. That help never came, however. At least not in any meaningful fashion. The Soviet forces attacked from the east effectively ending the last chance for Polish forces.
World War II is considered by many to have started when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Little help was offered on the part of the soon to to Allied forces but as a result of the invasion France and England declared war on Germany. This was the beginning of a world wide conflict and it centered on Poland.
The Polish military fought hard and strong but, without assistance from other nations, could not withstand the onslaught from Germany and Russia. The Polish government went into exile in Britain and reestablished its military outside of Poland. This force would contribute greatly to allies during the military campaigns of Western Europe and Northern Africa. The people who remained in Poland fought the Axis forces as well. The country, unlike France, was ruled directly by a pure German administration. The Polish Underground State was formed to directly oppose the occupation. This movement was one of the largest of the war and played a vital role in disrupting the Nazi’s control of the nation.
The Nazi’s rein came to an end in 1945 but but before 6 Million Poles were murdered, half of them Jews victims of the Holocaust. No nation bore more of the violent crimes of World War II than the Poles. Unfortunately, the horror did not end when the Nazis left as they were replaced by their Soviet overseers. More death, destruction and oppression would come. Poland would not be free from an outside oppressor for another 44 years.
Today Poland is its own sovereign state and a member of the European Union. It is an emerging economic power in Europe and is an essential member of the world community, looking for peaceful ways to better the lives of its people. However, the scars and the nightmares of the 20th century are still with the country. There are still those alive today that can remember a day in late September when the world changed forever.
For additional reading, check out the following:
Isasc’s Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi Occupied Poland By Mathew Brezezinski
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