Sep. 1, 1999

On the Existence of the Soul

by Pattiann Rogers

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: September 1, 1999

Poem: "On the Existence of the Soul," by Pattiann Rogers, from They Say This (Poetry East #47, 48, DePaul University Press, 1999).

It's the anniversary of the attack that began WORLD WAR II. At 11 minutes after five in the morning, Hitler issued a proclamation for his army to invade Poland. He claimed it was a counter-attack, that the Poles had started the whole thing, but in reality, German troops had been flocking to the eastern border for weeks, and Polish troops had simply moved up to their own border to defend it. Hitler had just signed a pact with Soviet Premier Josef Stalin — which surprised everyone because the two men had been sworn enemies; but their intention was to carve up Poland and give the western third to Germany, while the Soviets took the rest. The American journalist, William Shirer, was stationed in Berlin and on the morning of September 1st he wrote in his journal: "A gray morning with overhanging clouds. At dawn this morning Hitler moved against Poland. It's a flagrant, inexcusable, unprovoked act of aggression. The Luftwaffe was mounting anti-aircraft guns to protect Hitler when he addressed the German Parliament at ten this morning. Throughout the speech, I thought as I listened, ran a curious strain, as though Hitler himself were dazed at the fix he had gotten himself into and felt a little desperate about it. There was much less cheering in the Parliament than on previous, less important occasions...Tomorrow Britain and France probably will come in and you will have your second World War." Britain and France were allied with Poland, and entered the war two days later. But by then, it was too late to save Poland. The German army unleashed the new form of warfare they called blitzkreig, or "lightning war" on Poland. Within six days, the Germans had taken Krakow, within ten they were outside Warsaw. The Soviets invaded from the east at mid-month, and by early October, Poland had fallen.

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