Poland In The Second World War
The Macmillan Press LTD, 1985
Poland had gained independence after the First World War but unification of Poland, which was apart for such a long time, created many problems. Weak economy, disrupted government, and the population being mostly minorities group. Also the Poland had to deal with two aggressive countries by her side, Germany and Russia. Hitler had known the situation Poland was under. He knew that Poland would not agree to his demands because of their concern with their freedom and their willingness to fight for it which gave him a chance to attack. Poles also had not agree for the Russian to come in with the Red Army because of their past history they knew that once they let them in the Red Army would never get out. Poles decided to fight for their freedom. The war resulted in Poland?s struggle once again. They had not surrendered, but once again they were back were they had started. Even though Poland?s allies had won the war Poland remained under the influence of the Soviet Union and throughout years regained control and power.
On September 1938 a conference took place in Munich, in which the participants were the British Prime Minister, the French Premier, the German Dictator and the Italian Dictator. It was unanimously decided that Czechoslovakia must cede Sudetenland to Germany (Garlinski pg. 2). Forty-eight hours later, on October 1st 1938, the Czech bends under this massive pressure and German units marched into Sudeten territory. On the same day the Czechs accepted the Polish ultimatum and the Polish army begun occupying Trans-Olza (Garlinski pg. 2).
Poland?s participation in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia created a very bad impression and harmed her greatly. Poland which herself had the experience of partition, was now taking part in a similar act against on of her neighbors, in the company more-over, of Germany, which had for years been directing revisionist slogans against Poland. To Hitler?s satisfaction, Poland had fallen out with the Westerns democracies, with the Soviet Russia and her treaty obligation toward Czechoslovakia, Poland found herself completely alone.
Hardly a month later on October 25 the German Foreign Minister was having a conversation with the Polish ambassador raising the question of Gdansk and its incorporation into the Reich and also its transport links with East Prussia through Polish Pomeranian. To Hitler these were very clear demands and he expected the Poles to accept them, but Poles refused.
In mid-March 1939 the Czech political Independence Day ended. On the same day Hitler took the president of Czechoslovakia; Emil Hacha to Berlin and in a brutal conversation during which the President suffered a heart attack, Hitler had forced him to accept Germ0an protection. The following day German tanks entered Prague and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was proclaimed.
The German occupation of Prague on March 15, 1939 brought a reawakening of Western public opinion and revealed the true nature of Hitler?s aims. On March 31, the British government extended a guarantee to Poland in which any action which would threatened Polish government considered impossible to resist with their national forces, they will provide all support in their power. On April 13, the French press published a statement accepting the British-Polish agreement and mentioned the Franco-Polish mutual aid pack (Garlinski pg. 6)
Poland was a poor country without heavy industry and without a modern army. Therefor, they needed Russia to secure the joint for an anti-German front. The Western Allies were right to seek an alliance with the Soviet Union, but their discussion in Moscow created a very difficult situation for Poland. Poland?s eastern neighbor was a historical enemy. For London and Paris it was clear that Moscow must be able to move their divisions into Poland, to surround Germany. The Polish government was afraid that the Red Army would never leave Poland voluntarily. The lesson of history did not allow Poland to compromise even though Franco-Russo-British agreement was of great importance to Poland. Such an agreement would preclude the fatal threat of Berlin-Moscow pact (Garlisnki pg. 7,8).
On August 22 Moscow and Berlin signed a non-aggression treaty and it has gone down in history as the Rubbentrop-Molotov pact. On the same day Hitler had a meeting with his senior military commander at which he said: ?Annihilation of Poland in foreground. Goal is elimination of vital forces, not attainment of a specific line? I shall provide the propaganda pretext for launching the war, no matter whether it is credible the victory is not asked afterwards whether or not he has told the truth. What matters in beginning and waging the war are not righteousness, but victory? Close heart to pity, proceed brutally. Eight million people must obtain what they have a right to? The stronger is in the right. The Supreme hardness ? (Garlinski pg. 9).
On August 25 the German dictator issued the order that the attack on Poland was to begin the following morning, but the same evening he received information, which caused him to reflect. The information was the mutual assistance pact between Poland and Great Britain had been signed In London. The agreement bound both partners for each other assistance in the event of dictator or indirect aggression and even economic pressure. Hitler had called off the attack to gain some time for further diplomatic maneuvering. There was an exchange of letters between German and Poland. There was an exchange of letters between the French Premier and the German dictator, but the courses of events could not be stopped.
On August 31 Hitler finally made up his mind. Late that evening a fake attack by Poles on a radio station took place. Political prisoners from Sachsenhausen concentration camp dressed in Polish uniforms carried it out (Garlinski pg. 30). On September 1, without formal proclamation of war, the German armed forces crossed the Polish frontier.
