75 years ago: Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland

On Important Questions of War and Peace

Pictured here in 1944 are Polish partisans, members of the Polish People's Army (Armia Ludowa), who bravely and with great sacrifice fought together with the Soviet Army to liberate their country and defeat Nazi fascism in Europe | Polish Army Museum in Warsaw (Click to enlarge)

Pictured here in 1944 are Polish partisans, members of the Polish People’s Army (Armia Ludowa), who bravely and with great sacrifice fought together with the Soviet Army to liberate their country and defeat Nazi fascism in Europe | Polish Army Museum in Warsaw (Click to enlarge)

By DOUGAL MacDONALD

TML Weekly (Aug. 30) – At 4:15 am on September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland in a massive assault. Hitler’s Wehrmacht of 1,850,000 troops, 3,200 tanks, 2,000 combat aircraft and 11 warships – over two-thirds of Germany’s entire combat force – destroyed the Polish state and massacred the Polish people.[1]

Behind the Wehrmacht followed Himmler’s SS Einsatzgruppen, killing squads specializing in mass murder.

Nazis parade through Warsaw following the invasion of Poland, September 28-30, 1939.

Nazis parade through Warsaw following the invasion of Poland, September 28-30, 1939.

Against Poland, the Nazis perpetrated one of the worst crimes history has ever known. Poland suffered the largest number of casualties per capita of any European country. A total of about six million people were killed. Direct extermination by mass murder, death camps and other means took some 1,750,000 Polish lives. In addition, the state forces of Nazi Germany exterminated 2,700,000 Polish Jews, 2,000,000 Polish children and youth, more than 50,000 Roma, some 12,000 people deemed mentally handicapped, and thousands of Polish prisoners of war, soldiers, and officers who were systematically shot. The German Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) shot some 40,000 Polish intellectuals, political personalities and other leaders within the first six weeks of the Nazi occupation. Prior to the invasion, beginning in May 1939, the Nazi Operation Tannenberg, which was part of Hitler’s Generalplan Ost (Masterplan East), had already identified and listed more than 61,000 Polish activists, intelligentsia, scholars, former officers and others, who were to be interned or shot, mainly by the SS. The murder of 5,000-6,000 Poles in Fordon, Bydgoszcz in October-November 1939 is just one example of the many executions the SS and the Wehrmacht carried out. Other examples include the murder of 4,143 Polish officers found buried in Katyn Forest, for which the Nazis and their collaborators blamed the communists and continue to blame the communists so as to exonerate their massive crimes and confound who were the liberators and who were the criminals.

The Polish people were greatly outnumbered but fought back bravely. The state leaders of Poland fled to Romania on September 17, but the Polish people’s spirit of resistance remained strong. Many Poles fought courageously in the communist-led underground Resistance. Poles formed their own patriotic divisions and fought alongside the Red Army against the Nazis all the way to Berlin.

Nazis carry out expulsions in the Zamosc region of Poland, December 1942 | Wikipedia

Nazis carry out expulsions in the Zamosc region of Poland, December 1942 | Wikipedia

Despite the facts, the Hitlerites blame the Soviets for what happened to the Polish people, claiming that Stalin signed a pact with Hitler to let it happen, and Stalin invaded Poland. In fact, the Soviet Army entered the territory of Poland on September 17, only after the Polish state had collapsed, the Polish army had disintegrated, the government had ceased to function and its leaders had fled. The part of Poland the Soviet Union occupied was the territory of the Ukraine and Byelorussia that Poland had forcibly annexed from the Soviet Union during the Polish-Russian War of 1919-20. At that time, Poland was one of the 14 invading imperialist countries that attempted but failed to strangle the newborn Soviet Socialist Republic.[2] Only about eight per cent of the people in the Ukraine and Byelorussia were of Polish origin.

“As a result of the Soviet Union’s timely entry into what had been territories of the Polish state, Hitler was forced to accept a line of demarcation between his troops and the Red Army, a long way west of the then Polish-Russian frontier.” [3] The Red Army saved millions of people including Poles inhabiting the Ukraine and Byelorussia from a similar fate that Hitler was at that time wreaking upon the Polish people. Even the virulently anti- communist Winston Churchill publicly justified the Soviet march into eastern Poland.

Today, the modern-day Hitlerites, masquerading as democrats, continue to spread the vicious lies that “Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union secretly conspired to divide Poland between them.” Those lies, meant to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany and discredit and split the anti-fascist front led by the communists, were first put forth by Hitler himself in a speech declaring war on the Soviet Union, when he referred to “secret protocols” to divide Poland. Then after their defeat, some Nazi war criminals being tried at Nuremberg resurrected the “secret protocols” in a bid to escape punishment, but the Presidium threw them out as a forgery. It was only when the U.S. took up the mantle of Hitlerism during the Cold War and became the modern day master of Goebbels’ big lie technique that Hitler’s concoction about “secret protocols” became a so-called historical fact.[4] This has now become official Canadian propaganda as well.

