The World at War

Poland 1918-1952
by Richard Doody

From Rebirth to the Establishment of the People's Republic

     Poland in federation with Lithuania was a pre-eminent Central European power during the latter middle ages. Poles formed a bulwark for western Christianity against the encroachments of the Mongols, Tartars, Islam and Orthodoxy.

     King Jan Sobieski's victory over the Turks at Vienna in 1683 marks the high point of Poland as a European power. The century following Vienna was one of decline brought on by internal squabbling amongst the nobility and disunity in the face of the growing strength of unfriendly neighbors.

     The embrace of Enlightenment philosophy and of French and American revolutionary ideals by the Polish nobility terrified Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia and the Hapsburg rulers of Austria. The autocrats determined to stem the tide of Polish liberalism lest it should spread into their own realms succeeded in wiping the Polish state from the map of Europe with three partitions between 1772 and 1795.

     The Polish nation, language and religion would endure despite a century and a quarter of assimilationist pressure from the partitioning powers. Poles firm adhesion to their language and Catholicism would ensure their survival as a nation in the absence of a state.

     Pre-World War Polish nationalism was, for the most part, a province of the dispossessed upper classes. The lower classes remained indifferent for the most part and at times hostile to the aspirations of the nobility. Peasant fears of re-imposition of serfdom remained a recurring theme of Polish history well into the 20th century.

     Some two million Poles marched off to the Great War with the armies of the partitioning powers and 450,000 died, oft times the victim of another Pole in the opposite trench. Polish nationalists were divided. The Right led by Roman Dmowski's National Democrats urged Poles to fight for the Allies in the hope that a victorious Russia would grant Poland autonomy and eventual independence. On the Left, Josef Pilsudski, leader of the Polish Socialists, predicted the ruin of all the partition powers but argued that Poland's best hope for autonomy lay in an Austrian victory. Under the partition, the only portion of old Poland to enjoy any degree of autonomy was the Austrian province of Galicia. Pilsudski's assement of German attitudes was less favorable when his Polish Legions were placed under German command the Marshal refused an oath of allegiance to the Kaiser and was imprisoned in Magdenburg Castle for the duration of the war.

     Pilsudski's prediction came to pass. Russia was the first of the partition powers to collapse. Russian withdrawal from the war and America's entry brought and end to British and French reluctance to support Polish self-determination. The Russian alliance was dead and President Wilson's Fourteen Points favored Polish independence. Austrian administrators vanished from Galicia and the Kaiser fled to Holland leaving Germany on the brink of anarchy.

     Pilsudski was released from Magdenburg on November 10, 1918. He arrived in Warsaw on Armistice Day. The local Regency Council (a creation of the Germans) sensing an imminent uprising asked the Marshal to take over. Revolution was averted when the German garrison, following Pilsudski's suggestion, packed up and took the next train out of the Polish capital.

     The victorious Allied Powers were quick to recognize the sovereignty of the new state but the Versailles Conference rejected Polish demands for a return to pre-partition boundaries. The frontiers of the new state would be determined by three years of wars and diplomacy. Allied supervised plebiscites favorable to Germany were ignored in three disputed territories. The capture of Kiev forced the Ukrainian Directorate to recognize the incorporation of the Western Ukraine (Eastern Galicia) into the Polish Republic. The greatest challenge to the new state came from the east. Poland was a bridge over which the Soviet revolution would be carried to the industrial proletariat of Germany in Lenin's view . The Red Army advanced to the to the gates of Warsaw but fell victim to the Miracle of the Vistula. Marshal Tukhachevsky's Reds were encircled by the Poles. 100,000 were captured and 40,000 fled into Germany. The Soviets were forced to sue for an armistice. The Treaty of Riga ended the Russo-Polish War of 1918-21. The agreement left Poland in possession of large tracts of previously Russian territory where Poles were only a small per-centage of the population and ended Lithuanian aspirations of establishing Wilno (Vilnius) as the capital of their newly independent state. The Poles only loss in the border wars came at the hands of the Czechs who seized the mostly Polish industrial area of Cieszyn.

     The conclusion of the border wars allowed the Polish leadership to turn its attention to the difficult task of forging a national state. Seven years of conflict had left the countryside and the economy in a shambles.

