The morning of 1st September 1939, the hawkers unknowingly announce the beginning of a conflict that, in six years, will cause 50 million deaths. (…) Peace will have lasted only 20 years. The time it takes to make a soldier.
The invasion of Poland sets fire to the powders
August 31, 1989, on the eve of the 50e anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the journalist Normand Lester presents to the Téléjournal a report.
The latter explains that it is the invasion of Poland by the Nazi Germany of Adolf Hitler that sets fire to the powder.
The reason invoked by Hitler to invade Poland is that he wants to annex the free city of Danzig (Gdansk).
This city has a very large German-speaking population. Hitler wants to bring them back to the fold of Germany.
But Danzig (Gdansk) is surrounded and controlled to a certain extent by Poland.
1st September 1939, the German army invades the object of its covetousness and the whole of Polish territory.
Normand Lester also recalls that German soldiers use new military tactics.
Their deployment is blazing fast (the lightning war) and they resort to terrifying bombardments to subdue the Poles.
The Polish army is crushed by the German army.
Once Poland was under their control, the Germans massacred many Polish officers who made up the country's military elite.
This is just a prelude. The next five and a half years, September 1939 to May 1945, were infernal.
How and why?
But how did we get there? Have not we seen anything coming? Has the world resisted the sounds of boots coming from Germany?
The war has returned, little by little in many corners of the world, sneakily. A bit like a fire that comes back everywhere when firefighters have their backs turned.
The journalist René Lévesque, on September 3, 1959, presents on the show Foreground a remarkable summary of the events that led to the Second World War 20 years ago.
The analysis of René Lévesque reminds us that as early as 1933, Adolf Hitler and his followers conditioned the German people to declare a new war.
We see images of monster rallies during which Nazi propaganda is distilled drop by drop and poisons public opinion.
In 1935, Adolf Hitler reinstated compulsory military service. In 1936, he reoccupied by a coup the left bank of the demilitarized Rhine since 1919.
The Führer and his Italian ally Benito Mussolini also help General Franco to win the civil war raging in Spain.
Spain is a dress rehearsal where you try your weapons before the great conflict.
France, the United Kingdom and the United States, victors of the First World War, react to all these aggressions only weakly.
This brings the second element of explanation suggested by René Lévesque.
The Second World War is partly caused by the abdication of democracies in the face of an increasingly warlike Nazi Germany.
As the journalist points out, "we could almost excuse Hitler for thinking that everything was allowed him. "
In 1938, the annexation of Austria to Germany as well as the annexation of the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia preoccupied the United Kingdom, France and the United States.
But these countries are doing nothing to force Hitler to back down.
At a conference in Munich in September 1938, the United Kingdom and France even recognized the German control over the German-speaking portions of Czechoslovakia.
In March 1939, Hitler ordered to take the city of Prague and liquidate the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, in Asia, the military government of Japan also has ambitions of conquest.
From 1931, the empire of the rising sun attacks the north of China. In 1937, the Japanese occupied the entire country.
Western democracies pretend to see nothing.
In parallel, Adolf Hitler threatens more and more Poland. Democracies hope that the Soviet Union would oppose an invasion of its immediate neighbor.
But that was not the case.
On the contrary, in a dramatic coup, and against all odds, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939.
A few days later, Poland is invaded.
Resigned, the United Kingdom and France declare war on Nazi Germany on September 3, 1939.
Canada joins them a week later, September 10, 1939.
In Canadian newspapers, there is talk of raising taxes to fund the war effort.
Rene Levesque also recalls the cynicism of some who said "that Hitler had just helped us eliminate unemployment."