The Forced War

When Peaceful Revision Failed

 

David L. Hoggan

 

1961

 

First published as

Der erzwungene Krieg

Die Ursachen und Urheber des 2. Weltkriegs

Verlag der deutschen Hochschullehrer-Zeitung

Tübingen, Germany

This edition being translated from English

 

First English language edition

Institute for Historical Review

USA

1989

 

AAARGH

Internet

2007

 

We are sorry to report that the footnotes are missing in this edition.

 

THE FORCED WAR

When Peaceful Revision Failed

By David L. Hoggan

 

Published by

Institute for Historical Review

18221/2 Newport BI., Suite 191

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

 

ISBN 0-939484-28-5

 

 


 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

Preface

 

Chapter 1: The New Polish State

 

The Anti-Polish Vienna Congress — The 19th Century Polish Uprisings — Pro-German Polish Nationalism — Pro-Russian Polish Nationalism — Pro-Habsburg Polish Nationalism — Pilsudski's Polish Nationalism — Poland in World War I — Polish Expansion After World War I — The Pilsudski Dictatorship — The Polish Dictatorship After Pilsudski's Death

 

Chapter 2: The Roots Of Polish Policy

 

Pilsudski's Inconclusive German Policy — The Career of Jozef Beck — The Hostility between Weimar Germany and Poland — Pilsudski's Plans for Preventive War against Hitler — The 1934 German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact — Beck's Position Strengthened by Pilsudski — Beck's Plan for Preventive War in 1936 — Hitler's Effort to Promote German-Polish Friendship — The Dangers of an Anti-German Policy

 

Chapter 3: The Danzig Problem

 

The Repudiation of Self-Determination at DanzigThe Establishment of the Free City Regime — The Polish Effort to Acquire DanzigDanzig's Anguish at Separation from GermanyPoland's Desire for a Maritime Role — Hitler's Effort to Prevent Friction at Danzig — The Chauvinism of Polish High Commissioner Chodacki — The Deterioration of the Danzig Situation after 1936 — The Need for a Solution

 

Chapter 4: Germany, Poland, And The Czechs

 

The Bolshevik Threat to Germany and Poland — Hitler's Anti-Bolshevik Foreign Policy — Polish Hostility Toward the Czechs — Polish Grievances and Western Criticism — The Anti-German Policy of Benes — Neurath's Anti-Polish Policy Rejected by Hitler — The German-Polish Minority Pact of 1937 — The Bogey of the Hossbach Memorandum — Hitler's November 1937 Danzig Declaration — Austria as a Czech Buffer

 

Chapter 5: The Road To Munich

 

Hitler's Peaceful Revision Policy in 1938 — The January 1938 Hitler-Beck Conference — The Rise of Joachim von Ribbentrop — The Fall of Kurt von Schuschnigg — The Double Game of Lord Halifax — The Secret War Aspirations of President Roosevelt — The Peace Policy of Georges Bonnet — Litvinov's Hopes for a Franco-German War — The Reckless Diplomacy of Eduard Benes — The War Bid of Benes Rejected by Halifax Hitler's Decision to Liberate the Sudetenland The Sportpalast Pledge of September 26, 1938 Hungarian Aspirations in Czechoslovakia British Encouragement of Polish Defiance at Danzig Polish Pressure on the Czechs The Soviet Threat to Poland The Failure of Benes to Deceive Beck The Munich Conference The Polish Ultimatum to Czechoslovakia German Support to Poland Against the Soviet Union Anglo-German Treaty Accepted by Hitler

 

Chapter 6: A German Offer To Poland

 

Germany's Perilous Position After Munich — The Inadequacy of German Armament — The Favorable Position of Great Britain — Hitler's Generous Attitude toward Poland — Further Polish Aspirations in Czecho-Slovakia — Continued Czech Hostility toward Poland and Germany — Polish Claims at Oderberg Protected by Hitler — The Failure of Czech-Hungarian Negotiations — Germany's Intentions Probed by Halifax — Beck's Failure to Enlist Rumania Against Czecho-Slovakia — Beck's Request for German Support to Hungary — Hitler's Suggestion for a Comprehensive Settlement — Beck's Delay of the Polish Response — Beck Tempted by British Support Against Germany

 

Chapter 7: German-Polish Friction In 1938

 

The Obstacles to a German-Polish Understanding — The Polish Passport Crisis —Persecution of the German Minority in Poland — Polish Demonstrations Against Germany — The Outrages at Teschen — The Problem of German Communication with East Prussia — Tension at Danzig — The November 1938 Ribbentrop-Lipski Conference — German Confusion about Polish Intentions — Secret Official Polish Hostility toward Germany — A German-Polish Understanding Feared by Halifax — Poland Endangered by Beck's Diplomacy

 

Chapter 8: British Hostility Toward Germany After Munich

 

Hitler's Bid for British Friendship — Chamberlain's Failure to Criticize Duff Cooper — The British Tories in Fundamental Agreement — Tory and Labour War Sentiment — Control of British Policy by Halifax — Tory Alarmist Tactics — Tory Confidence in War Preparations — Mussolini Frightened by Halifax and Chamberlain — Hitler's Continued Optimism

 

Chapter 9: Franco-German Relations After Munich

 

France an Obstacle to British War Plans — Franco-German Relations After Munich — The Popularity of the Munich Agreement in France — The Popular Front Crisis a Lesson for France — The 1935 Laval Policy Undermined by Vansittart — The Preponderant Position of France Wrecked by Leon Blum — The Daladier Government and the Czech Crisis — The Franco-German Friendship Pact of December 1938 — The Flexible French Attitude After Munich

 

Chapter 10: The German Decision To Occupy Prague

 

The Czech Imperium mortally Wounded at Munich — The Deceptive Czech Policy of Halifax — The Vienna Award a Disappointment to Halifax — New Polish Demands on the Czechs — Czech-German Friction After the German Award — The Czech Guarantee Sabotaged by Halifax — Czech Appeals Ignored by Halifax — Hitler's Support of the Slovak Independence Movement — President Roosevelt Propagandized by Halifax — Halifax Warned of the Approaching Slovak Crisis — Halifax's Decision to Ignore the Crisis — The Climax of the Slovak Crisis — The Hitler-Hacha Pact — Halifax's Challenge to Hitler — Hitler's Generous Treatment of the Czechs after March 1939 — The Propaganda Against Hitler's Czech Policy

 

Chapter 11: Germany And Poland In Early 1939

 

The Need for a German-Polish Understanding — The Generous German Offer to Poland — The Reasons for Polish Procrastination — Hitler's Refusal to Exert Pressure on Poland — Beck's Deception Toward Germany — The Confiscation of German Property in Poland — German-Polish Conversations at the End of 1938 — The Beck-Hitler Conference of January 5, 1939 — The Beck-Ribbentrop Conference of January 6, 1939 — German Optimism and Polish Pessimism — The Ribbentrop Visit to Warsaw — Hitler's Reichstag Speech of January 30, 1939 — Polish Concern About French Policy — The German-Polish Pact Scare at London — Anti-German Demonstrations During Ciano's Warsaw Visit — Beck's Announcement of His Visit to London

 

Chapter 12: The Reversal Of British Policy

 

Dropping the Veil of an Insincere Appeasement Policy — British Concern about France — Hitler Threatened by Halifax — Halifax's Dream of a Gigantic Alliance — The Tilea Hoax — Poland Calm about Events in Prague — Beck Amazed by the Tilea Hoax — Chamberlain's Birmingham Speech — The Anglo-French Protest at Berlin — The Withdrawal of the British and French Ambassadors — The Halifax Offer to Poland and the Soviet Union

 

Chapter 13: The Polish Decision To Challenge Germany

 

The Impetuosity of Beck — Beck's Rejection of the Halifax Pro-Soviet Alliance Offer — Lipski Converted to a Pro-German Policy by Ribbentrop — Lipski's Failure to Convert Beck — Beck's Decision for Polish Partial Mobilization — Hitler's Refusal to Take Military Measures — Beck's War Threat to Hitler — Poland Excited by Mobilization — Hitler's Hopes for a Change in Polish Policy — The Roots of Hitler's Moderation Toward Poland

 

Chapter 14: The British Blank Check To Poland

 

Anglo-French Differences — Bonnet's Visit to London — Franco-Polish Differences — Beck's Offer to EnglandHalifax's Decision — Beck's Acceptance of the British Guarantee — The Approval of the Guarantee by the British Parties — The Statement by Chamberlain — The Challenge Accepted by Hitler — Beck's Visit to London — Beck's Satisfaction

 

Chapter 15: The Deterioration Of German-Polish Relations

 

Beck's Inflexible Attitude — Hitler's Cautious Policy — Bonnet's Coolness toward Poland — Beck's Displeasure at Anglo-French Balkan Diplomacy — The Beck-Gafencu Conference — The Roosevelt Telegrams to Hitler and Mussolini — Hitler's Assurances Accepted by Gafencu — Gafencu's Visit to London — Hitler's Friendship with Yugoslavia — Hitler's Reply to Roosevelt of April 28, 1939 — Hitler's Peaceful Intentions Welcomed by Hungary — Beck's Chauvinistic Speech of May 5, 1939 — Polish Intransigence Approved by Halifax

 

Chapter 16: British Policy And Polish Anti-German Incidents

 

Halifax's Threat to Destroy Germany — The Terrified Germans of Poland — Polish Dreams of Expansion — The Lodz Riots — The Kalthof Murder — The Disastrous Kasprzycki Mission — Halifax's Refusal to Supply Poland — Halifax's Contempt for the Pact of Steel — Wohlthat's Futile London Conversations — Polish Provocations at Danzig — Potocki's Effort to Change Polish Policy — Forster's Attempted Danzig Détente — The Axis Peace Plan of Mussolini — The Peace Campaign of Otto Abetz — The Polish Ultimatum to Danzig — Danzig's Capitulation Advised by Hitler — German Military Preparations — Hungarian Peace Efforts — The Day of the Legions in Poland — The Peaceful Inclination of the Polish People

 

Chapter 17: The Belated Anglo-French Courtship Of Russia

 

Soviet Russia as Tertius Gaudens — Russian Detachment Encouraged by the Polish Guarantee — The Soviet Union as a Revisionist Power — The Dismissal of Litvinov — Molotov's Overtures Rejected by Beck — A Russo-German Understanding Favored by Mussolini — Strang's Mission to Moscow — Hitler's Decision for a Pact with Russia — The British and French Military Missions — The Anglo-French Offer at the Expense of Poland — The Ineptitude of Halifax's Russian Diplomacy

 

Chapter 18: The Russian Decision For A Pact With Germany

 

The Russian Invitation of August 12, 1939 — The Private Polish Peace Plan of Colonel Kava — The Polish Terror in East Upper Silesia — Ciano's Mission to Germany — The Reversal of Italian Policy — Italy's Secret Pledge to Halifax — Soviet Hopes for a Western European War — The Crisis at Danzig — Russian Dilatory Tactics — The Personal Intervention of Hitler — The Complacency of Beck — Ribbentrop's Mission to Moscow — Henderson's Efforts for Peace — Bonnet's Effort to Separate France from Poland — The Stiffening of Polish Anti-German Measures — The Decline of German Opposition to Hitler — Hitler's Desire for a Negotiated Settlement

 

Chapter 19: German Proposals For An Anglo-German Understanding

 

Chamberlain's Letter an Opening for Hitler — Hitler's Reply to Chamberlain — The Mission of Birger Dahlerus — Charles Buxton's Advice to Hitler — The Confusion of Herbert von Dirksen — Hitler's Appeal to the British Foreign Office — Polish-Danzig Talks Terminated by Beck — Confusion in the British Parliament on August 24th — The Roosevelt Messages to Germany and Poland — The German Case Presented by Henderson — Kennard at Warsaw Active for War — The August 25th Göring Message to London — Hitler Disturbed about Italian Policy — Hitler's Alliance Offer to Great Britain — Hitler's Order for Operations in Poland on August 26th — The Announcement of the Formal Anglo-Polish Alliance — Military Operations Cancelled by Hitler

 

Chapter 20: The New German Offer To Poland

 

Halifax Opposed to Polish Negotiations with Germany — The Polish Pledge to President Roosevelt — Hitler's Failure to Recover Italian Support — Halifax Hopeful for War — British Concern About France — The Hitler-Daladier Correspondence — Hitler's Desire for Peace Conveyed at London by Dahlerus — Kennard Opposed to German-Polish Talks — The Deceptive British Note of August 28th — Hitler's Hope for a Peaceful Settlement — New Military Measures Planned by Poland — The German Note of August 29th — The German Request for Negotiation with Poland

 

Chapter 21: Polish General Mobilization And German-Polish War

 

Hitler Unaware of British Policy in Poland — General Mobilization Construed as Polish Defiance of Halifax — Hitler's Offer of August 30th to Send Proposals to Warsaw — Hitler's Sincerity Conceded by Chamberlain — Henderson's Peace Arguments Rejected by Halifax — A Peaceful Settlement Favored in France — The Unfavorable British Note of August 30th — The Absence of Trade Rivalry as a Factor for War — The Tentative German Marienwerder Proposals — Hitler's Order for Operations in Poland on September 1st — Beck's Argument with Pope Pius XII — Italian Mediation Favored by Bonnet — The Marienwerder Proposals Defended by Henderson — The Lipski-Ribbentrop Meeting — The Germans Denounced by Poland as Huns

 

Chapter 22: British Rejection Of The Italian Conference Plan And The Outbreak of World War II

 

The German-Polish War — Italian Defection Accepted by Hitler — Polish Intransigence Deplored by Henderson and Attolico — Hitler's Reichstag Speech of September 1, 1939 — Negotiations Requested by Henderson and Dahlerus — Hitler Denounced by Chamberlain and Halifax — Anglo-French Ultimata Rejected by Bonnet — Notes of Protest Drafted by Bonnet — The Italian Mediation Effort — Hitler's Acceptance of an Armistice and a Conference — The Peace Conference Favored by Bonnet — Halifax's Determination to Drive France into War — Ciano Deceived by Halifax — The Mediation Effort Abandoned by Italy — Bonnet Dismayed by Italy's Decision — British Pressure on Daladier and Bonnet — The Collapse of French Opposition to War — The British and French Declarations of War Against Germany — The Unnecessary War

 

Conclusion

Appendix

Notes

Bibliography

Index

 

Neither the notes, nor the bibliography nor the index are present in this edition. We apologize for it.

aaargh

 

 

 


Introduction

 

Shortly after midnight on July 4, 1984, the headquarters of the Institute for Historical Review was attacked by terrorists. They did their job almost to perfection: IHR's office were destroyed, and ninety per cent of its inventory of books and tapes wiped out. To this day the attackers have not been apprehended, and the authorities -- local, state, and federal -- have supplied little indication that they ever will be.

The destruction of IHR's offices and stocks meant a crippling blow for Historical Revisionism, the world-wide movement to bring history into accord with the facts in precisely those areas in which it has been distorted to serve the interests of a powerful international Establishment, an Establishment all the more insidious for its pious espousal of freedom of the press. That one of the few independent voices for truth in history on the planet was silenced by flames on America's Independence Day in the year made infamous by George Orwell must have brought a cynical smile to the face of more than one enemy of historical truth: the terrorists, whose national loyalties certainly lie elsewhere than in America, chose the date well. Had IHR succumbed to the arsonists, what a superb validation of the Orwellian dictum: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."!

One of the chief casualties of the fire was the text of the book you now hold in your hands. Too badly charred to be reproduced for printing plates, over six hundred pages of The Forced War had to be laboriously reset, reproofed, and recorrected. That this has now been achieved, despite the enormous losses and extra costs imposed by the arson, despite the Institute's dislocation and its continued harassment, legal and otherwise, by the foes of historical truth, represents a great triumph for honest historiography, for The Forced War, more than a quarter century after it was written, remains the classic refutation of the thesis of Germany's "sole guilt" in the origins and outbreak of the Second World War.

By attacking one of the chief taboos of our supposedly irreverent and enlightened century, David Hoggan, the author of The Forced War, unquestionably damaged his prospects as a professional academic. Trained as a diplomatic historian at Harvard under William Langer and Michael Karpovich, with rare linguistic qualifications, Hoggan never obtained tenure. Such are the rewards for independent thought, backed by thorough research, in the "land of the free."

The Forced War was published in West Germany in 1961 as Der erzwungene Krieg by the Verlag der Deutschen Hochschullehrer-Zeitung (now Grabert Verlag) in Tübingen. There it found an enthusiastic reception among Germans, academics and laymen, who had been oppressed by years of postwar propaganda, imposed by the victor nations and cultivated by the West German government, to the effect that the German leadership had criminally provoked an "aggressive" war in 1939. Der erzwungene Krieg has since gone through thirteen printings and sold over fifty thousand copies. The famous German writer and historian Armin Mohler declared that Hoggan had brought World War II Revisionism out of the ghetto" in Germany.

While Der erzwungene Krieg was considered important enough to be reviewed in more than one hundred publications in the Bundesrepublik, West Germany's political and intellectual Establishment, for whom the unique and diabolical evil of Germany in the years 1933-1945 constitutes both foundation myth and dogma, was predictably hostile. A 1964 visit by Hoggan to West Germany was attacked by West Germany's Minister of the Interior, in much the same spirit as West Germany's President Richard von Weizsäcker attempted to decree an end to the so-called Historikerstreit (historians' debate) due to its Revisionist implications in 1988. More than one influential West German historian stooped to ad hominem attack on Hoggan's book, as the American was chided for everything from his excessive youth (Hoggan was nearly forty when the book appeared) to the alleged "paganism" of his German publisher.

The most substantive criticism of The Forced War was made by German historians Helmut Krausnick and Hermann Graml, who, in the August 1963 issue of Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht (History in Scholarship and Instruction), attacked the book on grounds of a number of instances of faulty documentation. A Revisionist historian, Professor Kurt Glaser, after examining The Forced War and its critics' arguments in Der Zweite Weltkrieg und die Kriegsschuldfrage (The Second World War and the Question of War Guilt), found, that while some criticisms had merit, "It is hardly necessary to repeat here that Hoggan was not attacked because he had erred here and there -- albeit some of his errors are material -- but because he had committed heresy against the creed of historical orthodoxy."

Meanwhile, in the United States, Hoggan and Harry Elmer Barnes, Hoggan's mentor and the most influential American Revisionist scholar and promoter, became embroiled in a dispute over Hoggan's failure to revise The Forced War in the face of the few warranted criticisms. Hoggan, proud and somewhat temperamental, refused to yield, despite a substantial grant arranged for him by Barnes. Barnes's death in 1968 and financial difficulties created an impasse with the original publisher which blocked publication until IHR obtained the rights; IHR's difficulties have been mentioned above. Habent sua fata libelli.

Whatever minor flaws in Hoggan's documentation, The Forced War, in the words of Harry Elmer Barnes, written in 1963, "In its present form, ... it not only constitutes the first thorough study of the responsibility for the causes of the Second World War in any language but is likely to remain the definitive Revisionist work on this subject for many years." Hoggan prophesied well: the following quarter century has produced no Revisionist study of the origins of the war to match The Forced War; as for the Establishment's histories regarding Hitler's foreign policy, to quote Professor H.W. Koch of the University of York, England, writing in 1985, such a major work is still lacking" (Aspects of the Third Reich. ed. H.W. Koch, St. Martin's Press, New York, p. 186). Thus its publication after so many years is a major, if belated, victory for Revisionism in the English-speaking world. If the publication of The Forced War can contribute to an increase in the vigilance of a new generation of Americans regarding the forced wars that America's interventionist Establishment may seek to impose in the future, the aims of the late David Hoggan, who passed away in August 1988, will have been, in part, realized.

IHR would like to acknowledge the assistance of Russell Granata and Tom Kerr in the publication of The Forced War; both these American Revisionists gave of their time so that a better knowledge of the past might produce a better future, for their children and ours.

 

— Theodore J. O'Keefe January, 1989

 

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Preface

 

This book is an outgrowth of a research project in diplomatic history entitled Breakdown of German-Polish Relations in 1939. It was offered and accepted as a doctoral dissertation at Harvard University in 1948. It was prepared under the specific direction of Professors William L. Langer and Michael Karpovich who were recognized throughout the historical world as being leading authorities on modern European history, and especially in the field of diplomatic history.

During the execution of this investigation I also gained much from consultation with other experts in this field then at Harvard, such as Professor Sidney B. Fay, Professor Harry R. Rudin, who was guest professor at Harvard during the academic year, 1946-1947, and Professor David Owen, at that time the chairman of the Harvard History Department and one of the world's leading experts on modern British history.

It has been a source of gratification to me that the conclusions reached in the 1948 monograph have been confirmed and extended by the great mass of documentary and memoir material which has been made available since that time.

While working on this project, which is so closely and directly related to the causes of the Second World War, I was deeply impressed with the urgent need for further research and writing on the dramatic and world-shaking events of 1939 and their historical background in the preceding decade.

It was astonishing to me that, nine years after the launching of the Second World War in September 1939, there did not exist in any language a comprehensive and reliable book on this subject. The only one devoted specifically and solely to this topic was Diplomatic Prelude by Sir Lewis B. Namier, an able English-Jewish historian who was a leading authority on the history of eighteenth century Britain. He had no special training or capacity for dealing with contemporary diplomatic history. His book, published in 1946, was admittedly based on the closely censored documents which had appeared during the War and on the even more carefully screened and unreliable material produced against the National Socialist leaders at the Nuremberg Trials.

This lack of authentic material on the causes of the second World War presented a remarkable contrast to that which existed following the end of the first World War. Within less than two years after the Armistice of November 1918, Professor Sidney B. Fay had discredited for all time the allegation that Germany and her allies had been solely responsible for the outbreak of war in August 1914. This was a fantastic indictment. Yet, on it was based the notorious war-guilt clause (Article 239) of the Treaty of Versailles that did so much to bring on the explosive situation which, as will be shown in this book, Lord Halifax and other British leaders exploited to unleash the second World War almost exactly twenty years later.

By 1927, nine years after Versailles, there was an impressive library of worthy and substantial books by so-called revisionist scholars which had at least factually obliterated the Versailles war-guilt verdict. These books had appeared in many countries; the United States, Germany, England, France, Austria and Italy, among others. They were quickly translated, some even into Japanese. Only a year later there appeared Fay's Origins of the World War, which still remains, after more than thirty years, the standard book in the English language on 1914 and its background. Later materials, such as the Berchtold papers and the Austro-Hungarian diplomatic documents published in 1930, have undermined Fay's far too harsh verdict on the responsibility of the Austrians for the War. Fay himself has been planning for some time to bring out a new and revised edition of his important work.

This challenging contrast in the historical situation after the two World Wars convinced me that I could do no better than to devote my professional efforts to this very essential but seemingly almost studiously avoided area of contemporary history; the background of 1939. There were a number of obvious reasons for this dearth of sound published material dealing with this theme.

The majority of the historians in the victorious allied countries took it for granted that there was no war-guilt question whatever in regard to the second World War. They seemed to be agreed that no one could or ever would question the assumption that Hitler and the National Socialists were entirely responsible for the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939, despite the fact that, even in 1919, some able scholars had questioned the validity of the war-guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty. The attitude of the historical guild after the second World War was concisely stated by Professor Louis Gottschalk of the University of Chicago, a former President of the American Historical Association: "American historians seem to be generally agreed upon the war-guilt question of the second World War." In other words, there was no such question.