     A single economy would have to be constructed from the remains of three regional ones that had been developed in isolation. Each of the previously Russian, German and Austrian provinces had its own currency and rail gauge and the tracks ran towards Vienna, Berlin and Saint Petersburg. A high birthrate outstripped the economy's ability to create jobs and housing. The Polish was just beginning to recover when the Depression struck.

     Victory in the border conflicts created a Poland in which a third of the citizenry was composed of non-Polish Germans, Lithuanians, Byelorussians, Ukrainians or Yiddish speaking Jews. Jewish leaders were the only minority spokesmen to express any eagerness for reconciliation with the new state of affairs. Ukrainian nationalists continued attacks on the Polish state into the 1930s.

     Given, the chaotic state of affairs, the failure of parliamentary democracy to flourish seems hardly surprising. Rumors of a rightist coup inspired Marshal Pilsudski to launch a pre-emptive power seizure in 1926. The President and Premier were forced to resign. Pilsudski refused to assume direct power and kept the trappings of a parliamentary republic but it meant the end of free political discourse. After Pilsudski's death in 1935 the military began to take a more prominent role in shaping the policies of the increasingly authoritarian Sanacja regime.

     The internal problems of the Polish Republic, great as they were, played only a small part in the country's demise. Poland's fate was sealed by the weakness of its allies and the strength of its enemies. The abandonment of Czechoslovakia by the British and French at Munich left no doubt in Hitler's mind that they would do the same when Poland's turn came. The signing of the Nazi-Soviet Nonagression Pact of August 23, 1939 doomed Poland to a fourth partition. The Germans invaded without a declaration in the early morning hours of September 1, 1939. Hitler claimed that he was responding to Polish attacks. The western allies, true to their word, declared war and then sat back while Germans (joined later by the Soviets) rolled over the outnumbered and outgunned Poles in a five week campaign. Poland was divided in accordance with the secret protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. Stalin seized territories east of the Curzon Line and handed Wilno (Vilnius) to Lithuania. Those portions of Polish territory that had been German prior to the Versailles Treaty were annexed directly to the Reich. A General Government of Poland administered by Nazi Governor Hans Frank was established in the remainder.

     Poles would suffer six years of the harshest occupation in modern European history. 6,028,000 citizens of the Polish Republic would perish of these 644,000 died as a direct result of combat operations. The rest would have their lives ended in extermination camps, executions or pacification operations. German occupied lands were designated Arbeitsbereich (work areas) ruled by martial law with death or deportation to a concentration camp - the only penalties stipulated for even the slightest offense. Rationing allotted 4,000 calories a day to Reichdeutsche (Germans born within the pre-World War I boundaries of the Reich). Poles were expected to subsist on 900. Hitler concentrated on the elimination of those whom Nazi ideology deemed racially inferior, Stalin on those he deemed political or classes enemies. A million and a half Poles were deported to work camps in Siberia and the Soviet arctic where half of them would die.

     Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began on June 22, 1941. The Wehrmacht was soon at the gates of Leningrad and Moscow. The new state of affairs forced Stalin to make an about-face in his policies regarding Poland in order to secure aid from the western allies. The Soviets recognized the Polish Government in Exile, agreed to parole Poles held in the work camps and announced that question of post-war boundaries was open to negotiation. Polish prisoners were sent to the western front via Iran where they were formed into two corps attached to the British Army. The 1st Corps fought in Normandy and northwestern Europe, the 2nd served in Italy where it won distinction as the first allied unit to reach the peak of Monte Cassino.

     Stalin began implementing his plan for the "liberation" of Poland while the Red Army was still in retreat. The Polish Workers Party was founded in Moscow in January, 1942 to replace the old Polish Communist Party that had been liquidated in a 1938 purge. After the Red Army turned the tide at Stalingrad, the Soviet dictator felt strong enough to challenge the policies of the western allies. Soviet recognition was withdrawn from the London based Government in Exile following its request for an International Red Cross investigation of the Katyn Forest massacre. Soviet forces pushed the Germans back to the old Polish - Soviet frontier in January, 1944. Seven months later they had advanced to within striking distance of Warsaw. The Home Army launched an uprising at the urging of the Soviets who then halted their advance for five months while the Germans eliminated the non-Communist Polish Resistance. A Polish National Committee of Liberation was installed in Lublin as the Soviet recognized government of the liberated areas. The Lublin Committee signed a Treaty granting the Soviets free reign in the administration of areas under their control. The Committee declared itself the Provisional Government of the Polish Republic on December 31, 1944 and was quickly granted recognition by the Soviet Union.

