Poland is one of several nations in Steel Division: Normandy 44 and Steel Division II.
- 1 Historical background
- 2 Divisions
- 3 Units
- 3.1 Steel Division: Normandy 44 units
- 3.2 Steel Division II units
Born out of the ashes of no less than three empires - Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia - Poland, after 123 years of occupation, was faced with an uncertain future from the get-go. The turmoil of the first years after the war was filled with constant fighting on all fronts, from the Wielkopolska Uprising that tore Provinz Posen away from Germany, through the valiant, desperate defense against the nascent Soviet Union, to the bitter, dirty proxy wars called the Silesian uprisings. It emerged whole, but not unscathed, and embarked on an impossibly ambitious campaign of carving out a power niche for itself in Central Europe, stuck between Germany and the Soviet Union. Political instability, not helped by the murder of its first president by a right wing fanatic, eventually led to authoritarian rule in the wake of the 1926 coup d'etat, and an increasingly detached foreign policy that failed to account for its position.
As Poland sought security in faraway alliances, Germany tightened the noose around the country and eventually, after brokering an alliance with the Soviet Union, it invaded in September 1939. While fighting bravely and without hesitation, the Polish strategic situation was bad from the beginning. Better equipped and better trained, the German army tore through Poland. Western intervention did not materialize, and although Polish soldiers made the invaders pay dearly for their gains, their situation became hopeless when the Soviet Union held up its end of the bargain and attacked from the east. The government fled abroad through Romania, while soldiers either headed underground or made their way westwards, to join the fight against Germany. Thousands made the arduous journey, including several ships with their crews that evaded German patrols in the Baltic.
Although the Polish state ceased to exist on the surface, the government in exile continued to operate in Great Britain. On the home soil, Poles exhibited a variety of attitudes, ranging from collaboration and despair to dogged determination and unparalleled bravery. Surviving authorities, soldiers, and many civilians formed the Polish Underground State, a whole underground nation continuing to operate out of sight - though not out of mind - of the Nazi occupier. The Service for Poland's Victory (Służba Zwycięstwu Polski) and then the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), alongside numerous other resistance organizations, focused on intelligence gathering, guerrilla attacks, assassinations, tearing at the Nazis both in the territories annexed into the Reich and their colony, the General Government, controlled by Hitler's lawyer and craven tyrant, Hans Frank.
Abroad, Polish refugees and veterans contributed to the Allied war effort, fighting desperately against the Nazis during the Fall of France, in the Middle East, and ultimately across Europe, in both the West and the East. In the West, Polish grunts, tankers, and paratroopers would valiantly contribute to the Allied victory, closing the Falaise Pocket despite fierce Nazi resistance, and clawing their way across the Netherlands during Market Garden. In the East, the People's Polish Army reconstituted in the Soviet Union from survivors of Soviet expulsions to Siberia, fighting in the largest military conflict in history and breaking through Nazi defenses in Pomerania, one of the most heavily fortified regions in the East.
The country would be sharply divided after the war, with the Cold War keeping families and friends apart as the divide between the Soviet Union and the West deepened. The turmoil of the war, loss of six million citizens - half of them Polish Jews - coupled with dramatic territorial changes and a civil war between the new, Soviet-backed government and remnants of the pre-War order, would make Polish recovery difficult and pile further misery on top of what was sustained by the first European country to fall under the Nazi war machine.