Nazi-Soviet Pact The Curious Case of the 1939 Nazi–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact - IdmcrackfreedownloadInfo

Nazi-Soviet Pact The Curious Case of the 1939 Nazi–Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

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Invasion of Poland

By Bradley Lightbody
Last updated 2011-03-30

German army marches into Warsaw

When Hitler invaded Poland, he was confident that Britain and France would continue their policy of appeasement and broker a peace deal. Bradley Lightbody considers his gross miscalculation and how it led Europe to stumble into war.

On this page

  • The gamble
  • Revision of Versailles
  • Growing menace
  • Nazi-Soviet pact
  • Invasion
  • Western response
  • Find out more

Page options

  • Print this page

The gamble

At 4.45 am on 1 September 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish garrison of the Westerplatte Fort, Danzig (modern-day Gdansk), in what was to become the first military engagement of World War Two. Simultaneously, 62 German divisions supported by 1,300 aircraft commenced the invasion of Poland.

The decision of Adolf Hitler to invade Poland was a gamble. The Wehrmacht (the German Army) was not yet at full strength and the German economy was still locked into peacetime production. As such, the invasion alarmed Hitler’s generals and raised opposition to his command – and leaks of his war plans to Britain and France.

The decision … to invade Poland was a gamble.

Hitler’s generals urged caution and asked for more time to complete the defences of the ‘West Wall’, in order to stem any British and French counter-offensive in the west while the bulk of the Wehrmacht was engaged in the east. Their leader dismissed their concerns, however, and demanded instead their total loyalty.

Hitler was confident that the invasion of Poland would result in a short, victorious war for two important reasons. First, he was convinced that the deployment of the world’s first armoured corps would swiftly defeat the Polish armed forces in a blitzkrieg offensive. Secondly, he judged the British and French prime-ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, to be weak, indecisive leaders who would opt for a peace settlement rather than war.

Top

Revision of Versailles

The latter judgement was a product of Hitler’s success in winning a substantial revision of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles – which laid down severe restrictions for Germany after its defeat in World War One – between 1935-38. Britain and France had accepted German rearmament in 1935, the re-occupation of the Rhineland in 1936 and the Anschluss, or union, with Austria in March 1938, all in defiance of the Treaty.

At Munich in September 1938, Britain and France had also reluctantly endorsed the forced transfer of the ‘ethnically German’ Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany. Hitler had thus successfully intimidated the western powers by the threat of military action, and in particular through the widespread fear of air attack by the powerful Luftwaffe.

Hitler had thus successfully intimidated the western powers…

He was also aided by public opinion in the west, which broadly regarded the Treaty of Versailles as flawed and held the belief that communism rather than fascism posed the greater threat to western democracies. In this context many welcomed a rearmed Germany, as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

Consequently Hitler enjoyed a largely positive press in the west throughout the period 1933-8, as evidenced by the hosting of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the favourably regarded visits by the Duke of Windsor and ex-British prime-minister David Lloyd George.

Top

Growing menace


Motorized units survey the result of a 'Luftwaffe' attack, Poland
The ‘Luftwaffe’ inflicted devastation upon Poland
  ©


The positive climate ended in March 1939. Hitler, emboldened by his earlier successes, ordered the German occupation of the whole of Czechoslovakia, gained the return of the province of Memel from Lithuania, and pressed Poland to permit the construction of new road and railways across its territories to improve communications between East Prussia and Germany.

East Prussia had been separated from the rest of Germany in 1919 when the Allies redrew the borders of Germany and Russia to re-establish the independent state of Poland. The Poles had lost their independence as a nation state in 1795, when Tsarist Russia and Prussia had divided and annexed Polish lands.

The positive climate ended in March 1939.

Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia breached the written guarantee he had issued to Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, stating that he had no further territorial demands to make in Europe. Therefore, on 31 March 1939, Chamberlain issued a formal guarantee of Poland’s borders and said that he expected Hitler to moderate his demands.

Hitler was not deterred, and on 3 April he ordered the Wehrmacht to prepare for the invasion of Poland on 1 September. Hitler was convinced that Chamberlain would not go to war to defend Poland and that France would lack the will to act alone.

