Year 1939

The year 1939 – Countdown to World War Two.

‘Peace in our time’

In a today infamous broadcast on September 28, 1938, Chamberlain reported: ‘How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.’

Chamberlain waves his infamous scrap of paper on return from Munich

Chamberlain waves his infamous scrap of paper on return from Munich. ‘Peace in Our Time’ lasted under a year.

Of course this so-called ‘quarrel’ had been evidently resolved 2 days afterwards by the Munich Agreement the outcome wasn’t ‘peace in our time’ – as believed by Chamberlain – however a 5 1/2 month breathing time.

Loaded with disregard and disapproval at the gullibility of the ‘friendly aged man’ exactly who he previously easily offered his ‘autograph’ at Munich, Hitler increased propaganda and subversion versus Czechoslovakia and openly confronted to blast Prague into ruins if the scared President Hacha didn’t accede to his requests. On March 15, 1939, Hacha agreed upon a statement in Berlin that ‘to achieve ultimate pacification, he confidently placed the fate of the Czech people and country in the hands of the Fuehrer of the German Reich.’

End of Appeasement

German troops enter Prague

German troops enter Prague. The Czechs clenched fists.

The ‘Rape of Czechoslovakia’ on March 15, 1939 did force the British and French Governments to give up Appeasement forth-with. In just 2 days, Chamberlain published an official disapproval.

This was followed, at the end of similar month, by an Anglo­-French warranty of aid to Poland – obviously Hitler’s upcoming target – ‘in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly con­sidered it vital to resist with their national forces . . . to lend the Polish Government all the support in their power’.

On April 26, as a result of Mussolini’s occupation of the small country of Albania, Britain reintroduced conscription, as radical a measure in peacetime military policy as the guarantee to Poland had been in her foreign scheme.
Italy and Germany changed their Axis right into a proper military partnership. Britain and France worked out pacts with Greece, Turkey and Rumania. Hitler, at the same time, had been active arranging the annexation of Danzig, the Polish Corridor, as well as the termination of Poland. The Wehrmacht was publicly instructed to be prepared for all scenarios by August 25, 1939.

A single significant topic nevertheless still existed. Whatever roles were America and Stalin’s Russia planning to participate in the imminent war ?
There seemed to be little question concerning the USA for the forseeable future. Controlled by 3 self-imposed Neutrality acts, a nevertheless isolationist America was being slowly influenced by Roosevelt to consider a lot more interest in Europe instead of the 2-year-old Sino-Japanese War.

There seemed to be a lot more debate of the strategy to be followed by Russia. The so-called ‘Peace Front’ which France and the UK were being creating and which at this point incorporated Poland, Rumania, Greece and Turkey, could not be a successful prevention without Russia. Russian and British diplomats involved in regular, friendly however pointless talks. The Communist Press quit in order to denounce Chamberlain for his believed disloyalty of Czechoslovakia as well as the London Times was uncommonly quiet about the disadvantages of Russian politics.
At the beginning of June William Strang, a top official at the Foreign Office as well as a specialist in Soviet matters, travelled as special emissary to Moscow to start talks about an Anglo-Russian agreement.

Stalin’s double game

However, for people who had eyes to discover, Stalin was actively playing a double game. Within an important speech on April 28, 1939, cancelling the German-Polish Pact of 1934 as well as the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935, Hitler had skipped over the typical sentences about the ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ along with the ‘sub-human monsters’ inhabiting the Kremlin. On May 3, the diplomatic Anglophile Litvinov had been abruptly exchanged as Commissar for Foreign Affairs by the provincial and harsh Molotov. A few days afterwards a different Russian ambassador found its way to Berlin to a remarkably friendly reception.

