| In February 1933, after Hitler's impudent interview,
Polish dictator Józef Piłsudski tried to offer his French allies a
pre-emptive expedition against Germany.
This initiative is nowadays denied. But the
circumstances, which testify for it, also testify against French
politicians and militarymen, who cowardly passed over it in silence.
Germano-Polish relations needed to be cleared anyway; Germany still had
been blocking Polish trade, it still had been conducting anti-Polish
propaganda. Militarily weak German Reich could be easily pacified by
relatively small French-Polish effort, hitlerite party's squads could
easily dispersed and the first embryos of reviving military power could
be throttled. Undoubtedly such an operation, although painful, would
dismiss a danger menacing not only Poland. Contemporary Polish
propaganda claimed that after the defeat in the First World War Germany
would not be able to recover for generations. The chaos of the Great
Depression seemed to prove that theory. But in 1933 the period of
Germany's weakness was apparently getting finished. Throughout the
country resounded drumbeats. It was the last chance to curb that mad
throng. But a military action could not be heralded on world's bazaars.
War preparations had been made in a deep secret. Militarymen had to
consider opinion of pacifists, who would be likely to brand them
aggressors. Those people, whose naїveté has not a parallel in the human
history, simply demanded peace at any price. In those circumstances -
the price of Poland, Czechoslovakia and other countries of East Europe.
They met a wide response in the French society, horrified by bloody
casualties of the First World War. With time they had coined a
slogan: "Why die for Danzig?" That unfathomable naїvetë of many
prominent Frenchmen coincided with astounding short-sightedness of many
influential Britons. Here is the opinion of Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, a
British expatriate, an expert in German affairs and an adviser of His
Hitler, I am convinced,
does not want war. He is susceptible to reason in matters of foreign
policy. He is greatly anxious to make Germany once more self-respecting
and is himself anxious to be respectable. He may be described as the
most moderate member of his party. [Documents on British foreign policy,
Nowadays it is illogical to deny Polish offer to dispose Hitler before
he disposed Europe, since we can judge the whole contemporaneous situation
from the historic perspective. In official newspaper Gazeta Polska
Józef Beck, the Polish foreign minister, wrote in the spring 1933: In
case of western lands Poland can and will speak only with voice of guns.
[Terlecki O. (1985).]
Soon Polish troops landed on Westerplatte
peninsula in Danzig in response for another provocation of Danzig
Germans. Many newspapers immediately made a big hubbub; in their
publishers' opinion the Germans in Danzig were oppressed. Political and
military leaders promptly hid Polish offer, concerning pre-emptive war,
in archives. The disregard to it gives them a certificate of stupidity.
Stupidity, which within next six years had to achieve a skyscrapering
From defeatist tendencies, from naїve belief in
possibility to appease bandits at someone else's expense, from the most
ordinary stupidity in March 1933 was born so-called Four Powers Pact,
which gave Germany something like equality with Great Britain, France
and Italy, and again clearly opened a way to revenge in the east.
Poland, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania sharply protested. In those
circumstances Hitler offered conclusion of bilateral non-aggression
pacts. He still was too weak and perfectly understood his weakness. But
in October Germany left the League of Nations, to which she was
The non-aggression pact concluded in January 1934
between Germany and Poland had brought to the latter some temporary
advantages. First of all the anti-Polish propaganda was silenced to
time. It even came to a paradox that the Germans ceased barking over
revision of the Polish western border while some dolts from French and
British press still used to yelp over the issue.
But it was Germany to really profit from the pact. Of
course Hitler did not intend to renounce Posnania, Pomerania or Upper
Silesia. But above all he expected that Poland allied with Germany
be used as a ram to pound in Moscow's gates. For that apart from the
public text some secret clauses were signed. That caused distrust
towards Poland in the West. It was proclaimed that Poland had allied
herself with Germany; the opinion strengthened after the Polish
government's firm refusal to sign in so-called Eastern Pact, which was
conceived as a sort of "eastern Locarno" to bring guarantees of borders
and solidarity in face of an aggression in that region. Piłsudski
rejected the project only because the Soviet Union was a part in the
pact. It marked a severance of just animated Polish-Soviet relations.
Meanwhile due to dispersion of forces capable to
restrain effectively reviving German aggressiveness, Hitler acted
and bolder. In 1934 he hired assassins to murder the Austrian
Engelbert Dollfuss, who vigorously opposed an idea to incorporate
Austria into the German Reich. It is peculiar that only Benito
Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, was at the time willing to
stand against Germany and even massed his troops on the Brenner Pass.
At the time he still was maintaining a traditional anti-German course
of Italian policy. And the strongest then in Europe Italian air forces
were prepared to close co-operation with French forces. But France and
Great Britain remained completely passive. Hitler exploited it utterly
and in March 1935 proclaimed restitution of the general conscription.
Since then merely hundred thousand strong, frail Reichswehr
started to transform into the multimillion Wehrmacht. But this
army did not exist yet next year, in March 1936, when Hitler sent
to Rhineland. According to treaty decisions the Germans were forbidden
to deploy garrisons in that region. Now they had introduced them in the
immediate France's neighbourhood. But German forces still were too
weak. Remilitarization of Rhineland was just a bluff perpetrated with
few infantry battalions without tanks and heavy artillery. But the
French with the tail between their legs handed the case over to the
League of Nations where it sank in an ocean of claptrap.