Top

Nazi-Soviet pact

Hitler’s only real concern was that a sudden German invasion of Poland might alarm Stalin and trigger a war with the Soviet Union. Stalin feared a German invasion and had been seeking an anti-Nazi ‘collective security’ alliance with the western powers for many years, but by July 1939 Britain and France had still not agreed terms.

Stalin feared a German invasion…

Poland had also rejected an alliance with the Soviet Union, and refused permission for the Red Army to cross its territory to engage the Wehrmacht in a future war. Hitler saw his opportunity, and authorised his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop to enter into secret negotiations with the Soviet Union.

The result was the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact on 23 August 1939. Both Hitler and Stalin set aside their mutual antipathy for national gain and in particular the restoration of their pre-1919 borders.

Top

Invasion


Ruins of Rozan, Poland, September 1939
Relentless bombardment left Poland in ruins
  ©


An ecstatic Hitler brought the date of the invasion forward to 26 August to take advantage of the surprise the pact had provoked in the west. However, only hours before the attack Hitler cancelled the invasion when his ally Mussolini declared that Italy was not ready to go to war, and Britain declared a formal military alliance with Poland.

Once reassured of Mussolini’s political support, Hitler reset the invasion for 1 September 1939. The invasion was not dependent on Italian military support and Hitler dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.

At 6 am on 1 September Warsaw was struck by the first of a succession of bombing raids, while two major German army groups invaded Poland from Prussia in the north and Slovakia in the south. Air supremacy was achieved on the first day, after most of Poland’s airforce was caught on the ground. Panzer spearheads smashed holes in the Polish lines and permitted the slower moving German infantry to pour through into the Polish rear.

Hitler dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.

In advance of the line of attack the Luftwaffe heavily bombed all road and rail junctions, and concentrations of Polish troops. Towns and villages were deliberately bombed to create a fleeing mass of terror-stricken civilians to block the roads and hamper the flow of reinforcements to the front.

Flying directly ahead of the Panzers, the Junkers Ju-87 dive-bomber (Stuka) fulfilled the role of artillery, and destroyed any strong points in the German path. The surprise German strategy of blitzkreig was based upon continuous advance and the prevention of a static frontline that would permit Polish forces time to regroup.

At 8am, on 1 September, Poland requested immediate military assistance from France and Britain, but it was not until noon on 3 September that Britain declared war on Germany, followed by France’s declaration at 5.00pm. The delay reflected British hopes that Hitler would respond to demands and end the invasion.

Top

Western response


Surendered 15th Polish Division, September 1939
The Wermacht’s ‘blitzkrieg’ invasion technique forced the Polish army to surrender
  ©


Western military commanders were rooted in the strategies of World War One and entirely unprepared for the rapid invasion of Poland. They expected the Germans to probe and bombard the Polish line with heavy artillery for several weeks before launching a full invasion.

Consequently while the Panzers advanced, French troops confined themselves to scouting and mapping the German ‘West Wall’, while awaiting the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and full mobilisation. There was no offensive strategy, because France expected to fight a war of defence, and had invested heavily in the static defences of the Maginot line. The RAF also dropped not bombs but leaflets, urging a peace settlement.

Western military commanders were rooted in the strategies of World War One…

By 6 September the two Wehrmacht army groups had linked up at Lodz in the centre of Poland and cleaved the country in two, trapping the bulk of the Polish army against the German border. Two days later, the Panzers had corralled Polish forces into five isolated pockets centred around Pomerania, Pozan, Lodz, Krakow and Carpathia.

Twelve of Poland’s divisions were cavalry, armed with lance and sabre, and they were no match for tanks. Each pocket was relentlessly bombarded and bombed, and once food and ammunition had run out had little choice but to surrender.

By 8 September the leading Panzers were on the outskirts of Warsaw, having covered 140 miles in only eight days. Two days later all Polish forces were ordered to fall back and regroup in Eastern Poland for a last stand. All hope was pinned upon a major French and British offensive in the west to relieve the pressure.

