Archive for Monday, October 1, 2001

Polish history

October 1, 2001


To the editor:

I always enjoy reading "2Day's History." As a historian of Poland, I was especially pleased to see in your issue of Sept. 27 issue a mention of the surrender of the Polish capital, Warsaw, on this day in 1939. However, the city had not been resisting "invading forces from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union," as stated in the Journal-World. Poland had been invaded by these two powers, but not Warsaw. The city suffered a three-week siege by German artillery and bombers. It surrendered when the people were completely out of food, water, and power.

Here is a summary of the events of September 1939. The Germans invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, setting off World War II when Britain and France, allies of Poland, went to war with Germany on Sept. 3. The Red Army invaded Poland from the east on Sept. 17, 1939. They never reached Warsaw, although the eastern part of the city had been designated for the USSR, along with half of Poland, in a secret protocol to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of Aug. 23, 1939. However, the German advance was much faster than expected and soon reached some places in eastern Poland, reserved for the USSR. Stalin did not want any complications with Hitler on this issue.

Also, since Soviet propaganda justified the invasion as coming to the help of the Ukrainians and Belorussians, he might have had second thoughts about taking predominantly Polish territory, as against western Belorussia and western Ukraine, which were part of prewar Poland but had Belorussian and Ukrainian majorities (with some significant Polish minorities). Therefore, in the Soviet-German Boundary and Friendship Treaty of Sept. 28, 1939, he exchanged some ethnically Polish territory for dominant Soviet influence in Lithuania.

This, plus Soviet dominant influence in Latvia and Estonia, agreed on earlier, gave him almost total control over the Baltic states. Finally, the new German-Soviet demarcation line in Poland in late September 1939, was the forerunner of the Polish-Soviet frontier established in 1945, which is Poland's eastern frontier today.

Anna M. Cienciala,


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