|Full Name||14 Republic of Poland|
|Alliance||Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession|
|Entry into WW2||1 Sep 1939|
|Population in 1939||34,775,000|
|Military Deaths in WW2||400,000|
|Civilian Deaths in WW2||5,200,000|
|- Civ Deaths from Holocaust||3,000,000|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseOn 11 Nov 1918, at the end of WW1, Poland returned to the map of Europe for the first time for 123 years. J├│zef Pilsudski, who ruled Poland from 1918 until his death in 1935, quickly established rather effective legal, transportation, administrative, and military systems under a dictatorial regime.
ww2dbaseEconomically, Poland had a relatively prosperous 1920s, but the global depression of the 1930s hit the country rather hard, especially considering the rapid population growth. The conservative government spending habits did little to increase the monetary supply in the Polish economy, though the Polish government did develop very advanced socialist programs.
ww2dbaseDuring the inter-war years, Poland's greatest achievement was in the realm of foreign policy. Pilsudski laid out a careful circle of friends in the diplomatic arena, first allying with France to restrain Germany from the thought of invasion from the west, then allied with neighboring Hungary and Romania to discourage aggression from the Soviet Union in the east. In 1932, Poland signed a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union that calmed relations and reduced the incidents on the eastern border. In 1934, a similar treaty was signed with Germany to reduce tension and to normalize trade. On the surface, this seemed to have eased German's frustration with East Prussia having been separated from Germany Proper after the creation of Poland.
ww2dbaseMilitarily, the Polish Navy was small but strong enough to counter a modest attack from the Baltic Sea, the Polish Air Force was highly advanced with the world's only all-metal air fleet, and the Polish Army was unified and enjoyed high prestige. However, as the 1930s went on, politicians who controlled the armed forces, despite top leadership's military origins, did not effectively manage the build-up to its maximum potential during peace time, and the Polish military fell behind its neighboring counterparts as quickly as it had grown.
ww2dbaseTo bolster diplomatic and military efforts, the Polish dedicated many resources to the field of intelligence. As early as the early 1930s, Polish mathematicians from the University of Poznan cracked German and Soviet military codes, therefore the Polish military was able to monitor military deployments of the two neighboring powers.
ww2dbaseAs Europe moved toward war, Czechoslovakia and Poland drew closer in the face of the potential common enemy, Germany. The two countries negotiated toward an alliance where Poland would gain partial ownership of the Skoda weapons plants for the promise that Poland would come to the aid of Czechoslovakia should a German invasion take place. When Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, however, Poland turned on its ally and took part in the partition of the country, capturing a small piece of eastern Czechoslovakia (the territory of Treschen and the nearby Bohumin rail junction) in Mar 1939. Although Germany and Poland had been debating over the Danzig issue, Poland did not realize Germany would soon turn on Poland until it was too late.
ww2dbaseOn 1 Sep 1939, after a series of purposefully-made unacceptable ultimatums, German troops poured across the Polish border after staging a bogus border incident. The Polish forces fought back fiercely, outperforming the German Army in the few occasions where the two forces were evenly matched. The more modernized and mobile German military, with ample air support, made those situations rare, however, by simply out-maneuvering the Polish forces. On 5 Sep, Poland moved its military headquarters to southeastern Poland, with the intention of allowing its top generals to continue the fight while northern Poland was being overrun. This prolonged the war gave allied France and the United Kingdom more time to launch a counterattack against Germany (which would never happen), but it also created much confusion between the political and military leaders, making the defense effort uncoordinated. The prospect of French and British intervention and the Polish military's ability to inflict high casualties against the oncoming Germans gave Poland some hope, but the optimism took a decisive hit when the Soviet Union invaded from the east on 17 Sep 1939. Poland surrendered on 28 Sep, and coordinated military resistance ceased by the first week of Oct.
ww2dbaseAfter the conquest, Eastern Poland was occupied by Soviet forces. Western Poland was annexed by Germany. Central Poland was governed by a German military government. Economically, the occupation forces looted Poland, with the Germans taking large portions of the produce without regard to the starvation of the people, while the Soviets uprooted Polish industries and relocated them to the east. Politically, the Soviets planted intrigue and fostered violence between Jews and ethnic Ukrainians, while the Germans did the same between Christians and Jews. Both sides created slave labor from the population, while leaving the conquered and dismembered country to suffer starvation and disease.
