How Poland prepared a great war in Europe. The Polish elite, together with Hitler, sentenced Austria and Czechoslovakia to destruction. Poland betrayed France, preventing her from protecting the Austrians and Czechs.
According to the generally accepted opinion (it was expressed in the indictment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal), Germany committed the first aggression when it invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia. At the same time, they usually close their eyes to the fact that Poland acted as the aggressor at the same time as Germany.
Hitler approved the plan for the capture of Austria (plan “Otto”) in 1937. According to this plan, Austria was “rocked” and on March 12, 1938, troops were brought there. It seemed that England and France had to intervene. However, London and Paris surrendered Vienna to Hitler. In addition, Paris at the same time was concerned about the behavior of its eastern ally, Poland. The fact was that on the eve of the entry of German troops into Austria, an incident occurred on the Polish-Lithuanian border. There they found a Polish soldier killed by someone. Poland rejected Lithuania’s proposal to establish a joint commission to investigate the case, and blamed Lithuania for it. On March 17, 1938, Poland, with the support of Germany, issued an ultimatum to Lithuania: to establish diplomatic, economic and postal and telegraph communications and to cancel the article of the constitution indicating that Vilna was the capital of Lithuania, threatening, if rejected, by war. The Lithuanian government had to express its consent within 48 hours, and the accreditation of diplomats had to take place before March 31.
The fact was that in 1920 the Poles occupied Vilna (the Lithuanian capital) and the Vilna region. These lands were annexed to the Second Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Lithuania refused to recognize it. At the same time, the Polish public and the elite believed that it was necessary to annex the whole of Lithuania. An information campaign was launched in Poland calling for a march on Kaunas. The Polish army began preparations for the capture of Lithuania. Berlin supported Warsaw’s plans and said that it was only interested in Klaipeda in Lithuania.
Thus, the threat of war arose in Eastern Europe. At the same time, Poland acted in sync with the Third Reich. In February 1938, Hitler warned the Polish government about preparing the Anschluss of Austria. Therefore, the appearance of the corpse of a Polish soldier on the border on the same day as the beginning of the German aggression against Austria is a very significant fact. The Poles did not object to the Anschluss of Austria, and Hitler to the occupation by the Poles of a part of Lithuania, except for Klaipeda (Memel) with an area that was part of the German sphere of interests.
In such a situation, Moscow has no time for Austria. The threat of a Polish-Lithuanian war arose. On March 16 and 18, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR summoned the Polish ambassador and explained to him that the Lithuanians should not be offending, and although the USSR does not have a military agreement with Lithuania, it may appear already during the war. At the same time, Moscow advised the Lithuanians to “yield to violence”, since “the international community would not understand the Lithuanian refusal”. In conditions when France also asked Warsaw not to bring matters to war, Poland had to abandon the war. Diplomatic relations were established between Poland and Lithuania.
It is worth noting that Warsaw, with its behavior, set up France as well. The Poles were allies of Paris and staged a provocation that could trigger a war not only with Lithuania, but also with the Soviet Union. And at the same time, the Germans capture Austria. From the very beginning, the French asked the Poles to calm down and help them with the Austrian question. France was afraid of the strengthening of Germany and even offered to attract the USSR in case of war with the Germans. Poland was supposed to let Soviet troops pass through its territory. And at this time the official ally of France – Poland, with the full support of the Third Reich, is preparing the seizure of Lithuania. Moreover, he expresses dissatisfaction with the French, they say, they did not support their plans.
The Polish elite did not care about the interests of the allies. It was an old Polish tradition: to step on the same rake. This feature of the Polish elite has been noted more than once. For example, the textbook “Geography of Russia” for secondary educational institutions, published by the 2nd edition of the Sytin partnership in 1914, describes the physical types of the multinational population of the Russian Empire, including the Poles. This tutorial noted:
“No other nation, perhaps, had such great class differences as the Poles. The nobility has always stood apart from the people (claps), and completely different character traits have developed in it. Wealth, idleness (thanks to serf labor), accompanied by continuous entertainment, gave the upper class features of frivolity, vanity and love of luxury and splendor, which brought the state to ruin. “
Virtually nothing has changed in the Second Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which was the main reason for the catastrophe in September 1939. Now the Polish elite is again stepping on the same rake. The frivolity and vanity of the elite is ruining Poland.
