Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

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George L Gregory
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Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

Post by George L Gregory » 04 May 2021 13:11

How serious was Adolf Hitler when he toyed with the idea of a Polish rump state? Wasn't he hell-bent on Lebensraum in Eastern Europe?
On 7 September Hitler had been ready to negotitate with the Poles, recognizing a rump Polish state (with territorial concessions to Germany and breaking of ties with Britain and France), together with an independent western Ukraine. Five days later he still favoured a quasi-autonomous Polish rump state with which he could negotiate a peace in the east, and thought of limiting territorial demands to Upper Silesia and the Corridor if the West stayed out. Another option advanced by Ribbentrop was a division between Germany and Russia, and the creation, out of the rump of Poland, of an autonomous Galician and Polish Ukraine - a proposal unlikely to commend itself to Moscow. The belated Soviet occupation of eastern Poland on 17 September in any case promptly ruled out this possibility. Hitler still left open the final shape of Poland in his Danzig speech on 19 September. During the next days, Stalin made plain his opposition to the existence of a Polish rump state. His initial preference for the demarcation line along the line of the Pissia, Narev, Vistula, and San rivers was then replaced by the proposal to exchange central Polish territories within the Soviet zone between the Vistula and Bug rivers for Lithuania. Once Hitler had accepted this proposal - the basis of the German-Soviet Treaty of Friendship signed on 28 September 1939 - the question of whether or not there would be a ands rump state was in Berlin's hands alone.

Hitler was still contemplating the possibility of some form of Polish political entity at the end of the month. He held out the prospect of re-creating a truncated Polish state - though expressly ruling out any re-creation of the Poland of the Versailles settlement - for the last time in his Reichstag speech of 6 October, as part of his 'peace offer' to the West. But by then the provisional arrnagements set up to administer occupied Poland had in effect already eliminated what remained of such a prospect. Even before the formality of Chamberlain's rejection of the 'peace offer' on 12 October, they had created their own dynamic militating towards a rump Polish territory - the 'General Government', as it came to be known - alongside the substantial parts of the former Polish state to be incorporated in the Reich itself.
Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis.
That said, Hitler kept his options open in Poland for at least six weeks after the invasion began, partly in the residual hope of securing its assistance against the Soviet Union, but mainly in order to facilitate an agreement with London. In his remarks to Halder shortly after the British declaration of war, he held out the possibility that ‘rump Poland’ would be ‘recognized’, adding that while Germany would control the Narew and the Warsaw industrial area, ‘Krakau, Polen’ and ‘Ukraine’ would be ‘independent’. A month into the invasion, Hitler was still considering options for Poland, one of which was a ‘rump state’. This suggests that Hitler had not given up his idea of a modus vivendi with Poland based on joint expansion eastwards. A certain residual respect for Poland, even after the invasion, was evident in the fact that Hitler praised Marshal Piłsudski as ‘a man of indisputable realist understanding and energy’ in his Danzig speech of 19 September, blaming his death for the renewed hostility between Germany and Poland. The Führer also ordered an honour guard to be placed outside Marshal Piłsudski’s final resting place in Cracow, where it remained throughout the entire German occupation.

These moves culminated in a dramatic Reichstag address on 6 October 1939, in which Hitler announced victory in Poland and offered Britain a peace settlement which would include an ill-defined rump Polish statehood. This offer was not merely tactically motivated but–by his own lights–sincerely meant. Failure to accept the proffered hand, he warned, would lead to the destruction of the British Empire. ‘This annihilatory struggle,’ Hitler proclaimed, ‘will not be limited to the mainland [of Europe]. No. It will spread far across the sea. There are no more islands today.’
Brendan Simms, Hitler: Only the World Was Enough, pages 355-356.
At an interview with Ciano on 1 October, Hitler gave the impression that he was prepared to allow a Polish rump state to exist as a satellite of Germany
Jeremy Noakes, Nazism, 1919-1945: Foreign policy, war and racial extermination, page 315.

As we all know, Hitler was quite good at saying the right thing at the right time to get his own way e.g. he claimed that the Sudetenland was his last territorial demand in Europe. But, was there any truth in Hitler's thoughts about a Polish rump state?

George L Gregory
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Re: Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

