After Poland and before Barbarossa: A short history in pictures

After wrapping up Poland between themselves, the Russians and Germans meet at Lublin, 1939. Germany would attack Russia in less than two years.

Canadian Journal of History, 2007 by Ben Lombardi

Reviews the book "June 1941: Hitler and Stalin," by John Lukacs.
Excerpt from the review

Whereas Stalin lurched from one failure to the next in his relations with Hitler, the German leader displayed considerable dexterity. Ultimately, Lukacs argues that Stalin failed because his thinking was subordinated to an irrational faith in Hitler, an exaggerated distrust of Great Britain, and an adamantine refusal to see the growing threat Germany posed. In other words, Hitler outplayed Stalin — at least in the run-up to this titanic conflict.…

All the while on the Rhine border the Germans were making threatening noises with sound trucks like this. The idea being to demoralise the neighbours.

Secrets of The Ghost Army - inflatable battle tanks, uniforms

In 1942 the U.S. Army recruited artists and designers to form a military unit that didn't exist - the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. Between D-Day and the end of the war, The Ghost Army staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions from Normandy to the Rhine. They employed high-tech sound trucks and inflatable tanks, trucks, jeeps and planes; altered their uniforms and vehicle markings; and impersonated everyone from tight-lipped generals to garrulous drunks. With just over 1,000 men, they became adept at pretending to be divisions of 20,000, diverting German attention from real American units.

The French were feeling secure behind the West Wall at Bienfold. The Germans entered France through Belgium!

This lady in Amsterdam likes the Germans


At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Netherlands declared itself neutral once again as it had done during World War I. Even so, on May 10, 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands.

One of the purposes of the German invasion of the Netherlands was to draw away attention from operations in the Ardennes and to lure British and French forces deeper into Belgium as well as to pre-empt a possible British invasion in North Holland. Also the Luftwaffe had insisted on seizing the Dutch soil for they were in strong need of the availability of airfields near the Northsea coast.

The German forces faced little resistance at first, but their advance was eventually slowed by the Dutch army. At the Afsluitdijk, the Grebbeberg, Rotterdam and Dordrecht the Dutch army offered strong resistance. A German airborne landing at The Hague, intended to capture the Dutch royal family and the government, failed, and about 1,000 of the paratroopers and airlanding troops that had not been killed were captured and shipped to Britain. Queen Wilhelmina and her government stayed in Britain, but during the Battle of Britain her daughter Princess Juliana and her children proceeded to Ottawa, Canada.

On May 14 the Germans - surprised by the Dutch resistance - demanded the surrender of the city of Rotterdam, threatening to bomb the city. A surrender was agreed upon with Dutch and German forces, with the Dutch intention of protecting its own civilians. However, due to miscommunication between German negotiators on the ground and the Luftwaffe units assigned to carry out the bombings, the city was bombed by error.

After this bombardment, the German military command threatened to bomb the city of Utrecht as well if the Netherlands did not surrender. The Dutch army laid down arms at 1900 hrs on 14 May, and formally capitulated on May 15, with the exception of the forces in Zeeland. They resisted for a few more days, until the bombardment of Middelburg on May 17, which forced the Zeeland forces to surrender as well.

Germans ride into Brussels

The Battle of Belgium & The fall of Eben Emael

An easy walk into Denmark

Posing before the Triumph de Arch in Paris

Practising for Operation Sea Lion, the name for the invasion of Britain. It never came. Germany lost too may airplanes in the Battle for Britain.


"My Luftwaffe is invincible...And so now we turn to England. How long will this one last - two, three weeks?"
Hermann Goring - June 1940

German planes bombed London


"Like so many of our people, we have now had a personal experience of German barbarity which only strengthens the resolution of all of us to fight through to final victory."
King George VI - September 1940


