• Short Summary

    Compilation of Newsreel material from 1939 made in 1959 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and the declaration of war.

  • Description

    Compilation of Newsreel material from 1939 made in 1959 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and the declaration of war.

    The storm clouds that had gathered over Europe for two years - with preliminary rumbles when Hitler took Austria under his wind in March 1938, occupied the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia in September of the same year, and eventually assumed military power in the whole of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 - released their first thunderbolt over Poland at the break of dawn September 1 1939.

    With the greater part of Germany's military strength - estimated at 1,350,000 mobilized men, including 90 infantry divisions - concentrated at Poland's western borders, Hitler's troops poured into Poland from East Prussia and Pomerania, in the northwest, and from former Czechoslovak territory, in the south. A gigantic pincer movement was directed against the capital - Warsaw.

    While the Germans established their foothold, continued their advance and set up the first "immigration posts" for refugees streaming west-words, tension mounted in the Allied countries. London September 3 - Big Ben about to strike the eleventh hour. Fifteen minutes later, an announcement broadcast from No. 10 Downing Street left no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation. Addressing the nation, Premier Neville Chamberlain said:
    "The British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final statement ( 9 am, Sept. 3) stating that unless the British Government heard from them by 11 o'clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany. You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more or anything different that I could have done that would have been more successful.

    Even to the very last, it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland. But Hitler would not have it. He has evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened.

    But although he now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by Poland, this is not a true statement."

    With barrage balloons, hovering overhead, London for the "real thing". Trains crowded with children left for safer parts of the country. Sand was scooped up for the many sandbags to protect the City's buildings. "Don't mind Hitler - take your holiday" and "If your knees knock, kneel on them", placards and notices read; and undaunted Cockneys adorned the ominous sandbags with caricatures of Hitler.

    On the roof of Foyle's - Britain's largest book store - huge piles of copies of "Mein Kampf" were set on fire. Then - the call-up and civilians testing their gas masks.

    In Paris, Sept.3, people sitting in pavement cafes and bistros read the shattering news of the day. France had declared war at the same time as Britain. And as politicians sped from conference to conference, France's army manned the Maginot Line with its miles of tank obstacles and hundreds of underground defence posts.

    Holland - though protected under international laws by her neutrality - likewise took measures to ward off a possible German attack. She guarded her borders with pill boxes, obstacles and - water. Sluice-gates were opened and many hundreds square miles of low-lying land inundated to form a natural barrier against the potential enemy. In some places, emergency dams had to be built when sudden rainfalls caused the intentional floods to rise to danger level.

    In Amsterdam, Queen Wilhelmina inspected her civil defence forces. Acting with King Leopold of Belgium, she had vainly offered her good offices for peace Sept 1, though she had received a respectful reply from Hitler. Eight months later, Hitler cast aside all scruples about neutrality, heavily bombed Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and forced the Dutch Royal family to flee to Britain.

    As Britain and France entered into the first phase of the European conflagration, into the so-called "phony war" which was to see them on the defensive for many months, Hitler's armies thrust ahead through Poland. Not yet fully mobilised, at less than half the strength of the German forces, the Polish army with its one armoured division had little to pit against the invaders.

    The then tremendous striking force of the Luftwaffe soon destroyed communications, paralysed Poland's fleet of 800 obsolete planes and wrecked industrial and military objectives behind the lines. Warsaw and the other leading cities were methodically pounded into ruins.

    In a lightning campaign, the northern and southern German army groups strangled the main Polish forces. What remained of Poland's army concentrated on the defence of Warsaw.

    Among the German Staff watching the siege of the capital was Hitler himself who had flown in form Berlin. Soldiers and civilians alike met their death in the rain of shells and bombs. Warsaw - more than three-quarters destroyed - was hidden under a pall of smoke when its resistance ceased Sept. 27 and its defenders surrendered.

    With Russian troops moving into eastern Poland Sept. 17 there was no chance of her crushed forces striking any last decisive blow against the attackers. With the fall of Lublin Oct. 5 all resistance ended. A nation was crushed, its army defeated, its cities in ruins - Poland was about to be divided between invading countries... for the fourth time in her history.

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  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - British Paramount Newsreel
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Black & White
    Time in/Out:
  • Part of…

    VARIOUS LOCATIONS: 20th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II VARIOUS LOCATIONS: 20th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II VARIOUS LOCATIONS: 20th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II VARIOUS LOCATIONS: 20th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II

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