Dismemberment of Czechoslovakia
In the future, Warsaw continued its aggressive policy, assisting Hitler in breaking the Versailles system in Europe. Back in 1937, Hitler made the final decision on the partition of Czechoslovakia. Before the invasion of Austria, Hitler in February 1938 made a keynote speech in the Reichstag, where he promised to unite “10 million Germans living on the other side of the border.” Immediately after the occupation of Austria, Berlin intensified its work on the Sudeten question. At the congress of the pro-fascist Sudeten Party in April 1938 in Karlovy Vary, demands were made to sever a number of border regions from Czechoslovakia and join them to the Third Reich. Also, the Sudeten Germans demanded that Prague terminate the agreements on mutual assistance with France and the USSR. This is how the Sudeten crisis arose.
Prague expressed its readiness to stand up to the end. Czechoslovakia had a strong defense on the border with Germany, a fully combat-ready army. Czechoslovakia had a well-developed military industry. Also, Czechoslovakia had a military alliance with France, which gave the Czechs a guarantee against a German attack. France had the same alliance with Poland. That is, if this system were activated, then Hitler could not start a major war in Europe. France, England, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the USSR would have opposed the then still rather weak Germany. On this, the Fuhrer’s plans to create an “Eternal Reich” would have ended.
However, when in 1938 the Reich began to put pressure on the Czechs, it was in the interests of France that Czechoslovakia and Poland enter into a military alliance, and Warsaw categorically refused to do so. The French even tried to persuade the Poles to remove from the post of Foreign Minister Beck, who was in charge of Warsaw’s foreign policy. The Poles did not remove Beck, and they did not conclude an alliance with Prague. The point was that Warsaw had territorial claims not only to Russia and Lithuania, but also to Czechoslovakia. Poles laid claim to Cieszyn Silesia. Thus, another surge of anti-Bohemian sentiments in Poland occurred in 1934, when an active campaign was launched to return the primordially Polish lands. In the fall of 1934, the Polish army on the border with Czechoslovakia carried out large maneuvers, where they practiced actions in the event of the collapse of Czechoslovakia or its surrender to Germany. In 1935, Polish-Czech relations cooled even more. Both ambassadors were sent home. The Polish government, copying Hitler’s policy, created in the spring of 1938 in Cieszyn the “Union of Poles”, the purpose of which was to annex this region to Poland.
France in 1935 concluded a military agreement with the USSR to protect the Czechs from the Germans. Moscow has signed two agreements: with France and Czechoslovakia. According to them, Moscow pledged to help Prague if supported by its old ally – France. In 1938, the Reich, threatening the Czechs with war, demanded the Sudetenland. Ally of Czechoslovakia France, in the event of a real German attack on the Czechs, was to declare war on Germany. And at this critical moment, another ally of the French, Poland, announced that it would not declare war on Hitler’s Germany, since in this case the French would attack the Germans, not the Germans, France. As a result, Poland betrayed its ally, France. The Poles disarmed and stunned the French and undermined their self-confidence. France was afraid to support Czechoslovakia alone (without the support of other Western countries). Paris, not having the support of Poland, yielded to the British, who wanted to “pacify” Hitler at the expense of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
In May 1938, the Soviet Union announced its readiness to support Czechoslovakia, provided that the Red Army passed through Poland or Romania. It is clear that the governments of Poland and Romania categorically rejected the Soviet proposal. If Moscow tried to lead troops into Czechoslovakia through Polish territory, then, in addition to Poland, Romania also declared war on us, with which the Poles had a military alliance directed against Russia. Interestingly, Moscow has expressed its readiness to fulfill the treaty with the Czechs, even if France renounces it. That is, the Union was ready to confront Germany and Poland (plus Romania) in an alliance with Czechoslovakia. But the Czechs broke down and capitulated under the pressure of the “collective West”.