This agreement was not confined to American historians; it was equally true not only of those in Britain, France and Poland but also of the great majority of those in the defeated nations: Germany and Italy. No general revisionist movement like that following 1918 was stirring in any European country for years after V-J Day. Indeed, it is only faintly apparent among historians even today.

A second powerful reason for the virtual non-existence of revisionist historical writing on 1939 was the fact that it was -- and still is -- extremely precarious professionally for any historian anywhere to question the generally accepted dogma of the sole guilt of Germany for the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. To do so endangered the tenure and future prospects of any historian, as much in Germany or Italy as in the United States or Britain. Indeed, it was even more risky in West Germany. Laws passed by the Bonn Government made it possible to interpret such vigorous revisionist writing as that set forth after 1918 by such writers as Montgelas, von Wegerer, Stieve, and Lutz as a political crime. The whole occupation program and NATO political set-up, slowly fashioned after V-E Day, was held to depend on the validity of the assertion that Hitler and the National Socialists were solely responsible for the great calamity of 1939. This dogma was bluntly stated by a very influential German political scientist, Professor Theodor Eschenburg, Rector of the University of Tübingen:

"Whoever doubts the exclusive guilt of Germany for the second World War destroys the foundations of post-war politics."

After the first World War, a strong wave of disillusionment soon set in concerning the alleged aims and actual results of the War. There was a notable trend towards peace, disarmament sentiment, and isolation, especially in the United States. Such an atmosphere offered some intellectual and moral encouragement to historians who sought to tell the truth about the responsibility for 1914. To do so did not constitute any basis for professional alarm as to tenure, status, promotion and security, at least after an interval of two or three years following the Armistice.

There was no such period of emotional cooling-off, readjustment, and pacific trends after 1945. Before there had even been any opportunity for this, a Cold War between former allies was forecast by Churchill early in 1946 and was formally proclaimed by President Truman in March 1947. The main disillusionment was that which existed between the United States and the Soviet Union and this shaped up so as to intensify and prolong the legend of the exclusive guilt of the National Socialists for 1939. The Soviet Union was no more vehement in this attitude than the Bonn Government of Germany.

There were other reasons why there was still a dearth of substantial books on 1939 in 1948 -- a lacuna which exists to this day -- but those mentioned above are the most notable. Countries whose post-war status, possessions and policies rested upon the assumption of exclusive German guilt were not likely to surrender their pretensions, claims, and gains in the interest of historical integrity. Minorities that had a special grudge against the National Socialists were only too happy to take advantage of the favorable world situation to continue and to intensify their program of hate and its supporting literature, however extreme the deviation from the historical facts.

All these handicaps, difficulties and apprehension in dealing with 1939 were quite apparent to me in 1948 and, for the most part, they have not abated notably since that time. The sheer scholarly and research opportunities and responsibilities were also far greater than in the years after 1918. Aside from the fact that the revolutionary governments in Germany, Austria and Russia quickly opened their archives on 1914 to scholars, the publication of documents on the responsibility for the first World War came very slowly, and in some cases required two decades or more.

After the second World War, however, there was soon available a veritable avalanche of documents that had to be read, digested and analyzed if one were to arrive at any certainty relative to the responsibility for 1939. Germany had seized the documents in the archives of the countries she conquered. When the Allies later overcame Germany they seized not only these, but those of Germany, Austria, Italy and several other countries. To be sure, Britain and the United States have been slow in publishing their documents bearing on 1939 and 1941, and the Soviet leaders have kept all of their documentary material, other than that seized by Germany, very tightly closed to scholars except for Communists. The latter could be trusted not to reveal any facts reflecting blame on the Soviet Union or implying any semblance of innocence on the part of National Socialist Germany.

Despite all the obvious problems, pitfalls and perils involved in any effort actually to reconstruct the story of 1939 and its antecedents, the challenge, need and opportunities connected with this project appeared to me to outweigh any or all negative factors. Hence, I began my research and writing on this comprehensive topic, and have devoted all the time I could take from an often heavy teaching schedule to its prosecution.

In 1952, I was greatly encouraged when I read the book by Professor Charles C. Tansill, Back Door to War. Tansill's America Goes to War was, perhaps, the most learned and scholarly revisionist book published after the first World War. Henry Steele Commager declared that the book was "the most valuable contribution to the history of the pre-war years in our literature, and one of the notable achievements of historical scholarship of this generation." Allan Nevins called it "an admirable volume, and absolutely indispensable" as an account of American entry into the War, on which the "approaches finality." Although his Back Door to War was primarily designed to show how Roosevelt "lied the United States into war," it also contained a great deal of exciting new material on the European background which agreed with the conclusions that I had reached in my 1948 dissertation.

Three years that I spent as Scientific Assistant to the Rector and visiting Assistant Professor of History in the Amerika Institut at the University of Munich gave me the opportunity to look into many sources of information in German materials at first hand and to consult directly able German scholars and public figures who could reveal in personal conversation what they would not dare to put in print at the time. An earlier research trip to Europe sponsored by a Harvard scholarship grant, 1947-1948, had enabled me to do the same with leading Polish figures and to work on important Polish materials in a large number of European countries.

Three years spent later as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California at Berkeley made it possible for me to make use of the extensive collection of documents there, as well as the far more voluminous materials at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, California, where I had done my first work in the archives while an under-graduate student at Stanford. Research grants thereafter permitted me to be free from teaching duties for several years and to devote myself solely to research and writing. Whatever defects and deficiencies my book may possess, they are not due to lack of application to cogent research in the best collections of documents for over nearly a decade and a half.

In various stages of the preparation of my book I gained much from the advice, counsel and assistance of Harry R. Rudin, Raymond J. Sontag, Charles C. Tansill, M.K. Dziewanowski, Zygmunt Gasiorowski, Edward J. Rozek, Otto zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, Vsevolod Panek, Ralph H. Lutz, Henry M. Adams, James J. Martin, Franklin C. Palm, Thomas H.D. Mahoney, Reginald F. Arragon, Richard H. Jones, and Ernest G. Trimble.

By 1957, I believed that I had proceeded far enough to have a manuscript worthy of publication and offered it to a prominent publisher. Before any decision could be reached, however, as to acceptance or rejection, I voluntarily withdrew the manuscript because of the recent availability of extensive and important new documentary materials, such as the Polish documentary collection, Polska a Zagranica, and the vast collection of microfilm reproductions based on the major portion of the German Foreign Office Archives from the 1936-1939 period, which had remained unpublished.

This process of drastic revision, made mandatory by newly available documentation, has been repeated four times since 1957. It is now my impression that no probable documentary revelations in any predictable future would justify further withholding of the material from publication. The results of my work during the last fifteen years in this field have recently been published in Germany (November, 1961) under the title Der erzwungene Krieg (The Forced War). The German edition went through four printings within one year.

Neither this book nor the present English-language edition will exhaust this vast theme or preclude the publication of many other books in the same field. But it will not strain the truth to assert that my book constitutes by far the most complete treatment which has appeared on the subject in any language based on the existing and available documentation. Indeed, amazing as it seems, it is the only book limited to the subject in any language that has appeared since 1946, save for Professor A.J.P. Taylor's far briefer account which was not published until the spring of 1961, the still more brief account in Germany by Walther Hofer, the rather diffuse symposium published under the auspices of Professor Arnold J. Toynbee at London in 1958, and Frau Annelies von Ribbentrop's Verschwörung gegen den Frieden (Conspiracy Against Peace, Leoni am Starnbergersee, 1962).

It represents, to the best of my ability, an accurate summation and assessment of the factors, forces and personalities that contributed to bring on war in September 1939, and to the entry of the Soviet Union, Japan, and the United States into the conflict later on. Valid criticism of the book in its present and first edition will be warmly welcomed. Such suggestions as appear to me to be validated by reliable documentation will be embodied in subsequently revised editions.

Although the conclusions reached in this book depart widely from the opinions that were set forth in allied war propaganda and have been continued almost unchanged in historical writing since 1945, they need not be attributed to either special ability or unusual perversity. They are simply those which one honest historian with considerable linguistic facility has arrived at by examining the documents and monographs with thoroughness, and by deriving the logical deductions from their content. No more has been required than professional integrity, adequate information, and reasonable intelligence. Such a revision of wartime propaganda dogmas and their still dominating vestiges in current historical writings in this field is inevitable, whatever the preconceived ideas held by any historian, if he is willing to base his conclusions on facts. This is well illustrated and confirmed by the example of the best known of contemporary British historians, Professor A.J.P. Taylor.

Taylor had written numerous books relating to German history, and his attitude had led to his being regarded as vigorously anti-German, if not literally a consistent Germanophobe. Admittedly in this same mood, he began a thorough study of the causes of the second World War from the sources, with the definite anticipation that he would emerge with an overwhelming indictment of Hitler as solely responsible for the causes and onset of that calamitous conflict. What other outcome could be expected when one was dealing with the allegedly most evil, bellicose, aggressive and unreasonable leader in all German history?

Taylor is, however, an honest historian and his study of the documents led him to the conclusion that Hitler was not even primarily responsible for 1939. Far from planning world conquest, Hitler did not even desire a war with Poland, much less any general European war. The war was, rather, the outcome of blunders on all sides, committed by all the nations involved, and the greatest of all these blunders took place before Hitler came to power in 1933. This was the Versailles Treaty of 1919 and the failure of the victorious Allies and the League of Nations to revise this nefarious document gradually and peacefully in the fifteen years preceding the Hitler era.

So far as the long-term responsibility for the second World War is concerned, my general conclusions agree entirely with those of Professor Taylor. When it comes to the critical months between September 1938, and September 1939, however, it is my carefully considered judgment that the primary responsibility was that of Poland and Great Britain. For the Polish-German War, the responsibility was that of Poland, Britain and Germany in this order of so-called guilt. For the onset of a European War, which later grew into a world war with the entry of the Soviet Union, Japan and the United States, the responsibility was primarily, indeed almost exclusively, that of Lord Halifax and Great Britain.

I have offered my reasons for these conclusions and have presented and analyzed the extensive documentary evidence to support them. It is my conviction that the evidence submitted cannot be factually discredited or overthrown. If it can be, I will be the first to concede the success of such an effort and to readjust my views accordingly. But any refutation must be based on facts and logic and cannot be accomplished by the prevailing arrogance, invective or innuendo. I await the examination of my material with confidence, but also with an open mind in response to all honest and constructive criticism.

While my primary concern in writing this book has been to bring the historical record into accord with the available documentation, it has also been my hope that it might have the same practical relevance that revisionist writing could have had after the first World War. Most of the prominent Revisionists after the first World War hoped that their results in scholarship might produce a comparable revolution in European politics and lead to the revision of the Versailles Treaty in time to discourage the rise of some authoritarian ruler to undertake this task. They failed to achieve this laudable objective and Europe was faced with the danger of a second World War.

Revisionist writing on the causes of the second World War should logically produce an even greater historical and political impact than it did after 1919. In a nuclear age, failure in this respect will be much more disastrous and devastating than the second World War. The indispensable nature of a reconsideration of the merits and possible services of Revisionism in this matter has been well stated by Professor Denna F. Fleming, who has written by far the most complete and learned book on the Cold War and its dangers, and a work which also gives evidence of as extreme and unyielding a hostility to Germany as did the earlier writings of A.J.P. Taylor: "The case of the Revisionists deserved to be heard.... They may help us avoid the 'one more war' after which there would be nothing left worth arguing about."

Inasmuch as I find little in the documents which lead me to criticize seriously the foreign policy of Hitler and the National Socialists, some critics of the German edition of my book have charged that I entertain comparable views about the domestic policy of Hitler and his regime. I believe, and have tried to demonstrate, that the factual evidence proves that Hitler and his associates did not wish to launch a European war in 1939, or in preceding years. This does not, however, imply in any sense that I have sought to produce an apology for Hitler and National Socialism in the domestic realm. It is no more true in my case than in that of A.J.P. Taylor whose main thesis throughout his lucid and consistent volume is that Hitler desired to accomplish the revision of the Treaty of Versailles by peaceful methods, and had no wish or plan to provoke any general war.

Having devoted as much time to an intensive study of this period of German history as any other American historian, I am well aware that there were many defects and shortcomings in the National Socialist system, as well as some remarkable and substantial accomplishments in many fields. My book is a treatise on diplomatic history. If I were to take the time and space to analyze in detail the personal traits of all the political leaders of the 1930's and all aspects of German, European and world history at the time that had any bearing on the policies and actions that led to war in September 1939, it would require several large volumes.

The only practical procedure is the one which I have followed, namely, to hold resolutely to the field of diplomatic history, mentioning only those outstanding political, economic, social and psychological factors and situations which bore directly and powerfully on diplomatic actions and policies during these years. Even when closely restricted to this special field, the indispensable materials have produced a very large book. If I have found Hitler relatively free of any intent or desire to launch a European war in 1939, this surely does not mean that any reasonable and informed person could regard him as blameless or benign in all his policies and public conduct. Only a naive person could take any such position. I deal with Hitler's domestic program only to refute the preposterous charge that he made Germany a military camp before 1939.

My personal political and economic ideology is related quite naturally to my own environment as an American citizen. I have for years been a warm admirer of the distinguished American statesman and reformer, the late Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. I still regard him as the most admirable and courageous American political leader of this century. Although I may be very much mistaken in this judgment and appraisal, it is sincere and enduring. What it does demonstrate is that I have no personal ideological affinity with German National Socialism, whatever strength and merit it may have possessed for Germany in some important respects. Nothing could be more presumptuous and absurd, or more remote from my purposes in this book, than an American attempt to rehabilitate or vindicate Germany's Adolf Hitler in every phase of his public behavior. My aim here is solely to discover and describe the attitudes and responsibilities of Hitler and the other outstanding political leaders and groups of the 1930's which had a decisive bearing on the outbreak of war in 1939.

 

David Leslie Hoggan

Menlo Park, California

 

 

Chapter 1

The New Polish State

 

The Anti-Polish Vienna Congress

 

A tragedy such as World War I, with all its horrors, was destined by the very nature of its vast dimensions to produce occasional good results along with an infinitely greater number of disastrous situations. One of these good results was the restoration of the Polish state. The Polish people, the most numerous of the West Slavic tribes, have long possessed a highly developed culture, national self-consciousness, and historical tradition. In 1914 Poland was ripe for the restoration of her independence, and there can be no doubt that independence, when it came, enjoyed the unanimous support of the entire Polish nation. The restoration of Poland was also feasible from the standpoint of the other nations, although every historical event has its critics, and there were prominent individuals in foreign countries who did not welcome the recovery of Polish independence.

The fact that Poland was not independent in 1914 was mainly the fault of the international congress which met at Vienna in 1814 and 1815. No serious effort was made by the Concert of Powers to concern itself with Polish national aspirations, and the arrangements for autonomy in the part of Russian Poland known as the Congress Kingdom were the result of the influence of the Polish diplomat and statesman, Adam Czartoryski, on Tsar Alexander I. The Prussian delegation at Vienna would gladly have relinquished the Polish province of Posen in exchange for the recognition of Prussian aspirations in the German state of Saxony. Great Britain, France, and Austria combined against Prussia and Russia to frustrate Prussian policy in Saxony and to demand that Posen be assigned to Prussia. This typical disregard of Polish national interests sealed the fate of the Polish nation at that time.

The indifference of the majority of the Powers, and especially Great Britain, toward Polish nationalism in 1815 is not surprising when one recalls that the aspirations of German, Italian, Belgian, and Norwegian nationalism were flouted with equal impunity. National self-determination was considered to be the privilege of only a few Powers in Western Europe.

The first Polish state was founded in the 10th century and finally destroyed in its entirety in 1795, during the European convulsions which accompanied the Great French Revolution. The primary reason for the destruction of Poland at that time must be assigned to Russian imperialism. The interference of the expanding Russian Empire in the affairs of Poland during the early 18th century became increasingly formidable, and by the mid-18th century Poland was virtually a Russian protectorate. The first partition of Poland by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772 met with some feeble opposition from Austrian diplomacy. Prussia made a rather ineffective effort to protect Poland from further destruction by concluding an alliance with her shortly before the second partition of 1792. The most that can be said about Russia in these various situations is that she would have preferred to obtain the whole of Poland for herself rather than to share territory with the western and southern neighbors of Poland. The weakness of the Polish constitutional system is sometimes considered a cause for the disappearance of Polish independence, but Poland would probably have maintained her independence under this system had it not been for the hostile actions of neighboring Powers, and especially Russia.

Poland was restored as an independent state by Napoleon I within twelve years of the final partition of 1795. The new state was known as the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. It did not contain all of the Polish territories, but it received additional land from Napoleon in 1809, and, despite the lukewarm attitude of the French Emperor toward the Poles, it no doubt would have been further aggrandized had Napoleon's campaign against Russia in 1812 been successful. It can truthfully be said that the long eclipse of Polish independence during the 19th century was the responsibility of the European Concert of Powers at Vienna rather than the three partitioning Powers of the late 18th century.

 

The 19th Century Polish Uprisings

 

The privileges of autonomy granted to Congress Poland by Russia in 1815 were withdrawn sixteen years later following the great Polish insurrection against the Russians in 1830-1831. Polish refugees of that uprising were received with enthusiasm wherever they went in Germany, because the Germans too were suffering from the oppressive post-war system established by the victors of 1815. The Western Powers, Great Britain and France, were absorbed by their rivalry to control Belgium and Russia was allowed to deal with the Polish situation undisturbed. New Polish uprisings during the 1846-1848 period were as ineffective as the national revolutions of Germany and Italy at that time. The last desperate Polish uprising before 1914 came in 1863, and it was on a much smaller scale than the insurrection of 1830-1831.

The British, French, and Austrians showed some interest in diplomatic intervention on behalf of the Poles, but Bismarck, the Minister-President of Prussia, sided with Russia because he believed that Russian support was necessary for the realization of German national unity. Bismarck's eloquent arguments in the Prussian Landtag (legislature) against the restoration of a Polish state in 1863, reflected this situation rather than permanent prejudice on his part against the idea of an independent Poland. It is unlikely that there would have been effective action on behalf of the Poles by the Powers at that time had Bismarck heeded the demand of the majority of the Prussian Landtag for a pro-Polish policy. Great Britain was less inclined in 1863 than she had been during the 1850's to intervene in foreign quarrels as the ally of Napoleon III. She was disengaging herself from Anglo-French intervention in Mexico, rejecting proposals for joint Anglo-French intervention in the American Civil War, and quarreling with France about the crisis in Schleswig-Holstein.

The absence of new Polish uprisings in the 1863-1914 period reflected Polish recognition that such actions were futile rather than any diminution of the Polish desire for independence. The intellectuals of Poland were busily at work during this period devising new plans for the improvement of the Polish situation. A number of different trends emerged as a result of this activity. One of these was represented by Jozef Pilsudski, and he and his disciples ultimately determined the fate of Poland in the period between the two World Wars. Pilsudski participated in the revolutionary movement in Russia before 1914 in the hope that this movement would shatter the Russian Empire and prepare the way for an independent Poland.

The unification of Germany in 1871 meant that the Polish territories of Prussia became integral parts of the new German Empire. Relations between Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, the three Powers ruling over Polish territories, were usually harmonious in the following twenty year period. This was possible, despite the traditional Austro-Russian rivalry in the Balkans, because of the diplomatic achievement of Bismarck. The situation changed after the retirement of Bismarck in 1890, and especially after the conclusion of the Franco-Russian alliance in 1894. There was constant tension among the three Powers during the following period. Russia was allied with France against Germany, and it was evident that an Eastern European, a Western European, or an Overseas imperial question might produce a war. This situation seemed more promising for Poland than when the three Powers ruling Polish territories were in harmony. It was natural that these changed conditions were reflected in Polish thought during these years.

 

Pro-German Polish Nationalism

 

Most of the Polish territory was ruled by Russia, and consequently it was quite logical for some Poles to advocate collaboration with Germany, the principal opponent of Russia, as the best means of promoting Polish interests. Wladyslaw Studnicki, a brilliant Polish scholar with contacts in many countries, was an exponent of this approach. He believed that Russia would always be the primary threat to Polish interests. His historical studies had convinced him that the finest conditions for Poland had existed during periods of peaceful relations and close contact with Germany.

He noted that Poland, while enfeoffed to Germany during the Middle Ages, had received from the Germans her Christian religion, her improved agricultural economy, and her flourishing medieval development of crafts. German craft colonization had been the basis for the growth of Polish cities, and the close cultural relationship between the two countries was demonstrated by every fourth 20th century Polish word, which was of German origin. He recalled that relations between Germany and Poland were usually friendly during the Middle Ages, and also during the final years before the Polish partitions.

Studnicki believed that Poland's real future was in the East, where she might continue her own cultural mission, and also profit nationally. He asserted during World War I that Poles should cease opposing the continuation of German rule in the province of Posen, which had a Polish majority, and in the province of West Prussia, which had a German majority. Both of these regions had been Polish before the first partition of 1772. He favored a return to the traditional Polish eastern policy of federation with such neighboring nations as the Lithuanians and White Russians.

Studnicki believed that collaboration with Germany would protect Poland from destruction by Russia without endangering the development of Poland or the realization of Polish interests. He advocated this policy throughout the period from World War I to World War II. After World War II, he wrote a moving account of the trials of Poland during wartime occupation, and of the manner in which recent events had made more difficult the German-Polish understanding which he still desired.

 

Pro-Russian Polish Nationalism

 

The idea of permanent collaboration with Russia also enjoyed great prestige in Poland despite the fact that Russia was the major partitioning Power and that the last Polish insurrection had been directed exclusively against her rule. The most brilliant and popular of modern Polish political philosophers, Roman Dmowski, was an advocate of this idea. Dmowski's influence was very great, and his most bitter adversaries adopted many of his ideas. Dmowski refused to compromise with his opponents, or to support any program which differed from his own.

Dmowski was the leader of a Polish political group within the Russian Empire before World War I known as the National Democrats. They advocated a constitution for the central Polish region of Congress Poland, which had been assigned to Russia for the first time at the Vienna Congress in 1815, but they did not oppose the further union of this region with Russia. They welcomed the Russian constitutional regime of 1906, and they took their seats in the legislative Duma rather than boycott it. Their motives in this respect were identical with those of the Polish Conservatives from the Polish Kresy; the new constitution could bestow benefits on Poles as well as Russians. The Polish Kresy, which also served as a reservation for Jews in Russia, included all Polish territories taken by Russia except Congress Poland. The National Democrats and the Polish Conservatives believed that they could advance the Polish cause within Russia by legal means.

Dmowski was a leading speaker in the Duma, and he was notorious for his clever attacks on the Germans and Jews. He confided to friends that he hoped to duplicate the career of Adam Czartoryski, who had been Foreign Secretary of Russia one century earlier and was acknowledged to have been the most successful Polish collaborator with the Russians. Unwelcome restrictions were imposed on the constitutional regime in the years after 1906 by Piotr Stolypin, the new Russian strong man, but these failed to dampen Dmowski's ardor. He believed that the combined factors of fundamental weakness in the Russian autocracy and the rising tide of Polish nationalism would enable him to achieve a more prominent role.

