Friday, January 1, 2016

A World War II Miracle & a Giveaway



Hi, Cindy Stewart here. I’m excited to join the Heroes, Heroines, & History blog and look forward to interacting with you on the 1st day of each month. I write inspirational historical fiction set during World War II. Through my research, I’ve uncovered obscure events and new stories which bring history to life for me. The war caused great devastation, and we should never forget these horrors. But even during the worst tragedies, God’s hand is evident, working through people and events, transforming the outcome for future generations. I plan to share these miraculous stories with you.

What big mistake did Hitler make in 1939 that contributed to his eventual defeat?

Today we will focus on an event Hitler encouraged and later came to regret. An event which saved tens of thousands of lives and aided the Allies in their future victory.

The map below illustrates the boundaries of European countries in early 1938 before Hitler began his conquests. Notice that Poland is sandwiched between Germany to the west and the USSR to the east and bordered by Czechoslovakia and Romania in the south. 

By Dros Catalin. Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

  
Before the end of 1938, Germany took possession of Austria and the Sudetenland (the mountainous area of western Czechoslovakia) without opposition. Hitler then devised a way to take over the great Czechoslovakian iron works, armament factories, and huge supplies of modern military equipment in addition to more land. He encouraged the Hungarian government to invade the eastern tail of Czechoslovakia and reclaim the territory of Carpathian-Ruthenia lost after World War I.
In March of 1939, the Hungarians acted upon Hitler’s suggestion and repossessed their former lands in the Carpathian Mountains. Hitler took advantage of the distraction, and the Germans marched into Prague, seizing the whole western half of Czechoslovakia. The middle of the divided country became “Slovakia” and a protectorate of Germany. The rest of the world responded with outrage but didn’t move to stop these advances. As seen on the map below, Hungary gained a common border with Poland.
Professor John L Heineman, Boston College

  And then almost 6 months later . . . on September 1st . . .
      the Germans unleashed the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht on Poland, giving birth to the blitzkrieg, “lightning war.” The English and French had urged the Polish government not to mobilize its troops and further enrage Hitler. The Poles had ignored the warnings and secretly mobilized half of their armed forces by August 31st. The Luftwaffe bombed trains, stations, and rail lines, preventing many of the remaining troops from reaching their battle stations. Refugees clogged the roads, making it even more difficult for defense forces to engage the enemy.

Polish Soldier 1939
Wikimedia Commons
What the Polish soldiers lacked in numbers and equipment they made up for in bravery and sheer determination. They held the enemy back longer than Hitler had expected. However, armed with the most modern equipment (including the newly acquired arsenal from Czechoslovakia), the German troops attacked from multiple points, broke through weak spots where the Polish Armies were spread out, and encircled hundreds of thousands of troops. The Poles tenaciously fought an army almost twice their size and an air force five times greater.
By September 9th Hitler was impatient to finish the Polish campaign. The Germans asked the Hungarian government for permission to transport soldiers to Poland on a rail line through Hungary. The Hungarians denied passage. Even though they had signed a trade agreement with Germany, the Hungarians considered Poland their friend. If German troops set foot in Hungary, the government would consider it an act of war.

Polish POWs - Wikimedia Commons
The Germans advanced across Poland, and on September 11th Polish Commander-in-Chief Marshal Rydz-Śmigły ordered his remaining troops to retreat to the Romanian border in southeast Poland. He expected new military equipment to arrive from France and England via Romania. He also planned to organize a counterattack from the east when France opened an offensive from the west as they had promised. 
 
Then on September 17th, the unthinkable happened. . . .

The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east and captured Polish troops. Upon hearing the news, Rydz-Śmigły ordered
all Polish units to cross the border into Hungary or Romania by any means possible. Although many soldiers, airmen, and civilians escaped into Romania, the Soviets quickly sealed the Polish-Romanian border, leaving Hungary as the only other escape route in the south.

The Hungarians officially opened their border with Poland on September 18th, and tens of thousands without passports or visas crossed safely. Whole military units escaped to fight another day.

Polish Soldiers - Wikimedia Commons


Both Romania and Hungary followed the Geneva Convention and established refugee camps for civilian refugees and internment camps for soldiers. Refugees who could fend for themselves passed through Hungary and Yugoslavia to Italy and France. Hungarian citizens housed civilians in their homes and transported them to the Yugoslavian border where they found transportation further west. The Hungarian government didn’t stop “refugees” dressed in civilian clothing from leaving the country. In fact, the Hungarians sent civilian clothing to the Polish Embassy, enabling tens of thousands of soldiers to make their way to France and rejoin the Polish Army and Air Force.
Graves of Polish Soldiers (1939)
By Сергей Семёнов (User:Stauffenberg (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

The Polish Armed Forces joined the Allies and became the fourth largest Allied military force to serve in World War II. And they served with distinction.
If the escape route through Hungary had not been available, how much longer would the war in Europe have lasted? How many more civilian lives would have been lost?



