With a smile on the face. Polish foreign minister Józef Beck meets the German leader, Adolf Hitler in his Alpine residence at Berchtesgaden in January 1939. They conducted there talks in warm and friendly atmosphere, but the moods in the Germano-Polish relations were bound to change very soon.


In the course of consolidation of the Nazi régime in Germany, Germany's re-armament, and Hitler's first political and military successes in Europe, relations between Germany and Poland played an important role. Propaganda of revisionism and revanchism, tolerated by consecutive governments of the Weimar Republic, succeeded in instilling revisionist feelings the German society, setting the Germans against Poland, and spreading expectations of returning territories, lost in result of the Versailles Treaty, under the slogan "Back to the Reich!" (Zurück zum Reich!). Those moods had created an excellent ground for a demagogue Adolf Hitler was. His plea to unite all German lands appealed to the minds of average Germans, and made them believe in the genius of their Führer. Hitler filled the predicaments for revenge with new meaning. His idea was to conquer a "living space" for the German people. We put an end to the perpetual Germanic march towards the South and West of Europe and turn our eyes towards the lands of the East, he said. But when we speak of new territory in Europe to-day we must principally think of Russia and the border States subject to her. [Hitler A. (2010).]

Politicians of the Weimar Republic, and Gustav Stresemann in particular, tried to exploit means of diplomatic persuasion and economical pressure, as they strove to revise the border with Poland. They thought about partial solutions, implemented gradually. Hitler, in fact, did not care about technicalities. He was interested not in this or that rectification of the borderlines, but in a complete command of political map of Europe, annulment of the Versailles system, restitution of colonies, and building of a "living space". Those were goals designed to grant Germany world-wide supremacy, and they could be achieved only through a war. That is why Hitler desired the war, although he tried to conceal his predicaments behind the smoke-screen of peaceful rhetorics.

Hitler's coming to power in Germany gave new impulses to the political relations between Berlin and Warsaw. Polish politicians believed that since Hitler was an Austrian, the Prussian mentality was alien to him, and he had no prejudices against the Poles. The expansionist programme of his party, and its anti-Polish accents were regarded solely as political rhetoric, designated for domestic consumption. Moreover, the Polish government had found Hitler's anti-Soviet and anti-communist stance quite accommodating, and did not entirely dismiss a possibility to achieve, in alliance with Germany, what it was not able to achieve in the war with Soviet Russia in 1920.

Meanwhile Hitler, after he took power in Berlin, continued the revisionist policy against Poland; yet, the problem of the German eastern frontier, and guarantees to the national minorities, were just elements in a bigger game for German supremacy. Therefore, when Hitler saw Polish politicians' willingness to co-operate, he put off controversies, silenced revanchist propaganda, and demonstrated appearance of turning away from revisionist policy of 1920s. This way he fostered a détente in mutual relations, which he could use to support his peaceful declarations and lift the international isolation, in which he had found himself during the first months in office.

On 26 January 1934 was signed the Germano-Polish non-aggression treaty. It was a movement that agreed with the spirit of Warsaw's policy of balancing between the big powers and defending Poland's security through conclusion of bi-lateral non-aggression treaties with neighbours. But in practice, however, the Polish foreign minister, Józef Beck, instead of continuing the policy of balance between Germany and the USSR, embarked on the policy of close co-operation with Berlin - closer than it was stipulated in the Germano-Polish agreements. Simultaneously, Beck adopted a new policy towards the USSR, which was more aggressive that necessary from the point of view of the policy of balance. In fact, till October 1938, that is till the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, in Hitler's hands Poland was the instrument that helped him to torpedo any initiative to create a system of collective security in Europe.

Becks' policy had weakened the Franco-Polish alliance of 1921, nullified Soviet participation in the European security system, and deteriorated Polish-Soviet relations. In the eyes of the European public opinion, especially that part of it, which nursed no illusions about Hitler's real objectives, Poland in fact acted as Hitler's ally.

Meanwhile Hitler never abandoned the anti-Polish stance of his policy. The non-aggression treaty had only tactical value to him, designated to demonstrate his "peaceful" intentions. persecution of the Polish minority in Germany continued, intelligence intensified espionage against Poland, and generous subsidies streamed to the German and Ukrainian fascists, which could be used as a subversive force. And it continued so till October 1938.

After Munich Hitler had not yet any precise plans what to do next: to turn westward or eastward? The final decision had to come from his attempt to solve problems in the Germano-Polish relations, and chain Poland formally and completely to the chariot of the German foreign policy. The stage had been set for the last scene of the European peace.