Poland History – The Harbingers of World War II

Poland History - The Harbingers of World War II

At the beginning of 1938, the directives of Polish politics at home and in relations with foreign countries were still determined by the principles that had established themselves at the time of Piłsudski. In international relations, Beck’s policy maintained as its postulate the “principle of equilibrium”, by virtue of which Poland would always have to conduct an autonomous policy, trying in particular not to bind to either of the two great neighboring powers: the Union Soviet and Germany. But although faithful in principle to this “policy of equilibrium”, Beck’s action had actually led to a more sensitive approach to Germany and to some cooling, consequently, of relations with the USSR. On the other hand, the Polish-German rapprochement should not never materialize in formal commitments, although Hitler diplomacy tended, with particular insistence at the beginning of 1938. Although not hostile to the internal regimes of Germany and Italy in which it found some analogy with the Piłsudski regime, the Polish government rejected at the end of 1937 and again in 1938 any possibility of joining the Antikomintern Pact (Rome-Berlin-Tōkyō), wanting to remain faithful to the proclaimed policy of equilibrium, outside any bloc.

The annexation of Austria to Germany (12 March 1938) did not provoke reactions from the Polish government, which then hoped that the Germanic thrust would develop in a southerly direction and not in an easterly direction (against Poland). At this time Poland focused its attention on the problem of relations with Lithuania. There were no diplomatic relations between Kovno and Warsaw, since the Lithuanian government had never wanted to recognize the “fait accompli” of 1920, by virtue of which Wilno, which the Lithuanians considered their capital, had passed to Poland. Taking its cue from some border incidents, the Warsaw government in March 1938 sent the Lithuanian government an ultimatum ordering him to immediately establish normal relations with Poland. Faced with the concentration of Polish forces on the border, the Lithuanian government yielded and diplomatic and commercial relations were immediately established between the two countries. The second German act of force, this time against Czechoslovakia, found Poland associated with the action of the Reich by virtue of a coincidence of Polish-German aspirations in the question of national minorities within the borders of the Czechoslovakian republic. Poland began diplomatic action with the governments of Paris, London and Rome with the aim of ensuring, in the course of the serious international crisis caused by the German-Czechoslovakian dispute, the annexation of the Czech part of the territory of the former principality of Cieszyn (in German Teschen, in Czech Těśín) which had been for years, despite the treaties, an irrepressible bone of contention between the two Slavic countries. But, disappointing the expectations of the Polish government, the Munich conference, held on September 29, limited itself to setting a three-month period within which Prague would have to settle the minority problem both with Poland and with Hungary, which also he had made requests. On 30 September 1938, while the German troops were crossing the Czechoslovakian borders in the Sudetenland area, Warsaw peremptorily demanded an immediate decision from Prague. Placed in a desperate situation, the Czechoslovakian government adhered to the Polish request on 1 October, undertaking to hand over the territories claimed by Warsaw by 2 pm the following day. Poland thus occupied an area of ​​approximately 800 sq km. with about 240,000 residents, beyond the river Olza along which the border used to run. At the same time, Warsaw was already tending to stem Hitler’s aggressive thrust, supporting the Hungarian claims on Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia.

In this way, Poland and Hungary thought of opposing German expansion by establishing a common border along the Carpathian line at the expense of Czechoslovakia. This was followed by a significant tension in relations with the Soviet government which, in a note dated 23 September, had come to threaten the breaking of the Polish-Soviet non-aggression pact. For Poland 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.

In January Beck travels to Germany, meeting with Hitler in Berchtesgaden and inviting von Ribbentrop to Warsaw. On February 19, 1939 the Polish government recognized the Spanish government of gen. Franco and on the same day, always trying to remain faithful to the principle of balance, signs a trade agreement with the USSR. While Beck’s visit to London is announced; the visit of the foreign minister of fascist Italy Ciano is an occasion in Warsaw for demonstrations of Italian-Polish solidarity. Following the annexation of Memel to the Reich and the second Czechoslovakian crisis (March 1939), Poland, while supporting the creation of the independent Slovak republic and welcoming with satisfaction the entry into Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia of the Hungarian forces, which establish the hoped-for common border between Poland and Hungary, by now feels gripped by Germany from the north-west and south-west and begins to seek a remedy in a substantial re-approach to England. All German attempts to obtain from Warsaw at the same time renunciations in the Gdansk sector and the adhesion to the establishment of a Polish-German condominium in Slovakia are clearly rejected. Thus began the political-diplomatic crisis that was to lead (1 September 1939) to the German aggression against Poland and to the outbreak of the Second World War (see for the diplomatic events,world war, in this second App., I, pages 1103-1113).

Poland History - The Harbingers of World War II