How Hitler began WWII: Photographs show tanks rolling through Gdansk as the Nazis invaded Poland and sparked the devastating conflict (23 Pics)

Breathtaking images showing Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, which sparked off the Second World War, have been released  to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of the conflict. 
The invasion began on September 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler's troops broke through Polish border crossings and launched naval, air and army attacks on the Westerplatte peninsula in the Bay of Danzig. 
The images show ruined Polish cities with smoke and flames rising from destroyed buildings, while Hitler is seen both before and after Warsaw's surrender on September 27 triumphantly standing before parading German troops.  
Also among the images are captured Polish citizens with their arms raised in surrender, their faces betraying little of the fear they must have felt.   
Hitler had been set to invade the country in August but wavered when Britain signed the Polish-British Common Defence Pact, which committed it to defend Poland and guarantee its independence in the face of German aggression.   
Despite this, Hitler went ahead with the invasion and Britain responded with an ultimatum for the Germans to cease military operations, but this was ignored. 
As a result, Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3rd - triggering a six-year conflict which tore Europe apart and left 70 million people dead.  
Beginning on September 1, 1939, the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany saw Adolf Hitler's troops attack the country from the north, south, and west. Hitler had been originally set to invade the country in August but wavered when Britain signed the Polish-British Common Defence Pact, which committed it to defend Poland and guarantee its independence in the face of German aggression. Above: Adolf Hitler observes German troops crossing the Vistula River, near Chelmno, Northern Poland
Beginning on September 1, 1939, the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany saw Adolf Hitler's troops attack the country from the north, south, and west. Hitler had been originally set to invade the country in August but wavered when Britain signed the Polish-British Common Defence Pact, which committed it to defend Poland and guarantee its independence in the face of German aggression. Above: Adolf Hitler observes German troops crossing the Vistula River, near Chelmno, Northern Poland 
The attack on Poland actually began when, in the early hours of September 1, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte, in what was then the Free City of Danzig and is now Gdansk. Above: Workshops at the port on fire after their attack by Nazi Germany
The attack on Poland actually began when, in the early hours of September 1, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military transit depot at Westerplatte, in what was then the Free City of Danzig and is now Gdansk. Above: Workshops at the port on fire after their attack by Nazi Germany
The Polish army's defiant defence of Westerplatte, which saw them hold out for seven days, is still seen as a heroic symbol of resistance in the country. During the attack, Poles withstood numerous assaults, shelling from German warships and dive-bomber attacks from the skies
The Polish army's defiant defence of Westerplatte, which saw them hold out for seven days, is still seen as a heroic symbol of resistance in the country. During the attack, Poles withstood numerous assaults, shelling from German warships and dive-bomber attacks from the skies
As well as naval attacks, Nazi Germany bombarded Poland on land and from the air. The German air force - the Luftwafffe - launched bombing raids on Polish cities, including the capital, Warsaw.  The first assault on September 1 - operation Wasserkante - did not do as much damage as expected, because of low-lying clouds and fierce resistance from Polish fighter planes. Above: Burning grain stores in Warsaw after their attack by Nazi bomber planes
As well as naval attacks, Nazi Germany bombarded Poland on land and from the air. The German air force - the Luftwafffe - launched bombing raids on Polish cities, including the capital, Warsaw.  The first assault on September 1 - operation Wasserkante - did not do as much damage as expected, because of low-lying clouds and fierce resistance from Polish fighter planes. Above: Burning grain stores in Warsaw after their attack by Nazi bomber planes
Despite the valiant resistance effort from the Polish air force, heavy losses on their side meant that within days of the start of the German attack the Polish defence became largely limited to the use of anti-aircraft guns. Above: Smoke rises from the Warsaw Citadel in the heart of the city after bombing by German planes
Despite the valiant resistance effort from the Polish air force, heavy losses on their side meant that within days of the start of the German attack the Polish defence became largely limited to the use of anti-aircraft guns. Above: Smoke rises from the Warsaw Citadel in the heart of the city after bombing by German planes
Throughout September, Warsaw remained under siege, with the largest and most devastating air attacks coming on September 25 and 26. Hundreds of tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on Warsaw. These were accompanied by heavy shelling from artillery. Three key forts in the city were captured, around 25,000 civilians were killed and large parts of the city were reduced to rubble. Above: The bombed Warsaw West railway station
Throughout September, Warsaw remained under siege, with the largest and most devastating air attacks coming on September 25 and 26. Hundreds of tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on Warsaw. These were accompanied by heavy shelling from artillery. Three key forts in the city were captured, around 25,000 civilians were killed and large parts of the city were reduced to rubble. Above: The bombed Warsaw West railway station
Historic buildings in Warsaw were destroyed by the bombs dropped by Nazy warplanes, including the Royal Castle (pictured), which dated from 1598
Historic buildings in Warsaw were destroyed by the bombs dropped by Nazy warplanes, including the Royal Castle (pictured), which dated from 1598
The devastating attacks on Warsaw led to the surrender of the Polish garrison on September 27 - they had endured 18 days of continuous bombing and finally surrendered at 2pm that afternoon. Above: The ruins of the Lubomirski Palace in central Warswaw
The devastating attacks on Warsaw led to the surrender of the Polish garrison on September 27 - they had endured 18 days of continuous bombing and finally surrendered at 2pm that afternoon. Above: The ruins of the Lubomirski Palace in central Warswaw
German troops flooded into Warsaw during and after the city's capitulation - just days before the Polish government surrendered to Nazi Germany. Above: German troops with 75mm Le IG 18 light tank and infantry support guns as they attack a street in Warsaw on September 27
German troops flooded into Warsaw during and after the city's capitulation - just days before the Polish government surrendered to Nazi Germany. Above: German troops with 75mm Le IG 18 light tank and infantry support guns as they attack a street in Warsaw on September 27
Above: A Polish colonel (left) stands over a map next to German general Gunther von Kluge during negotiations after the capitulation of Warsaw to Nazi troops. Von Kluge commanded the German 4th Army of the Wehrmacht during the invasion
Above: A Polish colonel (left) stands over a map next to German general Gunther von Kluge during negotiations after the capitulation of Warsaw to Nazi troops. Von Kluge commanded the German 4th Army of the Wehrmacht during the invasion
