With most of the German territories that were
annexed by the Treaty of Versailles, at the end of World War 1,
regained by Hitler, one remained. Danzig. Danzig had become a
free city with a mixture of German and polish people. With Danzig
Hitler would have totally reversed the Treaty of Versailles, and
with that German honour would be restored.
"The Corridor" was created by the Treaty
of Versailles to give Poland access to the Baltic sea. By creating
the "The Corridor" it annexed east Prussia from Germany
and now Hitler wanted access to Danzig and east Prussia via "The
Corridor". Poland refused Hitler access across "The
Corridor" and so the stage was set for a confrontation.
Nazi propaganda created stories of German minorities
being abused in Danzig, and faking covert attacks by Polish troops
on the German-Polish border. So creating excuses and a justification
for military intervention. Britain and France pledged support
for Poland and threatened war if Poland was attacked.
Hitler's Foreign minister, von Ribbentrop, flew
to Moscow to meet Stalin's representative, Molotov. On the 23rd
of August 1939, von Ribbentrop and Molotov signed a Nazi-Soviet
nonaggression pact, which in fact decided the fate of Poland between
Germany and Russia. Within the Nazi-Soviet Pact were clauses about
the partition of Poland, division of the country to be shared
between Germany and Russia. The pact between Nazi Germany and
the Soviet Union "surprised the world", and allowed
Hitler to deal with Poland without fear of Soviet reprisals.
Although the two ideologies were natural enemies,
for the time being they were Allies. Hitler's war machine was
not yet ready for a confrontation with the Soviet Union. But Hitler
had desires on the vast lands of the Soviet Union and its people,
who would become second class citizens, slaves to the Nazi empire.
A confrontation was inevitable but for the moment the pact served
Both the Soviets and the Nazis believed the pact
would deter any intervention from the west coming to the aide
of Poland, leaving Poland to be carved up between the aggressors.
But the British signed a Mutual-Assistance pact with Poland on
the 25th of August, the very same day that Hitler had planned
to invade Poland. Hitler delayed his plans for invasion and reverted
back to negotiating with Poland, with regard to access, in the
hope of avoiding an all out confrontation with the powers in the
west, again because of his armed forces not being battle ready
to face Britain and France in a full scale conflict.
But Poland still refused
to accommodate Hitler and a week later, with the agreement with
signed, Hitler made his move in the east. On the 1st of September,
1939, Germany invaded Poland ignoring Britain and France's posturing.
On the 2nd September Britain and France sent a final notice to
Hitler warning him of the consequences if did not cease hostilities
against Poland, and remove his invading troops.
But when Hitler ignored the ultimatum and the
deadline passed on the 3rd of September, Britain and France declared
war on Germany. Australia and New Zealand also declared war on
Germany the same day. President Roosevelt spoke to the American
people in a radio
broadcast from the White House, his disappointment was
evident at the very real prospect that Europe was about to erupt
into war, "Until four-thirty this morning I had hoped against
hope that some miracle would prevent a devastating war in Europe
and bring to an end the invasion of Poland by Germany." He
assured the nation that he hoped America would remain neutral,
"I hope the United States will keep out of this war. I believe
that it will. And I give you assurance(s) and reassurance that
every effort of your Government will be directed toward that end."
South Africa and Ireland wanted to remain neutral,
while Ireland stayed neutral the South African government was
defeated in parliament, and on the 6th of September South Africa
joined the Allies in the conflict and declared war on Nazi Germany.
On the 10th September Canada also declared war on Nazi Germany.
Chamberlain (The British Prime Minister):
"This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German
government the final notice. Stating unless we heard from them
by 11.00 O'clock saying they were prepared to take their troops
out of Poland. A state of war would exist between us. I must tell
you now that no such invitation has been received, and consequently
this country is now at war with Germany."
Although declaring war on Nazi Germany the conflict
would remain in the east of Europe for a while, and the Allies
entered into a period called 'The Phoney War'. Hitler's war machine
was not ready to confront the Allies in the west, the time would
come but at Hitler's time of choosing.
With the capture of Danzig it symbolized to the
German people the end of the Treaty of Versailles that had embittered
the German nation. With the Polish army using WW1 tactics, cavalry
attacks on advancing tanks, it was swept away within two weeks
by a well organized modern German army, and Poland fell first
victim to 'Blitzkrieg' (Lighting War).
On the 17th of September the Soviet Union invaded
Poland, and the two invading armies met at Brest-Litovsk, the
site of the Russian surrender to Germany in 1918. The Soviet Union's
justification for the invasion of Poland were that these areas
of Poland they had just invaded and occupied, were rightfully
territories of the Soviet Union.
For three weeks Warsaw radio had defiantly played
the Polish national anthem continuously over the air, and on the
21st of September Warsaw was attacked. On the 27th of September
Poland surrendered, after which Warsaw was reduced to rubble.