|Westerplatte, 9/39, Hitler leads a column of POWs
|Photo Courtesy of the Electronic Museum
5. COMMON ERRORS REPEATED IN HISTORY TEXTS AND ARTICLES ON THE POLISH-GERMAN WAR OF 1939
A certain amount of war-time German propaganda has become accepted as fact by both the media and
some historians. These tall tales have been repeated over and over in various texts and articles, despite the fact
that the truth is well known.
Polish Horse Cavalry Charges German Tanks
The most infamous of these tales are reports of the anachronistic Polish Cavalry being slaughtered
after making brave yet foolhardy charges against German tanks. This did not happen.
The Poles were well acquainted with tanks. They had used them aganst the Bolshevik Russians during
the Polish-Soviet War in 1919-1920. During the inter-war years the Polish army had begun to slowly incorporate tanks
and tank units into their infantry and cavalry as did most armies of the world at that time and further, Polish cavalry
regiments were equipped with anti-tank guns. At instruction centres, soldiers and their commanders were trained in the
appropriate tactics to defend against enemy armoured units.
It is interesting to note that the Polish armoured force was larger, and in some respects more modern,
than the tank units of the United States Army of the time.
Poland, being a country still recovering from the ravages inflicted upon it by 123 years of foreign occupation
and the recent First World War, had very little money to spend on defense. Poland's entire military budget for the years 1935
to 1939 was only about ten percent of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) budget for the year 1939 alone! The Polish
army was not able to modernize quickly and thoroughly enough. Furthermore, and in common with other western
countries, its old-fashioned military leaders were not convinced of the advantages of tanks over horse cavalry.
In September, 1939, the Polish Army possessed some 887 tanks although the most numerous was actually a
tankette: a small, turretless, two man vehicle with light armament intended only for scouting duties. Heavier tanks included
a few Vickers E light tanks. A Polish verison of the Vickers, the 7TPjw, was superior to most German tanks although only 95
were in service by the outbreak of war.
Hollywood and television have swamped us with images of WW2 battles fought by tanks and
swift mechanized units. However, cavalry forces were used by most of the combatants during WW2. In fact, the Germans themselves
used over two and a half million horses and mules during the war. The Germans did not disband their cavalry until 1941 but
soon after they did they realized that they could not do without mounted troops and began rebuilding their cavalry units.
Horses were used for parade, transport and support but beyond that mounted troops were needed to
patrol and fight in areas found to be impassable by motorized vehicles. Reconnaissance, dispatch (messengers), or pursuit
could be carried out without regard for petrol supplies. Great successes were achieved by the Soviets using their cavalry
on the open steppes of Russia. (The Cavalry of World War Two, Janusz Piekalkiewicz, Orbis,
London, 1979, ISBN 085613 022 2)
During action on the Polish-German front throughout September 1939, Polish cavalry units sought after
and chased German infantry units, engaged in battles, both defensive and offensive, and provided cover for advances and
On the 1st of September, following a day of heavy fighting near the Brda River in northern Poland, the
commander of the 18th Lancer (Cavalry) Regiment , Colonel Kazimierz Mastelarz, decided to lead half of his depleted force
in an attempt to swing around the German infantry positions and hit them from the rear. At approximately 19:00, they located
a German infantry battalion in a forest clearing. Having the advantage of surprise, they launched a sabre charge at full
gallop and wiped out the German formation. Unfortunately for them, several armoured cars happened upon the scene and opened
fire on the mounted horsemen with automatic canon fire. About twenty toopers, including the regimental commander, were killed
before the squadrons could withdraw behind a nearby hillock.
On the following day, Italian war correspondents who visited the scene were told that the troopers had
been killed while charging tanks. The media, whether they believed it or not, loved the story and spread it widely.
(The Polish Campaign, 1939, Zaloga and Madej, 1985)
Even in a recent book, The Third Reich at War, the most historian Richard J. Evans is willing
to commit to paper is that the "Stories of Polish cavalry squadrons quixotically charging German tank units were most probably
apocryphal." It is telling that this comment is made in a book which gives scores of examples of the made-up propaganda and
lies of Hitler and his Nazi regime. Many western historians seem averse to reading, and believing, Polish accounts of
the war, even when they are available in the English language. (The Third Reich at War,
Richard J. Evans, Penguin, 2008)
Polish Troops Attacked Germany First
According to the Germans, Polish soldiers attacked and occupied the radio station in Gleiwitz on or about
August 31, 1939, and broadcast inflammatory statements summoning the Polish minority in eastern Germany to take up arms
against Hitler. This act of "Polish aggression" justified the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.
In fact, the attack was staged by SS troops specifically to provide a pretext for the German invasion.
SD chief Reinhard Heydrich had been put in charge of Operation Himmler in which SS troops dressed in Polish uniforms attacked
the station and broadcast the aforementioned statements. The bodies of several concentration camp inmates, also wearing
Polish uniforms, were left behind to display to foreign correspondents.
The Poles never had any intention of attacking Germany first. They well knew that they did not have the
capability. All Polish planning for war with Germany was based on a defensive retreat, with the aim of holding out until
the Allies (particularly France and Great Britain) attacked Germany from the west, as was agreed upon in the months
leading up to the war.
Polish Air Force Destroyed on the Ground in the First Few Hours of the War
The tiny Polish Air Force flying mostly obsolete planes fought well against tremendous odds.
Most air units were dispersed on August 31, 1939 to new and secret airfields in anticipation
of the German attack. The only destruction inflicted by the Luftwaffe on the morning of September 1 was at the pre-war
airfield at Rakowice near Krakow where 28 unusable aircraft were attacked.
The Luftwaffe ruled the sky only because there were so few Polish planes to give chase. Those that did
engage the enemy fared quite well, for example the units defending Warsaw. The fighter units downed a surprisingly large
number of German planes (105 confirmed kills during the first 6 days against 63 fighters lost). However, these losses coupled
with a lack of fuel, spare parts and serviced airfields, quickly affected the ability of the Polish Air Force to function
During the second week of the war, most air units were shifted to eastern Poland. Polish bombers continued
to inflict damage on German columns, both infantry and armoured-motorised. Twenty-one more confirmed kills were made by the
time the Soviets invaded on the 17th of September, 1939. Following the Soviet attack, the fighter units were ordered
to evacuate to Romania to be saved for future fighting.
Out of 435 operational aircraft the Poles lost 327 with 98 evacuating to Romania and 10 unaccounted
The Germans meanwhile had 285 aircraft totally destroyed with a further 279 heavily damaged, a total
amounting to about one fifth of the total force committed; quite heavy considering the small force it faced.
Poles Brutally Murder German Civilians
Very early in September 1939, the invading German troops in northwestern Poland found a number of
men, women and children of German descent killed, their corpses laying by a road. The Germans blamed the Poles for this
crime and played it up. The story incited rage among the German troops and is said to have contributed to the German
atrocities against Poles which followed.
Of course, the truth is quite different.
Those slaughtered were fleeing refugees, including a number of German families headed for Germany, but
most were Poles. They had been gunned down by the Luftwaffe.
It is true that, with the outbreak of war, some Poles behaved badly toward Germans in Poland and
thousands of German residents may have been killed in anger and retaliation, especially those caught fighting against Polish
units. It is also true that a number of resident Germans were enlisted by the Nazis to rise up against the Poles
at the start of the war, and a number of spies and diversionists were sent to infiltrate Poland in order to sabotage
the defence of the country.
