On Sept. 1, 1939, World War II began with Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. This week’s 70th anniversary commemoration of the event saw diplomatic gestures between former enemies. The war killed 6 million Poles, Christian Science Monitor’s Elizabeth Pond reports from Gdansk, Poland, in an assessment of “old enemies” on the 70th anniversary. Half of them were Jewish.
Poland is the center of this year’s commemoration because it “suffered the highest ratio of war deaths per population.” But today, “Poles and Germans are friends and allies,” Pond notes, and another old foe, Russia, this week made efforts to denounce the Hitler-Stalin pact forged just before the outbreak of the war. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany described her country’s role in the atrocities of World War II at a ceremony yesterday, saying Germanybears an “‘eternal’ responsibility” for what happened, Bloomberg reported.
“There are no words that could even remotely describe the suffering caused by this war and the Holocaust,” Merkel said at the Westerplatte peninsula in Gdansk. “I bow before the victims.”
This week also saw British wartime songstress Dame Vera Lynn reemerging on the UK album chart at number 20, becoming the oldest living singer on the chart (she is 92).
As her Allmusic biography explains, the “mere mention of Vera Lynn's name evokes images of London skies filled with barrage balloons, and Britons riding out the German blitz in shelters and subway stations.” Wartime songs like “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” became hits in the U.K. and U.S., and Lynn became the British troops’ “sweetheart” when she travelled to entertain them, “often at great personal risk,” AFP explains.
Learn more about the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of World War II with findingDulcinea’s article, “On This Day: Nazi Germany Invades Poland, Starting World War II.” Then, read about the final day of the European portion of the war with “On This Day: V-E Day Ends World War II in Europe.”