Poland became the staging ground for what would become the Second World War. The most devastating war of all-time started here, when Germany’s air force, the Luftwaffe, bombed the Polish town of Wieluń.
Taking Poland by surprise, the Germans compounded their air attacks by commanding their battleships to open fire. They bombarded a Polish base at the Westerplatte Peninsula positioned on the Baltic Coast. The Polish forces didn’t stand much of a chance, and the photograph above shows their unfinished aircraft at the Okezie military airport near Warsaw, helpless, as they were faced down by a far superior enemy.
Inside A Jewish Ghetto
This photograph was taken by Hugo Jaeger at the Kutno Ghetto, in 1940. Jaeger was a loyalist to the Nazi movement down to the very end, and he enjoyed taking images of Nazi parades, and the big crowds that showed its dominion. He even traveled to take such photographs after the blitzkrieg of Poland. Adolf Hitler himself was amazed by Hugo Jaeger’s work.
Above, Jewish women palaver behind the barbed wires that surrounded the Kutno Ghetto. The irony is expressed in their smiles; 30 miles from the Polish city of Lodz, most of them would be taken en masse to the Chelmno extermination camp.
Impromptu Graveyard In Warsaw
Poland had its back against the wall when the German forces invaded their country on September 1st, 1939. They would put up a fight against the invasion, however, on September 17th, the foreign forces would be further buttressed by the Soviets. They were attacked in every which way—air, land, and sea—and soon their cities and towns were stacked up with dead bodies.
Preoccupied with the ongoing war, they no longer had time for the proper ceremonies normally afforded to the dead. Instead, they were forced to simply bury them wherever the ground seemed suitable.
As dominant as Adolf Hitler was during the Second World War, he still needed somebody close to him that he could trust and confide in. The man to the right in the photograph is Heinrich Himmler, and he was privy to Hitler’s long-term plans.
In fact, from 1929 to 1945, Heinrich Himmler was appointed Reich Leader of the SS Squadron of the Nazi party. Known as the Schutzstaffel, it was a major paramilitary organization that literally translates to “Protection Squadron.” Himmler was regarded as the second most powerful man in all of Germany at the time, and the dark mastermind behind the mass genocide of the Jewish people.
Germany’s invasion of Poland sent Polish citizens sliding down into the dregs of a conquered society. They were completely overpowered, confused, still recovering from the shock of the unexpected battle. In fact, there are few formal documents to really show what most Polish citizens went through during captivity.
What we do know is, immediately after their defeat, Polish men and women were put to forced labor, as shown by this picture. They were ordered to clean captured Polish weaponry at the Modlin fortress just north of Poland. It is possible that some of them may have been sent to factories, and those that could not be taken advantage of—the old, and the sick—sent to extermination camps.