ww2dbaseIn Jun 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and eastern Poland became one of the first battlefields. As the Soviet occupiers fled east, the German Einsatzgruppen units moved in immediately after them. Polish towns and villages that had survived the Soviet NVKD now faced German mobile killing squads. These squads systematically rounded up Jews, potential political opponents, and even innocent civilians for detention or massacre. Throughout the WW2 period, German mass killings, particularly against Jews, increased in efficiency and ruthlessness. The most infamous was the use of gas chambers, which began at the Auschwitz Concentration camp in occupied Poland on 3 Sep 1941. Within months, entire trains were dedicated to bringing Jews and other unwanted peoples for extermination.
ww2dbaseMany groups of armed Polish resistance existed during the war. The group that posed the greatest threat to the German and Soviet occupiers was the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). The AK, which absorbed smaller resistance groups, was more so a secret underground government than a mere guerrilla force. In addition to having a military chain-of-command, it also maintained schools, industries, radio stations, and publishing services for the Polish people. The military wing of the AK initially opposed frequent confrontations with German forces in order to preserve strength, particularly with the brutal retribution attacks on civilians in mind. That restraint was lifted on 1 Aug 1944 as Soviet troops neared Warsaw. Although the Polish still held the Soviets, the AK thought the Soviet troops would, at least temporarily, ally themselves with the Polish resistance fighters for the common goal of removing German forces from Warsaw. When Warsaw would become liberated, AK leaders would then be able to claim legitimacy for being those who liberated the capital. Resistance fighters rose up as ordered against great odds, destroying German armored vehicles and killing many occupation soldiers. Adolf Hitler, furious, ordered the occupation force to systematically level entire sections of Warsaw until the city was nothing more than a pile of rubble. As the fighting continued and Polish resistance strength slowly waned, Soviet forces stood by. Furthermore, the Soviet Union even refused the Western Allies from using Soviet air bases to mount supply operations for the Polish resistance. As the Germans brutally quelled the uprising, Joseph Stalin's intentions were, belatedly, crystal clear. Tactically, the Soviets were letting the Germans to expend ammunition and lives. Strategically, Stalin, who had a puppet regime for post-war Poland already in mind, saw this as an opportunity to remove future political opposition.
During the occupation between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 5,200,000 civilians died as a direct result; that number alone was staggering without needing to stress the fact that it amounted to 15% of the 1939 population of Poland.
ww2dbaseThe liberation of Poland by the Soviet Union was a repeat of the 1939 conquest. The Soviets once again looted all they could from Poland, and the people starved. As the Western Allies turned a blind eye to the Soviet treatment of Poland, the AK fell apart without western support. Polish border was redrawn as Stalin pleased. Eastern Poland, conquered by the Soviets during the 1939 invasion, was annexed. To justify the territorial loss, the Allies granted Poland eastern portions of Germany. The border changes resulted in forced population relocations, which led to further human suffering. With a Moscow-backed puppet government in place in Warsaw, Poland remain independent in name only until the end of the Cold War.
John Radzilowski, A Traveller's History of Poland
William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Last Major Update: Jun 2007
|Events Taken Place in Poland|
|The Danzig Crisis||24 Oct 1938 - 29 Aug 1939|
|Operation Peking||29 Aug 1939 - 1 Sep 1939|
|Invasion of Poland||1 Sep 1939 - 6 Oct 1939|
|Gestapo-NKVD Conferences||27 Sep 1939 - 31 Mar 1940|
|Operation Barbarossa||22 Jun 1941 - 30 Sep 1941|
|Warsaw Ghetto Uprising||19 Apr 1943 - 16 May 1943|
|Erntefest Massacre||3 Nov 1943 - 4 Nov 1943|
|Operation Kutschera||1 Feb 1944|
|Operation Frantic||2 Jun 1944 - 22 Sep 1944|
|Operation Bagration||22 Jun 1944 - 29 Aug 1944|
|Discovery of Concentration Camps and the Holocaust||24 Jul 1944 - 29 Apr 1945|
|Warsaw Uprising||1 Aug 1944 - 2 Oct 1944|
|Vistula-Oder Offensive||12 Jan 1945 - 2 Feb 1945|
|Silesian Offensive and the Siege of Breslau||8 Feb 1945 - 6 May 1945|
|East Pomeranian Offensive||24 Feb 1945 - 4 Apr 1945|
|PZL.11||PZL.23 Karaś||PZL.24||PZL.37 Łoś||PZL.7|
|4TP||Samoch├│d pancerny wz.34|
|Blyskawica Submachine Gun||Vis Handgun|
|Karabin przeciwpancerny wz├│r 35 Anti-Tank Rifle|
|Auschwitz Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
|Belzec Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
|Chelmno Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
|Deutsche Werke Gotenhafen||Shipyard|
|Majdanek Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
|Sobib├│r Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
|Treblinka Concentration Camp||Prison Camp|
Poland in World War II Interactive Map
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Visitor Submitted Comments
2 Dec 2008 07:37:36 PM
On the first line of the article, there is an obvious grammatical error. Just letting you know.
