A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

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Sid Guttridge
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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 May 2020 06:24

Hi Steve,

That part refers to the situation at the time of the signing in 1934. Both sides are declaring that they then had no conflicting international obligations to prevent adherence to the non-aggression pact. The text then switches from the present tense to the future tense.

Cheers,

Sid

gebhk
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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by gebhk » 21 May 2020 13:47

I suspect that we could go round in circles on this one ad infinitum because it has some chicken and egg features, depending on one's view. I think most folk would agree that invading 'Russia' was AHs essential goal and to that effect Poland had to be eliminated as an obstacle - more or less voluntarily or otherwise. He therefore first made nice; when that didn't work he turned to the next tried and tested standby - bullying; and when that didn't work either, the tanks rolled. The sequence of events would not have been changed whether the Poles agreed to the eponymous proposal or any other - because that was not what it was all about. At most there may have been a slight delay as AH looked about for another excuse, but whether such a delay would have been beneficial to Poland is at least debatable. The only other option for Poland was to meekly follow either the Hungarian/Romanian or Czech model- the benefits of which too are debatable - and indeed have been debated to death.

The eponymous 1933 proposal is the usual nonsense dreamt up by folk of a colonial mindset who look at a map and decide where the most pleasing lines could be drawn without the foggiest notion of regional politics, ethnic loyalties, economic and strategic imperatives etc. There were two essential reasons why this one would never fly as far as the Poles were concerned. Firstly, by 1933 a massive amount of investment had been put into the existing infrastructure by a piss-poor country that could not afford to take another decade off to start all over again with even less - at least the actual corridor started with Danzig as its entrepot, however unsatisfactory it may have been. Secondly, strategically the new corridor suggested, was useless. The actual corridor was a means by which imports and aid could flow into Poland if there was war with the Soviet Union. The suggested one was not.
Last edited by gebhk on 22 May 2020 08:53, edited 3 times in total.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Sid Guttridge » 21 May 2020 14:11

Two quick points

Danzig had proved obstructive to Poland's war with the USSR in 1920 because its dockers refused to handle French arms shipments.

Poland had therefore built the new port of Gdynia in the corridor to avoid over reliance on Danzig.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Steve » 22 May 2020 01:43

To return to Futurists original post, according to the German 1910 census 92% out of a Memel’s population of 21,419 were German and 8% Lithuanian. In the surrounding countryside Lithuanians were 66% of the population. In the Memel region the Germans numbered 71,191 or 50.7%, the Lithuanians 67,345 or 47.9% and bilinguals who were mostly Lithuanian 1,970 or 1.4%.

Poland supported the award of Memel to Lithuania provided Lithuania entered into a union with Poland. On January 15 1920 a French battalion landed in Memel and later a Frenchman was appointed civil commissioner. French policy was seemingly to make it into a free state under League of Nations protection but with French influence dominant. The Association for the Establishment of a Memel Free State was formed at the end of 1921 largely supported by the German inhabitants and favored by Poland. In a referendum 71,856 voted of whom 54,329 voted yes.

In 1922 a Conference of Ambassadors started work on a Memel statute. Poland wanted a free zone in the port and agreement on administering the Nieman River. A harbour board would be set up to administer the port, railway system and the lower Nieman consisting of representatives of Memel, Poland and Lithuania. The chairman would be appointed by the League of Nations. Memel citizens and Polish citizens would enjoy equal rights. The Polish government thought that Memel could be “a free territory” under the Leagues protection. This would be for ten years and then a plebiscite would be held.

From Versailles to Locarno by Anna M. Cialciala and Titus Komarniki 1984 pages 208/10 .

The Poles wanted something similar to Danzig in Memel because for Polish territory east of the Bug the River Memel was the natural outlet for its products. Having Memel as a “free territory” would not have been much use without a say in how traffic on the Niemen was regulated. Could this have led to an extraterritorial river?

