September 7, 2018




Saar Offensive marked the start of the Phoney War:  In accordance with the Franco-Polish military alliance (dated 1921), the French military came to the assistance of Poland since Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The French deployed numerous artillery, armored and mechanised divisions along Germany's western front, which was under-defended at the time. French forces enjoyed a military numerical advantage, albeit temporarily. French troops were able to capture about a dozen German towns virtually unopposed (including Gersheim, Medelsheim, Ihn, Niedergailbach, and Bliesmengen) By September 9, the French captured the Warndt Forest, but they stopped just short of the Siegfried Line, when they encountered an area of the Forest that was heavily mined by the Germans. Though French troops occupied German territory along all of the Rhine-Moselle front, French General Gamelin, on September 21, ordered all French troops to return to their initial positions along the Maginot Line. The decision was unusual - Henri Giraud, among other French generals criticized the move as a wasted opportunity. In any event, French efforts at "assisting" Polish forces was vastly insufficient. This was the beginning of the Phoney War.

Nazi German Reinhard Heydrich stated that all Polish nobles, clergy and Jews were to be killed.  Heydrich quickly rose the ranks of the Nazi Party and became one the highest ranking officers. He was among the main proponents for the Final Solution and chaired the 1942 Wannsee Conference, which deliberated on their objective of deportation and extermination of of all Jews in German-occupied Europe.  The Nazis murdered 6 million Poles (Jews as well as Christians) and several millions more of European Jewry, and other nationalities. He assisted in organizing Kristallnacht, which consisted of a nation-wide systematic attack on German Jews, and the suppression of all opposition to the Nazi regime.  Hitler had described Heydrich as the "man with iron heart".  (In May 1942 Czech resistance fighters ambushed Heydrich and attempted to assassinate him. He survived but died of his wounds a week later).

Polish Fighters at Westerplatte Surrendered:  At 4:30am on September 7, 1939 the Germans launched a barrage of fire power on Westerplatte that lasted for more than two hours, destroying Guardhouse 2 with flamethrowers, damaging 1 and 4.  After seven days of fierce fighting, the besieged Polish garrison could not hold out any longer,  Lacking sufficient water, and medical supplies,  Captain Mieczyslaw Slaby, WST medical officer could not tend to the wounded soldiers and surrender was the only option. At 9:45am the white flag appeared. Polish Commander Sucharski surrendered his troops and was arrested by the Germans. At the same time, the Germans arrested Kazimerz Rasinski, the wireless operator, and interrogated him, brutally torturing him. He was executed when he refused to hand over the Polish radio codes. The Polish forces numbered only 209 soldiers, yet they managed to hold off 3,400 German soldiers and policemen,  the Battleship Schleswig-Holstein,  2 torpedo boats and 60 German bombers. The Battle of Westerplatte lasted for seven days.

Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły relocated the Polish Army headquarters from Warsaw to Brest-Litovsk.  When Warsaw came under attack, Marshal Rydz-Smigly evacuated from the capital city, along with much of the Polish government.  Consequently,  efforts at coordinating and commanding troops became more difficult due to the communication problems.  Relocated in Brest the Marshal ordered that Warsaw be defended at all costs, and awaited the counterattack promised by Britain and France. Unfortunately, it was not known at the time that the Western Allies had no intention of extending the promised military assistance. Poland would be betrayed.

Nazi German Plan for the Destruction of the Polish people.  The following is a brief excerpt from the minutes of the first conference of Nazi police officers and commanders led by Nazi German Werner Best (Heydrich's deputy). ".....No government protectorate is anticipated for Poland, but a complete German administration. (...) Leadership layer of the population in Poland should be as far as possible, disposed of. The other lower layers of the population will receive no special schools, but are to be oppressed in some form......" Berlin. September 7, 1939


The Blitz.   The Nazis launched a series of massive air attacks, code-named Operation London, which targeted the city of London and its port.  A total of 348 bombers and 617 fighters of the German Luftwaffe  took part in the attack which damaged about 107,000 gross tons of shipping in the Thames, with heavy civilian casualties killed and injured. Operation Sea Snake was also launched targeting London and other industrial cities.  For the next 57 nights, the Luftwaffe systematically bombed London.  Daylight fighting was very intense resulting in the loss of German warplanes among which were 41 aircraft, 14 bombers, 16 Messerschmitt Bf 109s, 7 Messerschmitt Bf 110s and 4 reconnaissance planes. The RAF lost 23 fighters, with six pilots killed and another seven wounded. Though the Luftwaffe attempted to gain air superiority, they were ultimately defeated.  The Battle of Britain lasted for eight months and five days, and ended with a decisive Allied Victory on Oct 31, 1940.  Much of the credit for the victory was due to the participation of Polish fighter squadrons, in particular the 303 Polish "Kosciuszko" Squadron, which scored the highest kill rate of any RAF allied squadron. These Polish aces were wildly celebrated and praised as heroes, by the British people.


Gross Aktion Warsaw:  In a period of two days, Nazis slaughtered more than 1,000 Jews in the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto. By September 21st, 48,000 Warsaw Jews were deported to the extermination camps, and the final transport, consisting of 2,196 people, many of them families, were deported to Treblinka. Many of the remaining Jews organized a resistance in April 1943 (Warsaw Ghetto Uprising) and were assisted by members of the Polish underground.


Franz Bürkl, an SS-Oberscharführer, Gestapo officer and commandant of Pawiak  was assassinated in a plot called Operation Heads (Glowki). It  was the code name used by the Polish Resistance to conduct a series of assassinations of Nazi German officers.  Those targeted for assassination had been sentenced to death by the Special Courts of the Polish Underground for crimes against Polish citizens during the World War II occupation of Poland. The name of the operation, "Operation Heads" was a sarcastic reference to the Totenkopf (Gr. 'skull') 'Death's Head' symbol of SS Nazi German uniforms and headgear. 


Polish Break Off Negotiations:   Since the Warsaw Uprising broke out on August 1, 1944, it became clear to the Germans (and the Poles) that the Soviet army was unlikely to intervene.  The Poles were greatly outnumbered in troops and equipment, and had suffered enormous casualties. On September 7, 1944 German General Rohr made a proposition for negotiations which was accepted by Polish General Tadeusz "Bor" Komorowski.  From September 8 to September 9, about 20,000 Polish civilians were evacuated, as was agreed by both sides.   Rohr promised to recognize the right of the Polish insurgents to be treated as military combatants, as per the Geneva Convention.  But on September 11th, the Poles stopped negotiations when they received news that the Soviets were advancing through the Praga district, albeit slowly. Several days later, with the arrival of the 1st Polish Army, the Uprising regained its momentum, and the Poles broke off negotiations completely.

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