Dmowski was an advocate of modernity, which meant to him a pragmatic approach to all problems without sentimentality or the dead weight of outmoded tradition. In his book, Mysli nowoczesnego Polaka (Thoughts of a Modern Pole), 1902, he advised that the past splendor of the old Polish monarchy should be abandoned even as an ideal. He recognized that the Polish nation needed modern leadership, and he proclaimed that "nations do not produce governments, but governments do produce nations." He continued to envisage an autonomous Polish regime loyal to Russia until the latter part of World War I. His system of thought was better suited to the completely independent Poland which emerged from the War. He demanded after 1918 that Poland become a strictly national state in contrast to a nationalities state of the old Polish or recent Habsburg pattern. Dmowski did not envisage an unexceptional Poland for the Poles, but a state with strictly limited minorities in the later style of Kemal in Turkey or Hitler in Germany. He believed that the inclusion of minorities in the new state should stop short of risking the total preponderance of the dominant nationality.

Dmowski opposed eastward expansion at Russian expense, and he argued that the old Lithuanian-Russian area, which once had been under Polish rule, could not be assimilated. Above all, the Jews were very numerous in the region, and he disliked having a Jewish minority in the new Polish state. In 1931 he declared that "the question of the Jews is the greatest question concerning the civilization of the whole world." He argued that a modern approach to the Jewish question required the total expulsion of the Jews from Poland because assimilation was impossible. He rejected both the 18th century attempt to assimilate by baptism and the 19th century effort at assimilation through common agreement on liberal ideas. He insisted that experience had proved both these attempted solutions were futile. He argued that it was not Jewish political influence which posed the greatest threat, but Jewish economic and cultural activities. He did not believe that Poland could become a respectable business nation until she had eliminated her many Jews. He recognized the dominant Western trend in Polish literature and art, but he did not see how Polish culture could survive what he considered to be Jewish attempts to dominate and distort it. He firmly believed that the anti-Jewish policy of the Tsarist regime in Russia had been beneficial. His ideas on the Jewish question were popular in Poland, and they were either shared from the start or adopted by most of his political opponents.

Dmowski's basic program was defensive, and he was constantly seeking either to protect the Poles from threats to their heritage, or from ambitious schemes of expansion which might increase alien influences. There was only one notable exception to this defensive pattern of his ideas. He favored an ambitious and aggressive policy of westward expansion at the expense of Germany, and he used his predilection for this scheme as an argument for collaboration with Russia.

He believed in the industrialization of Poland and in a dominant position for the industrial middle class. He argued that westward expansion would be vital in increasing Polish industrial resources.

The influence of Dmowski's thought in Poland has remained important until the present day. His influence continued to grow despite the political failures of his followers after Jozef Pilsudski's coup d'Etat in 1926. Dmowski deplored the influence of the Jews in Bolshevist Russia, but he always advocated Russo-Polish collaboration in foreign policy.

 

Pro-Habsburg Polish Nationalism

 

Every general analysis of 20th century Polish theory on foreign policy emphasizes the Krakow (Cracow) or Galician school, which was easily the most prolific, although the practical basis for its program was destroyed by World War I. The political leaders and university scholars of the Polish South thought of Austrian Galicia as a Polish Piedmont after the failure of the Polish insurrection against Russia in 1863. Michal Bobrzynski, the Governor of Galicia from 1907 to 1911, was the outstanding leader of this school. In his Dzieje Polski w Zarysie (Short History of Poland), he eulogized Polish decentralization under the pre-partition constitution, and he attacked the kings who had sought to increase the central power. In 1919 he advocated regionalism in place of a centralized national system. He also hoped that the Polish South would occupy the key position in Poland as a whole.

The political activities of the Krakow group before the War of 1914 were directed against the National Democrats, with their pro-Russian orientation, and against the Ukrainians in Galicia, with their national aspirations. Bobrzynski envisaged the union of all Poland under the Habsburgs, and the development of a powerful federal system in the Habsburg Empire to be dominated by Austrian Germans, Hungarians, and Poles. He advocated a federal system after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, and he supported the claims to the old thrones of the Habsburg pretender. He argued with increasing exasperation that Poland alone could never maintain herself against Russia and Germany without additional support from the South.

 

Pilsudski's Polish Nationalism

 

A fourth major program for the advancement of Polish interests was that of Jozef Pilsudski, who thought of Poland as a Great Power. His ideas on this vital point conflicted with the three programs previously mentioned. Studnicki, Dmowski, and Bobrzynski recognized that Poland was one of the smaller nations of modern Europe. It seemed inevitable to them that the future promotion of Polish interests would demand a close alignment with at least one of the three pre-1918 powerful neighboring Powers, Germany, Russia, or Austria-Hungary. It is not surprising that there were groups in Poland which favored collaboration with each of these Powers, but it is indeed both startling and instructive to note that the strongest of these groups advocated collaboration with Russia, the principal oppressor of the Poles.

Pilsudski opposed collaboration with any of the stronger neighbors of Poland. He expected Poland to lead nations weaker than herself and to maintain alliances or alignments with powerful but distant Powers not in a position to influence the conduct of Polish policy to any great extent. Above all, his system demanded a defiant attitude toward any neighboring state more powerful than Poland. His reasoning was that defiance of her stronger neighbors would aid Poland to regain the Great Power status which she enjoyed at the dawn of modern history. Dependence on a stronger neighbor would be tantamount to recognizing the secondary position of Poland in Central Eastern Europe. He hoped that a successful foreign policy after independence would eventually produce a situation in which none of her immediate neighbors would be appreciably stronger than Poland. He hoped that Poland in this way might eventually achieve national security without sacrificing her Great Power aspirations.

This approach to a foreign policy for a small European nation was reckless, and its partisans said the same thing somewhat more ambiguously when they described it as heroic. Its radical nature is evident when it is compared to the three programs described above, which may be called conservative by contrast. Another radical policy in Poland was that of the extreme Marxists who hoped to convert the Polish nation into a proletarian dictatorship. These extreme Marxists were far less radical on the foreign policy issue than the Pilsudski group.

For a period of twenty-five years, from 1914 until the Polish collapse of 1939, Pilsudski's ideas had a decisive influence on the development of Poland. No Polish leader since Jan Sobieski in the 17th century had been so masterful. Poles often noted that Pilsudski's personality was not typically Polish, but was much modified by his Lithuanian background. He did not share the typical exaggerated Polish respect for everything which came from abroad. He was not unpunctual as were most Poles, and he had no trace of either typical Polish indolence or prodigality. Above all, although he possessed it in full measure, he rarely made a show of the great personal charm which is typical of nearly all educated Poles. He was usually taciturn, and he despised excessive wordiness.

Pilsudski's prominence began with the outbreak of World War I. He was personally well prepared for this struggle. Pilsudski addressed a group of Polish university students at Paris in February 1914. His words contained a remarkable prophecy which did much to give him a reputation for uncanny insight. He predicted that a great war would break out which might produce the defeat of the three Powers ruling partitioned Poland. He guessed correctly that the Austrians and Germans might defeat the Russians before succumbing to the superior material reserves and resources of the Western Powers. He proposed to contribute to this by fighting the Russians until they were defeated and then turning against the Germans and Austrians.

This strategy required temporary collaboration with two of the Powers holding Polish territories, but it was based on the recognition that in 1914, before Polish independence, it was inescapable that Poles would be fighting on both sides in the War. Pilsudski accepted this inevitable situation, but he sought to shape it to promote Polish interests to the maximum degree. Pilsudski had matured in politics before World War I as a Polish Marxist revolutionary. He assimilated the ideas of German and Russian Marxism both at the university city of Kharkov in the Ukraine, and in Siberia, where hundreds of thousands of Poles had been exiled by Russian authorities since 1815. He approached socialism as an effective weapon against Tsarism, but he never became a sincere socialist. His followers referred to his early Marxist affiliation as Konrad Wallenrod socialism. Wallenrod, in the epic of Adam Mickiewicz, infiltrated the German Order of Knights and became one of its leaders only to undermine it. Pilsudski adhered to international socialism for many years, but he remained opposed to its final implications.

Pilsudski was convinced that the Galician socialist leaders with whom he was closely associated would ultimately react in a nationalist direction. One example will suggest why he made this assumption. At the July 1910 international socialist congress in Krakow, Ignaz Daszynski, the Galician socialist leader, was reproached by Herman Lieberman, a strict Marxist, for encouraging the celebration by Polish socialists of the 500th anniversary of Grunwald. Grunwald was the Polish name for the victory of the Poles, Lithuanians and Tartars over the German Order of Knights at Tannenberg in 1410, and its celebration in Poland at this time was comparable to the July 4th independence holiday in the United States. Daszynski heaped ridicule and scorn on Lieberman. He observed sarcastically that it would inflict a tremendous injury on the workers to tolerate this national impudence. He added that it was positively criminal to refer to Wawel (the former residence of Polish kings in Krakow) because this might sully the red banners of socialism. Pilsudski himself later made the cynical remark that those who cared about socialism might ride the socialist trolley to the end of the line, but he preferred to get off at independence station.

Pilsudski was active with Poles from other political groups after 1909 in forming separate military units to collaborate with Austria-Hungary in wartime. This action was encouraged by Austrian authorities who hoped that Pilsudski would be able to attract volunteers from the Russian section. Pilsudski was allowed to command only one brigade of this force, but he emerged as the dominant leader. The Krakow school hoped to use his military zeal to build Polish power within the Habsburg Empire, and one of their leaders, Jaworski, remarked that he would exploit Pilsudski as Cavour had once exploited Garibaldi. Pilsudski, like Garibaldi, had his own plans, and events were to show that he was more successful in realizing them.

 

Poland in World War I

 

World War I broke out in August 1914 after Russia, with the encouragement of Great Britain and France, ordered the general mobilization of her armed forces against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Russians were determined to support Serbia against Austria-Hungary in the conflict which resulted from the assassination of the heir to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones and his wife by Serbian conspirators. Russian mobilization plans envisaged simultaneous military action against both the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. Poincaré and Viviani, the French leaders, welcomed the opportunity to engage Germany in a conflict, because they hoped to reconquer Alsace-Lorraine. Sir Edward Grey and the majority of the British leaders looked forward to the opportunity of winning the spoils of war from Germany, and of disposing of an allegedly dangerous rival. Austria-Hungary wished to maintain her security against Serbian provocations, and the German leaders envisaged war with great reluctance as a highly unwelcome development.

Russia, as the ally of Great Britain and France, succeeded in keeping the Polish question out of Allied diplomacy until the Russian Revolution of 1917. A Russian proclamation of August 18, 1914, offered vague rewards to the Poles for their support in the war against Germany, but it contained no binding assurances. Dmowski went to London in November 1915 to improve his contacts with British and French leaders, but he was careful to work closely with Alexander Izvolsky, Russian Ambassador to France and the principal Russian diplomat abroad. Dmowski's program called for an enlarged autonomous Polish region within Russia. His activities were for the most part welcomed by Russia, but Izvolsky reported to foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov in April 1916 that Dmowski went too far in discussing certain aspects of the Polish question.

Pilsudski in the meantime had successfully resisted attempts by the Austrian War Department to deprive his cadres of their special status when it became obvious that they were no magnet to the Poles across the Russian frontier. Responsibility for maintaining the separate status of the forces was entrusted to a Polish Chief National Committee (Naczelnik Komitet Narodowy). The situation was precarious because many of the Galician Poles proved to be pro-Russian after war came, and they did not care to join Pilsudski. They expected Russia to win the war. They might be tolerated following a Russian victory as mere conscripts of Austria, but they would be persecuted for serving with Pilsudski. As a result, there were only a few thousand soldiers under Pilsudski and his friends during World War I. The overwhelming majority of all Polish veterans saw military service only with the Russians. Large numbers of Polish young men from Galicia fled to the Russians upon the outbreak of war to escape service with either the Austrians or with Pilsudski. It was for this reason that the impact of Pilsudski on the outcome of the war against Russia was negligible. He nevertheless achieved a prominent position in Polish public opinion, whatever individual Poles might think of him, and he managed to retain it. General von Beseler, the Governor of German-occupied Poland, proclaimed the restoration of Polish independence on November 5, 1916, following an earlier agreement between Germany and Austria-Hungary. His announcement was accompanied by a German Army band playing the gay and exuberant Polish anthem from the Napoleonic period, Poland Still Is Not Lost! (Jeszcze Polska nie Zginele!). Polish independence was rendered feasible by the German victories over Russia in 1915 which compelled the Russians to evacuate most of the Polish territories, including those which they had seized from Austria in the early months of the war. Pilsudski welcomed this step by Germany with good reason, although he continued to hope for the ultimate defeat of Germany in order to free Poland from any German influence and to aggrandize Poland at German expense.

A Polish Council of State was established on December 6, 1916, and met for the first time on January 14, 1917. The position of the Council during wartime was advisory to the occupation authorities, and the prosecution of the war continued to take precedence over every other consideration. Nevertheless, important concessions were made to the Poles during the period from September 1917 until the end of the war. The Council was granted the administration of justice in Poland and control over the Polish school system, and eventually every phase of Polish life came under its influence. The Council was reorganized in the autumn of 1917, and on October 14, 1917, a Regency Council was appointed in the expectation that Poland would become an independent kingdom allied to the German and Austro-Hungarian monarchies. The German independence policy was recognized by Poles everywhere as a great aid to the Polish cause, and Roman Dmowski, never a friend of Germany, was very explicit in stating this in his book, Polityka Polska i Odbudowanie Panstwa (Polish Policy and the Reconstruction of the State), which described the events of this period. Negotiators for the Western Allies, on the other hand, were willing to reverse the German independence policy as late as the summer of 1917 and to offer all of Poland to Austria-Hungary, if by doing so they could separate the Central Powers and secure a separate peace with the Habsburgs.

The Germans for their part were able to assure President Wilson in January 1917, when the United States was still neutral in the War, that they had no territorial aims in the West and that they stood for the independence of Poland. President Wilson delivered a speech on January 22, 1917, in which he stressed the importance of obtaining access to the Sea for Poland, but James Gerard, the American Ambassador to Germany, assured German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg that Wilson did not wish to see any Baltic port of Germany detached from German rule. It is not surprising that in German minds both before and after the 1918 armistice the Wilson Program for Poland envisaged access to the Sea in terms of free port facilities and not in the carving of one or more corridors to the Sea through German territory. There was no objection from Germany when the Polish Council of State in Warsaw sent a telegram to Wilson congratulating him for his speech of January 22, 1917, which had formulated Wilsonian Polish policy in terms later included as the 13th of the famous 14 Points.

The Russian Provisional Government raised the question of Polish independence in a statement of March 29, 1917, but they stressed the necessity of a permanent Russo-Polish "alliance," with special "guarantees," as the conditio sine qua non. Arthur James Balfour, the Conservative leader in the British Coalition Government, endorsed the Russian proposition, although he knew that the Russians intended a merely autonomous Poland. Dmowski responded to the March 1917 Russian Revolution by advocating a completely independent Poland of 200,000 square miles, which was approximately equal to the area of the German Empire, and he attempted to counter the arguments raised against Polish independence in Great Britain and France.

Pilsudski at this time was engaged in switching his policy from support of Germany to support of the Western Allies. He demanded a completely independent Polish national army before the end of the war, and the immediate severance of any ties which made Poland dependent on the Central Powers. He knew that there was virtually no chance for the fulfillment of these demands at the crucial stage which the war had reached by the summer of 1917. The slogan of his followers was a rejection of compromise: "Never a state without an army, never an army without Pilsudski." Pilsudski was indeed head of the military department of the Polish Council of State, but he resigned on July 2, 1917, when Germany and Austria-Hungary failed to accept his demands.

Pilsudski deliberately provoked the Germans until they arrested him and placed him for the duration of the war in comfortable internment with his closest military colleague, Kazimierz Sosnkowski, at Magdeburg on the Elbe. It was Pilsudski's conviction that only in this way could he avoid compromising himself with the Germans before Polish public opinion. His arrest by Germany made it difficult for his antagonists in Poland to argue that he had been a mere tool of German policy. It was a matter of less concern that this accusation was made in the Western countries despite his arrest during the months and years which followed.

A threat to Pilsudski's position in Poland was implicit in the organization of independent Polish forces in Russia after the Revolution under a National Polish Army Committee (Naczpol). These troops were under the influence of Roman Dmowski and his National Democrats. The conclusion of peace between Russia and Germany at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 stifled this development, and the Polish forces soon began to surrender to the Germans. The Bolshevik triumph and peace with Germany dealt a severe blow to the doctrine of Polish collaboration with Russia. The surrender by Germany of the Cholm district of Congress Poland to the Ukraine at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 dealt a fatal blow to the prestige of the Regency Council in Poland, and prepared the way for the establishment of an entirely new Government when Germany went down in revolution and defeat in November 1918.

 

Polish Expansion After World War I

 

It was fortunate for Pilsudski that the other Poles were unable to achieve any thing significant during his internment in Germany. He was released from Magdeburg during the German Revolution, and he returned speedily to Poland. On November 14, 1918, the Regency Council turned over its powers to Pilsudski, and the Poles, who were in the midst of great national rejoicing, despite the severe prevailing economic conditions, faced an entirely new situation. Pilsudski knew there would be an immediate struggle for power among the political parties. His first step was to consolidate the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) of Congress Poland, and the Polish Social-Democratic Party (PPSD) of Galicia under his own leadership.

Pilsudski had an enormous tactical advantage which he exploited to the limit. He was a socialist, and he had fought for the Germans. His principal political opponents, the National Democrats, were popular with the Western Powers. Poland was not mentioned in the November 1918 armistice agreement with Germany, and soon after the armistice a protracted peace conference began. Pilsudski was persona non grata at Versailles. He gladly expressed his confidence in the Paris negotiation efforts of the National Democrats in the interest of obtaining a united Polish front. It was not his responsibility, but that of his opponents, to secure advantages for Poland at the peace conference. This effort was almost certain to discredit his opponents, because Polish demands were so exorbitant that they could scarcely be satisfied. Pilsudski was free to turn his own efforts toward the Polish domestic situation. He made good use of his time, and he never lost the political initiative gained during those days. His cause was aided by an agreement he made with the Germans as early as November 11, 1918, before the armistice in the West. According to this agreement, the occupation troops would leave with their arms which they would surrender at the frontier (German-Congress Poland frontier of 1914, which was confirmed at Brest-Litovsk, 1918). The operation was virtually completed by November 19, 1918, and the agreement was faithfully carried out by both sides.

The Polish National Committee in Paris, which was dominated by Roman Dmowski and the National Democrats, faced a much less promising situation. The diplomats of Great Britain and France regarded the Poles with condescension, and Premier Clemenceau informed Paderewski, the principal collaborator of Dmowski in the peace negotiation, that in his view Poland owed her independence to the sacrifices of the Allies. The Jewish question also plagued the Polish negotiators, and they were faced by demands from American Jewish groups which would virtually have created an independent Jewish state within Poland. President Wilson was sympathetic toward these demands, and he emphasized in the Council of Four (United States, Great Britain, France, Italy) on May 1, 1919, that "the Jews were somewhat inhospitably regarded in Poland." Paderewski explained the Polish attitude on the Jewish question in a memorandum of June 15, 1919, in which he observed that the Jews of Poland "on many occasions" had considered the Polish cause lost, and had sided with the enemies of Poland. Ultimately most of the Jewish demands were modified, but article 93 of the Versailles treaty forced Poland to accept a special pact for minorities which was highly unpopular.

The Polish negotiators might have achieved their extreme demands against Germany had it not been for Lloyd George, because President Wilson and the French were originally inclined to give them all that they asked. Dmowski demanded the 1772 frontier in the West, plus the key German industrial area of Upper Silesia, the City of Danzig, and the southern sections of East Prussia. In addition, he demanded that the rest of East Prussia be constituted as a separate state under Polish control, and later he also requested part of Middle Silesia for Poland. Lloyd George soon began to attack the Polish position, and he concentrated his effort on influencing and modifying the attitude of Wilson. It was clear to him that Italy was indifferent, and that France would not be able to resist a common Anglo-American program.

Lloyd George had reduced the Polish demands in many directions before the original draft of the treaty was submitted to the Germans on May 7, 1919. A plebiscite was scheduled for the southern districts of East Prussia, and the rest of that province was to remain with Germany regardless of the outcome. Important modifications of the frontier in favor of Germany were made in the region of Pomerania, and the city of Danzig was to be established as a protectorate under the League of Nations rather than as an integral part of Poland. Lloyd George concentrated on Upper Silesia after the Germans had replied with their objections to the treaty. Wilson's chief expert on Poland, Professor Robert Lord of Harvard University, made every effort to maintain the provision calling for the surrender of this territory to Poland without a plebiscite. Lloyd George concentrated on securing a plebiscite, and ultimately he succeeded.

The ultimate treaty terms gave Poland much more than she deserved, and much more than she should have requested. Most of West Prussia, which had a German majority at the last census, was surrendered to Poland without plebiscite, and later the richest industrial section of Upper Silesia was given to Poland despite the fact that the Poles lost the plebiscite there. The creation of a League protectorate for the national German community of Danzig was a disastrous move; a free harbor for Poland in a Danzig under German rule would have been far more equitable. The chief errors of the treaty included the creation of the Corridor, the creation of the so-called Free City of Danzig, and the cession of part of Upper Silesia to Poland. These errors were made for the benefit of Poland and to the disadvantage of Germany, but they were detrimental to both Germany and Poland. An enduring peace in the German-Polish borderlands was impossible to achieve within the context of these terms. The settlement was also contrary to the 13th of Wilson's 14 Points, which, except for the exclusion of point 2, constituted a solemn Allied contractual agreement on peace terms negotiated with Germany when she was still free and under arms. The violation of these terms when defenseless Germany was in the chains of the armistice amounted to a pinnacle of deceit on the part of the United States and the European Western Allies which could hardly be surpassed. The position of the United States in this unsavory situation was somewhat modified by the American failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and 1920. The Polish negotiators remained discredited at home because they had failed to achieve their original demands, which had been widely publicized in Poland.

An aspect of this situation especially pleasing to Pilsudski was the confused condition of Russia which caused the Allied diplomats to postpone the discussion of the eastern frontiers of Poland. Pilsudski was more interested in eastward expansion than in the westward expansion favored by Dmowski. The absence of any decisions at Paris concerning the status quo in the East gave Pilsudski a welcome opportunity to pursue his own program in that area.

The left-wing radical tide was rising with Poland, but Pilsudski was not unduly worried by this situation. He allowed the sincere Marxist, Moraczewski, to form a government. The government proclaimed an electoral decree on November 28, 1918, which provided for proportional representation and universal suffrage. Pilsudski secretly undermined the Government in every direction, and he encouraged his friends in the army to oppose it. He also knew that the National Democrats hated socialism, and played them off against Moraczewski.

On January 4, 1919, while Roman Dmowski was in Paris, the National Democrats recklessly attempted to upset Moraczewski by a poorly planned coup d'Etat. Pilsudski defended the Government, and the National Democrats lost prestige when their revolt was crushed. Pilsudski did not relish the barter of parliamentary politics, but Walery Slawek, his good friend and political expert, did most of this distasteful work for him. This enabled Pilsudski to concentrate at an early date on the Polish Army and Polish foreign policy, which were his two real interests. Pilsudski won over many prominent opponents; he had earlier won the support of Edward Smigly-Rydz, who directed the capture of Lvov (Lemberg) from the Ukrainians in November 1918. Smigly-Rydz later succeeded Pilsudski as Marshal of Poland.

