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German Invasion of Poland (1939)


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Caleb
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« on: September 03, 2007, 06:20:44 pm »



German battleship Schleswig-Holstein, shelling Westerplatte, September 1, 1939.
Date 1 September – 6 October 1939
Location Poland

Result Decisive Axis and Soviet victory; Polish territory split between Germany and the USSR


Strength
39 divisions,
16 brigades,
4,300 guns,
880 tanks,
400 aircraft
Total: 950,000 Germany:
56 divisions,
4 brigades,
10,000 guns,
2,700 tanks,
4,000 aircraft
Soviet Union:
33+ divisions,
11+ brigades,
4,959 guns,
4,736 tanks,
3,300 aircraft
Slovakia:
3 divisions
Total:
1,800,000 Germans,
800,000+ Soviets,
50,000 Slovaks
Grand total: 2,650,000+
Casualties
Poland:
66,000 dead,
133,700 wounded,
694,000 captured Germany:
16,343 dead,
27,280 wounded,
320 missing
Soviet Union:
737 dead or missing,
1,125 wounded
Slovakia:
18 dead,
46 wounded,
11 missing

 
« Last Edit: September 03, 2007, 06:32:38 pm by Caleb » Report Spam   Logged

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Caleb
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2007, 06:22:29 pm »

The Invasion of Poland, 1939 (in Poland also "the September Campaign," "Kampania wrześniowa," and "the 1939 Defensive War," "Wojna obronna 1939 roku"; in Germany, "the Poland Campaign," "Polenfeldzug," codenamed "Fall Weiss," "Case White," by the German General Staff, and sometimes called "the Polish-German War of 1939"), which precipitated World War II, was carried out by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and a small German-allied Slovak contingent.

The invasion of Poland marked the start of World War II in Europe as Poland's western allies, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, declared war on Germany on September 3, soon followed by France, South Africa and Canada, among others. The invasion of Poland began September 1, 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and ended October 6, 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland.

Following a German-staged "Polish attack" on August 31, 1939, on September 1, German forces invaded Poland from the north, south, and west. Spread thin defending their long borders, the Polish armies were soon forced to withdraw east. After the mid-September Polish defeat in the Battle of the Bzura, the Germans gained an undisputed advantage. Polish forces then began a withdrawal southeast, following a plan that called for a long defense in the Romanian bridgehead area where the Polish forces were to await an expected Allied counter-attack and relief.

On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Red Army invaded the eastern regions of Poland in cooperation with Germany. The Soviets were carrying out their part of the secret appendix of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence. Facing the second front, the Polish government decided the defense of the Romanian bridgehead was no longer feasible and ordered the evacuation of all troops to neutral Romania. By October 1, Germany and the Soviet Union had completely overrun Poland, although the Polish government never surrendered. In addition, Poland's remaining land and air forces were evacuated to neighboring Romania and Hungary. Many of the exiles subsequently joined the recreated Polish Army in allied France, French-mandated Syria, and the United Kingdom.

In the aftermath of the September Campaign, a resistance movement was formed. Poland's fighting forces continued to contribute to Allied military operations and did so throughout the duration of World War II. Germany captured the Soviet-occupied areas of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and lost the territory in 1944 to an advancing Red Army. Over the course of the war, Poland lost over 20% of its pre-war population under an occupation that marked the end of the Second Polish Republic.
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Caleb
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2007, 06:25:31 pm »



Poland1939 after 14 Sep
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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2007, 06:27:58 pm »


Polish map showing the "Polish Corridor" in northern Poland.

The Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, took power in Germany in 1933. At first, Hitler pursued a policy of rapprochement with Poland, culminating in the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934. Early foreign policy worked to maneuver Poland into the Anti-Comintern Pact, forming a cooperative front against the Soviet Union. Germany sought to grab hold of Soviet territory, acquire Lebensraum and expand Großdeutschland. Poland would be granted territory of its own, to its northeast, but the concessions the Poles were expected to make meant that their homeland would become largely dependant on Germany, functioning as little more than a client state. Some felt Polish independence would eventually be threatened altogether.