One has to keep in mind that it was Poland that was attacked.
Poland Did Not Deserve to Exist
The Polish nation has had a difficult time since the late 1700s when it began to shrink, then disappear,
due to the imperialist aspirations of its hostile neighbours. Since most modern, western history has been written as
seen through British and American eyes, few people know that during the golden age of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth in the late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance Poland was:
- For 800 years a sovereign country,
- For 400 years Europe's largest political nation of free citizens (1386 - 1795), a time which saw unprecedented
rights given to Jews and the second democratic Constitution in the world.
- For 300 years a great power of Europe (The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth)
Historian and author Norman Davies writes: "In the exceptional circumstances of 1939, Poland turned
out to be a country which, though possessed of ancient credentials, had played little part in European power games for nearly
three hundred years...It would have been a very rare and erudite Westerner who knew that Poland had a longer independent history
than Russia and traditions of freedom and democracy that were older than Britain's." (Rising '44, Norman Davies,
Pan Macmillan, 2004, London)
Poland Was Easily Defeated by Germany
This statement is true yet quite meaningless in the context of the war in Europe.
Historians and journalists have often written derisively of the lack of Polish preparation, poor
leadership, ineffective command, weak communication structure, weak defences, poor training and antiquated and
inadequate armaments (including a tiny air force and few tanks).
"The German campaign in Poland in 1939 has been regarded by many as little more than a maneuver for
the youthful Wehrmacht. However, the casualty figures and losses in materiel for the period of combat show that the campaign
was more than an exercise with live ammunition... The bulk of the German forces had to be committed to overcome the Poles,
and the expenditure in ammunition, gasoline and materiel was such as to preclude concurrent German operations on a similar
scale in the west or elsewhere." (Kennedy, 1956)
Some sources state that the Polish Army was wiped out within a week; others mention 4 weeks (probably
referring to the capitulation of Warsaw on September 27, 1939).
Poland knew that it had limited capabilities against the known strength of the German Forces. In the years
following Poland's independence (1918), Poland had to repair 125 years worth of damage caused by three different occupiers
and build up an economy from scratch. The armed forces received significant attention only during the late 1930s but there
was not enough time and not enough funding to match the build-up that was possible in Germany.
Most of Polish war planning in the months leading up to the war was simply an attempt to organize
a solid, retreating defensive battle. The units were hoping to slow down the Germans sufficiently so as to buy time before
the western Allies began their offensive against Germany.
Poland was invaded by Germany on September 1, 1939 from three directions: west, north and south. The Poles
fought bravely but were overwhelmed and forced to continually withdraw eastward while waiting for France and England
to attack Germany's western frontier. Following the Soviet invasion from the east on September 17, 1939, the
Polish defenders realized that their defence of Poland was doomed, yet they fought on where possible. By the end
of the second and into the third week of fighting, most of the Polish armies had been severely reduced. Following the
surrender of the garrison at Warsaw (September 27, 1939) remnant units continued to resist. Garrisons on the Baltic seacoast
did not surrender until October 1, 1939. Finally, after 5 weeks of intense fighting, the Poles were finally defeated
when the last remaining pocket of resistance, General Kleeberg's force at Kock, dispersed on October 6, 1939 (Poland
never actually surrendered).
"It would be a mistake to say that this was an easy victory for the Germans. While the Poles lost
almost everything, they did manage to kill 16,000 German soldiers and wound some 32,000 more. Twenty-five percent of the German
tanks were knocked out of action and much equipment was destroyed." (The Polish Campaign
1939, Zaloga & Madej, Hippocrene Books, New York, N.Y., 1985).
As bad as the Polish defeat appears, compare it to what happened to France and the Soviet Union in
the years that followed.
France was a world power which had the good fortune to learn about the ferocity of the Blitzkrieg
while watching from the sidelines during the German invasion of Poland. Further, with this full knowledge of what it potentially
faced, France had more than 8 months to prepare for war. However, when Germany invaded on May 10, 1940, France (together
with the low countries of Holland and Belgium) was quickly overrun and capitulated on June 22, 1940 only 6 weeks into the
war. It must also be remembered that France was attacked on only one short front, by only one enemy, and the French, Dutch,
Belgian and British forces outnumbered the Germans in men, tanks, and aircraft.
Clearly, France did not fare much better than Poland given the advance knowledge, and given their supposedly
superior armed forces.
A. J. P. Taylor in his book Europe: Grandeur and Decline (Hamish Hamilton, 1967) comments on
the French defeat: "Gamelin followed the military principles of an earlier age, when man and not machines decided the
war. He was never guilty of victory. Gamelin cannot escape the position of having been in supreme command of the army which
suffered the greatest disaster in history since the Battle of Jena."
Admiral Leahy also commented on the fall of France in his memoirs: "To me 'the magnificent French
Army' was only pretty fast on its feet. It almost got away by running!"
The following quote appears in a compilation of Harold Nicolson's words and is from the editor's introduction
to the chapter on 1939. It describes the scene in September 1939:
"Not a single move was made by Britain and France to relieve pressure on the Poles. Even bombing of
industrial targets in Germany was forbidden for fear of German repraisals on France. On land, 106 French Divisions in the
Maginot Line faced only 23 German Divisions while the Polish campaign lasted, but (French) General Gamelin, the Allied Commander-in-Chief,
said privately that no major offensive could be launched before at least two years." (Vol.
II, Letters and Diaries of Harold Nicolson, The War Years, 1939-45, edited by Nigel Nicolson, Atheneum, N.Y., 1967)
In fact, there were a few minor skirmishes along the Franco-German border and the British did drop two
million propaganda leaflets over Germany.
It should also be remembered that France did not fall alone: "Denmark and Luxembourg surrendered in
less than twenty-four hours. Holland capitulated after five days; Belgium, despite British and French assistance,
after eighteen days. Norway held out for two months. In the French Campaign, which lasted for 6 weeks from 10 May to 22 June,
1940, the combined French and British armies performed much less effectively against the Wehrmacht than the Polish forces
had performed against the joint attack by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. 141 German divisions comprehensively overwhelmed
the 114 French and British divisions deployed against them, a ratio of less than 3:2, compared to a ratio of 3:1 which the
Wehrmacht had enjoyed in September 1939, not counting Soviet involvement." (Rising '44, Norman Davies,
Pan Macmillan, 2004, London). In addition, the Wehrmacht took over two million men prisoner.
The Soviet Union meanwhile was Germany's ally against Poland from the start, having invaded Poland
from the east on September 17, 1939. The Red Army then occupied the eastern half of Poland in an agreement with
Hitler. Later, the poor performance of the Soviets against tiny Finland convinced Hitler that the Red Army could easily
be overcome and sealed his decision to invade the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union had also watched the Blitzkrieg from the sidelines (twice!) and was well aware
of what it could do.
Although Stalin expected war with Germany to be inevitable, he did not expect it to come for many years.
However, for a number of months before the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, Stalin regularly received reports, from various
sources (he had spies everywhere), of German preparations. In fact, Hitler had begun planning for this invasion
in October of 1940. During June of 1941, Stalin also received reports of German troops and equipment being concentrated
near the border with the Soviet Union. German high altitude reconnaissance planes had begun their flights early in 1941 as
Despite all of the evidence, he failed to accept that he was about to become a victim, dismissing
the intelligence reports as rumours planted by the British. When the blow came on June 22, 1941 the Soviets were
caught completely by surprise and were quickly overrun as had been the Poles and the French before them. And,
like France, the Soviet Union was attacked on only one front, by only one enemy.
