Poor Poland.

Discussions on all aspects of Poland during the Second Polish Republic and the Second World War. Hosted by Peter K
xsli
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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 25 Jul 2017 13:08

Steve - I agree with "It is quite amazing how countries refuse to accept what they happily inflict on others." There are 6 Voivodeships on the eastern side of interwar Poland, only Wilno has a pole majority. If the Ukrainians were allowed to choose, they would choose independence as what they did at the end of WW1. The best scenario for Poles should be the Curzon B line (or extend a bit east to include polish-majority towns) which put Lviv inside Poland. Of course, the interwar Polish border way passed Curzon B line.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 25 Jul 2017 13:22

xsli wrote:Then why Poland raised the issue during Sudetenland crisis? It became the last straw that broke Czech.
A better question would be why Poland didn't raise it earlier. The answer is the Poles wanted a peaceful settlement.
And that actually happened. The British/French handed over large Czech territories to the Germany, and Poland recovered her tiny territory peacefully. The Czechs agreed to return it to Poland before Munich, and before the so called Polish ultimatum.

It wasn't the last straw. Even Czech historians don't claim that. In their version of history, if I'm not mistaken, Teschen is just a footnote to the story.

Actually the British/French ultimatum broke Czechoslovak resistance: "hand over the Sudetenland to Germany or we let Hitler to do with you whatever he pleases".

As seen from Prague:
After the Prague government took the crucial step and rejected the proposal to surrender the Sudeten territory to Hitler, members of the president's staff felt as if a boulder had been lifted from their shoulders. Most of them, Drtina recalled, thought that Czechoslovakia should fight against the Third Reich under any circumstances. They believed that the whole world viewed the Czechoslovak-German crisis as a test of the ability of democracies to resist totalitarian manipulation. If the country were to allow itself to be pushed into the Fuhrer's jaws, Nazism would score yet another victory. How could the world not credit the growth of German power to the totalitarian Weltanschauung? But now the decision had been made to fight, alone if necessary, and the general feeling was one of relief. Drtina went home, and President Beneš, whose reservoir of energy seemed to have no limit, had another meeting to attend. Eventually, even Beneš went to bed and fell asleep. Just before 1 A.M. on 21 September 1938, the French legation called the castle and demanded an audience with the president for 2 A.M.- The British minister would come along as well.
Darkness provided an appropriate background for their arrival. From a distance they could be mistaken for seconds who were to officiate a duel between gentlemen. But the president was more likely to see them as executioner's helpers who had come to make preliminary arrangements in his cell before he would be taken out at dawn. As soon as they entered, Beneš noticed that they seemed unspeakably sad, almost fearful, studiously avoiding his eyes. Newton was more decisive than de Lacroix, and he delivered his message first. London and Paris refused to accept Prague's rejection of the Anglo-French proposal and threatened that Hitler's attack was imminent. Beneš now had one more chance, Newton stressed, to save his country from disaster. De Lacroix had begun weeping even before he delivered his lines. Crying, he stumbled over the first sentences, but he gradually rediscovered his courage and his voice finally acquired a steely undertone. When he read the crucial sentence, that France would break its legal obligations to Czechoslovakia and would not go to war against the Third Reich, it sounded merciless. Ignoring Newton, Bend asked for a written statement from de Lacroix, which he was unwilling to provide. (Later, after a telephone call to Paris, a text was made available, a watered-down version of what de Lacroix had stated verbally.) Beneš inquired: Is this "une sorte d'ultimatum"? Newton and de Lacroix confirmed it by repeating they had nothing else to add.
from: Czechoslovakia Between Stalin and Hitler by Igor Lukes


It is pretty convenient - but does British want Poles to ride? Isn't it both Britain, and esp. France are very unhappy about the Poles because of the ride?
The British promised that Germany would get their Sudenland first, then they would hand over Teschen to Poland.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 25 Jul 2017 14:06

Steve wrote:Of course self determination should be the guiding principle in deciding whether a people obtain independence though it rarely is.

No country recognize it today and it's unlikely it will change in the future. It's really unfair to blame the Poles for that.

An independent Ukraine would be conquered by the Soviets almost immediately - they reconquered almost all the former Czarist territories. The Ukrainians didn't have an army worth speaking of, no money, no weapons. Many Ukrainians were pro-Soviet at that time. Their intellectual elites were almost non-existent - they actually developed in pre-war Poland.
As I've said who votes for Soviet Ukraine or independent Ukraine votes for genocide of Ukrainians - the Holodomors and other fun provided by the Soviets for free.

