1930s books about the Polish Corridor

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1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Peter K » 25 Oct 2019 20:41

"Polish-German relations: the Polish Corridor, German minority in Upper Silesia" published in New York in 1931:

http://pbc.gda.pl/dlibra/plain-content?id=43134

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Another book "The Polish Corridor: the Facts" - published in London in 1934:

http://pbc.gda.pl/dlibra/plain-content?id=304

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Timeline of the Polish Corridor since year 960 until 1920:

Polish Corridor Timeline.png
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There are words which carry the presage of defeat. Defence is such a word. What is the result of an even victorious defence? The next attempt of imposing it to that weaker, defender. The attacker, despite temporary setback, feels the master of situation.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Futurist » 06 Nov 2019 02:00

I'm surprised that they didn't mention the Canadian Corridor separating the US from Alaska in their list of Corridors.

Also, I wonder just how a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor in 1919/1920/1921 would have turned out. I suspect that a part of it might have depended on who exactly was allowed to vote there--only longstanding residents or also recent migrants. What is interesting is that the Polish Corridor (well, most of it) consistently voted for the Polish Party in Imperial German Reichstag elections--without exception, I believe.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Nov 2019 12:10

Hi Peter K,

An interesting read.

I have a 1934 German ethnic atlas that shows that there was a narrow corridor (rather narrower than the political Corridor) of non-German majority to the Baltic. Thus, on purely ethnic grounds, a German claim was questionable.

I have an older German atlas from 1900 that shows an even wider Polish-majority corridor to the Baltic.

Even without the ethnic situation, the whole Nazi argument about the need for the Corridor is entirely spurious. Germany already had unfettered access to East Prussia by sea. If Britain could run a global empire of 400-500 million people by sea, Germany could certainly do the same for the couple of million in East Prussia.

And besides, Poland allowed German rail movements overland to and from East Prussia right up to the outbreak of war. (Indeed, the Germans abused this by trying to use a scheduled train to seize the Dirschau bridge by coup de main early on 1 September 1939.)

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 07 Nov 2019 09:47

Sid Guttridge wrote:
06 Nov 2019 12:10
Germany already had unfettered access to East Prussia by sea.

And besides, Poland allowed German rail movements overland to and from East Prussia right up to the outbreak of war.
While both these things are, off course, true, the former was inconvenient (and therefore more expensive) while the latter was not free either, with Germany making substantial payments for the facility. This, I would imagine, was at least at some level a disincentive to investment in East Prussia. As ever, the kernel of any real disagreement was fiscal but both sides, as usual, preferred to argue in terms far more high-falutin even if they were spurious.

However, for wider political aims, the Nazis clearly made hay with what was a problem that could have been resolved peaceably in due course - in essence by making the tariff no longer essential to the Polish state budget - or put another way, by opening up new income streams that would have compensated for it. Instead they chose a solution (the ex-territorial route) that they knew would be unacceptable to the Polish government on financial grounds alone. Had the 'corridor' issue been by some miracle resolved entirely to the German governments entire satisfaction, I have no doubt that a new bone of contention would have been found or invented.

I can't help but hear in the peripheries the chuckles of the ghosts of history, that 90 plus years on, we are still debating issues such as the ethnic composition of the population, issues which even at the time were only screens for the real matters in question.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Sid Guttridge » 07 Nov 2019 11:29

Hi gebhk,

I don't think inconvenience is a viable argument for German claims. There are multiple geographical features other than the sea that have historically been an inconvenience to communications (i.e. mountains, swamps, deserts, etc.).

One wonders if it really was more expensive to communicate with East Prussia by sea. One can carry more bulk by sea than on land, with presumably some benefit in unit costs for some products. One wonders if there was any sea trade within Germany to and from East Prussia before 1914?

I don't think this was primarily a fiscal issue. For the Poles it was a matter of independence. Without their own route to the sea, they were beholden to whoever held the necessary ports, which was likely to be Germany. The fact that there was a Polish majority corridor to the sea, even on pre-1918 German census figures, justified Poland's possession of its own Baltic coast. The new port of Gdynia was created in the 1920s to ensure that all Polish seaborne exports didn't have to go through the 95% German-populated Free City of Danzig.

The fiscal problems were largely Danzig's. If Poland eventually succeeded in diverting all trade through Gdynia, much of Danzig's raison d'etre would disappear, with dire economic and presumably demographic consequence for it.

