Build up to the Polish Guarantee
- On 17th March 1939, there were rumours that Germany was going to offer a ultimatum to Romania. On the 20th March, Chamberlain proposed that Britain, France, USSR and Poland make an agreemnt that any threat to the independence of a European state, they would consult each other immediately on the steps that needed to be taken. However, it was ineffective as Poland didn't want to enter an alliance with the USSR and Stalin wasn't ready to commit himself.
- In March 1939, Hitler gave an ultimatum to Lithuania over the return of Memel to Germany. Lithuania gave in and handed over Memel on the 21st March 1939. Britain took no action as Hitler had reasonable demands over Memel, but it now seemed as though Poland was Hitler's next target.
- Danzig and the Polish Corridor Question: Danzing had been run by the Nazi since 1934, however, Poland still controlled Danzig trade and foreign policy which no German government was willing to accept. The Polish government didn't want to give up Danzig as it would compromise the gains they had made from Germany since 1919. On the other hand, Polish and German relations had been friendly since the signing of the Non-Agression Pact in 1934. There was a number of occassion where Germany had suggested to include a clause against the USSR, but Poland didn't take up the suggestion as they refused to be committed to either Germany or the USSR which would drag them into a future conflict.
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Build up to the Polish Guarantee (Continuation)
- In October 1938, the German foreign Minister, Ribbentrop asked the Poles to give up Danzing for the assurance of their borders, German friendship and territory in Ukraine,
- In January 1939, Hitler met Colnel Beck, Poland's Foreign Minister, and added the demand that a German controlled road or rail link to be built across the Polish Corridor, connecting East Prussia to the rest of Germany.
- As the Poles refused Hitler's demand, he became more insistent to fight the Poles for the German sphere of influence as it threatened his plans for lebrasaun and Hitler needed Poland's economic and labour resources, but would rather have dealt with the matter diplomatically rather than military.
- Poland declared that any attempt of Germany to alter the status of Danzing would lead to war. Britain became concerned by the rumours that Germany was planning an attack on Poland which Britain feared that Poland would be overrun without their assistance.
- On the 31st March 1939, Britain offered a guarantee to Poland. If they were a victim of a unprovoked attack, Britain would come to its aid. French government offered similar agreements.
- The Polish government who were still under secret agreement with Germany over Danzing accepted Britian and France offer.
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How could the Polish Guarantee be seen as a succes
- The action was supported by the public as it was seen to be upholding the League of Nations principle depsite the organisation being obsolete at this point.
- It showed a firmer stance against Hitler especially after the end of Czechoslovakia. Hitler was now forced into a war on two fronts.
- The guarantee didn't include terms about the borders of Poland therefore terriotorial concessions could be made and the future of Danzing could still be negiogated.
- Poland could be a useful ally as they were able to defeat Russia in 1920-21
- Avoided commitment with the USSR.
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How could the Polish Guarantee be seen as a failur
- The Polish guarantee was contradictory considering Britain and France did the exact opposite for Czechoslavakia.
- Poland was a undemocractic, anti-semitic and the leader Beck was untrustworthy. Britain and France had given Poland a blank cheque which meant that Poland could take any actions they though was necessary,
- Poland had distanced itself from the League of Nation.
- Accepted Italian and Japanese invasion (threatened British interest)
- Poland had taken territory away from Poland.
- The guarantee angered Hitler rather than deter him. It caused his to abandon any thought of accomodating Poland, Hitler wasn't convinced that Britain and France would go to war over Poland.
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Aftermath of the Polish Guarantee
- Hitler was more determined to pursue his policy on expansion.
- Hitler had already reacted to curb in his plans with anger.
- 1st April 1939, Hitler delivered a speech at Wilhelmshaven port for the launching of the battleship Tirpitz which thretened the Anglo-German Naval Treaty
- Hitler ordered his Chief of Staff to draw up military plans for an attack on Poland for anytime from the 1st September 1939. The plans were ready by the 11th April 1939.
- On the 6th April 1939, negotiations with Poland stopped.
- Germany still wanted to have good realtions with Britain. However, Hitler believed that Britain shouldn't interfere with German's policy in the same way that Germany doesn't interfere with British policy in places such as Palestine.
- Germany diplomats tried to secure support from countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary.
- Hitler blamed the British guarantee for making Poland refuse the German terms and accused them of launching a reign of terror on the German minority in Poland. However, wasn't untrue as there was anit-German protest. German Nationalist were arrested and German schools and businesses were closed down. In June, Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, conducted anti-British propaganda by depicting them to be pursuing an enciriclement policy.
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Aftermath of the Polish Guarantee (Continued)
Mood in Britain:
- Most of the public favoured standing firm against an agressor.
- There were demands for: alliance with the USSR, broadening of the National Government, the inclusion of Churchill .
- At the end of March, their was the doubling of the territorial army. In April, conscription was introduced.
- Chamberlain now had to stand by Britain's commitment, but he still believed that Hitler would realise that nothing could be won by war which couldn't be won via negiotiations.
Italy and Albania
- In April 1939, Italian forces occupied Albania.
- Musolini also stated that Balkan and Eastern Mediterrean should be regarded as being within the Italian Sphere of Influence. Hitler was pleased by this as it provided a distraction whilst Hitler dealt with the Polish question. Mussolini was upset that Hitler hadn't informed of his plan for Czechoslovakia and it was a blow to Mussolini pride.
- This breached the Anglo-Italian Agreement, however, Britain didn't do anything as it would draw Mussolini closer to Hitler. Prevent German expansion and implied the dictactors are co-ordinating their attacks so Britain and France gave guarantees to Greece and Romania.
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Aftermath of the Polish Guarantee (Continued)
Pact of Steel
- Hitler and Mussolini signed a military alliance, but failed to persuade Japan to join.
- Hitler thought it would keep Britain and France neutral and Mussolini was demanding territory in Tunis and Savoy.
- Mussolini and Count Ciano (Mussolini son-in-law) made it so that Italy wasn't ready for war for another three to four years which fitted into Hitler's long time plan.
- This showed little hope for Britain being able to detach Mussolini from Hitler.
- Signed on the 22nd May 1939.
Roosevelt and Hitler's Reply
- On the 14th April, Roosevelt wrote a letter to dictators calling on them to agree to not attack the 31 countries listed. However, this letter didn't include Poland.
- Hitler addressed the Reichstag on the 28th April 1939 where he cited all the countries listed and mentioned them one by one stating he had no designs for Ireland, Syria, Turkey and Spain.
- He denouced the German-Polish Non-Agression Pact and the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Treaty.
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