August 25, 1939: UK and Poland Sign Mutual Defense Alliance…What a Joke!

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A Brief History

On August 25, 1939, in a move meant to dissuade Germany from attacking Poland, the United Kingdom (Britain) signed a military alliance treaty with Poland which promised that if either were attacked, the other would come to their assistance.  Meanwhile, in a deal made with the devil (you pick which side is the devil, both qualify!), the German Nazi government led by Adolf Hitler signed a “non-aggression pact” with the Soviet Union known as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in which each country promised not to attack the other.

Digging Deeper

Both of these agreements were not worth the paper they were written on, as Hitler and friends soon invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and nobody, including the UK, came to her assistance.  France also had a pact of mutual defense with Poland but did not come to the aid of Poland either.  Instead, both the UK and France declared war on Germany. 

Not only were the Poles taken by surprise, but they also faced a revitalized German military that was armed with more and superior weapons, especially in terms of aircraft (6 to 1 ratio).  History and Headlines Fact:  Poland had actually designed first-rate fighter planes but had sold the entire production to raise capital, leaving their air force to fight with obsolete models.

On September 17, 1939 with Poland already in desperate straits, the Soviet Union attacked from the other side, leaving no chance whatsoever for a successful defense of Poland.

In only 5 weeks’ time, Poland was taken and divided up between Germany and the Soviet Union.

Polish forces did, however, continue to fight during the rest of the war, both as partisans, as well as in organized units based in Britain.  Polish men actually made up the 4th largest Allied contingent in the war on Germany, after the USSR, the UK and the U.S.

Meanwhile, Germany broke its side of the deal and commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, in 1941.  The most horrific conflict mankind has ever seen resulted.  For a list of some of the battles in which the Germans and Soviets slaughtered each other, we recommend the History and Headlines article: “10 of the Bloodiest Battles of World War II.”

The bottom line here is that treaties, pacts, agreements, understandings and the like between countries are really a joke (Just ask any Native Americans you may know!).  Throughout history it is apparent that a country will do whatever its leaders want to do regardless of whatever solemn pacts they made.  Question for students (and subscribers): What egregious examples of treaty violations can you think of?  (The Tet Offensive in Viet Nam comes to mind…)  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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For another interesting event that happened on August 25, please see the History and Headlines article: “10 Great Hoaxes: You Can Fool Some of the People All of the Time…

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Carruthers, Bob.  Poland 1939 – The Blitzkrieg Unleashed (Hitler’s War Machine).  Archive Media Publishing Ltd, 2011.

Williamson, David G.  Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 (Campaign Chronicles).  Pen and Sword Military, 2009.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.