De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

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RedRight
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De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by RedRight » 04 Apr 2021 18:19

Was de Gaulle a supporter of giving Poland a full and effective military aid in September 1939?

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wm
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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wm » 04 Apr 2021 21:52

De Gaulle was an outsider. He wasn't part of the government or the French High Command so he probably wasn't even aware that such a problem existed.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by Futurist » 02 May 2021 01:44

wm wrote:
04 Apr 2021 21:52
De Gaulle was an outsider. He wasn't part of the government or the French High Command so he probably wasn't even aware that such a problem existed.
This is also why the US was reluctant to recognize De Gaulle's Free French government until 1944, no? As in, there was the question of where exactly De Gaulle actually got the legal authority to declare himself the leader of Free France.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by jednastka » 02 May 2021 05:20

De Gaulle was always a strong supporter of Poland and its role in eastern Europe, dating back to his time as part of the French advisory team during the 1919-1920 was with Russia. As mentioned earlier, he was on the outside looking in by 1939. That changed somewhat when France capitulated.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by Michael Kenny » 02 May 2021 09:03

Where is the 'betrayal'?

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wm
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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wm » 02 May 2021 10:30

In Poland, It's a common belief that Britain and France betrayed Poland in 1939.

The truth is the French high command promised a bunch of things to the Poles with no intention of keeping its promises whatsoever - just to be sure Poland wouldn't abandon the alliance and sacrifice itself for the greater good of France.
And later Frech Government ratified it (maybe without realising what it meant as they both hated each other.)
It wasn't actually betrayal - the French didn't switch sides, it was more like malicious chicanery.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2021 11:29

I have a copy of the agreement made between France and Poland that applied when Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

The document is vaguely written. It promises a "large offensive" without specifying what that really meant or identifying specific objectives for that offensive. It certainly wasn't anything as specific as "a French army group will assault across the Rhine and capture Berlin within three weeks".

The Polish government accepted the vagueness of the document and had no real negotiating power to demand the document contain more specifics.

Both parties hoped it would be enough to deter Hitler.

"Betrayal" is indeed a word used in some Polish literature, but what I haven't seen is anyone actually looking at the military forces (including how ready (or not) the French forces were to launch into a large offensive), the terrain, etc. Had the French been able to push through the Westwall and cross the Rhine, that would have been a surprising achievement. The assumption behind the idea of 'betrayal' is that the French forces were ready (and willing) to move out on a moment's notice, which was not at all the case. I seriously doubt the Polish general staff believed so, either ... and both the French and Poles could of course not know how effective Germany's invasion would prove to be. A collapse of Polish resistance in five weeks was not foreseen.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by Michael Kenny » 02 May 2021 11:30

wm wrote:
02 May 2021 10:30
In Poland, It's a common belief that Britain and France betrayed Poland in 1939.

The truth is the French high command promised a bunch of things to the Poles with no intention of keeping its promises whatsoever
Can we have a copy of the promises so we can see if it is true?
Obviously no rational Government would risk a war with just a verbal 'promise' on such important matters.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by gebhk » 02 May 2021 15:42

Hi wwilson

Two minor points - (1) for the record 'betrayal' is a word used in this context not just in the Polish literature. David G Williamson's 'Poland Betrayed' to give but one obvious example.
(2) I'm not sure that it is true that the Polish Government had no negotiating power - the obvious bargaining chip was making an arrangement with the Germans whatever form that might take. Albeit, I would agree that in the months prior to the outbreak of the war the opportunity for an acceptable arrangements was much reduced.

Otherwise it is clear that what the British and the French kept for themselves, what they told each other and what both told the Poles were all very different beasts. Nothing surprising there and the superb work by Wojciech Mazur, by no means with an anti-British or anti-French agenda, rather the opposite, hopefully to be published in English in the future, is one of the best works on the subject even though it concentrates on the air war aspects of the question. There can be no doubt that the intention in France and Britain was to throw Poland under the bus to gain time for British and French mobilisation and rearmament. And every effort was being made to ensure Poland acquiesced to that role. Whether that can be construed a betrayal is perhaps a moot point.