     Stalin's demand that the post-war Polish-Soviet border be demarcated along the Curzon Line (rejected in 1920) was acceded to by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta Conference in December, 1944. The settlement shifted the borders of the Polish state 150 miles westward. Slightly more than half of its pre-war territory lies within the borders of present day Poland. 178,220 sq. km. were ceded to the Soviet Union. The Poles were compensated with 101,200 sq. km. of German territory lying between the old frontier and the new boundary along the Oder and Niesse Rivers. Five million Germans living in what the Communist termed "recovered territories" were quickly expelled to make room for Poles leaving the now Soviet eastern territories.

     The new Poland was quickly pulled into the Soviet orbit despite the protest of the Western Allies and the Government in Exile. The final liberation of Poland would take another 45 years.


1918 October 28 Austrian government withdraws from the Duchy of Troppau and Teschen (Cieszyn). Local officials divide the territory along ethnic lines but Polish and Czech governments reject the settlement.
November 1 Ukrainian nationalists establish the People's Republic of Western Ukraine in the former Austro-Hungarian province of Eastern Galicia.
November 7 Provisional People's Government of the Polish Republic established in Lublin. Socialist Ignacy Daszynski appointed Premier.
November 10 Marshal Jozef Pilsudski arrives in Warsaw after release by Germans from imprisonment in Magdenburg Castle.
November 11 Marshal Pilsudski assumes command of Warsaw's government after the German controlled Regency Council pleads for his help in preventing anarchy. German troops withdraw at Pilsudski's suggestion.
November 14 Regency Council names Pilsudski Chief of State and surrenders its functions to him. Ignacy Daszynski agrees to recognize Pilsudski as head of the Provisional People's Government of the Polish Republic.
December 26 Arrival of Ignacy Paderewski sparks Poznan Rising. Polish Supreme People's Council takes control of the city and surrounding countryside after a week of fighting with the local German garrisson.
1919 January 8 Supreme People's Council declares Poznan independent. German troops are sent to restore order and several hundred persons are killed in fighting at Chodziez and Szubin.
January 25 Czechoslovak government orders it troops to seize key industrial areas of Cieszyn.
January 29 Roman Dmowski asks Paris Peace Conference to restore Poland's pre-partition boundaries.
February Interallied Control Commission recognizes Poznan Supreme People's Council as an "Allied Force". Germany ends attempts to regain control of the region.
February 14 Russo-Polish War begins with skirmish at Bereza Kartuska in Byelorussia.
April Russian Red Army captures Vilnius. The city is recaptured by the Poles later that month.
July Polish Army completes conquest of Western Ukraine.
July 10 The Sejm (parliament) passes a resolution calling for the break up of estates of more than 400 hectares.
August Polish Army captures Minsk.
August 16 Uprising by Poles in Silesian town of Rybnik. Eight days of clashes with German troops end with the arrival of an Interallied garrison.
November The United States Dollar trades for 9 Polish Marks.
1920 January 20 Treaty of Versailles takes effect. Poland gains control of 130km of Baltic shoreline in corridor dividing East Prussia from the rest of Germany and the entire Duchy of Posen (Poznan).
January 26 Czechoslovak troops seize Cieszyn.
March 10 Red Army under Marshal Tukhachevsky begins western offensive.
April 24 Polish Army marches on Kiev. Ukrainian Directorate recognizes incorporation of Western Ukraine into Poland.
May Kiev returned to Ukraine.
July 4 Tukhachevsky's Red Army breaks through Polish line on the Berezina.
July 11 The districts of Allenstein and Marienwerder vote to remain German. Results of the Allied supervised plebiscite show 460,000 electors in favor of Germany against 16,000 for Poland.
July 14 Russians turn Vilnius over to Lithuania.
July 28 Allied Council of Ambassadors awards mostly Polish industrial area of western Cieszyn, the district of Orawa with the exception of Jablonka and five-sixths of the disputed district of Spisz to Czechoslovakia. Poland refuses to turnover town of Jaworzyna.
August 10 Red Army crosses the Vistula west of Warsaw.
August 13 Red Army advance on Warsaw halted.
August 16-18 The "Miracle on the Vistula" Polish troops break through Soviet lines and encircle Tukhachevsky's army. 100,000 Russians taken prisoner and 40,000 flee into Germany.
August 19 Premature celebrations of the fall of Warsaw by Germans in Upper Silesia sparks a week of strikes and fighting between Poles and Germans in that region.
August 31 Poles rout Red Army at Komarow in the last major European battle between cavalry.
September 24 Negotiations to end Russo-Polish War begin in Riga, Latvia.
October 9 Polish troops take Vilnius from Lithuania over objections of the allied powers. Vilnius and surrounding districts incorporated as the nominally independent state of Central Lithuania.
October 12 Riga Armistice ends fighting between Russians and Poles.
1921 March 17 Constitution of the Republic of Poland based on the constitution of the French Third Republic adopted.

