World War II: The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War

In August of 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty. One week later, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. The first attack of the war took place on September 1, 1939, as German aircraft bombarded the Polish town of Wielun, killing nearly 1,200. Five minutes later, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on a transit depot at Westerplatte in the Free City of Danzig. Within days, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany and began mobilizing their armies and preparing their civilians. On September 17, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. Polish forces surrendered in early October after losing some 65,000 troops and many thousands of civilians. In November, Soviet forces invaded Finland and began a months-long battle dubbed the Winter War. By the beginning of 1940, Germany was finalizing plans for the invasions of Denmark and Norway. Collected here are images of these tumultuous first months and of Allied forces preparing for the arduous battles to come. (This entry is Part 2 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Christopher Furlong / Getty

    France Dismantles 'The Jungle' in Calais

    A small camp in Calais, France, housing nearly 8,000 migrants hoping to cross into England, is being evacuated and torn down in what French authorities are calling a “humanitarian” operation.

  • David Goldman / AP

    Photos of a Divided America

    For much of the past year, Associated Press photographers have been gathering images of the people and places at the heart of multiple issues dividing Americans this election year.

  • Benjamin Grant / Daily Overview / Amphoto Books / DigitalGlobe

    The Awesomeness of Earth from Above

    Can satellite images of our planet's varied terrain make humanity's impact apparent?

  • Wong Maye-E / AP

    Photos of the Week: 10/15–10/21

    Diwali lights in England, a pair of scary clown masks in Nicaragua, a rat stuck in a New York garbage can, a bioluminescent jellyfish in the Marianas Trench, a little Hitler, and much more.

Join the Discussion