Germany strikes Poland.
Hitler spun the story as follows: “In the midst of Polish attacks on Germany, the German army has been forced to retaliate to Polish aggressions.”
This wasn’t true, and even the German soldiers along the border could plainly see who was attacking whom. Hitler sincerely hoped, however, that Britain and France would not come through on their promises to Poland. This hope was dashed when the British ambassador to Berlin sent the following note:
“Unless the German government are prepared to give his Majesty’s government satisfactory assurances that the German government have suspended all aggressive actions against Poland, and are prepared promptly to withdraw forces from Polish territory, his Majesty’s government will – without hesitation – fulfil their obligation to Poland.”
The prospect of war was not something that the fascist dictator thought his country could handle. Mussolini implored Hitler to release the Italians from their obligations to assist Germany, and Hitler agreed. Mussolini continued to want to try to mediate a resolution through diplomatic means. France was greatly inclined towards anything that allowed them to avoid war. The British, however, remained firm on the fact that they needed Germany to withdraw their forces from Polish territory.
Although the Russians were extremely suspicious of the Germans, they went ahead with the stipulations of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Initially, they were going to invade Poland under the guise that the Ukranians and White Russians living in Poland needed to be protected from German aggression. However, the Germans did not want the Russians to use that excuse because it would make it seem as if they [Germany and USSR] were enemies to the world. They changed their story as the Germans requested, and the USSR went into Poland on the 17th of September, 1939 saying that they were restoring order to the Polish state.
Dividing the Spoils
Lwów was captured and occupied by September 22, 1939 along with other provincial capitals including Tarnopol, Brześć, Stanisławów, Łuck, and Vilnius to the north. The Soviets acquired a very ethnically diverse portion of land of the former Galicia. These lands now form the bulk of modern Western Ukraine and West Belarus. The USSR ended up with just over 50% of the invaded land.
Germany was given a more ethnically homogenous portion of the land: the Western provinces of Poland; Warsaw; Krakow; Lodz; and the Danzig corridor. They divided it into four administrative divisions.
Brutality From Both SidesBoth the Nazis and the Soviet troops terrorized the locals.
(Above) Polish citizens expelled from their homes in order to make Lebensraum (Living Room) for German nationals.
(Below) German soldiers massacre Polish civilians in their territory. Many of the intelligentsia were murdered by the Soviets also. In the picture we see Polish citizens lining up to get shot by the Germans; below that is a convoy of people evacuating.