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Witness the German invasion of Poland (1939) marking the beginning of World War II
In late August 1939, Hitler and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, which incited a frenzy of worry in London and Paris. Hitler had long planned an invasion of Poland, a nation to which Great Britain and France had guaranteed military support if it were attacked by Germany. The pact with Stalin meant that Hitler would not face a war on two fronts once he invaded Poland, and would have Soviet assistance in conquering and dividing the nation itself. On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland from the west; two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany, beginning World War II.
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Why did Germany invade Poland?
Germany invaded Poland to regain lost territory and ultimately rule their neighbor to the east. The German invasion of Poland was a primer on how Hitler intended to wage war–what would become the “blitzkrieg” strategy.
Germany’s blitzkrieg approach was characterized by extensive bombing early on to destroy the enemy’s air capacity, railroads, communication lines and munitions dumps, followed by a massive land invasion with overwhelming numbers of troops, tanks and artillery. After the German forces had plowed their way through, devastating a swath of territory, infantry moved in, picking off any remaining resistance.
Once Hitler had a base of operations within the target country, he immediately began setting up “security” forces to annihilate all enemies of his Nazi ideology, whether racial, religious or political. Concentration camps for slave laborers and the extermination of civilians went hand-in-hand with German rule of a conquered nation. For example, within one day of the German invasion of Poland, Hitler was already setting up SS “Death’s Head” regiments to terrorize the populace.
Polish resistance falters
The Polish army made several severe strategic miscalculations early on. Although 1 million strong, the Polish forces were severely under-equipped and attempted to take the Germans head-on, rather than falling back to more natural defensive positions.
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