Polish tank 7TP overcomes Czechoslovak border fortifications
Polish troops enter Cieszyn
Polish tanks in Cieszyn. October 1938
“Hyena of Europe”
On September 29, 1938, an agreement was signed in Munich between Germany, Britain, France and Italy. Czechoslovakia had to cede the Sudetenland to Germany. On October 1, 1938, the Wehrmacht invaded Czechoslovakia and occupied the Sudetenland. On the same day, Czechoslovakia was forced to withdraw its troops from the Cieszyn region, which was captured by Poland on October 2.
Back in the summer of 1938, Berlin, during unofficial negotiations with the Poles, made it clear that it would not be against the capture of the Cieszyn region by Poland. By September 20, Polish and German diplomats jointly developed a draft of new state borders, which was sent to Munich. On September 21, 1938, in the midst of the Sudeten crisis, Warsaw presented an ultimatum to Prague, demanding the transfer of Cieszyn Silesia. On September 27, a repeated demand for Teshin’s transfer was announced. A powerful anti-Bohemian information campaign has been launched in Poland. In Polish cities, recruitment was under way for the Teshin Volunteer Corps. Detachments of volunteers were transferred to the border of Czechoslovakia, where they carried out armed provocations and sabotage, and attacked military facilities. Polish aircraft violated the airspace of Czechoslovakia every day. Polish diplomacy demanded in London and Paris an identical solution to the Sudeten and Cieszyn issues. Meanwhile, the Polish and German military agreed on a line of demarcation of troops in Czechoslovakia.
On September 30, the Polish government sent another ultimatum to the Czechs demanding that they accept the Polish conditions by 12 noon on October 1 and fulfill them within 10 days. In the course of urgently organized consultations, France and England, not wanting to disrupt the talks in Munich, put pressure on Czechoslovakia. Chekhov was forced to agree to the terms. On October 1, the Czechs began to withdraw from the border, and the Cieszyn region was transferred to Poland. The Second Rzeczpospolita acquired 805 km² of territory and over 230 thousand citizens. In addition, the Cieszyn region was an important economic center of Czechoslovakia, and Poland increased the production capacity of its heavy industry by almost 50%. Thus, Poland, together with Germany, started a big war in Europe.
However, the further arrogance of the Poles puzzled even Berlin. So, in November 1938, inspired by the success of Warsaw, demanded that Czechoslovakia transfer Moravian Ostrava and Vitkovic to it. But Hitler himself had already laid eyes on these areas. When the Germans dismembered the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, separate measures were taken against possible actions by Poland. Hitler ordered the occupation of the Moravian-Ostrava ledge in order to secure the Vitkovice metallurgical plants in advance from capture by the Poles. The Polish authorities did not protest against the capture of the Czech Republic, but were offended by the fact that during the final partition of Czechoslovakia, they were not given new lands.
So Poland became the “hyena of Europe”. Lacking an official alliance with Hitler, Warsaw sought to chop off everything that could and could not. Therefore, the German Foreign Ministry called Poland “the battlefield hyena.” And W. Churchill noted:
“And now, when all these advantages and all this aid have been lost and discarded, England, leading France, proposes to guarantee the integrity of Poland – the very Poland that, just six months ago, with the greed of a hyena, took part in the robbery and destruction of the Czechoslovak state.” …
A handshake between Polish Marshal Edward Rydz-Smigla and German attaché Major General Bogislav von Studnitz at the Independence Day parade in Warsaw on November 11, 1938. The Polish parade was especially tied to the capture of Cieszyn Silesia a month earlier.