I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1939 in this post.
A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1939
July 4, 1939
German Jews were denied the right to hold government jobs.
July 9, 1939
British Parliament member Winston Churchill called for a British-Russian alliance when he realized that Britain could not defend Poland against Nazi aggression on their own. Stalin declined.
July 21, 1939
Adolf Eichmann was appointed director of the Prague Office of Jewish Emigration.
July 26, 1939
US Secretary of State Cordell Hull informed the ambassador of Japan that the US would not extend the 1911 commercial treaty between them.
The Nazi SS dressed one hundred fifty (150) concentration camp prisoners in Polish army uniforms and then shot them. They planted the bodies as evidence of Polish aggression at the German border. Hitler used the ruse as a pretext for war.
August 1, 1939
The President of the German Lottery forbid the sale of lottery tickets to Jews.
August 2, 1939
Physicist Albert Einstein, a German Jew who had emigrated to the United States in 1932, sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining that scientists had discovered how to create a nuclear chain reaction and warning that Germany might develop a nuclear weapon.
August 4, 1939
General Francisco Franco established authoritarian rule in Spain, calling himself El Caudillo (The Leader). He would answer only “to God and to history.”
August 12, 1939
Military representatives from France and Britain met with those of the Soviet Union in Moscow to discuss an alliance. However, Russia preferred an agreement with Germany.
Italian foreign minister Galeazzo Ciano informed Hitler that it would take two years before the Italian military could be rebuilt in order to fight alongside Germany.
August 20 – 31, 1939
The Soviets attacked the Japanese army along Mongolia’s Khalka River. Seventeen thousand (17,000) Soviets were killed, but forty-five thousand (45,000) Japanese soldiers died.
August 22, 1939
In a speech to his military leadership at Obersalzberg, Adolf Hitler said he intended to,
Kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language.
August 23, 1939
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and a secret codicil dividing eastern Europe into “spheres of influence.” This facilitated Germany invading Poland from the west and the Soviet Union invading from the east.
August 25, 1939
Britain and Poland signed a Mutual Assistance Treaty.
August 31, 1939
Britain mobilized their fleet and civilian evacuations began from London.
In another of Hitler’s ruses as a pretext to war, German operatives broadcast a message to Poles from a seized radio station in Gleiwitz, Germany. They were urged to attack Germans and the operation worked, which gave the impression that insurgents were attacking Germans.
Julius Streicher published this quotation in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer,
The Jewish people ought to be exterminated root and branch. Then the plague of pests would have disappeared in Poland at one stroke.
September 1, 1939
The Nazis invaded Poland, which had the largest Jewish population in Europe, 3.35 million, initiating World War II in Europe.
General mobilization was declared in Britain and France.
Jews in Germany were forbidden to be outdoors after 8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer.
September 2, 1939
Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Germany to withdraw their troops from Poland within 12 hours or find themselves at war with Britain and France. The German Luftwaffe (air force) raided Warsaw, Poland.
September 3, 1939
Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany.
British Parliament member Winston Churchill is named First Lord of the Admiralty.
A German U-boat submarine torpedoed a British passenger ship named the Athenia traveling from England to Canada. One hundred eighteen (118) of the fourteen hundred (1400) civilians aboard were killed.
George Edwin Farrar turned eighteen years old on this day.
September 4, 1939
The British RAF (Royal Air Force) attacked German Navy vessels for the first time. Only eight of the twenty-nine bombers hit German naval bases. Ten of the RAF bombers got lost, seven were shot down, one attacked neutral Denmark, and three attacked one of Britain’s own ships.
The land connection between East Prussia and the Reich that had been severed with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was reestablished by the German army and Warsaw was cut off.
General Francisco Franco publicly declared neutrality, but offered his support to the Axis powers.
September 5, 1939
The United States proclaimed its neutrality.
German troops crossed the Vistula River in Poland and occupied the city of Kraków.
September 7, 1939
The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) began daily radio broadcasts in Polish.
September 9, 1939
Advance elements of the British Expeditionary Force (the BEF, or British Army in western Europe during WWII) arrived in France.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s cabinet planned for a three year war with Nazi Germany.
September 10, 1939
Canada declared war on Germany.
The Battle of the Atlantic began. It was the longest running battle of WWII and did not end until Germany surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.
September 14, 1939
British destroyers sank a German U-boat submarine through the use of depth charges. It was the first German ship lost in the war.
September 17, 1939
Soviets troops invaded eastern Poland, supposedly to protect Poland’s Byelorussian and Ukrainian populations.
The British navy lost its first ship of the war, the Courageous, when it was sunk by a U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Five hundred died.
The war in Europe split Americans. Non-interventionists did not want to get involved in the war. Interventionists, concerned about German invasion, did. Non-interventionists included former President Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Henry Ford, and many U.S. senators and congressmen. American aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh was another non-interventionist and on this date, Lindbergh made his first anti-intervention radio speech.
September 18, 1939
The Wehrmacht army of Nazi Germany and Soviet Red Army staged a joint parade in Brest-Litovsk, Poland.
Members of the Polish Cipher Bureau escaped from Poland with two German Enigma code machines. They arrived in Paris on October 1.
September 19, 1939
The first British casualty list of the war was published.
September 20, 1939
The first air battle of the war between the German Luftwaffe and British RAF occurred over the border between Germany and France. The RAF lost two aircraft and the Luftwaffe lost one.
September 21, 1939
SS leader Reinhard Heydrich issued orders to special SS action squads (Einsatzgruppen) in Poland that Jews were to be gathered into ghettos near railroads for the future “final goal.”
September 22, 1939
Germany and Russia agreed on the division of Poland.
Two hundred seventeen thousand (217,000) Polish troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army at Lvov (L’viv) in southeastern Poland. There were 200,000 Jews in Lvov at the time, 100,000 of which were refuges from German-occupied Poland.
Britain began gas rationing due to war shortages.
September 23, 1939
German Jews were forbidden to own wireless radios.
September 24, 1939
German Special Task Force troops executed eight hundred (800) Polish intellectuals.
Small scale food rationing, bread and flour, was introduced in Germany.
September 25, 1939
The German Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw with four hundred (420) aircraft. Civilian deaths in Warsaw reached forty thousand (40,000).
September 27, 1939
Warsaw surrendered to the Nazis and the exiled Polish government set up in Paris.
Himmler’s second in command of the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, was put in charge of the new Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). The RSHA combined the SS Security Service (SD), the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Criminal Police (Kripo), and the foreign intelligence service into one huge centralized organization. In WWII, it was the RSHA that terrorized all of Europe and performed mass murder on a scale unprecedented in human history.
September 29, 1939
The Nazis and Soviets divided Poland between them. Over two million Jews resided in Nazi controlled areas, and 1.3 million in the Soviet controlled areas.
This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:
The History Place:
The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline
Antisemitic Legislation 1933 – 1939
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.
Most recent post from the series:
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019