Early in the morning hours of today’s date, September 1 in 1939, seventy four years ago, World War II begun. It (above, German troops destroy a Polish boarder crossing) started as a result of the invasion of Poland by German troops which commenced at 4:45 a.m. when 56 German divisions smashed across the Polish boarder and began rumbling towards Bialystok, Cracow, and Warsaw, the polish capital city. 1500 planes of the Luftwaffe (the German Air force) began diving down upon the Polish cities in this first taste of “Blitzkrieg” (“Lightening War”) which was to characterize so much of this conflict. The reasons which Germany gave in public were Polish attacks upon German civilians living in Danzig, A German city separating Germany from a portion of its territory, East Prussia. But the real reason is that the German leader, Adolf Hitler – “Der Fuehrer” was determined to launch Germany on a war of conquest. By the time it was all over some six years later, the world had been gobbled up into World War II… the most destructive war in human history.
September 1, 1939: Hitler Bellows His Lies to the World
In this posting, I will try to let eyewitness accounts tell most of the story. William L. Shirer writes:
“Overhead German warplanes roared toward their targets, Polish …soldiers and civilians alike, the first taste of sudden death and destruction from the skies…. It was a gray, somewhat sultry morning in Berlin (the capital of Germany), with clouds hanging low over the city, giving it some protection from hostile bombers, which were feared but never came. The people in the streets, I noticed were apathetic despite the immensity of the news which had greeted them….” Then Hitler addressed the “Reichstag” (the
German parliament, above): “Having lied so often on his way to power… Hitler could not refrain at this serious moment in history from thundering a few more lies to the gullible German people in justification of his wanton act:
‘You know the endless attempts I have made at a peaceful clarification and understanding of the problem in Austria and later of the problem of he Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia. It was all in vain…. This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our own territory. Since 5:45 a.m., we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met with bombs!’
Thus was faked the German attack on the German radio station (which was) carried out by S.S. men in Polish uniforms and…used by the Chancellor of Germany as justification of his cold-blooded aggression against Poland.”
The World Watches as the Peace is Shattered
While in America the newspapers were filled with the darkest headlines. The New York Times, pictured below, trumpeted the news that day. In Cincinnati, the Enquirer blared:
“EUROPE HOSTILITIES ON” in banner headlines across the top of its Sept. 1 morning editions. “DANZIG TAKEN; POLAND BOMBED” While the Cincinnati Post said in its later evening edition: “NAZIS WAR ON POLAND“, and “FRANCE, ENGLAND READY” Which sadly for hapless Poland proved to be untrue. England and France did indeed declare war on Germany two days later. But the vacillating and appeasing government of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was unprepared to do anything to help the Poles on the ground. They were left to their own devices even as the Soviet Russians invaded their country from the east, thus snatching up the spoils of their corrupt bargain with the Nazis – their “Non-Aggression Pact” with Germany of a few months earlier. The Cincinnati Post opined with classic understatement : “As this is written the mad march to war is quickstepping over the hill to Armageddon.” The Enquirer had earlier reported: “Target Areas Free of Children as London Evacuates 500,000 to Country“
The Evacuation of British Children on Sept. 1, 1939
A reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England, Hilde Marchant (below) reported the following poignant scenes:
“It was not until Friday morning, September 1, that I really took the sharp, agonized breath of war. The office had told me to cover the evacuation of some of London’s schoolchildren. It was (at) a big Council school and the classrooms were filled with children, parcels, gas masks. The children were not going to school for lessons. They were going on a holiday. The children were excited and happy because their parents had told them they were going away to the country. On the gates of the school were two fat policemen. They were letting the children through but gently asking the parents not to come further. They might disturb the children. So mothers and fathers were saying goodbye, straightening the girl’s hair, getting the boys to blow their noses, and lightly and quickly kissing them. The parents stood outside while the children went to be registered in their classrooms. It was disturbing for through the high grille their mothers pressed their faces trying to see the one child that resembled them. Every now and then the policeman would call out a child’s name, and a mother who had forgotten a bar of chocolate or a toothbrush would have a last chance to tell a child to be good, to write and to straighten her hat.
“Labelled and lined up, the children began to move out of the school. On one side of Gray’s Inn Road this ragged crocodile moved towards the tube station. On the other, were the mothers who were who were waving and running along to see the last of their children. The police had asked them not to follow, but they could not resist.
“The children scrambled down into the tube.”
“World War II” by C.L. Sulzberger, American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc., New York, 1960
“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, 1960
The Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday Morning, Sept. 1, 1939, Vol. XCIX, No. 145
The Cincinnati Post, Friday, Sept. 1, 1939, Second Extra Afternoon Edition, Vol. 118 No. 54
“Eyewitness to History” Edited by John Carey, Avon Books, New York, 1987
Germans breaking Polish boarder crossing –http://www.germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image.cfm?image_id=2001
N.Y. Times Page 1 http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0901.html