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by gebhk » 22 May 2020 08:49

The Poles wanted something similar to Danzig in Memel because for Polish territory east of the Bug the River Memel was the natural outlet for its products.
I am not sure that, in itself, whether you are dealing with one type of state or another makes any difference. The important things are that a working relationship can be established and that this relationship is reliable. You would only support the creation of a free city or some such if you thought the above criteria could not be met if the same city was part of its parent country. The same goes for creating an ex-territorial river, road or anything else. Why would you want the bother and expense of maintaining infrastructure if you can get and be assured of the benefits while someone else deals with the grief of maintenance? As ever it mainly boils down to pounds, shillings and pence (with, admittedly, some issues of national pride thrown in for flavouring).

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Steve » 22 May 2020 20:53

The proposal from 1933 was bonkers but in 1920 when Gdynia was a small fishing village what Poland hoped to achieve in the port of Memel makes sense. It quickly became clear that dependence on German dock workers in Gdansk would be problematic. Though Memel was nowhere near the size of Danzig it could have been a safety net since it was possible to travel between the Nieman River and the Vistula (not now) using the Augustow canal.

Would it have been a better option in 1919 to have left Danzig with Germany but giving Poland various privileges for its import and export trade? The seaward end of the Polish Corridor could have stayed part of Germany thus maintaining a land link with East Prussia. Memel would have been a free city under the League of Nations with Poland having navigation rights on the Niemen and a rail link or whatever. In theory Poland would not be dependent on Lithuanian good will. In practice because of the Polish Lithuanian dispute over Vilnius any extraterritorial link to Memel would have been problematic.

In the early 1920s Herbert von Dirksen head of the Eastern Department in the German Foreign Ministry wrote a memorandum on Danzig and the Corridor. When the time was right Germany should demand the return of Danzig and the corridor. In exchange Poland would be offered a free port in Danzig and the right to tariff free road and rail communications with the port. Poland could also be offered a free port at Memel through a special “corridor”.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by gebhk » 22 May 2020 22:07

In theory Poland would not be dependent on Lithuanian good will. In practice because of the Polish Lithuanian dispute over Vilnius any extraterritorial link to Memel would have been problematic.
More importantly, any such link would have been utterly useless in the event of war with the Soviet Union.

That being said, in peacetime a monopoly is never a good thing for the customer, so pushing first Memel and later Gdynia as alternatives to Danzig were sound commercial moves by the Polish side.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Futurist » 24 May 2020 02:10

Steve wrote:
22 May 2020 20:53
The proposal from 1933 was bonkers but in 1920 when Gdynia was a small fishing village what Poland hoped to achieve in the port of Memel makes sense. It quickly became clear that dependence on German dock workers in Gdansk would be problematic. Though Memel was nowhere near the size of Danzig it could have been a safety net since it was possible to travel between the Nieman River and the Vistula (not now) using the Augustow canal.

Would it have been a better option in 1919 to have left Danzig with Germany but giving Poland various privileges for its import and export trade? The seaward end of the Polish Corridor could have stayed part of Germany thus maintaining a land link with East Prussia. Memel would have been a free city under the League of Nations with Poland having navigation rights on the Niemen and a rail link or whatever. In theory Poland would not be dependent on Lithuanian good will. In practice because of the Polish Lithuanian dispute over Vilnius any extraterritorial link to Memel would have been problematic.

In the early 1920s Herbert von Dirksen head of the Eastern Department in the German Foreign Ministry wrote a memorandum on Danzig and the Corridor. When the time was right Germany should demand the return of Danzig and the corridor. In exchange Poland would be offered a free port in Danzig and the right to tariff free road and rail communications with the port. Poland could also be offered a free port at Memel through a special “corridor”.
Maybe holding a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor after World War I would have been the ideal option? Of course, Poles might have insisted that everyone who or whose ancestors moved into this Corridor after 1772 (the year that it was taken from Poland) be prohibited from voting in this plebiscite since otherwise almost 150 years of German colonization would give the Germans an unfair advantage in this plebiscite. It's possible that the Kashubian territories west of Danzig on Poland's coastline would have voted for Polish rule in such a scenario.

Why did the Augustow canal stop working?

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Futurist » 24 May 2020 02:14

Steve wrote:
22 May 2020 01:43
To return to Futurists original post, according to the German 1910 census 92% out of a Memel’s population of 21,419 were German and 8% Lithuanian. In the surrounding countryside Lithuanians were 66% of the population. In the Memel region the Germans numbered 71,191 or 50.7%, the Lithuanians 67,345 or 47.9% and bilinguals who were mostly Lithuanian 1,970 or 1.4%.

