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1939: Germany invades Poland

German forces have invaded Poland and its planes have bombed Polish cities, including the capital, Warsaw.

The attack comes without any warning or declaration of war.

Britain and France have mobilised their forces and are preparing to wage war on Germany for the second time this century.

Just before dawn today, German tanks, infantry and cavalry penetrated Polish territory on several fronts with five armies, a total of 1.5 million troops.


"My grandfather was killed on the train travelling to Warsaw when it was bombed by the German air force"


Soon afterwards German planes bombarded the cities. They have been making swift progress in penetrating Polish defences which are heavily outnumbered in artillery, infantry and air power.

The cities of Katowice, Krakow, Tczew and Tunel were attacked with incendiary bombs. Air raids on Warsaw began at 0900 local time.

Communications to Katowice have been broken but earlier reports said German planes were coming over in squadrons of 50, every half-hour, and there have been many casualties.

The German Army struck from Slovakia, East Prussia and from Pomerania into the Polish Corridor and the port Danzig, which has declared itself part of the Reich.

The 4th Army came in from East Prussia at Deutsch-Eylau supported by air raids on cities north of Warsaw. There is heavy fighting reported along the whole of the East Prussian border.

Poznan was attacked from the main body of the German Reich and border towns occupied.

The 8th and 10th armies are moving north-east from Silesia towards Warsaw; and the 14th Army struck from Slovakia towards Krakow.

Warning sent to Germany

The Times newspaper reports that when the air raid sirens in the capital first sounded at 0600 inhabitants reacted calmly and some even ran out onto the streets to look up at the sky and had be driven back inside by air raid wardens.

The unprovoked attack follows yesterday's report on German radio that the border town of Gliwice had been raided by a group of Polish soldiers, who had all been shot dead.

German radio broadcast a list of "demands" never submitted to the Polish Government.

The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, held a meeting with King George today in Downing Street.

Later this evening Mr Chamberlain told a packed House of Commons that British and French Ambassadors in Berlin had given German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop an ultimatum.

He was to tell Berlin that unless the Nazis withdraw, Britain and France would fulfil its promise of support to Poland.

Von Ribbentrop said he would refer the message to Adolf Hitler.

US President Roosevelt of the United States has sent an appeal to the governments of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Poland urging them to announce publicly their determination not to launch air attacks on civilians.

In reply the British and French governments say they intend to confine their bombing to military objectives, so long as their opponents do the same.

In Context
Britain and France were forced to declare war after Germany ignored their separate ultimatums, delivered on 3 September 1939, demanding the withdrawal of German troops from Poland.

In the mid-1930s, Britain's response to the acceleration of Germany's rearmament and the threat of war was to appease rather than confront Hitler and his generals.

By late 1938, Hitler was making speeches that furiously proclaimed Germany's right to annex the Sudetenland, a Czechoslovak territory with a significant German population.

Chamberlain flew to Germany to calm the situation, eventually signing the Munich Agreement with Hitler, giving control of the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany.

With the invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Britain was no longer acquiescent and Chamberlain warned that any further attacks would meet resistance. It took the defeat of Poland six months later to induce the British and French governments to declare war.


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