German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact

Last updated
German Ambassador Hans-Adolf von Moltke, Polish leader Jozef Pilsudski, German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck meeting in Warsaw on June 15, 1934, five months after signing the Polish-German Non-Aggression Pact. 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.

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. [1]


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. [2]


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 Treaty of Versailles. France's refusal might have been one of the reasons that Poland signed the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] However, the argument that the 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 the pact. It has been argued that Piłsudski had the Polish embassy start rumors about a "preventive war" to pressure the Germans, who were demanding for Poland to abrogate its 1921 Franco-Polish alliance. The pact would specifically exclude that alliance. [8]

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 leave its eastern allies on their own. (That is exactly what happened in 1939 during the Phoney War.) From Piłsudski's viewpoint, in the light of France's military plans, a non-aggression pact with Germany would be the best choice for Poland.

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 especially the Four Power Pact. Germany's new rulers seemed to depart from the traditionally-Prussian orientation that was anti-Polish. Piłsudski regarded the new chancellor as less dangerous than his immediate predecessors, such as Gustav Stresemann, and since he saw the Soviet Union as the greater threat, he opposed French and Czechoslovak efforts to include the Soviet Union in a common front against Germany.

The Poles insisted on stating that it did not nullify any previous international agreements, particularly the one with France. 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 despite Hitler’s repeated suggestion to form a German-Polish alliance against the Soviets. [9]

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


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. [10]

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 that was displayed by Neville Chamberlain and Paul von Hindenburg. [11]

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. [12] Since Poland refused, Hitler rescinded the pact unilaterally on April 28, 1939 [13] during an address before the Reichstag while Germany renewed its territorial claims in Poland. After another few months of rising tension and 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, which initiated World War II.

Related Research Articles

Joachim von Ribbentrop German Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany

Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop, better known as simply Joachim von Ribbentrop, was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany from 1938 until 1945.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact 1939 neutrality pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that enabled those two powers to divide-up Poland between them. It was signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939, by Foreign Ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, and was officially known as the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Józef Piłsudski Polish politician and Prime Minister

Józef Klemens Piłsudski was a Polish statesman who served as the Chief of State (1918–1922) 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. After World War I, he held 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 final Partition of Poland by Austria, Prussia and Russia in 1795.

Locarno Treaties multilateral treaties negotiated in Locarno, Switzerland during October 1925

The Locarno Treaties were seven agreements negotiated at Locarno, Switzerland, on 5–16 October 1925 and formally signed in London on 1 December, in which the First World War Western European Allied powers and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe sought to secure the post-war territorial settlement, and return normalizing relations with the defeated German Reich. It also stated that Germany would never go to war with the other countries. Locarno divided borders in Europe into two categories: western, which were guaranteed by Locarno treaties, and eastern borders of Germany with Poland, which were open for revision.

Anti-Comintern Pact pact between Nazi Germany and Japan prior to World War II

The Anti-Comintern Pact, officially the Agreement against the Communist International, was an anti-Communist pact concluded between Germany and Japan on November 25, 1936, and was directed against the Communist International (Comintern). It was signed by German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Japanese ambassador to Germany Kintomo Mushakoji. Italy, Spain and other countries joined it until November 1941.

History of Poland (1918–1939)

The history of interwar Poland comprises the period from the revival of the independent Polish state in 1918, until the Invasion of Poland from the West by Nazi Germany in 1939 at the onset of World War II, followed by the Soviet Union from the East two weeks later. The two decades of Poland's sovereignty between the world wars are known as the Interbellum.

The events preceding World War II in Europe are closely tied to the bellicosity of Italy, Germany and Japan, as well as the Great Depression. The peace movement led to appeasement and disarmament.

Causes of World War II the causes of World War II

Historians from many countries have given considerable attention to studying and understanding the causes of World War II, a global war from 1939 to 1945 that was the deadliest conflict in human history. The immediate precipitating event was the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1, 1939, and the subsequent declarations of war on Germany made by Britain and France, but many other prior events have been suggested as ultimate causes. Primary themes in historical analysis of the war's origins include the political takeover of Germany in 1933 by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party; Japanese militarism against China; Italian aggression against Ethiopia; and Germany's initial success in negotiating a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union to divide territorial control of Eastern Europe between them.