Poland supported the award of Memel to Lithuania provided Lithuania entered into a union with Poland. On January 15 1920 a French battalion landed in Memel and later a Frenchman was appointed civil commissioner. French policy was seemingly to make it into a free state under League of Nations protection but with French influence dominant. The Association for the Establishment of a Memel Free State was formed at the end of 1921 largely supported by the German inhabitants and favored by Poland. In a referendum 71,856 voted of whom 54,329 voted yes.

In 1922 a Conference of Ambassadors started work on a Memel statute. Poland wanted a free zone in the port and agreement on administering the Nieman River. A harbour board would be set up to administer the port, railway system and the lower Nieman consisting of representatives of Memel, Poland and Lithuania. The chairman would be appointed by the League of Nations. Memel citizens and Polish citizens would enjoy equal rights. The Polish government thought that Memel could be “a free territory” under the Leagues protection. This would be for ten years and then a plebiscite would be held.

From Versailles to Locarno by Anna M. Cialciala and Titus Komarniki 1984 pages 208/10 .

The Poles wanted something similar to Danzig in Memel because for Polish territory east of the Bug the River Memel was the natural outlet for its products. Having Memel as a “free territory” would not have been much use without a say in how traffic on the Niemen was regulated. Could this have led to an extraterritorial river?
Had the Memelland remained a free city (similar to Danzig), do you think that Lithuania would have built its own port north of it--on the brief strip of Baltic coastline that was under its own possession--to have its own secure port, similar to what Poland built Gdynia for?

Maybe a plebiscite should have been held in the Memelland after the end of World War I--if not immediately, then at least eventually, as in the Saarland in 1935. The problem of settler colonialism would not have been an issue here since to my knowledge the Memelland was never actually a part of Lithuania but was instead a part of Prussia for at least 500 years or so.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Futurist » 24 May 2020 02:44

Futurist wrote:
24 May 2020 02:10
Steve wrote:
22 May 2020 20:53
The proposal from 1933 was bonkers but in 1920 when Gdynia was a small fishing village what Poland hoped to achieve in the port of Memel makes sense. It quickly became clear that dependence on German dock workers in Gdansk would be problematic. Though Memel was nowhere near the size of Danzig it could have been a safety net since it was possible to travel between the Nieman River and the Vistula (not now) using the Augustow canal.

Would it have been a better option in 1919 to have left Danzig with Germany but giving Poland various privileges for its import and export trade? The seaward end of the Polish Corridor could have stayed part of Germany thus maintaining a land link with East Prussia. Memel would have been a free city under the League of Nations with Poland having navigation rights on the Niemen and a rail link or whatever. In theory Poland would not be dependent on Lithuanian good will. In practice because of the Polish Lithuanian dispute over Vilnius any extraterritorial link to Memel would have been problematic.

In the early 1920s Herbert von Dirksen head of the Eastern Department in the German Foreign Ministry wrote a memorandum on Danzig and the Corridor. When the time was right Germany should demand the return of Danzig and the corridor. In exchange Poland would be offered a free port in Danzig and the right to tariff free road and rail communications with the port. Poland could also be offered a free port at Memel through a special “corridor”.
Maybe holding a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor after World War I would have been the ideal option? Of course, Poles might have insisted that everyone who or whose ancestors moved into this Corridor after 1772 (the year that it was taken from Poland) be prohibited from voting in this plebiscite since otherwise almost 150 years of German colonization would give the Germans an unfair advantage in this plebiscite. It's possible that the Kashubian territories west of Danzig on Poland's coastline would have voted for Polish rule in such a scenario.

Why did the Augustow canal stop working?
BTW, if I would have been a German politician in the 1920s, maybe I would have made this offer to Poland--I'll agree to give up Germany's claims to Danzig and the Polish Corridor if Poland will actually agree to join Germany in some sort of economic union--a proto-European Union, if you will. Ditto for giving up Germany's claims to the Sudetenland if Czechoslovakia will actually agree to join this economic union and for giving up Germany's claims to the Memelland if Lithuania will actually agree to join this economic union.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 May 2020 06:24

Hi Futurist,

Actually, Memel lay outside historic East Prussia and had been added to it as a matter of administrative convenience.