In the Name of Almighty God!
     We, the people of Poland, thanking Providence for freeing us from one and a half centuries of servitude, remembering with gratitude the bravery, endurance, and selfless struggles of past generations, which unceasingly devoted all their best energies to the cause of Independence, adhering to the glorious tradition of the immortal Constitution of 3 May, striving for the welfare of the whole, united, and independent mother country, and for her sovereign existence, might, security, and social order, and desiring to ensure the development of all moral and material powers for the good of the whole of regenerated mankind and to ensure the equality of all citizens, respect for labor, all due rights, and particularly the security of State protection, we hereby proclaim and vote this Constitutional Statute in the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Poland.

March 18 Treaty of Riga ends Russo-Polish War. Byelorussia partitioned between Poland and Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR recognizes Polish sovereignty over Western Ukraine
March 20 Upper Silesia votes to remain German. Results of the plebiscite show 702,000 electors in favor of remaining with Germany against 479,000 who favor annexation to Poland. Pro- German vote is concentrated in a few isolated pockets surrounded by a largely pro- Polish countryside.
May 3 Fighting erupts between German troops and Poles led by Plebiscite Commissioner Wojciech Korfanty. Two months of inconclusive battles convince the Allied Powers to set aside the results of the plebiscite.
October 20 Allied Council of Ambassadors divides Upper Silesia between Germany and Poland. Germany is awarded three fifths of the plebiscite area but Poland gains most of the region's coal fields.
1922 March Central Lithuania including the city of Vilnius incorporated into the Polish Republic.
December President Gabriel Narutowicz assassinated.
1923 January The United States Dollar trades for 15,000, 000 Polish Marks.
November 6 Cracow General Strike leaves 32 strikers and police dead.
December Poland complies with League of Nations ruling and turns Jaworzyna over to the Czechs.
1924 Bank Polski established as a Central Bank. The Zloty replaces the Mark as currency.
Byelorussian schools turned over to Polish speaking teachers.
1925 German Socialist Workers Party in Poland (DSAP) established.
July 20 The Sejm passes a land reform law calling for an annual minimum of 200,000 hectares to be sold at full market value to peasants.
1926 May 12 Marshal Pilsudski, fearing right wing coup d'etat by Prime Minister Wincenty Witos, leads mutinous Legionnaires in seizure of Warsaw's Vistula River bridges. President Stanislaw Wojciechowski meets Pilsudski in the middle of Kierbedz Bridge and tells the Marshal that the Government is prepared to meet force with force.
May 14 Pilsudski's forces gain control of Warsaw after three days of fighting. President Wojciechowski and Prime Minister Witos surrender and resign from office after striking socialist railway workers prevent reinforcement of government forces in the capital.
     Sanacja (Return to Health) Regime established. Pilsudski allows parliamentary government to continue rather than establish a personal dictatorship but maintains influence through control of elections and military.
Roman Dmowski forms the Camp of Great Poland (OWP) to oppose Pilsudski from the right.
1927 Non-Party Block for Co-operation with the Government (BBWR) established by Colonel Walery Slawek to field candidates favorable to the Sanacja in forthcoming elections.
Port of Gdynia opens giving Poland an outlet on the Baltic Sea.
1928 Polish police disband Hramada and arrest leadership of the Beyelorussian socialist peasant movement.
Non-Party Block for Co-operation gains 25% of the vote in parliamentary elections.
1929 Railway line linking the Silesian coalfields with the port of Gdynia completed.
1930 June 29 Convention of People's Rights convened in Cracow by center-left coalition of Christian Democrats, National Workers, Peasant Movements, and Socialist parties. The Convention approves a resolution calling for the end of the Sanacja dictatorship and the resignation of President Ignacy Moscicki.
September 9 Center-Left leaders arrested and held in military prison at Brzesc-nad-Bugiem.