Steve wrote:Hitler allowed them to have some crumbs from the table and then thought they should be grateful.
It was Britain and France - they allowed the Poles to have some crumbs. But the Poles refused and took them themselves.
Hitler promised support but didn't deliver.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 25 Jul 2017 15:54

As for the "last straw" statement, here from AJP Taylor quoting Benes:
the Polish ultimatum to Czechoslovakia demanding the return of Tešin finally decided Benes, according to his own account, to abandon any idea of resisting the Munich settlement.
The Polish stand is obviously important. Czech had a formidable military and strong fortresses. While it is likely to lose the war against Germany in the long run, it will no doubt give the Germans a hard time in the short term. That is one thing what Benes counted on in the initial escalation of the crisis. However, if Poland joined Germany, then Czech did not stand a chance. Additionally, all the Soviet talk of assistance (of Czech) became empty words.

In the end, Munich agreement significantly weakened Czech government and fostered nationalism among the Slovaks - the chain of events led to the disappearance of the republic. The poles played a role in the disappearance and the events turned against the poles ultimately.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by henryk » 25 Jul 2017 18:50

The Ukrainian National Republic under Petura accepted Polish sovereignty of Easten Galicia in the Treaty of Warsaw 1920.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of ... [quote]The Treaty of Warsaw (also the Polish-Ukrainian or Petlura-Piłsudski Alliance or Agreement) of April 1920 was a military-economical alliance between the Second Polish Republic, represented by Józef Piłsudski, and the Ukrainian People's Republic, represented by Symon Petlura, against Bolshevik Russia. The treaty was signed on 21 April 1920, with a military addendum on 24 April.
The treaty was signed on 21 April in Warsaw[7] (it was signed at night 01:40 LST from 21 onto 22, but it was dated as of 21 April 1920).[9] In exchange for agreeing to a border along the Zbruch River, recognizing the recent Polish territorial gains in western Ukraine (obtained by the Poland's defeating the Ukrainian attempt to create another Ukrainian state in Galicia, territories with mixed Ukrainian-Polish population) as well as the western portions of Volhynian Governorate, Kholm Governorate, and other territories[9] (Article II),[3][10] Poland recognized the Ukrainian People's Republic as an independent state (Article I) with borders as defined by Articles II and III and under ataman Petlura's leadership.[7][/quote]

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 25 Jul 2017 19:23

"The Ukrainian National Republic under Petura accepted Polish sovereignty of Easten Galicia in the Treaty of Warsaw 1920."

They lost the war to Poland, what choice do they have?

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 25 Jul 2017 21:16

Their other choice was to be overrun by the Soviets.

xsli wrote:As for the "last straw" statement, here from AJP Taylor quoting Benes:
His statement seems to be rather not very logical. The Polish ultimatum was issued after the Czechs accepted the Munich Agreement.

The Czechs could have fought if they had wished, Poland would remain neutral. If they weren't sure they should have asked directly - but they never did.
I'm more inclined to believe Czech historians, like Igor Lukes, than foreigners unable to examine Czech and Polish sources because of language barier.

As seen from Prague:
As soon as the president had stopped agonizing over the Franco-British ultimatum and accepted it, he had to deal with other crises. Polish Minister Kazimierz Papee and his Hungarian colleague Jean Wettstein de Westersheimb chose this occasion to present their demands on Czechoslovakia. These interventions did not come out of the blue: Warsaw and Budapest had always suggested they would demand for their minorities in Czechoslovakia the same concessions that Prague would grant to others. Now was the time to put such demands on the table; Bend's attention was guaranteed.
The Polish envoy explicitly demanded that Prague grant to the Polish minority what it was about to grant the Sudeten Germans. The Polish position was not as bellicose as might have been feared, but it caused Prague's position to become more precarious. Although the Hungarian minister presented his demands on behalf of Budapest with equal firmness, Prague was less concerned about a possible military clash with Hungary.
No sooner had the Polish and Hungarian ministers departed than envoys from Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, and the United States requested audiences at the Foreign Ministry. Each came to express his conviction that further coexistence between Czechoslovaks and Sudeten Germans was impossible. Although it would undoubtedly be painful, Prague, in their opinion, could not but accept the ultimatum Like Austria a few months earlier, Czechoslovakia was now completely isolated.
Czechoslovakia Between Stalin and Hitler by Igor Lukes

We can add to this the statement of Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons:
We owe heartfelt thanks to all responsible for the outcome, and appreciate very much the efforts of President Roosevelt and Signor Mussolini to bring about the Munich conference of the Powers at which a united desire for peace has been shown.
The Czechs were pressured by basically everybody.