Until the reversal of fortune at Moscow in December, 1941, the Soviet Union did not fare much
better than Poland given the advance knowledge and their supposedly superior armed forces.
In the space of time it took the Red Army and the Germans to crush the final pocket of resistance
in Poland, the Soviets had given up tremendous tracts of territory and suffered enormous casualties. By the end of September,
1941, some 3 months into the campaign, Soviet casualties amounted to 5,000,000 men and 3,000,000 prisoners taken.
On Armament and Leadership
Only twenty years in existence, the Polish army could be excused for being unprepared for the Second World
War for that reason alone.
Compare it to this description of Mussolini's well established North African forces by a German
soldier of the Afrika Korps:
"There was a great camaraderie among the men in the Afrika Korps. I don't think there was ever
an army that had better morale than we did in Africa. The Italian officers wouldn't dream of sleeping in the same ditch as
their enlisted men. In contrast, German officers were always with us...
I felt sorry for the Italian soldiers I saw... their leadership was just terrible. Our supplies may have
been short, but theirs were totally inadequate. Their leadership made no attempts to provide them with the proper food
or ammunition. The Italians didn't stand up and fight, because they had nothing to defend themselves with. The Italian tanks
weren't second rate but third rate... The Italians were fighting with stuff that was built in 1928, so they couldn't possibly
have won. If the pressure was on them in battle they turned around and walked away. The Italians would rather be captured
than give their lives to a system that could never offer them anything...
Our retreat in Africa was almost constant after the battle of El Alamein. The retreat was very organized
on the German side, but the Italians were very disorganized. Their officers wanted to take everything with them in their trucks,
including their nice double beds, kitchen equipment, beautiful bathroom outfits and all the luxuries they could carry..."
(Hans Klein as told to Robert Mulcahy in World War Two, September 2005, page 28.)
. . .
. . .
. . .
. . .
On the other hand, the Poles taught the Germans a lesson or two, for example:
"Another characteristic of warfare in eastern Europe as learned by the Germans was the considerable guerrilla
activity in rear areas..."
"The successful night attacks of the Poles made a considerable impression on the Germans... With adequate
security, these operations could cause considerable confusion when launched at the boundaries between units, as demonstrated
by the Polish night attack of 12 September at the junction of the 207th Infantry Division and Brigade Eberhard lines before
"The German Campaign in Poland, 1939" Kennedy, 1956, U.S. Department of the Army
. . .
. . . . .
. . . . .
. . . . .
A Word About the Controversy Surrounding the Bombing of Dresden by Allied Air Forces in February
The bombing of Dresden by the Allies during the last months of World War Two has stirred controversy
from almost the very beginning.
People questioned and continue to question why such devastation was necessary so close to the end of the
war. In recent times, a number of Allied Air Force pilots have publicly expressed regret at killing large numbers of
German civilians during the Allied bombing of targets in Germany.
Documentaries, articles and books have roasted Allied leaders for undertaking these operations, sometimes
referring to them as "immoral" or "war crimes." These assertions are incorrect for a
number of reasons, but especially because they do not look at the matter through the eyes of the true victims of the war such
as the Poles and many, many others.
A scholarly explanation
of the events and circumstances surrounding the bombing of Dresden can be found in historian Andrew Roberts' recent account
The Storm of War, in the chapter The Cruel Reality.
An attempt to bring a quick conclusion to war, prevent further casualties to one's own
armed forces and end the suffering of the victims of the war, is justified. While it is right to feel compassion
for any innocent civilian, one must look at this from the point-of-view of the victim. In
this case, that would be the Polish nation and its people. There is no controversy in the opinion of the victim.
Historically, the Germans have had no concern for the fate of civilians: "... War must leave nothing
to the vanquished but their eyes to weep with..." (Otto. R. Tannenberg, 1911).
Hitler told his generals on the eve of the invasion of Poland: "Kill without pity or mercy all men,
women and children of Polish race and language."
The feelings of guilt and regret at the bombing of German civilians were felt by Allied civilians,
soldiers and air crews who did not see nor understand the extent and true character of the atrocities committed on the ground
by German soldiers and civilians, against, most severely, the Polish nation and its people. Fighting their war in the
air, Allied air crews were insulated from the madness of war and enemy occupation on the ground. The Commonwealth and American
soldiers who liberated Europe never reached Poland and therefore did not see the extent and severity of what had occurred
there. They saw only the isolated horror of some concentration camps and witnessed the extreme hunger in Holland.
British and American civilians on the home front felt material shortages and rationing and experienced the pain
of sons killed overseas but mostly they knew war from the newspapers and newsreels. Even in the face of the written and graphic
photographic evidence that surfaced after the war, these civilians and soldiers could not then and cannot now relate to the
scope of the true tragedy that wasted Poland over the course of six years.
The German civilians who survived the bombing of Dresden may feel sorry for themselves. They
did survive an incredible ordeal, but it was only one incredible ordeal. They should feel fortunate that they did not have
to try to survive six years of enemy occupation. And they had lived a pretty good life in the early years of the
war while their sons and fathers were off raping, looting and killing in foreign lands.
The victims can certainly empathize with the feelings of guilt and regret which are normal
in people who have a conscience. However, the victims saw first hand how many Germans did not have a conscience,
and rabidly hated Poles, Jews, Ukrainans, Russians, etc. Furthermore, the Germans indulged in their hate following the
invasion of Poland; murdering, executing, beating, humiliating, torturing, raping, and mutilating at will.
And some, but by no means all, German civilians treated their Polish slaves with brutality or lynched downed Allied airmen.
Of course, many Germans wanted nothing to do with the Nazis and their war and were truly ashamed of the
conduct of their fellow countrymen and political leaders. How many Americans feel the same way about their country's
involvement in Iraq but have no choice but to go along for the ride? At least Americans can argue, debate, and complain but
the innocent German civilian had no such opportunity in the days of iron-fisted totalitarian rule. Those who did
dare to complain were shot or imprisoned. Dachau concentration camp was originally built in 1933 to house German political
prisoners (i.e. Hitler's opponents), and defeatism was punishable by death right up until Hitler's demise in the spring of
Anyone reading the material on this web site can see quite clearly that the German invasion of Poland
was incredibly brutal on a daily basis. The Germans began a campaign of terror against civilians from the moment the war started.
The Luftwaffe bombed both civilian and military targets and strafed not just soldiers but mothers and their children. Immediately
following occupation, Poles, some children included, were rounded up and shot or imprisoned. Furthermore, in the course
of the September 1939 invasion, the Germans bombed Warsaw (and many, many other Polish cities, towns and villages) to
ruin without the least regard to the suffering inflicted on the civilians. The goal was the destruction of the Polish
nation, plain and simple, and the sooner, the better.
"The defence of Warsaw continued until 28th September. The siege consisted of continuous air raids
and shelling by heavy guns. German leaflets threatened the use of poison gas. Finally, the air bombardment carried out during
the whole of 23rd September destroyed the waterworks and then the enemy started numerous fires with incendiary bombs..."