Germany–Soviet Union relations, 1918–1941 Diplomatic relations between Nazi Germany and the soviet union

German–Soviet Union relations date to the aftermath of the First World War. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, dictated by Germany ended hostilities between Russia and Germany; it was signed on March 3, 1918. A few months later, the German ambassador to Moscow, Wilhelm von Mirbach, was shot dead by Russian Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in an attempt to incite a new war between Russia and Germany. The entire Soviet embassy under Adolph Joffe was deported from Germany on November 6, 1918, for their active support of the German Revolution. Karl Radek also illegally supported communist subversive activities in Weimar Germany in 1919.

Intermarium Proposed country during World War I

Intermarium was a geopolitical project conceived by politicians in successor states of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in several iterations, some of which anticipated the inclusion as well of other, neighboring states. The proposed multinational polity would have extended across territories lying between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, hence the Latinate name Intermarium, meaning "Between-Seas".

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.

The Franco-Polish alliance was the military alliance between Poland and France that was active between the early 1920s and outbreak of the Second World War. The initial agreements were signed in February 1921 and formally took effect in 1923. 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.

Prometheism or Prometheanism was a political project initiated by Józef Piłsudski, statesman of the Second Polish Republic from 1918 to 1935. Its aim was to weaken the Russian Empire and its successor states, including the Soviet Union, by supporting nationalist independence movements among the major non-Russian peoples that lived within the borders of Russia and the Soviet Union.

Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact peace treaty

The Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact was an non-aggression pact signed in 1932 by representatives of Poland and the Soviet Union. The pact was unilaterally broken by the Soviet Union on September 17, 1939, during the Soviet invasion of Poland.

The military alliance between the United Kingdom and Poland was formalised by the Anglo-Polish Agreement in 1939, with subsequent addenda of 1940 and 1944, for mutual assistance in case of a military invasion from Germany, as specified in a secret protocol.

The Polish–Romanian Alliance was a series of treaties signed in the interwar period by the Second Polish Republic and the Kingdom of Romania. The first of them was signed in 1921 and, together, the treaties formed a basis for good foreign relations between the two countries that lasted until World War II began in 1939.

Remilitarization of the Rhineland

The remilitarisation of the Rhineland began on 7 March 1936 when German military forces entered the Rhineland, in direct contravention of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Treaties.

The Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance was a bilateral treaty between France and the Soviet Union with the aim of enveloping Nazi Germany in 1935 in order to reduce the threat from central Europe. It was pursued by Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet foreign minister, and Louis Barthou, the French foreign minister, who was assassinated in October 1934, before negotiations were finished. His successor, Pierre Laval, was skeptical of both the desirability and the value of an alliance with the Soviet Union. However, after the declaration of German rearmament in March 1935 the French government forced the reluctant foreign minister to complete the arrangements with Moscow that Barthou had begun. The pact was concluded in Paris on May 2, 1935 and ratified by the French government in February 1936. Ratifications were exchanged in Moscow on March 27, 1936, and the pact went into effect on the same day. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on April 18, 1936. On May 16, 1935 the Czechoslovak–Soviet Treaty of Alliance was signed between the two states as the consequence of Soviet treaty with France.

Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact negotiations

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was an August 23, 1939, agreement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany colloquially named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The treaty renounced warfare between the two countries. In addition to stipulations of non-aggression, the treaty included a secret protocol dividing several eastern European countries between the parties.

The timeline of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact is a chronology of events, including Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact negotiations, leading up to, culminating in, and resulting from the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was signed in the early hours of August 24, 1939, but was dated August 23.


  1. Anna M. Cienciala, "The Foreign Policy of Józef Piłsudski and Józef Beck, 1926-1939: Misconceptions and Interpretations," The Polish Review (2011) 56#1 pp. 111–151 online
  2. Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (1970) pp 57-74.
  3. Torbus, Tomasz (1999). Poland. Nelles Guide: Explore the world. Hunter. p. 25. ISBN   3-88618-088-3.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Rothwell, Victor (2001). Origins of the Second World War. Manchester University Press. p. 92. ISBN   0-7190-5958-5.
  7. Smogorzewski, Kazimierz Maciej. "Józef Piłsudski". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  8. (in Polish) Dariusz Baliszewski, Ostatnia wojna marszałka, Tygodnik "Wprost", Nr 1148 (28 November 2004), Polish, retrieved on 24 March 2005
  9. "Poland's role in the Holocaust". The Perspective. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  10. A Low Dishonest Decade. Paul N. Hehn, 2005.
  11. David Owen, "Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State", QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 96 (2003), 325-336.
  12. von Wegener, Alfred. "The Origins of This War: a German View" . Foreign Affairs (July 1940).
  13. Brown, Robert J. (2004). Manipulating the Ether: The Power of Broadcast Radio in Thirties America. p. 173. ISBN   978-078642066-7.