Used by Permission from Budby via flikr
Sources: No Greater Ally (Kenneth K. Koskodan)
Poland Betrayed (David G. Wiliamson)
Man of Steel and Honour: General Stanislaw Maczek (Evan McGilvray)


Cindy Stewart, a high school teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical fiction author, was the historical category winner for ACFW’s 2014 First Impressions writing contest, a 2014 Bronze Medalist in My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest, and tied for second place in the 2015 South Carolina ACFW First Five Pages contest. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her husband and college sweetheart of thirty-four years and has a married daughter, son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren. She’s currently polishing her first novel, Abounding Hope, set in Eastern Europe at the start of WW II. 


Giveaway  Leave a comment below to enter the drawing for a hard copy of Kristy Cambron's WWII novel, The Butterfly and the Violin. Share on FB and/or Twitter and let me know for an extra entry. Don't forget to leave your e-mail address and let me know if you shared. Giveaway ends 1/3/16 at 9 PM EST.

38 comments:

  1. I love to read WWII novels. They are very interesting. Hope it never happens again.
    Thereadmaster@me.com

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  2. I don't remember that little detail about the wars! LattebooksAThotmailDOTcom

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    1. Hi, Susan. I had never heard it until I researched how I could accurately portray my characters' escape from Poland. The details are quite fascinating.

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  3. This was such an interesting post--WWII is one of my favorite time periods to study/read about. It's fascinating to think how one "small" thing affects the whole and how the outcome could have been different had Hungary not let refugees and soldiers through their border. mallori.norris@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you, Mallori. The more I research WWII the more I want to keep investigating.

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  4. I'd love to win this book. It sounds very interesting. Great blog post. Thanks.
    susanlulu@yahoo.com
    Susan in NC

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    1. Thank you, Susan. The book is very interesting.

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  5. Historical fiction books are my favorite. I like learning historical facts about different time periods, while enjoying a good story.
    reneerachoyolsen@gmail.com

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    1. Hi, Heather,
      Historical fiction books are my favorite too. I love traveling to the past but in the comfort of my own living room!

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  6. Very interesting post. I love learning more historical facts :) I shared on Facebook as well as on Twitter. Thanks for the giveaway - I would love to win.
    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you, Betti. And thank you for sharing the post on Facebook and Twitter.

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  7. Thank you for your very interesting post! It is always wonderful to come to HHH and read such interesting facts.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Melanie. Thank you for your comment.

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  8. I did not know about Hitler's mistake and the Hungarian/Poland border. Thanks for an interesting post. I'd LOVE to win your book, The Butterfly and the Violin; I've heard and read so much about it. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thank you, Sharon. I'm glad you've heard good things about the giveaway!

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  9. I really enjoy reading World War II novels. The Butterfly and the Violin has been on my "want to read" list for quite awhile. It's our book club selection for April so I'll be reading it then. It would be great to win a copy here. Thanks for the chance.
    pmkellogg56[at]gmail[dot}com

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    1. You're welcome, Pam. I'm glad to see that the giveaway is your book club selection for April.

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  10. This was a fascinating post as always here in HHH, I always learn something new! The Butterfly & the Violin sounds like a terrific historical fiction book set in WW2. I've read a lot of good things about the book! Thank you for the history and chance to win!

    I also shared on both FB and Twitter
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Trixi. And I'm so glad I could share something new with you. It's fun to find hidden gems in history.

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  11. Hey Cindy, glad to read your post. I have really started enjoying WWII history. Thanks for sharing on FB and making me aware of this great blog site.

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    1. Belinda, it's so exciting to see a comment from you when you're half way around the world and in the "bush" at that! I'm praying for you and your ministry.

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  12. Hey Cindy, glad to read your post. I have really started enjoying WWII history. Thanks for sharing on FB and making me aware of this great blog site.

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  13. I did not know about the Hungarian border. Thank you. This made me think of how when "God closes one door, another one He opens." Thank you for sharing this post withus.

    Please enter me into the giveaway. I shared on FB in the group "Christian Book Giveaways & Deals" and on Twitter.

    Annie JC (FB)
    Just Commonly (twitter)

    justcommonly(at)gmail(dot)com

    Thank you

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    1. Annie, that's such a good quote to go with the post! Thank you for sharing on FB and Twitter.

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  14. I love history, and our post was so interesting! Thanks for sharing.
    Please enter me in the drawing. Your books are wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Kate. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and found it interesting. History can be that way. :)

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    1. Yes, the cover caught my attention when I was looking for a good book to read. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but this book lives up to its cover. :)

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  16. Love the maps so colorful. kamundsen44ATyahooDOTcom

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    1. Thank you, Kim. I was excited when I found these maps. I'm so glad Professor Heineman gave me permission to use his map for the post. The other map was in the public domain.

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  18. Whoops, wrong button! I love World War 2 stories!! alander87 at allcom.net

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    1. I'm with you there, Abby. So many interesting stories from WW2 are yet to be told. :)

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  19. Thank you for sharing! I enjoy learning more about authors' research and writing processes. WWII is one of my favorite eras for fiction.
    Shared this post on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter! betherin02(at) gmail(dot)com

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  20. Thank you, Beth, for sharing in so many places! I included my sources because I thought some folks might want to read more. :)

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  21. And the winner is . . . Annie JC. Thank you all for your comments and for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Cindy!!!! I'm thrilled. Love your post. =) Happy New Year!

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