Post by George L Gregory » 05 May 2021 07:18

How much of what David Irving wrote about the idea is true?
Hitler’s territorial plans for Poland were still indeterminate. In a secret speech to his generals on August 22 he had set as his goal ‘the annihilation of the Polish forces’ rather than any particular line on the map. But on September 7 he also mentioned to his army Commander in Chief, General von Brauchitsch, the possibility of founding an independent Ukraine. Hitler’s notion was to mark the ultimate frontier between Asia and the West by gathering together the racial German remnants scattered about the Balkans, Russia, and the Baltic states to populate an eastern frontier strip along either the River Bug or the Vistula. Warsaw would become a centre of German culture; or alternatively it would be razed and replaced by green fields on either side of the Vistula. Between the Reich and the ‘Asian’ frontier, some form of Polish national state would exist, to house the ethnic Poles – a lesser species of some ten million in all. To stifle the growth of new chauvinistic centres, the Polish intelligentsia would be ‘extracted and accommodated elsewhere.’ With this independent rump Poland, Hitler planned to negotiate a peace settlement that had some semblance of legality and thereby spike the guns of Britain and France. If however this rump Poland fell apart, the Vilna area could be offered to Lithuania, and the Galician and Polish Ukraine could be granted independence – in which case, as Canaris noted, Keitel’s instructions were that his Abwehr-controlled Ukrainians ‘are to provoke an uprising in the Galician Ukraine with the destruction of the Polish and Jewish element as its aim.’
An indirect result of the British snub of his peace overture was a further hardening in Hitler’s attitude to the future of Poland. He did not renew his offer to set up a rump Polish state. The Poland of 1939 would be subdivided, dismembered, and repopulated in such a way that it would never again rise to embarrass Germany or the Soviet Union.
The reference to crushing ‘the living daylights’ – die lebendigen Kräfte – out of Poland was misinterpreted by the Allied prosecutors at Nuremberg. In fact Hitler was just stating the basic military fact that the strategic objective was to destroy the enemy, not attain some line on a map. The professional soldiers present understood this perfectly (see, e.g., Bock’s diary). Note that Hitler used precisely the same turn of phrase in his harangue to the generals before the Battle of the Ardennes, on Dec 12, 1944.
David Irving, Hitler's War, pages 225, 226, 355, 366, 861.

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ostland
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Re: Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

Post by ostland » 05 May 2021 08:25

I think originally he wanted a settlement until the Stalin pact.
In a speech on November 8, 1942 he recalled:
Since 1939 I haven't felt like whining at all. Previously, I was of course very sad, because I had done everything to prevent the war. Recently Sven Hedin published a book in which he gratifyingly now quotes word for word my offer to the Poles which was conveyed at that time through the English. I must say that I really felt a chill when I read through this offer again recently, and I can only thank Providence that it has managed everything otherwise.

Then, too, from what I now know since then, because if at that time this offer had been accepted, then Danzig would be German, to be sure, but for the rest everything would have remained as it was. We would have devoted ourselves to our social tasks, we would have worked, we would have beautified our cities, we would have built dwelling settlements, we would have put our roads in order, we would have established schools, we would have built up a real National Socialist state.

And then, of course, we probably would have expended only very little for the Wehrmacht, and one day this storm would have broken loose from the East, would have passed over Poland, and, before we knew it, would have been a mere 150 kilometers east of Berlin. For that I thank the gentlemen who refused it then. At any rate, 3 years ago I could not yet guess that either. Three years ago I was sad about it, and therefore when the Polish campaign was at an end, I wanted to offer my hand once more in peace, which would have cost these enemies nothing, either. As you know, it was refused. Then I was forced to conduct another campaign, and still another.
"Merken Sie sich eins; bei uns zu Haus' sind nur die Mannschaften Ostmärker. Die Herren Offiziere sind Österreicher! Servus Doktorchen!"

john2
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Re: Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

Post by john2 » 05 May 2021 20:16

The whole idea of a "rump" Polish state was to settle with the west. However the evidence seems to show that Hitler wanted to take advantage of the situation to attack in the west as soon as possible. My opinion is that it was propaganda to claim that he tried for peace. The biggest tip off is that Hitler suggested Russia would have to be involved in a peace settlement which was a non starter for the western powers.

George L Gregory
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Re: Did Adolf Hitler seriously consider a rump state Poland or was it just propaganda?

Post by George L Gregory » 20 May 2021 21:43

John Connelly wrote in Nazis and Slavs: From Racial Theory to Racist Practice:
Hitler's views on Poland changed radically in the course of 1939. After the Munich crisis of the previous year, the Germans had made three demands of Poland: the surrender of Danzig, the construction of an extraterritorial rail- and highway through the Polish Corridor, and Polish collaboration in the Anti-Comintern Pact. In return, they offered to guarantee Poland's borders, and dangled a share of the spoils of war with the Soviet Union. Poland decisively refused these proposals, and to Hitler's outrage, received promises of support from Great Britain in late March 1939, should its sovereignty be "clearly threatened." The following month, Hitler renounced the pact of 1934, and began planning Poland's destruction; if he could not immediately have the space he desired in Russia, he would seize what he could in Poland.

But Nazi intentions toward the Poles and other Slavic groups in Eastern and Southeastern Europe were relatively open. If the Polish state had been willing to collaborate with Hitler in 1939, it might have survived as a satellite similar to Slovakia, that is, a land to the south of the corridor leading to Lebensraum. It was by blocking that path that the Poles be? came the sort of "Slavs" destined for destruction. Thus it was not longstanding Nazi plans to destroy the Poles which engendered Polish resistance in 1939 and thereafter, but rather Polish resistance which brought forth such plans. To make the point absolutely clear: this Polish defiance triggered Nazi violence, it did not produce it, for, as Jonathan Steinberg has written, a "will to destroy" lay at the center of the Nazi enterprise.

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