The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Aggression Against Poland
(Part 1 of 2)

[Page 22]

By March, 1939, the plan to annex Austria and Czechoslovakia, which had been discussed by Hitler at the meeting of the 5th November, 1937, had been accomplished. The time had now come for the German leaders to consider further acts of aggression, made more possible of attainment because of that accomplishment.

On the 23rd May, 1939, a meeting was held in Hitler's study in the new Reich Chancellery in Berlin. Hitler announced his decision to attack Poland and gave his reasons, and discussed the effect the decision might have on other countries. In point of time, this was the second of the important meetings to which reference has already been made, and in order to appreciate the full significance of what was said and done, it is necessary to state shortly some of the main events in the history of German-Polish relations.

As long ago as the year 1925 an Arbitration Treaty between Germany and Poland had been made at Locarno, providing for the settlement of all disputes between the two countries. On the 26th January, 1934, a German-Polish declaration of non- aggression was made, signed on behalf of the German Government by the Defendant von Neurath. On 30th January, 1934, and again on the 30th January, 1937 Hitler made speeches in the Reichstag in which he expressed his view that Poland and Germany could work together in harmony and peace. On the 20th February, 1938 Hitler made a third speech in the Reichstag in the course of which he said with regard to Poland:

"And so the way to a friendly understanding has been successfully paved, an understanding which, beginning with Danzig, has today, in spite of the attempts of certain mischief makers, succeeded in finally taking the poison out of the relations between Germany and Poland and transforming them into a sincere, friendly cooperation .. Relying on her friendships, Germany will not leave a stone unturned to save that ideal which provides the foundation for the task which is ahead of us -- peace."

On the 26th September, 1938, in the middle of the crisis over the Sudetenland, Hitler made the speech in Berlin which has already been quoted, and announced that he had informed the British Prime Minister that when the Czechoslovakian problem was solved there would be no more territorial problems for Germany in Europe. Nevertheless, on the 24th November of the same year, an OKW directive was issued to the German Armed Forces to make preparations for an attack upon Danzig; it stated:

"The Fuehrer has ordered:

(1) ..Preparations are also to be made to enable the Free State of Danzig to be occupied by German troops by surprise."

In spite of having ordered military preparations for the occupation of Danzig, Hitler on the 30th January, 1939, said in a speech in the Reichstag:

"During the troubled months of the past year, the friendship between Germany and Poland has been one of the reassuring factors in the political life of Europe."

Five days previously, on the 25th January, 1939, Ribbentrop said in the course of a speech in Warsaw:

"Thus Poland and Germany can look forward to the future with full confidence in the solid basis of their mutual relations."

[Page 23]

Following on the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia by Germany on the 15th March, 1939, which was a flagrant breach of the Munich Agreement, Great Britain gave an assurance to Poland on the 31st March, 1939, that in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist with their National Forces, Great Britain would feel itself bound at once to lend Poland all the support in its power. The French Government took the same stand. It is interesting to note in this connection, that one of the arguments frequently presented by the Defense in the present case is that the Defendants were induced to think that their conduct was not in breach of international law by the acquiescence of other Powers. The declarations of Great Britain and France showed, at least, that this view could be held no longer.

On the 3rd April, 1939, a revised OKW directive was issued to the Armed Forces, which after referring to the question of Danzig made reference to Fall Weiss (the military code name for the German invasion of Poland) and stated:

"The Fuehrer has added the following directions to Fall Weiss.

(1) Preparations must be made in such a way that the operation can be carried out at any time from 1st September, 1939 onwards.

(2) The High Command of the Armed Forces has been directed to draw up a precise timetable for Fall Weiss and to arrange by conferences the synchronized timings between the three branches of the Armed Forces."

On 11th April, 1939 a further directive was signed by Hitler and issued to the Armed Forces, and in one of the annexes to that document the words occur:

"Quarrels with Poland should be avoided. Should Poland however adopt a threatening attitude towards Germany, 'a final settlement' will be necessary, notwithstanding the pact with Poland. The aim is then to destroy Polish military strength, and to create in the East a situation which satisfies the requirements of defense. The Free State of Danzig will be incorporated into Germany at the outbreak of the conflict at the latest. Policy aims at limiting the war to Poland, and this is considered possible in view of the internal crisis in France, and British restraint as a result of this."

In spite of the contents of those two directives, Hitler made a speech in the Reichstag on the 28th April, 1939, in which, after describing the Polish Government's alleged rejection of an offer he had made with regard to Danzig and the Polish Corridor, he stated:

"I have regretted greatly this incomprehensible attitude of the Polish Government, but that alone is not the decisive fact; the worst is that now Poland like Czechoslovakia a year ago believes, under the pressure of a lying international campaign, that it must call up its troops, although Germany on her part has not called up a single man, and had not thought of proceeding in any way against Poland .. The intention to attack on the part of Germany which was merely invented by the international press . . ."

It was four weeks after making this speech that Hitler, on the 23rd May, 1939, held the important military conference to which reference has already been made. Among the persons present were the Defendants Goering, Raeder, and Keitel. The adjutant on duty that day was Lieutenant Colonel Schmundt, and he made a record of what happened, certifying it with his signature as a correct record.

[Page 24]

The purpose of the meeting was to enable Hitler to inform the heads of the Armed Forces and their staffs of his views on the political situation and his future aims. After analyzing the political situation and reviewing the course of events since 1933, Hitler announced his decision to attack Poland. He admitted that the quarrel with Poland over Danzig was not the reason for this attack, but the necessity for Germany to enlarge her living space and secure her food supplies. He said:

"The solution of the problem demands courage. The principle by which one evades solving the problem by adapting oneself to circumstances is inadmissible. Circumstances must rather be adapted to needs. This is impossible without invasion of foreign States or attacks upon foreign property."

Later in his address he added:

"There is therefore no question of sparing Poland, and we are left with the decision to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech affair. There will be war. Our task is to isolate Poland. The success of the isolation will be decisive .. The isolation of Poland is a matter of skillful politics."

Lt.- Col. Schmundt's record of the meeting reveals that Hitler fully realized the possibility of Great Britain and France coming to Poland's assistance. If, therefore, the isolation of Poland could not be achieved, Hitler was of the opinion that Germany should attack Great Britain and France first, or at any rate should concentrate primarily on the war in the West, in order to defeat Great Britain and France quickly, or at least to destroy their effectiveness. Nevertheless, Hitler stressed that war with England and France would be a life and death struggle, which might last a long time and that preparations must be made accordingly.

During the weeks which followed this conference, other meetings were held and directives were issued in preparation for the war. The Defendant Ribbentrop was sent to Moscow to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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