August 31, 2009 / 4:09 PM / 10 years ago

TIMELINE-The road to World War Two


Aug 31 (Reuters) - European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will gather on Poland’s Baltic coast on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two.

Adolf Hitler launched his invasion on Sept. 1, 1939, after Poland had refused to hand over Gdansk, then called Danzig, an overwhelmingly ethnic German port granted free city status after World War One.

Following is a timeline of some of the major events that led up to the outbreak of war.

Jan. 26, 1934 - Germany and Poland sign a 10-year non-aggression pact.

Oct. 25, 1936 - The governments of Italy and Germany meet to form the Rome-Berlin Axis, providing mutual assistance and opposition to communism.

Jan. 30, 1937 - Hitler tells the Reichstag (parliament) that Germany has withdrawn its signature from the Versailles Treaty signed after the end of World War One.

* 1938:

March 13 - A referendum on whether Austria should remain independent is cancelled and Hitler declares the country part of the German Reich.

April-Sept. - Tensions rise over the fate of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovaks resist ceding any land to Germany, but Britain and France feel a peaceful handover of the region would avert a wider war.

Sept. 30 - The Munich Agreement is signed by Hitler, Britain, France and Italy, permitting Germany to annex Sudetenland.

* 1939:

March 15 - Germany occupies Bohemia and Moravia in Czechoslovakia and Hitler personally enters Prague in triumph. Slovakia is declared a German protectorate the next day.

March 21 - Germany demands that Poland hand over Danzig, but the Poles refuse.

March 28 - Germany tears up the 1934 non-aggression pact with Poland.

April 6 - Britain, France and Poland sign a pact in London confirming a pledge that Britain and France would support Poland if Germany threatened its independence.

April 28 - Germany repeats its demand that Poland hand over Danzig and the Polish Corridor.

May 22 - The "Pact of Steel" is signed between Hitler and Italian leader Benito Mussolini.

Aug. 23 - Former enemies Germany and the Soviet Union shock the rest of Europe by signing a non-aggression pact, and secretly agree the partition of Poland and the carve-up of the three Baltic states.

Aug. 25 - Britain and Poland sign a treaty of mutual assistance, formalising the pact of April 6.

Aug. 30-31 - Britain and France make a final diplomatic bid to avert war in Europe.

Sept. 1 - German troops cross into Poland before dawn and move swiftly inland, annexing Danzig and bombing Warsaw in what became known as a "Blitzkrieg" — a lightning war.

Sept. 3 - After Germany fails to respond to ultimatums to withdraw from Poland, Britain and France declare war.

Sept. 17 - Soviet forces move into eastern Poland.

Sept. 27 - Warsaw falls to invading German forces.






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