However, despite assurances from Marshal Maurice Gamelin that the French Army was fully engaged in combat, all military action on the western front was ended on 13 September, when French troops were ordered to fall back behind the security of the Maginot line. Warsaw was surrounded on 15 September, and suffered punishing bombing raids without hope of relief.

On 17 September the Red Army crossed the Polish border in the east, in fulfilment of the secret agreement within the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and ended any prospect of Poland’s survival. Those Poles who could, fled across the border into Romania, and many subsequently reached the west and continued the war as the Free Polish Forces. Among them were many pilots, who were welcomed into the RAF and took part in the Battle of Britain.

Warsaw bravely held out until 27 September, but after enduring 18 days of continuous bombing finally surrendered at 2.00pm that afternoon. Germany had gained a swift victory, but not the end of the war. Britain and France refused to accept Hitler’s peace offer. His gamble had failed, and Poland had become the first battleground of World War Two.

Top

Find out more

Books

The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis by Bradley Lightbody (Routledge, 2004)

How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939 by Donald Cameron Watt (Heinemann, 1989)

The Road to War by Richard Overy with Richard Wheatcroft (MacMillan, 1989)

The Second World War by Martin Gilbert (Phoenix, 1989)

Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk by Len Deighton (Jonathan Cape, 1979)

The Second World War: The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill (Cassell, 1950)

Top

About the author

Bradley Lightbody is a writer, whose latest book is listed above. Until 2004 he was Head of History in Dewsbury College, West Yorkshire. He is currently Director of Training with the education consultancies Quiet Associates and College UK, delivering training courses to the Further Education college sector.

Top

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Invasion of Poland

By Bradley Lightbody
Last updated 2011-03-30

German army marches into Warsaw

When Hitler invaded Poland, he was confident that Britain and France would continue their policy of appeasement and broker a peace deal. Bradley Lightbody considers his gross miscalculation and how it led Europe to stumble into war.

On this page

  • The gamble
  • Revision of Versailles
  • Growing menace
  • Nazi-Soviet pact
  • Invasion
  • Western response
  • Find out more

Page options

  • Print this page

The gamble

At 4.45 am on 1 September 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish garrison of the Westerplatte Fort, Danzig (modern-day Gdansk), in what was to become the first military engagement of World War Two. Simultaneously, 62 German divisions supported by 1,300 aircraft commenced the invasion of Poland.

The decision of Adolf Hitler to invade Poland was a gamble. The Wehrmacht (the German Army) was not yet at full strength and the German economy was still locked into peacetime production. As such, the invasion alarmed Hitler’s generals and raised opposition to his command – and leaks of his war plans to Britain and France.

The decision … to invade Poland was a gamble.

Hitler’s generals urged caution and asked for more time to complete the defences of the ‘West Wall’, in order to stem any British and French counter-offensive in the west while the bulk of the Wehrmacht was engaged in the east. Their leader dismissed their concerns, however, and demanded instead their total loyalty.

Hitler was confident that the invasion of Poland would result in a short, victorious war for two important reasons. First, he was convinced that the deployment of the world’s first armoured corps would swiftly defeat the Polish armed forces in a blitzkrieg offensive. Secondly, he judged the British and French prime-ministers, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, to be weak, indecisive leaders who would opt for a peace settlement rather than war.

Top

Revision of Versailles

The latter judgement was a product of Hitler’s success in winning a substantial revision of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles – which laid down severe restrictions for Germany after its defeat in World War One – between 1935-38. Britain and France had accepted German rearmament in 1935, the re-occupation of the Rhineland in 1936 and the Anschluss, or union, with Austria in March 1938, all in defiance of the Treaty.

At Munich in September 1938, Britain and France had also reluctantly endorsed the forced transfer of the ‘ethnically German’ Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany. Hitler had thus successfully intimidated the western powers by the threat of military action, and in particular through the widespread fear of air attack by the powerful Luftwaffe.

Hitler had thus successfully intimidated the western powers…

He was also aided by public opinion in the west, which broadly regarded the Treaty of Versailles as flawed and held the belief that communism rather than fascism posed the greater threat to western democracies. In this context many welcomed a rearmed Germany, as a bulwark against the Soviet Union.