There was action in many directions on the military front. A Slask-Pomorze-Poznan (Silesia-West Prussia-Posen) Congress was organized by the National Democrats on December 6, 1918, and it attempted to seize control of the German eastern provinces in the hope of presenting the peace conference at Paris with a fait accompli. Ignaz Paderewski arrived in Poznan a few weeks later on a journey from London to Warsaw, and a Polish uprising broke out while he was in this city. Afterward the Poles, in a series of bitter battles, drove the local German volunteer militia out of most of Posen province. The Germans in January 1919 evacuated the ancient Lithuanian capital of Wilna (Wilno), and Polish forces moved in. When the Bolshevik Armies began their own drive through the area, the Poles lost Wilna, but the Germans stopped the Red advance at Grodno on the Niemen River. The National Democrats controlled the Polish Western Front and Pilsudski dominated the East. The National Democrats were primarily interested in military action against Germany. Pilsudski's principal interest was in Polish eastward expansion and in federation under Polish control with neighboring nations. On April 19, 1919, when the Poles recaptured Wilna, a proclamation was issued by Pilsudski. It was not addressed, as a National Democratic proclamation would have been, to the local Polish community, but "to the people of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania." It referred graciously to the presence of Polish forces in "your country." Pilsudski also issued an invitation to the Ukrainians and White Russians to align themselves with Poland. He intended to push his federalist policy while Russia was weak, and to reduce Russian power to the minimum degree.

Pilsudski's growing prestige in the East was bitterly resented by the National Democrats. They denounced him from their numerous press organs as an anti clerical radical under the influence of the Jews. They argued with justification that the country was unprepared for an extensive eastern military adventure. They complained that the further acquisition of minorities would weaken the state, and they concluded that Pilsudski was a terrible menace to Poland. Pilsudski cleverly appealed to the anti-German prejudice of the followers of his enemies. He argued that Russia and Germany were in a gigantic conspiracy to crush Poland, and that to retaliate by driving back the Russians was the only salvation. He tried in every way to stir up the enthusiasm of the weary Polish people for his eastern plans.

Pilsudski also did what he could to stem the rising Lithuanian nationalism which objected to every form of union with Poland. By July 17, 1919, Polish forces had driven the Ukrainian nationalist forces out of every corner of the former Austrian territory of East Galicia. It was comparatively easy afterward for Pilsudski to arrive at an agreement with Semyon Petlura, the Ukrainian socialist leader who was hard pressed by the Bolsheviks. Petlura agreed that the entire territory of Galicia should remain with Poland, and Pilsudski encouraged the organization of new Ukrainian armed units.

Pilsudski believed that Petlura would be more successful than Skoropadski, the earlier Ukrainian dictator, in enlisting Ukrainian support. He deliberated constantly on delivering a crushing blow against the Bolsheviks, who were hard pressed by the White Russian forces of General Denikin during most of 1919. He negotiated with Denikin, but he did not strike during 1919 on the plea that the Polish forces were not yet ready. He dreaded far more than Bolshevism a victorious White Russian regime, which would revive Russian nationalist aspirations in the West at the expense of Poland.

While Pilsudski was planning and postponing his blow against the Bolsheviks, his prejudice against the parliamentary form of government was augmented by the first Sejm which had been elected on January 26, 1919. Two coalition groups of the National Democrats sent 167 deputies. The Polish Peasant Party, which endorsed the foreign policy of Dmowski and denounced Pilsudski, elected 85 deputies. These three groups of Pilsudski opponents occupied 260 of the 415 seats of the Sejm. Many of the other deputies, who were divided among a large number of parties, were either Germans or Jews. These election results were no chance phenomenon, but they represented a trend in Polish opinion which had developed over a long period. It was evident that this situation could not be changed without severe manipulation of the election system. No politician of Pilsudski's ambitions could admire an election system which demonstrated his own unpopularity. His natural inclination toward the authoritarian system was greatly increased by his experience with parliamentary politics in his own country.

Dissatisfaction with the terms of the Versailles treaty was uppermost in Polish public opinion by June 1919. The Poles were in consternation at the prospect of a plebiscite in Upper Silesia. They had claimed that most of the inhabitants favored Poland, but they were secretly aware that the vast majority would vote for Germany in a free election. The Poles were also furious at the Allied inclination to support the Czechs in their attempt to secure by force the mixed ethnic area and rich industrial district of Teschen.

Adalbert Korfanty, a veteran National Democratic leader, set out to accomplish Poland's purpose in Upper Silesia by terror and intimidation. The French commander of the Allied occupation force, General Le Rond, collaborated with invading Polish filibuster forces. The Italian occupation forces stationed in Upper Silesia were attacked by the Poles and suffered heavy casualties because they sought to obstruct the illegal Polish advance. It was widely assumed in Poland during 1919 and 1920 that the desperate campaign in Upper Silesia would be futile. The unexpected Polish reward there was not received until 1922.

These reverses suffered by the Poles in the West added to the demand for effective action in the East. Interest gradually increased during the latter part of 1919 while Pilsudski continued his preparations. The high nobility from the eastern territories led much agitation, but support for the program also had become noticeable in all parts of the country. Pilsudski concluded a second pact with Petlura in October 1919 which provided that further Ukrainian territory east of the old frontier between Russia and Austrian Galicia would become Polish, and, in addition, an independent Ukrainian state in the East would remain in close union with Poland. The collapse of Denikin in December 1919 was a signal to the Bolsheviks that they might soon expect trouble with Poland on a much larger scale than in the preceding sporadic hostilities which had extended from Latvia to the Ukraine. The Bolsheviks on January 28, 1920, offered Pilsudski a favorable armistice line in the hope of trading territory for time. Pilsudski was not impressed, despite the fact that the Western Allies disapproved of his plans. Pilsudski categorically informed the Allies on March 13, 1920, that he would demand from the Bolsheviks the right to dispose of the territory west of the 1772 Polish-Russian frontier. This frontier was far to the East of the line proposed by the Bolsheviks, and it was evident that a decisive conflict would ensue.

Pilsudski and Petlura launched their offensive to drive the Bolsheviks from the Ukraine on April 26, 1920. The Skulski cabinet, which had followed earlier governments of Moraczewski and Paderewski, did not dare to oppose Pilsudski's plans, and Foreign Minister Patek openly approved Pilsudski's eastern program. The Polish troops under the command of General Smigly-Rydz scored conspicuous successes, and on May 8th a Polish patrol on a streetcar rode into the center of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. A huge celebration of the Kiev victory took place in the St. Alexander church in Warsaw on May 18, 1920. Pilsudski was presented with the old victory laurels of Stephen Bathory and Wladislaw IV.

Russia was less prostrate than in the 17th century "time of troubles (Smutnoye Vremya)," and dreams of Polish imperialism were soon smashed under the hoofs of Budenny's Red Army horses. The Russian counter-offensive strategy of outflanking the Poles was completely successful. The military reversals in the east created a cabinet crisis and the Skulski Government was forced to resign. On June 24, 1920, Wladislaw Grabski, a National Democrat and an opponent of Pilsudski, formed a government. His first step was to go to Belgium to plead with the Western Allied Command for aid. The Russians had penetrated deeply into Poland from two directions when Grabski arrived at Spa on July 10th. One of their armies had broken across the old Niemen defense line, and the other was driving on Lvov.

The poorly disciplined Russians had become totally disorganized by the rapidity of their advance, and the major commanders failed to cooperate because of petty jealousies. Pilsudski had the expert advice of General Maxime Weygand and other French officers when he directed the Poles to victory in the battle of Warsaw on August 16, 1920. The famous expression in Poland, "the miracle of the Vistula (cud nad Wisla)," was coined by Professor Stanislaw Stronski, a National Democrat, to suggest that any Polish victory under Pilsudski's leadership was a miracle.

The Vistula victory brought tremendous prestige to Pilsudski, and it solidified his position as the strongest man in Poland, but the opponents of Pilsudski remained in office and the popular dissatisfaction with the war increased. Pilsudski was willing to strike eastward again after the Russian retreat, and to launch a second expedition against Kiev, but he knew this was an impossibility because of public opinion in war-torn Poland. Jan Dabski, who was selected by the Government as chief delegate to negotiate with the Russians, was a bitter critic of Pilsudski's policy and was influenced by Dmowski. Dmowski opposed the idea of federating with the White Russians and the Ukrainians, but he believed that Poland could assimilate a fairly large proportion of the people from the regions which had been under Polish rule in the past. Consequently, at the Riga peace in early 1921, the White Russian and Ukrainian areas were partitioned between the Soviet Union and Poland, with the bulk of both areas going to the Soviet Union. Federalism had been abandoned as an immediate policy, and the followers of Pilsudski resorted to Dmowski's program of assimilating the minorities.

The Polish people who had been influenced by the romanticist ideas of Henryk Sienkiewicz, the popular Polish author, denounced the Riga peace as an abandonment of their ancient eastern territories. Pilsudski himself shared this view, and in a lecture on August 24, 1923, he blamed "the lack of moral strength of the nation" for the Polish failure to conquer the Ukraine following the victory at Warsaw in 1920.

The Dmowski disciples chafed at their failure to realize many of their aspirations against Germany in the West. It seemed that no one in Poland was satisfied with the territorial limits attained by the new state, although most foreign observers, whether friendly or hostile, believed that Poland had obtained far more territory than was good for her. It soon became evident that the post war course of Polish expansion had closed with the Riga peace, and with the partition of Upper Silesia. Poland had reached the limits of her ability to exploit the confusion which had followed in the wake of World War I. Her choices were to accept her gains as sufficient and to seek to retain all or most of them, or to bide her time while awaiting a new opportunity to realize her unsatisfied ambitions. The nature of her future foreign policy depended on the outcome of the struggle for power within Poland.

The Czechs during the Russo-Polish war had consolidated their control over most of the rich Teschen industrial district, and the Lithuanians, with the connivance of the Bolsheviks, had recovered Wilna. The Czechs were extremely popular with the Allies, and enjoyed strong support from France. The Czech leaders also had expressed their sympathy and friendship toward Bolshevik Russia in strong terms during the recent Russo-Polish war, and they had done what they could to prevent Allied war material from reaching Poland. The Poles were unable to revenge themselves upon the Czechs immediately, but, when the League of Nations awarded Wilna to Lithuania on October 8, 1920, local Polish forces under General Zeligowski seized the ancient capital of Lithuania on orders from Pilsudski. The Lithuanians received no support from the League of Nations. They refused to recognize the Polish seizure, and they protested by withdrawing their diplomatic representatives from Poland and by closing their Polish frontier. The Soviet-Polish frontier also was virtually closed, and a long salient of Polish territory in the North-East extended as far as the Dvina River and Latvia without normal economic outlets. The Lithuanians revenged themselves upon the League of Nations, which had failed to support them, by seizing the German city of Memel, which had been placed under a League protectorate similar to the one established at Danzig in 1920. It was a sad reflection on the impotence of the German Reich that a tiny new-born nation could seize an ancient Prussian city, and it also indicated the problematical nature of Woodrow Wilson's cherished international organization, the League of Nations.

 

The Pilsudski Dictatorship

 

Years of reconstruction followed in Poland, and for a considerable time there was much talk of sweeping economic and social reforms. Poland in March 1921 adopted a democratic constitution, which lacked the approval of Pilsudski. The constant shift of party coalitions always hostile to his policies irritated him, and the assassination immediately after the election of 1922 of his friend, President Gabriel Narutowicz, did not improve matters. Pilsudski, whose prestige remained enormous, bided his time for several years, and he consolidated his control over the army. Finally, in May 1926 he seized a pretext to overthrow the existing regime. A recent shift in the party coalitions had brought his sworn enemy, Wincenty Witos, back to the premiership, and the subsequent sudden dismissal of Foreign Minister Alexander Skrzynski, in whom Pilsudski had publicly declared his confidence, was considered a sufficient provocation. Pilsudski grimly ordered his cohorts to attack the existing regime, and, after a brief civil war, he was able to take control. Fortunately for Pilsudski, Dmowski was a great thinker, but no man of action. The divided opponents of the new violence were reduced to impotence.

These events were too much even for the nationalists among the Polish socialists, and the break between Pilsudski and his former Party was soon complete. This meant that Pilsudski had no broad basis of popular support in the country, although he had obtained control of the army by gaining the confidence of its officers. He was feared and respected, but not supported, by the political parties of Poland. It seemed possible to attain the support of the Conservatives, but they required the pledge that he would not attack their economic interests. This pledge would be tantamount to the rejection of popular demands for economic reform.

Pilsudski at an October 1926 conference in Nieswicz arrived at a far-reaching agreement with the great Conservative landowners led by Prince Eustachy Sapieha, Count Artur Potocki, and Prince Albrecht Radziwill. On this occasion, Stanislaw Radziwill, a hero of the 1920 war from a famous family, was awarded posthumously the Virtuti Militari, which was the highest decoration the new state could bestow. Pilsudski declared himself to be neither a man of party nor of social class, but the representative of the entire nation. His hosts in turn graciously insisted that Pilsudski's family background placed him equal among them, not only as a noble, but as a representative of the higher nobility.

The effect of these negotiations was soon apparent. In December 1925 a land reform law had been passed calling for the redistribution of up to five million acres of land annually for a period of ten years. Most of the land subdivided by the Government was taken from the Germans and distributed among the Poles. This intensified minority grievances by depriving thousands of German agricultural laborers of their customary employment with German landowners. Nothing was done on the agricultural scene to cope with the pressing problem of rural overpopulation in Poland. The Polish peasantry was increasing at a more rapid rate than the urbanites, and the city communities, with their relatively small population, could not absorb the increase. The backward Polish system of agriculture, except on a few of the largest estates, and the absence of extensive peasant land ownership in many areas, increased the inevitable hardship of the two decades of reconstruction which followed World War I. The large number of holdings so small as to be totally inadequate was about the same in 1939 as it had been in 1921. The regime after 1926 increased the speed of the reallocation of the most poorly distributed small holdings, but the scope of this policy was minor in relation to the total farm problem. The Peasant Party leaders, who were soon persecuted by Pilsudski for their opposition to his regime, were regarded as martyrs in the Polish countryside, where the new system was denounced with hatred.

The Polish socialists had sufficiently consolidated their influence over the urban workers by the time of Pilsudski's coup d'Etat to control most of the municipal elections. The socialist leaders turned against Pilsudski, and chronic industrial unemployment and scarce money embittered the Polish urban scene. The industrialization of Congress Poland had proceeded rapidly during the two generations before World War I, and progress in textiles was especially evident. The Russian market was lost as a result of the war, and Polish exports were slow to climb tariff barriers abroad, while low purchasing power restricted the home market. Profits in Polish industry were not sufficient to attract truly large foreign investments, although much of the existing industry was under foreign capitalistic control. Despite a 25% increase in the population of Poland between 1913 and 1938, the Polish volume of industrial products passed the 1913 level only in 1938, and the volume of real wages in Poland had still failed to do so. As a result of economic stagnation, the new regime was able to offer the Poles very little to distract them from their political discontent.

These unfavorable conditions illustrate the situation of the Polish regime on the domestic front, and they offer a parallel to the unfavorable relations of Poland with most of her neighbors in the years immediately after 1926, and especially with the Soviet Union, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania. The domestic and foreign scenes presented a perpetual crisis which accustomed the Polish leadership to maintain its composure, and to develop an astonishing complacency under adverse conditions. Roman Dmowski on the home front in December 1926 directly challenged Pilsudski's claim to represent the nation by establishing his own Camp of Great Poland. For nearly four years this organization dominated the ideological scene. It demanded the improvement of relations with Russia, the permanent renunciation of federalism, the intensification of nationalism, a program to assimilate the minorities, and a plan to expel the Jews.

Pilsudski retaliated with great severity on September 10, 1930, by means of a purge organized by Walery Slawek. No one dared to silence Dmowski, but Pilsudski deprived him of many followers, and adopted many of his ideas. The arrest of opposition leaders, the use of the concentration camp system, and the adoption of terroristic tactics during elections intimidated the opposition at least temporarily. A new coalition of Government supporters was able to obtain 247 of 444 seats in the Sejm elected in November 1930. This was the first major election won by Pilsudski.

There was much talk about a governing clique of colonels in Poland, and many of the principal advisers and key officials of the new regime held that rank. This situation reflected Pilsudski's policy of rewarding his military collaborators and disciples. These men were intensely loyal, and their admiration for their chief, whom they regarded as infallible, knew no limits. They energetically adopted Dmowski's campaign against the minorities, and they dis cussed many plans for a new constitution which would buttress the executive power and reverse the democratic principles of the 1921 document. It was claimed that the 1921 constitution had been constructed with a jealous eye on Pilsudski, and that this explained its purpose in placing extraordinary limits on the executive power, and in providing for a weak president on the French model.

The key to the 1935 document, of which Walery Slawek was the chief author, was a presidency sufficiently powerful to "place the government in one house," and to control all branches of the state, including the Sejm, the Senate, the armed forces, the police, and the courts of justice. The president also was given wide discretionary powers in determining his successor.

 

The Polish Dictatorship After Pilsudski's Death

 

Pilsudski died of cancer in May 1935 at the comparatively early age of sixty-eight. This raised the question of the succession in the same year that the new constitution was promulgated, and Walery Slawek hoped to become the Polish strong man. He was widely regarded as the most able of Pilsudski's collaborators, and the conspiracy of the other disciples against him has often been regarded as a major cause of the misfortunes which soon overtook Poland. A carefully organized coalition, which was originally based on an understanding between Ignaz Moscicki, the Polish scientist in politics, and Edward Smigly-Rydz, the military leader, succeeded in isolating Slawek and in eliminating his influence. The constitution of 1935 had been designed by Slawek for one powerful dictator, but the new collective dictatorship was able to operate under it for the next few years. Walery Slawek committed suicide in April 1939, when it seemed increasingly probable that the collective leadership would submerge the new Polish state in disaster.

There is an impressive analysis of the new Polish state by Colonel Ignacy Matuszewski, one of Pilsudski's principal disciples. It was written shortly after the death of the Marshal. It reads more like an obituary than a clarion call to a system lasting and new, and its author is extraordinarily preoccupied with the personality and actions of Pilsudski at the expense of current problems and the road ahead. In this respect the book mirrored the trend of the era, because this was indeed the state of mind of the epigoni who ruled Poland from 1935 to 1939.

Matuszewski was editor of the leading Government newspaper, Gazeta Polska, from 1931 to 1936, and later he was president of the Bank of Warsaw, the key financial organ of the regime. Originally he had been a disciple of Dmowski and an officer in the Tsarist forces, but he gladly relinquished both for the Pilsudski cause in 1917. He was one of the heroes in the 1920-1921 war with Russia, and he remained with the Army until the coup d'Etat of 1926, which he favored. He had an important part in Polish diplomacy both in Warsaw and abroad during the years from 1926 to 1931.

His book, Proby Syntez (Trial Synthesis), appeared in 1937. It defined the Polish regime ideologically and explained its aims. The author's thought, like Roman Dmowski's, was influenced mainly by the political philosophy of Hegel.

Matuszewski declared that it was the will of the Polish nation to secure and maintain its national freedom. He believed that only the condition of the Polish race would decide Poland's ability to exercise this will. He added that the extraordinary achievement of one man had simplified Polish endeavors. He listed 1905, 1914, 1918, 1920, and 1926 as the years in which Pilsudski raised Poland from oblivion. In 1905, during a major Russian revolution, Pilsudski led the Polish radical struggle against Russia. In 1914 he led the Polish military struggle against Russia. In 1918 he returned from Magdeburg to arrange for the evacuation of Poland by the Germans. In 1920 he led the Poles to victory over Communist Russia. In 1926 he crushed the conflicting elements at home and unified Poland.

Matuszewski ominously warned his readers that the Polish national struggle of the 20th century had scarcely begun when Pilsudski died. He insisted that Poland had far-reaching problems to solve both at home and abroad. He described the 1926 coup d'Etat as an important step on the home front, and as a victory over anarchy. He declared that the first Sejm had shown that Poland could not afford to surrender the executive power to legislative authority. He extolled the 1935 constitution which invested the basic power in the presidency. He maintained that unless the government of Poland was kept in one building (i.e., unless central control was completely simplified), the country would have civil war instead of domestic peace.

Matuszewski argued, as did other advocates of authoritarian systems, that the Polish regime retained a truly democratic character. He praised the Government for an allegedly enlightened awareness of the traditional past, in contrast to the Dmowski group, and for an awareness of the traditional needs of Poland. He also argued that the fixed ideological dogmas of such other authoritarian regimes as Russia, Italy, and Germany deprived them of flexibility in responding to popular needs, and consequently gave them an "aristocratic character" which he claimed Poland lacked, he described the constitutional regime of 1935 as a "traditional synthesis" and not an arbitrary system.

It was to his credit that Matuszewski did not claim a broad basis of popular support for the existing Polish system. He did assume from his theory of statism that it would eventually be possible to bridge the gulf between the wishes of the citizens and the policy of the state without sacrificing the essential principles of the system. Matuszewski regarded his book, his numerous articles, and his editorials as contributions to an educational process which would one day accomplish this.

Matuszewski denied any affinity between Poland and the other authoritarian states or Western liberal regimes. He proclaimed Polish originality in politics to be a precious heritage for all Poles who cared to appreciate it. It was not his purpose to cater to whims and fancies, but to reshape mistaken systems of values. The people would not be allowed to impose their will on the new Polish state, either in domestic affairs or foreign policy. Whatever happened would be the responsibility of the small clique governing the nation.

Matuszewski neglected to mention that there were people in Poland not opposed to the regime who regarded the future with misgiving for quite another reason. They feared that the governing clique lacked the outstanding leadership necessary to promote the success of any system, whatever its theoretical foundations.

The new Polish state on the domestic front faced many grave problems arising from unfavorable economic conditions, the dissatisfaction of minorities, and the general unpopularity of the regime. The situation was precarious, but far from hopeless. Within the context of a cautious and conservative foreign policy, which was indispensable under the circumstances, the Polish state might have strengthened its position without outstanding leadership. It was indisputable that foreign policy was the most crucial issue facing Poland when Pilsudski died.

If Poland allowed herself, despite her awareness of past history, to become the instrument of the old and selfish balance of power system of distant Great Britain, if she rejected comprehensive understandings with her greater neighbors, and if she became involved in conflicts beyond her own strength, her future would bring terrible disappointments. The new Polish state could not possibly survive under these circumstances.

The issue can merely be suggested at this point. Later it will become clear how great were the opportunities, and how much was lost. The situation, despite its problems, held promise when Pilsudski died.