For Germany it was a matter of national territorial reconsolidation and for the Nazis part of their political pledge to reverse the Versailles Treaty. Fiscal matters were a minor detail by comparison.

But I think you are fundamentally right that Hitler was after any pretext for a short, victorious, war with Poland, (though not, it would appear, with anyone else at the time). The Corridor issue provided it.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Steve » 07 Nov 2019 23:08

If you are going to decide ownership of disputed land by which ethnic group lives on the land then the Poles had a perfect right to the land which made up the Polish Corridor. Of course it did not matter if Poles, Germans or Inuit’s were a majority Germany was not going to accept the situation.How many people and trains were crossing the corridor was also immaterial since its mere existence was an affront. What made it worse were the tariffs imposed on rail traffic and that the country causing all this mental anguish to Germans was not in their league economically or militarily. After twenty years there was still no sign that the Germans were going to permanently acquiesce to the corridor and given the relative size of the two protagonists one could not defy the other indefinitely.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 08 Nov 2019 10:56

Hi Steve and Sid

I have no doubt that what you say is true. However, I also believe that the economic perspective should not be ignored as it worked in tandem with the German government's wider aspirations. Put simply, with the corridor in Polish hands, there was a flow of money out of the German economy into the Polish one. With he corridor in German hands, the flow would have been reversed and then some.

The status quo was a minor issue for the German economy but real nonetheless. It's reversal would have been catastrophic for the Polish one. Ergo, the Polish government would never agree to it or any fiddling with it. Of course some constructive agreement could probably have resolved the real problems to everyone's benefit. Alas that was not an approach that was common currency in political thinking of the 1930s. WW2 was undoubtedly a good lesson in the consequences, a lesson, alas, I see being slowly (and not so slowly) forgotten in more recent times.

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K

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Steve » 08 Nov 2019 20:55

Hi gebhk, I must confess that your post from 21/5/18 on income derived from train traffic crossing the corridor had slipped my mind. The revenue derived by the Poles from this traffic was considerable even if we take your lower figure of 15% of foreign currency earnings. You would expect this to have influenced Polish deliberations over an exterritorial railway but I have never come across any mention of the economic factor. Could the Germans have turned this source of Polish income off whenever they wanted by stopping their trains? If the revenue stream could be turned off then the obvious question is why wasn’t it? I can understand Hitler being nice to the Poles up to April 1939 but did anything change after that with regards to rail traffic crossing the corridor?

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 09 Nov 2019 09:37

Hi Steve. A very good question and alas I do not know enough to be able to answer it properly. In fact I would extend the question to include the Polish-German customs war, arguably even more relevant because the German attempt at economic strangulation would have been augmented by such an approach. A look at the Paris accord of April 1921 would quite likely offer some insights into the reasons this did not and/or could not happen.

The fact is that virtually throughout the whole interbellum, German transit payments were in arrears. Although the Polish side suspected that this was deliberate, the primary reason appears to have been that the payments were to be made in exchangeable currency and Germany had low levels of foreign exchange reserves (interestingly, in this context, the approx 300 brand spanking new Praga RV trucks the Polish army received in mid-1939 are thought to have been part payment in kind for the transit fees).

The issue of arrears came to its greatest head in 1936 when the Polish side repudiated the relevant agreements and cut off virtually all transit. The outstanding issues were relatively swiftly resolved. This suggests to me that if the Poles were willing to use this extreme measure as a bargaining tool (or blackmail if you prefer), the transit facility was too important to the Germans to be easily set aside (AHs charm offensive may also have played a part, of course).

In other words, in answer to your question, it would appear that losing this facility was more costly to the Germans than any benefits they might derive from depriving Poland of the income from it. Indeed, on the contrary, they were willing, apparently, to strengthen the army of an opponent they were planning to invade, to avoid disruption. However that's all just supposition on my part.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 09 Nov 2019 12:18

One wonders if it really was more expensive to communicate with East Prussia by sea.
I cannot see how in all but a few situations (ie, for example, where the goods in question are manufactured in a sea port and whose final destination is another sea port) it cannot be.

