Blitzkrieg in Poland
September 1, 1939
“The idea that the Nazis were ever in position to win a quick war had its roots in a supposedly overwhelming superiority in air-fighting equipment.”
– ‘Lightning’ War, editorial in The Times-Picayune on September 3, 1939
For seven of our survivors in Poland, life changed forever on September 1, 1939. With a means of warfare known as Blitzkrieg, or Lightning War, the German armed forces, which had sharpened its tools during the Spanish Civil War, quickly overwhelmed the Polish army. Bravery, of which there was plenty, was no match for the Luftwaffe.
The Times-Picayune provided detailed coverage of the war in Poland, starting on September 1, 1939:
The Times-Picayune, September 1, 1939 – HITLER ORDERS ARMY TO MEET FORCE WITH FORCE, (AP) p. 1 (entire front page)
Felicia Fuksman, born in Lodz, Poland, recounts her experience on the first day of the war, when a bomb landed across the street from her grandmother’s home:
On September 17, 1939, as the Polish forces reeled before the German onslaught, the Red Army rolled across the undefended Polish border and quickly occupied the eastern half of the country. Hitler and Stalin, pronounced enemies with a lot in common, had put aside their differences when it came to the butchery of independent Poland. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed by the Russian and German foreign ministers on August 23, 1939, included a secret protocol that laid the ground for the division of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.
September 17, 1939 – Russians attack Poland
– German Air Raiders Cause Heavy Damage in Attacks on Poland, p. 1 (photographs)
The September 18th issue of The Times-Picayune led with articles on the Soviet invasion, including Molotov’s justification:
The Times-Picayune, September 19, 1939 – BRITAIN TO SPEED WAR, GATHERS FORCES TO CHASE HITLER OUT OF EUROPE, Poles Start Escaping on Borders as Reds Shove 170 Miles Forward; Big English Carrier Sunk, (AP) p. 1 (entire page)
The headline of the September 19th issue of the Picayune was grossly misleading. Great Britain had no intention of attacking Germany in September 1939, despite its assurances to the Poles before September 1st:
September 21, 1939 – Heydrich issues memorandum detailing plans for “the final solution.”
On September 21th, as the Polish campaign drew to a close, the SS general Heydrich issued a memorandum outlining plans for the “final solution of the Jewish question.” The Jews would first be concentrated in ghettos “for a better possibility of control, and later possibility of deportation.” He made it clear that short-term measures would lead “to the fulfillment of the ultimate goal.”
Shep Zitler, a soldier in the Polish army, was surrounded by the Germans east of Warsaw. His unit was forced to surrender.
September 27, 1939 – Warsaw surrenders. Independent Poland is wiped from the map, divided between the totalitarian powers.
Following the German troops in Poland were mobilized units of SS killers, the Einsatzgruppen. The first target of Nazi annihilation was the Polish leadership. This group was deemed most likely to organize underground resistance. They were murdered at killing sites across occupied Poland, the forest at Palmiry near Warsaw being one such place. The victims included doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, professors, policemen, army officers, priests, and boy scouts. The Poles would be treated as slaves. Himmler remarked it would be enough if they learned enough German to count 1 to 10. In the eastern half of Poland, the Russians pursued a very similar strategy. They sought t0 decapitate the Poles by mass murder and mass deportation. If not for the annhilation of the Jews, the suffering of the Poles would be without parallel.
Siggy Boraks, in Wielun, Poland, was 14 years old (barely) when the German occupation began. He had no idea the conquers from civilized Germany would turn out to be mass murderers.