Why they surrendered:
While the governing coalition was with the president, the Czechoslovak government held a meeting at the Kolowrat Palace, not far from the Castle. Prime Minister Syrovy opened it by saying that the four powers had given Czechoslovakia a choice between being murdered and committing suicide. Krofta followed. This report was the most dreadful duty of his life he said before he began to outline the events at Munich as described by Mastny and Masaryk, who had returned to Prague at eight in the morning. Theoretically, he said, it was possible to reject the Four Power Act. This would be followed by German aggression and war in which Czechoslovakia would be completely isolated. It was doubtful that the Soviet Union would come to the country's assistance or that its military aid would be effective. Although several ministers made emotional and patriotic declarations, the transcript indicates clearly that the majority was more inclined to follow reason, not their hearts.
The government's meeting ended inconclusively at the Kolowrat Palace at 11:30 A.M., and then the ministers drove up the steep hill to the Castle to meet with the president. The next meeting started fifteen minutes later. Benet', Prime Minister Syrovy, seventeen ministers (all but Petr Zenkl), and General Krejci were present. The president stated at the beginning that Czechoslovakia could go against the wishes of all the European powers and fight on its own. But the result would be an end of independence and a massacre of the nation. Under these circumstances, he could not but "suggest the acceptance" of the Munich Agreement. There was little debate.
Czechoslovakia Between Stalin and Hitler by Igor Lukes

Czech border fortifications were unfinished and full of holes, the former Czechoslovak-Austrian border had none.
Czech tanks were inferior, planes obsolete.
Their main cities were so close to the German border that German planes could have bombed them at will - with no warning.
A determined attack could have cut Czechoslovakia in half in a day - Czechoslovakia had no strategic depth at all.
The battles would be fought on territories populated mainly by Germans - and they would support their army fanatically.
Outside Slovakia every five person on the street was German - the Germans were everywhere, this meant a perfect fifth column.

It would be a massacre of the nation.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 25 Jul 2017 23:21

The Polish ultimatum was issued after the Czechs accepted the Munich Agreement.
After some research, I think you are right. This is a big surprise to me as I trusted AJP's scholarship (let me say opinion aside for now). The ultimatum came in the same day the agreement was announced yet the signing was a day before. So Benes might have mixed up the dates but AJP should have found out and not presenting it as is.

On the other hand, there are quite a few authors and then-contemporaries criticizing Poland's role in the crisis. Here is one example:
Richard M. Watt describes the Polish capture of Teschen in these words:

Amid the general euphoria in Poland – the acquisition of Teschen was a very popular development – no one paid attention to the bitter comment of the Czechoslovak general who handed the region over to the incoming Poles. He predicted that it would not be long before the Poles would themselves be handing Teschen over to the Germans.[47]

Watt also writes that

the Polish 1938 ultimatum to Czechoslovakia and its acquisition of Teschen were gross tactical errors. Whatever justice there might have been to the Polish claim upon Teschen, its seizure in 1938 was an enormous mistake in terms of the damage done to Poland's reputation among the democratic powers of the world.
I did not see these before I stated my interpretation previously. The other Watt (Donald) is more sympathetic to Poland, yet he still have some tough words on Poland over Teschen/Munich.
A determined attack could have cut Czechoslovakia in half in a day - Czechoslovakia had no strategic depth at all.
I seriously doubt - I had looked up the "what-if" online, and Dr. Carroll Quigley's answer to a reader is the best I can find. http://www.tyrollins.com/wp-content/upl ... Y-MISC.pdf
That's why I said Germany should win a long war because it has much greater war potential yet in short term Czech can be a hard nut. The what-if is another topic and I will stop here.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 27 Jul 2017 11:33

xsli wrote:Amid the general euphoria in Poland – the acquisition of Teschen was a very popular development – no one paid attention to the bitter comment of the Czechoslovak general who handed the region over to the incoming Poles. He predicted that it would not be long before the Poles would themselves be handing Teschen over to the Germans.
So he preferred to hand Teschen over to Germany in 1938? A strange wish.