Your two options are either a journey A to B to C to D (where A is the origin of the goods, D the final destination and B to C the sea leg of the transport, the rest being by rail) vs A to D directly by rail. Depending on where your point of origin might be in Germany, A to D might in fact be shorter than just the A to B part of the sea-borne option to begin with. The direct A to D avoids the cost and delay of loading and unloading your goods onto and off a ship, avoids the costs of using a ship altogether and avoids a significant detour. The time delays involved must also have an impact on the practicability of transport of perishable goods.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, although the Germans did their best to divert as much transport as possible to the seaborne route, especially after 1936, this only accounted for a relatively small proportion of the total. I think one can assume that this was because, for the reasons outlined above, sea transport was not economical for most goods.
Last edited by gebhk on 09 Nov 2019 16:32, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 09 Nov 2019 12:52

If Poland eventually succeeded in diverting all trade through Gdynia, much of Danzig's raison d'etre would disappear, with dire economic and presumably demographic consequence for it.
Hi Sid, on balance there is little to suggest that was the case. Danzig's volume of trade grew steadily in the early twenties, dipped following the great depression and then began to recover so that by 1939 it had nearly reached its peak pre-depression levels. A likely explanation might be that Danzig was able to hang onto its traditional business streams but failed to capitalise on new ones emanating from Poland: that is either new streams altogether or streams (such as coal) which had in any case previously by-passed Danzig. There is nothing to suggest therefore, that as a result of the success of Gdynia, Danzig was heading for economic Armageddon.

Off course, raw tonnage is not all the answer and it seems quite likely that Danzig had to cut costs (and therefore profits) and invest in modernisation to be able to compete with its newer neighbour who benefitted from more modern facilities, more open space for further development and (presumably) cheaper labour. None of that would be welcome, needless to say.

This brings us to another point, which is that the vast majority of Polish export was bulky but relatively low-value raw materials and agricultural produce. I don't know enough to hazard an opinion on the impact that may have had on the economics of running a port but hopefully someone who does, may. However, it begs the question to what extent and how quickly Danzig would have been able to restructure its operations to accommodate these new streams if Gdynia had never arisen.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Steve » 10 Nov 2019 05:18

For the following I have used a work by Bertram de Collonna called Poland from the Inside published in 1939. Bertram was a Nazi sympathiser and I have no idea whether his figures are correct or not.

In 1926 179 tons of goods were imported through Gdynia and 413,826 tons exported. The figures for Danzig are 640,696 tons imported and 5,659,604 tons exported.

In 1929 24.8% of Polish goods were exported through Gdynia and 75.2% of Polish goods were exported thought Danzig.

In 1933 the total weight of goods passing through Gdynia was 6,105,866 tons which was 54.2% of Polish trade by way of the Baltic. Through Danzig it was 5,152,975 tons which was 45.8% of Polish trade.

Excluding transit traffic Poland in 1938 had a turnover of 14,694,898 tons of merchandise which left or entered by way of the Baltic.

In 1938 by value 54.2% of Polish imports came through Gdynia and 7.5% through Danzig. Mainly bulk cargo such as ore and gravel was going through Danzig.

A history of Gdynia says that in 1938 the port handled 8.7 million tons of transhipments so presumably Danzig handled about 6 million tons of transhipments. This was up on 1933 but in percentage terms had fallen to about 41%.

When Bertram was in Danzig he was told that people were worried by the rise of Gdynia. He says that the Association of Poles in Danzig had a membership of 11,499 of whom no more than 7,561 were Danzig citizens. The population of the free city was 407,517. As Poland was no longer dependent on the port it is hard to understand why the Poles would not bend to any meaningful degree on Danzig.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 10 Nov 2019 11:15

Hi Steve, the following figures for total turnover (in thousands of tons) are from Cieslak's Historia Gdanska (History of Gdansk) vol 4.

1924 r. - Danzig 2374; Gdynia 10
1925 r. - 2725; 56
1926 r. - 6301; 404
1927 r. - 7897; 898
1928 r. - 8615; 1958
1929 r. - 8560; 2823
1930 r. - 8213; 3626
1931 r. - 8330; 5301
1932 r. - 5476; 5194
1933 r. - 5153; 6106
1934 r. - 6369; 7192
1935 r. - 5093; 7475
1936 r. - 5648; 7742
1937 r. - 7201; 9006
1938 r. - 7127; 9173
1939 r. (to July incl) - 5521; 4990

As you can see the figures for raw tonnage are broadly similar (and in one instance exactly the same), which suggests BdeCs data (and yours?) is likely accurate. I think what he and/or you say is right: ie the volume of throughput through Danzig was not hugely reduced by competition with Gdynia - the great depression, clearly was the significant factor in the early 30s but, by 1939, overall Danzig was recovering well from the doldrums of 1933. However, Danzig was not profiting (or not profiting as much as it would have done otherwise) from the growth of the Polish economy and the switching of Polish exports from Germany to places overseas.

