The Polish Experience in World War II: Invasion, Occupation, and Resistance

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The Polish Problem

In the summer of 1939, Poland was unaware of the impending war.

German Invasion

August 31, 1939:

  • Provocation of Gleiwitz: Germany staged an attack on its own radio station to blame Poland.

September 1, 1939:

  • Germany invaded Poland without a declaration of war.
  • Schleswig-Holstein battle: German battleship attacked the port of Gdańsk.

Soviet Invasion

September 17, 1939:

  • Soviet Union invaded Poland under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Poland under German Occupation

  • Headquarters in Kraków: Nazis established the General Government.
  • Robbery of Art: Masterpieces were stolen.
  • Sonderaktion Krakau: Intellectual elites, including professors, were arrested.

Soviet Occupation

  • Katyn Massacre: Polish military elites were executed in the Katyn Forest.
  • Civilians were deported to Siberia.

Polish Participation in World War II

  • Government in Exile: Polish government fled to London.
  • Battle of Britain: Polish aviators fought in England.
  • Army of Gen. Anders: Polish prisoners in Siberia fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Polish Underground State

  • Structure:
    • Intellectual resistance: Secret education
    • Military resistance: Grey Ranks
    • Conspiracy: Attacks on German soldiers
    • British MI6 trained an elite intelligence force
  • Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: Jewish uprising in 1943, which was crushed.
  • Warsaw Uprising: City-wide uprising in 1944.

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