80 years ago today, Germany invaded Poland, effectively beginning World War 2.

  • September 1, 2019

Hitler watching German soldiers marching into Poland in September 1939. (Image: Bild Bundesarchiv/ German Federal Archive)

80 years ago today, on 1st September, 1939, German forces attacked Poland, thus effectively beginning the Second World War. By the time the war ended, on September 2, 1945, somewhere between 70 – 85 million lives were lost.

To drive the point home, the world lost 3% of its total population in the war. Driving the point further, an average 32,000 people were dying everyday. Poland, the most affected nation, lost one-fifth of its population.

Poland is observing the day – and several world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence are also set to join other world leaders. Ceremonies began at 4.30 a.m. (0230 GMT) in the small town of Wielun, site of one of the first bombings of the war, with speeches by Polish President Andrzej Duda and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The deadliest conflict in human history, the war was witness to massacres,genocides (Holocaust), strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation, and the only use of nuclear weapons(Hiroshima and Nagasaki) in a war till date. The vast majority of the world’s countries – including all the great powers – directly participated in the war. Two opposing military alliances were formed: the Allies (led by Big Four: United Kingdom,United States*,Russia and China and other nations) fought off the thwarting military practices of the Axis (Nazi Germany, Kingdom of Italy and Empire of Japan). A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 30 countries, and the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort. In most of Europe, the distinction between civil and state resources were blurred.

*America officially entered the war only on December 8, 1941, when all but one member of Congress passed the motion one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Although America formally maintained neutrality up until that moment, it was providing support to the Allies.