Posts Tagged ‘WWII Stories’

The Final Crisis And The Onslaught On Poland

Posted on December 8th, 2017 under . Posted by

Dismissal of Polish Customs Inspectors Von Weizsacker and the “Persecution” of Poles Invasion of Silesia Hitler Sees British Ambassador Baseless Charges Rebutted Pact with Soviet Hitler’s ” Peaceful Intentions” Fuehrer and Sir Nevile Henderson Britain’s Word Von Ribbentrop’s Fury Britain and France Present their Ultimatums Britain at War

Tin situation at Danzig had rapidly  deteriorated at, the beginning of August, and the high-handed action on August 4 of the Danzig Senate in dismissing the customs inspectors at four posts on the Danzig East Prussian frontier led to the most vigorous protests. The Germans intervened denying that any such order had been given. Colonel Beck, however, had documentary proof to the contrary, and replied that any further attempt to compromise the rights and interests of Poland would be regarded as an act of aggression. On August 16 Sir Nevile Henderson, our Ambassador in Berlin, reported the result of a stormy interview of the evening before with State Secretary K Baron von Weizséicker.  From this it became perfectly clear that the chicanery of German diplomacy was to be employed to make out a case of violence and persecution against the Poles, so that the contemplated violation of their territory might be justified. Herr Hitler’s patience, von Weizséicker indicated, was now exhausted. Underlying our Ambassadors calm account one senses a highly unpleasant interview. ” We A disputed with acrimony about the rights and wrongs of the case without either apparently convincing the other.” By this time the full seriousness of the situation was realized and, as Sir Neville pointed out, events were drifting towards a situation in which neither side would be in a position to give way. Again the point was made perfectly clear to the German statesman that if Germany resorted to force Britain would resist with force. The State Secretary, who was clearly expressing the views of  the German Government, flatly turned down the suggestion that they should make some conciliatory gesture, and said that he could not believe that the British obligations to Poland meant that it was necessary for her to follow blindly every eccentric step on the part of a lunatic.”

During this historic discussion the number of persecutions by the Poles of innocent Germans grew to “ thousands ” and at the end Sir Nevile left the German minister apparently unmoved by his insistence on the inevitability of British intervention. The “ persecution” canard fostered by the Nazi propaganda deserves examination in the light of documents published in the British Blue Book. Sir Horace Kennard, British Ambassador in Warsaw, was at great pains to verify or refute the German accusations. On August 24 he declared himself perfectly satisfied that the campaign was a gross distortion and exaggeration of the facts. He described as “ merely silly ” the German accounts that Poles had beaten Germans with chains, thrown them on barbed wire, or forced them to shout insults against Herr Hitler in chorus. In one specific case of a German arrested in connexion with the murder of a Polish policeman on August 15 it was stated in the German press that he had been beaten to death and his wife and children thrown out of the window. A British newspaper correspondent had had an interview with the “victim” in prison, had found that he had never been beaten and was in excellent health, and that the story about his wife and children was a complete fabrication. On the other hand, Sir H. Kennard spoke of the wholesale removal of Poles from frontier districts in Silesia and E. Prussia, the smashing of property, and other forms of persecution by Germans. Gradually the baiting and pin-prick incidents on the frontier increased. German bands not of irregulars but of fully equipped military detachments crossed the Silesian frontier, firing shots and attacking blockhouses and customs posts. The stories of persecutions of the German minority, though substantially the same as those fabricated against Czecho Slovakia in the previous year, were made to appear many times worse in the case of Poland. The object of these ruses was, in the case of the frontier incidents, to provoke retaliation which might easily be construed as Polish aggression; and in the persecution stories to arouse German indignation at the supposed ill treatment of their fellow nationals, which would foster the war spirit in Germany.

It was becoming clear that Hitler had planned the complete extinction of Poland and was employing what the Prime Minister called his sickeningly familiar technique. Not till the last shred of hope was abandoned did Mr. Chamberlain cease to put the British case fairly and squarely to Herr Hitler. Never again should it be said that war was precipitated by the obscurity which surrounded the British attitude. The Disquieting news of a German-Soviet agreement made no difference to the determination of Britain and France to uphold their pledges to Poland. Mr. Chamberlain reiterated this in a letter to the Fuehrer on August 22, adjuring him to pause before plunging Europe into war.

But the Fuehrer continued to rave and storm and to bring clattering down on the table the hand that had so often held the perjured pen. He received the British Ambassador on the night of August 23. Herr von Ribbentrop was still in Russia sealing his bargain with Stalin, and when that calm, dignified diplomat, Sir Nevile Henderson, was ushered into the fastness of Berchtesgaden he found himself confronted not by a leader of a great nation remorselessly and silently pursuing a reasoned course, but by a man beside himself with passion, howling invective at those who were attempting to stay his hand in its pursuit of tyranny. In the stream of abuse which fell on the surprised Ambassadors ears, again  centring round the supposed persecution of the Germans by the Poles, the excited Fuehrer advanced the fantastic story that the Poles were castrating Germans. Sir Neville said he knew of one case of a sex maniac being treated as he deserved. Not one word of reason could be instilled. All   Britain’s fault Britain who had incited the Czechs, so that ultimately they had to be crushed Britain who was driving Poland to its doom Britain who had forced him into agreement with Russia. It is at least to the Fuehrer’s credit that he was not over enthusiastic about this volte face and the jettisoning of yet another cargo of solemn vows and protestations.

What of this strange bargain, the news of which burst like a bombshell on an incredulous world? It will be remembered that at the time there was staying in Moscow a British military mission discussing problems of cooperation between Great Britain and Russia. Stalin’s main object, it appeared was to safeguard the defences of the Soviet he desired a free hand in the Baltic provinces which formerly had been part of Russia and now hedged him in from the sea. On this point, as was natural, the British Government did not see eye to eye with Stalin. Further, realizing that Britain could not prevent the Nazi conquest of Poland, the Soviet leader intended to regain territory that had been taken away in 1920. Failing to reach an agreement with Britain, he allowed the deliberations to continue while negotiating with Germany for a pact of nonaggression. The text of this agreement ran as follows

Non-aggression Pact Between Germany And The Union Of The Soviet Socialist Republics. The Government of the German Reich and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. guided by the desire to strengthen the cause of peace between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and taking as a basis the fundamental regulations of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April 1926 between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, have reached the following agreement

Article l. The two Contracting Parties bind themselves to refrain from any act of force, any aggressive action and any attack on one another, both singly and also jointly with other Powers.

Art. 2. In the event of one of the Contracting Parties becoming the object of warlike action on the part of a, third Power, the other Contracting Party shall in no manner support this third Power.

Art. 3. The Governments of the two Contracting Parties shall in future remain continuously in touch with one another, by way of consultation, in order to inform one another on questions touching their joint interests.

Art. 4. Neither of the two Contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of Powers which is directed directly or indirectly against the other Party.

Art. 5. In the event of disputes or disagreements arising between the Contracting Parties on questions of this or that, kind, both Parties would clarify these disputes or disagreements exclusively by means of friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary by arbitration committees.

Art. 6. The present Agreement shall be concluded for a period of ten years on the understanding that, in so far as one of the Contracting Parties does not give notice of termination one year before the end of this period, the period of validity of this Agreement shall automatically be regarded as prolonged for a further period of five years.

Art. 7. The present Agreement shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The instruments of ratification shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement takes effect immediately after it has been signed.

This document was signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov, on August 23, 1939.

On August 24, the British parliament met and the Prime Minister admitted that the announcement of the pact had come as a surprise very unpleasant surprise, to the Government, but even at this last hour he hoped that reason and sanity might still prevail. He refuted absolutely the German lie that it was the British guarantee to Poland that led Poland to refuse negotiations over the return of Danzig and the Corridor to the Reich. That refusal had taken place before the British guarantee was made. In a noble peroration he said that if war should come we should not be fighting for the political future of a faraway city in a foreign land, but for the preservation of the principles of the observance of international agreements once they have been entered into and the renunciation of force in the settlement of inter national differences.

From this time onwards the grim progress of the warmongers is marked by more intrigue and more provocative incidents. Polish sentries were attacked and their bodies mutilated. In Berlin the Polish Ambassador had an interview with Field-Marshal Goering, who was “ most cordial.” He talked platitudes, and then the real reason for his excessive cordiality became apparent. He had a suggestion to make. Danzig and so forth were small matters. The real stumbling block to friendly relations was Poland’s alliance with Britain. If that could be removed, heaven knows what years of peace and prosperity lay before Poland. Had it succeeded this would have been a master stroke of chicanery, for Germany would have alienated Poland from France and Britain, and could have swallowed her prey at leisure, with no immediate threat on her Western border. But the Poles never even considered the suggestion. On August 25 the Fuehrer made a further attempt to buy off the intervention of the Allies with soft words and fulsome protestations of his pacific intentions. Once this Polish question was decided he had no further claims on Europe. He would settle down to the peaceful reconstruction of his country as an artist rather than a soldier. Memory was not so short as to forget other protestations and pledges of this character broken and thrown aside as soon as some new tempting bait presented itself. Still the efforts of the British Government to secure a peaceful solution never wavered. The Fuehrer was answered in temperate terms, offered every possible assistance in negotiation with the Poles, but assured again most firmly that an armed attack on that country would bring France and Britain in against Germany.

In this connexion there was an illuminating conversation on the evening of August 28 between the Fuehrer and Sir Nevile Henderson, who had said that Britain’s word was her word and she never had and never would break it. He then quoted a passage from a German book about Marshal Blücher exhortation to his troops when hurrying to the support of Wellington at Waterloo, Forward, my children  have given my word to my brother Wellington, and you cannot wish me to break it. To this Hitler replied:  Things were different 125 years ago. Sir Nevile then acidly observed, not so far as England is concerned, and asked Hitler what value he would place on British friendship, which he said that he desired, if the first act was one of disloyalty to a friend? There is no recorded answer to this question.

One of the most inspiring features of all is the calm, straightforward attitude of Britain as exemplified by her Ambassador in dealing with Hitler and his politicians. To Hitler’s reiterated plea that he would welcome British friendship there was always the answer that such friendship was his if he would agree to a settlement by direct negotiation with Poland. Britain was prepared to make concessions if an atmosphere of confidence were restored,but under no circumstances could they be exacted by a threat of force. Never was a great nation’s attitude more unequivocally explained. And while the British Cabinet and their emissary were struggling to make Hitler see how easily he could avert the misery with which he threatened the world and the ruin which he was inviting for himself, his armies were already marching towards the Polish frontier. On August 29, two days before the invasion of Poland, the Fuehrer made a proposal which was to lead to a signal perjury. He first demanded that Poland should send Colonel Beck or some other plenipotentiary to see him on the following day to receive his “ terms.”

This was in itself an impossible proposition. As the British Ambassador in Warsaw wired I feel sure that it would be impossible to induce the Polish Government to send M. Beck or any other representative immediately to Berlin to discuss a settlement on basis proposed by Herr Hitler. They would sooner fight and perish rather than submit to such humiliation, especially after examples of Czechoslovakia, Lithuania and Austria. Poland, he felt, would not listen to a dictated settlement. The impudence of this proposal to repeat to  at Polish statesman the studied insults of a ready made conqueror met with a blank refusal. The normal diplomatic method of communication between the two countries was for Herr Hitler to hand to the Polish Ambassador in Berlin whatever terms of negotiation he proposed. This point was stressed by Sir Nevile Henderson in an interview with Ribbentrop. At the same time he told the German that the British Government had constantly urged the Polish Government to avoid provocative action.  With damned little effect, replied that ex commercial traveller.  I mildly retorted, said Sir Nevile,  that I was surprised to hear such language from a Minister of Foreign Affairs. The previous  terms  the Germans proposed to hand to Poland were read by Ribbentrop in German and at top speed. Sir Nevile got the gist of them and asked for a copy., Ribbentrop replied that it was now too late, as no Polish representative had arrived by midnight. To Sir Nevile’s suggestion that he should send for the Polish Ambassador and communicate them to him, Ribbentrop· replied in most violent language that he would never ask the Ambassador to visit him. Herr von Ribbentrop’s demeanour, Sir Nevile telegraphed Lord Halifax,  was aping Herr Hitler at his worst.

