German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact

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German Ambassador [Hans-Adolf von Moltke Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0527-0001-293, Warschau, Empfang Goebbels bei Marschall Pilsudski.jpg
German Ambassador [Hans-Adolf von Moltke

, Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck meeting in Warsaw on June 15, 1934, five months after signing the Polish-German Non-Aggression Pact.]]

Józef Piłsudski Polish politician and Prime Minister

Józef Klemens Piłsudski was a Polish statesman who served as the Chief of State (1918–22) and First Marshal of Poland. He was considered the de facto leader (1926–35) of the Second Polish Republic as the Minister of Military Affairs. From World War I he had great power in Polish politics and was a distinguished figure on the international scene. He is viewed as a father of the Second Polish Republic re-established in 1918, 123 years after the 1795 Partitions of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia.

Joseph Goebbels Nazi politician and Propaganda Minister

Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler's closest and most devoted associates, and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deeply virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views. He advocated progressively harsher discrimination, including the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.

Józef Beck Polish diplomat and military officer

Józef Beck was a Polish statesman who served the Second Republic of Poland as a diplomat and military officer, and was a close associate of Józef Piłsudski. Beck is most famous for being Polish foreign minister in the 1930s, when he largely set Polish foreign policy.

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The German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact (German : Deutsch-polnischer Nichtangriffspakt; Polish : Polsko-niemiecki pakt o nieagresji) was an international treaty between Nazi Germany and the Second Polish Republic that was signed on January 26, 1934. Both countries pledged to resolve their problems by bilateral negotiations and to forgo armed conflict for a period of 10 years. The pact effectively normalised relations between Poland and Germany, which had been strained by border disputes arising from the territorial settlement in the Treaty of Versailles. Germany effectively recognised Poland's borders and moved to end an economically-damaging customs war between the two countries that had taken place over the previous decade.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Polish language West Slavic language spoken in Poland

Polish is a West Slavic language of the Lechitic group. It is spoken primarily in Poland and serves as the native language of the Poles. In addition to being an official language of Poland, it is also used by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 50 million Polish-language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union.

Treaty Express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law

A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.

Before 1933, Poland had worried that some sort of alliance would take place between Germany and the Soviet Union to the detriment of Poland. Therefore, Poland made a military alliance with France. Because the Nazis and the Communists were bitter enemies of each other, a hostile Soviet-German alliance after Hitler came to power in 1933 seemed very unlikely. [1]

German–Soviet Axis talks Talks concerning the Soviet Unions potential entry as a fourth Axis Power in World War II

In October and November 1940, German–Soviet Axis talks occurred concerning the Soviet Union's potential entry as a fourth Axis Power in World War II. The negotiations, which occurred during the era of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, included a two-day Berlin conference between Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, followed by both countries trading written proposed agreements. After two days of negotiations from 12 to 14 November 1940, Germany presented the Soviets with a draft written Axis pact agreement defining the world spheres of influence of the four proposed Axis powers. Hitler, Ribbentrop and Molotov tried to set German and Soviet spheres of influence; Hitler encouraged Molotov to look south to Iran and eventually India while preserving German access to Finland's resources, and to remove Soviet influence in the Balkans. Molotov remained firm, seeking to remove German troops from Finland and gain a warm water port in the Balkans. Soviet foreign policy calculations were predicated by the idea that the war would be a long-term struggle and therefore German claims that Britain would be defeated swiftly were treated with skepticism. In addition, Stalin sought to remain influential in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. These factors resulted in Molotov taking a firm line. According to a Columbia University academical source, on 25 November 1940, the Soviets presented a Stalin-drafted written counterproposal where they would accept the four power pact, but it included Soviet rights to Bulgaria and a world sphere of influence centered on the area around Iraq and Iran. Germany did not respond, leaving the negotiations unresolved. Regarding the counterproposal, Hitler remarked to his top military chiefs that Stalin "demands more and more", "he's a cold-blooded blackmailer" and that "a German victory has become unbearable for Russia" so that "she must be brought to her knees as soon as possible." Germany broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1941 by invading the Soviet Union.

