On September 1, 1939 the German army invaded Poland with a terribly fast attack called blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg is German for “lighting war” it means that you attack the enemy with amazing speed and efficiency using many methods of attack. The purpose is to destroy the enemy before an effective defensive can be mounted. This is very different to the way World War I was fought where armies dug into trenches.
Even though the German army was smaller than the Polish army, the blitzkrieg turned out to be devastating. The German Air Force destroyed much of the Polish Air Force before they were even able to get off the ground. Then German bombers attack Polish roads, railways, factories as well as civilians living in the cities. Next, German dive-bombers attacked the Polish troops that were marching toward the front lines wiping out many of them. Civilian refugees were also sprayed with machine gun fire as they tried to flee the German troops. This caused even more panic among the civilians causing more chaos on the crowed roads. Polish troops were unable to move quick enough to combat the invading troops. In a matter of hours, Hitler’s army had brought Poland to its knees.
Great Britain and France both had pacts or alliances with Poland and on September 3rd declared war on Germany. Even though the two countries had declared war, they were not able to offer Poland much help. What they did do was to block German ports keeping Germany from getting needed supplies and materials, including food. Hitler tried to get Britain and France to stop the blockades by promising to leave the other surrounding nations alone. Neither Great Britain nor France believed him and refused to budge.
Soon the Soviet Union also invaded Poland and by early October the Germans and the Soviets had defeated Poland and divided the country up between themselves. The significance of this event was that it marks the beginning of World War II. It also introduced the world to a new type of warfare, one where civilians would be considered targets.