German forces entering Warsaw in September 1939 during Invasion of Poland
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded neighboring Poland in what is considered the opening conflict of World War II.
In the year and a half leading up to the invasion, Adolf Hitler had been expanding Germany’s territory. On August 23, 1939, Germany signed a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union that had a secret clause splitting Poland between them. Hitler planned to invade Poland on August 26, but an agreement signed between Britain and Poland on August 25 caused him to postpone it nearly a week.
Finally, following a series of German-orchestrated false-flag attacks, Germany began its invasion of Poland in the early hours of September 1. Using blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) methods, Germany quickly gained ground in Poland.
In response to the attack on Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, but the countries provided Poland with little meaningful military support.
On September 17, the Soviets began their own invasion of Poland from the east, as previously agreed upon with Germany. The Polish government and military leaders fled the country, as did numerous troops and civilians.
Aftermath & Effects
The invasion ended on October 6, when the last operational Polish troops surrendered. In addition to Polish military casualties, hundreds of thousands of civilians were also killed during the invasion, with many more killed during the subsequent German and Soviet occupation. The success of the invasion also left the country’s Jews vulnerable to Germany’s extermination campaign, in which millions of Polish Jews would be killed.
Beginning of World War II
The invasion of Poland is considered the beginning of World War II, since it caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany. However, no serious conflict between those nations would occur until the spring of 1940, when Germany began its invasion of Norway, the Low Countries, and France.
Learn more about the 1939 Invasion of Poland through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about the 1939 Invasion of Poland
News that Germany and Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) Tue, Aug 22, 1939 – 1 · Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) · Newspapers.comBritish correspondent sends news from Berlin after signing of pact between Germany and Russia Fri, Aug 25, 1939 – 11 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comNewspaper front page headlines about Britain and Poland signing a mutual assistance pact Fri, Aug 25, 1939 – Page 1 · The Evening Times (Sayre, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comGerman news report of the Gleiwitz incident, a false flag attack the day before the invasion Fri, Sep 1, 1939 – 9 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comUnited States newspaper front page with news of Germany's invasion of Poland Fri, Sep 1, 1939 – Page 1 · The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, California) · Newspapers.comCanadian newspaper coverage of the first day of Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 Fri, Sep 1, 1939 – Page 1 · The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) · Newspapers.comAustralian newspaper coverage of first day of German invasion of Poland in 1939 Sat, Sep 2, 1939 – Page 27 · The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) · Newspapers.comGreat Britain and France give ultimatum to Germany following the invasion of Poland Sat, Sep 2, 1939 – 9 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comBritain declares war on Germany; France will soon follow Sun, Sep 3, 1939 – Page 1 · The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) · Newspapers.comPresident Franklin Roosevelt "Pledges U.S. Neutrality During War" after Germany invades Poland Sun, Sep 3, 1939 – 1 · Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.comBritish headlines about Germany's invasion of Poland and state of war with Britain and France Mon, Sep 4, 1939 – 7 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comBritish editorial about the invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II Mon, Sep 4, 1939 – 6 · The Guardian (London, Greater London, England) · Newspapers.comAnalysis of Poland's ability to fight Germany: "Men, Mud, Mountains Poland's Hope in War" Mon, Sep 4, 1939 – 22 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.comCivilian snipers are called the "greatest single difficulty met by the German army" in Poland Wed, Sep 6, 1939 – 1 · The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comPolish Jews attempt to flee not only the German army but also anti-Semitic policies Wed, Sep 13, 1939 – 8 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.comImages showing "civilian sufferings" in Poland during German invasion Sat, Sep 16, 1939 – 5 · Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comNewspaper article reports that German bombing of Polish city killed civilians Sat, Sep 16, 1939 – 1 · Times Colonist (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) · Newspapers.comPhotograph of Adolf Hitler reviewing German troops during invasion of Poland Sun, Sep 17, 1939 – 1 · The Miami News (Miami, Florida) · Newspapers.comJapan and Soviet Union agree to an armistice prior to Soviet invasion of Poland Sat, Sep 16, 1939 – 1 · Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) · Newspapers.comSoviet Union invades Poland from the east on September 17, 1939 Sun, Sep 17, 1939 – 1 · The Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.comPoland's government and portion of its army flee to Rumania (Romania) Sat, Sep 16, 1939 – 1 · Pottsville Republican (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comMap of Soviet-German invasion of Poland published September 18, 1939 Mon, Sep 18, 1939 – Page 2 · St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Newspapers.comBattle of the Bzura: "Nazis Report 50,000 More Poles Taken at Bzura, West of Warsaw" Tue, Sep 19, 1939 – 1 · Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, Oregon) · Newspapers.comNewspaper article reports Germany and Soviet Union reach agreement on the partitioning of Poland Wed, Sep 20, 1939 – 1 · The Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) · Newspapers.comArticle reports that Polish refugees feel Britain, France, and their own government let them down Wed, Sep 20, 1939 – 4 · The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) · Newspapers.comLast of Polish army surrenders on October 6, 1939, ending the invasion Fri, Oct 6, 1939 – Page 26 · Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) · Newspapers.com