In addition to Soviet territory, the Nazis were also interested in establishing a new border with Poland because the German exclave of East Prussia was separated from the rest of the Reich by the "Polish Corridor." Many Germans also wanted to incorporate the Free City of Danzig into Germany. While Danzig had a predominantly German population, the Corridor constituted land long disputed between Poland and Germany. After the Treaty of Versailles, Poland acquired the Corridor and this led to shifts in the region's population. Hitler sought to reverse this trend and made an appeal to German nationalism, promising to "liberate" the Germans still in the Corridor, as well as Danzig, since the port city was under the control of the League of Nations.

Poland participated in the partition of Czechoslovakia that followed the Munich Agreement as it coerced Czechoslovakia to surrender the city of Český Těšín by issuing an ultimatum to that effect on September 30, which was accepted by Czechoslovakia on the first of October.

In 1938, Germany began to increase its demands for Danzig while proposing that a roadway be built in order to connect East Prussia with Germany proper, running through the Polish Corridor. Poland rejected this proposal, fearing that after accepting these demands, it would become increasingly subject to the will of Germany and eventually lose independence as the Czechs had. The Poles also distrusted Hitler and his intentions. At the same time, Germany's collaboration with anti-Polish Ukrainian nationalists from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists further weakened German credibility in Polish eyes, which was seen as an effort to isolate and weaken Poland. The British were also aware of this. On March 30, Poland was backed by a guarantee from Britain and France, though neither country was willing to pledge military support in Poland's defense. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, still hoped to strike a deal with Hitler regarding the Free City of Danzig (and possibly the Polish Corridor), and Hitler hoped for the same. By again resorting to appeasement, Chamberlain and his supporters believed war could be avoided and hoped Germany would agree to leave the rest of Poland alone. German hegemony over Central Europe was also at stake.

« Last Edit: September 03, 2007, 06:29:17 pm by Caleb » Report Spam   Logged
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« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2007, 06:31:01 pm »


With tensions mounting, Germany turned to aggressive diplomacy, unilaterally withdrawing from both the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934 and the London Naval Agreement of 1935 on April 28, 1939. In early 1939, Hitler had already issued orders to prepare for a possible "solution of the Polish problem by military means." Another crucial step towards war was the surprise signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, the denouement of secret Nazi-Soviet talks held in Moscow which capitalized on France and Britain's own failure to secure an alliance with the Soviet Union. As a result, Germany neutralized the possibility of Soviet opposition in a potential campaign against Poland. In a secret protocol of this pact, the Germans and the Soviets agreed to divide Eastern Europe, including Poland, into two spheres of influence; the western third of the country was to go to Germany and the eastern two-thirds to the Soviet Union.

The German assault was originally scheduled to begin at 04:00 on August 26. However, on August 25, the Polish-British Common Defence Pact was signed as an annex to the Franco-Polish Military Alliance. In this accord, Britain had committed itself to the defence of Poland, guaranteeing to preserve Polish independence. At the same time, the British and the Poles were hinting to Berlin that they were willing to resume discussions - not at all how Hitler hoped to frame the conflict. Thus, he wavered and postponed his attack until September 1, managing to halt the entire invasion "in mid-leap", with the exception of a few units that were outside communication lines, towards the south (the Nazi press announced that fanatical Slovakians were behind the cross border raid).

On August 26, Hitler tried to dissuade the British and the French from interfering in the conflict, even pledging that the Wehrmacht forces would be made available to Britain's Empire in the future. In any case, the negotiations convinced Hitler that there was little chance the Western Allies would declare war on Germany, and even if they did, because of the lack of territorial guarantees to Poland, they would be willing to negotiate a compromise favourable to Germany after its conquest of Poland. Meanwhile, the number of increased overflights by high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft and cross border troop movements signalled that war was imminent.

