Invasion of Poland

German and Soviet attack on Poland that marked the beginning of World War II / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The invasion of Poland (1 September – 6 October 1939), also known as the September campaign (Polish: kampania wrześniowa), 1939 defensive war (Polish: wojna obronna 1939 roku) and Poland campaign (German: Überfall auf Polen, Polenfeldzug), was a joint attack on the Republic of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union which marked the beginning of World War II.[13] The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, and one day after the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union had approved the pact.[14] The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.

Invasion of Poland
Part of the European theatre of World War II

Left to right, top to bottom: Luftwaffe bombers over Poland; Schleswig-Holstein attacking the Westerplatte; Danzig Police destroying the Polish border post; German tank and armored car formation; German and Soviet troops shaking hands; bombing of Warsaw.
Date1 September 19396 October 1939 (35 days)
Result German–Soviet victory
 Nazi Germany
 Soviet Union

(from 17 September)
 Slovak Republic
(see details)
 Free City of Danzig
Commanders and leaders
Units involved
Invading armies
  • Total: 2,000,000+

  • Nazi Germany:
  •        66 divisions
  •        6 brigades
  •        9,000 guns[1]
  •        2,750 tanks
  •        2,315 aircraft[2]

  • Soviet Union:
  •        33+ divisions
  •        11+ brigades
  •        4,959 guns
  •        4,736 tanks
  •        3,300 aircraft

  • Slovak Republic:
  •        3 divisions

  •        39 divisions[5]
  •        16 brigades[5]
  •        4,300 guns[5]
  •        210 tanks
  •        670 tankettes
  •        800 aircraft[1]
Casualties and losses
  • Total: 59,000

  • Nazi Germany:[Note 2]
  •        17,269 killed
  •        30,300 wounded
  •        3,500 missing
  •        236 tanks
  •        800 vehicles
  •        246 aircraft

  • Soviet Union:[Note 3]
  •        1,475 killed
  •        2,383 wounded[10]
  • or   5,327 casualties[11]
  •        43 tanks

  • Slovak Republic:
  •        37 killed
  •        11 missing
  •        114 wounded
  •        2 aircraft[12]

  •        66,000 killed
  •        133,700 wounded
  •        ~675,000 captured
  •        132 tanks and cars
  •        327 aircraft

German forces invaded Poland from the north, south, and west the morning after the Gleiwitz incident. Slovak military forces advanced alongside the Germans in northern Slovakia. As the Wehrmacht advanced, Polish forces withdrew from their forward bases of operation close to the Germany–Poland border to more established defense lines to the east. After the mid-September Polish defeat in the Battle of the Bzura, the Germans gained an undisputed advantage. Polish forces then withdrew to the southeast where they prepared for a long defence of the Romanian Bridgehead and awaited expected support and relief from France and the United Kingdom.[15] On 3 September, based on their alliance agreements with Poland, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany; in the end their aid to Poland was very limited. France invaded a small part of Germany in the Saar Offensive, and the Polish army was effectively defeated even before the British Expeditionary Force could be transported to Europe, with the bulk of the BEF in France by the end of September.

On 17 September, the Soviet Red Army invaded Eastern Poland, the territory beyond the Curzon Line that fell into the Soviet "sphere of influence" according to the secret protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact; this rendered the Polish plan of defence obsolete.[16] Facing a second front, the Polish government concluded the defence of the Romanian Bridgehead was no longer feasible and ordered an emergency evacuation of all troops to neutral Romania.[17] On 6 October, following the Polish defeat at the Battle of Kock, German and Soviet forces gained full control over Poland. The success of the invasion marked the end of the Second Polish Republic, though Poland never formally surrendered.

On 8 October, after an initial period of military administration, Germany directly annexed western Poland and the former Free City of Danzig and placed the remaining block of territory under the administration of the newly established General Government. The Soviet Union incorporated its newly acquired areas into its constituent Byelorussian and Ukrainian republics, and immediately started a campaign of Sovietization. In the aftermath of the invasion, a collective of underground resistance organizations formed the Polish Underground State within the territory of the former Polish state. Many of the military exiles who escaped Poland joined the Polish Armed Forces in the West, an armed force loyal to the Polish government-in-exile.