The start of the Second World War: Germany invades Poland

Sept. 1, 1939 Poland

On the morning of 1 September 1939, Hitler's voice was heard on the radio. He claimed that Germany had been attacked by Poland and that they had ‘started to fire back at 5:45 am’. However, his story about the Polish attack was a lie. German soldiers, dressed as Poles, had attacked a radio station in the border town of Gleiwitz and spread false information. It gave Hitler an excuse to attack Poland.

The German army used a lot of violence. The Air Force in particular caused a lot of damage. Heavy bombings reduced the Polish capital Warsaw to ruins. Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed. England and France had promised to help Poland in the event of a German attack, and so they declared war on Germany. The Second World War had begun.

Hitler had attacked Poland because he wanted Germans to live there. He considered the Polish people inferior and only fit as a work force. In the last three months of 1939, the Nazis murdered 65,000 Jewish and non-Jewish Poles.

While Poland was defending itself against Germany in the west, on 17 September, the Soviet Union attacked the country from the east. This two-pronged attack was too much for Poland. On 6 October 1939, its last troops surrendered.