Consequently Hitler enjoyed a largely positive press in the west throughout the period 1933-8, as evidenced by the hosting of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the favourably regarded visits by the Duke of Windsor and ex-British prime-minister David Lloyd George.

Top

Growing menace


Motorized units survey the result of a 'Luftwaffe' attack, Poland
The ‘Luftwaffe’ inflicted devastation upon Poland
  ©


The positive climate ended in March 1939. Hitler, emboldened by his earlier successes, ordered the German occupation of the whole of Czechoslovakia, gained the return of the province of Memel from Lithuania, and pressed Poland to permit the construction of new road and railways across its territories to improve communications between East Prussia and Germany.

East Prussia had been separated from the rest of Germany in 1919 when the Allies redrew the borders of Germany and Russia to re-establish the independent state of Poland. The Poles had lost their independence as a nation state in 1795, when Tsarist Russia and Prussia had divided and annexed Polish lands.

The positive climate ended in March 1939.

Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia breached the written guarantee he had issued to Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, stating that he had no further territorial demands to make in Europe. Therefore, on 31 March 1939, Chamberlain issued a formal guarantee of Poland’s borders and said that he expected Hitler to moderate his demands.

Hitler was not deterred, and on 3 April he ordered the Wehrmacht to prepare for the invasion of Poland on 1 September. Hitler was convinced that Chamberlain would not go to war to defend Poland and that France would lack the will to act alone.

Top

Nazi-Soviet pact

Hitler’s only real concern was that a sudden German invasion of Poland might alarm Stalin and trigger a war with the Soviet Union. Stalin feared a German invasion and had been seeking an anti-Nazi ‘collective security’ alliance with the western powers for many years, but by July 1939 Britain and France had still not agreed terms.

Stalin feared a German invasion…

Poland had also rejected an alliance with the Soviet Union, and refused permission for the Red Army to cross its territory to engage the Wehrmacht in a future war. Hitler saw his opportunity, and authorised his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop to enter into secret negotiations with the Soviet Union.

The result was the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact on 23 August 1939. Both Hitler and Stalin set aside their mutual antipathy for national gain and in particular the restoration of their pre-1919 borders.

Top

Invasion


Ruins of Rozan, Poland, September 1939
Relentless bombardment left Poland in ruins
  ©


An ecstatic Hitler brought the date of the invasion forward to 26 August to take advantage of the surprise the pact had provoked in the west. However, only hours before the attack Hitler cancelled the invasion when his ally Mussolini declared that Italy was not ready to go to war, and Britain declared a formal military alliance with Poland.

Once reassured of Mussolini’s political support, Hitler reset the invasion for 1 September 1939. The invasion was not dependent on Italian military support and Hitler dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.

At 6 am on 1 September Warsaw was struck by the first of a succession of bombing raids, while two major German army groups invaded Poland from Prussia in the north and Slovakia in the south. Air supremacy was achieved on the first day, after most of Poland’s airforce was caught on the ground. Panzer spearheads smashed holes in the Polish lines and permitted the slower moving German infantry to pour through into the Polish rear.

Hitler dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.

In advance of the line of attack the Luftwaffe heavily bombed all road and rail junctions, and concentrations of Polish troops. Towns and villages were deliberately bombed to create a fleeing mass of terror-stricken civilians to block the roads and hamper the flow of reinforcements to the front.

Flying directly ahead of the Panzers, the Junkers Ju-87 dive-bomber (Stuka) fulfilled the role of artillery, and destroyed any strong points in the German path. The surprise German strategy of blitzkreig was based upon continuous advance and the prevention of a static frontline that would permit Polish forces time to regroup.

At 8am, on 1 September, Poland requested immediate military assistance from France and Britain, but it was not until noon on 3 September that Britain declared war on Germany, followed by France’s declaration at 5.00pm. The delay reflected British hopes that Hitler would respond to demands and end the invasion.

Top

Western response


Surendered 15th Polish Division, September 1939
The Wermacht’s ‘blitzkrieg’ invasion technique forced the Polish army to surrender
  ©


Western military commanders were rooted in the strategies of World War One and entirely unprepared for the rapid invasion of Poland. They expected the Germans to probe and bombard the Polish line with heavy artillery for several weeks before launching a full invasion.