October Opening session of the Chamber of Deputies disrupted by presence of armed military officers. The Speaker Ignacy Daszynski refuses to proceed under threat of coercion.
December Non-Party Block gains parliamentary majority after gerrymandering electoral districts. Opposition leaders are under arrest or have had their candidacies canceled.
1931 Council of Germans in Poland "Rat der Deutschen in Polen" established.
Tadeusz Holowko socialist theoretician and associate of Marshal Pilsudski assassinated by Ukrainian nationalists.
1932 January 25 Poland signs Treaty of Non-aggression with the Soviet Union.
February Peasants in Cracow and Warsaw regions refuse to pay taxes on goods taken to market and demand reduction in prices charged by state monopolies. Four people killed and hundreds arrested when police attempt to break up demonstrations.
June Peasant protest against Count Potocki's "Festival of Labor" (a day of unpaid work on a local highway project) broken up by police and army troops. Six peasants killed and 278 arrested.
1933 March Right-wing Camp of Great Poland party (OWP) disbanded as a threat to public security.
June 15 Leaders of the Center-Left sentenced to three years imprisonment but several are allowed to escape abroad.
Peasant protests in Lancut, Rzeszow, Lezajsk and Przeworsk districts leave several dozen dead and thousands arrested.
Rail line between Cracow and Warsaw via Kielce Tunnel completed.
1934 January 26 Poland signs Ten Year Pact of Non-aggression with Germany.
Colonel Bronislaw Pieracki, Minister of the Interior assassinated by Ukrainian nationalists.
Internment camp for Ukrainian nationalists established at Bereza Kartuska.
1935 April New Constitution grants the President of the Republic broad discretionary powers over the Government and Parliament.
May 12 Death of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski. Colonel Adam Koc supported by General Skwarczynski and Marshal Smigly-Ridz, forms the Camp of National Unification (OZoN) to continue the Marshal's policies.
Polish branch of the Nazi Party (Landesgruppe-Polen) established. The Nazis begin publication of the newspaper "Idee and Wille".
Beyelorussian schools, cultural societies and Orthodox churches closed.
1936 March State Plan for industrial development launched with loan of 2,600,000,000,000 francs from the French Government. Priority given to armaments manufacturing and improvement of rail, gas and electric systems. Electricity supply increased six fold in the next three years. Central Industrial Region constructed inside the "Security Triangle" bounded by Cracow, Kielce and Lvov.
1937 August Peasant strikes in Cracow and Kielce districts leave 40 dead.
"Morges Front" formed by Ignacy Paderewski, General Sikorski, Wincenty Witos, and Jozef Haller to challenge the Sanacja regime's policies from the right but gains little influence.
1938 October 2 Polish troops led by Colonel Beck take disputed districts of Cieszyn, Orawa and Spisz from Czechoslovakia.
1939 March 31 Prime Minister Chamberlain announces that Great Britain will do everything possible to help Poland resist German threats to its independence.
April 28 Hitler renounces the Polish - German Pact of Non-aggression.
August 23 Germany and the Soviet Union sign Secret Protocol to their Non-aggression Pact calling for the division of Poland and the Baltic States between them.
August 31 Sturmbanfuehrer Alfred Naujocks of the SD leads a party of German convicts dressed in Polish uniforms in an attack on the German radio station at Gleiwitz. The raiders burst into the studios, broadcast a patriotic announcement in Polish, fire a few shots and leave. Once outside the convicts are executed by the SS. The bodies are left for the local police to find. German radio broadcast the news of the unprovoked attack on the Reich by the Polish Army within hours.
September 1 The German battleship Schleswig-Holstein moored in the port of Danzig opens fire on Polish fortifications at Westerplatte at 4:47 a.m. The Wehrmacht begins crossing the frontier on a broad front one hour later.
September 6 General Staff of the Polish armed forces abandons Warsaw.
September 7 Polish Government abandons Warsaw.
September 17 Soviet Union invades Poland. Foreign Minister Molotov tells the Polish ambassador that "since the Polish Republic is no longer in existence" the Soviets are taking measures to protect inhabitants of Beylorussia and the western Ukraine.