Despite Britain and France's declaration of war on Germany on September 3, they did not provide any military assistance to the country because they had been entirely unprepared for the rapidity of the Nazis' invasion. Above: A German propaganda photograph shows German soldiers dressed as Gdansk Police officers pretending to break the barrier at the border crossing between Poland the Free City of Gdansk
Despite Britain and France's declaration of war on Germany on September 3, they did not provide any military assistance to the country because they had been entirely unprepared for the rapidity of the Nazis' invasion. Above: A German propaganda photograph shows German soldiers dressed as Gdansk Police officers pretending to break the barrier at the border crossing between Poland the Free City of Gdansk
Polish forces earlier defence of Westerplatte has gone down in Polish history as a symbol of resistance. The attack on the port was accompanied by rapid attacks from the air and on land elsewhere in the country. Above: Germn troops search the military transit depot in Westerplatte after its capitulation
Polish forces earlier defence of Westerplatte has gone down in Polish history as a symbol of resistance. The attack on the port was accompanied by rapid attacks from the air and on land elsewhere in the country. Above: Germn troops search the military transit depot in Westerplatte after its capitulation
It only took six days for grossly outnumbered Polish forces to be defeated at Westerplatte. However, the battle did occupy German forces for longer than had been expected, and the region's defence inspired the Polish Army and people. Soon after the attack began, Polish Radio repeatedly broadcast the phrase, 'Westerplatte fights on'
It only took six days for grossly outnumbered Polish forces to be defeated at Westerplatte. However, the battle did occupy German forces for longer than had been expected, and the region's defence inspired the Polish Army and people. Soon after the attack began, Polish Radio repeatedly broadcast the phrase, 'Westerplatte fights on'
At 4:45am on September 1, 1939, around 1.5million German troops invaded Poland all along its 1,750-mile border with German-controlled territory. Above: A map drawn on parchment showing the directions of the German army's attack
At 4:45am on September 1, 1939, around 1.5million German troops invaded Poland all along its 1,750-mile border with German-controlled territory. Above: A map drawn on parchment showing the directions of the German army's attack
Behind Hitler's invasion of Poland was his desire to create 'Lebensraum', or 'living space' for German people. His theory of a racial hierarchy regarded Slavic people - the native population in Poland - as far inferior to 'Aryan' Germans. Above: German battleship SMS Schleslen bombards Polish artillery positions on September 27 on the Hel peninsula in northern Poland
Behind Hitler's invasion of Poland was his desire to create 'Lebensraum', or 'living space' for German people. His theory of a racial hierarchy regarded Slavic people - the native population in Poland - as far inferior to 'Aryan' Germans. Above: German battleship SMS Schleslen bombards Polish artillery positions on September 27 on the Hel peninsula in northern Poland
In August 1939, Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, known as the Nazi-Soviet pact, with the Soviet Union. In the agreement, the two countries agreed to divide Poland between them. Soviet forces were ordered into Poland on September 17. Above: A German soldier stands guard in Gdansk, Poland, on Septmber 1, 1939, with a sign which reads, 'Stop! Danger! Live ammunition being fired'
In August 1939, Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, known as the Nazi-Soviet pact, with the Soviet Union. In the agreement, the two countries agreed to divide Poland between them. Soviet forces were ordered into Poland on September 17. Above: A German soldier stands guard in Gdansk, Poland, on Septmber 1, 1939, with a sign which reads, 'Stop! Danger! Live ammunition being fired' 
As Nazi troops arrived in the Free City of Danzig (modern-day Gdansk) on September 3, cheering German citizens - who made up nearly all of the city-state's population - welcomed soldiers. Above: Troops roll through the streets beneath Nazi Swastika flags hanging from buildings
As Nazi troops arrived in the Free City of Danzig (modern-day Gdansk) on September 3, cheering German citizens - who made up nearly all of the city-state's population - welcomed soldiers. Above: Troops roll through the streets beneath Nazi Swastika flags hanging from buildings
After their defeat in the four-day Battle of Kock, near Lublin, eastern Poland, an exhausted and overwhelmed Poland surrendered to German forces on October 6. Despite the fact that Poland had been able to mobilise one million men, they had been hopelessly outmatched in every respect. Above: Adolf Hitler performs a Nazi salute as he stands next to his generals and surveys German troops parading through Warsaw on October 5, 1939
After their defeat in the four-day Battle of Kock, near Lublin, eastern Poland, an exhausted and overwhelmed Poland surrendered to German forces on October 6. Despite the fact that Poland had been able to mobilise one million men, they had been hopelessly outmatched in every respect. Above: Adolf Hitler performs a Nazi salute as he stands next to his generals and surveys German troops parading through Warsaw on October 5, 1939
During their occupation of Poland, which lasted throughout the rest of the Second World War, the Germans killed millions of Polish citizens. Estimates vary, but more than five million citizens were killed, including around three million Polish Jews. Above: Hitler salutes as he arrives in Warsaw in an open-top car on October 5, 1939
During their occupation of Poland, which lasted throughout the rest of the Second World War, the Germans killed millions of Polish citizens. Estimates vary, but more than five million citizens were killed, including around three million Polish Jews. Above: Hitler salutes as he arrives in Warsaw in an open-top car on October 5, 1939 
World leaders are set to head to Warsaw this weekend to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two and Poland has demanded compensation from Germany for the losses which were inflicted on the nation during the war. Above: Cavalry soldiers perform a Nazi salute in front of Adolf Hitler in Warsaw, on October 5, 1939
World leaders are set to head to Warsaw this weekend to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War Two and Poland has demanded compensation from Germany for the losses which were inflicted on the nation during the war. Above: Cavalry soldiers perform a Nazi salute in front of Adolf Hitler in Warsaw, on October 5, 1939
Tens of thousands of Polish civilians were killed during the German invasion of their country, which started on September 1, 1939 and finished with their surrender on October 6. Above: Polish citizens stand with raised arms in Gdansk, northern Poland, in September 1939
Tens of thousands of Polish civilians were killed during the German invasion of their country, which started on September 1, 1939 and finished with their surrender on October 6. Above: Polish citizens stand with raised arms in Gdansk, northern Poland, in September 1939 
Around 65,000 Polish soldiers were killed in the fighting during the German invasion of their country. As well as those who died, around 420,000 other troops were captured by Nazi forces, while more than 200,000 were detained by Soviet troops
Around 65,000 Polish soldiers were killed in the fighting during the German invasion of their country. As well as those who died, around 420,000 other troops were captured by Nazi forces, while more than 200,000 were detained by Soviet troops