1 Aug 2009 09:22:38 AM
Despite the few acceptable grammatical errors, I, an Irishman, wish to THANK YOU very much for doing an excellent job of condensing this crucial period of history.
I wouldn't mind Germany's obvious invasion, and general abhorrent behaviours, as somehow, it's to be expected, not justifiably by any means of course.
But Russia's part to play in the occupation and atrocious looting, scheming, butchery, genocide was without doubt, just unforgivable.
It looks like the Polish people, of all the people in Europe, could definitely have suffered the most of all....not an enviable claim of course.
But thanks to you, I got a very clear insight, into how Poland suffered horrendously, and so unjustly, and to this day, why those Polish living in Ireland whom I've met and befriended, have a strong distrust and disliking for the Russians.
I know we're all completely new generations, but the information you've provided here is still STAGGERING.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, AND WELL DONE.
7 Dec 2009 05:21:08 PM
Our area of Pennsylvania was settled 300 years mainly by Germans.
As Americans our community fought proudly for America in everyone of our wars, including the Revolution.
A Pennsylvania German Unit crossed the Delaware River with George Washington to defeat the German Hessian Mercenaries.
Our German roots became American roots and we fought for our new home America in ALL the wars.
A couple years ago we had some fine young Polish Students work with us during the summer. They were hard workers and trying to earn money for school back home.
My new Polish coworker was studying to become a doctor. I told him my family doctor is of Polish decent. I said I will call him and see if he can take you to the hospital and show you first hand how our health care system works. He was so excited for this chance.
I told him, Matthew, I am going to write my name and phone number and you call me if I do not see you this week again. I then walked away.
He quickly came to me and stopped me. Matthew said "Gregg, you are German why would you do this for me a Pole?"
I said Matthew this is America, we are Americans and the other things don't count with our relationships, or at least they shouldn't. I pointed out to him a dozen people we worked with who were all of German decent but Americans. All had treated Matthew well and they liked Matthew and he them.
I believe he left knowing there was a difference in this country, the America that we call HOME.
6 Jan 2010 07:35:34 AM
Thank you for this summary on Poland. I find this DB very usefull in finding information.
15 Feb 2010 10:03:47 PM
Prussia belonged to Prussian!
10 Apr 2012 12:19:24 PM
where is prussia?
6 Nov 2012 04:42:46 AM
why Poland is "minor ally"???? we had 4th fighting army along alies.
some sentances which are FALSE
FALSE! "When Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, however, Poland turned on its ally and took part in the partition of the country, capturing a small piece of eastern Czechoslovakia (generally the territory of Treschen and the nearby Bohumin rail junction) in Mar 1939"
- Poland and Chechoslovakia weren't allies!!!, the Cieszyn anexation took part after Munich Crisis in 1938!, maybe write who allowed Germans to took Sudetenland? =UK,FRA,ITA,GER.
FALSE!!! "Poland surrendered on 28 Sep, and coordinated military resistance ceased by the first week of Oct."
Poland never surrendered! On 28th Warsaw surrended but NEVER was a surrender agreement like the French did in 1940 signed between Poland and Germany!!!