For that matter, East Prussia itself lay outside the Holy Roman Empire. When the House of Brandenburg first declared themselves Kings, it was as King in Prussia, not as King of Brandenburg.

Not only was Memel not historically a core German territory, but neither was East Prussia.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Futurist » 24 May 2020 07:38

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 May 2020 06:24
Hi Futurist,

Actually, Memel lay outside historic East Prussia and had been added to it as a matter of administrative convenience.

For that matter, East Prussia itself lay outside the Holy Roman Empire. When the House of Brandenburg first declared themselves Kings, it was as King in Prussia, not as King of Brandenburg.

Not only was Memel not historically a core German territory, but neither was East Prussia.

Cheers,

Sid.
While it's possible that all of this is true, it's nevertheless worth noting that both Memel and East Prussia were part of one unit for 500 years--during which time they were always ruled by Germans to my knowledge. I'm unsure as to when exactly the Germanization process in East Prussia was completed, though. It was obviously never completed in Memel since almost half of its population remained Lithuanian by World War I.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 May 2020 08:03

Hi Futurist,

I don't see that length of rule gives any legitimacy. If it did, Portugal would still control Moczambique after 500 years.

Nor was Germanization of East Prussia ever entirely completed. The Masurians in southern East Prussia remained identifiable to the end.

And of what did "Germanization" consist?

The attempted extinction of the existing Balt populations, their languages, pagan religions and cultures, either by killing or forced assimilation of survivors, and the introduction of German, Swiss, Huguenot and Dutch settlers to replace them.

None of this seems to help legitimize the German presence, even after 500 years.

Even assuming Germanization was legitimate in the first place, would that not simply make the reverse process (Polonization/Lthuanianization) equally valid?

Indeed, doesn't that give the current Russian hold on Kaliningrad the same legitimacy, or otherwise, as the German hold on East Prussia before them?

Cheers,

Sid.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Sid Guttridge » 24 May 2020 08:20

Hi Futurist,

Regarding economic union:

In Germany's case, a customs union had preceded political union in the 19th Century. Germany' s neighbours would be aware of this recent (within living memory) occurrence and be naturally suspicious of any such proposal.

Poland and Czechoslovakia had only just escaped German rule. They were not anxious to become subordinate players in any form of union in which Germany was dominant.

The EU is another such case. The British left partly because economic union was being followed by creeping political union, which threatened the UK's distinctive institutions and independence.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: A 1933 proposal to resolve the Polish Corridor dispute

Post by Futurist » 24 May 2020 18:53

Sid Guttridge wrote:
24 May 2020 08:20
Hi Futurist,

Regarding economic union:

In Germany's case, a customs union had preceded political union in the 19th Century. Germany' s neighbours would be aware of this recent (within living memory) occurrence and be naturally suspicious of any such proposal.

Poland and Czechoslovakia had only just escaped German rule. They were not anxious to become subordinate players in any form of union in which Germany was dominant.

The EU is another such case. The British left partly because economic union was being followed by creeping political union, which threatened the UK's distinctive institutions and independence.

Cheers,

Sid.
Technically speaking, most of Poland was under Russian rule and Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia were under Hungarian rule as opposed to German/Austrian rule before 1918. Otherwise, though, I agree with your general point here. Still, the advantage of such a proposal is that this would allow Germany to at least look more reasonable in the eyes of external observers. Of course, I wonder just how willing the German people in the early 20th century would actually be to heavily subsidize countries such as Poland. I mean, Yes, such a union was extremely unlikely to occur back then, but if it ever were to occur, there would probably be a need for Germany to subsidize this union's poorer members--such as Poland.

As for the European Union, Yes, considering that Britain rejected both the euro and the Schengen zone, it's really not surprising to see Britain eventually leave the European Union. If Britain isn't fully committed to this integration project, then maybe leaving the European Union isn't the worst thing in the world for both it and the European Union.

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