Under such impossible conditions efforts were still continued during August 3l to open direct negotiations between Poland and Germany. It was not until the evening of that day that von Ribbentrop received M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador in Berlin. lt was after this interview that the German proposals were broadcast. The terms issued by wireless from Berlin that night took the following form

 (1) The Free City of Danzig. by virtue of its undeniably German character and the unanimous wish of its population, shall immediately be attached to the Reich.

(2) A corridor stretching from the Baltic to the line Marienwerder Graudenz Kulm Bromberg (including these towns) and then towards the west as far as Schoenlank shall be allowed to speak for itself as to whether it wishes to be attached to Germany or Poland.

(3) For this purpose a plebiscite Will be organized in this territory in which will ‘ participate all Germans domiciled in the territory in January 1918, and Poles and Kassubes born in this territory after that t date or domiciled in a permanent manner in this territory since that date. as well as Germans expelled from this territory. In order to ensure an impartial plebiscite and to make the necessary preparations the territory in question will be immediately submitted, as was the case with the Saar Basin, to an international commission  formed from the four Great Powers Italy, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, and France. To this end the territory is to be evacuated in the shortest possible time by Polish troops, police, and authorities.

(4) From this territory will be excepted the Port of Gdynia, which is in principle sovereign Polish territory to the extent that this port is inhabited by Poles. The definite frontiers of this Polish port are to be settled between Germany and Poland, and if necessary by international arbitration.

(5) In order to assure the necessary time for the necessarily extensive preparations for the carrying out of a just plebiscite this plebiscite Will not take place before the expiry of 12 months.

(6) In order, during this time, to guarantee to Germany its communications with East Prussia, and to Poland her communication with the sea, roads and railways will be laid down rendering free transit possible. In this connexion only those dues would be levied as are necessary for the maintenance of communications or the carrying out of transportation.

(7) The division of the territory will be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast.

(8) In order, after the plebiscite has taken place quite apart from how it may result to guarantee the safety of Germany’s free traffic with its province of  Danzig East Prussia, and to guarantee Poland’s connexion with the sea, Germany will receive, in the event of the plebiscite region falling to Poland, an extra territorial traffic zone in the direction of Butow Danzig or Dirschau, for the construction of a motor road and a four-track railway line. The road and the railway shall be constructed in such a manner that the Polish lines of communication will not be affected that is to say, it will be crossed either by viaducts or by tunnels. The width of the territory shall be fixed at one kilometre and this zone will remain German sovereign territory. If the plebiscite is advantageous to Germany, Poland shall receive the same right to extra-territorial roads and railways in order to ensure Polish traffic with the Port of Gdynia.

(9) In the event of the return of the Corridor to the German Reich an exchange of populations shall take place between Poland and Germany in so far as conditions in the Corridor perinit.

(10) Negotiations are to take place regarding the special rights desired by Poland in Danzig and similar rights desired by Germany in Gdynia.

(11) In order to remove the feeling of a threat, both Danzig and Gdynia shall receive the character of trading cities pure and simple that is to say, without any military establishments or fortifications.

(12) The Hela Peninsula will be completely demilitarized whether it falls, to Germany or to Poland.

(13) As the German Reich has strong complaints to make and Poland also believes she has grievances, both parties agree to submit these complaints to an international commission. Germany and Poland undertake to repair all economic and other damage that has occurred since 1918, or pay equivalent compensation, and to annul all expropriations.

(14) In order to remove the feeling of loss of national rights on the part of Germans remaining in Poland and Poles remaining in Germany, and to guarantee that they are not employed for actions or services which are incompatible with their national feeling, both parties shall undertake to protect the rights of each other’s minorities by agreements; in particular respecting freedom of organization of these minorities. Both parties undertake not to conscript members of these minorities for military service.

(15) After agreement in principle has been reached on these proposals Germany and Poland shall declare themselves prepared immediately to order the demobilization of their respective armed forces.

(16) Further measures that may be required to expedite the carrying out of the above agreement shall be the subject of mutual agreement between Germany and Poland. The boundary or base of the suggested plebiscite area referred to in Point 2 of the proposals would run from Marienwerder, at the westernmost extremity of East Prussia, 20 miles south of Marienburg, through Graudenz (Grudziadz), a Polish border town on the river Vistula, then through Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), a town with a population of more than 117,000, and strike west to Schönlanke, a German town on the border of Pomerania, 15 miles W.S.W. of Schneidemühl.

M. Lipski at once tried to get in touch with Warsaw, but all means of communication had deliberately been cut. The Polish Government never had an opportunity of considering Hitler’s terms, which were never communicated to them before they were broadcast to the world. Nor were they communicated to the British Government in writing before this broadcast. The German troops were marching into Poland when Hitler, on September 1, issued his perjured proclamation to the German Army.

The Polish State has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with bloody terror and driven from their houses series of violations of the frontier, intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to respect the frontier of the Reich. In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now on. The German Army will fight the battle for the honour and the vital rights of  reborn Germany with hard determination. I expect that every soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German soldiery, will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the National Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our Reich.

The Polish state has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired. What the Polish state in reality refused was to send a plenipotentiary to Berlin to accept terms which they had never seen and we now know to be intolerable proposed under the threat of war. Messages between the British and German Governments passed until the early morning of September 3. At eleven o’clock on that day the Prime Minister declared Great Britain to be at war. The senseless ambition  of one man had  plunged Europe into an armed conflict the end of which no man could foresee. France, too, had imposed a time limit, and after 5 p.m. was also at war, which could only end when ·Hitlerism had been destroyed and a liberated Europe re-established.

During these fateful weeks noble efforts were made by His Holiness the Pope and the heads of neutral nations to secure a settlement by negotiation. President Roosevelt addressed messages to the King of Italy, to Herr Hitler, and to President Moscicki of Poland. On August 23 the King of the Belgians, in the name of the Oslo group of states represented by the King of Denmark, the President of Finland, the Grand  Duchess of Luxemburg, the King of Norway, the Queen of the Netherlands, and the King of Sweden, broadcast an appeal for peace a noble and generous appeal as the French Government termed it in their reply. Armies are gathering for a horrible struggle, he said,  which will know neither victor nor vanquished  the world is

moving in such a period of tension that there is a risk that all inter- national cooperation should become impossible lack of confidence reigns everywhere. But there is no people which wants to send its children to their deaths. All the States have the same interest. Time is getting short. If we wait much longer it will become more difficult to make direct contacts? Further, King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina offered their personal mediation, a gesture welcomed by Britain, France and Italy. Then, on August 24, the Pope broadcast a most moving address to the world. A grave hour is striking for the great human family, he said,  an hour of tremendous deliberation, in which our spiritual authority cannot disinterest itself from the task of inducing mankind to return to the path of justice and truth lt is with the force of reason and not with that of arms that justice advances. Conquests and empires not founded on justice are not blessed by God. The danger is vast, but there is still time. Nothing is lost by peace. Everything is lost by war. Finally, Signor Mussolini, who by this time had decided to remain neutral, offered it convene an international, conference. But no neutral good will,` no appeal to humanity could budge for a moment the remorseless decision of one man.

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)

 

The Final Crisis And The Onslaught On Poland

Posted on December 8th, 2017 under . Posted by

Dismissal of Polish Customs Inspectors Von Weizsacker and the “Persecution” of Poles Invasion of Silesia Hitler Sees British Ambassador Baseless Charges Rebutted Pact with Soviet Hitler’s ” Peaceful Intentions” Fuehrer and Sir Nevile Henderson Britain’s Word Von Ribbentrop’s Fury Britain and France Present their Ultimatums Britain at War

Tin situation at Danzig had rapidly  deteriorated at, the beginning of August, and the high-handed action on August 4 of the Danzig Senate in dismissing the customs inspectors at four posts on the Danzig East Prussian frontier led to the most vigorous protests. The Germans intervened denying that any such order had been given. Colonel Beck, however, had documentary proof to the contrary, and replied that any further attempt to compromise the rights and interests of Poland would be regarded as an act of aggression. On August 16 Sir Nevile Henderson, our Ambassador in Berlin, reported the result of a stormy interview of the evening before with State Secretary K Baron von Weizséicker.  From this it became perfectly clear that the chicanery of German diplomacy was to be employed to make out a case of violence and persecution against the Poles, so that the contemplated violation of their territory might be justified. Herr Hitler’s patience, von Weizséicker indicated, was now exhausted. Underlying our Ambassadors calm account one senses a highly unpleasant interview. ” We A disputed with acrimony about the rights and wrongs of the case without either apparently convincing the other.” By this time the full seriousness of the situation was realized and, as Sir Neville pointed out, events were drifting towards a situation in which neither side would be in a position to give way. Again the point was made perfectly clear to the German statesman that if Germany resorted to force Britain would resist with force. The State Secretary, who was clearly expressing the views of  the German Government, flatly turned down the suggestion that they should make some conciliatory gesture, and said that he could not believe that the British obligations to Poland meant that it was necessary for her to follow blindly every eccentric step on the part of a lunatic.”

During this historic discussion the number of persecutions by the Poles of innocent Germans grew to “ thousands ” and at the end Sir Nevile left the German minister apparently unmoved by his insistence on the inevitability of British intervention. The “ persecution” canard fostered by the Nazi propaganda deserves examination in the light of documents published in the British Blue Book. Sir Horace Kennard, British Ambassador in Warsaw, was at great pains to verify or refute the German accusations. On August 24 he declared himself perfectly satisfied that the campaign was a gross distortion and exaggeration of the facts. He described as “ merely silly ” the German accounts that Poles had beaten Germans with chains, thrown them on barbed wire, or forced them to shout insults against Herr Hitler in chorus. In one specific case of a German arrested in connexion with the murder of a Polish policeman on August 15 it was stated in the German press that he had been beaten to death and his wife and children thrown out of the window. A British newspaper correspondent had had an interview with the “victim” in prison, had found that he had never been beaten and was in excellent health, and that the story about his wife and children was a complete fabrication. On the other hand, Sir H. Kennard spoke of the wholesale removal of Poles from frontier districts in Silesia and E. Prussia, the smashing of property, and other forms of persecution by Germans. Gradually the baiting and pin-prick incidents on the frontier increased. German bands not of irregulars but of fully equipped military detachments crossed the Silesian frontier, firing shots and attacking blockhouses and customs posts. The stories of persecutions of the German minority, though substantially the same as those fabricated against Czecho Slovakia in the previous year, were made to appear many times worse in the case of Poland. The object of these ruses was, in the case of the frontier incidents, to provoke retaliation which might easily be construed as Polish aggression; and in the persecution stories to arouse German indignation at the supposed ill treatment of their fellow nationals, which would foster the war spirit in Germany.

It was becoming clear that Hitler had planned the complete extinction of Poland and was employing what the Prime Minister called his sickeningly familiar technique. Not till the last shred of hope was abandoned did Mr. Chamberlain cease to put the British case fairly and squarely to Herr Hitler. Never again should it be said that war was precipitated by the obscurity which surrounded the British attitude. The Disquieting news of a German-Soviet agreement made no difference to the determination of Britain and France to uphold their pledges to Poland. Mr. Chamberlain reiterated this in a letter to the Fuehrer on August 22, adjuring him to pause before plunging Europe into war.

But the Fuehrer continued to rave and storm and to bring clattering down on the table the hand that had so often held the perjured pen. He received the British Ambassador on the night of August 23. Herr von Ribbentrop was still in Russia sealing his bargain with Stalin, and when that calm, dignified diplomat, Sir Nevile Henderson, was ushered into the fastness of Berchtesgaden he found himself confronted not by a leader of a great nation remorselessly and silently pursuing a reasoned course, but by a man beside himself with passion, howling invective at those who were attempting to stay his hand in its pursuit of tyranny. In the stream of abuse which fell on the surprised Ambassadors ears, again  centring round the supposed persecution of the Germans by the Poles, the excited Fuehrer advanced the fantastic story that the Poles were castrating Germans. Sir Neville said he knew of one case of a sex maniac being treated as he deserved. Not one word of reason could be instilled. All   Britain’s fault Britain who had incited the Czechs, so that ultimately they had to be crushed Britain who was driving Poland to its doom Britain who had forced him into agreement with Russia. It is at least to the Fuehrer’s credit that he was not over enthusiastic about this volte face and the jettisoning of yet another cargo of solemn vows and protestations.

