From the Monitor archives: Germany invades Poland in 1939, WWII begins

The German invasion of Poland, launched 75 years ago today, started World War II. The Christian Science Monitor reported as it happened.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Soldiers of the Polish Navy take part in a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, at the World War II Westerplatte Memorial in Gdansk, Poland, on September 1, 2014.
The Christian Science Monitor, ProQuest
Page 1 of the Sept. 1, 1939, edition of the Monitor.
The Christian Science Monitor, ProQuest
A map of the German invasion of northern Poland, which originally appeared on page 3 of the Sept. 1, 1939, edition of the Monitor.

This article originally ran in The Christian Science Monitor on Sept. 1, 1939. The German invasion of Poland, 75 years ago today, is generally considered the start of World War II. Both France and Britain declared war two days later. The Soviet Union, having signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany, launched its own invasion of Poland on Sept. 17, effectively divvying Polish territory between Hitler and Stalin.

Please note that the article uses several outdated spellings and names for cities and regions. Modern names and spellings have been inserted in brackets where applicable.

British in Last Warning to Hitler; Warsaw bombed, Poland Is Invaded; Duce Neutral; U.S. Hopes to Keep Out

Hitler decrees Danzig a part of Reich and in 16 points demands vote on Corridor ‘ownership’—Appoints line of succession; Göring and Hess next.

Britain today issued a last warning to Germany and France was reported preparing an ultimatum – both de­manding an immediate halt in German military action against Poland.

This in response to Poland’s plea for aid, brought the great powers to the verge of final action as Reich troops thrust across the Polish borders and Warsaw and other Polish cities felt the impact of German bombing.

The British Parliament appropriated £500,000,000 to carry on a war as yet undeclared. The Government took control of British railways.

Prime Minister Chamberlain placed the responsibility on the shoulders of Adolf Hitler in a vigorous address to Parliament.

But Italy – momentarily at least – remained neutral. A Cabinet meeting in Rome announced the Italians would refrain from starting military operations.

Hitler Praises Soviet Russia

Italy’s action was interpreted as a sequel to Reichsfuhrer Hitler’s Reichstag address in which he complimented Italy but said Germany needed no outside aid. Hitler paid high tribute to Soviet Russia, where the Russo-German non­aggression pact was formally ratified by the Soviet parlia­ment.

Danzig [Gdansk, Poland] was decreed a part of the German Reich. The ac­tion was taken almost simultaneously with a 16-point de­mand by Hitler including immediate cession of the Free City and a "plebiscite” in the Polish Corridor.

Blockade of Gdynia Reported

Reports from the various agencies in Warsaw agree that German troops have advanced on to Polish soil at each side of the Corridor, also at a point between the Vistula and Deutsch Eylau [Iława, Poland] in East Prussia southeast of the Corridor and northward through Zakopane, in Slovakia [now Poland].

A quick movement to pinch off the Corridor and relieve Danzig.

Apart from troop movements, the German Navy is stated to be blockading Poland’s great port of Gdynia, while bombing raids from the air are reported to have been carried out by the Germans at Warsaw, Katowitz [Katowice], Grodno [now Hrodna, Belarus], Cracow, and other points.

President Roosevelt, at press conference today, expressed the belief that the United States could stay out of the Euro­pean conflict and he added "every effort will be made by the Administration so to do."

Awaiting the next turn of events in Europe, President Roosevelt today reserved his decision on whether to invoke the Neutrality Act or call Congress in session.

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