 

 

Chapter 2

The Roots of Polish Policy

 

Pilsudski's Inconclusive German Policy

 

The Polish Government was concerned on the home front from 1935 to 1939 with plans for the industrialization of Poland, and in doing what could be done to gain popular support for the regime. These endeavors were relatively simple compared to the conduct of Polish foreign policy during the same period. There was a mystery in Polish foreign policy: what was the real Polish attitude toward Germany? An answer is necessary in explaining all other aspects of Polish policy. This question does not apply to the early period of the new Polish state because there was no real chance for a Polish-German understanding during the 1919-1933 period of the German Weimar Republic. The weakness of the Weimar Republic would automatically have confined any understanding to the status quo established by the Treaty of Versailles, and Poland made several overtures to reach an agreement with Germany on this basis. These overtures were futile, because the leaders of the Weimar Republic considered that the status quo of 1919 was intolerable for Germany.

The situation changed before Pilsudski died. Germany became stronger, and relations between Germany and Poland improved after a ten year non-aggression pact was concluded by the two countries on January 26, 1934. This non-aggression pact failed to include German recognition of the 1919 status quo, but the Polish leaders no longer expected Germany to recognize it. It was understood among Pilsudski's entourage that Hitler was more moderate about this question than his predecessors. It also was clear by 1935 that Hitler desired more than a mere truce with Poland. He recognized the key position of Poland in the East, and he was aiming at a policy of close collaboration. This had become one of his most important goals.

It was current Polish policy when Pilsudski died in 1935 to place relations with Germany and the Soviet Union on an equal basis. This was not what Hitler had in mind. Polish policy seemed to remain unchanged during the following years while Germany continued to recover her former strength. It was questionable if the Polish leaders would permit any change in policy toward Germany.

German foreign policy from 1933 to 1939 emphasized the need to cope with the alleged danger to European civilization from Bolshevism. This was less vital to Hitler than the recovery of German power, but the steps he took to revise the Paris peace treaties of 1919 were explained as measures necessary to strengthen Germany and Europe against Bolshevism. The position of Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union indicated that Hitler would require complete clarity about Polish policy. Poland's unfortunate geographical position made an ambiguous Polish policy the one thing which Hitler could not tolerate indefinitely. The Polish leaders recognized at an early date that Poland would be compelled to choose between the roles of friendly neighbor or enemy of Germany. The choice was not a foregone conclusion if Hitler was prepared to be generous to Poland, and by 1939 the Polish diplomats were in disagreement about this crucial issue. They wished to treat the problem as Pilsudski would have done, but it was impossible to fulfill indefinitely the intentions of their deceased leader. Conditions continued to change after his death.

An American parallel offers an illustration of this problem. President Roosevelt issued instructions for the use of atomic weapons while Germany was still participating in World War II. He died before the end of war with Germany. President Truman claimed to be following Roosevelt's policy when he ordered the use of atomic weapons against Japan in August 1945, but neither he nor his advisers knew whether Roosevelt would have permitted this atrocity after the unconditional surrender of Germany. This is another example of the dilemma presented to epigoni by changing circumstances.

Pilsudski was renowned for his ability to adapt his policies to changing circumstances. If he had died in 1932, his successors would never have known whether or not he would have concluded the non-aggression pact of 1932 with Germany. It was impressive when the followers of Pilsudski spoke of carrying out the policies of the dead Marshal. In reality, they had to conduct their own policies. It would be a disadvantage whenever they thought they were responding to the wishes of Pilsudski. Independent judgment is the most essential attribute of foreign policy. Nothing is more fatal for it than the weight of a dead man's hand.

 

The Career of Jozef Beck

 

The leadership of Poland was collective after 1935, but primary responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy rested with Colonel Jozef Beck. He was appointed foreign minister in 1932. He held this post until the Polish collapse in 1939, and he considered no one in Poland to be his equal in the field of foreign relations.

Beck was descended from a Lower German family which had emigrated to Poland several hundred years earlier. His affluent father had conspired against the Russians and had been imprisoned by them. His mother came from a family of land-owning gentry in the region of Cholm. Beck was born at Warsaw in 1894, but he received his earliest impressions in the German cultural environment of Riga, where his family moved shortly after his birth. The family soon decided to elude the persecutions of the Russians altogether, and in 1900 they moved to Austrian Galicia.

Beck went to school in Krakow and Lvov, and he improved his contact with the Germans by a period of study in Vienna. He was nineteen years of age when World War I came. He had no political affiliations, but he decided at once to join Pilsudski's Forces. He followed Pilsudski's line of opposing the Polish Council of State in 1917, and he was interned by the Germans. He was released when he offered to join a Hungarian regiment. His admiration for the Magyars was increased by military service with them. He became intimately acquainted during this period with the Carpatho-Ukrainian area, which acquired decisive importance for Poland in 1938. He returned to service in the Polish Army at the end of World War I, and he participated in the Russo-Polish War of 1920-1921. He achieved distinction in this war, and he was frequently in close personal contact with Pilsudski in the fighting along the Niemen River during the autumn of 1920. A military alliance was concluded between France and Poland shortly before the close of the Russo-Polish War, and Beck was selected to represent the Polish Army in France as military attaché.

Beck was satisfied to remain with the Army, and he was on active service until after the coup d'Etat of 1926. Pilsudski then selected him as his principal assistant in conducting the business of the War Office, which was personally directed by the Marshal. Pilsudski was disconcerted in 1930 by the inclination of Foreign Minister Zaleski to take the League of Nations seriously. It was evident that a change was required. Pilsudski recognized the problematical character of League pretensions, although he admitted that they could sometimes be exploited for limited purposes. He decided that Beck should terminate his military career, and enter diplomacy. He knew that he could trust Beck to share his views. Beck was appointed Under-Secretary of State at the Polish Foreign Office in December 1930. He succeeded Zaleski as Foreign Minister in November 1932.

Beck's ability to get on well with Pilsudski for many years reveals much about his personality. He had a sense of humor, and an ability to distinguish between pretentious sham and reality. His successful career also reveals personal bravery, a good education, and extensive administrative experience. He had personal charm and sharpness of intellect. He had never known reverses in his career, and he possessed a supreme degree of confidence in his own abilities. This success was a weakness, because it made Beck arrogant and disinclined to accept advice from others after Pilsudski's death. The relationship between Pilsudski and Beck was based on the prototypes of father and son, with Beck in the role of the gifted, but slightly spoiled son.

Pilsudski appointed Count Jan Szembek to succeed Beck as Under-secretary of State at the Polish Foreign Office. Szembek was the brother-in-law of an earlier Polish Foreign Minister, Count Skrzynski, who had been a favorite of the Marshal Szembek had acquired valuable experience as a diplomat of Austria-Hungary, and after 1919 he had represented Poland at Budapest, Brussels, and Bucharest. Pilsudski relied on Szembek to exert a steadying influence on Beck. It was unfortunate that Beck usually ignored Szembek's advice during the difficult months prior to the outbreak of World War ll.

 

The Hostility between Weimar Germany and Poland

 

The improvement of German-Polish relations after 1934 contrasted with the enmity which had existed between the two nations during the preceding years. A German-Polish trade war had begun in 1925 shortly before Pilsudski took power in Poland. This was an especially severe economic blow to Poland, because 43.2% of Polish exports had gone to Germany in 1924, and 34.5% of Polish imports had been received from the Germans. A trade treaty was finally signed by Germany and Poland in March 1930. It would have mitigated some of the hardship caused by five years of economic warfare, but it was rejected by the German Reichstag.

The Locarno treaties of October 16, 1925, were considered to be a diplomatic defeat for Poland. They provided for the guarantee of the German borders with Belgium and France, and for the improvement of German relations with those two Powers. The Poles at Locarno raised the question of a German guarantee of the Polish frontiers without success. It was easy for German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann to convince the British and French that such a guarantee would be an impossibility for Germany. This event terminated the uniform treatment of all European frontiers under the Paris treaties, and it produced a distinction between favored western and second-class eastern frontiers. This distinction implied a victory for the doctrine of eastern territorial revision in favor of Germany.

The 1926 Russo-German Treaty of Friendship followed Locarno, and if offered a basis for the coordination of Russian and German programs of territorial revision at Poland's expense. The Russians had urged an anti-Polish understanding since the economic agreement of 1922 with the Germans at Rapallo. Stresemann gave the Russians an explicit assurance after Locarno that Germany planned to conduct her territorial revision at Poland's expense in close collaboration with the Soviet Union.

The British considered themselves free of any obligation to defend the Poles against German or Russian revisionism. Sir Austen Chamberlain, the British Foreign Secretary at the time of Locarno, paraphrased Bismarck when he said that the eastern questions were not worth the bones of a single British grenadier. Poland had her 1921 military pact with France, but the Allied evacuation of the Rhineland in 1930 modified the earlier assumption that French military power was omnipresent in Europe. Pilsudski distrusted the French, and he resented their policy of favoring the Czechs over Poland. He was convinced that Czechoslovakia would not survive as an independent state.

Relations between Russia and Poland appeared to improve somewhat after 1928 and the inauguration of the Soviet First Five Year Plan, which absorbed Russian energies in gigantic changes on the domestic front. An additional factor was Russian preoccupation with the Far East after the Russo-Chinese War of 1929 and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. This trend culminated in the 1932 Russo-Polish non-aggression pact, and in the understanding that the Soviet Union would not aid Germany in a German-Polish conflict. The Russians were not informed that the Polish-Rumanian alliance of 1921 was directed exclusively against the Soviet Union. They made no inquiries about the alliance when they signed their treaty with Poland. This was natural, because the initiative for the Russo-Polish treaty came from Russia.

The policy of Poland toward Germany during the last years of the Weimar Republic was a combination of threats and an effort to keep Germany impotent. Polish Foreign Minister Zaleski told the President of the Danzig Senate in September 1930 that only a Polish army corps could solve the Danzig question. The Brüning Government in Berlin frankly feared a Polish attack during 1931. The general disarmament conference opened at Geneva in February 1932 after a twelve year delay. Poland opposed the disarmament of the Allied nations or the removal of restrictions on German arms contained in the Treaty of Versailles. It was feared at Geneva that Pilsudski's decision to send the warship Wicher to Danzig in June 1932 was a Polish plot to seize Danzig in the fashion of the earlier Lithuanian seizure of Memel. Pilsudski received many warnings against action of this kind. Pilsudski was merely intimidating the Germans. He would have liked to take Danzig, but he considered the step impossible while the West was conducting a policy of conciliation toward Germany.

 

Pilsudski's Plans for Preventive War against Hitler

 

Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg on January 30, 1933. Pilsudski regarded Hitler as less dangerous to Poland than his immediate predecessors, Papen and Schleicher, but the Polish policy of hostility toward Germany went further in 1933 than in 1932. This was because Pilsudski viewed the appointment of Hitler as an effective pretext for Allied action against Germany. Pilsudski's 1933 plans for preventive war against the Germans have been a controversial topic for many years, and there have been impressive efforts to refute the contention that Pilsudski did have such plans. The question remained in doubt until 1958. Lord Vansittart, with the approval of the British Government, revealed the authenticity of the Pilsudski war proposals of 1933 twenty-five years after the event. He observed that Pilsudski's plans were "an idea, of which too little has been heard." Vansittart believed that a war against Germany in 1933 might have been won with about 30,000 casualties. He added that in World War II Hitler was "removed at a cost of 30,000,000 lives." Vansittart revealed that the opposition of the British Government to the plans in 1933 was the decisive factor in discouraging the French, and in prompting them to reject a preventive war. It should be added that Pilsudski's willingness to throttle a weak Germany in 1933 provides no clue to the policy he might have pursued toward a strong Germany in 1939.

Hitler told a British correspondent on February 12, 1933, that the status quo in the Polish Corridor contained injustices for Germany which would have to be removed. The Conservative Government in Danzig several days later adopted a defiant attitude toward Poland in a dispute concerning the mixed Danzig-Polish Harbor Police Commission. News of these events reached Pilsudski at the vacation resort of Pikiliszi in Northern Poland. He decided to conduct a demonstration against the Germans at the worst possible moment for them, on the day following their national election of March 5, 1933. The Polish warship Wilja disembarked Polish troops at the Westerplatte arsenal in Danzig harbor during the early morning of March 6, 1933. Kasimierz Papée, the Polish High Commissioner in Danzig, informed Helmer Rosting, the Danish League High Commissioner, that the Polish step countered recent allegedly threatening events in Danzig. The Poles, it should be noted, were inclined to distort the demonstrations of the local National Socialist SA (Storm Units) as troop movements. Pilsudski supported his first move several days later by concentrating Polish troops in the Corridor. His immediate objective was to occupy East Prussia with the approval and support of France.

Hitler was not inclined to take the Polish threat seriously despite warnings from Hans Adolf von Moltke, the German Minister at Warsaw. The German generals were worried about possible aggressive Polish action, and they reported to Defense Minister Werner von Blomberg that Germany had almost no chance in a war against Poland. This would even be true if Poland attacked without allies. The Danzig authorities enlisted British support against Poland at Geneva, and Sir John Simon, the British Foreign Secretary, delivered a sharply critical speech to Jozef Beck in the League Council. The Danzig authorities promised to conciliate Poland in the issues of current dispute, and Beck announced on March 14, 1933, that Poland would soon withdraw her reinforcements from Danzig.

The internal situation in Germany was calm again at this juncture, and Hitler turned his attention to relations with Poland. He launched efforts to conciliate the Poles and to win their confidence, and these became permanent features of his policy. He intervened directly in Danzig affairs to establish quiet, and he endeavored to win the Poles by direct assurances. These efforts were temporarily and unintentionally frustrated by Mussolini's Four Power Pact Plan of March 17, 1933, which envisaged revision for Germany at Polish expense in the hope of diverting the Germans from their interest in Austria. Pilsudski responded by resuming his plans for military action against Germany in April 1933. A series of unfortunate incidents contributed to the tension. A wave of persecution against the Germans living in Poland culminated in 'Black Palm Sunday' at Lodz on April 9, 1933. German property was damaged, and local Germans suffered beatings and humiliations.

Hitler adopted a positive attitude toward the Four Power Pact Plan because he admired Mussolini and desired to improve relations with his Western neighbors, but he explained in a communiqué of May, 1933, that he did not intend to exploit this project to obtain concessions from Poland. This announcement followed a conversation of Hitler and German Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath with the Polish Minister at Berlin. The conversation convinced Hitler that it might be possible to reach an understanding with Poland.

The Four Power Pact (Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy) was signed on June 7, 1933, but French reservations rendered it useless. This did not prevent the Poles from regarding the Pact as a continuation of Locarno diplomacy at the expense of Poland. Jozef Beck condemned the Four Power Pact on June 8, 1933. Hitler's assurances in May 1933 had produced some effect and Beck did not direct any special criticism toward Germany.

The ultimate aims of German policy in Eastern Europe were never clearly defined, but Hitler was shaping a definite policy toward Poland. Hitler had said little about Poland from 1930 to 1933 while the National Socialists were rapidly increasing their influence in Germany prior to heading the Government. It was widely assumed that Hitler was anti-Polish because his chief ideological spokesman, Alfred Rosenberg, had written a book, Die Zukunft einer deutschen Aussenpolitik (A Future German Foreign Policy, Munich, 1927), which contained a number of sharply anti-Polish observations. Hitler in 1933 experienced no difficulty in correcting the views of Rosenberg, a mild-mannered and devoted subordinate, and he began to combat the wishes of the German Army and German Foreign Office for an anti-Polish and pro-Soviet policy. Hitler began to envisage a full-scale alliance between Germany and Poland. He terminated the last military ties between Russia and Germany in the autumn of 1933, and military collaboration between the two countries became a thing of the past. The political situation within Danzig was clarified by the election of May 28, 1933. The National Socialists obtained the majority of votes, and they formed a Government. Hitler in the future could exert the decisive influence in that crucial and sensitive area.

It gradually became apparent that Polish fears of an anti-Polish policy under Hitler were without foundation. King Gustav V of Sweden had predicted to the Poles that this would be the case. The Swedish monarch was aware of foreign policy statements made to prominent Swedes by Hermann Göring, the number 2 National Socialist leader of Germany. Göring had realized that Hitler was not inclined toward an anti-Polish policy long before this was evident to the world.

On May 30, 1933, Pilsudski announced the appointment of Jozef Lipski as Polish Minister to Berlin. Lipski was born in Germany of Polish parents in 1894. He was friendly toward Germany, and he favored German-Polish cooperation. His appointment was a hint that Pilsudski wished to support Hitler's efforts to improve relations with Poland. Under-Secretary Jan Szembek presented a favorable report on recent developments in Germany after a visit in August 1933, and discussions were held in Warsaw and Berlin to improve German-Polish trade relations.

A last crisis in German-Polish relations in 1933 took place when Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations. This step on October 19, 1933, was a response to the Simon disarmament plan of October 14th which denied Germany equality nearly twenty-one months after the opening of the disarmament conference. Pilsudski could not resist this opportunity of returning to his plans for military action while Germany was weak, and history would have taken a different course had the French supported his plans. Hitler was extremely worried by the possibility of retaliation against Germany. He urged the other German leaders to exercise extreme caution in their utterances on foreign affairs, and on every possible occasion he insisted that Germany was dedicated to policies of peace and international cooperation.

 

The 1934 German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact

 

An important meeting took place between Hitler and Lipski on November 15, 1933. The French had refused to support Pilsudski in a war against Germany. Hitler gave new assurances of his desire for friendship with Poland. A sensation was caused on the following day by a German-Polish communiqué which announced the intention of the two countries to conclude a non-aggression pact. The Czechs since May 1933 had enjoyed the prospect of an improvement in German-Polish relations which would exacerbate relations between Paris and Warsaw. The Czech envoys in Berlin and Warsaw after November 16, 1933, confirmed these expectations which had first been expressed by Stephan Osusky, the Minister of Prague at Paris.

Pilsudski hesitated once more in December 1933 before he gave his final order to conclude the Pact. His attitude toward the treaty at the time of signature was frankly cynical. He believed that the Pact might postpone a day of reckoning between Germany and Poland, but he doubted if it would endure for the ten year period specified in its terms. He believed it could be used to strengthen the diplomatic position of Poland. The Czechs were right about French resentment toward Poland, but they were wrong in their expectation that France would react by ignoring Polish interests. France cultivated closer relations with Poland after January 1934 in a manner which had been unknown in earlier years.

Hitler regarded the Pact as a personal triumph over the German Foreign Office, the German Army, and the German Conservatives. The role of President von Hindenburg was important in questions of foreign policy until his death in August 1934, and Hindenburg was identified with the groups hostile toward Hitler. Hitler had succeeded in convincing the old President that an improvement in relations with Poland was a wise step. He promised him that no proposals for eventual German-Polish action against Russia had been made in connection with the Pact.

Hitler knew that the non-aggression pact was merely a first step in his courtship of Poland. This fact received emphasis from Beck's visit to Moscow in February 1934. No other Polish visit of this kind took place during the period from World War I to World War II, and Beck's visit was a deliberate demonstration. The purpose of the visit was to show that Poland was maintaining impartiality in her own relations with Russia and Germany while Russo-German relations were deteriorating.

A series of practical agreements were concluded between Germany and Poland after Beck returned from Russia. These concerned border traffic, radio broadcasts, activities of journalists in the respective countries, and the exchange of currency. The world was much impressed by the sensible pattern of German-Polish relations in contrast to the earlier period. The 1934 Pact doubtless increased the prestige of both Germany and Poland. It would be difficult to determine which country received the greater benefit. The Poles were not willing to attack Germany without French aid, which was not available. The Germans were powerless to revise the Versailles Treaty by force. A policy of German collaboration with the Russians might have hurt the Poles, and a policy of Polish collaboration with the Czechs might have injured Germany. These alternative policies were discussed in various quarters, but both would have been difficult to implement at the time. The Pact was an asset to both parties, and it brought approximately equal benefits to both.

Jan Szembek played in important role on behalf of the Pact on the Polish side with his conversations in Germany and the Western countries. A similar role was played on the German side by Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. Beck accepted an invitation to discuss current problems at Geneva with Goebbels and German Foreign Minister von Neurath in the autumn of 1933. Beck later observed that the motive "of knowing his adversaries" was sufficient to prompt his acceptance. Beck and Goebbels communicated without difficulty, and the Polish Foreign Minister was not offended when the German propaganda expert referred to the League as "a modern tower of Babel." Beck explained that Poland intended to remain in the League, but she had no objection to bilateral pacts which ignored the League. Goebbels assured Beck that Hitler was prepared to renounce war as an instrument of German policy toward Poland, and to recognize the importance to Poland of the Franco-Polish alliance. Beck agreed not to raise the question of a German guarantee of the Polish frontier. The clarification of these points was decisive for the conclusion of the Pact.

Joseph Goebbels came to Warsaw in the summer of 1934, and his visit was a great success. Hermann Göring began a series of annual visits to Poland in the autumn of the same year. The exchange of views in 1934 between Göring and the Polish leaders on the Czech situation and the German and Polish minorities of Czechoslovakia was especially significant. Göring criticized the contrast between the liberal Czech facade, and the actual stern police policies directed against the Germans, Poles, Slovaks, Hungarians, and Ruthenians. Pilsudski assured Göring that the Czechs were neither respected nor loved in Poland. Göring advocated an alliance between Poland and Germany within a common anti-Soviet front, but Pilsudski displayed no inclination to coordinate Polish policy with German aims in the East. He evaded Göring's suggestion by observing that Poland was pursuing a policy of moderation toward Russia.

 

Beck's Position Strengthened by Pilsudski

 

Beck attempted to follow up the 1934 Pact by securing Polish equality with the Great Powers. He insisted that Poland, "in all objectivity," was a Great Power, and he retaliated against all slights received by Polish leaders. He had visited Paris shortly after his own appointment as Polish Foreign Minister, but he had not been received at the railroad station by French Foreign Minister Joseph Paul Boncour. Louis Barthou, a later French Foreign Minister sincerely admired by Beck, visited Warsaw in April 1934. Beck refused to meet him at the station, and he evidently enjoyed this opportunity to settle accounts. It was not surprising that a sharp note of tension pervaded the Warsaw atmosphere during the Barthou visit.

Beck had another reason for dissatisfaction at this time. He had tried in vain to secure an agreement from the League Council which would relieve Poland from unilateral servitudes in the treatment of minorities under article 93 of the Versailles Treaty. Beck was on the watch for some pretext to repudiate this part of the 1919 settlement. An opportunity arrived with the decision to admit the Soviet Union to the League of Nations in September 1934. Beck declared that it would be intolerable to permit a Communist state to intervene in Polish affairs. He added that it was necessary to abrogate article 93 before Russia attempted to exploit it as a League member. The abrogation took place on September 13, 1934, five days before the Soviet Union entered the League.

Pilsudski held an important conference on foreign policy with Beck and other Polish leaders at Belvedere Palace after Barthou departed from Warsaw in April 1934. Pilsudski conceded that Poland enjoyed a favorable situation, but he predicted that it would not endure. He announced that plans existed for every war time eventuality, but it would require great efforts to increase Polish strength to a point where these plans might be pursued with some prospect of success. He denounced anyone who suspected that attractive personalities among the German leaders had caused him to modify Polish foreign policy, and he insisted that no foreigners should be allowed to influence Polish policy. President Moscicki, who presided at the conference, confirmed the fact that he had inspected the Marshal's various war plans.

Everyone was impressed when Pilsudski made a special gesture of expressing personal confidence in Beck and in his successful conduct of Polish foreign policy. This was exceptional treatment, because the taciturn Marshal rarely complimented one subordinate in the presence of others. It was his custom to bestow rare praise in strictly private audiences. Pilsudski was obviously seeking to inspire maximum confidence in Beck among the other Polish leaders. His gesture at the conference made the position of Beck virtually impregnable.