What of this strange bargain, the news of which burst like a bombshell on an incredulous world? It will be remembered that at the time there was staying in Moscow a British military mission discussing problems of cooperation between Great Britain and Russia. Stalin’s main object, it appeared was to safeguard the defences of the Soviet he desired a free hand in the Baltic provinces which formerly had been part of Russia and now hedged him in from the sea. On this point, as was natural, the British Government did not see eye to eye with Stalin. Further, realizing that Britain could not prevent the Nazi conquest of Poland, the Soviet leader intended to regain territory that had been taken away in 1920. Failing to reach an agreement with Britain, he allowed the deliberations to continue while negotiating with Germany for a pact of nonaggression. The text of this agreement ran as follows

Non-aggression Pact Between Germany And The Union Of The Soviet Socialist Republics. The Government of the German Reich and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. guided by the desire to strengthen the cause of peace between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and taking as a basis the fundamental regulations of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April 1926 between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, have reached the following agreement

Article l. The two Contracting Parties bind themselves to refrain from any act of force, any aggressive action and any attack on one another, both singly and also jointly with other Powers.

Art. 2. In the event of one of the Contracting Parties becoming the object of warlike action on the part of a, third Power, the other Contracting Party shall in no manner support this third Power.

Art. 3. The Governments of the two Contracting Parties shall in future remain continuously in touch with one another, by way of consultation, in order to inform one another on questions touching their joint interests.

Art. 4. Neither of the two Contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of Powers which is directed directly or indirectly against the other Party.

Art. 5. In the event of disputes or disagreements arising between the Contracting Parties on questions of this or that, kind, both Parties would clarify these disputes or disagreements exclusively by means of friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary by arbitration committees.

Art. 6. The present Agreement shall be concluded for a period of ten years on the understanding that, in so far as one of the Contracting Parties does not give notice of termination one year before the end of this period, the period of validity of this Agreement shall automatically be regarded as prolonged for a further period of five years.

Art. 7. The present Agreement shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The instruments of ratification shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement takes effect immediately after it has been signed.

This document was signed by von Ribbentrop and Molotov, on August 23, 1939.

On August 24, the British parliament met and the Prime Minister admitted that the announcement of the pact had come as a surprise very unpleasant surprise, to the Government, but even at this last hour he hoped that reason and sanity might still prevail. He refuted absolutely the German lie that it was the British guarantee to Poland that led Poland to refuse negotiations over the return of Danzig and the Corridor to the Reich. That refusal had taken place before the British guarantee was made. In a noble peroration he said that if war should come we should not be fighting for the political future of a faraway city in a foreign land, but for the preservation of the principles of the observance of international agreements once they have been entered into and the renunciation of force in the settlement of inter national differences.

From this time onwards the grim progress of the warmongers is marked by more intrigue and more provocative incidents. Polish sentries were attacked and their bodies mutilated. In Berlin the Polish Ambassador had an interview with Field-Marshal Goering, who was “ most cordial.” He talked platitudes, and then the real reason for his excessive cordiality became apparent. He had a suggestion to make. Danzig and so forth were small matters. The real stumbling block to friendly relations was Poland’s alliance with Britain. If that could be removed, heaven knows what years of peace and prosperity lay before Poland. Had it succeeded this would have been a master stroke of chicanery, for Germany would have alienated Poland from France and Britain, and could have swallowed her prey at leisure, with no immediate threat on her Western border. But the Poles never even considered the suggestion. On August 25 the Fuehrer made a further attempt to buy off the intervention of the Allies with soft words and fulsome protestations of his pacific intentions. Once this Polish question was decided he had no further claims on Europe. He would settle down to the peaceful reconstruction of his country as an artist rather than a soldier. Memory was not so short as to forget other protestations and pledges of this character broken and thrown aside as soon as some new tempting bait presented itself. Still the efforts of the British Government to secure a peaceful solution never wavered. The Fuehrer was answered in temperate terms, offered every possible assistance in negotiation with the Poles, but assured again most firmly that an armed attack on that country would bring France and Britain in against Germany.

In this connexion there was an illuminating conversation on the evening of August 28 between the Fuehrer and Sir Nevile Henderson, who had said that Britain’s word was her word and she never had and never would break it. He then quoted a passage from a German book about Marshal Blücher exhortation to his troops when hurrying to the support of Wellington at Waterloo, Forward, my children  have given my word to my brother Wellington, and you cannot wish me to break it. To this Hitler replied:  Things were different 125 years ago. Sir Nevile then acidly observed, not so far as England is concerned, and asked Hitler what value he would place on British friendship, which he said that he desired, if the first act was one of disloyalty to a friend? There is no recorded answer to this question.

One of the most inspiring features of all is the calm, straightforward attitude of Britain as exemplified by her Ambassador in dealing with Hitler and his politicians. To Hitler’s reiterated plea that he would welcome British friendship there was always the answer that such friendship was his if he would agree to a settlement by direct negotiation with Poland. Britain was prepared to make concessions if an atmosphere of confidence were restored,but under no circumstances could they be exacted by a threat of force. Never was a great nation’s attitude more unequivocally explained. And while the British Cabinet and their emissary were struggling to make Hitler see how easily he could avert the misery with which he threatened the world and the ruin which he was inviting for himself, his armies were already marching towards the Polish frontier. On August 29, two days before the invasion of Poland, the Fuehrer made a proposal which was to lead to a signal perjury. He first demanded that Poland should send Colonel Beck or some other plenipotentiary to see him on the following day to receive his “ terms.”

This was in itself an impossible proposition. As the British Ambassador in Warsaw wired I feel sure that it would be impossible to induce the Polish Government to send M. Beck or any other representative immediately to Berlin to discuss a settlement on basis proposed by Herr Hitler. They would sooner fight and perish rather than submit to such humiliation, especially after examples of Czechoslovakia, Lithuania and Austria. Poland, he felt, would not listen to a dictated settlement. The impudence of this proposal to repeat to  at Polish statesman the studied insults of a ready made conqueror met with a blank refusal. The normal diplomatic method of communication between the two countries was for Herr Hitler to hand to the Polish Ambassador in Berlin whatever terms of negotiation he proposed. This point was stressed by Sir Nevile Henderson in an interview with Ribbentrop. At the same time he told the German that the British Government had constantly urged the Polish Government to avoid provocative action.  With damned little effect, replied that ex commercial traveller.  I mildly retorted, said Sir Nevile,  that I was surprised to hear such language from a Minister of Foreign Affairs. The previous  terms  the Germans proposed to hand to Poland were read by Ribbentrop in German and at top speed. Sir Nevile got the gist of them and asked for a copy., Ribbentrop replied that it was now too late, as no Polish representative had arrived by midnight. To Sir Nevile’s suggestion that he should send for the Polish Ambassador and communicate them to him, Ribbentrop· replied in most violent language that he would never ask the Ambassador to visit him. Herr von Ribbentrop’s demeanour, Sir Nevile telegraphed Lord Halifax,  was aping Herr Hitler at his worst.

Under such impossible conditions efforts were still continued during August 3l to open direct negotiations between Poland and Germany. It was not until the evening of that day that von Ribbentrop received M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador in Berlin. lt was after this interview that the German proposals were broadcast. The terms issued by wireless from Berlin that night took the following form

 (1) The Free City of Danzig. by virtue of its undeniably German character and the unanimous wish of its population, shall immediately be attached to the Reich.

(2) A corridor stretching from the Baltic to the line Marienwerder Graudenz Kulm Bromberg (including these towns) and then towards the west as far as Schoenlank shall be allowed to speak for itself as to whether it wishes to be attached to Germany or Poland.

(3) For this purpose a plebiscite Will be organized in this territory in which will ‘ participate all Germans domiciled in the territory in January 1918, and Poles and Kassubes born in this territory after that t date or domiciled in a permanent manner in this territory since that date. as well as Germans expelled from this territory. In order to ensure an impartial plebiscite and to make the necessary preparations the territory in question will be immediately submitted, as was the case with the Saar Basin, to an international commission  formed from the four Great Powers Italy, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, and France. To this end the territory is to be evacuated in the shortest possible time by Polish troops, police, and authorities.

(4) From this territory will be excepted the Port of Gdynia, which is in principle sovereign Polish territory to the extent that this port is inhabited by Poles. The definite frontiers of this Polish port are to be settled between Germany and Poland, and if necessary by international arbitration.

(5) In order to assure the necessary time for the necessarily extensive preparations for the carrying out of a just plebiscite this plebiscite Will not take place before the expiry of 12 months.

(6) In order, during this time, to guarantee to Germany its communications with East Prussia, and to Poland her communication with the sea, roads and railways will be laid down rendering free transit possible. In this connexion only those dues would be levied as are necessary for the maintenance of communications or the carrying out of transportation.

(7) The division of the territory will be decided by a simple majority of the votes cast.

(8) In order, after the plebiscite has taken place quite apart from how it may result to guarantee the safety of Germany’s free traffic with its province of  Danzig East Prussia, and to guarantee Poland’s connexion with the sea, Germany will receive, in the event of the plebiscite region falling to Poland, an extra territorial traffic zone in the direction of Butow Danzig or Dirschau, for the construction of a motor road and a four-track railway line. The road and the railway shall be constructed in such a manner that the Polish lines of communication will not be affected that is to say, it will be crossed either by viaducts or by tunnels. The width of the territory shall be fixed at one kilometre and this zone will remain German sovereign territory. If the plebiscite is advantageous to Germany, Poland shall receive the same right to extra-territorial roads and railways in order to ensure Polish traffic with the Port of Gdynia.

(9) In the event of the return of the Corridor to the German Reich an exchange of populations shall take place between Poland and Germany in so far as conditions in the Corridor perinit.

(10) Negotiations are to take place regarding the special rights desired by Poland in Danzig and similar rights desired by Germany in Gdynia.

(11) In order to remove the feeling of a threat, both Danzig and Gdynia shall receive the character of trading cities pure and simple that is to say, without any military establishments or fortifications.

(12) The Hela Peninsula will be completely demilitarized whether it falls, to Germany or to Poland.

(13) As the German Reich has strong complaints to make and Poland also believes she has grievances, both parties agree to submit these complaints to an international commission. Germany and Poland undertake to repair all economic and other damage that has occurred since 1918, or pay equivalent compensation, and to annul all expropriations.

(14) In order to remove the feeling of loss of national rights on the part of Germans remaining in Poland and Poles remaining in Germany, and to guarantee that they are not employed for actions or services which are incompatible with their national feeling, both parties shall undertake to protect the rights of each other’s minorities by agreements; in particular respecting freedom of organization of these minorities. Both parties undertake not to conscript members of these minorities for military service.

(15) After agreement in principle has been reached on these proposals Germany and Poland shall declare themselves prepared immediately to order the demobilization of their respective armed forces.

(16) Further measures that may be required to expedite the carrying out of the above agreement shall be the subject of mutual agreement between Germany and Poland. The boundary or base of the suggested plebiscite area referred to in Point 2 of the proposals would run from Marienwerder, at the westernmost extremity of East Prussia, 20 miles south of Marienburg, through Graudenz (Grudziadz), a Polish border town on the river Vistula, then through Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), a town with a population of more than 117,000, and strike west to Schönlanke, a German town on the border of Pomerania, 15 miles W.S.W. of Schneidemühl.

M. Lipski at once tried to get in touch with Warsaw, but all means of communication had deliberately been cut. The Polish Government never had an opportunity of considering Hitler’s terms, which were never communicated to them before they were broadcast to the world. Nor were they communicated to the British Government in writing before this broadcast. The German troops were marching into Poland when Hitler, on September 1, issued his perjured proclamation to the German Army.