Why Hitler attacked Poland

Collective punishment for opposing the Nazi occupation took the form of public hangings, mass executions and other crimes against the Polish people | Wikipedia

Collective punishment for opposing the Nazi occupation took the form of public hangings, mass executions and other crimes against the Polish people | Wikipedia

The real historical facts clarify why Hitler attacked Poland. In 1939 Poland was an imperialist country formed from the disaster of the First World War by Britain and France through the 1918 Versailles Treaty. “One of its ambitions was to add the rich agricultural regions of the Ukraine to Polish territory and extend Polish territory ‘from sea to sea,’ from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.[…]The Polish landlords and bourgeoisie dreamed of restoring the Polish empire of medieval times.”[5]Financed and armed by the British and French monopolies who wanted to regain their lost profits and privileges seized by the workers and peasants’ revolutionary forces,[6] the Polish rulers attacked the Soviet Union in 1918, occupying large parts of the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Lithuania. During the following 18 years of semi-fascist Polish rule, the Polish landlords and industrialists viciously exploited the workers and peasants in those regions.

As inter-imperialist war clouds loomed over Europe, the Polish ruling circles refused to see the world as it presented itself, especially the German Nazi imperialists who made no secret of their desire to conquer Europe so as to conquer the world, and their racist contempt of the Polish people. The Polish elite considered Britain and France to be their allies and the Soviet Union their avowed enemy. The Anglo-American and French imperialists wanted to ensure their own leading roles in world domination. They followed a policy of appeasing Hitler and egging him eastward to attack the Soviet Union, rather than organizing collective security with the Soviet Union against the avowed eastward expansionism of Nazi Germany into industrial, oil bearing and rich agricultural regions, hoping that it would become bogged down in a protracted war rather than grow fat from robbing the Soviet Union of its wealth.

For its part, Poland hoped that Hitler would somehow go East and attack the Soviet Union without seizing Poland first, and that from the spoils of war Poland could also capture Soviet territory. Poland refused to settle outstanding border questions, thus keeping the Soviet defence line against the Nazis as far east as possible. The Polish state refused the Soviets permission to enter Poland to stop the impending Nazi advance and make it more difficult. Instead of taking all measures necessary to defend the people against the disasters of an obvious Nazi invasion, the Polish rulers, harbouring deep illusions about Hitler’s intentions and blinded by anti-communism, preferred instead to engage in fanciful manoeuvres for advantages favouring their private interests.

In attacking Poland, Hitler was both taking up the Anglo-American policy of going East and implementing his own plan outlined in Mein Kampf, to increase Germany’s “living space” ( lebensraum ) by taking over the Ukraine as part of his plan to enslave the entire world. Hitler made his barbaric intentions toward Poland very clear. Only ten days before the attack, Hitler in his Obersalzburg speech instructed his generals to “send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space [lebensraum] which we need.”[7] Tragically, in the end, Poland paid very dearly for its ruling class leaders’ imperialist ambitions, anti-communism and rejection of Soviet assistance.

The Nazis had a longstanding plan to annihilate Warsaw as part of destroying and remaking the entirety of Poland. This photo from January 1945 shows that 85 per cent of the city was destroyed. This campaign of destruction was also meant to "teach a lesson" to the partisans of Warsaw who fought so valiantly to the end, so that their example would not be followed by others | Wikipedia (Click to enlarge}

The Nazis had a longstanding plan to annihilate Warsaw as part of destroying and remaking the entirety of Poland. This photo from January 1945 shows that 85 per cent of the city was destroyed. This campaign of destruction was also meant to “teach a lesson” to the partisans of Warsaw who fought so valiantly to the end, so that their example would not be followed by others | Wikipedia (Click to enlarge}

Today, the Harper government and reactionary Polish ruling circles continue to spread the same lies that the Nazis did, and try to throw mud on the wartime exploits of the Soviet Union so as to accuse the communists of crimes against humanity. On September 1, 2009, Polish President Lech Kaczynski called for “glory to all the soldiers who fought in World War Two against German Nazism and Bolshevik totalitarianism.”

Soon after the April 10, 2010 crash of a Polish airliner near Smolensk, in which Kaczynski and 95 others died, the Polish rulers and others around the world used the tragedy to resurrect the old lie that the Soviet Union and not the Nazis committed the wartime Katyn Forest Massacre. Such deliberate disinformation ignores the fact that it was the Nazis who killed six million Poles. It was the Red Army together with an allied Polish Army that finally liberated Poland from the Nazi occupiers.

Monument to Polish partisans and German anti-fascist fighters in Berlin.

Monument to Polish partisans and German anti-fascist fighters in Berlin.

Monument to Polish partisans and German anti-fascist fighters in Berlin. The relief at right depicts a Soviet soldier, a soldier of the Armia Ludowa (Polish People's Army) and a German anti-Fascist | Wikipedia; Colin Smith

Monument to Polish partisans and German anti-fascist fighters in Berlin. The relief at right depicts a Soviet soldier, a soldier of the Armia Ludowa (Polish People’s Army) and a German anti-Fascist | Wikipedia; Colin Smith

Endnotes

1. Much of the German military equipment used in the invasion was built by U.S.-owned companies such as Ford, General Motors and Focke Wulfe (ITT).

2. An estimated seven million Russian men, women and children were killed during the 1918 invasion.

3. Hardial Bains, Causes and Lessons of the Second World War (Toronto: MELS Institute, 1990).

4. Poland had concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany in January 1934, the first state to form such an alliance with the Nazi administration.

5. Hardial Bains, Ibid.

6. These included oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, the Metro-Vickers arms trust, and the big banking houses such as Baring, Hambros and Credit Lyonnais. Soon-to-be U.S. President Herbert Hoover also had large investments in Czarist Russia.

7. E.L. Woodward & Rohan Riftlep (eds.), Documents on British Foreign Policy: 1919-1939, 3rd series (London: HMSO, 7:258- 260, 1954).

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, History

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s