Consequently while the Panzers advanced, French troops confined themselves to scouting and mapping the German ‘West Wall’, while awaiting the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and full mobilisation. There was no offensive strategy, because France expected to fight a war of defence, and had invested heavily in the static defences of the Maginot line. The RAF also dropped not bombs but leaflets, urging a peace settlement.

Western military commanders were rooted in the strategies of World War One…

By 6 September the two Wehrmacht army groups had linked up at Lodz in the centre of Poland and cleaved the country in two, trapping the bulk of the Polish army against the German border. Two days later, the Panzers had corralled Polish forces into five isolated pockets centred around Pomerania, Pozan, Lodz, Krakow and Carpathia.

Twelve of Poland’s divisions were cavalry, armed with lance and sabre, and they were no match for tanks. Each pocket was relentlessly bombarded and bombed, and once food and ammunition had run out had little choice but to surrender.

By 8 September the leading Panzers were on the outskirts of Warsaw, having covered 140 miles in only eight days. Two days later all Polish forces were ordered to fall back and regroup in Eastern Poland for a last stand. All hope was pinned upon a major French and British offensive in the west to relieve the pressure.

However, despite assurances from Marshal Maurice Gamelin that the French Army was fully engaged in combat, all military action on the western front was ended on 13 September, when French troops were ordered to fall back behind the security of the Maginot line. Warsaw was surrounded on 15 September, and suffered punishing bombing raids without hope of relief.

On 17 September the Red Army crossed the Polish border in the east, in fulfilment of the secret agreement within the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and ended any prospect of Poland’s survival. Those Poles who could, fled across the border into Romania, and many subsequently reached the west and continued the war as the Free Polish Forces. Among them were many pilots, who were welcomed into the RAF and took part in the Battle of Britain.

Warsaw bravely held out until 27 September, but after enduring 18 days of continuous bombing finally surrendered at 2.00pm that afternoon. Germany had gained a swift victory, but not the end of the war. Britain and France refused to accept Hitler’s peace offer. His gamble had failed, and Poland had become the first battleground of World War Two.

Top

Find out more

Books

The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis by Bradley Lightbody (Routledge, 2004)

How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939 by Donald Cameron Watt (Heinemann, 1989)

The Road to War by Richard Overy with Richard Wheatcroft (MacMillan, 1989)

The Second World War by Martin Gilbert (Phoenix, 1989)

Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk by Len Deighton (Jonathan Cape, 1979)

The Second World War: The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill (Cassell, 1950)

Top

About the author

Bradley Lightbody is a writer, whose latest book is listed above. Until 2004 he was Head of History in Dewsbury College, West Yorkshire. He is currently Director of Training with the education consultancies Quiet Associates and College UK, delivering training courses to the Further Education college sector.

Top

«;
More World War Two

World War One Centenary

World War One Centenary

  • Find out more about how the BBC is covering the World War One Centenary , and see the latest programmes and online content

Surviving the trenches

How did so many soldiers survive the trenches?

  • Dan Snow asks why so many soldiers survived the trenches in WW1

Pack Up Your Troubles

Pack Up Your Troubles

  • Gareth Malone finds out how Pack Up Your Troubles became the viral hit of WW1

Related Links

  • Germany Advances through Europe
  • Nazi Propaganda Gallery
  • World War Two Posters and Advertisements

Around the BBC

  • BBC Archive: Britain on the brink of World War Two
  • BBC Schools: Children of World War Two
  • On This Day: World War Two

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  • Imperial War Museum
  • Number 10: Arthur Neville Chamberlain
  • Discovery: World War Two

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HistoryHit



What Was the Nazi-Soviet Pact and How Did It Affect Poland?

Jessica Redhead

4 mins

27 Jun 2018

  • Twentieth Century
  • European History
  • Politics
  • Russian history
  • World War Two

The Nazi-Soviet Pact was a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the agreement was signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939. It remained in effect for almost two years, until the Germans broke the pact on 22 June 1941 by invading the USSR.

