September 1, 1939: German-Soviet alliance launches World War II with German invasion of Poland


Paul Flückiger, “Ein Sieg, aber keine Kapitulation – vor 80 Jahren begann mit dem deutschen Angriff auf Polen der Zweite Weltkrieg;  Vor 80 Jahren begann mit Hitlers Überfall auf Polen der Zweite Weltkrieg. Er kostete jeden fünften Polen das Leben,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 1. September 2019.

Germany and the Soviet Union signed a Non-Aggression Pact on August 23, 1939 (also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact).  In its secret Protocols, the two countries decided to divide Poland and to establish their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe.

On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, setting off World War II.  On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the East, leading to the division of Poland between the Soviet Union and Germany.

Without the Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union, it seems unlikely that Germany would have invaded Poland when it did.

Eighty years later, Russia continues to violate the international law prohibition against the use of force across international frontiers, illegally occupying portions of Georgia, and the Crimea (sovereign territory of the Ukraine) and the eastern Donbas region of the Ukraine (Luhansk and Donetsk provinces) which it invaded in 2014, following the military seizure and purported “annexation” of the Crimea.

The 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, and the historical responsibility of the Soviet Union in this regard, serve as useful reminders of the fact that the Soviet Union and Russia have repeatedly committed aggression in Europe and today openly flout the U.N. Charter and international law prohibition against the use of military force across international frontiers.

Even if the Great Buffoon who is currently the president of the U.S. does not appreciate or support the prohibition in Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, other nations who do understand and support an international order based on the Charter and international law are urgently called upon to speak out against past and current Soviet and Russian violations of this most fundamental norm of international relations.

The Trenchant Observer


About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.