In the early morning hours of September 1, 1939, the German invasion of Poland began. At 4:45 a.m., the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began to bombard the Polish munitions depot on the Westerplatte peninsula near Danzig. German police units attacked Polish rail and postal employees and shooting broke out in many places in the Polish Corridor. Along the German-Polish border, German soldiers dismantled barriers and swept into Polish territory, while German planes bombed rail lines, roads, bridges, military bases, and cities. On the same day, Danzig was officially incorporated into the German Reich.
This staged photograph was taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer. Hoffmann, a member of the Nazi party since 1920, played a critical role in National Socialist propaganda efforts and contributed mightily to the image of Hitler as Germany’s savior.