The Nazi propaganda machine framed the invasion of Poland as an issue of self-defense even as it started.

Military Casualties:

  • Germany: 16,000 dead; 30,000 wounded.
  • Poland: 66,000 dead; 133,000 wounded.


After it was clear that the Polish Army was defeated, Adolph Hitler commanded that any Polish people who might be sources of potential "resistance" be killed.  A special unit of Einsatzgruppen soldiers was formed named "Tannenberg."  Their "pacification" operation of the same name involved the killing of the Polish minority living in Germany as well as mass killings of Polish citizens by other units of the Einsatzgruppen.  The plan was originally meant to "pacify" the Polish populace by eliminating figures of authority and respect, but it eventually devolved into arbitrary summary and mass executions.

Operation Tannenberg was only a small part of the Intelligenzaktion, a liquidation of the Polish upper-class citizens.  The Intelligenzaktion was carried out from the end of the invasion of Poland up until the Spring of 1940.  

It is not hard to imagine that the copious amounts of dehumanizing anti-Polish propaganda abounding in Germany prior to the invasion made such killings all the easier for these specialized murder units.  The seeds for genocide had been sown.

Alex Fisher

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