Polish government and general staff cross into and seek refuge in Romania.
September 27 Warsaw falls to the Germans.
Army officers under command of General Tokarzewski form the Polish Victory Service (SZP) to continue underground resistance to German occupation.
September 28 Poland divided between Germany and the Soviet Union (Vilnius to Lithuania, Western Ukraine to Ukranian SSR, Western Byelorussia to Byelorussian SSR).
October 2 Surrender of Polish units on the Hel peninsula opposite the port of Danzig.
October 5 Last Polish unit in the field surrenders at Kock.
October 12 Hans Frank appointed German Governor of the General Government of Poland.
October 26 Decree issued requiring Jews of Poland to provide forced labor.
November Polish Government in Exile formed in France under Premiership of General Wladyslaw Sikorski.
Government in exile creates the Union of Armed Struggle (ZWZ) to co-ordinate resistance activities with those of the western Allies (later merged with the SZP to form the Polish Home Army).
November 23 Polish Jews 10 years of age and older required to wear a yellow Star of David.
1940 January 25 Site near the village of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) selected for construction of a concentration camp.
February 12 Nazis begin deportation of German Jews to Poland.
April 30 230,000 Polish Jews sealed inside the Lodz Ghetto.
May 1 Rudolph Hoss appointed commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp.
June Polish Government in Exile moves to London.
August 5 Polish Air Force reconstituted under British command. The Poles eventually form 4 bomber and 10 fighter squadrons within the RAF. During the Battle of Britain one RAF fighter pilot in eight is a Pole.
August 15 All Polish RAF 302nd City of Poznan Squadron begins operations.
August 30 RAF 303rd Kosciuszko Squadron begins operations.
November 70,000 Polish Jews sealed inside the Krakow Ghetto.
November 15 400,000 Polish Jews sealed inside the Warsaw Ghetto.
1941 January Soviet Union purchases the District of Suwalki from Germany for $7,500,000 in gold.
March 1 Himmler visits Auschwitz and orders massive expansion and construction of a second camp at nearby Birkenau.
July 21 Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin becomes operational.
July 30 Government in Exile establishes diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. The Soviets agree to form a Polish army in Russia, grant amnesty to Polish internees and annul provisions of the German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact.
August Jewish Ghettos established in Bialystock and Lvov.
August 4 Pravda announces that the question of the Soviet-Polish border is open to future negotiation.
September 3 Germans make first test use of Zyklon-B gas at Auschwitz.
December 5 Stalin and General Sikorski sign Declaration of Friendship and Mutual Assistance.
December 8 Chelmno concentration camp near Lodz becomes operational. 5000 Romany Gypsies are among the first victims murdered there.
1942 January Mass exterminations begin at Auschwitz - Birkenau.
January 5 Polish Workers Party (Communist) founded in Warsaw by Marceli Nowotko, Pawel Finder and Boleslaw Molojec. The old Communist Party of Poland had been liquidated at Stalin's order in 1938-39.
March Belzen concentration camp becomes operational.
March 17 Jews of Lublin deported to Belzen.
May Sobibor concentration camp becomes operational.
July 19 Himmler gives order for execution of Operation Reinhard (mass deportation of Polish Jews to concentration camps).
July 22 Germans begin liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. Warsaw Jews deported to Treblinka concentration camp.
July 23 Treblinka concentration camp becomes operational.
September Polish Council of Assistance for Jews (RPZ) created by the Home Army.
October 8 Polish Home Army sappers destroy Warsaw's main railyards.
October 24 The Café Club (a German Army recreation center in Warsaw) bombed by members of the Communist Gwardia Ludowa (People's Guard) in retaliation for the public execution of 50 of its members.
December Belzen concentration camp closed after the lives of 600,000 victims end there. The camp is dismantled and the grounds plowed under.
1943 March 14 Krakow Ghetto liquidated.
April 9 Temporary halt to exterminations at the Chelmno concentration camp resumed in spring of 1944.
April 12 Germans disinter the bodies of 4,321 Polish officers shot by the Soviets in Katyn Forest.