The Franco-Polish alliance was the military alliance between Poland and France that was active between 1921 and 1940. During the interwar period the alliance with Poland was one of the cornerstones of French foreign policy. Near the end of that period, along with the Franco-British Alliance, it was the basis for the creation of the Allies of World War II.

Motivations

One of the most noted of Józef Piłsudski's foreign policies was his rumoured proposal to France to declare war on Germany after Adolf Hitler had come to power, in January 1933. Some historians speculate that Piłsudski may have sounded out France on the possibility of joint military action against Germany, which had been openly rearming in violation of the Versailles Treaty. France's refusal might have been one of the reasons that Poland signed the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] However, the argument that the German-Polish Non-Aggression pact had been forced on Piłsudski by French refusal to wage a "preventive war" has been disputed by historians, who point out that there is no evidence in French or Polish diplomatic archives that such a proposal was ever advanced. They state that when in late October 1933, rumours of a Polish "preventive-war" proposal were reported in Paris, their source was the Polish embassy, which had informed French reporters that Poland had proposed a "preventive war" to France and Belgium, but Poland and Germany had already been secretly negotiating their Pact. It has been argued that Piłsudski had the Polish Embassy start rumors about a "preventive war" to pressure the Germans, who were demanding that Poland abrogate its 1921 Franco-Polish alliance. The Pact would specifically exclude that alliance. [7]

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

A preventive war is a war or military action initiated to prevent a belligerent or neutral party from acquiring a capability for attacking. The party being attacked has either a latent threat capability or has shown through its posturing that it intends to follow through with a future attack. Preventive war aims to forestall a shift in the balance of power by strategically attacking before the balance of power has had a chance to shift in the favor of the targeted party. Preventive war is distinct from preemptive strike, which is first strike when an attack is imminent.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

It has been said that Piłsudski's reason for seeking the Pact with Germany was his concern over France's Maginot Line. Until 1929, French plans had called for a French offensive into the North German Plain, in conjunction with offensives from Poland and Czechoslovakia. The construction of the Maginot Line, which began in 1929, indicated the French Army's preference for a strictly-defensive stance, which would its eastern allies on their own. (That is exactly what happened in 1939 with the Phoney War.) From Piłsudski's viewpoint, in light of France's military plans, a non-aggression pact with Germany would be the best choice for Poland.

Maginot Line Line of fortifications along the French/German border

The Maginot Line, named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, is a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany and force them to move around the fortifications. Constructed on the French side of its borders with Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg, the line did not extend to the English Channel due to French strategy that envisioned a move into Belgium to counter a German assault.

North German Plain plain in Germany

The North German Plain or Northern Lowland is one of the major geographical regions of Germany. It is the German part of the North European Plain. The region is bounded by the coasts of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to the north and Germany's Central Uplands to the south.

Czechoslovakia 1918–1992 country in Central Europe, predecessor of the Czech Republic and Slovakia

Czechoslovakia, or Czecho-Slovakia, was a sovereign state in Central Europe that existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until its peaceful dissolution into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.

Piłsudski used Hitler's rise to power and international isolation of Germany's new regime as an opportunity to reduce the risk that Poland would become the first victim of German aggression or of a Great Power deal (especially the Four Power Pact). Germany's new rulers seemed to depart from the traditionally-Prussian anti-Polish orientation. Piłsudski regarded the new chancellor as less dangerous than his immediate predecessors, such as Gustav Stresemann, and he saw the Soviet Union as the greater threat and even opposed French and Czechoslovak efforts to include the Soviet Union in a common front against Germany.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital first in Königsberg and then, in 1701, in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Gustav Stresemann German politician, statesman, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Gustav Ernst Stresemann was a German statesman who served as Chancellor in 1923 and Foreign Minister 1923–1929, during the Weimar Republic. He was co-laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The Poles insisted on stating that it did not nullify any previous international agreements, in particular the Franco-Polish Military Alliance. Nevertheless, by easing Poland's disputes with Germany bilaterally, the treaty weakened France's diplomatic position against Germany.

