Polish September Campaign

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Seneca
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The Polish September Campaign was the campaign that began the Second World War.

  • "...in general the bravery and heroism of the Polish Army merits great respect" - Generalfeldmarschall w:Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of Army Group South
  • extracts from Hitler speech to Reichstag which have been translated from the original German: "For months we have been suffering under the torture of a problem which the Versailles 'Diktat' created. A problem which has deteriorated until it has become intolerable for us.

Danzig was and is a German city . The [Polish] Corridor was and is German. Danzig was separated from us. The corridor was annexed by Poland. As in other German territories [outside Germany] the east German minorities have been ill-treated in the most distressing manner... I attempted to bring about, by making proposals for revisions, an alteration in this intolerable position.

It is a lie when the outside world says that we only tried to carry our revisions through by pressure. I have, not once but several times, made proposals for the revision of intolerable conditions.

All these proposals have been rejected... In the same way I have also tried to solve the problem of Danzig, the Corridor etc... by proposing peaceful discussion... I then formulated at last the German proposals, and I must repeat that there is nothing more modest and loyal than these proposals.

These answers have been refused. Not only were they answered first with mobilisation, but with increased terror against our German compatriots and with a slow strangling of the Free City of Danzig - economically, politically, and in recent weeks by military and transport means.

I made one more final effort to accept a proposal for mediation on the part of the British Government. They proposed, not that they themselves should carry on the negotiations, but rather that Poland and Germany should come into direct contact and once more pursue negotiations.

I accepted this proposal and worked out a basis for those negotiations which are known to you. For two whole days I sat with my government and waited to see if it was convenient for the Polish Government to send a plenipotentiary or not. Last night they did not send us a plenipotentiary, but instead informed us through their ambassador that they were still considering whether and to what extent they were in a position to go into the British proposals...

If the German Government and its leader patiently endured such treatment Germany would deserve only to disappear from the political stage. I therefore, decided late last night, and informed the British Government that, in these circumstances I can no longer find any willingness on the part of the Polish Government to conduct serious negotiations with us...

When statesmen in the West declare that this affects their interests, I can only regret such a declaration. We ask nothing of these Western states and will never ask anything. I have declared that the frontier between France and Germany is a final one. I have repeatedly offered friendship and the closest co-operation to Britain, but this cannot be offered from one side only...

I will not make war against women and children. I have ordered my airforce to restrict itself to attacks on military objectives. If, however, the enemy thinks he can from that draw 'carte blanche' on his side to fight by other methods he will receive an answer that will deprive him of hearing and sight." Source

  • Later that morning the German High Command issued the order: "Soldiers of the German Army - after all other means have failed - weapons must decide." Source as above.
  • British newspaper headlines from the begining of September
  • Neville Chamberlain speech on 1100 on 3 September: "I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street.

This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that, unless we hear from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done and that would have been more successful.

Up to the very last it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland, but Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland, whatever happened, and although he now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement.

The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us, and though they were announced in a German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier the next morning.

His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.

We and France are today, in fulfilment of our obligations, going to the aid of Poland, who is so bravely resisting this wicked and unprovoked attack upon her people. We have a clear conscience - we have done all that any country could do to establish peace.

The situation in which no word given by Germany's ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel itself safe, has become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it I know that you will play your part with calmness and courage.

At such a moment as this the assurances of support which we have received from the empire are a source of profound encouragement to us.

When I have finished speaking, certain detailed announcements will be made on behalf of the government. Give these your closest attention. The government have made plans under which it will be possible to carry on work of the nation in the days of stress and strain that may be ahead...

Now may God bless you all. May He defend the right. For it is evil things that we shall be fighting against - brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution - and against them I am certain that right will prevail." Source

  • After the declaration of war, King George VI made a broadcast from Buckingham Palace entreating his subjects in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth: "In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken as I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.

For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict. For we are called, with our allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilised order in the world.

It is the principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the sovereignty and independence of other states.

Such a principle, stripped of all its disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right; and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole of the British Commonwealth of Nations would be in danger. But far more than this - the peoples of the world would be kept in the bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of security of justice and liberty among nations would be ended.

This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge.

It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas, who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with God's help, we shall prevail. May He bless us and keep us all." Source

  • President Roosevelt proclaims neutrality on 3rd September 1939: "My countrymen and my friends, tonight my single duty is to speak to the whole of America. Until 4.30 o'clock this morning I had hoped against hope that some miracle would prevent a devastating war in Europe and bring to an end the invasion of Poland by Germany.

For four long years a succession of actual war and constant crises have shaken the entire world and threatened in each case to bring on the gigantic conflict which is today unhappily a fact.

It is right that I should recall to your minds the consistent and at times successful efforts of your government in these crises to the throw the full weight of the United States Government into the cause of peace...

It is right to point out that the unfortunate events of recent years have, without question, been based on the use of force or the threat of force.

And it seems to me clear, even at the outbreak of this great war, that the influence of America should be consistent in seeking for humanity a final peace that will eliminate as far as it is possible to do so the continued use of force between nations...

You the people of this country are receiving news through your radios and your newspapers at every hour of the day. You are I believe the most enlightened and the best informed people in all the world at this moment. You are subjected to no censorship of news and I want to add that your government has no information which it withholds or which it has any thought of withholding from you.

You must master at the outset a simple but unalterable fact... When peace has been broken anywhere the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger. It is easy for you and for me to shrug our shoulders and say that conflicts taking place thousands of miles from the continent of the US and indeed thousands of miles from the whole American hemisphere do not seriously affect the Americas and that all the United States had to do is ignore them and go about its own business.

Passionately though we may desire detachment we are forced to realise that every word that come through the air, every ship that sails the sea, every battle that is fought, does affect the American future.

Let no man or woman thoughtlessly or falsely talk of America sending its armies to European fields. At this moment there is being prepared a proclamation of American neutrality...

This nation will remain a neutral nation. But I cannot ask that every American remain neutral in thought as well.

Even a neutral has a right to take account of facts. Even a neutral cannot be asked to close his mind or close his conscience. I have said not once, but many times that I have seen war and that I hate war.

I say that again and again. I hope the US will keep out of this war. I believe that it will and I give you assurance and reassurance that every effort of your government will be directed toward that end.

As long as it remains within my power to prevent there will be no blackout of peace in the United States." Source

  • Goering upon hearing that Britain declared war on Germany: "If we lose this war, then God have mercy on us!' Source