April 19 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - SS troops making final attempt liquidate the Ghetto are driven back by gunfire. A three week battle ends with 7000 Jewish resistance fighters dead. Surviving 56,000 inhabitants deported to Treblinka for extermination.
April 25 Soviets withdraw diplomatic recognition from the Polish Government in Exile following a Polish request for an International Red Cross investigation of the Katyn Forest Massacre.
May 11 Himmler order liquidation of remaining Jewish Ghettos in Poland.
August Treblinka concentration camp closed after the lives of 870,000 victims are taken there.
August 16 Bialystock Ghetto liquidated.
October 14 300 Jews and Soviet POWs escape from Sobibor concentration camp. The camp is closed, dismantled and the grounds planted over to hide evidence of 250,000 victims.
November Wladyslaw Gomulka becomes Secretary General of the Polish Workers Party.
November 3 Alfred Rosenberg orders execution of Operation Harvest Festival. 40,000 Polish children between the ages of 10 and 14 are deported to forced labor camps in Germany.
December 1 Big Three meeting in Tehran. Roosevelt and Churchill agree to Stalin's demand that Poland's eastern border be re-established along Curzon Line rejected in 1920.
1944 January 1 Communist resistance organizations form a National Home Council (KRN).
January 4 Red Army crosses pre-war frontier between Poland and the Soviet Union.
May 18 Troops of General Anders' 2nd Polish Corps attached to the British Eight Army capture Monastery Hill, Monte Cassino, Italy. Raising of the Polish flag over the ruins of the abbey at 10:20 am ends five months of fighting for control of the strategic height.
July 19 Red Army crosses the River Bug (present border between Poland and Beylorussia).
July 22 Polish National Committee of Liberation (Lublin Committee) formed under Soviet auspices to assist in administration of liberated areas.
General Bor-Komorowski, commander of the Home Army in Warsaw, urges Government in Exile to begin armed rising against the Germans in the capital and prepare the population to fight the Soviets if necessary.
July 24 Majdanek concentration camp scene of 360,000 exterminations liberated by the Red Army. Later that summer the Soviets intern members of the Polish Home Army in the same camp.
July 26 Treaty between Polish Committee of National Liberation and the Soviet Union grants Soviets full control over civilians in liberated areas.
July 29 Communist front organizations announce the abandonment of Warsaw by the Home Army. Radio Moscow broadcasts appeal for uprising by the city's residents. Red Army crosses the Vistula forty miles south of Warsaw. Germans counterattack east of Praga.
July 30 Polish 1st Armored Division under Major General Stanislaw Maczek arrives in Normandy. The Poles are attached to the Canadian 1st Army.
July 31 General Bor-Komorowski and the Government in Exile authorize the Home Army to begin an uprising in Warsaw following reports that Red Army tanks have entered Praga. Home Army begins 63 day battle with Germans for control of the Polish capital.
August Lodz Ghetto (last remaining in Poland) liquidated. Its 60,000 inhabitants are deported to Auschwitz.
August 11 Germans retake Ochota district of Warsaw from Home Army. 40,000 civilians massacred in aftermath.
August 16 Soviets inform the United States ambassador that "the Soviet Government do not wish to associate themselves directly or indirectly with the adventure in Warsaw."
August 19 Polish 1st Armored Division links up with the American 90th Infantry Division closing the Falaise Pocket. German loses in the ensuing four day battle are 10,000 dead and 40,000 captured.
August 22 Stalin denounces leaders of the Warsaw rising as "a group of criminals" in letters to Roosevelt and Churchill.
September 2 Home Army evacuates Warsaw's Old City. 2000 Polish fighters escape through a single manhole and four miles of sewers.
September 18 American and British bombers attempt to re-supply Home Army. 1800 containers of arms and supplies are dropped during daylight raid over Warsaw but 90% of them fall into German hands.
September 23 Germans recapture Czerniakow district of Warsaw.
September 26 Germans recapture Mokotow district of Warsaw.
September 30 Germans recapture Zoliborz district of Warsaw.