FACTS please! "The Germans did the exact same thing, exaggerating the differences between the Jews and the Christians and played one group against another"
after those words some will say about "polish-death camps" we can't agree with this sentence without numbers, names and other examples from the author. Got some? please write.
in the end
Norman Davies: Europe at War 1939ÔÇô1945: No Simple Victory. Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-69285-3
Norman davies: Rising '44. The Battle for Warsaw. London: Pan Books. ISBN 0-333-90568-7
27 Mar 2013 06:54:17 AM
My father was in the Polish army in WW2. As I recall he kept talking about a RIFLE he had and he said he shot HOLES IN RAILROAD TRACKS with it. I know that the WZ 35 was a secret Polish rifle that could do that. How do you find a list of people who were issued this RIFLE? I think he might have used this RIFLE to help the French Resistance as they rescued him from Natzweiller. Please email me if you have any info. My father's name was WASYL WLADYLO from Nienowice. My email is email@example.com
8 Jan 2015 05:03:54 PM
I am searching for a missing German soldier who went missing in Krakow in 1944. He was last seen at a aid station. I have exhausted about every search engine I can find. (Moderator can include my e-ail address)
23 Jul 2015 04:40:55 AM
My Nan went to work in France from Poland in the late 20s, early 1930s I believe. She took her sister's place as she had got ill and was no longer able to make the journey. My Nan travelled with her aunt and ended up working in a "Castle" near Reugny in Indre et Loire. She married, had children, survived the war and had grandchildren. She was form the Krakow region. She took on her sister's identity to travel. The only other thing that I know about her is that she lost her Mum when she was around 10 years old. Her name was Rosalja Bargiel and her date of birth was 4th September 1898. She never saw or heard anything from her family from 1939. If you have any information at all, photos, newspaper cutting, anything, please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
29 Jan 2016 11:57:59 AM
Your expository summary of Poland during WWII somehow managed to exclude Poland's majority inhabitants- the Belarusans and Ukrainians in Poland and also its neighbors- the Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR from the storyline. It would have been beneficial to set the stage for pre-war Poland by describing its ethnic makeup, with Poles actually constituting a minority. This would have shed some light on the reason for the USSR's invasion. It was ethnic kinship and not Marxist ideology that motivated the Soviets to carve up Poland with the Nazis. The "Kresy" were annexed to the Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR to partially fulfill the national aspirations of those peoples.
21 Mar 2016 04:15:14 AM
Poland lost almost 12,8 million people (citizens) in the war, 1939-46 (date of census), from 35,8 million in August 1939 to 24 million in 1946. Your quoted numbers are 'invented ' figures by the Soviets and their lackeys in the Communist Poland. How many Polish citizens were in fact killed is still unresolved. Ideas presented by Sasha Sakavik represent the heyday of the Soviet 1929-89 and American 1943-46 [sic!] propaganda machine at the time.
9 Aug 2016 10:58:37 AM
Dario's numbers do not account for the fact that 1946 Poland was geographically much smaller in size than pre-war Poland. The decrease in population was not due to casualties of war, but to the movement of the border much further west; therefore, resulting in a reduced population. Chen's number of 5.2- million civilian lives lost in Poland during WWII in Poland is about right. Belarus lost about 2.2 million lives during the war, suffering from both Soviet and Nazi occupations.
22 Mar 2017 10:05:18 AM
It would be nice if there was a timeline about Poland throughout WW2.
23 Mar 2017 11:29:25 AM
To anonymous of 22 Mar 2017: Please click on "Events" on the top menu of this page, choose Poland in the custom search section, and click Submit. Thanks for visiting WW2DB.
30 Mar 2017 09:30:50 AM
Who are enemies and alliances to Poland during WW2?
19 Aug 2017 08:34:56 AM
There are numerous grammatical errors in this report. Please correct these.
11 Nov 2017 11:18:06 AM
Who were the officers murdered in Katyn? How did their loss affect the Polish intelligence, in terms of science, business, manufacturing of 1939 Poland to present Poland?
24 Apr 2018 06:40:03 AM
I'm searching infomation abour the Jewish family Stein, living in Ryglice before the war. Daughter Doba has moved in 1938 to The Netherlands, parends and other children has been killed. Can you give me information about there ages and other facts of importance? I am working for a series of portrait of victims of the war and specially these family. Thanks for your help, Willem.