The great German superiority became known almost at once during the first days of the war. The field fortification did not provide enough support for the Polish divisions stretched out along the extensive front. Polish artillery firepowers were unable to defend themselves against the advanced Germans. Within few days it was perfectly clear that despite the heroic Polish resistance, no defense line had been held. An attack without any declaration of war increased an already superior German position. A certain amount of aircraft was destroyed on the ground, because of the sudden surprise. Additional problems were caused by great amount of civilians feeling before the invaders.
Within few hours the whole world found out about the German attack on Poland. There still remained a hope that the threat of this war could be stopped by means of conferences. A proposal was made for the great powers to meet on September 5th and for which the great powers (Italy, France, Britain,) agreed on the idea that Poland must participate at the meeting. Poland had thought differently because for Poland the war was already in progress. German divisions were advancing and the most important thing for Poland was not talked, but to act. Poland expected Paris and London to honor their treaty obligations and on the early day of September 1 the Polish ambassador immediately took appropriate steps toward London and Paris.
On September 2 the parliament of France and Great Britain met. The following day, the British Prime Minister informed that the country was in state of war with Germany. Several hours later under pressure from London, France announced that they would honor their obligations toward Poland. Poland no longer felt threatened by Germany because she had one of the most powerful countries at her side.
Hitler still continued his plans and began secret talks with Russia. He was eager for Russia to come out openly as his ally and carry out details for their pact. An advanced Soviet force into Polish territory would suit Germany very well, but Russia preferred caution (Garlinski pg. 78). On September 5 Russia informed Germany that there would be action, but a little bit later.
By the second week of fighting there could no longer be any doubts as to its outcome, but Poland was still hoping and waiting for help from her allies. Great Britain had not yet sent her armies, but she did send bomber force around 600 aircraft?s capable of reaching at least the Western part of Germany. Poland believed in quick action by her two allies, but the French had not yet made any efforts and Britain flew to drop few leaflets calling Germany to stop the war. After some mobilization France had 110 divisions under arms, some of them manned fortifications, other had old-fashioned equipment and was not at full strength. There were a number of 3,000 tanks, about 300 bombers and equal amount of fighters.
At same time talk between Russia and Germany continued. On September 17 divisions of the Red Army was on the Polish land. No one knew the reason for the Soviet entrance, it might have been that they were coming to help, but later there was no doubt as to the reason for the Red Army?s advance into Poland. It was clear that they were operating to a plan, which was based on a secret clause of the Ribbentrop-Moltov pact. On September 28, 1993 German divisions entered Warsaw, and Soviet Russia entered ?A Borders and Friendship Treaty ? which was a secrets document signed by Germany and Russia establishing their bordered along Bug and San Rivers.
After few days Hitler had announced instructions of how central Poland will be run. All the universities and secondary schools were shut, as well as all the museums, archives, libraries, books and newspaper publishers, radio receivers were confiscated and also Polish writers and composers drew a list to destroy books and musical works. Poland began a battle for an attempt to save its culture, but it was hunted down. The Germans decided that Poland was to become a country consisting of slaves, and treated as a colony where Polish culture, the intelligentsia, and anyone with a sense of national belonging would be wiped out, and this is when the concentration camps came to existence. (Garlinski pg. 105). By January the following year a plan had already been created for a concentration camp at Auschwitz in which 3 million people will die, and which became the symbol of Nazi rule.
At the same time in the party of Poland, which was occupied by Soviet Russia, things were not different. The provisional Soviet administration began setting the Poles against all minorities and at setting up groups that would eliminate each other. Joining forces with each other now would become impossible and that destroyed the hope for rebellion.
The main idea was directed against religious beliefs. All the churches, monasteries and convents were closed. In contrast to the Germans, the Russians permitted universities, school, theaters and other institutions to remain open, but people such as those who were connected in any way with serving the Polish State had to be removed. These people were deported, mostly entire families to northern part of Russia. They were all allowed to take with them their personal belongings. The majority of these people were unloaded in the middle of nowhere, where they had to save themselves from death by starvation or by very hard labor. Fathers of families such as businessmen or officers were separately sent to concentration camps to be sentenced by summary courts.
Poland was under hard times at the beginning and during Second World War not only because of her mistakes but also because of the political and economical situation she was in. Despite these numerous contributions, the terrible sacrifices and unparalleled losses, the end of the war brought about and an outcome, which was rather different from that which most Polish people, had expected and fought for. Nevertheless, even with their exhausted and disappointments they set out to rebuild their lives and their country, but with new frontiers and under new regime.
Garlinski, Jozef. Poland in the Second World War.
New York: Hippocrene Books, 1985. Pages 346.
Garlinski, Jozef. Poland in the Second World War.
New York: Hippocrene Books, 1985. Pages 346.