Some people were saying that, that Poland would get it next, but they were more venting their frustration than expressing rational thinking.
All world leaders (except Stalin but including Roosevelt) supported the Munich Agreement, and many actuality pressured the Czech to accept it, expecting a lasting peace.
Hitler personally gave his word it would be the last of his demands. Similarly he and top Nazi leaders repeatedly declared that to the Poles. The German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact was going to be valid till 1943.
It's easy to say today it was all lies and deception but such lying by leaders of a major European powers was unprecedented in history.

Polish generals believed that even a Polish-Czechoslovak confederation (some people in Poland actually proposed such a thing) would be defeated by Germany. The only viable solution was an alliance with France or better with France and Britain. And that was achieved in 1939.

After Munich Polish-German border was as long as before, thanks to Teschen Poland's strategic position actually improved.

Poland didn't need Czechoslovakia, and Czechoslovakia didn't want an alliance with Poland. Czech elites (mostly atheistic, liberal or socialist) actually strongly disliked Poland for her "backwardness", religiosity, nationalism.
Even more, both countries were similarly viewed by the West - the liberal, multinational pre-war Czechoslovakia was a darling of the West, and Poland wasn't, at all. And this resulted in injecting many pro-Czech memes into the narrative by Western apologists (not to mention Soviet/Russian propagandists).

Nobody wants to remember that the Czechs gained the Sudenland by exploiting fraudulent claims. That they annexed territories with a large Hungarian majority, that Slovaks, Hungarians and Germans were denied an equal status with the Czechs.
That their government collaborated with Nazi Germany during the war, that resistance there was minimal.
Last edited by wm on 27 Jul 2017 11:48, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 27 Jul 2017 11:45

xsli wrote:the Polish 1938 ultimatum to Czechoslovakia and its acquisition of Teschen were gross tactical errors. Whatever justice there might have been to the Polish claim upon Teschen, its seizure in 1938 was an enormous mistake in terms of the damage done to Poland's reputation among the democratic powers of the world.
Polish diplomats' reports don't support that. Western democratic powers started courting Poland shortly after Munich. Unless he means the popular press.

And really, with reputation you can't fight tanks. Only an alliance with Western powers could have saved Poland, an they were ready to offer such an alliance only if they had absolutely no other choice.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 28 Jul 2017 08:10

wm, the total Teschen thing is of very small scale, so its going to Germany should not rankle politicians - even anti-Germany stalwart like Churchill did not speak well of Poland on Teschen.

Legit issue aside, it is how Poland acted that spark big controversy. I agree with your assessment that Czech was being pushed/pressed by many sides, but Poland is the only one that actively seeking extra territory - which making it standing out. Hungary also wanted revision, yet it is more timid in its request. Also Poland's size and location made its demand more forceful than other third-country 'urges' (of course I am not talking Britain and France here).
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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by xsli » 28 Jul 2017 08:22

wm,
And really, with reputation you can't fight tanks. Only an alliance with Western powers could have saved Poland, an they were ready to offer such an alliance only if they had absolutely no other choice.
On surface I agree - Britain and France were reluctant to help but they have to weight the trade-off. But could later their little action after Hitler's 09/01 attack mean the moral damage played a part? I've seen people speculating that.

Comparing US aid to Britain, it is a stark contrast. FDR's fervently selling war to US had a lot to do with his fondness for the Brits and he used morality as a slogan.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by gebhk » 29 Jul 2017 19:01

but Poland is the only one that actively seeking extra territory
This is patently untrue - apart from Germany, Hungary had the greatest territorial aspirations in relation to Czechoslovakia and achieved them. Polands gains were miniscule compared to the German and Hungarian ones. A number of minorities (as well as the Slovaks) were also pressing for independence from Czechoslovakia.
XSLI - I am not sure what you mean by 'active' seeking - clearly Poland had been seeking the return of Tesin/Cieszyn to Poland since it had been grabbed by Czechoslovakia in 1919 and I don't think anyone would deny that. However, by the time of the Munich conference, Poland was not seeking anything in Tesin because the Czechoslovak government had offered it to Poland of its own initiative. What precipitated the Polish ultimatum for a quicker handover than had been initially offered by Czechoslovakia, were the terms of the Munich agreement over which neither Poland nor Czechoslovakia had any control and which arbitrarily overrode the agreements that already existed between the two countries. In the Polish optic, acquiescing to such a method of 'doing business' set a dangerous precedent for when Germany inevitably, eventually turned to her territorial demands in Poland.