The Germans again razed the capital, even more thoroughly, during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944,
a prolonged battle in which 180,000 civilians were killed.
Neither did Germans care much for the fate of the citizens of Rotterdam:
"During the terrible devastation wrought in Rotterdam by the German Air Force on 14 May (1940), the
number of dead ran into 30,000... further aggravated by the enormous fires which burned for fully two days. As the water supply
had been put out of action no effective means of extinguishing the rapidly spreading flames were available..." (Note: typical current estimates vary but, for example, place the tally of dead at closer to 800-1,000 persons
with 80,000 homeless and 30,000 non-fatal casualties.)
The aggressor reaps what he sows.
Secondly, "bringing the war home to the aggressor" provides an important psychological lift for the victim
of aggression. The British enjoyed sending Hitler into a rage by bombing Berlin and the Americans experienced a
huge boost in morale when they managed to bomb Tokyo for the first time. You can imagine how good the Poles, daily victims
of Hitler's hate, felt when they learned of the payback being exacted of the German civilian population and military
and industrial targets inside Germany itself. It gave them a reason to live and provided them with the hope that
the war would eventually end. This type of morale booster was still sorely needed in February 1945.
The only regret of the Poles, the most broadly and consistently brutalized victims of this war, would
have been that in addition to German military, industrial and civilian losses there would have also been Polish
and Allied slaves that perished during the Allied bombing raids.
The Germans took millions of Poles into Germany to slave for the good of the Reich and the benefit
of their German masters. This included: slave labourers for mines, farms and factories, often worked and starved to death,
POWs, girls for domestic work, girls for brothels, prisoners of war, concentration camp inmates, men forced into the German
army, young Aryan-looking children adopted into German families under the Germanization program, girls temporarily imported
into Germany for forced sterilization, etc. Starving Poles also went voluntarily to work in Germany, hoping to be fed. Many
Ukrainians were enticed to work for the Germans and POWs of various nationalities were also interned in that country.
The argument that Dresden was not a military target is without foundation. Like many major German centres,
much of its industry was converted to the war effort, with factories scattered throughout the city and its environs (my mother's family were slave labourers in nearby Chemnitz-author). The city was also a transportation
hub and contained a concentration of military activity. The Soviets needed this hub neutralized as they approached
the region. To complicate matters, at the time of the bombing, Dresden was swollen with German refugees heading west, fleeing
the oncoming Soviet Armies.
Coincidentally, by early 1945, the Allies had achieved a vastly improved superiority in the
air over both the Luftwaffe and German anti-aircraft defences, which allowed great concentrations of Allied planes
to reach their targets deep in Germany. That was Germany's misfortune as the tide of war had turned against them. The Germans
certainly exploited air superiority over Poland in September 1939 when they unapolegetically bombed Polish villages,
towns and cities into oblivion and strafed men, women and children.
Relentless bombing of the enemy, both military and civilian, is also expected to break their morale
and their willingness to fight, to destroy infrastructure, food, fuel depots and war materiel, and ultimately, to force the
enemy to accept surrender sooner rather than later. The tactic certainly worked when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yes, many Japanese civilians died and many suffered horribly, but Japan surrendered almost immediately,
saving potentially huge numbers of future casualties. Imagine the suffering that would have occurred if the Americans
had had to invade Japan, resulting in hundreds of thousands if not millions of casualties on both sides. In fact, the Japanese
were saved from an even more horrific fate as the Soviet Union, by the summer of 1945 fresh from its victory over Germany,
turned its attention eastwards and wanted to "help" the Americans invade the islands of Japan.
Hitler should have given up when it became obvious that he was going to lose the war. The Allies were
waiting for the phone call which never came. No one knew that Hitler would not surrender or seek a peace agreement. No one
knew that he would let his nation suffer until the bitter end. This was Germany's misfortune. This was also the misfortune
of all the slaves and Allied soldiers who continued to die into May of 1945, when the war finally did end, and those who survived
but suffered psychological trauma for the rest of their lives.
By the end of 1942, Hitler could sense that Germany was going to lose the war. It was not just the mounting
military defeats (at Moscow in December 1941, at Stalingrad in December-January 1942-43, in North Africa during 1942 and into
1943), but also the dwindling supplies of war materiel that was about to slow down the German war machine and eventually bring
it to a halt. His planners (e.g Albert Speer) knew that shortages of railway engines and rolling stock, coal and
fuel, steel and other metals, would hamper production of weapons (planes, submarines, artillery, tanks, ammunition)
and that the German economy, hampered also by increasingly heavy Allied bombing deep into Germany, could not possibly out-produce
the combined economies of Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. Hitler should have started making peace in
1943 but, instead, allowed people to suffer and die for another two and one-half years.
Finally, any actions against Germany and its people came to a prompt end when Germany surrendered, whereas
the Germans would have continued to commit atrocities until stopped. Yes, in some cases we may have sunk down to their
level of barbarity but our "brutality" was an understandable reaction (we are human after all). Furthermore our
"brutality" was often required to "fight fire with fire," but it was also measured and limited.
The Allied countrymen who did not directly experience the brutality of the German and Soviet occupations,
simply could not, and today, cannot, consider the fire-bombing of Dresden to be simply one of many tools available to
use against a relentless aggressor, designed to bring the war to an early conclusion. It was war.
6. WHAT THE POLES HAD TO LOOK FORWARD TO
i. A fragment of Hitler's speech to his senior commanders, August 22, 1939
"... kill without pity or mercy all men, women and children of Polish race or language."
. . . .
ii. Generalplan Ost (General Plan for the East)
By 1940 , the Germans had worked out their long-term plans for the East. Not a single copy exists of the
document which was drafted by the RSHA (Reich Security Office). However, its existence is known thanks to the testimony at
Nuremberg of SS-Standartenfuhrer, Dr. Hans Erlich, who was responsible for drafting the plan, and several documents which
refer to it or are supplements to it.
"The final version of Generalplan Ost was made up of two basic parts. The first, known as
Kleine Planung, covered the immediate future. It was to be put into practice gradually as the Germans conquered the
areas to the east of their pre-war borders. The individual stages of this "Little Plan" would then be worked out in greater
detail. In this way the plan for Poland was drawn up at the end of November, 1939.
"The second part of the Plan, known as Grosse Planung, dealt with objectives to be realized after
the war was won. They were to be carried into effect gradually and relatively slowly over a period of 25-30 years."
In short, the Germans were planning to deport the mostly slavic populations of eastern Europe (tens of millions
of persons) and resettle the land with Germans. They expected to dominate and administer all of the land as far east as Lake
Ladoga in the north and the Black Sea and Crimea in the south, and this task was expected to take some 25 years to accomplish.
Smaller numbers of persons who were deemed suitably Germanic were to be Germanized.
As far as the plan applied to the Poles, there were special considerations. Although the Poles "possessed
many of the Nordic characterizations, proper to the German nation," political considerations held out no hope that large scale
Germanization would be successful due to the Poles' "highly developed sense of patriotism, their hostile attitude
to Germany, and their natural bent for underground activity."
Because of this fact, the Germans did not hesitate to initiate "methods designed wipe out the greatest
possible number of Poles" from the very outset of their occupation in late 1939.
