German attack on Poland and the beginning of World War II. At 4.45 a.m. the German battleship “Schleswig-Holstein” began shelling Westerplatte, the Military Transit Depot in the Free City of Gdańsk, defended by a crew (about 200 soldiers) under the command of Major Henryk Sucharski and Captain Franciszek Dąbrowski. For 7 days it heroically fought off repeated German attacks from the sea, land and air, becoming a symbol of Polish resistance.
The situation of the Army ” Pomorze”, attacked from two flanks by the enemy armored forces and attacked from the air, becomes very difficult. Following the order of the Army Headquarters to carry out a suicidal air attack on the enemy ground forces by a squadron of unprepared fighter planes, one of the most outstanding Polish aviators, Captain Florian Laskowski, commander of 3rd/4th Fighter Squadron (Torun) was killed. His words “I will lead this squadron” went down in history.
The declaration of war on the Third Reich by France and Great Britain, mass joyful manifestations of the Warsaw population in front of the embassies of these countries. In the Silesian Voivodeship, in addition to regular units of the Polish Army, Border Guards and police, voluntary formations were formed from the local civilian population (mainly former Silesian insurgents and scouts).
Massacres of civilians in Częstochowa and Sieradz committed by Wehrmacht soldiers. Several hundred people are murdered by the Wehrmacht in both towns. The Luftwaffe bombs Sulejów, where no Polish military units are stationed; about 700 people are killed and the town is destroyed in 70 %. The evacuation of the state authorities and the gold of the Polish Bank from Warsaw begins. The signing in Paris of a French-Polish protocol supplementing the Polish-French agreements of 1921 and 1925
Commander-in-Chief of the German armed forces Walter von Brauchitsch introduces “emergency courts” and German criminal law in the occupied Polish territory. The Germans enter Bydgoszcz. Mass executions of Poles begins (about 1600 victims) in retaliation for the suppression of diversions in the city.
Order of Commander-in-Chief Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły for the “Małopolska” Army (formerly “Carpathian”) about the withdrawal behind the line of the Vistula and San rivers and stubborn defence of the line of these rivers. This order was impossible to carry out.
Capitulation of Westerplatte. German soldiers demonstrate their respect for the defenders of the station (which was an exception in the Polish campaign).
The beginning of Warsaw defence, organised by General Walerian Czuma. General Juliusz Rommel (who suffered defeat as commander of the “Lodz” Army) becomes the head of the newly formed “Warsaw” Army; its task is, among others, to defend the capital. German armoured-motor platoon reaches the borders of the city in the area of Ochota and tries to capture it at once.
The first phase of the biggest battle of the defensive war, later known as the Battle of the Bzura, began with an offensive towards Strykow. The aim of the Polish offensive turn was, among others, to relieve the defense of Warsaw by attacking the left wing of the German troops operating towards the capital, and in case of success to regain the strategic initiative in the defensive war; Polish troops (combined armies ” Poznań” and “Pomorze”) were commanded by General Tadeusz Kutrzeba.
The Polish army, attacking on the Bzura River, smashes down the German 30th Infantry Division, takes captive around 1000 German soldiers and recaptures a number of towns (including Łęczyca).
The counter-attacking troops of General Kutrzeba’s army group regain Łowicz. The Germans are forced to hold back the attack in the direction of Warsaw and Modlin. Adolf Hitler appears on the battlefield to personally encourage his soldiers and officers to fight at the critical moment of the campaign.
First meeting of the Supreme War Council of Great Britain and France in Abbeville. In the presence of Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier, it has been decided to abandon a massive offensive in the West. As a result, the French Commander-in-Chief, General Maurice Gamelin, ordered the French army to return to its initial positions, which marked the beginning of the so-called “Phoney War”. The fate of Poland was thus sealed. This decision also pushed the hesitant Stalin into action.