Furthermore, Poland's official position regarding the crisis from the outset was not a territorial demand but a demand that the Polish minority in Czechoslovakia receive the same treatment as the most privileged (ie German) group. It was the Munich agreement that defined what that treatment was going to be.

The reason Churchill and his ilk felt their noses had been put out of joint was (in my opinion) primarily the temerity of Johnny Foreigner to question their divine right to dispose of minor countries as they saw fit. With a good dose of guilt transference thrown in for good measure.
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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by gebhk » 29 Jul 2017 19:17

Polish generals believed that even a Polish-Czechoslovak confederation (some people in Poland actually proposed such a thing)
In Czechoslovakia also. Alas, in both countries these sensible voices were in a minority which had to struggle against strident domestic emotionalism and foreign interests. XSLI - I am with you in having doubts that the defeat of Czechoslovakia would have been the walkover commonly predicted. Fighting a confederation of Czechoslovakia and Poland would have been a tougher nut still. The big unknown here is what, if anything, Stalin would have done, presented with this golden opportunity to stab both countries in the back.

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Re: Poor Poland.

Post by wm » 30 Jul 2017 21:53

xsli wrote:On surface I agree - Britain and France were reluctant to help but they have to weight the trade-off. But could later their little action after Hitler's 09/01 attack mean the moral damage played a part? I've seen people speculating that.
It really didn't matter.
During the WW2 Stalin played first fiddle, Roosevelt played second fiddle, and offended groups in Britain, if any, really weren't even a part of that orchestra. Stalin was going to get what he wanted in Eastern Europe no matter what anyway, although as it happened the Allies made it easy for him, not hard.

And really the pre-war moral superiority is not that obvious.
It's quite hard to talk about the moral high ground unless it's the "hills" from where Britain and France administered their vast colonial empires. Even the hero, a hard core colonizer, Churchill started his career by taking part in punitive operations against the Mohmands and in reconquering of Sudan. And ended it by running concentration camps for the Kenyans.

For comparison, the Polish leader Piłsudski (a Lithuanian by genetics) tried for a while (honestly although maybe naively) to partially recreate the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a democratic state that voluntarily and peacefully came into being thanks to a politically-negotiated consensus.
It should be noted the historic lands of Rus' which included the Polish part of Ukraine joined voluntarily too, and actually the Ukrainian nobles were quite eager to join, more than the Lithuanians themselves.

The Polish leaders weren't dealing with quirky and friendly British/French characters straight from a Verne's novel, but colonial rulers well versed in exploiting every political opportunity for the benefit of their countries.
At that time France was still pacifying Algeria, and the worst abuses, the Algerian War and the post-WW2 French reconquest of Vietnam (enabled by Britain) hadn't even happened yet.
In contrast Polish actions look positively benign. Post Great War borders in Eastern Europe had to be fought out, so they were fought out. Czechoslovakia was going to be partitioned so Poland requested to be treated equally.

The misnomered Franco-Polish alliance not only allowed the French to easily weasel out of its commitments (the French actually never declared their commitment to defend Poland against Germany, against the USSR it was straight "forget it"), but required substantial Polish economical concessions, and allowed the Parisian "swamp" to conduct their shady deals in Poland.
During the Sudeten crisis France tried a few times to throw Poland under the German bus by requesting a statement condemning Germany, again without declaring her intention to defend Poland.
Rapprochement with Germany and/or with the USSR was in the best interests of Britain and France and was attempted many times, even after the Munich Agreement. Poland couldn't compete with the best interests of their partners, and it really didn't matter if they liked Poland or not. Their best interests trumped everything.
To attract Britain and France the Polish leaders, and its well documented, were running a courtship display by demonstrating independence and indifference, as old a tactic as diplomacy itself. That's all there was to the Polish recalcitrance.
There was nothing wrong with it, as it was nothing wrong with the Allies pursuing their best interests.

It was obvious that submissiveness would lead nowhere, it would merely invite abuse.
The well liked Czechoslovakia was submissive and was abandoned in 1938 nonetheless. During the WW2 the Czechs tried it again, and again gained nothing, a part of their territory was annexed by the USSR and they themselves were enslaved - more brutally than the Poles.

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