The Polish State has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with bloody terror and driven from their houses series of violations of the frontier, intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to respect the frontier of the Reich. In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now on. The German Army will fight the battle for the honour and the vital rights of  reborn Germany with hard determination. I expect that every soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German soldiery, will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the National Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our Reich.

The Polish state has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired. What the Polish state in reality refused was to send a plenipotentiary to Berlin to accept terms which they had never seen and we now know to be intolerable proposed under the threat of war. Messages between the British and German Governments passed until the early morning of September 3. At eleven o’clock on that day the Prime Minister declared Great Britain to be at war. The senseless ambition  of one man had  plunged Europe into an armed conflict the end of which no man could foresee. France, too, had imposed a time limit, and after 5 p.m. was also at war, which could only end when ·Hitlerism had been destroyed and a liberated Europe re-established.

During these fateful weeks noble efforts were made by His Holiness the Pope and the heads of neutral nations to secure a settlement by negotiation. President Roosevelt addressed messages to the King of Italy, to Herr Hitler, and to President Moscicki of Poland. On August 23 the King of the Belgians, in the name of the Oslo group of states represented by the King of Denmark, the President of Finland, the Grand  Duchess of Luxemburg, the King of Norway, the Queen of the Netherlands, and the King of Sweden, broadcast an appeal for peace a noble and generous appeal as the French Government termed it in their reply. Armies are gathering for a horrible struggle, he said,  which will know neither victor nor vanquished  the world is

moving in such a period of tension that there is a risk that all inter- national cooperation should become impossible lack of confidence reigns everywhere. But there is no people which wants to send its children to their deaths. All the States have the same interest. Time is getting short. If we wait much longer it will become more difficult to make direct contacts? Further, King Leopold and Queen Wilhelmina offered their personal mediation, a gesture welcomed by Britain, France and Italy. Then, on August 24, the Pope broadcast a most moving address to the world. A grave hour is striking for the great human family, he said,  an hour of tremendous deliberation, in which our spiritual authority cannot disinterest itself from the task of inducing mankind to return to the path of justice and truth lt is with the force of reason and not with that of arms that justice advances. Conquests and empires not founded on justice are not blessed by God. The danger is vast, but there is still time. Nothing is lost by peace. Everything is lost by war. Finally, Signor Mussolini, who by this time had decided to remain neutral, offered it convene an international, conference. But no neutral good will,` no appeal to humanity could budge for a moment the remorseless decision of one man.

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)

 

Britain’s Last Efforts To Avert War

Posted on December 6th, 2017 under . Posted by

Historic Documents. I

In this, the first of a series comprising the most important speeches, communications, statements and other documents relating to the Second Great War, are included extracts from the exchanges between London and Berlin during the ten days which ended with Germany’s invasion of Poland.

Following the publication of the news that Herr von Ribbentrop was proceeding to Moscow to sign a non-aggression pact with the U.S.S.R., Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Herr Hitler (August 22, 1939)  Whatever may prove to be the nature of the German Soviet Agreement, it cannot alter Great Britain’s obligation to Poland which his Majesty’s Government have stated in public repeatedly and plainly, and which they are determined to fulfil

It has been alleged that, if his Majesty’s Government had made their position more clear in 1914, the great catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, his Majesty’s Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be no such tragic misunderstanding.

If the case should arise, they are resolved, and prepared, to employ without delay all the forces at their command, and it is impossible to foresee the end of hostilities once engaged. It would be a dangerous illusion to think that, if war once starts, it will come to an early end, even if a success on any one of the several fronts on which it will be engaged should have been secured.

Having thus made our position perfectly clear, I wish to repeat to you my conviction that war between our two peoples would be the greatest calamity that could occur. I am certain that it is desired neither by our people nor by yours, and I cannot see that there is anything in the questions arising between Germany and Poland which could not and should not be resolved without the use of force. if only a situation of confidence could be restored to enable discussions to be carried on in an atmosphere different from that which prevails today.

HERR Hitler TO MR. CHAMBERLAIN, August 23, 1939.  Germany has never sought conflict with England and has never interfered in English interests. On the contrary, she has for years endeavoured although unfortunately in vain to win England’s friendship.

The German Reich, however, like every other State possesses certain definite interests which it is impossible to renounce. To these questions belong the German City of Danzig and the connected problem of the Corridor.

Your Excellency informs me in the name of the British Government that you will be obliged to render assistance to Poland in any such case of intervention on the part of Germany take note of this statement of yours and assure you that it can make no change in the determination of the Reich Government to safeguard the interests of the Reich. Your assurance to the effect that in such an event you anticipate a long war is shared by myself. Germany if attacked by England will be found prepared and determined. I have already more than once declared before the German people and the world that there can be no doubt concerning the determination of the new German Reich rather to accept, for however long it might be, every sort of misery and tribulation than to sacrifice its national interests, let alone its honour.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR on, August 28. His Majesty’s Government note the Chancellor’s expression of his desire to make friendship the basis of the relations between Germany and the British Empire, and they fully share this desire. They believe with him that if a complete and lasting understanding between the two countries could be established it would bring untold blessings to both peoples.

A just settlement of these questions between Germany and Poland may open the way to world peace. Failure to reach it would ruin the hopes of better understanding between Germany and Great Britain, would bring the two countries into conflict and might well plunge the whole world into war. Such an outcome would be a calamity without parallel in history. 

HERR Hitler TO  H.M. GOVERNMENT, August 29, 1939. Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, the German Government are prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter into direct discussions [with Poland]. They do so, as has already been emphasized, solely as the result of the impression made upon them by the written statement received from the British Government that they, too, desire a pact of friendship in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador.

For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland’s vital interests or questioning the existence of an independent Polish State. The German Government accordingly, in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government’s offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish Emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of this Emissary on Wednesday, August 30, 1939.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR, August 30. His Majesty’s Government note that the German Government accept the British proposal and are prepared to enter into direct discussions with the Polish Government.

His Majesty’s Government also note that the German Government accepts the position of the British Government as to Poland’s vital interests and independence. His Majesty’s Government are at once informing the Polish Government off the German Government’s reply.

His Majesty’s Government fully recognize the need for speed in the initiation of discussion, and they share the apprehensions of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of two mobilized armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most, strongly urge that both parties should undertake that during the negotiations no aggressive military movements will take place.

His Majesty’s Government feel confident that they could obtain such an undertaking from the Polish. Government if the German Government would give similar assurances.

 HERR Hitler TO  H.M. GOVERNMENT, August 31. On August 29 the German Government, in spite of being sceptical as to the desire of the Polish Government to come to an understanding, declared themselves ready in the interests of peace to accept the British mediation or suggestion.

In this sense they declared themselves ready to receive a personage appointed by the Polish Government upto the evening of August 30, with the proviso that the latter was, in fact, empowered not only to discuss but to conduct and conclude negotiations. 

The German Government Have Waited in Vain 
Instead of a statement regarding the arrival of an authorized Polish personage, the first answer the Government of the Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was the news of the Polish mobilization, and only towards 12 o’clock’ on the night of August 30, 1939, did they receive at somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help towards the commencement of negotiations.

It has once more been made clear, as a result of a dérnarche which has meanwhile been made by the Polish Ambassador. that the latter himself has no plenary powers either to enter into any discussion or even to negotiate.

The Fuehrer and the German Government have thus waited two days in vain for the arrival of a Polish negotiator with plenary powers.

In these circumstances, the German Government regard their proposals as having this time, too, been to all intents and purposes rejected, although they considered that these proposals, in the form in which they were made known to the British Government also, were more than loyal, fair and practicable.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO SIR NEVILE HENDERSON, 11 p.m. August 31. Please inform German Government that we understand that Polish Government are taking steps to establish contact with them through Polish Ambassador in Berlin. Please also ask them whether they agree to the necessity for securing an immediate provisional modus vivendi as regards Danzig. 

Britain’s Last Efforts To Avert War

Posted on December 6th, 2017 under . Posted by

Historic Documents. I

In this, the first of a series comprising the most important speeches, communications, statements and other documents relating to the Second Great War, are included extracts from the exchanges between London and Berlin during the ten days which ended with Germany’s invasion of Poland.

Following the publication of the news that Herr von Ribbentrop was proceeding to Moscow to sign a non-aggression pact with the U.S.S.R., Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Herr Hitler (August 22, 1939)  Whatever may prove to be the nature of the German Soviet Agreement, it cannot alter Great Britain’s obligation to Poland which his Majesty’s Government have stated in public repeatedly and plainly, and which they are determined to fulfil

It has been alleged that, if his Majesty’s Government had made their position more clear in 1914, the great catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, his Majesty’s Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be no such tragic misunderstanding.

If the case should arise, they are resolved, and prepared, to employ without delay all the forces at their command, and it is impossible to foresee the end of hostilities once engaged. It would be a dangerous illusion to think that, if war once starts, it will come to an early end, even if a success on any one of the several fronts on which it will be engaged should have been secured.

Having thus made our position perfectly clear, I wish to repeat to you my conviction that war between our two peoples would be the greatest calamity that could occur. I am certain that it is desired neither by our people nor by yours, and I cannot see that there is anything in the questions arising between Germany and Poland which could not and should not be resolved without the use of force. if only a situation of confidence could be restored to enable discussions to be carried on in an atmosphere different from that which prevails today.

HERR Hitler TO MR. CHAMBERLAIN, August 23, 1939.  Germany has never sought conflict with England and has never interfered in English interests. On the contrary, she has for years endeavoured although unfortunately in vain to win England’s friendship.

The German Reich, however, like every other State possesses certain definite interests which it is impossible to renounce. To these questions belong the German City of Danzig and the connected problem of the Corridor.

Your Excellency informs me in the name of the British Government that you will be obliged to render assistance to Poland in any such case of intervention on the part of Germany take note of this statement of yours and assure you that it can make no change in the determination of the Reich Government to safeguard the interests of the Reich. Your assurance to the effect that in such an event you anticipate a long war is shared by myself. Germany if attacked by England will be found prepared and determined. I have already more than once declared before the German people and the world that there can be no doubt concerning the determination of the new German Reich rather to accept, for however long it might be, every sort of misery and tribulation than to sacrifice its national interests, let alone its honour.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR on, August 28. His Majesty’s Government note the Chancellor’s expression of his desire to make friendship the basis of the relations between Germany and the British Empire, and they fully share this desire. They believe with him that if a complete and lasting understanding between the two countries could be established it would bring untold blessings to both peoples.

A just settlement of these questions between Germany and Poland may open the way to world peace. Failure to reach it would ruin the hopes of better understanding between Germany and Great Britain, would bring the two countries into conflict and might well plunge the whole world into war. Such an outcome would be a calamity without parallel in history. 

HERR Hitler TO  H.M. GOVERNMENT, August 29, 1939. Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful outcome, the German Government are prepared to accept the English proposal and to enter into direct discussions [with Poland]. They do so, as has already been emphasized, solely as the result of the impression made upon them by the written statement received from the British Government that they, too, desire a pact of friendship in accordance with the general lines indicated to the British Ambassador.

For the rest, in making these proposals the German Government have never had any intention of touching Poland’s vital interests or questioning the existence of an independent Polish State. The German Government accordingly, in these circumstances agree to accept the British Government’s offer of their good offices in securing the despatch to Berlin of a Polish Emissary with full powers. They count on the arrival of this Emissary on Wednesday, August 30, 1939.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO THE GERMAN CHANCELLOR, August 30. His Majesty’s Government note that the German Government accept the British proposal and are prepared to enter into direct discussions with the Polish Government.

His Majesty’s Government also note that the German Government accepts the position of the British Government as to Poland’s vital interests and independence. His Majesty’s Government are at once informing the Polish Government off the German Government’s reply.

His Majesty’s Government fully recognize the need for speed in the initiation of discussion, and they share the apprehensions of the Chancellor arising from the proximity of two mobilized armies standing face to face. They would accordingly most, strongly urge that both parties should undertake that during the negotiations no aggressive military movements will take place.