It was the first serious capitulation of democracy
before Hitler. It increased the angle of the slippery slope, along
the world rolled faster and faster down to the war.
Shocked French politicians undertook, it must be
admitted, some attempts to improve the situation. Among others they
concluded a military alliance with the USSR and Czechoslovakia and
solidified the decayed alliance with Poland; in autumn 1936 Poland was
granted a loan for supplementary military equipment. Piłsudski died in
May 1935 but his spectre was haunting the corridors of the Polish
ministry for foreign affairs. Piłsudski left his successors clear
directions: to keep the balance, to avoid Russia like a devil, to seek
rapprochement with London, which was more and more considered in Paris.
The last direction very truly reflected Europe's political realities.
Unfortunately, London was then a bastion of pro-German sympathies.
On 12 March 1938 was finally realized incorporation of
Austria into Germany. The Italians did not interfere this time. A lot
had changed within preceding years. Italian dictator had assented that
seeking partners in Paris and London was pointless. From Hitler he had
received now a telegram: Mussolini,
I shall never forget you for this!
It marked a prelude to closer in the
nearest future association of both dictators. British and French
governments issued soft protests against annexation of Austria; it was
known beforehand, that their protests would carry no consequences.
Simultaneously was going on the German coquetry of Poland. With
time Berlin defined suggestion of a common Germano-Polish expedition
against the Soviet Union. Ukrainian lands had to become a Polish part
the loot. And Warsaw politicians were listening to that with growing
interest. The coquetry of Poland though did not prevent the Germans
persecution of Polish minority in Silesia, East Prussia and Westphalia
as well as creating and training Ukrainian nationalists, who would
become leaders of a possible rebellion.
In 1938 from Berlin was launched an action of the
Germans living in Czechoslovak frontier lands, particularly mountainous
counties in the Sudetes. Czechoslovakia's ally, France, renounced a
possible allied help. Czechs, left to their own fate, retreated step by
step, and in October finally capitulated. It came out in result of a
conference organized by Hitler in Munich with participation of the
French prime-minister Edouard Daladier, British prime-minister Neville
Chamberlain and Italy's dictator Mussolini. Leaders of great
utterly gave in, in name of a delusion of appeasement. Czechoslovakia
lost a vast frontier land with fortifications, built there at the high
cost right in case of a German aggression. Perfectly armed Czechoslovak
army got overpowered. It was a defeat at an unusual scale. Some
it very soon. Daladier, coming back from Munich, cheered at a Paris
airport snarled: Blind fools! They are cheering me. For what?
He knew he had committed a fault beyond
repair; but he could not feel either in himself or in France enough
strengths to commit not that fault. Chamberlain, contrary, was elated;
he felt himself a saviour of mankind. Cheered equally enthusiastically
in a London airport he told the audience with emphasis that he had
brought peace in our time. Although personally a very charming
gentleman, Chamberlain was beyond any doubt one of the biggest fools,
who ever led a world's power. He truly believed Hitler's assurances
after the seizure of Sudetes Germany would not make any new territorial
Germany did not stay isolated in her plunder of
Czechoslovak lands. Hungary and Poland also took part in it although
they were not a part of Munich agreement.
At the time of the Munich capitulation Czechoslovakia
possessed the most modern military equipment, namely 470 tanks, 1600
aircraft and 2700 pieces of artillery of various calibres. Czechoslovak
army was one of the best in Europe, reinforcements were possible thanks
to Škoda factories, just in time moved to Slovakia. Czechs and
Slovaks' industry not only could reinforce their own modern forces, but
also it could provide the Polish army with necessary armoured,
and air forces units. Polish army was poor in comparison with the
Czechoslovak one, but it could contribute with 30 infantry divisions
11 cavalry brigades. Their joint defence could spark in 1938 a war
disastrous to Germany. Naturally, on the Polish-Czechoslovak side would
stand other bigger and smaller allies, for it was in everybody's
interest to batter hitlerite bones.
Edvard Beneš, the president of the Czechoslovak
and her leader of many years, who ruled that really democratic country
in an amazing autocratic style, had never been a friend to Poland. But
Czechoslovak authorities and general staff sympathized with Poland,
still more important that it came out not from sentiments but from
what in policy counts better than in love. However, Marshal Edward
Śmigły-Rydz, who was designated the Poland's wartime supreme commander,
had ruled out any commitment alongside Czechoslovakia.
In the beginning of October 1938 Polish troops occupied
counties beyond Olza River, inhabited by Polish minority. These
territories were a matter in dispute between both countries since 1918.
But in situation after the Munich Poles must not take part in
dismemberment of Czechoslovakia alongside Germany. It brought to them
only a shame and substantially impaired their political situation while
the Germans undertook next steps.
As early as in the beginning of October Joachim Ribbentrop, the German
foreign minister, had mentioned in a talk with the Polish ambassador
necessity to incorporate the Free City of Danzig into Germany and to build
across Pomerania an extraterritorial motorway from Berlin to East
Prussia. The Germans expected, that after the occupation of Transolza,
Poland had finally lost credit in the West and would easily submit
herself to the influence and demands coming from the Spree. Their
calculations though got upset. Under the pressure of the public opinion
Józef Beck had to abandon the idea of balance between both great
neighbours and firmly stand against Germany. He simply had no other