Unhappy Anniversary: The Wolfsonian Library Commemorates the September 1, 1939 German Invasion of Poland

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Portfolio plate designed by Antonio Arias Bernal (Mexican, 1914-1960),

The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre

On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler inaugurated the German “Blitzkrieg” assault on Poland that marked the beginning of the Second World War.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The initial phase of the “lightning”-like attack involved heavy aerial bombardment of airfields, railroad lines, munitions depots, followed by a fast moving mobile land invasion by tanks and artillery preparing the way for the German infantry.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Although the Polish army numbered one million men, it was ill-equipped in comparison. Cavalry units proved no match for German tanks and armored vehicles.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Steve Heller

The Ribbentrop-Molotov (Hitler-Stalin) Nonaggression Pact signed on August 23, 1939, secretly made provisions for the Soviets to invade Poland from the East later in mid-September.

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Portfolio plate designed by Antonio Arias Bernal (Mexican, 1914-1960),

The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le  Coultre

While treaty obligations required Great Britain and France to come to Poland’s aid, England responded to the invasion by declaring war on September 3rd, organizing a few half-hearted bombing raids over Germany, and then inaugurating an eight-month long Sitzkrieg (or “sitting war”). While the French began (and quickly ended) an offensive against the Saar in September, the attack amounted to nothing, and they withdrew days later. In the meantime, Poland was overrun, divided, and dismembered into Nazi and Soviet occupied territories.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Phoney War on the Western Front continued with no major military land operations until the Germans, having “pacified” Poland, turned their troops and attentions westward, attacking France and the Low Countries on May 10, 1940.

~ by "The Chief" on September 1, 2016.

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