Pilsudski addressed an important question to the Ministers which reflected his distrust of Germany after the 1934 Pact. He asked them whether danger to Poland from East or West was greater at the moment. The conference agreed that Russian imperialism had slowed down since Stalin had established his supremacy. They also recognized that both Germany and Russia were coping with important internal problems which were absorbing most of their energies at the moment. They failed to agree on a definitive answer to the Marshal's principal question.

Pilsudski appointed a special committee under General Fabrycy to study the question. The Foreign Office was directed to collaborate with the Army in preparing a series of fact-finding reports. Edward Smigly-Rydz did not like the new agency, because it produced an overlap of Army and Foreign Office jurisdiction, and he forced it to adjourn sine die after the death of Pilsudski. The committee concluded that Russia presented the greatest threat to Poland during the period of its deliberations in 1934 and 1935.

Pilsudski customarily discussed the reports of this committee with Beck. He confided on one occasion that in 1933 he had been tempted to wage a preventive war against Germany without French support. He had decided to negotiate, because he was uncertain how the Western Powers would have reacted to a Polish campaign against Germany.

Pilsudski conducted his last conference with a foreign statesman when Anthony Eden came to Warsaw in March 1935. The British diplomat intended to proceed to Moscow. Pilsudski asked if Eden had previously discussed questions of policy with Stalin. Eden replied in the affirmative, and Pilsudski exclaimed: "I congratulate you on having had a conversation with this bandit!" The Polish Marshal hoped to participate in conversations between Beck and Pierre Laval on May 10, 1935. He intended to warn the French leader, who was about to visit Moscow, not to conclude an alliance with the Soviet Union. It was too late when Laval arrived in Warsaw, because Pilsudski was dying of cancer. Beck entertained the French Premier at a gala reception in Raczynski Palace. He hastened afterward in full dress and orders to report to the Marshal. Pilsudski greeted him with a few personal remarks characteristic of their intimacy. He then asked with customary bluntness if Beck was ever afraid. Beck replied that Poles whom Pilsudski had honored with his confidence knew no fear. Pilsudski observed that this was fortunate, because it meant Beck would have the courage to conduct Polish policy. The two men discussed the French situation, and they expressed their mutual detestation of the proposed Franco-Russian alliance.

The Marshal died on May 12, 1935. His last major decision on policy had been to oppose attempts to frustrate Hitler's move to defy the Versailles Treaty on March 16, 1935. The remilitarization of Germany was proclaimed, and the Germans restored peacetime conscription. Pilsudski observed that it was no longer possible to intimidate Germany.

 

Beck's Plan for Preventive War in 1936

 

There were six weeks of official mourning in Warsaw after Pilsudski's death, and then Beck visited Berlin. Beck met Hitler for the first time. The German Chancellor proclaimed his desire to arrive at an understanding with England. He also discussed his program to maintain permanently good relations with Poland. He admitted that Germany's current policy toward Poland could be interpreted as a tactical trick to gain time for some future day of reckoning, but he insisted that it was in reality a permanent feature of his policy. Hitler conceded that his policy toward Poland was not popular in Germany, but he assured Beck that he could maintain it. He mentioned his success in persuading President von Hindenburg to accept this policy in 1934.

Hitler warmly praised Pilsudski's acceptance of the non-aggression pact. Beck observed that Pilsudski's attitude had been decisive on the Polish side. He added that the general Polish attitude toward the treaty was one of distrust. Beck confided that he intended to base his own future policy on Pilsudski's instructions. Hitler, who hoped that these instructions were favorable to Germany, made no comment, but he probably considered Beck's remark to be extremely naive. Beck added that Pilsudski had been profoundly convinced that the decision to improve German-Polish relations was correct.

Beck concluded from this conversation that Hitler was alarmed by Pilsudski's death, and feared that it might lead to the deterioration of German-Polish relations. Beck was also convinced that Hitler was sincere in his effort to obtain German public approval for his policy of friendship toward Poland.

The major issues of European diplomacy at this time were the problems arising from the wars in Spain and Ethiopia and the Franco-Russian alliance pact of May 1935. The alliance pact remained unratified for more than nine months after signature. The Locarno treaties of 1925 had recognized the existing alliance system of France, but this did not include an alliance with the Communist East. Hitler warned repeatedly after the signature of the pact that its ratification would, in his opinion, release Germany from her limitations of sovereignty under the Locarno treaties. The Franco-Russian pact was a direct threat to Germany, and Hitler believed that a demilitarized Rhineland, as provided at Locarno and in the Versailles Treaty, was a strategic luxury which Germany could not afford. The French were constantly discussing steps to be taken if Germany reoccupied the Rhineland, but they were unable to obtain an assurance from London that Great Britain would consider such a move to be in 'flagrant violation' of the Locarno treaties.

Jozef Beck asked a group of his leading diplomats on February 4, 1936, to study possible Polish obligations to France in the event of a German move. It was more than doubtful if Poland was obliged to support French action against Germany in this contingency. In reality, the principal Polish preoccupation was to discover whether or not France would act. Beck hoped for a war in alliance with France against Germany. He believed that the unpopular Polish regime would acquire tremendous prestige and advantages from a military victory over Germany. His attitude illustrates the deceptiveness of the friendship between Poland and Germany during these years, which on the Polish side was pure treachery beneath the facade. No such step against Germany after the signing of the 1934 Pact was contemplated while Pilsudski still lived. Pilsudski refused to sanction steps against Germany in 1935 when Hitler repudiated the military provisions of the Versailles Treaty.

Hitler announced at noon on March 7, 1936, that German troops were re-occupying demilitarized German territory in the West. Beck did not hesitate. He did not consider waiting for France to request military aid against Germany. He hoped to force the French hand by an offer of unlimited Polish assistance. Beck summoned French Ambassador Léon Noël on the afternoon of March 7th after a hasty telephone conversation with Edward Smigly-Rydz. Beck presented the French Ambassador with an unequivocal declaration. He said that Poland would attack Germany in the East if France would agree to invade Western Germany.

Many volumes of documents explain French policy at this crucial juncture. The incumbent French Cabinet was weak, and the country was facing national elections under the unruly shadow of the emerging Popular Front. French Foreign Minister Pierre-Etienne Flandin was noted for his intimate contacts with Conservative circles in London, and he was considered to be much under British influence at this time. The indiscretions of Sir Robert Vansittart in December 1935 had enabled unscrupulous journalists to expose the Hoare-Laval Plan to conciliate Italy, and the subsequent outcry in Great Britain had wrecked the plan. This led to the overthrow of the strong Government of Pierre Laval in January 1936, and it destroyed the Stresa Front for the enforcement by Great Britain, France, and Italy, of the key treaty provisions against Germany. British opinion was aroused against Italy, and inclined to tolerate anything Hitler did at this point. The British leaders continued to favor Germany as a bulwark against French and Russian influence.

The French Military Counter-Intelligence, the famous 2nd Bureau, informed the Government that Germany had more divisions in the field than France, and that the outcome of a war between France and Germany would be doubtful in the event of French mobilization. The French did not believe that Poland was capable of striking an effective blow against Germany, and no arrangements could be made to bring the more impressive forces of the Soviet Union into the picture. It was decided that the prospect of ultimate success would not be favorable without active British support against Germany. France did not care to take the risk alone, or merely in the company of one or two weak Eastern European allies. There was danger that Great Britain might support Hitler. The fact that Hitler sent only 30,000 troops in the first wave of Rhineland occupation was not of decisive importance. French counter-intelligence was less concerned about occupying the Left Bank of the Rhine than with prosecuting the war after that limited objective had been attained. French experts doubted if their armies would be able to cross the Rhine.

Beck's effort to plunge most of Europe into war had failed. He was not entirely surprised by the French attitude, and he had taken the precaution of instructing the official Iskra Polish news agency to issue a pro-German statement about recent events on the morning of March 8th. It is impossible to find any trace of Pilsudski in tactics of this sort.

Beck soon realized that his démarche with the French had produced no effect. He contemptuously described French Foreign Minister Flandin as a weakling, and as a "most sad personage." He hurriedly visited London in an attempt to influence the British attitude. The British were not prepared to take Beck seriously, and he suffered a rebuff. Discussions with King Edward VIII and the Conservative leaders produced no results.

The Germans failed to understand what Beck was doing during the early phase of the Rhineland crisis. Beck assumed an aloof position when the League of Nations met at London in mid-March 1936 to investigate the Rhineland affair. Beck was dissatisfied with Polish Ambassador Chlapowski at Paris, and he appointed Juliusz Lukasiewicz to succeed him. Lukasiewicz had represented Poland at Moscow for several years, and Beck considered him to be the most able of Polish envoys. The March 1936 Rhineland crisis convinced Beck that it was indispensable to have his best man at the Paris post.

 

Hitler's Effort to Promote German-Polish Friendship

 

Hitler was content to keep Germany in the background of European developments during the remainder of 1936 and throughout 1937. Göring visited Poland again in February 1937, and he presented a new plan for closer collaboration between Poland and Germany. He supported this project with great vigor in conversations with Marshal Smigly-Rydz. He conceded that Germany would eventually request a few advantages from Poland in exchange for German concessions. He promised that the price would not be high. Hitler had empowered him to assure the Polish Marshal that Germany would not request the return of the Corridor. He added that in his own opinion Germany did not require this region. He promised that Germany would continue to oppose collaboration with Soviet Russia. Smigly-Rydz was told that Göring had refused to discuss such projects with Marshal Tukhachevsky, the Russian Army Commander, when the latter was in Berlin. Göring promised that collaboration between Germany and Poland would ban forever the Rapallo nightmare of a far-reaching agreement between the Soviet Union and Germany.

Göring did an able job of clarifying the German position in his discussions with Polish leaders, but these meetings produced no immediate fruit. Beck at this time had no intention of placing Poland in the German-Japanese anti-Comintern front. He was pursuing a policy of complete detachment toward both Russia and Germany. He did not assume that this policy would prevent friction between Poland and her neighbors, because this was not his aim. It was his purpose to advance the position of Poland at the expense of both Germany and Russia, and this precluded collaboration with either country. His policy became more unrealistic with each passing day as Germany recovered from the blows of World War I and from the treatment she had received under the subsequent peace treaties.

 

The Dangers of an Anti-German Policy

 

Historical changes always have suggested the need for parallel adaptations of policy. A warning to this effect was offered by Olgierd Gorka, a Polish historian, on September 18, 1935, at the Polish historical conference held in Wilna. Gorka pointed out that conditions for the existence of Poland were worse in 1935 than at the time of the first partition of Poland in 1772. The population ratio between Poland and the three partitioning Powers of 1772 had been 1:2, but the population ratio between Poland on the one hand, and Germany and the Soviet Union on the other, was 1:8 in 1935. A hostile Polish policy toward both Germany and Russia was like a canary seeking to devour two cats. Gorka concluded that it was necessary for the Polish leaders to take account of these realities in the formulation of their policies.

There were many attempts during this period to analyze the heritage of Pilsudski in the conduct of Polish foreign policy. The most comprehensive was Miedzy Niemcami a Rosja (Between Germany and Russia, Warsaw, 1937) by Adolf Bochenski. It is vital to emphasize at least one of these studies in order to illustrate the extraordinary complexity of current Polish speculation of foreign policy. It must be understood that it is impossible to measure with exactitude the political influences of such a book, but the importance of Bochenski was recognized throughout the Polish émigré press following his death in action near Ancona, Italy, in 1944. Indeed, W.A. Zbyszewski, in the distinguished London Polish newspaper Wiadomosci, on December 7, 1947, went so far as to describe Adolf Bochenski as the greatest Polish intellectual of the 20th century, thus placing him, at least in this respect, ahead of Roman Dmowski. Bochenski was a member of the Krakow school of historians, both the foreign policy pursued by Jozef Beck during the following two years appeared to be in complete harmony with Bochenski's ideas.

Bochenski, along with others of the Krakow group, was unwilling to accept the pro-Russian ideas of Dmowski and the National Democrats. He denounced Dmowski's thesis of the bad German and good Russian neighbor.

A Pilsudski-type policy was more to Bochenski's liking, although, like Beck, he lacked Pilsudski's flexible approach. Bochenski argued against a policy of collaboration with either Germany or Russia under any circumstances. He regarded an eventual German attempt to recover both West Prussia and East Upper Silesia as inevitable, and he noted that Studnicki and his pro-German group were as much in fear of German territorial revision as other Poles.

War with both Germany and Russia was regarded by Bochenski as inevitable. He predicted that there would be an understanding between Hitler and Stalin, and that the Soviet Union would seek to obtain territorial revision in the West at the expense of Poland.

Bochenski's statement that it would be unendurable for his generation of Poles to be dependent on either Germany or Russia was more emotional than factual. It was inconsistent with his numerous attacks on the large numbers of pro-Russian Poles.

The Soviet Union appeared more dangerous than Germany to Bochenski, because France constituted a greater allied weight for Poland against Germany than Rumania did against Russia, He predicted a new Russo-German war, but he was mistaken in expecting that such a conflict would ultimately guarantee "the great power status of Poland." Had Bochenski proved, or at least made plausible, his claim that Poland could profit from such a war, he would have created an imposing theoretical basis for the reckless Polish foreign policy which he advocated. Instead, he merely returned to the familiar old story of how World War I was advantageous for Poland, and to the naive assumption that history would repeat itself in the course of a second major conflict of this sort. He was on more solid ground in claiming that Soviet-German rivalry in the 1930's was responsible for the allegedly brilliant showing made by Beck on the European stage, but this fair-weather phenomenon was no basis for a Polish foreign policy.

Bochenski admitted that Polish opposition to both Germany and Russia would make inevitable the temporary collaboration of these two rivals against Poland. He claimed this was advantageous, because Poland was not a status quo state but a revisionist state, and conflict with Germany and Russia would justify later Polish claims against them both.

Bochenski made it quite clear that Poland was not in a position to smash either Germany or Russia by her own efforts. Poland required a disastrous international situation to destroy or weaken both Germany and Russia. Bochenski was intoxicated by the vision of distant Powers, such as Great Britain and the United States, running amok in Germany and Russia. He considered the possibility of partitioning Germany into a number of small states, but he concluded that this was unfeasible because of the irresistible national self-consciousness of the German people. He decided that it was possible to inflict greater damage on Russia than on Germany, because the former contained a huge population of hostile minorities.

Bochenski speculated that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would remove a strong potential ally of Germany, and would make it easier for Poland and France to control a defeated Germany. He admitted that "a small group" in Poland favored an alliance with Germany to smash Russia. Bochenski called Russia and Czechoslovakia the two sick men of Europe, because both states, in his opinion, contained minorities more numerous than the ruling nationality. There could be little objection in Bochenski's view to policies working toward the destruction of both states.

Bochenski admitted that the creation of an independent Ukraine would create a problem for Poland, because such a state would always seek to obtain Volhynia and East Galicia, the Ukrainian territories controlled by Poland. He counted on a much greater conflict of interests between Russia and an independent Ukraine, and he observed that it did not matter with which of these states Poland collaborated. The primary objective was to have two states in conflict where there was now one. An independent White Russian state would add to the confusion, and to the spread of Polish influence. He noted that there was a Ukrainian minority problem within Poland with or without an independent Ukraine. The ideal solution for Bochenski would be a federal imperium in which Poland persuaded the Ukraine and White Russia associate with her.

Bochenski believed that the destruction of Russia would improve Polish relations with France. He complained that France always had sacrificed Poland to any stronger Ally in the East, and that the French policy of seeking to bring Soviet troops into the heart of Europe was contrary to the interests of Poland. The dissolution of Russia would render Poland the permanent major ally of France in the East.

Bochenski denounced the Czech state as a menace to Poland, and he ridiculed the Czechs for their allegedly fantastic claims to German territory at the close of World War I. He added that the pro-Soviet policy of the Czechs made it necessary for Poland to count them among his enemies. He recognized that Germany would inevitably profit most from the collapse of the Czech state, but he refused to accept this as an argument against an anti-Czech policy. He believed it would be calamitous for Polish interests if the Czechs succeeded in assimilating the Slovak area, and he noted that Andréas Hlinka, the popular Slovak leader, recognized this danger when he advised Slovak students to go to Budapest instead of Prague. Bochenski admitted that the Slovaks, in contrast to the Czechs, were friendly toward Germany, but he believed that Polish policy might eventually reap rewards in Slovakia.

Bochenski insisted that the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Yugoslavia) combination of France was virtually dead and would not be of concern to Poland much longer. Poland was primarily interested in maintaining her own close relations with Rumania. He admitted that Rumania was pro-German be cause of the danger from Russia, but he noted that she was also pro-Polish. He hoped that it would be possible to reconcile Romanian-Hungarian differences, and he advocated the assignment of Ruthenia to Hungary when the Czech state was dissolved. Bochenski believed that Poland needed to establish her influence over a number of weaker neighboring states (Ukraine White Russia, Lithuania, Rumania, Hungary, Slovakia) and then proclaim her own Monroe Doctrine. He cited en passant the axiom that Poland could not afford to surrender one inch of the territory gained at Versailles or Riga. He added ominously that Poland, in the face of some irretrievable disaster, might meet the crushing fate of Hungary at Trianon in 1919.

Bochenski concluded that defeats would be in store for Poland until radical changes were made in Europe. He welcomed the allegedly inevitable future conflict between Poland and Germany. He believed that the worst thing which could happen would be to have a Communist Russia in the East and a Communist German state to the West of Poland. It is easy to see today that this is exactly what did happen as the result of the adoption and pursuit of the policy advocated by Bochenski.

Allied propagandists in the period of World War I were in the habit of citing obscure German books, which scarcely anyone Germany had ever read, to prove the alleged rapacity and baseness of Germany. This type of propaganda has made every later attempt to cite an allegedly important book understandably suspect. Nevertheless, Bochenski's book contained the blueprint of Polish policy during the 1935-1939 period, and it was the most important book on foreign policy which appeared in Poland at that time. Its salient points were accompanied by several brilliant insights into the earlier epochs of European history.

Bochenski advocated a policy of blood and disasters. He decried any attempts to arrive at understandings with either Germany or Russia. He conceded that Polish enmity toward Germany and the Soviet Union would lead to collaboration between these two states. He pointed to an illusory rainbow in the sky, but this was scant consolation for the Poles who would fail to survive. He felt no compunction in desiring the ruin and destruction of the principal neighbors of Poland.

The salvation of Poland depended upon the repudiation of this policy. Bochenski declared that Poland would not give up one inch of territory obtained as a result of World War I and its aftermath. He insisted that Germany would eventually demand large stretches of former German territory. It remained to be seen what the Polish leaders would say when Hitler agreed to recognize the Polish Western frontier and to forego any German claim to the former German territories held by Poland. In 1937 it was still not too late for Poland. Conditions in Europe were changing, but Polish policy could reflect the change. The danger was that Great Britain would ultimately encourage Poland to challenge Germany and plunge the new Polish state into hopeless destruction. The roots of Polish policy were in the experiences of World War I. If the Polish leaders could be shown that the changes in Europe precluded the repetition of World War I, they might be expected to adapt their policy to new conditions. On the other hand, if Great Britain announced anew her intention to destroy Germany despite the absence of any conflict between British and German interests, the Poles, under these circumstances, could scarcely be blamed for failing to liberate themselves from their old World War I illusions. The key to Polish policy, once the reasonable German attitude toward Poland had been revealed, was in London. The undistinguished Polish leaders after 1935 could scarcely resist lavish and intoxicating offers of support from the British Empire. This would be true despite the fact that any Anglo-Polish alliance against Germany would be a disaster for the sorely-tried Polish people.

 

 

Chapter 3

The Danzig Problem

 

The Repudiation of Self-Determination at Danzig

 

The establishment of the so-called Free City of Danzig by the victorious Allied and Associated Powers in 1919 was the least defensible territorial provision of the Versailles Treaty. It was soon evident to observers in the Western World, and to the people of Germany, Poland, and Danzig, that this incredibly complicated international arrangement could never function satisfactorily.

Danzig in 1919 was an ordinary provincial German city without any expectation or desire to occupy a central position on the stage of world politics. The Danzigers would have welcomed special Polish economic privileges in their city as a means of increasing the commerce of their port. They were horrified at the prospect of being detached from Germany and separately constituted in an anomalous position under the jurisdiction of an experimental League of Nations, which did not begin to exist until 1920.

One might well ask what the attitude of the people of Portland, Oregon, would be if their city were suddenly detached from the United States and placed under the jurisdiction of the United Nations in the interest of guaranteeing special port facilities to Canada near the estuary of the Columbia River. It would be small consolation to recall that the area around Portland, before passing under the sovereignty of the United States in 1846, was settled by the British Hudson Bay Company. The traditionally friendly relations between Canadians and Portlanders would soon deteriorate under such exacerbating conditions.

It is not surprising that the National Socialists of Adolf Hitler won an electoral majority at Danzig before this was possible in Germany. The Danzigers hoped that perhaps Hitler could do something to change the intolerable conditions established during 1919 and the following years. It was easy in 1939 for Margarete Gärtner, the National Socialist propagandist, to compile extensive quotations from approximately one hundred leading Western experts who deplored the idiocy of the Danzig settlement of 1919. Her list was merely a sampling, but it was sufficient to substantiate the point that at Danzig a nasty blunder had been made.

The issue exploited by Lord Halifax of Great Britain to destroy the friendship between Germany and Poland in March 1939 was the Danzig problem. The final collapse of the Czech state in March 1939 produced less effect in neighboring Poland, where the leaders were inclined to welcome the event, than in the distant United States. The Polish leaders had agreed that the return of Memel from Lithuania to Germany in March 1939 would not constitute an issue of conflict between Germany and Poland. Hitler emphasized that Germany would not claim one inch of Polish territory, and that she was prepared to recognize the Versailles Polish frontier on a permanent basis. Polish diplomats had suggested that a settlement of German requests for improved transit to German East Prussia would not present an insuperable problem. The German leaders were disturbed by Polish discrimination against the Germans within Poland, but they were not inclined to recognize this problem as an issue which could produce a conflict between the two states. It was primarily Danzig which made the breach. It was the discussion of Danzig between Germany and Poland which prompted the Polish leaders to warn Hitler that the pursuance of German aims in this area would produce a Polish-German war.

Polish defiance of Hitler on the Danzig question did not occur until the British leaders had launched a vigorous encirclement policy designed to throttle the German Reich. It is very unlikely that the Polish leaders would have defied Hitler had they not expected British support. The Polish leaders had received assurances ever since September 1938 that the British leaders would support them against Hitler at Danzig. Many of the Polish leaders said that they would have fought to frustrate German aims in Danzig had Poland been without an ally in the world. They were seeking to emphasize the importance which they attached to Danzig in discussing what they might have done in this hypothetical situation. This does not mean that they actually would have fought for Danzig in a real situation of this kind, and it is doubtful if Pilsudski would have fought for Danzig in 1939 even with British support. It is evident that Danzig was the issue selected by the Polish leaders to defy Hitler after the British had offered an alliance to Poland.