The pact was a surprise to contemporary observers. The Nazis hated communism and the Soviets hated fascism. So why did these ideologically opposed powers enter into such an agreement?

The first Nazi-Soviet talks failed

In 1933, the Nazi party gained power in Germany and Hitler  set about implementing his aggressive rearmament programme. Stalin considered creating an alliance with the increasingly powerful Nazi leader, but ideological differences prevented this from taking place.

Ideological differences prevented Stalin from seeking an alliance with Hitler. This still of the Nazi leader is taken from the docu-drama Operation Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler on HistoryHit.TV . Watch Now

Instead, Stalin turned to western liberal democracies and joined the League of Nations in September 1934. Members of the League similarly opposed communism, but they accepted the USSR into the body as a potential ally against any future aggression from Nazi Germany.

Stalin grew impatient

Despite joining the League, Stalin opposed Britain and France’s appeasement policy, which he believed was encouraging the Nazis to march east against the Soviets.

In the spring of 1939, it seemed likely that Britain and France would soon be at war with Hitler, and Stalin feared German military aggression. In April of that year, the Soviet foreign minister, Maxim Litvinov, proposed a treaty of collective security between Britain, France and the USSR.

At the end of World War Two, the Nazis forced 10,000 prisoners of war to march out of a Polish camp and away from the advancing Russian Red Army in freezing conditions. Find out more in the documentary Forced March to Freedom on HistoryHit.TV . Watch Now

However, Britain and France took six weeks to reply and Stalin grew impatient. He dismissed Litvinov for being too friendly to Britain and France and appointed Vyacheslav Molotov. The Soviet leader then held secret talks with both sides in order to obtain the best deal for the USSR.

The pact proposals

In May 1939, Molotov initiated secret talks with Germany about a potential alliance. Hitler offered Stalin a non-aggression pact, which stated that Germany would not attack the USSR and that the two countries would remain neutral if attacked by external forces. Hitler also promised the USSR eastern Poland and territories it had lost during World War One, such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Before signing a treaty with Germany, however, Stalin first wanted to hear Britain and France’s offer. In August 1939, representatives from Britain, France and the USSR met in Leningrad.

They envisioned a pact stating that the USSR would join Britain and France in the fight against Germany if the Nazis invaded Poland. Yet, Soviet troops would not be allowed to enter Poland. The USSR would also receive no extra land and would likely be at war very soon.

Molotov and Ribbentrop shaking hands after signing the pact.

Russian foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov (left) and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (second from right) signed the pact on 23 August 1939.

The choice was easy: Stalin chose to ally with Hitler. The agreement seemingly marked the official end of Nazi-Soviet hostility. On 23 August 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Russian foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

What happened to Poland?

A secret protocol in the pact stated that Germany and the USSR would divide and occupy Poland and bring their shares of the country under their respective spheres of influence. Both the Nazis and the Soviets subsequently invaded Poland.

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and the campaign that followed was short yet destructive, with bombing raids devastating Poland’s physical landscape.

Hitler watches German troops marching into Poland during the so-called “September Campaign”. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Red Army likewise invaded the country on 17 September 1939. Poland was only able to resist for six weeks before surrendering on 6 October 1939.

Germany and the USSR subsequently divided Poland into separate occupation zones. The USSR annexed areas east of the Narew, Vistula and San rivers, while Germany annexed western Poland. The Nazis also united southern Poland with northern parts of Ukraine to create the “General Government”, a Nazi-occupied zone.

The aftermath

The pact remained in effect for almost two years. On 22 June 1941, it was declared void when Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the USSR. This was a crucial turning point in the war, as it led to the USSR joining the Allies in the fights against the Nazis and Axis powers.

At the end of the war, the Red Army found itself entering Poland once again, only this time it was to liberate the Poles from Nazi occupation.

Even after the war, the Soviet government continued to deny the existence of the secret protocol to divide and occupy Poland. It was only revealed, acknowledged and denounced in 1989 with the fall of the USSR.

Tags: Joseph Stalin , Adolf Hitler


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