October 2 General Bor-Komorowski surrenders to the Germans. Home Army soldiers granted belligerent status and taken prisoner of war. Warsaw rising ends with 225,000 civilians and 20,000 Home Army soldiers killed. Hitler orders Warsaw razed without a trace. 550,000 Varsovians taken to concentration camp at Pruszkow and another 150,000 sent to forced labor in Germany.
October 30 Auschwitz gas chambers claim last victims.
November 25 Himmler orders destruction of Auschwitz crematoria.
December 31 Polish National Committee of Liberation declares itself the Provisional Government of the Polish Republic.
1945 January Soviets confer recognition to the Polish National Committee of Liberation as the Provisional Government of the Polish Republic.
Polish Home Army disbanded.
January 17 Red Army enters ruins of Warsaw prewar population of 1,289,000 reduced to zero and 93% of the city's dwellings destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
January 18 Germans begin evacuation of 66,000 Auschwitz inmates.
January 27 Red Army liberates Auschwitz only 7500 of the camp's inmates are still alive. Some 2 million human beings have been murdered during the war.
February Provisional Government of the Polish Republic moves to Warsaw from Lublin.
Yalta Conference: Roosevelt and Churchill recognize Polish right to annex lands from eastern Germany and demand that members of the Government in Exile be admitted to the Provisional Government in Warsaw.
March Surviving leaders of the non-Communist Polish Resistance arrested and deported to the Soviet Union for trial.
April 21 Polish-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Mutual Aid and Co-operation signed by Provisional Government of the Polish Republic without reference to the western allies or the Government in Exile. The Treaty confirmed the Russian position in regards to Poland's borders.
May 6 Breslau falls to the Red Army completing liberation of present territory of Poland.
June Jan Jankowski, former Vice Premier and Delegate of the Government in Exile, and General Okulicki, last commander of the Polish Home Army, sentenced in Moscow as "saboteurs and subversionist bandits".
June 28 Provisional Government of National Unity formed to govern Poland until free elections could be held and a permanent constitutional system established. Communists retain the premiership but only 7 of 24 ministries.
August 2 Potsdam Conference - United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union agree to recognize a line along the Oder and Neisse Rivers as the border between Poland and Germany, "pending the final determination of Poland's western frontier".
September Association of Freedom and Independence formed by members of the disbanded Home Army to resist Communist takeover.
1946 January Nationalization Law places all businesses capable of employing more than 50 workers per shift under state control.
February 14 Polish and British representatives agree on conditions and schedule for expulsion of 5,057,000 Germans from territories ceded to Poland to the British occupation zone at meeting of the Combined Repatriation Executive in Berlin.
1947 January 19 Communist led Democratic Bloc wins 80% of vote in rigged parliamentary election. British and American protests of violations of Yalta and Potsdam agreements ignored.
February Association of Freedom and Independence disbanded after 40,000 of it members accept amnesty offer and lay down their arms.
February 5 Communist Boleslaw Bierut elected President of the Polish Republic.
April 4 Ukrainian Insurrection Army ambush and assassinate Vice-Minister of Defense General Karol Swierczewski.
July Joint Soviet, Czech and Polish military exercise annihilates last remnants of Stefan Bandera's Ukrainian Insurrection Army in the Bieszczady Mountains.
October 16 Rudolph Hoss executed at Auschwitz. The former camp commandant is hanged near the site of the #1 crematorium.
1948 January 28 Polish-Soviet Trade Treaty signed provided 2 million Rubles of aid to Poland. Marshall Plan aid rejected thereafter.
December 15 Polish Workers Party (Communist) merged with the Polish Socialist Party to form the Polish United Workers Party.
1950 July 6 German Democratic Republic agrees to accept the Oder-Niesse boundary with Poland.
1952 July 22 Constitution of the Polish People's Republic formalizes establishment of the Communist regime.

See also...


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