It is easy to see to-day that the creation of the Free City of Danzig was the most foolish provision of the Versailles Treaty. A similar experiment at Trieste in 1947 was abandoned after a few years because it was recognized to be unworkable, and it is hoped that Europe in the future will be spared further experiments of this kind. Danzig had a National Socialist regime after 1933, and Carl Burckhardt, the last League High Commissioner in Danzig, said in 1937 that the union between Danzig and the rest of Germany was inevitable. The Polish leaders professed to believe that it was necessary to prevent Danzig from returning to the Reich. This is especially difficult to understand when it is recalled that the Poles after 1924 had their own thriving port city of Gdynia on the former German coast, and that otherwise the Poles had never had a port of their own throughout their entire recorded history. The Poles claimed that the Vistula was their river, and that they deserved to control its estuary. When Joseph Goebbels observed that it would be equally logical for Germany to demand Rotterdam and the mouth of the Rhine, the Poles answered with the complaint that the Germans controlled the mouths of many of their rivers, such as the Weser, the Elbe, and the Oder, but for unfortunate Poland it was the Vistula or nothing. The Germans might well have answered this complaint with one of their own to the effect that it was unfair of God to endow Poland with richer agricultural land than Germany possessed. The Poles were usually impervious to logic when Danzig was discussed. This in itself made a preposterous situation more difficult, although a compromise settlement on the basis of generous terms from Hitler might have been possible had it not been for British meddling.

 

The Establishment of the Free City Regime

 

Danzig was historically the key port at the mouth of the great Vistula River artery. The modern city of Danzig was founded in the early 14th century, and it was inhabited almost exclusively by Germans from the beginning. There had previously been a fishing village at Danzig inhabited by local non-Polish West Slavs which was mentioned in a church chronicle of the 10th century. The Germans first came to the Danzig region during the eastward colonization movement of the German people in the late Middle Ages. Danzig was the capital of the Prussian province of West Prussia when the victors of World War I decided to separate this Baltic port from Germany. The city had been a provincial capital within the German Kingdom of Prussia prior to the establishment of the North German Federation in 1867 and of the German Second Empire in 1871.

The Allied Powers in 1920 converted Danzig from a German provincial capital to a German city state in the style prevailing in the other Hanseatic cities of Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck. The latter three cities remained separate federal states within the German Empire created by Bismarck. The difference was that the victorious Powers insisted that Danzig should not join the other states of the German Union, or again become a part of Germany. They also decreed that Danzig should submit to numerous servitudes established for the benefit of Poland.

The renunciation of Danzig by Germany and the creation of the Free City regime was stipulated by articles 100 to 108 of the Versailles Treaty. A League High Commissioner was to be the first instance of appeal in disputes between Poland and Danzig. The foreign relations of Danzig were delegated to Poland, and the Free City was to be assigned to the Polish customs area. The Poles were allowed unrestricted use of Danzig canals, docks, railroads, and roads for trading purposes and they were delegated control over river traffic, and over telegraph, telephone, and postal communications between Poland and Danzig harbor. The Poles had the privilege of improving, leasing, or selling transit facilities. The residents of Danzig forfeited German citizenship, although formal provision was made for adults to request German citizenship within a two year period. Double citizenship in Danzig and Germany was forbidden. The League of Nations, as the Sovereign authority, was granted ownership over all possessions of the German and Prussian administrations on Danzig territory. The League was to stipulate what part of these possessions might be assigned to Poland or Danzig.

The formal treaty which assigned specific property of Poland was ratified on May 3, 1923. The Poles received the Petershagen and Neufahrwasser barracks, naval supplies, oil tanks, all weapons and weapon tools from the dismantled Danzig arms factory, supply buildings, an apartment building, the state welfare building on Hansa square, the major railroad lines and their facilities, and ownership over most of the telegraph and telephone lines. Other facilities were assigned to the Free Harbor Commission supervised by the League of Nations in which the Poles participated. The Poles requested a munitions depot and base for a small Polish Army garrison. The Westerplatte peninsula close to the densely populated Neufahrwasser district was assigned to Poland on October 22, 1925. The Danzig Parliament protested in vain that this decision constituted "a new rape of Danzig." The Poles also received permission to station warships and naval personnel in the area. These various awards meant that by 1925 the Polish Government was the largest owner of property in the Free City area.

The Danzig constitution was promulgated on June 14, 1922, after approval by Poland and the League of Nations. Provisions were enacted to guarantee the use of the Polish language by Poles in the Danzig courts, and a special law guaranteeing adequate educational facilities for the Polish minority was passed on December 20, 1921. The Danzig constitution was based on the concept of popular sovereignty despite the denial to Danzigers of the right of self-determination. The constitution stipulated that the construction of fortifications or manufacture of war material could not be undertaken without League approval.

The constitution provided for a Volkstag (assembly) of 120 members with four year terms. It was primarily a consultative body with the right to demand information about public policy, although the formal approval of the Volkstag for current legislation enacted by the Senate was required. The Senate with its 22 members was the seat of carefully circumscribed local autonomy. The President and the other seven major administrative officers, who were comparable to city commissioners, were elected for four years and received fixed salaries. The seven Senate administrative departments included justice and trade, public works, labor relations, interior (police), health and religion, science and education, and finance. There was no separate executive authority.

The Danzig constitution of 1922 replaced the Weimar German constitution of August 11, 1919, which had been tolerated as the fundamental law of Danzig until that time. The election to the Weimar constitutional assembly in January 1919 had taken place throughout West Prussia, and it constituted a virtual plebiscite in favor of remaining with Germany. The Allies refused to permit them a plebiscite of their own which they knew would end in a defeat for Poland. The British Government played a more active role than any other Power, including Poland, in the organization of the Danzig regime. British policy was decisive in the regulation of early disputes between Danzig and Poland. The British at Danzig furnished the first three League High Commissioners, Sir Reginald Tower, General Sir Richard Haking, and Malcolm S. MacDonnell, and the last of the British High Commissioners, after an Italian and Danish interlude, was Sean Lester from Ulster, who held office from 1934 until late 1936. British interest was largely a reflection of British investment and trade, and much of the industrial enterprise of Danzig came under the control of British citizens during these years. The British also played a decisive role in securing the appointment of Carl Jacob Burckhardt, the Swiss historian who succeeded Lester and who held office until the liberation of Danzig by Germany on September 1, 1939. The so-called liberation of Danzig by the Red Army on March 30, 1945, referred to in recent editions of the Encyclopaedia Britanica, was actually the annihilation of the city.

The territory of the Free City had approximately 365,000 inhabitants in 1922. The Polish minority constituted less than 3% of the population at that time, but the continued influx of Poles raised the proportion to 4% by 1939. The introduction of proportional representation enabled the Poles to elect 5 of the 120 members of the second Volkstag following the promulgation of the unpopular 1922 constitution. The German vote was badly split among the usual assortment of Weimar German parties. The Conservatives (DNVP) elected 34 deputies and the Communists elected 11. The Social Democrat Marxists elected 30 and the Catholic Center 15. The remaining 25 deputies were elected by strictly local Danzig German parties. This disastrous fragmentation in the face of a crisis situation was changed after the National Socialists won the Danzig election of 1933. The divided Danzig Senate presided over by a Conservative president was followed by a united National Socialist Senate. This created a slightly more favorable situation for coping with the moves of the Polish Dictatorship at Danzig.

It would not be correct to define Danzig's status as a Polish protectorate under the new system despite extensive Polish servitudes (i.e. privileges under international law). Danzig was a League of Nations protectorate. This was true despite the fact that the Allies, and not the League, created the confusing Free City regime, and despite the absence of a formal ceremony in which actual sovereignty was transferred to the League. The protectorate was administered by a League of Nations High Commissioner resident in Danzig, by the Security Council of the League of Nations in Geneva, and, after 1936, by a special committee of League member states. The capital of the political system which included Danzig was moved from Berlin to Geneva, and this was an extremely dubious move from the standpoint of the Danzigers. The League was in control at Danzig as it had been in Memel before Lithuania was permitted to seize that German city.

The Poles with varying success began an uninterrupted campaign in 1920 to push their rights at Danzig beyond the explicit terms of Versailles and the subsequent treaties. One of the earliest Polish aims was to establish the Polish Supreme Court as the final court of jurisdiction over Danzig law. This objective was never achieved because of opposition from the League High Commissioners, but Poland was eventually able to establish her Westerplatte garrison despite the early opposition of League High Commissioner General Sir Richard Haking. The Poles never abandoned these efforts, and everyone in Danzig knew that their ultimate objective was annexation of the Free City.

The existing system was unsatisfactory for Poland, Germany, and Danzig. The Poles wished to usurp the role of the League, and both Germany and Danzig favored the return of the new state to the German Reich. There could be no talk of the change of system in Germany in 1933 alienating the Danzigers, because the National Socialists won their majority in Danzig before this had been accomplished in Germany. The change of system in Germany was matched by the unification of Danzig under National Socialist leadership.

 

The Polish Effort to Acquire Danzig

 

Dmowski and Paderewski presented many arguments (at Versailles) to support their case for the Polish annexation of Danzig. It should occasion no surprise that Poland sought to achieve this program of annexation. The strategic and economic importance of Danzig at the mouth of the river on which the former and present capitals of Poland, Krakow and Warszawa (Warsaw), were located, was very great. The National Democratic leaders were not worried that they would create German hostility by making this "conquest." They argued at Versailles that Germany in any case would seek revenge from Poland because of the other treaty provisions. They claimed that the region on which Danzig was situated belonged to the Poles by right of prior settlement, and they spoke of the so-called recent German invasion of the territory some six hundred years earlier. The history of the Polish state, from the Viking regime imposed in the 10th century until the 18th century partitions, extended over eight hundred years, and the Poles were satisfied that their state was more ancient than Danzig.

They were confident that they could contend with the German argument against their case on this point. The German argument was based on two principal facts. In the first place, Germanic tribes had occupied the Danzig area until the late phase of the "Wandering of the Peoples (Völkerwanderung)" in the 4th century AD. Secondly, the Poles had never settled the Danzig region before the Germans arrived to found their city in the late Middle Ages.

The Polish reply to this German argument was two-fold. They contended that the early German tribes in the Danzig area were representative of the entire Germanic civilization, which included, besides Germany, Scandinavia, England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. They concluded that the Germans had no right to base claims on the early history of these tribes. Secondly, the small early West Slavic tribes, which were bordered by the West Slavic Poles, West Slavic Czechs, Borussians, and Germans on land, and on water by the Baltic Sea, had been largely assimilated by their neighbors. These tribes had settled the Danzig region between the "Wandering of the Peoples" and the founding of Danzig by the Germans. It was argued that these early West Slavic tribes, who had maintained a fishing village on the site of the later city of Danzig, were more intimately related to the Poles than to their other neighbors. It was this doctrine which provided the claim that Poland might legitimately consider herself the heir to the entire German territory between the Elbe and the Vistula. At one time or another this area had been occupied by West Slavic tribes.

These were the principal so-called historical arguments of the Poles. They claimed along economic lines that Danzig had grown rich on the Polish hinterland. This was undoubtedly true, although the local West Prussian hinterland, which had long been German, also contributed to Danzig's prosperity.

We have noted the Polish natural law argument that Danzig should belong to them because they controlled most of the Vistula River. They also raised the strategic argument that ownership of Danzig was necessary to defend Poland and to guarantee Polish access to the Sea. The second point, if one overlooks the feasibility of granting Poland port facilities in German harbors, had been met after 1924 by the construction of the neighboring port of Gdynia. The first point concerning defense does not merit lengthy examination. Danzig was distant from the bulk of Polish territory, and therefore it could contribute little to the defense of Poland. Ian D. Morrow, the principal British historian of the treaty settlement in the eastern borderlands, concluded that the problem of Polish claims to Danzig "constitutes as it were a permanent background to the history of the relations between the Free City of Danzig and the Republic of Poland."

The German Order of Knights played an important role in the early history of Danzig. The Order had been commissioned by the Roman Catholic Popes and German Emperors to end the threat of heathen invasion in Eastern Europe. The Order established its control over West Prussia by 1308. Danzig was developed within this territory by German settlers, and the Order permitted her to join the Hanseatic League. Danzig grew rapidly for more than one hundred and fifty years under the protection of the Order, and at one time it was the leading ship building city of the world. The first Poles appeared in the area, and the tax register at Danzig indicated that 2% of the new settlers in the period from 1364 to 1400 were Polish.

Polish historians have emphasized that a trading settlement of Germans on the Danzig site had first received approval for an urban charter in 1235 from Swantopolk, a West Slavic chieftain. They therefore concluded that the first German trading settlement in the area was under Slavic sovereignty. They have regarded this as a sort of precedent to suggest that the Poles were requesting a return to the original state of affairs when they demanded Danzig. This is an impossible mystique for anyone questioning the allegedly close affinity between the early West Slavic tribes of the coastal area and the Poles.

Polish historians see a great tragedy for Poland in the conquest of West Prussia by the German Order of Knights in 1308. The Knights were able, at least temporarily, to establish a common frontier between their conquests along the Baltic Sea and the rest of Germany. They also attained a frontier with the German Knights of the Sword farther to the North. This linked up the German eastern conquests of the Middle Ages in one contiguous system from Holstein to the Gulf of Finland. It meant that any belated Polish attempt to attain territorial access to the Baltic Sea would have to contend with a solid barrier of German territory between Poland and the coast. The various German Orders in their conquests had never seized any territory inhabited by the Poles. This meant that the Poles, if they attacked the Germans, would be unable to claim either to Pope or to Emperor that they were seeking to liberate Polish territories under German control.

Confusion in the Papacy during the 15th century, and distractions in the German Empire, enabled the Poles to isolate the German Order of Knights, and to attack the Order with the aid of Tartar and Lithuanian allies. The relations between the Poles and the German Emperors, however, remained peaceful throughout this same period. There were no wars at all between the German Emperors and the Polish Kings from this time until the disappearance of Poland in the 18th century.

The Poles began their victorious struggle against the Order in 1410. They never lost the initiative after their great field victory at Tannenberg (Grünwald) in the first year of the war. The struggle dragged on to the accompaniment of sporadic bursts of activity from the Poles, and the Germans defended themselves stubbornly in their cities. The ultimate outcome of the war was influenced by internal German struggles between the colonists and the celibate knights from all parts of Germany. The colonists in both town and countryside had begun to consider themselves the native Germans several generations ·after the first settlement, and they regarded the Knights, who had no family roots in these provinces, as foreigners. The internecine struggles which followed decisively weakened the Order. The territorial integrity of the Order state was shattered at the peace of Thorn in 1466.

Some Polish historians regard the period of the Order in West Prussia as a mere episode in which Poland at last had begun to make good her claims to the heritage of the West Slavic tribes. The Poles in 1466 annexed most of West Prussia and part of East Prussia. They reached the Baltic coast, but they failed to establish Polish maritime interests. Danzig seceded from the Order state, but she retained her status of German city within the Hanseatic League. Her position was unique. Unlike the other Hanseatic cities, she was neither a member of a German territorial state nor under the immediate jurisdiction of the Emperor. Danzig enjoyed the theoretical protection of the Polish Kings, but she was independent of them. She never compromised her independence by permitting a Polish army to control the city. King Stephen Bathory of Poland became impatient with the state of affairs in 1576. He threatened the Danzigers with war if they did not accept his demand for a Polish military occupation and a permanent Polish garrison. Danzig in reply did not hesitate to defy Stephen Bathory. The war which followed was a humiliation for the proud Polish state at the zenith of her power. The Polish forces were unable to capture Danzig. Danzig in the 17th century declined rapidly in commercial importance along with the other cities of the Hanseatic League. There were many complex causes both economic and political, but the principal factor was the successful manner in which the Dutch and the Danes conspired to thwart Hanseatic interests. Danzig continued to maintain her freedom from Polish control despite her decline, and indeed, the Polish state itself experienced a period of uninterrupted decline after the great Ukrainian uprising against Poland in 1648. The situation of Danzig remained unchanged until she was annexed by Prussia in the 18th century.

Prussia surrendered to Napoleon I at the Peace of Tilsit in 1807. Danzig was separated from Prussia and converted into a French protectorate with a permanent French garrison. By this time the city had become ardently Prussian, and this unnatural state of affairs, which was also inflicted on Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck, was violently resented by the Danzigers. The French regime at Danzig was threatened by Napoleon's debacle in Russia in 1812. This event enabled the Prussians to recover Danzig early in 1814 after a long siege. Danzig remained enthusiastically Prussian until the city was literally annihilated by Russian and Mongolian hordes in 1945.

 

Danzig's Anguish at Separation from Germany

 

Danzig saw nothing of war or invasion from 1814 until the defeat of Germany in 1918. The Danzigers did not contemplate the possibility of annexation by the new Polish state until after the close of World War I. They were assured by German Chancellor Hertling in February 1918 that President Wilson's peace program with its 13th Point on Polish access to the Sea did not threaten their affiliation with Germany in any way. The President's Ambassador had assured the German Government that this was the case when the point about Polish access to the Sea was discussed before American entry into the war. The Presidents program was based on national self-determination, and Danzig was exclusively German.

The Danzigers thought of port facilities for the Poles in German harbors along the lines subsequently granted to the Czechs at Hamburg and Stettin. This arrangement satisfied the Czech demand for access to the Sea. No one thought of Polish rule at Danzig until it became known that the Poles were demanding Danzig at the peace conference, and that President Wilson favored their case. The disillusioned Danzigers petitioned the German authorities at Weimar to reject any peace terms which envisaged the separation of Danzig from Germany. There was still some hope in April 1919, when the Allies refused to permit Polish troops in the West under General Haller to return to Poland by way of Danzig. German troops occupied Danzig at that time, and the Poles were required to return home by rail.

The Danzigers were in despair after receiving the preliminary draft of the Versailles Treaty in May 1919. They discovered that some queer fate was conspiring to force them into the ludicrous and dubious situation of a separate' state. Danzig discovered in May 1919 that the 14 Points and self-determination had been a trick, a ruse de guerre a l'americaine, and in June 1919, with the acceptance of the treaty by the Weimar Government; it was evident that Danzig must turn her back on her German Fatherland. The Allied spokesmen in Danzig urged her to hasten about it, and not be sentimental. The Germans had been tricked and outsmarted by the Allies. After all, Danzig had lost World War I.

 

Poland's Desire for a Maritime Role

 

The distinguished Polish historian, Oskar Halecki, has declared that the demands of Dmowski at Versailles were "unanimously put forward by the whole nation." Polish spokesmen have insisted that the entire Polish nation was longing for a free marine frontier in the North, and for a coastal position which would enable Poland to play an active maritime role. This was doubtless true after 1918, although for more than three hundred years, when Poland from the 15th to the 18th centuries held most of the West Prussian coastline, the Poles played no maritime role. It should be added that they also held coastal territory east of the Vistula with harbor facilities during those years. When struggles occurred during the 17th century between rival Swedish and Polish Vasa kings, the Poles chartered German ships and crews from East Prussian bases to defend their coasts from the Swedes father than to undertake their own naval defense.

Poland made no effort to build a merchant marine or to acquire colonies, although the neighboring German principality of Brandenburg, with a less favor able 17th century geographic and maritime position, engaged in foreign trade and acquired colonies in Africa. These facts in no way diminished the Polish right to play a maritime role in the 20th century, but it was unwarranted for Polish spokesmen to mislead the Polish people about their past. An especially crass example of this was offered by Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski, Vice-Premier of Poland from 1935 to 1939, and from 1926 the leading Government figure in Polish commerce and industry. Kwiatkowski was a close personal friend of President Moscicki, and he was entrusted with the organization of the Central Industrial Region (COP) of Poland before World War II. He was an expert engineer who had studied in Krakow, Lvov, and Munich, and he had earned the proud title "creator of Gdynia" for his collaboration with Danish colleagues in the construction of Poland's principal port. Kwiatkowski, like some other scientists, was guilty of distorting history, and he went to absurd lengths to identify Poland with the nests of West Slavic pirates of the early Middle Ages who had operated from Rügen Island off the coast of Pomerania. Kwiatkowski announced at a maritime celebration on July 31, 1932, that, if the heroes of Poland's great naval past could raise their voices once again, "one great, mighty, unending cry would resound along a stretch of hundreds of miles from the Oder to the Memel: 'Long live Poland!'."

At Paris the Poles had argued that Danzig was indispensable for their future maritime position. Lloyd George frustrated their plan to annex Danzig, but they were told by the Danes that the West Prussian coast north of Danzig presented the same physical characteristics as the north-eastern coast of Danish Zeeland. The Danes had built Copenhagen, and there was no reason why the Poles could not build their own port instead of seeking to confiscate a city built by another nation. The Poles were fascinated by this prospect, and they were soon busy with plans for the future port of Gdynia.

The construction of Gdynia and Polish economic discrimination in favor of the new city after 1924 produced a catastrophic effect on the trade of the unfortunate Danzigers. The Polish maritime trade in 1929 was 1,620 million Zloty, of which 1,490 million Zloty still passed through Danzig. The total land and sea trade by 1938 had declined to 1,560 million Zloty, and only 375 million went by way of Danzig. The Danzig trade was confined mainly to bulk products such as coal and ore. Imports of rice, tobacco, citrus fruits, wool, jute, and leather, and exports of beet-sugar and eggs passed through Gdynia. Danzig was virtually limited to the role of port for the former German mining region of East Upper Silesia. The trade of Gdynia had become more than three times as valuable as that of Danzig. Trade between Danzig and Germany was discouraged by a heavy Polish protective tariff.

Polish concern about Danzig might have diminished after the successful completion of the port of Gdynia had Polish ambitions been less insatiable. Unfortunately this was not the case, and the Poles remained as jealous as before of their position within the so-called Free City.

The Poles had originally insisted that Danzig was the one great port they needed to guarantee their maritime access. They soon began to speak of modern sea power, and it was easy to demonstrate that one port was a narrow foundation for a major naval power. They described Danzig as their second lung, which they needed to breathe properly. It was a matter of complete indifference to them that Danzig did not wish to be a Polish lung. They were equally unmoved by the fact that millions of their Ukrainian subjects did not care to live within the Polish state, and that nearly one million Germans had left Poland in despair during the eighteen years after the Treaty of Versailles. Life had been made sufficiently miserable for them to do otherwise. It could be expected that the Germans would also evacuate a Polish Danzig, and thus make room for a Polish Gdansk. The Polish leaders were encouraged to hope for this result because of the manifestly ridiculous and humiliating situation created for Danzig by the Treaty of Versailles.

The preoccupation of the Polish leaders with Danzig was quite extraordinary. This was indicated by the press and by the analytical surveys of the Polish Foreign Office, Polska a Zagranica (Poland and Foreign Lands), which were sent to Polish diplomatic missions abroad. These secret reports were also distributed among Foreign Office officials, Cabinet members, and Army leaders. They emphasized the consolidation of National Socialist rule at Danzig after the 1934 Pact, the economic problems of Danzig, and the constitutional conflict between the Danzig Senate and the League. It was possible to conclude from these reports that Danzig was the cardinal problem of Polish foreign policy despite the conclusion of the 1934 Pact with Germany. The line taken by the Polish Foreign Office was simple and direct. It was noted that Polish public opinion was increasingly aroused about Danzig, and that the Government continued to maintain great interest in the unresolved Danzig problem. Above all, it was stressed that Danzig, although it did not belong to Poland, was no less important to Poland than Gdynia, which was Polish. It would be impossible to convey Polish aspirations at Danzig in terms more eloquent.