French and British staff officers, sent out to Moscow at the beginning of August to start discussions with Marshal Voroshilov, quickly discovered themselves performing versus unexplainable obstructions and delays. Voroshilov requested agree­ment to Russian military power over the Baltic States and there were interminable quarrels over acceptable military counter-measures in opposition to ‘indirect aggression’.
The Baltic States were averse to com­promising their neutrality and prefered to settle independent non­-aggression pacts with Germany. Poland nevertheless clung to her common Russophobia.

German foreign minister Ribbentrop signs Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

On August 23rd the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and secret agreement on partition of Eastern Europe was signed by German foreign minister Ribbentrop, Soviet foreign minister Molotov (background, left) and Stalin (right).

Then on August 19, 1939, Stalin declared to the Politburo his firm purpose to establish a pact with Germany. On August 21, the upcoming realization of a Russian-German Pact had been reported in Berlin to a shocked globe.

The whole day, the French and British officers in Moscow made an effort to speak to Voroshilov. However when the head of the French Military Mission in the end talked to the Russian marshal he had been addressed by an unpleasant lesson: ‘The question of military collaboration with France has been in the air for several years, but has never been settled. Last year, when Czechoslovakia was perishing, we waited for a signal from France, but none was given. Our troops were reedy . . . The French and English Governments have now dragged out the political discus­sions too long.’

The following day, Hitler’s pompous Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, came to Moscow for the ceremonial finalizing of the German-Russian Non-Agression Pact.

The ‘unnatural’ Hitler-Stalin Pact

Even though initially look the Pact seemed to be (in Churchill’s words) ‘such an unnatural act’, it were built with a specific Machiavellian sense.

Stalin had been decided to stay away from the approaching European war and leave the fighting to the Western democracies and Germany. This was especially crucial considering that the Russian leader had not long ago emasculated the Red Army by purging and liquidating a huge number of senior officers.

Stalin thought that the democracies had always aspired to involve in a war against Germany, and that they expected to arise unharmed and superior from a German-Russian conflict of annihilation.

The democracies in the same way strongly considered Stalin to be playing the same game with Germany and themselves. Hitler, for his aspect, wasn’t completely sure by the Anglo-French promise to Poland, and thought about the concept of setting up one more ‘Munich’. Considering he was resolute to destroy Poland and risk the greater war in the West, he previously primary to get Stalin’s neutrality – or even better, his complicity and benevolence – and in doing so get rid of his biggest worry – a war on two fronts like in World War One 1914-18.

The democracies, understanding completely that one more surrender to Germany would cause an ultimate and irredeemable damage to their reputation and power, had been settled no matter what to aid Poland.
However they had not much to offer Stalin other than boring reassertion of the doctrine of collective security, in which he no longer had any trust, and were legally precluded from trafficking in the independence of small nations in Eastern Europe.

Poland’s fate is sealed

Cartoon: Hitler and Stalin are going together to catch their prey

A Swedish cartoon about the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Hitler and Stalin are going together to catch their prey.

The circulated content of the German-Russian Pact had been easy and brief. The two parties undertook to avoid any kind of act of force against each other; never to assistance any 3rd Power that made either of them ‘an object of warlike action’; to confer with any problems of common interest; as well as negotiate any kind of upcoming differences ‘by the friendly exchange of views’.
The Pact included no ‘escape clause’ and it was to be valid for 10 years.

Within a top-secret codicil Germany offered Russia carte blanche in Finland, Latvia and Estonia, but insisted that Lithuania should be in her sphere of influence.
Poland ended up be partitioned, Germany getting the lion’s share, which includes the Polish Corridor, Danzig, Cracow, Upper Silesia as well as Warsaw, while Russia was to reoccupy western Byelorussia along with the western Ukraine, the two previously being Russian territory until 1920.

Pretty much everything had been hardly plausible to Western brains. Even the Russian and German people had been shocked and the Japanese Government briefly broke off talks for a military partnership with Germany.

