Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 25, 1944


Unfortunately for Poland it was situated directly between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. Germany and Russia signed a nonaggression pact on August 23, 1939. Hitler wanted to keep the Russian Bear at bay while he concentrated on territorial gains elsewhere while Stalin needed time to build up his army. Germany then invaded Poland from the west on September 1. This violated an accord Germany had signed with Great Britain and France eleven months earlier at Munich and caused those two countries to declare war on Germany. The Soviet Union in turn invaded Poland from the east on September 17 and on the 28th Russia and Germany concluded a new treaty in which they divided up Poland between them.

By the summer of 1941 Germany had conquered most of western Europe. And on June 22 it turned and invaded the Soviet Union. Thus Hitler embarked on a fatal two-front war. When the United States entered the war that December the Soviet Union became one of her Allies against the common enemy Germany.

The overextended German army at Stalingrad surrendered to the defenders on February 3, 1943 and by the end of that year the Soviets were gathering themselves for a massive offensive. At the beginning of August 1944 the Red Army had pushed within ten miles of Warsaw. Inside the city underground resistance fighters rose up against the German occupiers in anticipation of Russian support. None came. The Soviets stood by for sixty-three days while the Germans slaughtered the freedom fighters as well as much of the noncombatant population. Stalin intended to install in Poland a government of his own making rather than to allow resistance leaders or the Polish government in exile to assume power after the Germans had been driven out. And despite an agreement reached at Yalta in 1945 between the Soviet Union and its Allied partners, Poland never saw free and democratic elections while under hardline Soviet domination.

The Polish community in Chicago was ambivalent over America's alliance with Russia. When Soviet troops penetrated the Polish border in January 1944, some Chicago Polish-Americans were elated while others were distrustful of Russian intentions.

Points to Consider

What was the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America?

Why did the Executive Council and the Directorate of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America meet in Chicago?

What was the Polish Government in London?

What happened in Poland in WWII?

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