“First to Fight.”
That phrase from a British propaganda poster sums up a lot about Poland’s WWII history. Well, at least the beginning.
Cool thing about the Polish, especially at this time in history: really super patriotic. You can hardly blame them, though, because Poland wasn’t even a country until the end of WWI; it was a bunch of lands that had been split up by the countries around it (Prussia, Austria, and Russia) about 1795 like chocolate pudding pie at a family gathering. For centuries, all that kept the Polish heritage alive was zealous Poles who resisted being Russified or Germanized by their rulers.
Anyway, after WWI, the Poles had to fight a lot just to keep their borders, and they did so well they even expanded them.
Come 1939, tensions had been brewing between Nazi Germany and Poland for some time.
Back up a second; you all probably know that Germany attacked Poland, and that is was for a totally fake reason. But what was the reason?
There was this place called the Free City of Danzig (which was independent, btw), now called Gdańsk today. Now, Danzig was super important to Poland, because according to WWI treaties and stuff, Danzig was where Poland got a harbor. This was because President Wilson had promised Poland, along with its freedom and independence, free access to the sea.
Now, the thing about Danzig was that the population was mostly German, with some Poles also living there. The Nazi party had its influences there, and soon they were in charge.
Nazi Germany was soon pushing for Danzig to rejoin Germany, and the Germans in Danzig were like ‘yeah man, totally.’
But Poland was like ‘Hell no!’ except a bit more diplomatically than that. Access to the sea meant access to countries outside the countries that surrounded Poland. So, super important, especially in that time because using planes to transport goods just wasn’t a thing in Poland.
However, Danzig was not the main focus of Hitler’s; while it may have been a focus for the Poles, Hitler’s aims were far beyond that. Quote from Hitler: It is not Danzig that is at stake. For us it is a matter of expanding our Lebensraum in the east.
(We’re cool on what lebensraum means, right? Lebensraum = land for German people to live in and be super exclusive)
This is where the Gleiwitz Attack comes in. The Germans needed a good reason to go to war with Poland, so a bunch of Nazis pretending to be Poles took over a German radio station. Quite literally, the morning after Nazi Germany attacked Poland on the 1st of September. They attacked Danzig first, and ended up annexing it.
And that is when WWII started.
More to come.