18 Jan 2019 07:28:37 AM
I was wondering if there is a list of casualties in Josefowo Poland during WW2?? I was always told my great-grandmother was living there. She was deaf. I was told she was in a church praying when some men came in and asked if she was jewish. She could not hear them so they shot her. I would love to know if this was true. Her name was Wiktorya Linek (Kedzierska) . Please help. Thank you
30 Mar 2019 05:44:15 AM
KL Lublin (Majdanek) was evacuated and shut down rather than liberated. The Red Army entered the almost empty camp at night 22nd/23rd of July 1944' (not 24th as suggested here). Also, the fragment of the Soviets liberating Bełżec Sobib├│r and Treblinka is pure fantasy - none of that happened + how could they have been discovered after Majdanek while they were located a lot further to the east?
1 May 2019 02:41:37 AM
It is somewhat surprising that there is no mention of the Polish PeopleÔÇÖs Army (LWP ÔÇô Ludowe Wojsko Polski) which was formed in Russia out of released Polish PoWs, and commanded by Officers and Sergeants drafted in from the Red Army. Reduced by brutal treatment, starvation and old racial and political hatreds, the Polish prisoners were initially in poor condition for active service. Many of their officers had ÔÇśmysteriouslyÔÇÖ disappeared in 1939 and they had a genuine shortage of equipment. The LWP consisted of the 1st Infantry Division (LWP) and the 1st Polish Armoured Brigade (LWP). The 1st Infantry Division finally went into action on October 1943, on the Smolensk front but suffered such heavy casualties that they had to be withdrawn. Reformed, in the winter of 1943-44 the LWP accompanied the Red Army back into their homeland and with more conscripts becoming available the Polish force was expanded into the 1st Polish Army (LWP) of around 100,000 men. It was active throughout the late summer, autumn and winter to the east of the Vistula and in the suburbs of Warsaw, seeing much hard fighting. This Army then fought along the Baltic coast in the late winter and in this campaign the Polish Armoured Brigade captured Danzig (Gdansk) and Gdynia.
A second Polish Army was formed in the summer of 1944 entering the field for the 1945 spring offensive north of the Czech border. While the 1st Polish Division was involved in the ZhukovÔÇÖs savage battle of Berlin this Second Army would forge its way south to the outskirts of Prague.
2 May 2019 07:58:43 AM
Another formation created by Stalin from Polish soldiers held in captivity in Russia was the 5th Infantry Division. Although Stalin was personally desired to have General Anders and his men join the Red Army many were disinclined to join the war on the Soviet side. After protracted political negotiations and arguments a substantial number of these Polish soldiers and their families were allowed to leave the country for Palestine ÔÇôall 160,000 of them - including most of the 5th Infantry Division. These were men who, along with others recruited from the large Polish community settled in France, would later fight at Monte Cassino and Arnhem. When the Polish army was disbanded at the end of the war, few of its officers and men returned home, preferring to remain in the West
31 Jan 2020 05:58:34 AM
As of 1 September, 1939, the Polish Army was able to field 23 regular infantry divisions, three reserve infantry divisions, eight cavalry brigades, three mountain brigades, and one motorised brigade, as well as some border troops and other paramilitary formations (approximately 210,000 men at peacetime establishments), with theoretically another 15 divisions that might be mobilised if the conflict should become protracted. In artillery the Polish Army could deploy some 2,065 guns; mostly 75mm field guns based on the French M.1897 and rechambered Russian Mod. 02/26, plus a mixed bag of Skoda Mod, 14/19 100mm howitzers, 105mm Schneider Mod. 29 guns and 155mm Schneider Mod.17 howitzers. AntiÔÇôtank defence was provided by licence-built Swedish Bofors 37mm anti-tank guns deployed in platoons at battalion level for a total of 27 per division. These would back up the wz.35 anti-tank rifles held within the infantry companies. Facing 2,511 German tanks (mostly light Panzer Is and IIs) the Polish Army could field just 615 tanks and was equally short of motorised vehicles, relying mainly on horse drawn transport for supply.
15 Jun 2021 05:11:39 PM
My childhood friend's grandfather achieved both the Polonia Restituta and Virtuti Militari during WW2. His name was Emil Wewiora and I was wondering if there was more information on him anywhere? Thanks!
29 Jul 2021 05:12:31 PM
I wonder who wrote this. I'm writing a bibliography
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943
23 Oct 2008 03:22:00 AM
In paragraph 10 there is a spelling error:
it says "Armia KORJOWA" while it should read "Armia KRAJOWA".