His Majesty’s Government feel confident that they could obtain such an undertaking from the Polish. Government if the German Government would give similar assurances.

 HERR Hitler TO  H.M. GOVERNMENT, August 31. On August 29 the German Government, in spite of being sceptical as to the desire of the Polish Government to come to an understanding, declared themselves ready in the interests of peace to accept the British mediation or suggestion.

In this sense they declared themselves ready to receive a personage appointed by the Polish Government upto the evening of August 30, with the proviso that the latter was, in fact, empowered not only to discuss but to conduct and conclude negotiations. 

The German Government Have Waited in Vain 
Instead of a statement regarding the arrival of an authorized Polish personage, the first answer the Government of the Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was the news of the Polish mobilization, and only towards 12 o’clock’ on the night of August 30, 1939, did they receive at somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help towards the commencement of negotiations.

It has once more been made clear, as a result of a dérnarche which has meanwhile been made by the Polish Ambassador. that the latter himself has no plenary powers either to enter into any discussion or even to negotiate.

The Fuehrer and the German Government have thus waited two days in vain for the arrival of a Polish negotiator with plenary powers.

In these circumstances, the German Government regard their proposals as having this time, too, been to all intents and purposes rejected, although they considered that these proposals, in the form in which they were made known to the British Government also, were more than loyal, fair and practicable.

H.M. GOVERNMENT TO SIR NEVILE HENDERSON, 11 p.m. August 31. Please inform German Government that we understand that Polish Government are taking steps to establish contact with them through Polish Ambassador in Berlin. Please also ask them whether they agree to the necessity for securing an immediate provisional modus vivendi as regards Danzig. 

Danzig: Excuse For Aggression

Posted on December 6th, 2017 under . Posted by

Vicissitudes of Danzig-Re-establishment of the Free City The Polish Corridor-Poles Create Port of Gdynia-Danzig Dissentients Establishment of Danzig Nazi Party Arnold Forster’s Campaign of Pin-pricks and Insults Nazis Dominate the Free City Propaganda for Incorporation in the Reich Tension Grows Germany Invades Corridor

In 1914 Europe and ultimately the world were plunged into war because of a terrorist’s bullet in the Balkans. In 1939 war came again to the world because the people of Danzig were resolved to rejoin the Reich. Perhaps the one statement is as true as the other, though of a certainty neither is the whole truth. Nevertheless, the murder of the Austrian Archduke was the spark that set fire to the powder barrel in 1914; and in 1939 the proclamation that Danzig had “ returned home ” meant that Hitler’s Germany had decided to appeal to the arbitrament of the sword in its quarrel with Poland and with Poland’s allies.  Danzig has never been long absent from the pages of history. Situated at the mouth of the Vistula, it occupies a position of great economic importance, and apart from the fact that the Romans had a settlement in the neighbourhood, the place has been a centre of human intercourse for nearly a thousand years. Danes, Pomeranians, Prussians, Brandenburgers and Poles struggled for its possession, and from 1308 to 1454 it was the prosperous settlement of that famed medieval order the Teutonic Knights. When the power and discipline of the Knights declined, Danzig shook off their yoke and became part of Polish territory. Though nominally subject, however, it enjoyed the status and all the rights of a Free City; in fact, it was the head of a territory comprising some thirty townships. At this time it was also a member of the Hanseatic League, that combination of North European trading cities which for long constituted what was in fact a commercial empire. With the coming of the modern age it entered a period of troubled history, and in the wars between the Russians, the German states and Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries, it suffered severely.

When in 1772 Russia, Austria and Prussia descended like imperial birds of prey on the body of Poland, then sorely stricken by internal feuds, Danzig was separated from Poland, and in 1793 during the Second Partition it was definitely allotted to Prussia. For a short time it was a dukedom, but in 1814 it was  returned to Prussia, and it was the capital of West Prussia until 1919. At Versailles Danzig’s future again came under review, and it was resolved that the ancient Free City should be re-established under the protection of the League of Nations, primarily with a view to providing the newly restored state of Poland with control of the mouth of the river on which its life chiefly depended. By the end of 1920 the new order had il been established. Politically, the Free City enjoyed complete self government, but, economically, it was closely linked a with its great neighbour Poland and Danzig formed a single customs territory, Poland enjoying special privileges in the port and controlling the foreign relations of the little state.  Adjoining the free territory of Danzig is the province of Pomorze, the so-called Polish Corridor. History books talk of it as Pomerania, i.e. ” along the sea ” it consists of Eastern Pomerania, which lies west of the Vistula, and the territory  of Kuhn, which lies on the eastern bank of the great river. Seized by Prussia in the First Partition of Poland in 1772, the region remained Polish even during those years of the 19th century when all the efforts of the Prussian governing machine were directed towards the eradication of everything that savoured of Polish national sentiment.

Despite   the German rule of over 140 years, the great majority of the population were still Poles in race, culture and language when, in 1919, the treaty makers at Versailles decreed that this portion of the German state should be restored to Poland. The action could be justified on racial and linguistic grounds, but another reason was the need for providing Poland with an outlet to the sea. It was early in 1920 that the first High Commissioner came to reside in Danzig and Poland took formal possession of the Polish Corridor. The rulers of the resuscitated Poland were well aware of Danzig’s present importance, but the fact could not be hid that it was predominantly German. Rather than have to rely completely on a port which, if not actually anti-Polish, was at least unPolish, the authorities in Warsaw decided upon the creation of an entirely new port on the Baltic coast of the Corridor, northwest of Danzig. The site they chose was Gdynia, and in the course of a few years what was then an insignificant fishing village developed into one of the great ports of Europe. While Poland was struggling with internal difficulties and with foreign foes, both Gdynia and Danzig advanced in wealth and importance. By 1932 two- thirds of all Poland’s trade went by the sea routes commanded by the two ports. So considerable was Poland’s overseas  trade, indeed, that there was room for both the old port and the new and despite the spectacular rise of Gdynia, Danzig’s trade was soon far in excess of what it had been when it was part of the Kaiser’s realm. Nevertheless, there was rivalry between Danzig and Gdynia there was friction between the Poles and the Danziger’s, and, of course  with the latter’s German supporters, from the very commencement of the new order.

Germany regarded the loss of the Corridor and of Danzig as an unstaunched wound in her side and as the years passed there were innumerable clashes over economic and political issues. There was trouble for instance over the partial confiscation of the estates of German landowners in the Corridor a measure carried out in accordance with the new Polish land laws aiming at the improvement of the status of the peasants and there was resentment at Poland’s decision to erect a munitions dump or naval base at Westerplatte and at the claims put forward on behalf of Polish customs officers and postal officials in the territory.

For years Danzig and the Corridor were permanent items in the agenda of the League of Nations at Geneva, and it became a matter of principle for the successive German governments to champion the  rights of the allegedly suppressed Germans who had been cut off from the Fatherland by the Versailles “ Diktat.” When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 there was a distinct improvement in the relations between the Reich and Poland, resulting from the Fuehrer’s Ten year Treaty with Poland of January 26, 1934. In Danzig, however, the voice of the dissenters against League rule became ever more loud.

A Nazi party was established, and it was not long before it had completely captured the political machine and was working it on the totalitarian model. However friendly he might wish to be with Poland, Hitler never disguised his sympathies with the Germans of Danzig, and to a lesser degree with those occupying the Corridor. The Danzig Nazis, under the leadership of Albert Forster, by a combination of pin-pricks and insults made the position of the High Commissioner unbearable, and as soon as they achieved a majority in the Diet they subjected all the non-Nazi elements to a system of organized repression. A stream of inspired Nazi propaganda was poured out in favour of the city’s reunion with the Reich. All who favoured the democratic regime, or who advocated an understanding between the two peoples, were silenced by the brutal arguments usually employed by the Nazis prison  and the concentration camp, the cudgel and the assassin’s bullet. The Jews the A merchants and bankers who had always played so large a part in the city’s life and on whose talent its prosperity was so largely, grounded vigere driven out and o plundered. Hitler’s henchmen forced their way into every public office, and when in 1936 Arthur Greiser, the Nazi President of the Danzig Senate, was summoned to account by the League of Nations, he made a defiant speech at Geneva demanding the end of the League control.

By the end of 1937 the Free City was completely in the hands of the Nazis, and early in the next year Forster  declared that Berlin Has resumed control of the city’s foreign policy. Poland could do little to stem the Nazi tide. During 1938 it was understood that in return for certain economic concessions Poland was prepared to abandon her political claims, but in the autumn the position worsened following upon Forster’s declaration that the Germans in Danzig would soon be rewarded for their suffering just as the Germans in Austria and the Sudetenland had been rewarded. By the close of the year Danzig’s reincorporation in the Reich had become a matter of immediate political interest. Towards the end of July, 1939, it was announced that the Danzig police force had been increased from 1,500 to nearly 4,000 men owing to the ” necessity for protecting Danzig from the Polish army,” and tension between Poland and Danzig was further aggravated by the dismissal of Polish workmen in the shipyards interference with the rights and functions of Polish customs officials, and, finally, the shooting of one of the latter by Nazi storm troopers. As the days passed the tension grew. From Warsaw there came a statement that if the Germans insisted on realizing their plan of incorporating Danzig in the Reich, then Poland would be forced to resort to arms, knowing that she was fighting for her own independence. July passed into August, and it became increasingly apparent that Herr Hitler was contemplating yet another of those aggressive actions against neighbouring states which in the  past had proved so successful. Confronted by the possibility of a European, and possibly a world war, the statesmen of the powers strove unceasingly for peace. It was not to be however. On September 1 Herr Hitler’s troops entered the Corridor,  and on that morning Forster announced to the Danziger’s that  the hour for which you have been longing for twenty years has come. This day Danzig has returned to the great German Reich.

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)

 

Danzig: Excuse For Aggression

Posted on December 6th, 2017 under . Posted by

Vicissitudes of Danzig-Re-establishment of the Free City The Polish Corridor-Poles Create Port of Gdynia-Danzig Dissentients Establishment of Danzig Nazi Party Arnold Forster’s Campaign of Pin-pricks and Insults Nazis Dominate the Free City Propaganda for Incorporation in the Reich Tension Grows Germany Invades Corridor

In 1914 Europe and ultimately the world were plunged into war because of a terrorist’s bullet in the Balkans. In 1939 war came again to the world because the people of Danzig were resolved to rejoin the Reich. Perhaps the one statement is as true as the other, though of a certainty neither is the whole truth. Nevertheless, the murder of the Austrian Archduke was the spark that set fire to the powder barrel in 1914; and in 1939 the proclamation that Danzig had “ returned home ” meant that Hitler’s Germany had decided to appeal to the arbitrament of the sword in its quarrel with Poland and with Poland’s allies.  Danzig has never been long absent from the pages of history. Situated at the mouth of the Vistula, it occupies a position of great economic importance, and apart from the fact that the Romans had a settlement in the neighbourhood, the place has been a centre of human intercourse for nearly a thousand years. Danes, Pomeranians, Prussians, Brandenburgers and Poles struggled for its possession, and from 1308 to 1454 it was the prosperous settlement of that famed medieval order the Teutonic Knights. When the power and discipline of the Knights declined, Danzig shook off their yoke and became part of Polish territory. Though nominally subject, however, it enjoyed the status and all the rights of a Free City; in fact, it was the head of a territory comprising some thirty townships. At this time it was also a member of the Hanseatic League, that combination of North European trading cities which for long constituted what was in fact a commercial empire. With the coming of the modern age it entered a period of troubled history, and in the wars between the Russians, the German states and Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries, it suffered severely.