The question remained what could be done to help, and there is an interesting evolution between March and September 1939 from a more positive to a frankly defeatist approach. Much of the thinking was clearly clouded by an almost hysterical fear of the all-powerful Luftwaffe and its vaunted ability to wipe French and British cities off the face of the earth and severely disrupt troop mobilisation plans. Thus in Britain you have a move away from planning a campaign of attacking German military and supporting facilities such as those for fuel production and storage (because of the risk of civilian casualties which might provoke devastating German reprisals) to the Joint Planning Sub-Committee coming to the surprising conclusion days before the war that Poland would be best assisted by bombing the German Navy, the German internal waterway system at points distant from human habitation and dropping leaflets!

However, I would agree with previous posters that it is doubtful that at the time, due to his rank and position, the then col De Gaulle had any knowledge of or informed opinion on the matters in question.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wm » 02 May 2021 16:32

wwilson wrote:
02 May 2021 11:29
The document is vaguely written. It promises a "large offensive" without specifying what that really meant or identifying specific objectives for that offensive. It certainly wasn't anything as specific as "a French army group will assault across the Rhine and capture Berlin within three weeks".
It wasn't that vague.
- France immediately carries out an aerial action [vigorous action, including five French bomber groups to be directly sent to Poland]
- around the third day France will gradually launch offensive actions with limited objectives [to apply pressure on German forces in the west]
- France will launch an offensive action against Germany with the main body of its forces (from the fifteenth day) [three-quarters of the mobilised French army deployed, half of this used in the promised relief offensives.]

But it didn't matter, the point is France wasn't going to keep any promise, vague or not, from day one.
On the French side, these conversations were marked by a lack of candour, no little cynicism and a measure of deception that did no credit to the general staff, the air staff or the foreign minister, Georges Bonnet.
As far as Gamelin was concerned, he had been blatantly misleading in sending Kasprzycki away from Paris believing that, if Poland suffered a German attack, it could count on a bold French relief offensive against the Reich's western frontiers within three weeks.
French planning in reality envisaged nothing remotely so ambitious. In consequence of the undertakings given to Kasprzycki, Georges, who was commander-designate of the north-eastern theatre and thus responsible for preparing plans for the land war against Germany, received a directive from Gamelin on 31 May 1939. The document made no mention of any rapid and adventurous advances. Rather, it told Georges to draft plans for a careful, graduated and step-by-step engagement with the German defences in the Saarland, between the Rhine and Moselle.
...
Evidently, these were plans for a demonstration in front of the German lines, a gesture. They were not the preparations for an offensive that would require the Wehrmacht to weaken an attack against Poland and redeploy major forces from the east to the west.
They did not, therefore, honour the spirit of the Paris talks or the 19 May protocol — even if Gamelin and other French leaders later made tortuous claims that they did conform to the letter.
The Republic in Danger by Martin S. Alexander

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2021 16:45

Hi gebhk,
Whether that can be construed a betrayal is perhaps a moot point.
I am not sure it is so moot.

Here is one problem I have with the term 'betrayal'. It is used to describe British and French government behavior in 1939 ... yet, I have never heard any source describe the Soviet behavior in 1939 in that sense.

That perception is not as nonsensical as it may first appear. Yes, Soviet Russia and Poland were not friendly with one another. Yet ... the Soviet (Russian) government then, as today, likes to imagine itself as the "Slavic big brother".

So what was "big brother" doing, carving up another Slavic state in partnership with Hitler's Germany? In an ethnic sense, if nothing else, there was significant betrayal of Poland by Soviet Russia in the Nazi-Soviet Pact. But because the government in Moscow was communist, they get a pass on being accused of 'betrayal' ... although they were of the legendary trio of Lech, Czech, i Rus.

Was Poland left in a bad position after Hitler called the bluff of the Allies? Absolutely, and for Poland, it was the beginning of a catastrophic half-century.

Would it have been more honest of the UK and France to not extend any guarantees to Poland, seeing as their military establishments were only capable of limited retaliation against Germany? Yes. But had they not extended guarantees, then historiography today would record such behavior, not as 'betrayal, but as 'cowardice'.

