Belgium remembers start of World War II

World War II started when Nazi Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland in the early morning of September 1, 1939. Defence Minister Pieter De Crem is representing Belgium for the commemorative events in Poland.
On 1 September 1939, very early in the morning, the German armoured ship Schleswig-Holstein, opened fired on the Polish base of Westerplatte in Gdansk.

A war which killed more than 50 million people

This was the start of one of the bloodiest episodes in the 20th century.

Former enemies and allies sombrely marked the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, underlining the need to remember this painful chapter in history, so as not to repeat it.

The initial German attack on Poland started more than five years of war that would engulf the world and result in the slaughter of more than 50 million people.
Poland alone lost 6 million citizens, half of them Jews. During the German occupation, the country was used as a base for the Nazis' genocide machinery. It was home to Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor and other death camps built for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.
At the height of the war, the war stretched from North Africa to the outskirts of Moscow. It pitted Germany and its allies, including Italy, against Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, along with a host of other countries and some governments in exile (including Belgium).

The war in Europe ended May 8, 1945, with Germany's unconditional surrender.