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

  • Eric Thayer/ Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 4/25-5/1

    This week we have images from the disaster in Nepal, a pangolin released into the wild in Sumatra, the protests in Baltimore, a rainbow in Bolivia, unrest in Burundi, newlyweds in Egypt, May Day protests in Turkey, and much more.

  • Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

    Rescue and Recovery in Nepal

    Five days have passed since Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, and rescue teams are still discovering trapped victims alive in the rubble and rescuing them.

  • John Moore/2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    Winners of the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards

    Last week, the Sony World Photography Awards announced this year's list of winners.

  • Matt Rourke/AP

    The Day After: Cleaning Up in Baltimore

    On Tuesday, Baltimore residents began to clear the wreckage of rioting and fires that erupted the day before, after the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody. People around Baltimore formed volunteer clean-up crews on Tuesday to help affected store owners, repair damaged structures, and clean streets strewn with debris.

Join the Discussion