Lithuania rejects German suggestions of attacking Poland. Bombing of Frampole; in order to test the efficiency of the new incendiary bombs and the efficiency of the Luftwaffe crews, a fire is started and it destroys this small town in the Roztocze region almost completely.
Polish President Ignacy Mościcki moves his residence to the Załucze estate near Śniatyń. The Polish government resides in Kuty and Kosovo Huculski on the Romanian border. The gold reserves of the Bank of Poland (worth about 500 million Polish zlotys at that time), thanks to the kindness of the Romanian side, reach the port in Constanta on the Black Sea, from where they are sent by sea to France.
The German army encloses Warsaw in an encirclement. The siege of the capital begins with intensive bombardments and heavy artillery fire (about 1000 cannons).
In Antoniewo-Zdziarow, near Sochaczew, a battery of the 17th Light Artillery Regiment (four 100 mm guns) stops a German attack, including the elite SS Leibstandarte “Adolf Hitler” regiment, destroying and damaging 22 tanks.
17th September 1939 (Sunday)
At 3 a.m. the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Vladimir Potiemkin presents to the Polish Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski a note informing him about the collapse of the Polish state, the non-existence of supreme authorities and the resulting necessity of protecting the lives and property of the population of Western Ukraine and Belarus. The Polish ambassador does not accept the note.
Commander-in-Chief Marshal Edward Rydz-Śmigły crosses over to Romania at night. The Soviet army joins the German forces besieging Lviv.
The end of Polish resistance on Kępa Oksywska. Commander of the Land Defence of the Coast Colonel Stanisław Dabek at the head of about 20 soldiers and officers fought to the end. Wounded, not wanting to be taken prisoner, he commits suicide.
The troops of General Sosnkowski’s Southern Front attempting to break through to Lvov, despite tactical successes, are shattered and dispersed. General Sosnkowski takes part in the last battles, personally directing the fire of an anti-tank cannon, then, with a small group of his devoted soldiers, he fights and hides in the Carpathians.
After a dramatic two-day battle, in which the Soviet army lost several dozen tanks and several hundred soldiers, the defence of Grodno is over. In revenge, the Polish population and prisoners of war are slaughtered.
Capitulation of Lviv to the Red Army. The Soviets guaranteed the officers of the Polish Army “personal freedom and inviolability of their personal property”, as well as the possibility of going abroad. These conditions were not kept. Most officers, defenders of Lviv, ended up in the camp in Starobelsk, and were later murdered in Kharkov.
The capitulation of the troops of the Northern Front of General Dąb-Biernacki, defeated in the second battle of Tomaszów Lubelski. The commander of the Front manages to escape from the encirclement and get through to Romania.
The Polish submarine ORP “Żbik ” is interned in the Swedish port of Stavsnas.
The first of the victorious duels between the Heliodor Laskowski mine battery and the German battleships “Schleswig-Holstein” and “Schlesien”. The battery was commanded by Capt. Mariner Zbigniew Przybyszewski. After the war he became a victim of communist judicial murder.
Germans start the assault on Warsaw and capture, among others, Czerniakowski and Dąbrowski Fort. The decision about capitulation of the city is made.
Początek rozmów kapitulacyjnych. Gen. Tadeusz Kutrzeba uzgadnia z dowódcą niemieckiej 8 Armii gen. Johannesem Blaskowitzem warunki kapitulacji Warszawy. Gen. Walerian Czuma wydaje rozkaz o zaprzestaniu walk w Warszawie. Zakończenie walk w Warszawie.
The signing of the act of capitulation of Warsaw. Beginning of talks about the capitulation of the fortress in Modlin.
The capitulation of the fortress in Modlin. According to the agreed conditions the officers are to be released to their homes. Some of them then go into conspiratorial activity.
The victorious fights of the Independent Operational Group “Polesie” of General Franciszek Kleeberg against Soviet troops near Jabłonia and Milanów.
The Battle of Hel ended with the Fortified Region Hel unit capitulating to the Germans after holding out for three weeks against overwhelming odds.