How the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 triggered the outbreak of the Second World War 

The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, came just one week after Nazi Germany had signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union.
It meant that Poland ended up being bombarded from all sides by two vastly more powerful hostile powers – with Russian troops invading the country on September 17.
Hitler’s decision to invade Poland was a gamble; partly because the German Army – the Wehrmacht – was not yet at full strength, and partly because German generals were unsure how Britain and France would react.
German soldiers are pictured celebrating the occupation of Westerplatte with the erection of a swastika on September 7, 1939
German soldiers are pictured celebrating the occupation of Westerplatte with the erection of a swastika on September 7, 1939 
But Hitler himself regarded British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French leader Edouard Daladier to be weak and indecisive and thought they would opt for peace rather than declare war.
However, the Nazi leader’s annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, which Hitler’s previous promise that he had no future territorial demands in Europe, prompted Chamberlain to formally guarantee Poland’s borders in the face of aggression.
And a defence treaty between Britain and Poland also added weight to signals that Britain might react offensively to more German aggression.
But, once Hitler had the political support of Italian dictator Mussolini, he felt he had the capability to carry out his plans and felt Britain’s defence pledge would amount to little.
It was then that the invasion of Poland began on September 1, with fierce attacks coming through bombing raids, land invasions and naval bombardments.
Poland immediately requested military assistance from Britain and France and two days later the two countries declared war on Germany.
However, despite the declaration, Britain and France had little offensive strategy and were caught entirely unprepared for the speed with which German forces invaded Poland.
The country was therefore forced to face the overwhelmingly superior Nazi Germany, and later the Soviet Union, on its own.
The Luftwaffe – the German air force - overwhelmed Polish air capability and armoured divisions on land easily pushed through Polish defences.
Warsaw, the capital, surrendered to German forces on September 27, 1939, and the last Polish resistance were defeated on October 6.
Polish citizens suffered enormously, with the bombing of Warsaw killing up to 25,000 and millions more dying throughout Germany’s occupation of the country.


How Hitler began WWII: Photographs show tanks rolling through Gdansk as the Nazis invaded Poland and sparked the devastating conflict (23 Pics) How Hitler began WWII: Photographs show tanks rolling through Gdansk as the Nazis invaded Poland and sparked the devastating conflict (23 Pics) Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 08:10 Rating: 5

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