Allies policy of appeasement and their disunity had emboldened Hitler. After rearming Germany, the next embarked on reclaiming its territories. East Prussia had been separated from the rest of Germany. The city of Danzig which separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany had been made a free city independent of German control. Hitler had demanded the return of Danzig to Germany but Britain had refused to accept this demand. On 1 September 1939 German armies marched into Poland.
On 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany which marked the beginning of the Second World War. The German armies completed the conquest of Poland in less than three weeks as no aid reached Poland. In spite of the declaration of war, however, there was little actual fighting for many months. Therefore, the war during this period, from September 1939 to April 1940, during which Germany invaded Norway and Denmark as well without any concerted resistance from the allies is known as the ‘phoney war’.
Soon after the German invasion of Poland, the Soviet Union attacked eastern Poland and occupied the territories which were earlier in the Russian empire. It is believed that this occupation was a part of the secret provisions of the Soviet German Non Aggression Pact. In 1940, the Baltic States of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania which had become independent after the First World War were also occupied by the Soviet Union. They, along with Moldavia, became republics of USSR. In November 1939, the Soviet Union also went to war against Finland.
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