On August 25, Britain revealed her previously promise to Poland in a proper Anglo-Polish Alliance. Appeals to Hitler from Chamberlain and Roosevelt, a papal peace message and offers of mediation from King Leopold III of Belgium and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands were heeded by an eleventh-hour interven­tion from Mussolini. The Duce, intending to duplicate his success as the ‘honest broker of Munich’, suggested that a five-Power meeting should join on September 5 to ‘examine the clauses in the Treaty of Versailles which are at the root of the (German-Polish) trouble’.

German soldiers were removing the border barrier to Poland

German soldiers were removing the border barrier to Poland at the morning of September 1, 1939 – the beginning of WW2.

Paradoxically, what in fact delayed the German attack on Poland by a few days was Hitler’s last-minute finding that Mussolini wasn’t intending to complete his military partnership with Germany.

On August 29, Hitler commanded a Polish emissary with total powers to settle the troubles of the Corridor and Danzig. This was an unmistakable mirror of earlier requests to Czechoslovakia and Austria, and the Polish Government rejected. More German suggestions, by means of an ultimatum, had been ready, however they never ever arrived at – and were by no means supposed to reach – the Polish Government soon enough.

At daybreak on Friday, September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland by air, land and sear. Absolutely no declaration of war had been made, but Ww2 had started.

LinkWar Diary from September 1, 1939

Diary October 4, 1939

Semi-finished captured Polish bomber

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, October 4, 1939: Sea War Atlantic: U-boat U-35 lands 28-man crew of torpedoed Greek SS Diamantis on Kerry coast, Southwest Ireland. Occupied countries Poland: Nikita Khrushchev (secretary of Ukrainian Communist Party) announces the ‘Communisation’ of… learn more

Diary October 3, 1939

bomb shelter Paris

WW2 War Diary for Tuesday, October 3, 1939: Western Front French withdrawal from advanced positions in German territory (Warndt Forest and Saarbrücken Salient) completed. learn more

Diary October 2, 1939

German soldiers are 'mopping up' Polish soldiers

WW2 War Diary for Monday, October 2, 1939: Politics Pan-American Security Zone established. USA and Latin American States forbid naval and air operations in sea areas up to 600 miles (ca. 966 km) from their coasts. Home Fronts Special tribunals… learn more

Diary October 1, 1939

defenders of Warsaw are marching in captivity

WW2 War Diary for October 1, 1939: Poland German troops enter Warsaw and begin disarming the Garrison (120,000 officers and men). Surrender of Hela, last Polish stronghold. learn more

Diary September 30, 1939

French tanks autumn 1939

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, September 30, 1939: Politics Polish Government-in-Exile and ‘Cabinet of National Unity’ formed in Paris under Raczkiewicz (President) and General Sikorski (Prime Minister and Minister of War). Western Front French forces begin stealthy retreat (night September… learn more

Diary September 29, 1939

German and Russian officers in negotiations

WW2 War Diary for Friday, September 29, 1939: Politics Russo-German ‘Treaty of Frontier Regulation and Friendship’ signed, partitioning Poland and defining spheres of influence. Joint Declaration issued calling for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Germany and Britain. Soviet-Estonian… learn more

Diary September 28, 1939

Negotiation of Warsaw surrender 1939

WW2 War Diary for Thursday, September 28, 1939: Poland Armistice between Warsaw Garrison and German besiegers from noon. learn more

Diary September 27, 1939

German Panzer II in Warsaw

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, September 27, 1939: Poland Germans overrun outer defenses of Warsaw; Garrison Commander offers to surrender (talks held in bus on city outskirts) . Air War RAF announce total of 18 Millions leaflets dropped over Germany… learn more

Diary September 26, 1939

German infantry with Panzer I in street fighting.

