1 September, 1939

A German gun crew manning a 15-cm Kanone 18 outside Ostrowo, Poland. While it doesn’t say on the back of the photo that it’s 1 September, or indeed which of the dozen or so places named “Ostrowo”, I like to think that they have fired the first shots of World War 2. Well, the very first shots had been fired in Danzig (modern-day Gdansk), when the old battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on the Polish military depot Westerplatte. The day before, SS and Sicherheitsdienst operatives had staged several false flag incidents, like the Gleiwitz Incident, in order to make it look like the Poles carried out attacks across the Polish-German border. One of the reasons why Hitler wanted to attack Poland was to reestablish the connection with the free city of Danzig, which had been cut off from the German Reich as a consequence of  the changed borders after WW1. To make matters worse for the Poles, Hitler had an agreement with USSR’s dictator Joseph Stalin, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which divided up eastern Europe in spheres of interest. A couple of weeks later, the Red Army invaded Poland from the east, which sealed the fate of the country.


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