When in 1772 Russia, Austria and Prussia descended like imperial birds of prey on the body of Poland, then sorely stricken by internal feuds, Danzig was separated from Poland, and in 1793 during the Second Partition it was definitely allotted to Prussia. For a short time it was a dukedom, but in 1814 it was  returned to Prussia, and it was the capital of West Prussia until 1919. At Versailles Danzig’s future again came under review, and it was resolved that the ancient Free City should be re-established under the protection of the League of Nations, primarily with a view to providing the newly restored state of Poland with control of the mouth of the river on which its life chiefly depended. By the end of 1920 the new order had il been established. Politically, the Free City enjoyed complete self government, but, economically, it was closely linked a with its great neighbour Poland and Danzig formed a single customs territory, Poland enjoying special privileges in the port and controlling the foreign relations of the little state.  Adjoining the free territory of Danzig is the province of Pomorze, the so-called Polish Corridor. History books talk of it as Pomerania, i.e. ” along the sea ” it consists of Eastern Pomerania, which lies west of the Vistula, and the territory  of Kuhn, which lies on the eastern bank of the great river. Seized by Prussia in the First Partition of Poland in 1772, the region remained Polish even during those years of the 19th century when all the efforts of the Prussian governing machine were directed towards the eradication of everything that savoured of Polish national sentiment.

Despite   the German rule of over 140 years, the great majority of the population were still Poles in race, culture and language when, in 1919, the treaty makers at Versailles decreed that this portion of the German state should be restored to Poland. The action could be justified on racial and linguistic grounds, but another reason was the need for providing Poland with an outlet to the sea. It was early in 1920 that the first High Commissioner came to reside in Danzig and Poland took formal possession of the Polish Corridor. The rulers of the resuscitated Poland were well aware of Danzig’s present importance, but the fact could not be hid that it was predominantly German. Rather than have to rely completely on a port which, if not actually anti-Polish, was at least unPolish, the authorities in Warsaw decided upon the creation of an entirely new port on the Baltic coast of the Corridor, northwest of Danzig. The site they chose was Gdynia, and in the course of a few years what was then an insignificant fishing village developed into one of the great ports of Europe. While Poland was struggling with internal difficulties and with foreign foes, both Gdynia and Danzig advanced in wealth and importance. By 1932 two- thirds of all Poland’s trade went by the sea routes commanded by the two ports. So considerable was Poland’s overseas  trade, indeed, that there was room for both the old port and the new and despite the spectacular rise of Gdynia, Danzig’s trade was soon far in excess of what it had been when it was part of the Kaiser’s realm. Nevertheless, there was rivalry between Danzig and Gdynia there was friction between the Poles and the Danziger’s, and, of course  with the latter’s German supporters, from the very commencement of the new order.

Germany regarded the loss of the Corridor and of Danzig as an unstaunched wound in her side and as the years passed there were innumerable clashes over economic and political issues. There was trouble for instance over the partial confiscation of the estates of German landowners in the Corridor a measure carried out in accordance with the new Polish land laws aiming at the improvement of the status of the peasants and there was resentment at Poland’s decision to erect a munitions dump or naval base at Westerplatte and at the claims put forward on behalf of Polish customs officers and postal officials in the territory.

For years Danzig and the Corridor were permanent items in the agenda of the League of Nations at Geneva, and it became a matter of principle for the successive German governments to champion the  rights of the allegedly suppressed Germans who had been cut off from the Fatherland by the Versailles “ Diktat.” When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 there was a distinct improvement in the relations between the Reich and Poland, resulting from the Fuehrer’s Ten year Treaty with Poland of January 26, 1934. In Danzig, however, the voice of the dissenters against League rule became ever more loud.

A Nazi party was established, and it was not long before it had completely captured the political machine and was working it on the totalitarian model. However friendly he might wish to be with Poland, Hitler never disguised his sympathies with the Germans of Danzig, and to a lesser degree with those occupying the Corridor. The Danzig Nazis, under the leadership of Albert Forster, by a combination of pin-pricks and insults made the position of the High Commissioner unbearable, and as soon as they achieved a majority in the Diet they subjected all the non-Nazi elements to a system of organized repression. A stream of inspired Nazi propaganda was poured out in favour of the city’s reunion with the Reich. All who favoured the democratic regime, or who advocated an understanding between the two peoples, were silenced by the brutal arguments usually employed by the Nazis prison  and the concentration camp, the cudgel and the assassin’s bullet. The Jews the A merchants and bankers who had always played so large a part in the city’s life and on whose talent its prosperity was so largely, grounded vigere driven out and o plundered. Hitler’s henchmen forced their way into every public office, and when in 1936 Arthur Greiser, the Nazi President of the Danzig Senate, was summoned to account by the League of Nations, he made a defiant speech at Geneva demanding the end of the League control.

By the end of 1937 the Free City was completely in the hands of the Nazis, and early in the next year Forster  declared that Berlin Has resumed control of the city’s foreign policy. Poland could do little to stem the Nazi tide. During 1938 it was understood that in return for certain economic concessions Poland was prepared to abandon her political claims, but in the autumn the position worsened following upon Forster’s declaration that the Germans in Danzig would soon be rewarded for their suffering just as the Germans in Austria and the Sudetenland had been rewarded. By the close of the year Danzig’s reincorporation in the Reich had become a matter of immediate political interest. Towards the end of July, 1939, it was announced that the Danzig police force had been increased from 1,500 to nearly 4,000 men owing to the ” necessity for protecting Danzig from the Polish army,” and tension between Poland and Danzig was further aggravated by the dismissal of Polish workmen in the shipyards interference with the rights and functions of Polish customs officials, and, finally, the shooting of one of the latter by Nazi storm troopers. As the days passed the tension grew. From Warsaw there came a statement that if the Germans insisted on realizing their plan of incorporating Danzig in the Reich, then Poland would be forced to resort to arms, knowing that she was fighting for her own independence. July passed into August, and it became increasingly apparent that Herr Hitler was contemplating yet another of those aggressive actions against neighbouring states which in the  past had proved so successful. Confronted by the possibility of a European, and possibly a world war, the statesmen of the powers strove unceasingly for peace. It was not to be however. On September 1 Herr Hitler’s troops entered the Corridor,  and on that morning Forster announced to the Danziger’s that  the hour for which you have been longing for twenty years has come. This day Danzig has returned to the great German Reich.

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)

 

The Forces And The Factors That Made For War

Posted on December 5th, 2017 under . Posted by

Dictatorship v. Democracy, The Age-long Contest, Post-War Liberalism, Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism, The Weimar Republic, Brüning, Birth of Nazism, Hitler Attains Power, League,  Defied, Rhineland,  Occupied, Germany Arms Again, Engulfment of Austria, The Rape of Czechoslovakia, Threat, to Poland, Preparation for the Lightning Stroke

Turning the pages of newspapers, reading what “ Our Correspondent” in Berlin has to say, and then his brother in Moscow, listening to the voices which come to us over the wireless, giving an ear now and again to the rumours whispered in the train or across the dinner-table, we may well be excused if we find the situation filled with confusion and altogether baffling in its complexity. Only when we rise above the babble of the moment and strive to breathe the purer air of calm reflection can we detect behind the shifting phantasmagoria the clear outlines of a principle which we may hold and cherish. Boundaries, acts, frontier incidents, speeches and pronouncements of every kind these belong to the world of change, and change indeed from day to day, even from hour to hour. Not on these things do the most vital moves of the political chessboard depend for their origin and inspiration. If we seek that guiding principle we shall find it in the conflict which endures today as it has endured through all the centuries of human history, between the belief in dictatorship and the belief in democracy. Neither the one nor the other is a newcomer to the field of political speculation. 2,500 years ago the Greeks submitted themselves to the rule of dictators, and then, tired of the yoke, changed over to democracy of the most advanced type. The Roman system was nominally a democracy with a dictatorial core. During the Middle Ages history records democratic states, existing side by side with the dictatorship of Emperor and Pope. In the modern world we still have a conflict between the principles of the French Revolution of 1789 and those of the Fascist and Bolshevik Revolutions of our own day. For thousands of years, then, the battle has been engaged. Now one system and now the other has won the mastery, but on every occasion complete victory has been denied. There seems to be something in the human spirit which revolts against the too long continued domination of one personality, however great; at the same time it must be admitted that history points to many occasions when men have gladly abandoned their most cherished individual rights in favour of the rule of a strong man who promised a way out from the menacing situation of the moment.
When the Great War ended in 1919 it seemed as if democracy had won its last and greatest triumph a triumph which apparently bore all the seeds of permanence. Countries which had been subjected to autocratic rule had crashed in hopeless ruin, while others in which democracy had been the guiding principle had endured to the end and won the most complete victory. The War had been widely advertised by the Allies as a struggle between Democracy and  Autocracy, and with the coming of peace there was a rush on the part of the defeated to reproduce within their own borders those democratic institu- tions which apparently were the prerequisites of victory. Germany kicked Kaiserism into the gutter, and at Weimar proclaimed a constitution of the most extraordinary liberality. The Successi_on States which emerged from the debris of the Austro Hungarian Empire, together with re-born Poland, enlarged Rumania, and the congeries of Baltic states, all hastened to provide themselves with parliaments, presidents, cabinets and parties on the approved lines of democratic parliamentarianism.  If parliaments spell democracy, then democracy had never seemed so assured of its future as in 1919. Victors and vanquished alike paid tribute to its virtues in word and in deed. Years passed, and the rhythmic alternation referred to above became once more in evidence. Parliamentarianism had reached the crest of its wave ere long it was half engulfed in the trough. To change the metaphor, the first break in the democratic facade came in Italy, which, although nominally one of the victorious powers, was bitterly disappointed with her share of the material fruits of the struggle.