On August 29, prompted by the British, Germany issued one last diplomatic offer, with Case White yet to be rescheduled. At midnight on August 29, German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop handed British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson the list of terms which would allegedly ensure peace in regards to Poland. Danzig was to return to Germany (Gdynia would remain with Poland), and there was to be a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor, based on residency in 1919, within the year. An exchange of minority populations between the two countries was proposed. A Polish plenipotentiary, with full powers, was to arrive in Berlin and accept these terms by noon the next day. The British Cabinet viewed the terms as "reasonable," except the demand for the urgent plenipotentiary, a form of ultimatum. When Polish Ambassador Lipski went to see Ribbentrop on August 30, he announced that he did not have the full power to sign, and Ribbentrop dismissed him. It was then broadcasted that Poland had rejected Germany's offer, and negotiations with Poland came to an end.

On August 30, the Polish Navy sent its destroyer flotilla to Britain executing Operation Peking. On the same day, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły announced mobilization of Polish troops. However, he was pressured into revoking the order by the French, who apparently still hoped for a diplomatic settlement, failing to realize that the Germans were fully mobilized and concentrated at the Polish border. During the night of August 31 the Gleiwitz incident ("Polish" attack on the radio station) was staged near the German border city of Gleiwitz, in Upper Silesia. On August 31, 1939, Hitler ordered hostilities against Poland to start at 4:45 the next morning. Because of the prior discontinuation, Poland managed to mobilise only 70% of its planned forces, and many units were still forming or moving to their designated frontline positions.

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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2007, 06:32:06 pm »



Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Behind him stand (left) German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and (right) Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
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« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2007, 09:20:57 pm »

Gleiwitz incident



Gleiwitz radio station in 1936, a year after its commission.

The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack on 31 August 1939 against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Republic of Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.

This provocation was one of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland.

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« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2007, 09:22:17 pm »

Events at Gleiwitz

Much of what is known about the Gleiwitz incident comes from the sworn affidavit of Alfred Naujocks at the Nuremberg Trials. According to his testimony, the incident was organized by Naujocks under orders from Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Müller, the chief of the Gestapo.

On the night of August 31, 1939 a small group of German operatives, dressed in Polish uniforms and led by Naujocks seized the Gleiwitz station and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish (sources vary on the content on the message). The Germans' goal was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German Polish saboteurs.

In order to make the attack scene more convincing, the Germans brought in Franciszek Honiok, a German Silesian known for sympathizing with the Poles, who had been arrested the previous day by the Gestapo. Honiok was dressed to look like a saboteur; then killed by lethal injection, given gunshot wounds, and left dead at the scene, so that he appeared to have been killed while attacking the station. His corpse was subsequently presented as proof of the attack to the police and press.

In addition to Honiok, several other convicts from the Dachau concentration camp were kept available for this purpose. The Germans referred to them by the code phrase "Konserve" ("canned goods"). For this reason some sources incorrectly refer to the incident as "Operation Canned Goods".
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2007, 09:23:47 pm »



Gliwice Radio Tower today. It is the highest wooden structure in Europe.
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« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2007, 09:25:41 pm »

Context

The Gleiwitz incident was only a part of a larger operation, carried out by Abwehr and SS forces. At the same time as the Gleiwitz attack there were other incidents orchestrated by Germany along the Polish-German border, such as house torching in the Polish Corridor and spurious propaganda output. The entire project, dubbed Operation Himmler and comprising 21 incidents in all, was intended to give the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany.

For months prior to the 1939 invasion German newspapers and politicians like Adolf Hitler accused Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of Ethnic Germans living in Poland.

On the day following the Gleiwitz attack, 1 September 1939, Germany launched the Fall Weiss operation — the invasion of Poland — initiating World War II in Europe. On the same, day, in a speech in the Reichstag, Adolf Hitler cited the 21 border incidents, with three of them called very serious, as justification for Germany's "defensive" action against Poland. Just a few days earlier, on 22 August, he told his generals "I shall give a propaganda reason for starting the war; whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth."
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« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2007, 09:27:36 pm »

