Click here to go to the holocaust learning centres page on the invasion of Poland. Film footage included.

External link: Film footage of the Invasion of Poland

(Scroll to foot of linked page for historical film archive)

Blitzkrieg in Poland

Following the annexation of Czechoslovakia, Hitler turned his attention to Poland. In March, 1939, he declared that the non aggression pact signed in 1934 was void and that the issue of ownership of Danzig had to be dealt with. Diplomatic activity heightened as the European powers attempted to prevent a German invasion of Poland. The French had a long standing agreement with the Poles, dating back to 1921. The British sought to discourage German aggression by pledging to use force to protect Poland in the case of an invasion. Both sides now turned to Stalin. Hitler won the race to ally with the Soviet Union. On 23rd August 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was agreed. Unknown to the bemused outside world, this agreement contained a clause that agreed to the partitioning of Poland between the two powers in the event of a war in Poland. That war would come but one week later.

On 1st September 1939, German forces invaded Poland. Blitzkrieg was now put into practice.

German forces attacked on a number of fronts. The map below illustrates these assaults. Black arrows indicate primary assaults, red arrows indicate a secondary assault. The arrows to the right hand side of the map, coming from the East into Poland, signify the Soviet advance into Poland that followed the German invasion.

Map illustrating the German invasion routes in Poland, 1939.

How successful was Blitzkrieg in Poland?

  1. German ground forces had overwhelmed the initial lines of Polish defense within 2 days.
  2. Effective military opposition to the German invasion ended on October 6th, 1939.
  3. Danzig fell on 7th september, after one week of bombardment.
  4. Warsaw capitulated on September 28th.
  5. 65,000 Polish troops were killed in the invasion. Hundreds of thousands were captured or wounded.

Casualties:

  Estimates (German forces) Estimates (Polish forces) Estimates (Soviet)
Killed 8082 to 10572 66300 737
Wounded 27,278 to 30322 133700 1859
Missing 3404 to 5029    
Prisoner 0 420000  
Civilian deaths   26000  
Tanks 89  

42 destroyed, approximately 400 broke down.

Armed vehicles 993 to 1000    
Naval Losses 2 destroyers, 2 minelayers    
Planes lost 107 327 out of their 435 30

Statistics here are based on figures noted in the sites listed in the links section and in a range of textbooks.

Note: some of these sources contradict each other so the figures quoted above should only be taken as a rough indication of losses.

Links

http://ww2.boom.ru/Poland/defence.html - this page offers a detailed account of the Polish defense in 1939. It highlights problems faced by both sides and notes areas in which the polish forces achieved some success.

http://www.achtungpanzer.com/polcamp.htm - statistics relating to Operation Fall Weiss and a detailed account of the battle for Poland.

http://www.polandsholocaust.org/1939.html - a timeline of the events in Poland in 1939.

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