For years past parliamentary government in Italy had been almost a synonym for corruption and inefficiency, and after the War its defects became too blatant to be endured. In 1922 a militant journalist, Benito Mussolini, at the head of a private army of black shirted Fascists, gave a push to the rotting fabric which sent it toppling to the ground. As the saviour of public order he was granted the premiership, and in due course proceeded with a programme of complete regimentation of the Italian people. By skilful manipulation the Italian parliament became of less and less importance, until it emerged as the sounding-board of ministerial opinion. In the realm of economics the foundations were laid of a system in·which  masters and men were grouped in corporations., At the head of the ” Corporative State ” stood the  dictator, II Duce, Mussolini himself, in whose hands were grasped all the reins of power. He was Caesar in all but name, and his interest in the imperial tradition was evidenced at once by his care for the recovery of relics of ancient Rome and for the creation of an empire not unworthy to be compared with that of Augustus and the Antonines.  Just as Fascism was born out of, or was at least fertilized by, the disappointment and disillusionment of the post War period, so German Nazism may be traced back to the aftermath of the same great struggle. The prouder a nation, the greater her humiliation in the hour of defeat. It was a bitter cup which the Weimar Republic had to taste in those  first years of its existence. The Rhineland was in the occupation of the Allies an  immense, indeed, an impossibly large, sum was demanded by way of reparations for the damage and loss indicted in the course of the War for six months after the Armistice the blockade was maintained with disastrous effects on the lives and health of the German people the value of the mark dwindled into nothingness, and with the collapse of the currency there collapsed  to the standard of life of the great majority of the people. Unemployment, moreover, was rampant; thousands of exservicemen were without jobs in the political sphere men who only yesterday were insignificant nobodies now lorded it over those who by birth and prestige regarded themselves as belonging to the elect.  In retrospect it cannot but be admitted that those at the helm of the Republic did their best to make good in an increasingly difficult situation. When the Allied troops were withdrawn from the Rhineland, when the currency was rehabilitated. when Germany, under the wise guidance Stresemann, entered the League of Nations and added her signature to the Pact of Locarno the clouds seemed to lift above the country’s future but in 1930 Germany a financial satellite of the United States, was caught in the economic blizzard which had already devastated America. Deprived of the funds which had enabled her industrial system to function, the Republic staggered beneath the load of reparations and was rent afresh by the feuds of internal factions. Gradually, by force of circumstance, the liberal system of government was abrogated and under the chancellorship of Brüning a dictatorship in all but name took its place. Then it was that the world became conscious of the menace that lay in the personality of one who had been hitherto derided as but a noisy agitator. In ten years Hitler had become the focus of all that was dissatisfied and disillusioned in the German state. First to a handful, then to hundreds, then to thousands, and so at last to millions of the German people he became a symbol. He was just a plain ex-serviceman who, like millions of others, had found it hard to make a living in the post War years. Gradually he had overcome obstacle after obstacle he had framed a programme, founded a party, taken part in an armed revolt, spent months in a, prison cell where he had penned a book which might well become the evangel of a reawakened people. And as the German public watched him grow from strength to strength, they felt that they, too, were growing with him.  As he came to the fore in his own country they felt that he might well be the leader who would win back for Germany her place in the sun. In 1924 the party of which he was the head had 32 seats in the Reichstag; eight years later they captured 230 seats with thirteen million votes.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler the Austrian who once had been a casual labourer, a house-painter became Chancellor of the German Reich. Looking back on the events of the six years that followed, it must be admitted that the Chancellor pursued a bold policy with the most striking success. First he prepared the way for Germany’s revanche in secret then, when his preparations had reached an advanced stage, he was able to throw off the disguise, and an astounded world found itself face to face with a Germany which refused any longer to be bound by the shackles of Versailles. The Saar was returned to the Reich with the consent of the democracies, but the occupation of the Rhineland by German armed forces was al distinct and direct challenge which many in later years regretted that the Allies had not instantly taken up. An air force, the foundations of which had been laid in conditions of the greatest secrecy, was openly expanded, and all the factories of the Reich were speeded up to produce ’planes and guns and war material of one kind and another.  Conscription, which had been definitely forbidden by the treaty makers in 1919, was reintroduced, and Germany could once again boast an army. As the months passed Germany presented an ever bolder face to the world, and when she allied herself with Italy, and later with Japan, it was seen that the democracies might soon be confronted with a definite challenge to their supremacy. The challenge came in 1938 when the Fuehrer staked a claim for the return, of the Germans outside the borders of the Reich. In March Austria was overrun by German troops and constituted a province of Greater Germany. No greater affront to the complacency of the Allies could well be imagined, for the union of Austria and Germany had been definitely banned time after time. Czechoslovakia was the next to experience the weight of his attack an attack in which the First line was a vigorously directed campaign of Propaganda of the most unscrupulous form. Hitler extended his protection to the Germans of the Sudetenland, and following his agitation Europe and the world were on the verge of war in September, 1938, when, as the result of the efforts of Mr; Chamberlain, supported by President Roosevelt and Signor Mussolini, the partial dismemberment of Czechoslovakia was agreed upon. With this bloodless victory the Fuehrer professed himself content; but early in 1939 the machinery of intimidation was once again- set in motion, and a year after the engulfment of Austria, the bulk of what the “ men of Munich ” had left of Czechoslovakia followed suit. Though they still possessed nominal independence, Moravia and Bohemia were in effect annexed to the Reich. More months passed months of tremendous military and economic preparations on all sides. Germany, it was seen, was girding up her loins for yet another onslaught perchance on Rumania, or possibly it might be on Poland. By now, however, the democracies were awake, and under the A firm leadership of Britain a new peace front was organized! Abandoning her traditional policy of isolation from the political affairs of the Continent, Great Britain threw the mantle of her protection over Poland, and entered into similar offensive and defensive alliances with Greece and Turkey. At the same time efforts were made to conclude a pact with Soviet Russia a pact which was prevented at the last  moment by the most complete reorientation of German policy. Having for years denounced the Bolsheviks as enemies of civilization, having evolved an ideology for the Nazi party in which hostility to Bolshevism and Communism was the guiding principle, Herr Hitler now completed a volte face almost without precedent in history.

The execution of such a complete reversal of policy was at once a sign of German adaptability and of the growing strength of the democratic opposition to the German menace. The conclusion of the German Soviet Pact might be held to justify the view of those who maintain that Nazism and Bolshevism are not the incompatibles which they usually have been alleged to be, but are on the contrary systems with many essential resemblances. It is true that in the course of years mainly under economic pressure the Soviet system assumed many appendages of a democratic nature, but it might well be supposed that Stalin was no more hampered by democratic forms than the Fuehrer or the Duce. In Russia, as in Germany and Italy, there is one party and one party only in the State. It is true that it goes by a different name but it is none the less a concrete expression of totalitarianism in action, and endows the leader or dictator or president with enormous powers over his subjects unhampered by any of the checks or limits imposed by democracy. Apologists tor the Communist regime urge that the ends envisaged in the Soviet theory are very different from those which are the inspiration of Nazism or Fascism, And it must not be forgotten that the source of power in the Soviet system is the will of the people as expressed by their delegates and translated into action by the ultimate governing committee. There is, of course, a concentration of authority in the hands of a few individuals and at the head is one who is virtually a dictator.  Fascism, Nazism, and Communism are all expressions of twentieth-century  dictatorship, but besides Italy, Germany, and Russia, there are many other countries now subject to totalitarian rule. For some years, indeed, it might seem that dictatorship was gaining in the iight with democracy. In our own country, as in France and America, many have urged that there is something in a dictatorship, representing a greater or lesser degree of state control, which is much more suited to the conditions of the modern world than are the institutions of parliamentary democracy. Many who have knowledge of the working of the parliamentary machine complain of its cumbrous and creaky nature. How much easier it is for a dictator to elect a reform than it is for a reform bill to be passed through the House of Commons It must be pointed out, however, that dictators, like doctors, bury their own mistakes.

Human nature being what it is, we cannot but believe that in the dictator countries there are innumerable instances of inefficiency of corruption, of maladjustment, that in a democratic state would give rise to a how of condemnation and  an outburst of public indignation on a huge scale.The strongest argument, however, in favour of democracy as ta system of government is that it has actually lasted for many centuries at a time and has weathered innumerable storms. As Walter Bagehot said of that extra ordinary undeniable and nonexistent something, the English Constitution, it works! , It should never be forgotten both by the partisans of dictatorship and by its critics, that it has never yet stood up against a test of the most serious and exhaustive kind. Parliamentary government in England has existed in more or less its present form for nearly seven hundred years, and it has successfully resisted war and civil war, revolution and counter-revolution. Today, it is true, the machine creaks, but there is not the slightest evidence of its breaking down. During its last great time of testing in the course of the Great War it functioned admirably, and no vital change was found to be necessary in its machinery. As. the expression of public opinion,. as the ventilator of grievances, as the controller of the public purse, the House of Commons is without an effective rival.

Dictatorships, on the other hand, in their modern shape are comparatively young. There have been many dictatorships in the past, but none has endured more than a few decades. Sooner or later the ordinary man resents his position as a mere cog in the state machine, and asserts the supreme importance of himself and his fellow individuals. Dictatorships are the fruit of disillusionment, defeat, and despair. They may dispel the disillusion, solace the defeats, give new hope to the despairing. But hitherto they have never proved themselves to be long enduring features in the political scene.  They are means, very effective means, to an end when that end has been accomplished it has always been found that other ends require other means. Until 1939 no modern dictator had had to face a war on a grand scale no modern system of dictatorship had had to meet such a challenge as the Great War made to the democratic system of Western Europe in 1914. We cannot tell, though some may suspect, what will happen to a thoroughly regimented people when subjected to the devas- tating and nerve destroying ordeal of modern war. In moments of crisis it is the individual who counts and what if the individual has been so well controlled that he has lost all sense of his individual responsibility? 

In the Great War it was often remarked that the German troops fought with the utmost bravery and determination when they marched shoulder to shoulder and were sent over the top in mass formation. Their superiority however, was by no means so manifest when it came to a question of open fighting in which little groups were left in the air, as it were, to fight their own battles, and to play a worthy part in a struggle which had quite escaped from the control of the gentlemen of the staff. It has been claimed that the well regimented Germans would never have been able to withstand the shock of the great offensive of March, 1918. But the British not only made a stand when their front was broken, but turned at the vital hour to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It is just here in the varying emphasis laid upon the individual that we reach the heart of the difference between dictatorship and democracy. Under a dictatorship the individual man or woman exists for the State, whereas in democratic countries the State exists to advance the welfare, and to protect the interests, of the individual citizen. At the very root of democracy is the belief that human beings, though not born equal, have an equal right to happiness today as when they were pronounced, the “ Rights of Man ” declared in 1776 and 1789 still ring true. To a dictator men are valuable not man unless he happens to be the Fuehrer or the Duce or one of their indispensable henchmen. There must be men, of course, to hold the rifles, to drive the tanks, to sit behind the  machine guns to guide the aeroplanes and drop the bombs but the activities of the military machine, as of the social and economic system, are set in motion not to promote the welfare of the common citizen, but for the greater glory of that new god of the twentieth century the Totalitarian State. When, therefore we set out to weigh the respective chances of dictatorship and democracy, we must have regard to something more than the numbers enrolled in the armed forces, the quantity of war material, the planes and tanks and guns. We must remember those imponderables of which the  human spirit is the most important. And what can nerve the human spirit to suffer, to endure, to press on through disappointment and defeat until victory is secure, better than the belief that however insignificant his status, however small and weak his contribution to the common purpose, the individual nevertheless counts ?

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)

 

The Forces And The Factors That Made For War

Posted on December 5th, 2017 under . Posted by

Dictatorship v. Democracy, The Age-long Contest, Post-War Liberalism, Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism, The Weimar Republic, Brüning, Birth of Nazism, Hitler Attains Power, League,  Defied, Rhineland,  Occupied, Germany Arms Again, Engulfment of Austria, The Rape of Czechoslovakia, Threat, to Poland, Preparation for the Lightning Stroke

Turning the pages of newspapers, reading what “ Our Correspondent” in Berlin has to say, and then his brother in Moscow, listening to the voices which come to us over the wireless, giving an ear now and again to the rumours whispered in the train or across the dinner-table, we may well be excused if we find the situation filled with confusion and altogether baffling in its complexity. Only when we rise above the babble of the moment and strive to breathe the purer air of calm reflection can we detect behind the shifting phantasmagoria the clear outlines of a principle which we may hold and cherish. Boundaries, acts, frontier incidents, speeches and pronouncements of every kind these belong to the world of change, and change indeed from day to day, even from hour to hour. Not on these things do the most vital moves of the political chessboard depend for their origin and inspiration. If we seek that guiding principle we shall find it in the conflict which endures today as it has endured through all the centuries of human history, between the belief in dictatorship and the belief in democracy. Neither the one nor the other is a newcomer to the field of political speculation. 2,500 years ago the Greeks submitted themselves to the rule of dictators, and then, tired of the yoke, changed over to democracy of the most advanced type. The Roman system was nominally a democracy with a dictatorial core. During the Middle Ages history records democratic states, existing side by side with the dictatorship of Emperor and Pope. In the modern world we still have a conflict between the principles of the French Revolution of 1789 and those of the Fascist and Bolshevik Revolutions of our own day. For thousands of years, then, the battle has been engaged. Now one system and now the other has won the mastery, but on every occasion complete victory has been denied. There seems to be something in the human spirit which revolts against the too long continued domination of one personality, however great; at the same time it must be admitted that history points to many occasions when men have gladly abandoned their most cherished individual rights in favour of the rule of a strong man who promised a way out from the menacing situation of the moment.
When the Great War ended in 1919 it seemed as if democracy had won its last and greatest triumph a triumph which apparently bore all the seeds of permanence. Countries which had been subjected to autocratic rule had crashed in hopeless ruin, while others in which democracy had been the guiding principle had endured to the end and won the most complete victory. The War had been widely advertised by the Allies as a struggle between Democracy and  Autocracy, and with the coming of peace there was a rush on the part of the defeated to reproduce within their own borders those democratic institu- tions which apparently were the prerequisites of victory. Germany kicked Kaiserism into the gutter, and at Weimar proclaimed a constitution of the most extraordinary liberality. The Successi_on States which emerged from the debris of the Austro Hungarian Empire, together with re-born Poland, enlarged Rumania, and the congeries of Baltic states, all hastened to provide themselves with parliaments, presidents, cabinets and parties on the approved lines of democratic parliamentarianism.  If parliaments spell democracy, then democracy had never seemed so assured of its future as in 1919. Victors and vanquished alike paid tribute to its virtues in word and in deed. Years passed, and the rhythmic alternation referred to above became once more in evidence. Parliamentarianism had reached the crest of its wave ere long it was half engulfed in the trough. To change the metaphor, the first break in the democratic facade came in Italy, which, although nominally one of the victorious powers, was bitterly disappointed with her share of the material fruits of the struggle.