A lot of chickens came home to roost in the period between 1920 and 1939. Unfortunately, for Poland, it was once more the time of their homeland being nothing more than a highway for the Germans and Russians to travel upon.

Cheers

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wm » 02 May 2021 16:50

Michael Kenny wrote:
02 May 2021 11:30
Can we have a copy of the promises so we can see if it is true?
Obviously no rational Government would risk a war with just a verbal 'promise' on such important matters.
I have it but it's in original French so it will be a robo-translation.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2021 16:54

@wm -- yes, but "main body of its forces" -is- vague. How many army corps is that? What are their objectives, and a projected schedule to achieve them? Lacking in specifics. As far as "mobilization" goes, the French Army could not fully mobilize from one day to the next ... it took literally months.

This is the problem with the final agreement. It sort of sounded like a guarantee that Poland would be "rescued" in the event of a German attack. But there was no reality behind the agreement. Compounding this were the methods the Germans used upon invading Poland that led to a collapse within five weeks -- an outcome neither the French nor the Poles would have thought possible prior to the outbreak of war.

I agree both the France and the UK could have done more ... but I do not believe that anything they could have done would have affected the outcome of the invasion of Poland. France and the UK were moving to a tempo more suited to the First World War, while Germany was operating with much greater efficiency.

Cheers

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wm » 02 May 2021 17:07

It was half of the mobilized forces. The mobilized forces were defined as 3/4 of all possible to mobilize French forces.
And it was a relief offensive, not a rescue offensive - two different things.

Still, the point is France wasn't going to keep the agreement from the day it was signed.
The British promised nothing and generally kept their word.

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Re: De Gaulle and French betrayal of Poland in Semptember 1939

Post by wwilson » 02 May 2021 17:32

@wm

A "relief" offensive. Well, they attacked along the border with Saarbruecken.

Didn't get very far. But some things to note on that point that are almost never mentioned. One, it was the French Army of late 1939 (not May 1940) -- a huge difference in the availability of forces that were ready for any kind of combat. The other part is that, assertions to the contrary, the Westwall was manned, and it was no joke. For one thing, the French found themselves knee-deep in a relatively new weapon -- the landmines of World War II. Again, this may seem like a technical detail --but it is not, because in 1939, no army had the portable mine detectors that became common later in the war. That alone meant advances were achieved by men crawling on the ground and probing with bayonets to clear paths through these minefields -- all the while, of course, receiving attention from the German Army.

I bring out this aspect because it reinforces what I mentioned about there being a lack of reality to the agreement. Any intention the French may have had to try to advance further (which is questionable in any case) rapidly vanished when they confronted the minefields, bunkers, and antitank obstacles of the Westwall. Despite the many authors who have claimed what second-rate forces the Germans had in the west in September 1939 -- the Germans weren't panicked or surrendering in the face of the French advance.

Again, very little of the reality of any kind of offensive, "relief" or not, has been so far as I know, explored. Most authors content themselves with larger political questions and don't look at what might have been actually accomplished.

But allow us to fantasize and imagine the French broke through and conquered Saarbruecken. That alone would probably have taken the five weeks it took the Germans to subdue Poland. And what would it have accomplished -- nothing more than a disruption to some German industry in that region. Beyond Saarbruecken, to reach the interior of Germany, one must push through the defiles by Kaiserslautern before one emerges into the valley of the Rhine. How long for that action? And what beyond that?

To gauge just how difficult the task was, one may examine the Allied offensives of 1945 into Germany. Same area, except the Germans were pounded by that point and the Allies were flush with troops and the specialist equipment needed to penetrate fortified lines and cross major rivers in the face of enemy fire. Even then with all that, it STILL took weeks to push from the border to the Rhine River. The French Army in 1939? That push wasn't going to happen.

Again, no reality behind the agreement. It was a diplomatic bluff meant to warn Hitler away from attacking Poland, and Hitler called the bluff.

I don't know what the Polish general staff truly thought of the agreement. I also don't know how long they thought they could realistically hold out while waiting on French and British help. But I am sure the pace of events in the five weeks of the campaign was far different from what they had planned for.

Cheers

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