According to the plan, the Polish intelligentsia was to be allowed to emigrate overseas so that they were
out of the way. As it turned out during the war years, they were rarely let out of the country to spread the truth of the
situation in Poland, and many were often targeted for murder or simply allowed to rot and die in camps and prisons. The
Soviets helped with this process, although for their own purposes.
A further 80-85% of the Poles (some 20,000,000 persons) were to be deported to Western Siberia. They could
not be mass exterminated (like the Jews were to be) because a) the West was expected to frown on this, and b) other Slavic
nations could be expected to rise up. Furthermore, the Poles were considered so dangerous a threat to the German Reich
that, once in Siberia, they were to be dispersed in small groups over as wide an area as possible, and intermingled with the
locals, so that they could not meet and organize in numbers. The Germans were actually worried that, if present in concentrated
groups, the Poles would "Polonize the Siberians and a 'Greater Poland' would evolve in that region."
Deportations of Poles began soon after the occupation in 1939. Western Poland was emptied to allow it to
be annexed to Germany and to make room for German settlers. The process was brutal from the start and left the deportees destitute.
The remaining Poles (all peasants) were to be kept as uneducated slaves, labouring for the Master Race.
They would be intermingled with other etnic groups which would force them all to a) learn German so that they could communicate
in a common language, and b) prevent them from colluding with each other.
Furthermore, all of the remaining occupied Slavs were to be exposed to a deliberate campaign meant to curb
their natural increases in population. There were plans to both reduce the birth rate and to take no steps to curb the
death rate. Again, the first steps towards implementing these policies ocurred during the war, for example, Polish girls
were forcibly sterilized, and the Poles in general were callously allowed to die from disease, cold and hunger.
Poland Under Nazi Occupation, Gumkowski and Leszczynski, Polonia Publishing House, Warsaw, 1961.
. . .
iii. The German decree of October 15, 1941 as it applied to the "General Government"
- Jews who without authorization leave the quarter appointed for them are liable to the death penalty. Persons
who knowingly give shelter to such Jews are liable to the same penalty.
- Instigators and accomplices are liable to the same punishment as the perpetrator; an attempt at a deed will
be punished in the same way as an executed deed. Less serious cases may be punished with close confinement or confinement.
- Sentences will be passed by special courts.
Since Poles initially tended to ignore this decree, there came a follow-up announcement:
Concerning the Sheltering of Escaping Jews
A reminder - in accordance with paragraph 3 of the decree of October 15, 1941, on the Limitation of Residence
in the General Government (page 595 of the GG Register), Jews leaving the Jewish Quarter without permission will incur
the death penalty.
According to this decree, those knowingly helping these Jews by providing shelter, supplying food, or selling
them foodstuffs are also subject to the death penalty.
This is a categorical warning to the non-Jewish population against:
- Providing shelter to Jews
- Supplying them with food
- Selling them foodstuffs
Dr. Franke, Town Commander, Czestochowa, 9/24/42
Translation of German Announcement as found in Your Life is Worth Mine, Ewa Kurek, Hippocrene, New
iv. Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Excerpts)
"On June 14, 1940 Auschwitz went into operation as a quarantine or transit camp... It soon became
clear that Auschwitz was to be a permanent institution. The 728 Polish prisoners delivered to the camp on 'foundation day',
most of them schoolchildren, students and soldiers, came from Tarnow prison near Krakow; a further 313 followed six days later
from the Wisnicz Nowy prison in the General Gouvernment. Major transports of 1,666 and 1,705 prisoners arrived from Warsaw
in August and September of 1940...
"At no other place in the Nazi sphere of power were so many people killed as in Auschwitz. But
the camp was by no means the centre of the genocide of the European Jews from the very outset. Auschwitz was opened as a prison
for Polish political prisoners...
"During the initial phase, the majority of the inmates were not Jews; those affected by persecution
and the arbitrary use of power tended rather to be members of former Polish political parties and organizations, members of
the intelligentsia and anyone potentially involved in Polish nationalist resistance, above all teachers, scientists, clerics
and doctors. Until around the middle of 1942, during the 'Polish phase' of the camp's history, the number of Jews, most of
whom were arrested for political reasons, remained relatively small. During this period the prisoners were not yet being systematically
murdered, but died of hunger, harassment and intolerable working conditions; they were beaten, hanged and shot to death by
"Polish civilians caught helping escapees were immediately sent to the camp; if they could not
be found, the SS arrested their families. Despite the severe punishments, the inmates of the camp could expect help from the
Polish population... These relief efforts developed into an organized network, formed chiefly of political resistance groups
and considerably influenced by the Catholic parish of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the town of Asuchwitz (Oswiecim)."
From Auschwitz; A History, Sybille Steinbacher, translated by Shaun Whiteside, HarperCollins Publishers,
New York, 2006.
v. Forced Conscription into the German Army (Wehrmacht)
Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Polish men were forced into the German Army.
They were usually either used as cannon fodder on the front lines, especially once the war started to go bad for the Germans,
or in work battalions.
The Poles fought on all fronts, often mixed with Russians and other nationalities in the Ost
(East) battalions. "By June 1944, one in six German riflemen in France was from an Ost battalion... foreign troops
were of value only if they were put into trenches or cement fortifications, with German NCOs standing behind them, pistol
in hand, ready to shoot any man who left his post."
On the Normandy beaches, awaiting invasion, "Rommel had his static divisions (many of whose battalions
were Ost units; in some divisions the men were 50 percent Polish or Russian) right up close."
The Poles generally surrendered to the Western Allies as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
For example, here is the story told by a glider pilot, one of the first Allied soldiers to land in Normandy early in the morning
"Lt. Charles Skidmore, a pilot, landed safely in a flooded area. He managed to get out of the water
and immediately came under rifle fire. It came from a bunker holding a dozen conscripted Polish soldiers with one German sergeant
in charge. The men Skidmore had brought in joined him and began firing back. There was a lull in the firefight. Then a single
shot. Then shouts and laughter. Then the Poles emerged with their hands held high to surrender. They had shot the German sergeant."
Unfortunately, many Poles in the front lines were not so lucky.
___________________________________________________ D-Day, Stephen
E. Ambrose, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994
CLICK HERE for more information about Poles helping Jews.
. . .
. . .
In order to counter the insolent attitude of part of the Polish population, I decree as follows:
1. Polish inhabitants of either sex must give way on the pavement to
representatives of the German Forces recognizable as such by a uniform or armlet. The street belongs to the victors, not the
2. Polish inhabitants of the male sex must raise their hats to leading
personalities of the State, Party and the Forces.
3. Poles are forbidden to give the German salute by raising the right
arm or the "Heil Hitler" salute.
4. In shops and markets representatives of the German Forces and members
of their families, as well as German nationals, must be served first. Only then is it the turn of the vanquished.
5. The wearing of Polish school uniforms, caps with badges, etc., as
well as the wearing of Polish national emblems by Polish railway and postal employees, is forbidden.
6. Gatherings, particularly of juveniles, in the streets and at
street corners will not be tolerated.
7. Anyone molesting or accosting German women or girls will receive
8. Polish women accosting or molesting German nationals will be sent
9. All vehicles and cycles must be made visible after dark by lamps
and rear lights. Offenders will be punished, cycles will be confiscated. Until lights are fitted the owners of vehicles must
dismount at dusk.
10. The instructions of the National Socialist Motor Squad (traffic
police) must be obeyed.
Traffic regulations will be published shortly.