For years past parliamentary government in Italy had been almost a synonym for corruption and inefficiency, and after the War its defects became too blatant to be endured. In 1922 a militant journalist, Benito Mussolini, at the head of a private army of black shirted Fascists, gave a push to the rotting fabric which sent it toppling to the ground. As the saviour of public order he was granted the premiership, and in due course proceeded with a programme of complete regimentation of the Italian people. By skilful manipulation the Italian parliament became of less and less importance, until it emerged as the sounding-board of ministerial opinion. In the realm of economics the foundations were laid of a system in·which  masters and men were grouped in corporations., At the head of the ” Corporative State ” stood the  dictator, II Duce, Mussolini himself, in whose hands were grasped all the reins of power. He was Caesar in all but name, and his interest in the imperial tradition was evidenced at once by his care for the recovery of relics of ancient Rome and for the creation of an empire not unworthy to be compared with that of Augustus and the Antonines.  Just as Fascism was born out of, or was at least fertilized by, the disappointment and disillusionment of the post War period, so German Nazism may be traced back to the aftermath of the same great struggle. The prouder a nation, the greater her humiliation in the hour of defeat. It was a bitter cup which the Weimar Republic had to taste in those  first years of its existence. The Rhineland was in the occupation of the Allies an  immense, indeed, an impossibly large, sum was demanded by way of reparations for the damage and loss indicted in the course of the War for six months after the Armistice the blockade was maintained with disastrous effects on the lives and health of the German people the value of the mark dwindled into nothingness, and with the collapse of the currency there collapsed  to the standard of life of the great majority of the people. Unemployment, moreover, was rampant; thousands of exservicemen were without jobs in the political sphere men who only yesterday were insignificant nobodies now lorded it over those who by birth and prestige regarded themselves as belonging to the elect.  In retrospect it cannot but be admitted that those at the helm of the Republic did their best to make good in an increasingly difficult situation. When the Allied troops were withdrawn from the Rhineland, when the currency was rehabilitated. when Germany, under the wise guidance Stresemann, entered the League of Nations and added her signature to the Pact of Locarno the clouds seemed to lift above the country’s future but in 1930 Germany a financial satellite of the United States, was caught in the economic blizzard which had already devastated America. Deprived of the funds which had enabled her industrial system to function, the Republic staggered beneath the load of reparations and was rent afresh by the feuds of internal factions. Gradually, by force of circumstance, the liberal system of government was abrogated and under the chancellorship of Brüning a dictatorship in all but name took its place. Then it was that the world became conscious of the menace that lay in the personality of one who had been hitherto derided as but a noisy agitator. In ten years Hitler had become the focus of all that was dissatisfied and disillusioned in the German state. First to a handful, then to hundreds, then to thousands, and so at last to millions of the German people he became a symbol. He was just a plain ex-serviceman who, like millions of others, had found it hard to make a living in the post War years. Gradually he had overcome obstacle after obstacle he had framed a programme, founded a party, taken part in an armed revolt, spent months in a, prison cell where he had penned a book which might well become the evangel of a reawakened people. And as the German public watched him grow from strength to strength, they felt that they, too, were growing with him.  As he came to the fore in his own country they felt that he might well be the leader who would win back for Germany her place in the sun. In 1924 the party of which he was the head had 32 seats in the Reichstag; eight years later they captured 230 seats with thirteen million votes.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler the Austrian who once had been a casual labourer, a house-painter became Chancellor of the German Reich. Looking back on the events of the six years that followed, it must be admitted that the Chancellor pursued a bold policy with the most striking success. First he prepared the way for Germany’s revanche in secret then, when his preparations had reached an advanced stage, he was able to throw off the disguise, and an astounded world found itself face to face with a Germany which refused any longer to be bound by the shackles of Versailles. The Saar was returned to the Reich with the consent of the democracies, but the occupation of the Rhineland by German armed forces was al distinct and direct challenge which many in later years regretted that the Allies had not instantly taken up. An air force, the foundations of which had been laid in conditions of the greatest secrecy, was openly expanded, and all the factories of the Reich were speeded up to produce ’planes and guns and war material of one kind and another.  Conscription, which had been definitely forbidden by the treaty makers in 1919, was reintroduced, and Germany could once again boast an army. As the months passed Germany presented an ever bolder face to the world, and when she allied herself with Italy, and later with Japan, it was seen that the democracies might soon be confronted with a definite challenge to their supremacy. The challenge came in 1938 when the Fuehrer staked a claim for the return, of the Germans outside the borders of the Reich. In March Austria was overrun by German troops and constituted a province of Greater Germany. No greater affront to the complacency of the Allies could well be imagined, for the union of Austria and Germany had been definitely banned time after time. Czechoslovakia was the next to experience the weight of his attack an attack in which the First line was a vigorously directed campaign of Propaganda of the most unscrupulous form. Hitler extended his protection to the Germans of the Sudetenland, and following his agitation Europe and the world were on the verge of war in September, 1938, when, as the result of the efforts of Mr; Chamberlain, supported by President Roosevelt and Signor Mussolini, the partial dismemberment of Czechoslovakia was agreed upon. With this bloodless victory the Fuehrer professed himself content; but early in 1939 the machinery of intimidation was once again- set in motion, and a year after the engulfment of Austria, the bulk of what the “ men of Munich ” had left of Czechoslovakia followed suit. Though they still possessed nominal independence, Moravia and Bohemia were in effect annexed to the Reich. More months passed months of tremendous military and economic preparations on all sides. Germany, it was seen, was girding up her loins for yet another onslaught perchance on Rumania, or possibly it might be on Poland. By now, however, the democracies were awake, and under the A firm leadership of Britain a new peace front was organized! Abandoning her traditional policy of isolation from the political affairs of the Continent, Great Britain threw the mantle of her protection over Poland, and entered into similar offensive and defensive alliances with Greece and Turkey. At the same time efforts were made to conclude a pact with Soviet Russia a pact which was prevented at the last  moment by the most complete reorientation of German policy. Having for years denounced the Bolsheviks as enemies of civilization, having evolved an ideology for the Nazi party in which hostility to Bolshevism and Communism was the guiding principle, Herr Hitler now completed a volte face almost without precedent in history.

The execution of such a complete reversal of policy was at once a sign of German adaptability and of the growing strength of the democratic opposition to the German menace. The conclusion of the German Soviet Pact might be held to justify the view of those who maintain that Nazism and Bolshevism are not the incompatibles which they usually have been alleged to be, but are on the contrary systems with many essential resemblances. It is true that in the course of years mainly under economic pressure the Soviet system assumed many appendages of a democratic nature, but it might well be supposed that Stalin was no more hampered by democratic forms than the Fuehrer or the Duce. In Russia, as in Germany and Italy, there is one party and one party only in the State. It is true that it goes by a different name but it is none the less a concrete expression of totalitarianism in action, and endows the leader or dictator or president with enormous powers over his subjects unhampered by any of the checks or limits imposed by democracy. Apologists tor the Communist regime urge that the ends envisaged in the Soviet theory are very different from those which are the inspiration of Nazism or Fascism, And it must not be forgotten that the source of power in the Soviet system is the will of the people as expressed by their delegates and translated into action by the ultimate governing committee. There is, of course, a concentration of authority in the hands of a few individuals and at the head is one who is virtually a dictator.  Fascism, Nazism, and Communism are all expressions of twentieth-century  dictatorship, but besides Italy, Germany, and Russia, there are many other countries now subject to totalitarian rule. For some years, indeed, it might seem that dictatorship was gaining in the iight with democracy. In our own country, as in France and America, many have urged that there is something in a dictatorship, representing a greater or lesser degree of state control, which is much more suited to the conditions of the modern world than are the institutions of parliamentary democracy. Many who have knowledge of the working of the parliamentary machine complain of its cumbrous and creaky nature. How much easier it is for a dictator to elect a reform than it is for a reform bill to be passed through the House of Commons It must be pointed out, however, that dictators, like doctors, bury their own mistakes.

Human nature being what it is, we cannot but believe that in the dictator countries there are innumerable instances of inefficiency of corruption, of maladjustment, that in a democratic state would give rise to a how of condemnation and  an outburst of public indignation on a huge scale.The strongest argument, however, in favour of democracy as ta system of government is that it has actually lasted for many centuries at a time and has weathered innumerable storms. As Walter Bagehot said of that extra ordinary undeniable and nonexistent something, the English Constitution, it works! , It should never be forgotten both by the partisans of dictatorship and by its critics, that it has never yet stood up against a test of the most serious and exhaustive kind. Parliamentary government in England has existed in more or less its present form for nearly seven hundred years, and it has successfully resisted war and civil war, revolution and counter-revolution. Today, it is true, the machine creaks, but there is not the slightest evidence of its breaking down. During its last great time of testing in the course of the Great War it functioned admirably, and no vital change was found to be necessary in its machinery. As. the expression of public opinion,. as the ventilator of grievances, as the controller of the public purse, the House of Commons is without an effective rival.

Dictatorships, on the other hand, in their modern shape are comparatively young. There have been many dictatorships in the past, but none has endured more than a few decades. Sooner or later the ordinary man resents his position as a mere cog in the state machine, and asserts the supreme importance of himself and his fellow individuals. Dictatorships are the fruit of disillusionment, defeat, and despair. They may dispel the disillusion, solace the defeats, give new hope to the despairing. But hitherto they have never proved themselves to be long enduring features in the political scene.  They are means, very effective means, to an end when that end has been accomplished it has always been found that other ends require other means. Until 1939 no modern dictator had had to face a war on a grand scale no modern system of dictatorship had had to meet such a challenge as the Great War made to the democratic system of Western Europe in 1914. We cannot tell, though some may suspect, what will happen to a thoroughly regimented people when subjected to the devas- tating and nerve destroying ordeal of modern war. In moments of crisis it is the individual who counts and what if the individual has been so well controlled that he has lost all sense of his individual responsibility? 

In the Great War it was often remarked that the German troops fought with the utmost bravery and determination when they marched shoulder to shoulder and were sent over the top in mass formation. Their superiority however, was by no means so manifest when it came to a question of open fighting in which little groups were left in the air, as it were, to fight their own battles, and to play a worthy part in a struggle which had quite escaped from the control of the gentlemen of the staff. It has been claimed that the well regimented Germans would never have been able to withstand the shock of the great offensive of March, 1918. But the British not only made a stand when their front was broken, but turned at the vital hour to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It is just here in the varying emphasis laid upon the individual that we reach the heart of the difference between dictatorship and democracy. Under a dictatorship the individual man or woman exists for the State, whereas in democratic countries the State exists to advance the welfare, and to protect the interests, of the individual citizen. At the very root of democracy is the belief that human beings, though not born equal, have an equal right to happiness today as when they were pronounced, the “ Rights of Man ” declared in 1776 and 1789 still ring true. To a dictator men are valuable not man unless he happens to be the Fuehrer or the Duce or one of their indispensable henchmen. There must be men, of course, to hold the rifles, to drive the tanks, to sit behind the  machine guns to guide the aeroplanes and drop the bombs but the activities of the military machine, as of the social and economic system, are set in motion not to promote the welfare of the common citizen, but for the greater glory of that new god of the twentieth century the Totalitarian State. When, therefore we set out to weigh the respective chances of dictatorship and democracy, we must have regard to something more than the numbers enrolled in the armed forces, the quantity of war material, the planes and tanks and guns. We must remember those imponderables of which the  human spirit is the most important. And what can nerve the human spirit to suffer, to endure, to press on through disappointment and defeat until victory is secure, better than the belief that however insignificant his status, however small and weak his contribution to the common purpose, the individual nevertheless counts ?

Second Great War – a Standard History (9 Volume Set)