It is interesting that in 1939, for the first time since 1932, Danzig appears to be outstripping Gdynia in throughput. I wonder if that had anything to do with the covert preparations for war in East Prussia?

Off course raw tonnage is not the whole story and volume/complexity play a part in determining profitability of handling goods (clearly a ton of clocks will have very different storage volume and handling requirements than, say, a ton of sand). The value of the goods may also have an impact on profitability if various duties, taxes etc are involved. However, someone more knowledgeable than I would have to comment on the likely impact these factors may have had on Danzig's economy.

That Danzigers were not happy with the situation is not surprising. No one with a previous monopoly is happy when a vigorous new upstart appears on their doorstep in direct competition with newer, more efficient equipment. This forces unwanted modernisation on the older competitor, changes in practice and cutting out of the fat which is never without real hardship. In a mediaeval town this is doubly difficult without the destruction of cherished historical estate and the character of traditional districts and society.

The answer to your final question is a thorny one. There were some practical considerations - economically and strategically, there is always much to be said for not having to rely on just one access point for essential materials, whether in peace or war. Militarily, a militarised Danzig presented a significant threat to Poland's access to the sea - as the events around the Tczew (Dirschau) bridges on 1st September '39 demonstrated all too well. However, the primary factors were, I would suggest, political - rational and to some extent irrational. Dealing with the irrational first, Poland after 150 years of non-existence was not prepared to let go one inch of its hard-won possessions, status and influence. Quite possibly, the only thing virtually the entire Polish population of Poland could agree on! More rationally, the Polish side regarded any changes of the status quo in favour of Germany, as the start of a slippery slope leading to the loss of the entire corridor. The events in Czechoslovakia in the autumn of 1938 and March 1939 merely reinforced those fears.
Last edited by gebhk on 10 Nov 2019 11:51, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by gebhk » 10 Nov 2019 11:44

As a final aside, the 'threat of Gdingen' must have been a thorny issue for Nazi propagandists too. On the one hand the economic threat of Gdynia was, potentially, a potent bogey-man to scare and rile up the worthy burghers of Danzig with. On the other, this implicitly would have been an admission that the 'racial inferiors' had built (in record time one may add) a more modern facility which was outcompeting the facilities of the 'super race'. And that just cannot be possible on planet NAZI. On a more rational level, given that Danzig traditionally relied on Polish exports and imports for its wealth and existence, risking more rapid loss of its Polish trade to Gdynia if Danzig became an integral part of Germany (one would surmise), would have been a strong disincentive to unification for at least some Danzigers.

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Re: 1930s books about the Polish Corridor

Post by Sid Guttridge » 11 Nov 2019 12:57

Hi gebhk

You post, "There is nothing to suggest therefore, that as a result of the success of Gdynia, Danzig was heading for economic Armageddon."

And yet Danzig's entire raison d'etre was to export the produce of the interior of Poland. Its own exports were minimal and its only value-added manufacturing of significance was ship building. Both these could and were increasingly being done by Gdynia as well. I would venture to suggest that Danzig could only be sure of its Polish exports for as long as their expansion outpaced Gdynia's ability to handle them.

Cheers,

Sid

P.S. Wikipedia has the following on the growth of Gdynia's shipbuilding:

"The shipyards at Gdynia initially focused on smaller vessels, suitable for off-shore duty of Baltic Sea cruises, but not for the high seas. However, by the late 1930s the shipyards gathered enough experience and a decision was made to build a large dry cargo ship for the Polish merchant marine, the first such vessel built entirely at home. Designed by Henryk Giełdzik, the ship was named SS Olza, after an eponymous river flowing through Cieszyn Silesia.

The keel was laid 28 August 1938 in the Gdynia Shipyard. Most of the elements were produced by Świętochłowice-based Zgoda Steel Works, while minor parts were purchased from other contractors in Poland and the United Kingdom. The works continued as planned and launching was scheduled for mid-September 1939.
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