Poland, officially the United Kingdom of Poland, Lithuania and the Borderlands (Zjednoczone Krolestwo z Polski, Litwy i Kresow) is a country in central Europe.
Second Polish RepublicFollowing the First World War, the Polish nation was reconstituted from territories from Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. The Second Polish Republic was created on 11 November 1918, after 123 years of occupation. Immediately the nation was embroiled in several border wars but came out successful; its most crucial victory was in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-21, which ended in the Peace of Riga and set most of Poland's borders for nearly two decades.
Despite moves toward political liberality, by 1925 there were many troubles on the domestic political scene. In May 1926 Jozef Piludski launched a coup which brought into power the 'Sanajca', or 'healing' movement. The regime was authoritarian but not an outright dictatorship; it existed as a centrist party and much of its popularity came from genuine support rather than propaganda campaigns. The government remained reasonably powerful but after Piludski's death in 1935 factions within the party began to destabilise the government.
World War Two
Poland was invaded on 1 September 1939 by Nazi Germany, and on 17 September by the USSR. Poland's military was poorly equipped and despite strong resistance fell before the German Blitzkrieg; the nation capitulated on 28 September. During the war massive attrocities would be committed against the Polish population, including the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Volhynia, and deportation and execution of thousands of Poles by the Soviet Union. In Katyn Wood, some 22,000 Polish officers were executed by the Soviets and buried in a mass grave. However, this would remain undiscovered until after the war.
Nonetheless the Poles fought staunchly for their freedom. Many Poles escaped to form the Polish Government-in-Exile in London, which was led by General Wladyslaw Sikorski, a staunch and energetic supporter for Poland. Following Operation Barbarossa, the German Invasion of the Soviet Union, the Government-in-Exile established political relations with the Soviet Union and led to the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of Polish POWs. These marched into the Middle East under General Wladyslaw Anders, to form the 'Anders Army'. The Soviet Union created its own army of Poles under communist leadership. Within Poland itself the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) launched a continuing resistance campaign.Polish forces fought on several fronts; the Anders Army saw combat in the Middle East and in Italy. In late September 1944 the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade was dropped into Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden. General Sikorski had personally overseen that stage of planning and ensured that Polish troops were dropped near Oosterbeek, near Arnhem, on 21 September. Upon landing the Poles managed to not only seize back supply drops to the north of their position, but were also able to reinforce the British position in Arnhem just after it had surrendered the northern bridgehead to the Germans. With their assistance the bridge was held until XXX Corps arrived two days later. With this the Polish were seen as instrumental in saving a risky victory and Polish forces would continue fighting in the Netherlands, Germany and Czechoslovakia. The feat was made all the more remarkable because in spite of low morale - the Brigade had been expected to drop into Warsaw to assist the uprising there - the feat had been achieved. Josef Stalin's response to these events was to attempt to seize as much Polish ground as possible and establish a legitimate Soviet control over the area. Goaded into action he dispatched General Rokossovsky to assist the freedom fighters with the intent of using it as an excuse to install a legitimate Soviet government. However, Rokossovsky's fears of the situation ending in debacle were almost true: his forces suffered heavy losses. The city was still won thanks to the surge in morale from the embattled AK. In the aftermath of the battle many Poles would have their weapons confiscated and many were arrested. Nonetheless the actions of the AK on behalf of the government-in-exile meant that support for the Soviet-sponsored Polish Committee of National Liberation was lacklustre. Polish troops, both of the AK and those in regular Soviet divisions, fought in Stalin's land-grabbing Oder Offensive. The frantic pace and poor planning of these battles, which fought against well-reinforced German troops on and behind the Vistula, led to horrendous casualties for both sides and a slow Soviet advance. Despite the attrition Polish units were still fighting right up to and beyond Frankfurt an der Oder at the end of the war on February 2nd 1945.