Germany, Poland and the outbreak of WW2

Edited by Ole Kreiberg

It was the conflict between Germany and Poland that triggered off the Second World War. And this conflict can be traced back to the drawing of the German-Polish border after the First World War.

In agreement with the Versailles Treaty Poland annexed large areas of German West Prussia and Upper Silesia in 1919. The American President Wilson's advisor, Major General T.H: Bliss, said at the time: "Putting 2.1 million Germans under the rule of Poland will, in my opinion, necessarily lead to a new war in eastern Europe sooner or later". And the English Prime Minister, Lloyd George, went to the wall map during the peace negotiations in Versailles, pointed to Danzig and West Prussia and said: "This will be the cause of the next war".

As a matter of fact, already after the First World War Poland drove far more than a million Germans out of West Prussia and Upper Silesia, denounced the minority protection agreement imposed by the League of Nations, closed German schools and cultural institutions in large numbers and forbade German newspapers. Poland answered the German demand for self-determination in Danzig and West Prussia with mobilisation of it's troops. The Poles overestimated their own strength and underestimated that of the Germans. The Polish Foreign Minister Lipski told the English Ambassador Hendersen: "I do not think of advocating peace. If war comes, there will be revolution in Germany within three days and Poland can march in". In the Polish army "au revoir in Berlin" was introduced as a toast. Polish Marshal Rydz-Smigly said to his army officers (according to the English newspaper, Daily Mail on 6th August 1939): "Poland wants war with Germany and Germany will not be able to avoid it even if she wants to". During the months before the outbreak of the war, nearly all of the larger newspapers in Poland, such as Dzien Polski, Mosarstwowiec, Ilustrowany Kurier, demanded the annexation of at least East Prussia, but if possible the Oder-Neisse Line as a frontier. And the National Polish Youth League gave the following excitement: "In 1410 the Germans were defeated at Tannenberg. Now we shall beat them up at Berlin. Danzig, East Prussia and Silesia are minimal demands". In August 1939 alone more than 2,000 Germans in Poland were slain or shot without any indictment by a Polish prosecuting attorney.

From all this it should be clear that the Second World War could easily have started without any nazis in Germany. There were already enough political dynamite between Germany and Poland.