It should be evident at this point that no serious person could expect a lasting agreement between Germany and Poland without a final settlement of the Danzig question. The Danzig status quo of Versailles was a source of constant friction between Germany and Poland. The Polish leaders after 1935 continued to believe that the ideal solution would have been the annexation of Danzig by Poland, and Pilsudski himself had favored this solution, under favorable conditions, such as the aftermath of a victorious preventive war against Germany.

Pilsudski's preventive war plans dated from 1933, when Germany was weak. After the 1934 Pact, the Poles opened an intensive propaganda campaign against the Czechs, and the prospects for a Polish success at Teschen, in cooperation with Germany, were not entirely unfavorable. It seemed by contrast that Poland had nothing more to seek at Danzig. Pilsudski had declared in March 1935 that no Power on earth could intimidate Germany any longer.

Hitler talked with good sense and conviction of abandoning claims to many German territories in Europe which had been lost after World War I. These included territories held by Denmark in the North, France in the West, Italy in the South, and Poland in the East. Hitler expected Poland to reciprocate by conceding the failure of her earlier effort to acquire Danzig. Hitler was not prepared to concede that Danzig was lost to Germany merely because she had been placed under the shadowy jurisdiction of the League. Danzig was a German National Socialist community plagued with a Polish economic depression and prevented from pursuing policies of recovery to improve her position. Danzig wished to return to Germany. Hitler had no intention of perpetuating the humiliating status quo of surrendering this purely German territory to Poland. He was willing to recognize extensive Polish economic rights at Danzig. It would have been wise for the Poles to concentrate upon obtaining favorable economic terms and otherwise to wash their hands of the problem.

 

Hitler's Effort to Prevent Friction at Danzig

 

The Poles were seeking to extend their privileges at Danzig when Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933. There had been chronic tension between Danzig and Poland throughout the period of the Weimar Republic in Germany. Indeed, the 1919 settlement at Danzig virtually precluded conditions of any other kind. The improvement of German-Polish relations shortly after the advent of Hitler was accompanied by a temporary relaxation of tension between Poland and Danzig, but it would have required a superhuman effort to maintain a lasting détente within the context of the Versailles status quo. Hermann Rauschning, the first National Socialist Danzig Senate leader, was known to be extremely hostile to Poland, but Hitler persuaded him to go to Warsaw for talks with the Polish leaders in July 1933. Rauschning was accompanied by Senator Artur Greiser, who was known for his moderate views on Poland. A favorable development took place on August 5, 1933. Danzig and Poland agreed to settle important disputes by bilateral negotiation instead of carrying their complaints to the League of Nations. Either party was obliged to give three months' notice before appealing to the League if bilateral negotiations failed. The Poles also agreed to modify their policies of economic discrimination against Danzig, but they failed to keep this promise.

The following year was relatively calm although there were many irritating minor incidents involving economic problems and the operations of Polish pressure groups on Danzig territory. Danzig and Poland concluded an economic pact on August 8, 1934, which contained mutual advantages on taxes and the marketing of Polish goods in Danzig territory. The conciliatory trend at Danzig was strengthened when Greiser succeeded Rauschning as Senate President on November 23, 1934. The Poles had no complaints about Greiser, but they objected to Albert Forster, the National Socialist District Party Leader. Forster was an energetic and forceful Franconian with the Sturheit (stubbornness) characteristic of the men of his district. He was one of Hitler's best men, and his assignment at Danzig was a significant indication of the seriousness of Germany's intentions. Forster was less cosmopolitan than Greiser, but he was highly intelligent, and he fully understood the scope and significance of the Danzig problem despite his West German origin. He was a stubborn negotiator with both Poland and the League, but he loyally supported Hitler's plans for a lasting agreement with Poland. He also shared Hitler's enthusiasm for an understanding with England. Lord Vansittart described Forster in his memoirs as "a rogue [Forster was exceptionally handsome] who came to our house with glib professions and a loving mate [Forster's wife was exceptionally beautiful]." This brief rejection of Forster by the leading British Germanophobe tallied closely with the negative attitude of the Poles.

The effort of Hitler to achieve greater harmony with Poland at Danzig did not achieve lasting results. Friction began to increase again early in 1935, and this trend continued until the outbreak of war in 1939. Many of the new disputes were economic in nature. Danzig was experiencing a severe depression, and the local National Socialist regime wished to do more to help the people than had been done by the Conservative regime in the past. The lack of freedom made it impossible to emulate the increasing prosperity which existed in Germany. The deflationary monetary policies of Poland were anathema in Danzig, where the Danziger Gulden was tied to the scarce Zloty of the Poles. An attempt to free the Gulden from the Zloty, without leaving the Polish customs union, produced a crisis in May 1935. Danzig received much expert advice from Hjalmar Schacht. the President of the German Reichsbank. The Polish financial experts regarded this as unwarranted German interference in the affairs of German Danzig. The crisis reached a climax on July 18, 1935, when Poland put Danzig under a blockade, and commanded the shipment of all goods through Gdynia. Danzig responded by opening her economic border with East Prussia in defiance of Poland. This involved an attempt to circumvent the Polish customs inspectors and to ignore the Polish tariff requirements. Hitler intervened at this critical point and used his influence to obtain the agreement of August 8, 1935, which amounted to a total retreat for Danzig. This capitulation ended any hope that Danzig might be able to ameliorate the economic depression through her own efforts.

A typical dispute of this drab period transpired in 1936 when the Poles abruptly issued regular Army uniforms to the Polish customs inspectors in the hope of accustoming the Danzig population to a regular Polish military occupation. The Danzig Government protested, but the Poles, as usual, refused to accept protests from Danzig. A dangerous atmosphere was maintained by the constant agitation of the Polish pressure groups. The Polish Marine and Colonial League demonstrated in Warsaw in July 1936 for the expansion of existing Polish privileges at Danzig, and its activities were accompanied by a new campaign against Danzig in the Polish press. Relations between Poland and Danzig were as bad as they had been during the Weimar Republic. Hitler had attempted to reduce friction on the basis of the status quo, but this effort had failed.

 

The Chauvinism of Polish High Commissioner Chodacki

 

Josef Beck, Poland's Foreign Minister, soon decided that renewed tension had made Danzig the most prominent front in the conduct of Polish diplomacy, except possible Paris. He decided to recall Kasimierz Papée, the Polish High Commissioner, and to replace him with a man who enjoyed his special confidence. The choice had fallen on Colonel Marjan Chodacki, who ranked second in Beck's estimation to Juliusz Lukasiewicz at Paris. Chodacki in 1936 was Poland's diplomatic representative at Prague. Beck invited his friend to return to Warsaw from Prague on December 1936 for three days of intensive discussions on the Danzig situation before clearing the channels for his new appointment. Beck told Chodacki at Warsaw of his decision, and he requested him to take the Danzig post. Chodacki accepted with the slightest hesitation. Beck asked if Chodacki was not afraid to accept such a dangerous mission. Chodacki, instead of replying, asked Beck a question in return: "Are you not afraid to send me there?." Beck agreed with a smile that this question had a point. He knew that his friend was the most ardent and sensitive of Polish patriots.

Beck outlined the situation. He expected Chodacki to maintain Poland's position at Danzig by means short of war, but he intimated that events at Danzig might ultimately lead to war. Beck emphasized the importance of the British and French attitudes toward Polish policy at Danzig, and Chodacki realized that Beck wished to have the support of the Western Powers in any conflict with Germany. It was evident that Paris and London would be decisive in the determination of Polish policy at Danzig. Beck admitted that the two Western Powers seemed to be indifferent about Danzig in 1936, but he expected their attitudes to change later. He discussed the details of current disputes at Danzig, and it was evident that the two men were incomplete agreement. Chodacki assumed the new post several days later.

The Danzigers had been annoyed with League High Commissioner Sean Lester for several years. Lester was an Ulsterman who seemed to delight in conducting a one man crusade against National Socialism and all its works in Danzig. The officers of the German cruiser Leipzig ostentatiously refused to call on Lester when their ship visited Danzig harbor in June 1936. The Danzigers repeatedly urged the British to withdraw him, and at last this request was granted. Several replacements were considered, but the choice fell on Carl Jacob Burckhardt, a prominent Swiss historian who was an expert on Cardinal Richelieu and the traditions of European diplomacy. Burckhardt was acceptable to the Poles, and he received his appointment from the League Security Council on February 18, 1937. Burckhardt had been extraordinarily discreet in concealing his fundamental sympathy for Germany. He was later criticized by many League diplomats, but at the time he was universally regarded as an admirable choice.

Chodacki had been sent to Danzig to maintain the claims and position of Poland, whereas Burckhardt was merely the caretaker of the dying League regime. Chodacki was instructed to insist on Polish terms at Danzig, and he was not expected to believe in the permanent preservation of peace. The emphasis of his mission was on stiffening the Polish line without risking a conflict until Poland had British and French support. The attitude he adopted at Danzig was provocative and belligerent. He delivered an important speech to a Polish audience at Gross-Trampken, Danzig territory, on Polish Independence Day, November 11, 1937. He made the following significant statement, which left no doubt about his position: "I remember very well the time I went into the Great War, hoping for Poland's resurrection. The Poles here in Danzig should likewise live and wait in the hope that very presently they may be living on Polish soil".

This was holiday oratory, but it should have revealed to the last sceptic that neither Chodacki nor Beck had abandoned hope of annexing Danzig to Poland. A final solution would be required to end the unrest caused by rival German and Polish aspirations at Danzig, and there could be no lasting understanding between Poland and Germany until such a solution was achieved. Self-determination for the inhabitants was the best means of resolving this issue in view of the conflicting German and Polish claims. It was no longer news to the Danzigers that many Poles hoped for the ultimate annexation of Danzig to Poland. They would not have been surprised to discover that Beck's High Commissioner entertained similar sentiments privately. It would be difficult to argue that Chodacki's publicly announced campaign of Polish irredentism was calculated to reduce the growing tension between Danzig and Poland. Beck had responded to the Danzig situation by sending a chauvinist to maintain the Polish position.

 

The Deterioration of the Danzig Situation after 1936

 

Issues of dispute between Danzig and Poland were markedly on the increase throughout 1937. Chodacki later declared that fifteen one thousand page volumes would be required to describe the Danzig-Polish disputes prior to World War II. There can be no doubt that the year 1937 contributed its share. Times remained hard in both Danzig and Poland, and the great majority of disputes were economic in nature. The Poles placed heavy excise taxes on imports from the huge Danzig margarine industry to protect Polish competitors. They rejected the contention of Danzig that this measure was a violation of the August 6, 1934, economic treaties to eliminate trade barriers between the two countries. This single dispute produced an endless series of reprisals and recriminations.

Irresponsible fishing in troubled waters by foreigners also occasioned much bad feeling. A typical example was the circulation of rumors by the Daily Telegraph, an English newspaper. The Daily Telegraph reported on May 10, 1937, that Joseph Goebbels had announced Germany's intention to annex Danzig in the near future. It is easy to understand the effect produced on the excitable Poles in the Danzig area by such reporting, and it would have been a pleasant surprise if this particular newspaper of Kaiser-interview and Hoare-Laval Pact fame had not contributed to alarmism at Danzig. The statement attributed to Goebbels in this instance was purely an invention. By 1938, tension had been built up to a point where incidents of violence played an increasingly prominent role. Meetings of protest, more frequently than otherwise about imaginary wrongs, were organized by pressure groups in surrounding Polish towns. They invariably ended with cries of: "We want to march on Danzig!" and with the murderous slogan: "Kill the Hitlerites!"

Chodacki told Smigly-Rydz at Polish Army maneuvers in September 1937 that the National Socialist revolution in Danzig was virtually completed, and that the "Gleichschaltung" (coordination) of Danzig within the German system had been achieved. The one exception was that Danzig still had her made-in Poland depression, whereas Germany was swimming in plenty. The effective organization work of Albert Forster convinced the Poles that Danzig was at last slipping through their fingers. Awareness of this increased Polish exasperation. Chodacki claimed that in 1938 one of his speeches at Torun or elsewhere in West Prussia would have been sufficient to set a crowd of tens of thousands marching against Danzig. He admitted that he was often tempted to deliver such a speech. He felt goaded by fantastic attacks in the Krakow press that he was too conciliatory toward Danzig.

 

The Need for a Solution

 

The Danzig problem by 1938 was a skein of conflicting interests between exasperated Poles and impatient Danzigers. The absurd regime established at Versailles was a failure. Hitler intervened repeatedly for moderation, but he was no less disgusted with the humiliating farce than the Danzigers, and he was weary of conciliation at Danzig's expense. Intelligent foreign observers expected this attitude. Lord Halifax, who had out-maneuvered Gandhi of India on many occasions, visited Hitler at Berchtesgaden on November 19, 1937. He inquired whether Hitler planned to do something about Danzig. Hitler was understandably evasive in his reply, but Halifax made no secret of the fact that he expected German action to recover Danzig.

The current mentality of the Polish leaders indicated that a solution would be difficult, and it is painful to recall that the entire problem would not have existed had Danzig not been placed in a fantastic situation by the peacemakers of 1919. The Danzig problem resulted from a wretched compromise between Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson. It epitomized the comment of the American publicist, Porter Sargent: "The Anglo-Saxon peoples held the world in the palms of their hands, and what a mess they made of it". There was nothing left but to try for a solution. It would be scant consolation in the event of failure to know that the blame would be shared by men of two generations. The cost of failure would be paid by untold generations.

 

 

Chapter 4

Germany, Poland, and the Czechs

 

The Bolshevik Threat to Germany and Poland

 

The failure of two neighboring nations with similar interests to cooperate against a mutual danger posing a threat to their existence is a sorrowful spectacle. The civilizations of ancient Greece and of Aztec America were overwhelmed by alien invaders because of internecine strife. In the 1930's, the authoritarian and nationalistic states of Germany and Poland were seeking to promote the development, livelihood, and culture of their national communities, but they faced a common threat from the Soviet Union. The ideology of the Soviet Union was based on the doctrines of class hatred and revolutionary internationalism of Karl Marx.

The peoples of Russia were suffering on an unprecedented scale from their misfortune in falling prey to the merciless minority clique of Bolshevik revolutionaries, who seized power in the hour of Russian defeat in World War I. The Bolsheviks later wrought untold havoc on the peoples of Poland and Germany. The Communists by means of murder and terror have depopulated the entire eastern part of Germany, and they hold Central Germany, the heart of the country, in an iron grip.

It is a sad commentary that millions of Germans and Poles are now collaborating under a system which has destroyed the freedom of their two nations. They were unable to unite in defense of their freedom. It is of course possible that the Soviet Union would have triumphed over Germany and Poland had the two nations been allies. It is more likely that a Polish-German alliance would have been the rock to break the Soviet tide. The present power of the Bolsheviks is so great that no one knows if it is possible to prevent their conquest of the world, and the failure of German-Polish cooperation is one of the supreme tragedies of world history.

The conflict between Warsaw and Berlin became the pretext in 1939 for the implementation of the antiquated English balance of power policy. This produced a senseless war of destruction against Germany. As it turned out, each Allied soldier of the West was fighting unwittingly for the expansion of Bolshevism, and he was simultaneously undermining the security of every Western nation. Never were so many sacrifices made for a cause so ignoble. Neither Germany nor Poland desired to evangelize the world or to impose alien systems of government of foreign nations throughout the globe. There was a monumental difference between them and the Soviet Union on this point. The elements of friction between Germany and Poland, despite the senseless provisions of the 1919 Versailles Treaty, were markedly reduced under the benign influence of the treaty between Pilsudski and Hitler. A few concessions on both sides, if only in the interest of establishing a common front against Bolshevism, could have reduced this friction to insignificance. The two nations were natural allies. They were new states seeking to overcome the uncertainty and fear occasioned by the frustration of their healthy nationalist aspirations over many centuries. The leaders of both nations hated the Bolshevist system and they regarded it as the worst form of government devised by man. They realized that the Soviet Union possessed natural resources and population which made the combined resources and populations of Germany and Poland puny by comparison.

It is evident from a survey of the international situation sent to missions abroad by the Polish Foreign Office in 1936 that the Soviet Union was regarded as the greatest foreign threat to Poland. This report confirmed the impressions of the diplomatic-military committee established by Pilsudski in 1934 to study the German and Russian situations. Nevertheless, Poland rebuffed the suggestions of Hermann Göring after 1934 for German-Polish collaboration against the Soviet Union. The great question was whether or not Poland intended permanently to follow a policy of impartiality toward the Soviet Union and Germany.

Polish experts in Moscow were impressed by mid-1936 with the improved living conditions in Russia under the 2nd Five Year Plan, which appeared to be far less drastic and cruel than the 1st Five Year Plan. They conceded that the Soviet system was consolidating its position. A new series of Soviet purges began later the same year. They lasted nearly three years, and dwarfed the bloody Cheka purges of 1918, or the purge in 1934 which followed the assassination of Sergei Kirov, the Leningrad administrator. Foreign observers wondered whether the new purges would strengthen or weaken the Soviet regime. Opinions were divided on this crucial point, but it was evident that the new upheavals constituted a crisis for the regime.

 

Hitler's Anti-Bolshevik Foreign Policy

 

Recent Soviet developments did not affect the tempo of Hitler's policy, which was geared to speed, although actual German preparations for defense were exceedingly lax because of monetary inflation fears. Hitler was striving to win the friendship of Great Britain, and to foster Anglo-German collaboration in the spirit and tradition of Bismarck, Cecil Rhodes, and Joseph Chamberlain. He was aware of the traditional British balance of power policy. He realized that he must complete his continental defensive preparations against Bolshevism before the British decided that he was "too strong", and moved to crush him as they had crushed Napoleon.

Hitler hoped that the British would not intervene while he was securing Germany's position through understandings with Germany's principal neighbors, and by a limited and moderate program of territorial revision. British leaders had opposed the German customs union before 1848, and they had opposed the national unification of Germany during the following years. Nevertheless, Bismarck had outbluffed Palmerston at Schleswig-Holstein in 1864, and it was evident by 1871 that Tories and Liberals alike were willing to accept the results of Bismarck's unification policy despite his repeated use of force. Germany was conceded to be the strongest military power on the European continent after 1871. The balance of power was operating, but the British faced colonial conflicts with France and Russia, and the 1875 Franco-German "war scare" crisis showed that Germany could still be checked by a hostile combination. At that time, a momentary coalition of France, Great Britain, and Russia was formed against Germany within a few days.

Hitler hoped that a German program of territorial revision and defense against Communism would be accepted by the British leaders, if it was carried through with sufficient speed. If the tempo was slow, the latent British hostility toward everything German could easily produce new flames. The traditional warlike ardor of the British upper classes was momentarily quiescent, but it could be aroused with relative ease. Hitler hoped that a refusal to pursue political aims overseas or in the West or South of Europe would convince the British leaders, once his position was secure, that his program was moderate. His strength would still be insufficient to overshadow the primary position of the British Empire in the world. He was willing to place Germany politically in a subservient position to Great Britain, and to accept a unilateral obligation to support British interest at any point. Hitler hoped that the British would appreciate the advantages of this situation. They could play off the United States against Germany. Germany would be useful in resisting American assaults against the sacred British doctrine of colonialism, and the United States could be used to counter any German claims for special privileges.

Hitler's ideas were confirmed by a brilliant report of January 2, 1938, from Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Ambassador to Great Britain. Ribbentrop pointed out that there was no real possibility of an Anglo-German agreement while conditions were unsettled, but that perhaps a strong German policy and the consolidation of the German position would make such an agreement possible. The German Ambassador emphasized that an understanding with Great Britain had been the primary aim of his activity during his many months in London. He had reached his conclusions after personal conversations with the principal personalities of British public affairs. Ribbentrop's report was decisive in winning for him the position of German Foreign Minister in February 1938. No other German diplomat of the period had presented Hitler with a comparable analysis of British policy and of the British attitude toward Germany. The Ribbentrop report was comparable to the 1909 memorandum of Alfred Kiderlen-Waechter on Anglo-German and Russo-German relations. This memorandum had been requested by Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, and it brought Kiderlen from the obscure Bucharest legation to the Wilhelmstrasse despite the fact that he was disliked by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The controversial question of whether or not the Russian regime was successfully consolidating its position could not be decisive for Hitler under these circumstances. The impulse for rapid moves and definitive results arose from Hitler's evaluation of the situation in London. Hitler's basic program, after the recovery of the Saar and the restoration of German defenses in the Rhineland, was to liberate the Germans of Austria, aid the Germans of Czechoslovakia and place German relations with France, Italy, and Poland, his principal neighbors, on a solid basis. It would be possible afterward to talk to the British about a lasting agreement, when the prospects for success would be more favorable. Improved German-American relations would follow automatically from an Anglo-German understanding. Hitler also hoped to act as moderator between Japan and Nationalist China to restore peace in the Far East, and to close the door to Communist penetration which was always opened by war and revolution. If this moderate program could be achieved, the prospects for the final success of the Bolshevik world conspiracy in the foreseeable future would be bleak.

No nation occupied a more crucial position in the realization of Hitler's program than Poland, because Hitler recognized that the Poland of Pilsudski and his successors was a bulwark against Communism. The Polish leaders failed to recognize the importance of German support against the Soviet Union. Germany and Poland were conducting policies of defense against Bolshevism, but there were no plans for aggressive action against Russia, and the Polish leaders failed to see the need for any understanding with Germany to cope with the existing situation.

 

Polish Hostility Toward the Czechs

 

The attitudes of the German and Polish leaders toward little Czechoslovakia were identical. The Czech problem, in contrast to the problem of Bolshevism, had moderate dimensions, and both countries were inclined to contemplate a solution of their grievances against the Czechs by some sort of aggressive action. The Polish press was many years ahead of the press of Germany in advocating the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. A Polish press campaign with this objective began in 1934, after the conclusion of the German-Polish pact. The German and Polish leaders in the same year discussed their mutual dislike of the Czechs in terms more concrete than the Poles were willing to employ toward the Soviet Union. There have been many attempts to solve the Czech problem during the past five generations. This problem arose with the spread of a hitherto unknown anti-German Czech nationalism during the 19th century. The problem did not exist in the 12th century when Bishop Otto of Freysing, a princely medieval chronicler, related the exploits of Czech shock troops fighting for Frederick I (Hohenstaufen) in his wars against the Lombard League. It did not exist in the 13th century when the proud new city of Königsberg (Royal Hill) on the Pregel River in East Prussia was named after Ottokar, a Bohemian king of the Premyslid line, who was noted for his brave deeds and for his loyalty to the Holy Roman Empire. It did not exist in the 14th century when Charles IV (Luxemburg-Premyslid) made Prague the most glorious capital city the Holy Roman Empire had ever known. It did not exist in the 15th century when John Hus, the martyr of the Czech religious reform movement, reported back to Bohemia, on his trip to the Council of Constance, that the audience which listened to him at Nuremberg was the most enthusiastic and grateful congregation he had ever encountered. It did not exist in the 16th century, when the Austrian duchies and the Bohemian kingdom were firmly welded under the Habsburg sceptre within the framework of the Holy Roman Empire