To allay any fears of a war against the Soviet Union, on May 5, 1934, Poland renewed the Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact, which had been first signed on July 25, 1932. It was extended until December 31, 1945, ignoring Hitler’s repeated suggestion to form a German-Polish alliance against the Soviets. [8]

Poland was able to maintain friendly relations with Germany for the next five years but also with France and Britain. However, it may have also led to foreign policy inattentiveness regarding the activities of the crumbling League of Nations and ignoring the collective security schemes proposed by French and Czechoslovakia in the early 1930s.

Aftermath

The Pact, soon followed by a trade agreement with Germany, is said to have granted Germany a settled eastern border and allowed Hitler time for rearmament. Five years later, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland. [9] [10] Piłsudski distrusted German intentions on the whole but perceived Hitler's origins as an Austrian, rather than a Prussian, as a mitigating factor and stated that Hitler should stay in power as long as possible. [11]

The Pact has been seen as an instance of political weakness brought on by Piłsudski's illness, and it was likened to the interwar lack of leadership displayed by Neville Chamberlain and Paul von Hindenburg. [12]

German policy changed drastically in late 1938, after the annexation of Sudetenland sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia, and Poland became Hitler's next target. In October 1938, German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop presented Poland with the proposition of renewing the Pact in exchange for allowing the Free City of Danzig to be annexed by Germany and the construction of an extraterritorial motorway and railway through the Polish Corridor, with Germany accepting Poland's postwar borders. [13] Since Poland refused, Hitler rescinded the Pact unilaterally on April 28, 1939, [14] during an address before the Reichstag, as Germany renewed its territorial claims in Poland. After another few months of rising tension, and following the execution of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, which contained a secret protocol by which Hitler and Stalin agreed to divide Poland between them, Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, initiating World War II.

Notes

  1. Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (1970) pp 57-74.
  2. Torbus, Tomasz (1999). Poland. Nelles Guide: Explore the world. Hunter. p. 25. ISBN   3-88618-088-3.
  3. Quester, George H. (2000). Nuclear Monopoly. Transaction Publishers. p. 27. ISBN   0-7658-0022-5. Citing: Watt, Richard M. (1998) [1979]. Bitter Glory: Poland and Its Fate, 1918-1939. Hippocrene Books. pp. 321–2. ISBN   978-0781806732.
  4. Urbankowski, Bohdan (1997). Józef Piłsudski: Marzyciel i strateg[Józef Piłsudski: Dreamer and Strategist] (in Polish). 1. Warsaw: Alfa. pp. 539–40. ISBN   978-83-7001-914-3.
  5. Rothwell, Victor (2001). Origins of the Second World War. Manchester University Press. p. 92. ISBN   0-7190-5958-5.
  6. Smogorzewski, Kazimierz Maciej. "Józef Piłsudski". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  7. ‹See Tfd› (in Polish) Dariusz Baliszewski, Ostatnia wojna marszałka, Tygodnik "Wprost", Nr 1148 (28 November 2004), Polish, retrieved on 24 March 2005
  8. "Poland's role in the Holocaust". The Perspective. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  9. Kershaw, Ian (2000). Hitler. vol. 2 - 1936--1945: Nemesis. New York City: W.W. Norton & Co. pp. 220ff. ISBN   0-393-04994-9.
  10. Davidson, Eugene (2004). The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler. University of Missouri Press. p. 25. ISBN   978-082621529-1.
  11. A Low Dishonest Decade. Paul N. Hehn, 2005.
  12. David Owen, "Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State", QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 96 (2003), 325-336.
  13. von Wegener, Alfred. "The Origins of This War: a German View" . Foreign Affairs (July 1940).
  14. Brown, Robert J. (2004). Manipulating the Ether: The Power of Broadcast Radio in Thirties America. p. 173. ISBN   978-078642066-7.

Sources

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