"They came just after dark... "
Ernie Pyle was one of World War Two's most popular correspondents. His journalism was characterized by a focus on the common soldier interspersed with sympathy, sensitivity and humor. He witnessed the war in Europe from the Battle of Britain through the invasion of France. In 1945 he accepted assignment to the Pacific Theater and was killed during the battle for Okinawa. Here, he describes a night raid on London in 1940:
"It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire.
They came just after dark, and somehow you could sense from the quick, bitter firing of the guns that there was to he no monkey business this night.
Shortly after the sirens wailed you could hear the Germans grinding overhead. In my room, with its black curtains drawn across the windows, you could feel the shake from the guns. You could hear the boom, crump, crump, crump, of heavy bombs at their work of tearing buildings apart. They were not too far away.
Half an hour after the firing started I gathered a couple of friends and went to a high, darkened balcony that gave us a view of a third of the entire circle of London. As we stepped out onto the balcony a vast inner excitement came over all of us-an excitement that had neither fear nor horror in it, because it was too full of awe.
You have all seen big fires, but I doubt if you have ever seen the whole horizon of a city lined with great fires - scores of them, perhaps hundreds.
There was something inspiring just in the awful savagery of it.
The closest fires were near enough for us to hear the crackling flames and the yells of firemen. Little fires grew into big ones even as we watched. Big ones died down under the firemen's valor, only to break out again later.
About every two minutes a new wave of planes would be over. The motors seemed to grind rather than roar, and to have an angry pulsation, like a bee buzzing in blind fury.
The guns did not make a constant overwhelming din as in those terrible days of September. They were intermittent - sometimes a few seconds apart, sometimes a minute or more. Their sound was sharp, near by; and soft and muffled, far away. They were everywhere over London.
Into the dark shadowed spaces below us, while we watched, whole batches of incendiary bombs fell. We saw two dozen go off in two seconds. They flashed terrifically, then quickly simmered down to pin points of dazzling white, burning ferociously. These white pin points would go out one by one, as the unseen heroes of the moment smothered them with sand. But also, while we watched, other pin points would burn on, and soon a yellow flame would leap up from the white center. They had done their work - another building was on fire.
The greatest of all the fires was directly in front of us. Flames seemed to whip hundreds of feet into the air. Pinkish-white smoke ballooned upward in a great cloud, and out of this cloud there gradually took shape - so faintly at first that we weren't sure we saw correctly - the gigantic dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.
St. Paul's was surrounded by fire, but it came through. It stood there in its enormous proportions - growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn. It was like a picture of some miraculous figure that appears before peace-hungry soldiers on a battlefield.
The streets below us were semi-illuminated from the glow. Immediately above the fires the sky was red and angry, and overhead, making a ceiling in the vast heavens, there was a cloud of smoke all in pink. Up in that pink shrouding there were tiny, brilliant specks of flashing light-antiaircraft shells bursting. After the flash you could hear the sound.
Up there, too, the barrage balloons were standing out as clearly as if it were daytime, but now they were pink instead of silver. And now and then through a hole in that pink shroud there twinkled incongruously a permanent, genuine star - the old - fashioned kind that has always been there.
Below us the Thames grew lighter, and all around below were the shadows - the dark shadows of buildings and bridges that formed the base of this dreadful masterpiece.
Later on I borrowed a tin hat and went out among the fires. That was exciting too; but the thing I shall always remember above all the other things in my life is the monstrous loveliness of that one single view of London on a holiday night - London stabbed with great fires, shaken by explosions, its dark regions along the Thames sparkling with the pin points of white-hot bombs, all of it roofed over with a ceiling of pink that held bursting shells, balloons, flares and the grind of vicious engines. And in yourself the excitement and anticipation and wonder in your soul that this could be happening at all.
These things all went together to make the most hateful, most beautiful single scene I have ever known."
Johnson, David, The London Blitz : The City Ablaze, December 29, 1940 (1981); Pyle Ernie, Ernie Pyle in England (1941), Reprinted in Commager, Henry Steele, The Story of the Second World War (1945).

Destruction in Belgrade, Yugoslavia


Operation Punishment was the code name for the German bombing of Belgrade during the invasion of Yugoslavia. The Luftwaffe bombed the city on April 6, 1941 (Palm Sunday) without a declaration of war, continuing bombing until April 10. More than 500 bombing sorties were flown against Belgrade in three waves coming from Romania where German forces were assembled for the attack on the Soviet Union. Most of the government officials fled, and the Yugoslav army began to collapse.

The attack on Yugoslavia was one of the earliest terror bombings of World War II. In the following days Bulgaria, Hungary, and Italy joined Nazi Germany in partitioning Kingdom of Yugoslavia, with the support of the newly established Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia. The country was absorbed within 12 days, and Greece fell a week later, which made the Third Reich the master of most of continental Europe and ready for launching the attack against Soviet Union.
Germans in Greece
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Points To Ponder


It is difficult to distinguish between the quality of both the German and Russian soldiers. Both were motivated by their love for their motherland. But there were others factors that drove the two sides to such desperate fighting.

One, both sides knew that this was a no-holds bar war. Not fighting was thus not an option.

Second, both Hitler and Stalin had squads that killed any deserter. Turning away from fighting was just not possible.

Thus was seen some of the most bitter, brutal and desperate fighting on the WW2 eastern (Russian) Front.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana


"Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.'
--Mao Zedong


"The main thing is to make history, not to write it."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite."
--Winston Churchill


"In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers."
--August Bebel

"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."

Quotes about War....

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
---Otto von Bismarck


"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering


"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy."
--Tzu Sun

"All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; So why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?"
--Emperor Hirohito