WW2 War Diary for Tuesday, September 26, 1939: Poland Massive indiscriminate artillery bombardment of Warsaw, followed by major German infantry assault; city center in flames. Poles recapture Mokotow Airport and six hastily rebuilt aircraft fly out (night, 26-27). Home Fronts… learn more

Diary September 25, 1939

Huge fires after German air attack in Warsaws suburb Praga

WW2 War Diary for Monday, September 25, 1939: Poland Second German ultimatum to Warsaw Garrison. Mass air attack on the city: 400 bombers and Stukas make repeated sorties, starting huge fires. Sea War Atlantic: Debut of Ju 88 dive-bomber in… learn more

Diary September 24, 1939

Destroyed Polish tank column.

WW2 War Diary for Sunday, September 24, 1939: Poland Germans isolate Modlin Fortress, North of Warsaw. Russians enter Galician oilfields. learn more

Diary September 23, 1939

German infantry advancing

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, September 23, 1939: Poland Germans announce capture of Lvov. Politics Mussolini declares that the ‘liquidation’ of Poland presents opportunity for European peace settlement. Home Fronts Britain: Death of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (aged 83). Germany:… learn more

Diary September 22, 1939

Russo-German victory parade at Brest-Litovsk.

WW2 War Diary for Friday, September 22, 1939: Poland Russo-German victory parade at Brest-Litovsk. Colonel-General von Fritsch, former German Army C-in-C and leading anti-Nazi, killed by rifle fire outside Warsaw (suicide). Home Fronts Britain: Petrol rationed. Politics Second meeting of… learn more

Diary September 21, 1939

Hitler watches the bombardement of Warsaw.

WW2 War Diary for Thursday, September 21, 1939: Poland Artillery bombardment of key points in Warsaw greatly intensified. Neutrals Romania: Prime Minister Calinescu shot dead by fascists of the Iron Guard. Assassins captured and publicly executed. Luxembourg: Radio Luxembourg closes… learn more

Diary September 20, 1939

Fairey Battle just landed

WW2 War Diary for Wednesday, September 20, 1939: Air War Western Front: RAF’s first clash with Luftwaffe. Me 109 s attack 3 Battle recce­-bombers over Siegfried Line. One Messerschmitt fighter and 2 Battles shot down. Home Fronts Germany: US newspapers… learn more

Diary September 19, 1939

Destroyed Polish transport column in river Bzura

WW2 War Diary for Tuesday, September 19, 1939: Poland Bzura Battle ends. 100,000 officers and men from defeated Polish Pomorze and Poznan Armies surrender. Germans surround Lvov, Eastern Poland. Home Fronts Germany: Hitler speaks at Danzig and defends Russo-German Pact.… learn more

Diary September 18, 1939

Red Army soldier guards shot down Polish aircraft

WW2 War Diary for Monday, September 18, 1939: Poland Russian Forces now 60 miles (ca. 97 km) inside Poland. Virtually no resistance. Sea War Atlantic: SS Kensington Court shelled and sunk by U-boat. Two RAF Sunderland flying boats rescue 34… learn more

Diary September 17, 1939

Cartoon: Hitler and Stalin are going together to catch their prey

WW2 War Diary for Sunday, September 17, 1939: Poland RUSSIAN INVASION OF POLAND against negligible defenses. German Army Groups North and South link up at Wlodawa, on river Bug, Eastern Poland. Brest-Litovsk Citadel captured. Polish Government crosses into Romania from… learn more

Diary September 16, 1939

campaign in Poland from September 16 to September 20.

WW2 War Diary for Saturday, September 16, 1939: Poland German ultimatum to Warsaw Garrison and civil population rejected. Polish air force bombers make final sorties. Politics Russia informs Poland that the Red Army will enter East Poland on September 17… learn more

Diary September 15, 1939

Behind the front line in Warsaw 1939

WW2 War Diary for Friday, September 15, 1939: Poland Germans surround Warsaw and occupy Galician oilfields (southeast Poland). Sea War Atlantic: First British trans-Atlantic convoy sails from Kingston, Jamaica. Politics Romania: Government to grant asylum to Polish civilian refugees. Military… learn more