Should Poles who have not yet realised that they are the vanquished
and we the victors infringe on the above decrees, they will be exposing themselves to the most severe penalties.
Thorn, 27 October 1939
State Police Commissioner
. . .
. . .
THE TOWN COMMISSARY
AT LESLAU (WLOCLAWEK)
To Mr. (Mrs.) .......................................
For reasons of public security you are to be deported immediately from
the territory of the German Reich.
This deportation covers also all members of your family, viz. ..........
Within twenty minutes after the receipt of this order for deportation you, together with all
members of your family, are to be ready for departure, and are to wait in the street outside your house (front entrance).
You must strictly obey the orders given by the police officials.
You may take with you:
1. One set of warm clothing (to be worn).
2. One woolen rug per person.
3. Food for several days.
4. Requisites and cutlery for eating and drinking.
5. Identity documents and birth certificates.
6. Not more than 200 zloty in Polish currency.
7. One suitcase with strictly necessary clothing.
You are not allowed to take:
1. Securities or bonds of any description.
2. Valuables in gold or silver, or jewellery.
3. Furniture of any kind.
4. Livestock (dogs, cats, birds, etc.).
It is strictly forbidden to lock doors and cupboards or to take away the keys.
. . .
. . .
THE Commandant of Graudenz (Grudziadz) announces: 'To the Polish inhabitants of the
town of Graudenz. During the night of 21-22 inst. irresponsible elements affixed to the walls at various points of the town
posters inciting to violence. I thereupon ordered the arrest of several hundred more hostages. They will all die if even the
mildest attack agaianst the life of a German occurs. Any attempt to disturb the peace of the town will be suppressed by the
most rigourous means.'
Weichsel Zeitung (Marienwerder)
25. Oct. 1939.
. . .
. . .
"Thus Spake Germany," Coole and Potter, Editors, George Routledge and Sons, London, first published in 1941.
8. Administrative Divisions of Central and Western Poland
(at the outbreak of WW2): Provinces and Counties (Wojewodztwa i Powiaty)
Warsaw (Capital City)
minski (Minsk Mazowiecki)
rawski (Rawa Mazowiecka)
nowosadecki (Nowy Sacz)
chorzowski grodzki (Chorzow)
tarnogorski (Tarnowskie Gory)
9. Timeline (Poland and World War Two)
- July 22, Pilsudski is arrested by the Germans for refusing to have his Legions swear the required oath of fraternity with the
German and Austro-Hungarian armies. He is imprisoned at Magdeburg Castle.
- March 3, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is signed between Germany/Austro-Hungary and the Bolsheviks, ending the fighting
on the eastern front. The Germans award large areas of Polish territory to the Bolsheviks but stay put, setting up the
Oberkommando-Ostfront (Ober-Ost) to patrol their eastern zone of occupation.
- November 18, the Poles disarm the Germans in Warsaw and Poland symbolically regains its independence after 123 years of
occupation by the Prussians (Germans), Austrians and Russians.
- A number of sovereign states attempt to emerge from the collapse of the occupying powers. Border wars erupt between the
Rumanians and Hungarians, Yugoslavs and Italians.
- Ragtag Polish units engage in border skirmishes with the Czechs at Teschen, Ukrainians in eastern Galicia and Germans
- With much upheaval taking place at home, the German Ober-Ost forces are dismantled with the main withdrawl beginning from
December onwards. The removal of this German buffer zone allows the Poles and Bolsheviks to come into direct contact.
- Poles and Bolsheviks enter the border area vacated by the Germans. On February 14 Polish Captain Mienicki leads
a small party into the township of Bereza Kartuska, finding it occupied by the Bolsheviks. A skirmish results in 80 Red
Army soldiers being taken prisoner. The Polish-Soviet War has begun.
- June 28, the Treat of Versaille guarantees Poland's independence.
- The Bolsheviks push the Poles back to Warsaw, however a Polish counterattack routs the Russians who retreat back to their
- Poland's fledgling democratic parliament is divided among many ethnic and idealogical factions and appears incapable of
- The Treaty of Riga (March 18) establishes Poland's boundaries with Russia
- Polish Marshal Pilsudski senses that the parliamentary democracy is failing and moves to avoid civil war by staging a
coup d'etat. His prestige allows him to run Poland without resorting to dictatorial powers.
- The Communist Party embraces Joseph Stalin as their leader (December).
- Hitler is appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg (January 30).
- Following the March elections, Hitler crushes the Communists then arranges for a change to the constitution, the Enabling
Act, which gives him great power, independent of the President (March 23).
- Dachau concentration camp is constructed to hold Hitler's political opponents.
- Germany withdraws from the League of Nations (October 14)
- Nonaggression Pact concluded between Poland and Germany (January 26).
- A number of Hitler's opponents (e.g. Ernst Roehm, Gregor Strasser, General Schleicher) are murdered during a purge (the
Night of the Long Knives, June 30).
- President Hindenburg dies. Hitler combines the Chancellorship and Presidency and proclaims himself Fuehrer and Chancellor
- A national plebiscite approves Hitler's assumption of executive power (August 19).
- After 15 years of occupation by the Western Powers, the Saar is returned to Germany after a plebiscite decides the region's
fate (January 13, 1935).
- Hitler begins to expand the army and reintroduce conscription.
- The British allow Hitler to rebuild the German Navy.
- Polish Marshal Jozef Pilsudski dies (May 12) and is replaced by a military Junta.
- Italy invades Abyssinia (Ethiopia) on October 3.
- Hitler's first land grab as German troops occupy the Rhineland (March 7) at France's expense. The French do not react.
- The Spanish Civil War begins (July).
- The Rome-Berlin Axis is formed (October 27).
- The Japanese-German anti-Comintern agreement is concluded (November 17).
- Stalin purges the army. Some 35,000 officers are executed or disappear, including 3 of 5 marshals (Tukhachevsky among
them) and 13 of 15 army commanders.
- German troops occupy and annex Austria to the Reich (the Anschluss, March 12)
- Munich Conference of September 29. Britain, France and Italy recognize Hitler's claim to the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia.
The Czechs accede to the German demands.
- Ribbentrop demands the return of Danzig and special treatment for Germany in the Polish Corridor to the Baltic (October
- Jewish homes and businesses are attacked across Germany by Nazi thugs (Kristallnacht, November 9).
- Hitler attacks Czechoslovakia: Bohemia and Moravia occupied by German troops and organized as a protectorate of the German
Reich (March 15).
- Memelland (Klaipeda) annexed to Germany (March 23).
- Hitler issues orders to prepare for the "solution of the Polish problem by military means" (March 25).
- British P.M. Chamberlain gives up on appeasement policy and pledges English and French support for Poland in case of German
attack (March 31).
- Germans make provisions for a military build-up (Fall Weiss - Case White in English) against Poland by September
1 (April 3).
- Poland and Britain sign a provisional Pact of Mutual Assistance (April 6).
- Hitler abolishes both the Polish-German Non-Aggresion Pact of 1934 and the London Naval Agreement of 1935 (April 28).
- Agitation in Danzig by members of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party (May 12).
- On behalf of France, Supreme Commander of the French Armed Forces, Gen. Gamelin, signs a military agreement with
Poland by which France would launch an offensive action against Germany on the fifteenth day after the first day of French
mobilization (May 18).