Following several German-staged incidents (Operation Himmler), which gave German propaganda an excuse to claim that German forces were acting in self-defense, the first regular act of war took place on September 1, 1939, at 04:40, when the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) attacked the Polish town of Wieluń, destroying 75% of the city and killing close to 1,200 people, most of them civilians. Five minutes later, at 04:45, the old German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte, in the Free City of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. At 08:00, German troops, still without a formal declaration of war issued, attacked near the Polish town of Mokra; the battle of the border had begun. Later that day, the Germans opened fronts along Poland's western, southern and northern borders, while German aircraft began raids on Polish cities. Main routes of attack led eastwards from Germany proper through the western Polish border. A second route carried supporting attacks from East Prussia in the north, and a co-operative German-Slovak tertiary attack by units (Army "Bernolak") from the territory of German-allied Slovakia in the south. All three assaults converged on the Polish capital of Warsaw.

The Allied governments declared war on Germany on September 3; however, they failed to provide Poland with any meaningful support. The German-French border had a few minor skirmishes, although the majority of German forces, including eighty-five percent of their armoured forces, were engaged in Poland. Despite some Polish successes in minor border battles, German technical, operational and numerical superiority forced the Polish armies to withdraw from the borders towards Warsaw and Lwów. The Luftwaffe gained air superiority early in the campaign. By destroying communications the Luftwaffe increased the pace of the advance which overran Polish airstrips and early warning sites and causing logistical problems for the Poles. Many Polish Air Force units were now low on supplies, 98 of their number withdrew into neutral (at that time) Romania. The Polish initial strength of 400 had been reduced to just 54 by 14 September and air opposition virtually ceased.

By September 3, when Günther von Kluge in the north had reached the Vistula (some 10 kilometres from the German border at that time) river and Georg von Küchler was approaching the Narew River, Walther von Reichenau's armour was already beyond the Warta river; two days later his left wing was well to the rear of Łódź and his right wing at the town of Kielce; and by September 8 one of his armoured corps was on the outskirts of Warsaw, having advanced 225 kilometres (140 mi) in the first week of war. Light divisions on Reichenau's right were on the Vistula between Warsaw and the town of Sandomierz by September 9, while List, in the south, was on the river San above and below the town of Przemyśl. At the same time, Guderian led his 3rd Army tanks across the Narew, attacking the line of the Bug River already encircling Warsaw. All the German armies had made progress in fulfilling their parts of the Fall Weiss plan. The Polish armies were splitting up into uncoordinated fragments, some of which were retreating while others were delivering disjointed attacks on the nearest German columns.

Polish forces abandoned regions of Pomerania, Greater Poland and Silesia in the first week of the campaign. Thus the Polish plan for border defence was proven a dismal failure. The German advance as a whole was not slowed down, and the Germans moved quickly, overwhelming secondary positions. On September 10, the Polish commander in chief, Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły, ordered a general retreat to the southeast, towards the so-called Romanian bridgehead. Meanwhile, the Germans were tightening their encirclement of the Polish forces west of the Vistula (in the Łódź area and, still farther west, around Poznań) and also penetrating deeply into eastern Poland. Warsaw, under heavy aerial bombardment since the first hours of the war, was attacked on September 9 and was put under siege on September 13. Around that time, advanced German forces had also reached the city of Lwów, a major metropolis of eastern Poland. 1,150 German aircraft bombed Warsaw on September 24.

The largest battle during this campaign, the Battle of Bzura, took place near the Bzura river west of Warsaw and lasted from September 9 to September 19. Polish armies Poznań and Pomorze, retreating from the border area of the Polish Corridor, attacked the flank of the advancing German 8th army, but the counterattack failed after initial success. After the defeat, Poland lost its ability to take the initiative and counterattack on a large scale. German air power was instrumental during the battle. The Luftwaffe's offensive broke what remained of Polish resistance in an "awesome demonstration of air power". The Luftwaffe quickly destroyed the bridges across the Bzura river. Afterward the Polish forces were trapped out in the open, and were attacked by wave after wave of Stukas, dropping 50 kg 'light bombs' which caused huge numbers of casualties. The Polish flak positions ran out of ammunition and they retreated to the forests but were then 'smoked out' by the Heinkel He 111 and Dornier Do 17s dropping 100 kg incendiaries. The Luftwaffe had left the Army with the simple task of mopping up survivors. The Stukageschwaders alone dropped 388 tonnes of bombs during this battle[28].

The Polish government (of president Ignacy Mościcki) and the high command (of Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły) left Warsaw in the first days of the campaign and headed southeast, arriving in Brześć on September 6. General Rydz-Śmigły ordered the Polish forces to retreat in the same direction, behind the Vistula and San rivers, beginning the preparations for the long defence of the Romanian bridgehead area.

« Last Edit: September 03, 2007, 09:30:12 pm by Caleb » Report Spam   Logged
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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2007, 09:31:37 pm »



German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shells Poland's Westerplatte.
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« Reply #12 on: September 03, 2007, 09:32:55 pm »



German forces during failed assault on Warsaw's Wola district, September 9, 1939.
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« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2007, 09:34:55 pm »



Polish Bofors 40 mm antiaircraft gun and a bombed Polish Army column during the Battle of the Bzura.
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« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2007, 09:37:34 pm »

German plan

The German plan Fall Weiss, for what became known as the September Campaign, was created by General Franz Halder, chief of the general staff, and directed by General Walther von Brauchitsch, the commander in chief of the upcoming campaign. The plan called for the start of hostilities before the declaration of war, which pursued a traditional doctrine of mass encirclement and the destruction of enemy forces. Germany's material advantages, including the use of modern airpower and tanks, were to be of great advantage. The infantry - far from completely mechanized but fitted with fast moving artillery and logistic support - was to be supported by German tanks and small numbers of truck-mounted infantry (the Schützen regiments, forerunners of the panzergrenadiers) to assist the rapid movement of troops and concentrate on localized parts of the enemy front, eventually isolating segments of the enemy, surrounding, and destroying them. The pre-war armored idea (which an American journalist in 1939 dubbed Blitzkrieg), which was advocated by some generals including Heinz Guderian, would have had the armor blasting holes in the enemy's front and ranging deep into the enemy's rear areas, but in actuality, the campaign in Poland would be fought along more traditional lines. This stemmed from conservatism on the part of the German high command, who mainly restricted the role of armor and mechanized forces to supporting the conventional infantry divisions.
Poland was a country well suited for mobile operations when the weather cooperated - a country of flat plains with long frontiers totalling almost 5,600 kilometres (3,500 mi), Poland had long borders with Germany on the west and north (facing East Prussia) of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 mi). Those had been extended by another 300 kilometres (500 mi) on the southern side in the aftermath of the Munich Agreement of 1938; the German incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia and creation of the German puppet state of Slovakia meant that Poland's southern flank was exposed to invasion.
German planners intended to fully utilise their advantageously long border with the great enveloping manoeuvre of Fall Weiss. German units were to invade Poland from three directions:
•   A main attack from the German mainland through the western Polish border. This was to be carried out by Army Group South commanded by General Gerd von Rundstedt, attacking from German Silesia and from the Moravian and Slovak border: General Johannes Blaskowitz's 8th Army was to drive eastward against Łódź; General Wilhelm List's 14th Army was to push on toward Kraków and to turn the Poles' Carpathian flank; and General Walter von Reichenau's 10th Army, in the centre with Army Group South's armour, was to deliver the decisive blow with a northestward thrust into the heart of Poland.
•   A second route of attack from the northern Prussian area. General Fedor von Bock commanded Army Group North comprising General Georg von Küchler's 3rd Army, which struck southward from East Prussia, and General Günther von Kluge's 4th Army, which struck eastward across the base of the Polish Corridor.
•   A tertiary attack by part of Army Group South's allied Slovak units from the territory of Slovakia.
•   From within Poland the German minority would assist in the assault on Poland by engaging in diversion and sabotage operations through Selbstschutz units prepared before the war.
All three assaults were to converge on Warsaw, while the main Polish army was to be encircled and destroyed west of the Vistula. Fall Weiss was initiated on September 1, 1939, and was the first operation of the Second World War in Europe.
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