- At a meeting in Warsaw, the Poles give the British two Polish built Enigma coding machines and the keys to the German
Enigma coding system, broken by Polish intelligence over the previous years (24-25 July).
- Pact of non-aggression (Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact) signed between Germany and the Soviet Union in the presence of Stalin.
The Soviets promise to supply Germany with food and raw materials and to use their agents in Britain and France to sabotage
those country's war efforts (August 23).
- The Polish-British Treaty of Mutual Assistance is signed in London. Britain and France give written guarantees to Poland
- Upon hearing of the guarantees, Hitler aborts the invasion of Poland set for 0400 on the 26th of August but continues
on with mobilization as he tries to dissuade the British and the French from interfering (August 25).
- The British cryptoanalysts of the Code and Cipher School move from London, together with their Polish copy of the enigma
machine, to a war-time hideout at Bletchley Park, 40 miles north of London. More than 7,000 specialists worked at this secret
centre during the course of the war.
- The number of cross-border raids by German Abwehr units, sabotage by German guerilla units in Western Poland, border skirmishes
and overfights by high altitude reconnaissance aircraft increase, signalling to Poland that war is imminent (August 26).
- The British and French remain firm in their stand on the Polish question (August 28).
- Germany issues a final ultimatum to Poland which the Poles refuse to consider (August 29).
- Polish Marshal Rydz-Smigly announces mobilization of Polish troops for war but is pressured into revoking the order by
the French. The French, not wanting to provoke Hitler, fail to realize that the Germans are fully mobilized and concentrated
on the Polish border. As a result, a general call to mobilization does not occur until August 29.
- Ribbentrop declares negotiations with Poland to be at an end. The Polish forces brace for war. The Polish Navy sends a
destroyer flotilla to Britain to avoid destruction (August 30).
- Hitler declares that the attack on Poland will commence at 0445 on the morning of September 1. The "Gleiwitz incident"
is staged as Polish provocation for an armed German intervention (August 31).
- Germans invade Poland without a declaration of war. Soviet intelligence begins to provide information to the Germans on
Polish troop movements (September 1).
- The British and French declare war on Germany but have no plan, are not prepared and so do almost nothing (September 3).
- France occupies a few square miles of forest in the Saar region then ceases further military action.
- Britain "bombs" Germany with strongly worded pamphlets.
- The small Polish fortification of Westerplatte, on the Baltic coast near Gdansk (Danzig), heroically defended by
one infantry battalion commanded by Major Henryk Sucharski until the ammunition runs out, surrenders on September 8.
- The Germans arrive at the outskirts of Warsaw on the evening of September 8.
- Poland and France conclude an agreement to allow the establishment of a new Polish Army on French soil
- The Soviet Union's Red Army invades Poland from the East (September 17).
- Polish president Moscicki and Commander-in-Chief Marshal Rydz-Smigly enter Rumania but are interned (Spetember 17-18).
- Soviets occupy Wilno (September 20).
- Lwow surrenders to the Germans (September 21).
- Soviets occupy Lwow (September 22).
- Polish troops in Warsaw finally surrender (September 27).
- Modlin surrenders to the Germans (September 29).
- German Abwehr (spy) Chief, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, disgusted by Nazi atrocities in Poland, sends detailed reports to
GHitler's commanding generals, Pope Pius XII, the British Secret Service (MI-6) and the French intelligence agency in Paris.
Unfortunately his efforts do not help the Poles. (Hitler had Canaris executed in April, 1945 but his reports were used as
evidence during the Nuremburg trials.)
- A new Polish government is formed in Paris with a new President, Rackiewicz, and a new Commander-in-Chief, General Wladyslaw
Sikorski (September 30).
- The fortress of Hel surrenders (October 1).
- The Polish Naval garrison at Hel, commanded by Admiral Unrug, finally surrenders (October 1).
- Germans begin to transfer units to the Western front, in case of a French attack, beginning with Army Group North and
the Fourth Army (October 2).
- The last Polish units offer resistance against the Germans at Kock (October 4-6).
- The underground Resistance begins to form as early as September, 1939.
- Early German figures peg the manpower losses of the Wehrmacht at 8,082 killed, 27,278 wounded and 5,029 missing. Many
of the missing men were POWs who were freed by the end of the campaign.
- More recent estimates (1999) consider a figure of 90,000 men killed or wounded. Seventy-Five percent of German casualties
belonged to German Army Group South which lost more men killed in the final half of the war than in the first two weeks.
- The Poles lose (estimates vary) from 587,000 to 694,000 men to capture by the Germans on top of some 200,000 men killed
- By contrast the Soviets lose as many as 7,000 to 10,000 men killed or wounded and take 200,000 Polish prisoners.
- Soviet-Lithuanian Pact (October 10).
- The "Government General" is established (October 12).
- The Soviets hold "elections" in occupied eastern Poland on October 22. "Votes could only be given to officially designated
candidates, almost all of whom were Soviet citizens and members of the Communist Party brought into Poland specially for the
- The German occupation of Poland is turned over to civilian control. Dr. Frank becomes governor general of the south-central
portion of Poland not annexed to the Reich (October 26).
- General Sikorski is nominated to the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. Headquarters is to be in the
Hotel Regina near the Louvre (November 9).
- The Polish government moves to Anger, France (November 22).
- In France, Polish and French cryptographers continue to break more enigma codes, especially those of the Luftwaffe.
- The Polish ship "Pilsudski" is sunk (November 25).
- The Russian-Finnish war begins (November 30).
- A small cavalry unit under the command of Major "Hubal" (Henryk Dobrzanski) continued active resistance against the Germans
in the Holy Cross Mountains until 1940.
- The Polish National Council is formed at Angers, France (December 15).
- The Polish and French governments agree to rebuild the Polish Air Force on french soil (January 5).
- Soviets put into motion the first planned, mass deportation of Polish citizens into the depths of the Soviet Union (February10).
- In German occupied Poland, the Germans dissolve all Polish organizations (March 5).
- Germans invade Denmark and Norway (April 9).
- The Polish Independent Highland Rifle Brigade sets sail for battle in Norway (April 23).
- Polish Highland Brigade participates in the Battle of Narvik (May 3).
- The Polish destroyer "Grom" is sunk off the Norwegian coast (May 6).
- Polish Highland Brigade fights at Bjervik (May 7).
- Hitler attacks France, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Neville Chamberlain resigns. Winston Churchhill's cabinet is formed.
- Holland's Armed Forces surrender (May 14).
- Polish Highland Brigade fights at Ankenes (May 16).
- Belgian Armed Forces surrender (May 28).
- British evacuation of Dunkirk (May 30).
- Polish Independent Infantry Brigade evacuated from Narvik, Norway on the 8th and 9th of June. The brigade, commanded by
General Bohusz-Szyszko, had occupied Narvik and had been engaged in battle with the Germans in Norway since April 9.
- Italy declares war on Britain and France (June 10).
- The Polish 1st Grenadier Division in France engaged in battle at Bissing (June 11-13).
- The first trainload of Polish prisoners arrives at the newly constructed concentration camp at Oswiecim (Auschwitz).
- The fall of Paris (June 14).
- The Polish Highland Brigade arrives back in France at Brest (June 14).
- The 10th Polish Armoured Brigade engages in battle at Sekwan (June 15).
- Soviet troops occupy Lithuania (June 15).
- Soviet troops occupy Latvia and Estonia (June 17).
- The Second Polish Grenadier Division, under the command of General B. Prugar-Ketling fights the Germans at Mont-Bellard
(June 18) and along the Maginot Line (as part of the French 45 Corps) June 19-20, but when French resistance collapses, the
unit crosses the border into Switzerland where they are interned for the balance of the war (July 19).
- General Sikorski orders the evacuation of Polish troops from France due to the collapse of French resistance. The H.M.S.
"Ferguson" carries the Polish Military Offices from Le Verdon to Liverpool under heavy German aerial attack (June 20).
- The final battle fought by the 1st Grenadier Division at Baccara (June 21).
- Polish Government established in London (June 21).
- The Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade crosses from French Syria into Palestine in order to avoid surrender (June
- The Soviets force Rumania into giving up Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (June 28).
- The Soviet Union annexes Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (July 22).
- First German air strikes against Great Britain (August 1).
- Polish-Anglo Military Agreement signed in London (August 5).
- Battle of Britain begins (August 12).
- Polish 303 Fighter Squadron scores 118 German aircraft kills during the first half of August (August 15).
- The first major German air strike on London (September 7).
- Hitler calls off the invasion of Great Britain (September 17).
- German Army enters Rumania (October 7).
- Tobruk captured by Australian troops (January 22).
- General Sikorski received at the White House by President Roosevelt, during a five week visit to the U.S.A. (April 8).
- Hitler attacks and occupies Greece and Yugoslavia (April-May).
- German battleship "Bismarck" sunk (May 27).
- Hitler attacks the Soviet Union (June 22).
- Germans take 3,500,000 Soviet prisoners within 2 weeks of the invasion. Stalin blames his generals.
- Sikorski-Maisky Agreement signed in London with the result that the Polish POWs and civilian slaves held captive by the
Soviets were to be, in theory, released (July 30).
- General Wladyslaw Anders released from the Lubianka prison in Moscow, after 2 years of imprisonment, by Beria and Merkulov
- The meaningless Atlantic Charter declared by Roosevelt and Churchill on August 14.
- Polish-Soviet Military Agreement signed (August 14).
- The Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade arrives at Tobruk(August 21).
- British and Soviet troops enter Persia (August 25).
- Polish-Soviet Declaration signed at the Kremlin by General Sikorski and Stalin (December 4).
- Japan attacks the U.S. at Pearl Harbour (December 7).
- The Allies (except for the Soviet Union) declare war on Japan (December 8).
- Germany and Italy declare war on the United States (December 11).
- Published figures reveal that Polish Air Force fighter squadrons in Britain have shot down 446 German aircraft since
August of 1940 (January 10).
- Polish-Czechoslovak agreement (January 21).
- The first Polish troops are evacuated from the Soviet Union into Iran (March).
- British-Soviet Treaty of Collaboration signed by Eden and Molotov in London (May 26).
- Germans begin liquidation of Warsaw Ghetto.
- U.S.-Polish "Lend-Lease" agreement concluded in Washington (July 1).
- Moscow Conference between Churchill, American Ambassador Harriman and Stalin (August 12).
- Disastrous Allied invasion at Dieppe, France (August 19).
- Polish Council of Assistance for Jews (Zegota) is created by the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa).
- During the months of August and September, 72,000 Polish soldiers and 42,000 civilians are evacuated from Russia to Persia
(Iran) under the command of General Wladyslaw Anders. This is to become the Polish 2nd Corps.
- British and American armies land in French North Africa (November 8).
- German Army occupies Vichy France (November 10).
- General Sikorski's visit to Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (December).
- German forces capitulate at Stalingrad (January 31). From that point forward, Stalin becomes increasingly arrogant towards
Churchill and Roosevelt.
- Berlin radio broadcasts the discovery of 4,504 graves of executed Polish prisoners of war in the Katyn Woods near Smolensk
in Russia (April 13).
- Polish Jews begin the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (April 17).
- The Soviet government breaks off political relations with the Polish government in London in response to Polish indignation
at the Katyn murders (April 26).
- Szmul Zygielboim commits suicide in London (May 11).
- Allies victorious in Africa. German and Italian troops surrender (May).
- General Sikorski leaves for the Middle East to inspect Polish troops (June 6).
- General Sikorski, his daughter and a number of staff members die after their plane crashes into the sea off of Gibraltar
- Allies land in Sicily (July 9-10).
- General Sosnkowski nominated as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces (July 15).
- Funeral of General Sikorski in England (July 16).
- Mussolini dismissed as Prime Minister by Italian King Victor Emmanuel III (July 25).
- Quebec "Quadrant" Conference between Churchill and Roosevelt (August 14-24).
- British Eighth Army lands on the Italian peninsula at Reggio (September 3).
- Italy surrenders to the Allies unconditionally (September 8).
- Italy declares war on Germany (October 13).
- Moscow Conference (October 10-30).
- The Polish Koszciuszko Division organised in Soviet Russia from former Polish POWs who could not escape the Soviet Union
- Polish ship "Orkan" is sunk (October 14).41
- Teheran Conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin(November 28 - December 3). Poland is not represented.
- The Soviet Red Army crosses the pre-war border of Poland (January 4).
- The Allies land at Anzio, Italy (January 22).
- General Anders lands at Naples with his staff (February 6) followed by the balance of the Polish 2nd Corps over the course
of the next two months.
- The Polish 3rd Carpathian Division began operations against the Germans in the region of the River Sangro (March 30).
- Polish 2nd Corps captures Monte Cassino (May 18).
- Allies enter Rome (June 5).
- Allied "D-Day" invasion of Normandy begins (June 6).
- Assassination attempt on Hitler (July 20).
- Warsaw Uprising begins (August 1).
- Polish Army in the Soviet Union, under Soviet control, is organised and includes the original Koszciuszko Division (August
- The Polish 1st Armoured Division plays a prominent role in the Battle of the Falaise Gap, in Normandy (August 7-23).
- Polish 1st Armoured Division battles at Gandava (September 13).
- The Polish Independent Parachute Brigade begins its landings lands in the area of Arnhem, Holland, to participate in operation
"Market Garden" (September 17-21).
- Moscow Conference (October 9-19).
- De Gaulle's government in France is the first Allied government to recognise the Soviet-created "temporary" government
in Poland as the legal government of Poland (December 31).
- The Germans evacuate the ruins of Warsaw (January 17).
- Yalta Conference (February 4-11).
- The NKVD kidnaps 16 Polish underground leaders (March 29).
- Polish 5th Infantry Division enters Bologna, Italy (April 21).
- Soviet Army (with Polish units) begins the Battle for Berlin (April 30).
- Germany accepts unconditional surrender (May 7).
- Britain and Germany recognise Stalin's puppet Polish government July 6).
- Potsdam Conference. Stalin promises to remove Soviet troops from Poland (July 15 - August 3).
- Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima (August 6).
- Japan surrenders (August 15).
- Soviets strengthen their military garrisons in Poland under the pretext of suppressing enemies of the Polish State (October
- Some Nazi war criminals hanged at Nuremberg (October 16).
- The Soviet backed communists are victorious in the fraudulent elections (January 19-22). Polish communist and convicted
Soviet agent Boleslaw Bierut takes office as president on February 5.
- The Polish Resettlement Act in Britain results in the disbandment of the Polish forces under British command (224,342